Styrofoam Boots' Decade List 2000-2009, Part 9

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

20. At The Drive-In – Relationship of Command

Before splintering off to form Sparta and The Mars Volta, At The Drive-In seemed poised to take over the world with its final release, Relationship of Command. Catchy enough to woo the MTV circuit while containing all the technical complexity and cerebral stream-of-consciousness wordplay to enthrall the prog cognoscenti, At The Drive-In's magnum opus also kept themselves from alienating their hardcore punk base by retaining their Black Flag-esque energy, effectively forming a Venn diagram of listeners that shouldn't have been possible in the early '00s. And hey, if Iggy Pop thinks it's good enough to lend his voice to, you know you've got something special on your hands. -CJ

19. Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News

Major label blah blah sellout blah blah one hit wonder blah blah blah Kids’ Bop. Yeah I’ve heard it all before, and after spending a few hours digesting this album I remain resolutely unconvinced by all the backlash (that would be more appropriate for the album after this). If anything the mainstream came to Modest Mouse, not the other way around. As such songs like “Bukowski” and “Ocean Breathes Salty” still retain all the disaffection and bottom-of-a-bottle existentialism that defines Isaac Brock’s best efforts and would’ve fit perfectly on Lonesome Crowded West—except the music and production quality are just a little brighter this go-round with horns and other backing instruments as a reminder of where the extra money went. And “Bury Me with It” is one of their greatest jolts of neurotic energy since “Doin’ the Cockroach.” I suspect Good News would’ve placed higher on this list if it didn’t have to share real estate with its stellar predecessor. -Stephen

18. Death Cab For Cutie - We Have The Facts and We’re Voting Yes

Did I mention that Death Cab For Cutie sucks? Because Death Cab For Cutie sucks. Their mix of self indulgent sentimentality, nostalgia, over-blown yet mild mopiness, it's disgusting. It is. So why is this album so far up here? Because it's amazing in every way. Because instead of quiet sadness we get quiet desperation, we get calm determination, we get smoldering fire, we get anger. We get songs about sharing cigarettes in the hallway and cursing ex's and doomed highways set over the absolute best instrumentations this side of Explosions In The Sky. It's just beautiful. -Stuart

17. Japandroids - Post-Nothing

Post Nothing is obviously a high energy garage-rock two-piece type of album, so what’s the difference between Post Nothing and other albums of the same style? Post Nothing sounds triple-extra fucking fat as hell. The density of the production and the tones (Brian King uses several amps to achieve a multilayered guitar sound), and even the way the vocals are sung together under deliciously warm overdrive makes the music resonate loudly. Post Nothing in theory doesn’t do anything new: Japandroids sing about being young and energetic, but they get the point across in such an individualized way that isn’t based around channeling an emotion through a set formula, something that lots of music focusing on particular emotions seem to do (i.e punk). “I don’t want to worry about dying; I just want to worry about those sunshine girls”. -Adrain

16. The Velvet Teen - Cum Laude!

The Velvet Teen's particular brand of noise rock sets it's self apart in such a great number of ways. Their heavy distorted synth over the torrent that is Casey Deitz behind a drum set sounds so like hardcore punk subjected to weeks of harsh radiation. You FEEL this music, it moves you. It comes down on you. -Stuart

15. The Mountain Goats – Tallahassee

Truth be told I’m a newbie to the Goats, and this is the only album of theirs I’ve heard straight through, so I can’t make any comparisons to the rest of their oeuvre. But I can say this—a more devastating portrait of toxic relationships and domestic trauma hasn’t been recorded since Lou Reed’s Berlin. John Darnielle’s lilting vocal and softly contemplative, mostly acoustic music does nothing to soften the brutal imagery of a self-destructive couple on the verge of an alcohol-fueled final collapse, and the black-as-coal humor sprinkled within “International Small Arms Traffic Blues,” “Games Shows Touch Our Lives” and—yes—“No Children” makes a fitting partner for the absolutely cutting and poetic desperation, angst and ultimately bittersweet redemption reflected throughout. Doesn’t come with a handle of whiskey and a Greyhound ticket, but it should. -Stephen

14. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

When one thinks of synth-based music, "tender" is not often the first word that comes to mind. Yet that's one of the only accurate ways to describe Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, The Flaming Lips' finest work and an early benchmark for both indie rock and electronica this decade. Wayne Coyne lays himself completely bare here as he finds past loves and cyborgs from space to be equally worthy foes and explores every heartfelt subject with an honesty that never becomes whiny or tiresome. Michael Ivins and Steve Dzord are also at their peak when it comes to musicianship, creating jaw-droppingly intricate and utterly overwhelming portraits of joy and crushing despair alike, creating the perfect sonic road for Coyne's vocals to travel down. It's an album that's as perfect for finding new love as it is for dealing with unbearable heartbreak-possibly, in that regard, the best since Abbey Road 35 years before. -CJ

13. Tool – Lateralus

Lateralus is a Gothic cathedral positioned on the plateaus of Mars, an aural infection that enters the ears and coasts through the blood. It takes heavy metal intensity and shadows it in a Floydian cosmic smoke circa A Saucerful of Secrets, creating an album that is as perfect for the mosh pit as it is for the meditation chamber. Tool creates a bleak landscape here, borrowing liberally from Krautrock and slamming those elements until they fit into a modern alt-metal template, bashing a square peg into a round hole until it fit so well that you'd think psychedelia had always always sounded like this, always mined that pit in your stomach for all it's worth like this album does. But it didn't. Only Lateralus did that, and whether you loved it or loathed it, Tool created one of the most unforgettable albums of all time. -CJ

12. The Microphones - The Glow Pt. 2

The Glow Pt 2. is The Microphones most acclaimed work up to date, and rightfully so. Raw acoustic guitar tones, soft boyish vocals that are executed without sounding overtly sensitive or conceited, in combination with out of tune upright pianos and blasts of loud and triumphant instrumental passages (including the occasional analog electronics) are amongst a few of the elements that constitute and distinguish the evocative singer-songwriter-song-soundscapes by Phil Elverum. -Adrian

11. Gorillaz – Demon Days
My friend Parker will swear that Demon Days is this generation's White Album, and he might not be that far off. This dark and crazy album shifts styles like congress switches parties, without ever coming off as a gimmick or forced in any way. And all of them are ounces of pop genius. From the cry of "Are They Turning Us In To Monsters?" to the kick of Dare, every moment is brilliantly produced and frighteningly catchy. This album is as wonderful as it is evil. -Stuart


Styrofoam Boots' Decade List 2000-2009, Part 8

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

30. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

"We just want to emote 'til we're dead. I know we'd suffer for fashion. Or, whatever." starts the greatest masterpiece and personification of the Indie-psych scene. Kevin Barnes was a hipster in all the wrong ways. As that line perfectly demonstrates, he balances a dense passion for indulging and over-expressing every menial feeling, with a near-unbreakable apathy. This seeming paradox makes him and the thousands of 2007 Williamsburgcore hipsters some of the worst and douchiest people to have ever lived. AND YET. This album makes you empathize with them. In Keven Barnes' honesty, and his huge talent for fun catchy melodies to put over his words you start to think maybe all hipsters are just manic depressant over-thinkers, split between trying to feel their pain and trying to drink and fuck and party to avoid it completely. And in the free associative droning love cry of "The Past Is A Grotesque Animal" I can't hate him. And that's something. -Stuart

29. Mastodon- Leviathan

All three people reading this should know that this was my personal choice for #1. No, not #1 metal album, #1 of the decade. While I can easily understand why it didn’t make it there, no other band has revitalized my interest in a genre like Mastodon has. Oh sure, there were metal bands I liked, but I considered them lone exceptions in a sea of boring death metal and goofy symphonic cheese. From the first iconic riff of “Blood & Thunder” to the churning fourteen-minute opus “Hearts Alive,” Leviathan imparted the same feelings of awe I got from listening to Metallica and Kyuss the first time as a teenager. This is metal for everybody, ditching all the questionable excesses that usually mire the genre and replacing them with sheer power, hook-filled songwriting, Brann Dailor’s Keith Moon-like performance and Moby Dick references (Herman Melville has never sounded so badass). If you haven’t heard this yet, what are you waiting for? -Stephen

28. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Broom

Broom is poppy indie rock done right. Compare the melodies and instrumentation in Broom to most other indie pop bands and the distinction is made clear. Include partially improvised outros and home production, and an incredible freshness is presented to the sound. When I hear Broom, It feels as if I’ve gone for a bike ride in the morning while the dew is still fresh, minutes after having woken up in a beautiful dusty and old residential home in Portland, Oregon. Other feelings arise despite the supposed gorgeousness of my surroundings as well: loneliness and melancholy tinged with a little bit of awkwardness that every indie man should feel whilst listening to this album. I digress… Broom is beautiful. -Adrian

27. Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein

I don't know if you've noticed but we don't write all that much about Hip-Hop, and I in particular have yet to write one word concerning it. You see, though I have a strong appreciation for the genre and a few of its players I just generally don't feel like I know enough about it to make critical comments - I can't tell you how often I've been pissed off at someone shooting off about indie after listening to only the Decemberists. So why am I confident putting The Cold Vein this high up the list? Because I can't Imagine a better Hip-Hop record coming out in the last ten years. Because every beat of this album pulses with anger and fierce violent confidence and abrasive poetry. Because it makes me want to scrap everything I know for a dozen hoodies and start digging through crates looking for lost cuts of young angry men with quick mouths and words that cut. This album makes everything else look foolish. -Stuart

26. Hella – Hold Your Horse Is

Sounding more like Don Caballero than Don Cab Mk. 2 does—and with only two people at that—Hella have brought the jagged compositions and neurotic technicality of ‘90s math rock into the 21st century, give or take a few crack and meth benders. Spencer Seim’s guitarwork wanders from pointillist odd time anti-riffing to Nintendo bleeps and bloops, while Zach Hill’s drumming is simply MANIACAL. One listen to “Biblical Violence” will make all aspiring musicians dejectedly snap their sticks in half, set them on fire and shuffle away from the still-burning cinders heads lowered in defeat. Rivaled only by Lightning Bolt in the 2000-2009 “Musical Duo Most Likely to Ruin Your Shit” category. -Stephen

25. No Age – Nouns

In ways this album shook the ground of the indie scene proving No Age to be the leader in an aggressive (though short lived) new wave of punk. Which is not to say it sounds at all like anything coming out of '77, nor anything really that had come before. Trading off heavy rockers and atmospheric head-fucks, this albums has a serious way off seeping into your mind, of getting to you. It makes you want to start a movement. -Stuart

24. Owls – Owls

As the reinvented version of Cap’n Jazz, Owls displays an epic deviation from its roots. Signature off kilter Tim Kinsella vocals, with the addition of in-tune melodic passages, and incredibly intricate and sinewy guitar work that doesn’t recall the sound of any other preexisting instrument (let alone a guitar) are the two most immediately noticeable elements. In addition to the drums played with a jazz like tact and precision end up creating a sound completely unlike Cap’n Jazz, or anything else for that matter. It’s hard to digest, but then you realize it’s not solely experimental: the actual structures of the songs are incredibly solid even with the combination of the oddest musicianship. How can you explain a sound that is dissimilar to everything you’ve heard prior? -Adrian

23. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Jeff Tweedy may have kicked his drug habit and turned into indie’s leading practitioner of boring dad rock, but at one point Wilco was almost slated to become Radiohead’s (better) American counterpart—a band that used subtle electronic and ambient elements to challenge the bounds of a genre (alt-country) without having to raise the volume level or forsake the excellent songwriting that defined Tweedy’s career since his Uncle Tupelo days. “Jesus etc.,” “Poor Places,” and “Ashes of American Flags” are elegant exercises in how to make a ballad resonant and wholly lacking in cliché, and the opener “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” is the single best Wilco song ever recorded, full stop. That they drop in the single-ready jangly pop of “Pot Kettle Black” and “Heavy Metal Drummer” is just a nice bonus. -Stephen

22. Spoon – Gimme Fiction

Most rock bands have to make it clear in the lyrics in order for the listener to understand that the song they're listening to is about sex. With Spoon, the sexuality is implicit: the guitar, the piano and Britt Daniel's voice all tell you that the song is about fucking without you having to process a single word. Gimme Fiction is the band's masterwork, laying these sultry undertones in everything from the rhythms to the cover art and injecting even the screeching, feedback laden guitar solos of "The Beast and Dragon, Adored" and "Sister Jack" with an air of sexual mystery. Spoon pulls out all their tricks for this album, becoming sensual but never soft and jagged without being fully abrasive, all the while keeping an air of Art Deco class that would make any GQ editor fumble for his thesaurus. With Gimme Fiction, Spoon reinvented musical cool for the 21st century, and the world is still trying to keep up. -CJ

21. Panda Bear - Person Pitch

What can be said about the brilliance of Person Pitch? What can it be compared to? The Beach Boys? Maybe if put through a blender and pored over a sugar cube into acid spiked absinthe. It's too rhythm-centric to be called catchy, almost too circular to even be called songs, but too innocently enjoyable to be called anything else. In fact, its far too experimental to be considered accessible, and far too immediately accessible and beautiful and catchy to be really considered experimental. I can't place this album, after listening to it hundreds and hundreds of times over the last three years, and that speaks volumes. It's experimental that hits everyone, everyone in the heart. And that is something I dare you to find elsewhere. -Stuart


Another List: Just Unacceptable, Just Absolute Dogshit

So Musicradar, the same individuals who told us the greatest bassist of all time was Dream Theater's John Myung, have released another list, this one the greatest lead singer...ever. There are a lot of worthy candidates for number 1, obviously, and I won't fault them for picking somebody I don't agree with because there are so many criteria for what makes a good singer and holy sweet fuck they picked Axl Rose. Real actual people voted Axl Rose as the greatest lead singer of all time ahead of Roger Daltry, Robert Plant and Freddy Mercury and somehow, somehow, the universe decided not to kill everyone in the world.

What's stunning is that Musicradar is a really big site. A few thousand people voted for this thing and that's no small potatoes. There was a group consensus that Axl Rose was the greatest singer ever and that James Labrie deserves to be on the list at all. James Labrie! He's such a bad singer he wouldn't even get on a list of the worst singers of all time! He would be too bad for it! He is just that bad at singing!

It doesn't even matter that the people who belong on the list are on the list for the most part. When you say Axl Rose is the best at anything besides Turding either you thought the guitar solo from "Paradise City" was somebody singing or the things you loved from your childhood have completely stopped you from processing art on an objective level. The rest of the list could be the word FART written over and over again and if Axl Rose was still #1 it would have the same level of validity.

So. Here are ten that should've been on the list, as per usual. I trimmed this list down from like a billion, and like the list it attempts to correct didn't qualify solo acts or groups that relied on harmonizing, so I'm sorry for all the country and Philadelphia Soul I couldn't consider. Other than that, yeah, here we go.

1. Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy has spent the last 30 years of his life being a professional wad, but before that he used to be known as the lead singer for Black Sabbath, when being a wad was only his hobby. Ozzy pretty much typifies the "singer who can't sing" department along with Kurt Cobain and Ian Curtis, but on Sabbath's first few albums he sang with a morbid soul that hasn't been replicated since. Along with Iommi's immaculate riffage, Ozzy's specterly wails and groans covered metal in its first sheet of real mystique, and yeah, his vocals could even be downright eerie at times. He's a laughingstock now, but his contributions to metal shouldn't be forgotten, and neither should the fact that his talent was once more than incidental.

2. Damo Suzuki(Can)

Damo Suzuki is another singular entity in the canon of rock singers, mostly because nobody but nobody does crazy like he can. Suzuki was literally a random person that Can picked off the street to replace their first lead singer, which should mean that it would be no surprise to anyone to find that his voice is the sonic equivalent of a mushroom trip. Furious one instant, crazed beyond reason another and occasionally winding up at downright sedate, it's impossible to predict what the vocals are going to sound like when you first listen to a Can album, yet it's Suzuki's seeming tunelessness that proves to be the perfect counter to the rest of Can's immaculate musicianship, the incongruity drawing you ever deeper into their psychedelic freakshow vision trip. Damo Suzuki's voice is relentlessly schizophrenic and, as such, incredibly captivating.

Essential Tracks: Vitamin C, Peking-O, I'm So Green
3. Mike Patton(Faith No More, Fantomas, Mr. Bungle, etc.)

To refer to Mike Patton's range as being "incredible" would be a gross understatement-from rap-metal to avant-garde scat experimentations, to Italian pop ballads through voice work as the monsters from I Am Legend and Left 4 Dead, there is seemingly nothing that Mike Patton cannot do with his voice. It isn't all technical virtuosity, either: Patton fills every vocal role required of him with emotion and unmatchable character and wit, rendering his most mainstream-oriented Faith No More tracks an artful lean and giving even his most threshold-testing vocal experiments a relatable hook. Bottom line: Nobody alive today can manipulate their vocal chords like Mike Patton, and nobody can push the boundaries of what a performer can-or should-do with their voice like him, either.

4. Bryan Ferry(Roxy Music)

Simply put, and in the least homoerotic/most homoerotic way I can say it, Bryan Ferry sounds like an angel. In terms of having a bonafide, 100% indisputably beautiful voice, Ferry is a hard if not impossible to match entry in the rock canon. He works in the time proven Soul tradition of making every booty call sound like a marriage proposal and every marriage proposal sound like a booty call and does so at a pitch that's inhumanly high, unbelievably soft and unquestionably jaw-dropping. If you're a straight woman or a gay man, Bryan Ferry will make love to you through your headphones. If you're a gay woman or a straight man, you will change your orientation just to receive the pleasure of Bryan Ferry making love to your through your headphones. I am bicurious for Bryan Ferry's voice, and you should be too.

5. Shane MacGowan(The Pogues)

Shane MacGowan is known less for being a singer and more for being a dirty stinkin' drunk, but it's that propensity of his for dirty stinkin' drunkenness that lends his voice the authority it needs when he sings about how much American police love to billyclub him. MacGowan might have the punkest voice in rock and roll history, even moreso than Strummer, Ramone and Rotten: His vocal parts are a mix of snarls, barks and shrieks that if paired with typical hardcore instruments would've been recognizable as some of the most fierce and outrageous of the era. Instead of sounding desperate or self involved, however, it simply sounds honest, the folk instruments lending MacGowan's rage, misery and drunken joy a legitimacy lacking from many traditional punk acts. If there's a man alive who can make up for a lack of technical talent with sheer energy it's Shane MacGowan, and it's that same energy which catapulted the Pogues to the top of the charts and launched a thousand Celtic punk bands that, for better or for worse, have never matched MacGowan's intense, straightforward delivery.

6. Chris Cornell(Soundgarden, Audioslave)

There's no such thing as a picture of Chris Cornell not looking like a douchebag, and indeed, much like the venerable Ozzman before him, Cornell succumbed to a full time career as Douche in Chief during the past five years or so. But make no mistake: During the grunge years nobody's voice could top that of Chris Cornell's. Many of his vocal parts could be described less as "singing" and more as "stuntwork", as you're left wondering how the man can even stand up after belting such an incredible melody. Cornell's strength as a vocalist is his dedication to his style: He never softened up or toned it down, roaring battle anthems and ballads alike as though his life depended on delivering the most Biblically intense performance possible. If anyone makes the argument that grunge doesn't take any talent to preform, Chris Cornell is the perfect voice to shut them up.

7. Jeff Mangum(Neutral Milk Hotel)

Is this going to be the first time someone compares Jeff Mangum to Damo Suzuki? Probably. I don't think anyone likes Mangum's voice the first time they hear it. It's nasal, seemingly tuneless and largely divorced from the music accompanying it. All of these factors, however, are what lend Jeff Mangum's voice its starkness. He's a folk songwriter second and a psychedelic songwriter first, and to get to that trip-like state, you have to be completely alienated from the world around you. That's what Jeff Mangum's voice is good at. It pairs itself up with an acoustic guitar, or a pipe organ, or a trombone, and strikes your brain in places you didn't know were there and pulls you into a greenish-grey world of his own making, where the body functions differently and every symbol is made real, everything real made a symbol. Many people don't like Jeff Mangum's voice, and to that I say you're not supposed to like his voice. You're supposed to like the effect of his voice.

8. Rob Halford(Judas Priest)

How a website made up largely of metalheads and prog fanatics failed to include Rob Halford on their list of all time greatest frontmen is both stupefying and shameful. Long story short, Rob Halford is the godking of classical metal vocals. Not even Bruce Dickinson can match his falsetto and the speed with which he can jump from high to gravely low is neck-snappingly fast. He is the master of the operatic metal singing style, infusing each song with a personality all its own and making even the most bombastic, cheesy ideas seem Goddamn Virgil-esque in scope. Bottom line: Bow down to Rob Halford, folks. Even Pavarotti loves the guy.

9. John Fogerty(Creedence Clearwater Revival)

I'm not gonna front: I decided to write this pretty much on an impulse and I'm getting kind of tired of doing so, plus I wanna have some energy to write about the last guy who I don't think most of you will have heard of. You all know who John Fogerty is, you all know why you like him or you don't. The dude has a ridiculously unique voice and sounds like a gifted hillbilly from the Georgia mountains instead of a nerd from El Cerrito. That weird yowly thing he does might not appeal to you but try doing it yourself, it's super hard and you wouldn't be able to do it with any sort of melodious outcome.

...John Fogerty's pretty great I guess is what I'm saying.

10. Demis Roussos(Aphrodite's Child)

Demis Roussos is a big chubby dude who sings, and like many big singing chubby dudes he can pull off incredible feats with his voice. His music changed from straightforward '60s psychadelia to pop to prog to easy listening, and here's the weird part: He didn't change his voice at all for any of those genres, and yet he always ended up sounding like he was right where he belonged. His lush crooning proves as appropriate for hitting the bong as it is as a soundtrack for driving to church with grandma and even his corniest ballads will move you to tears if you're drunk enough. Rousso's voice hits you right in that sappy part of your soul that you don't want to admit exists, and you'll be hard pressed to not come away from his songs feeling weirdly contented every time.


  • Peter Gabriel(Genesis)
  • Zach de la Rocha(Rage Against the Machine)
  • Phil Lynott(Thin Lizzy)
  • Jon Anderson(Yes)
  • Colin Blunstone(The Zombies)
  • Lou Reed(The Velvet Underground)
  • David Byrne(Talking Heads)
  • Mikael Akerfeldt(Opeth)
  • Lemmy(Motorhead)
  • Ian Curtis(Joy Division)
  • Cedric Bixler-Zavala(At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta)
  • Dave Mustaine(Megadeth)
  • Wayne Coyne(The Flaming Lips)
  • Elvis Costello(Elvis Costello and the Attractions/Impostors/etc.)
  • Henry Rollins(Black Flag)
  • Sly Stone(Sly and the Family Stone)
  • Ron Isley(The Isley Brothers)
  • Ric Ocasek(The Cars)
  • Annie Haslam(Renaissance)