Styrofoam Boots' Decade List 2000-2009, Part 7

40. Toe - My Idle Plot On a Vague Anxiety

Although one may be tempted to compare Toe to their contemporaries such as American Football, Ghosts & Vodka, Pele, or Explosions in the Sky, Toe sounds undeniably distinct for the niche (somewhere along the lines of post-rock and math-rock) genre that they play. Their overall sound is incredibly open and raw, with clean and syncopated guitar and bass melodies in conjunction with torrential jazz and math rock influenced drumming. Although there is nothing abrasive or particularly overwhelming about The Book, never before have I heard the dynamics of a song utilized so effectively, even without the reliance of traditional verse-to-crescendo structure found so common in post rock these days. This sense of expansiveness in their playing is attributed heavily to their drummer, who actually writes distinct and memorable percussion that happens to be extraordinarily technical as well. Add some Rhodes, Vibes, and glitches, and you get the instrumental music you've always wanted to hear but could never find. If you're into post rock, but are tired of its dependence on crescendos, you should check this out. If you're into math rock, but are tired of its emphasis on technicality and dissonance, you should also check this out. If you're into expressive, interesting, truthful and raw-sounding music... I'll just go ahead and say that Toe is one of my top recommendations of all time. -Adrian

39. Animal Collective - Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished
I think I always had an idea in my head, a platonic segment of sound that sprang to mind anytime anyone mentioned "experimental rock", and something that I had been looking for as long as I had been looking for experimental rock. Which is to say, Spirit They're Gone is the experimental album I had always wanted to hear. It's almost painfully inaccessible in all the right and inconsistent and unpredictable ways. It dark and sad and steeped sometimes in feedback, sometimes in crashing drums, sometimes in quietness. It's passionate and violent and beautiful. It's absolutely like nothing they, or anyone else for that matter, have done since. -Stuart

38. The Angelic Process- Weighing Souls with Sand
In the flood of mid to late ’00 “post-metal” bands that tried with varying degrees of success to combine elements of shoegaze and post-rock with thunderous distortion, in 2007 a little-known two-man band came out of nowhere and dropped a record that quietly obliterated most of the competition. Then guitarist/vocalist and main songwriter Kris Angylus suffered debilitating injury in an accident and committed suicide, leaving a damn-near perfect and completely untainted legacy in Weighing Souls with Sand. From eerie ambience to sunken dirges to parts that sound like the war march of ancient gods all suspended within a thick layer of gauzy fuzz and every second of it epic, this album singlehandedly coins quite possibly the coolest subgenre name ever—DOOMGAZE. -Stephen

37. Explosions in the Sky - How Strange, Innocence
How Strange, Innocence is the soundtrack to an arctic winter, with all the imagery and emotions that usually encompass it: feelings of desolation, glimmers of hope, and blasts of light during the sunrise… a visual album if you may. Lush reverbs over melodious note runs and tremolo picked guitars, drums that alternate between the force of a marching band to the tact of a classical percussionist, and occasionally bass that provides a low end rumble to the treble-saturated sound create this post rock 4-piece that enabled such a sound permeate into the mainstream, at least somewhat. Within its grandiosity there is honesty. -Adrian

36. The Music Tapes – The Music Tapes for Clouds And Tornadoes
The Music Tapes weave a kind of experimentalism that is hard to define mostly because it generates a mood completely unlike most music in the genre. Its dense joyous structure doesn't quiet create the twee enthusiasm of their friends the Apples In Stereo nor does it drift close to the fuzzed directness of Julian Kostner's former employer Neutral Milk Hotel. I've tried without the faintest success to describe what this music does for a person before, so I won't try again, but the feeling this creates is magic. -Stuart

35. Queens of the Stone Age – Songs For the Deaf
Though often labeled as "hard rock"-and it's a label I won't disagree with-Queens of the Stone Age have always shot with the ferocity of a heavy metal band, and on Songs For the Deaf they focused that vicious energy into a masterpiece of radio-friendly heavy rock. From the piercing "A Song For the Dead"(which features some of Dave Grohl's best drumming) to the doomy "God is in the Radio" to instant classic "No One Knows", QOtSA pack the album full of anthems from Hell, each one more memorable than the last. Though the concept of sliding fake radio commercials into each song bespeaks a less clever version of "The Who Sell Out", you'll be air guitaring with such intensity that you'll hardly have time to notice. That's right-the guitar in this album is so awesome that it makes sound [even when you're strumming the air itself](brackets should be italicized). Songs For the Deaf is an album that belongs in any red-blooded rock and roll fan's collection. -CJ

34. Converge- Jane Doe
This is the singular album that catapulted Converge from being the definitive East Coast metalcore band to one of the best metal bands in the world. Although they’ve had a string of great releases since this one, none have matched Jane Doe’s incredible cathartic intensity. About 90% of this album is dedicated to tearing your fucking face off and the other 10% is searing, hateful, heart-wrenching buildup, all of it led by Jacob Bannon’s utterly inhuman shriek and the twisted metal distortion of guitarists Kurt Ballou and Aaron Dalbec. And all that is just windup before the eleven-minute title track comes along to finish you off. Jaw, meet floor. -Stephen

33. Isis- Oceanic
Yes, two ocean-themed metal albums on the same list, but Leviathan and Oceanic couldn’t be more different. Instead of drawing from any existing literary themes, Isis models their opus on the deadly mystique and consuming power of the ocean itself, with long stretches of moody keyboards and hypnotic guitar balanced by movements of momentous riffs that crash down on you like a tsunami, as perfectly established by eight-minute opener “The Beginning & The End.” Every drawn out wail and indiscernible savage bark from vocalist Aaron Turner adds to the overall effect, his pipes echoing across the vast soundscapes portrayed. This album redefines “heavy” in a way no one else has since Neurosis’ Through Silver In Blood, and even manages to outdo that monstrous post-metal work on its own terms. -Stephen

32. The White Stripes – Elephant

Every time we unwittingly stumble upon a Stripes' album we had not known previously, in our passionate new burst of enthusiasm at the contents we begin to recommend it with no reservations and these recommendations always end with one thing "I think it's even better than Elephant". But now with all six major albums stored away in our memories and our cd shelves something has become undeniably clear: we use this meter because Nothing is better than Elephant. Jack White discography be damned, the world be damned, Nothing - full stop - is better than Elephant. From the battle cry of the opening track to the harsh screech of Black Math to the light chant of The Air Near My Fingers, from the light teasing and innuendo of Well It's True That We Love One Another to the fuck everyone tell them to get out we'll have sex on the floor passion soaked blues churn of Ball and Biscuit that threatened to turn him into a guitar god, Nothing Is Better Than Elephant. -Stuart

31. Cynic – Traced in Air



Styrofoam Boots' Decade List 2000-2009, Part 6

(100-91) (90-81) (80-71) (70-61) (60-51) 50-41 (40-31) (30-21) (20-11)

50. Baroness- Blue Album

While often overshadowed by that other art/prog/sludge metal band from Georgia, Baroness have carved their own distinct niche by taking one of Mastodon’s downplayed elements—guitarwork—and going full bore with it. There are enough brilliantly played twin six-string passages on here to make the combined members of Thin Lizzy, Allman Brothers and Iron Maiden sprout a collective boner, all without a single tacky neo-classical arpeggio. Songs like “The Sweetest Curse” and “A Horse Named Golgatha” effortlessly cram in tons of melodic hooks while not sacrificing an ounce of craft or complexity, making Blue Record a Garden of Eden for all lovers of the anthem and beard-stroking critic types alike. -Stephen

49. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

This is Animal Collective’s most straight forward album ever: Basic chord structures and verse chorus verse progressions, with catchy melodies and harmonies. The distinction that is made from AC and just any other pop band is how they utilize these structures to make something totally distinct. Heavy electronic bass heavy percussion, 3-dimensional reverb sounds, samples that sound like birds and blips, a whole bunch of other strange sounds, and odd tones and tonal repetition under a very distinct but reverb saturated mix constitute the most polished rendition of AC so far.

48. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

The Hold Steady has always had an air of wistful melancholy around even their most rollicking party songs, and on Stay Positive they more or less give up on trying to party. It’s a wise move: Stay Positive is their most consistent, and thoughtful, album, focusing mainly on the futility of trying to grow in an environment that keeps pushing you down. There’s nothing quite like looking in front of you and realizing you can’t move forward, and Craig Finn captures that sentiment with wit and wry bitterness on nearly every song. Displacement and disaffection are some of the hardest emotions to understand, and while Stay Positive doesn’t offer any solutions, you’ll know at least somebody gets it. -CJ

47. Portishead – Third

Somewhere just under a decade after the genre and era defining group broke up they reunited and reliesed thier best album. No joke. Rediculous? Perhaps. And about the only think you can usualy count against when reunions occur, but it happened none the less. Portishead started with cool and infinete indie-kid (the dress-only-in-black self-serious 90's kind) detachment on Dummy, moved through the harsher anger and egotism of the self titled effort and now, imporbably, took another right turn and landed on directness and honesty. Its hard to not get caught up in Beth Gibbsons as she desprately aserts "did you know when you lost?" or confidantly, harshly questeions herself over the glitchy, woozy electronics. Add in the hardcore churn of Machine Gun and the minimalistic Uke ballad of Deep Water and you've got an album that blends incense intelligence and intense enjoyment more than anything that has come before. -Stuart

46. El-P- I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead

A big step up from the already solid Fantastic Damage, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead sees hip-hop producer par excellence (and greatly improved MC) El-P unleashing his expanded paranoid visions of a dark post-Patriot Act future on a staid, materialistic and brick-stupid mainstream rap scene. Having the good sense to spike the usual roster of Def Jux cameos with oddball picks like Cat Power and Trent Reznor without watering down his unique sonic signature (bangin’ ear candy beats that walk a line between Bomb Squad, old industrial and Aphex Twin) doesn’t hurt. And “Up All Night” and “Habeas Corpses” just to name two are thick with some of the most razor-edged sarcasm and political statements since Immortal Technique’s Volume 2. -Stephen

45. Boris – Akuma No Uta

Arriving a couple of years before Boris’ mainstream (or at least, american indie) breakthrough and fellow Best of the 2000s peer Pink, Akuma no Uta slams headfirst through the wall dividing drone doom and hard rock and creates a masterpiece amid the destruction. That isn’t to say Boris has lost their experimental edge-the first 10 minutes(about a quarter of the entire album) is taken up by a wave of fuzzy guitar feedback. But then it moves into “Ibitsu” and “Furi”, two songs that fuse Melvins-esque grunginess with the rhythm and speed of early hardcore punk. And while the album does slow down eventually, that volcanic energy doesn’t relent for a minute as Boris packs in sludgy hook after booming drumline and proves that the spirit of rock and roll is alive and well, even at its most avant-garde. -CJ

44. Coldplay – Parachutes

Parachutes has the distinctive Coldplay sound everybody is familiar with, with the exception of a few fundamental differences: the songs are structurally dynamic, the vocals are honest and expressive, and the production literally sounds golden. Although the album has an atmospheric quality about it, it stays very firmly rooted to the ground emotionally, which when juxtaposed, creates a very cathartic and powerful sound. I don’t experience synesthesia, but Parachutes has brought me as close as I’ve ever been. Parachutes is Coldplay’s Pinkerton. -Adrian

43. The Sword – Gods of the Earth

“Hipster metal” became the bullshit-du-jour of genre labels during the mid and late ‘00s, an odious phrase designed to abase metal bands who appealed to people not interested in surfing through endless black metal demo tapes in order to find a decent guitar riff. Well, if this stuff is for hipsters, than buy me a scarf and toss me a PBR, because Gods of the Earth was bar none one of the best metal albums of the ‘00s. Featuring head-pounding riffs and a propulsive energy that could drag even the sternest concertgoer into a mosh pit, The Sword created an album that was as an appropriate soundtrack for a swashbuckling adventure, as much as it was for a bong party. From slow, doomy battle anthems like “How Heavy This Axe” and “The Black River” to the stampeding “Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians”, Gods of the Earth is packed with enough stoney, sword-swinging goodness to last you a full warrior’s quest through Hyboria…or at least to satisfy your primal man urges for the 48 minute runtime. -CJ

42. McLusky- Do Dallas

Picking up right where Jesus Lizard and The Pixies left off and injecting a welcome dose of Bon Scott-esque irreverence, this Welsh trio easily rocked harder than any stale Epitaph punk band, and with ten times the wit. It’s impossible not to love a band that titles its frenetic lead-off song “Lightsaber Cocksucking Blues,” or comes up with lyrics like “Our band is bigger than your band/ we take more drugs than a touring funk band.” Albini’s raw hawburger production does nothing to dilute the inherent hitmaking capacity of “To Hell with Good Intentions” and “Whoyouknow,” and “Fuck This Band” is a perfectly placed and hilarious breather in the midst of the redlining sonics and unrelenting attitude. In a world of bleary-eyed whingy indie, it’s a crying shame a band this badass split up. -Stephen

41. Agalloch- The Mantle

When descriptions for Agalloch are offered by people generally in the know, I’ve heard this Northwest Pacific band referred to several times as black metal with the edges sanded off. But that does absolutely no justice to what these guys actually do, which is to make music for vast wintry panoramas underneath foggy, steel-gray skies. Haughm’s rasping voice flows within a tapestry of chiming and silvery (that’s a word isn’t it?) guitars coated in delay and reverb, martial drumming, bowed upright bass and Native American percussion. Song lengths stretch for over nine minutes yet never overstay their welcome, and while the mood is downcast and weary it never gets oppressive. Think Opeth without the quiet/loud switch and a great deal more finesse and patience. Few metal albums deserve the sobriquet “beautiful.” This is one of them. -Stephen