So… 2009 came and went, as did the first decade of a new century and millenium, and what did we learn from it? Depends on how old you are I guess… I am closing my 4th decade (please calculate carefully, that makes me 40, not 50!) and some would probably love to say I have learned fuck nothing… Well, to quote Bran Van 3000, I have learned fuck all!
Must’ve been the pressure from all those blogs and other sources of information I read daily, but I suddenly got the urge to post my favourite music of the last decade. A list of my favourite from 2009 has been posted a few days ago. I didn’t restrain myself to a certain number, it just so happens that I ended up with 32.
All I can tell you is that as this decade comes to an end, with the many life changes that are accompanying it into the past, these are the albums or songs or artists that come to mind instantly, or almost so, as I reflect upon the music that has shaped who I’ve become in the past 10 years…
MONSIEUR SEB’S BEST OF 2000s
in alphabetical order
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
I’ve often said, throughout the 2000s that rock would only achieve some form of renewal by breaking its structure rather than exploring sonorities, and that’s what the Monkeys have not done! Their structure is pretty classic ans their sound even more so, but still, when I first heard them, I truly had the impression of a majestic wave of freshness. Maybe it’s Alex Turner’s plume, which reminds me — in some strange way I can’t really explain — of Donald Fagen’s, but there’s something about the Monkeys that’s unique. And I’m not even talking about their stage presence and performance skills… The video below is a B-side from a single off their first album, and one of my favourite tracks of theirs.
Beat Pharmacy/The Echologist/Brendon Moeller
No one does trippy dubbed out techno and deep house like Brendon does: NO ONE! This South African born gentleman (and I know he is, it’s not just a figure of speech) now residing in New York (and who is A&R for François K’s Wave Music) has dominated the 2000s, as far as I’m concerned, when it come to hybridizing the aesthetics of dub to those of electronica. PERIOD.
Bent? Barely even really know them, but heck! what I know of them has consistently blown my mind. Their main hits have moved me WAY too much for me to leave them out of my favourite tracks from the past 10 years. They’re just one step up from a one hit wonder, but that doesn’t mean their music has less quality!
Bran Van 3000
James Di Salvio is, to me, one of the greats of this early 21st century. The man is no great composer, but he is a truly GREAT music lover who doesn’t just sample tracks, he pays them hommage. OK, two thirds of his albums have been released in the 2000s and they’ve all been received in a rather ambiguous way, but I’m one fan fini, and you don’t know what a Bran Van party is untul you’ve seen them live.
Brian Eno – Another Day on Earth
Well, of course Brian Eno is a music God, among other things, but this album is a little gem that everyone should get acquainted with, if only because he does have a great singing voice!
Burial – Untrue
When Burial’s second album came out, I had been aware of Dubstep for a while, but that genre had yet to impress me. But when I first listened to Untrue, my jaw dropped to the floor. I was listening to a genre-defining album, much like Massive Attack’s Blue Lines 15 years before or Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express before that, to name just those two. It will become a timeless classic, I can tell you that much.
Donald Fagen – Morph the Cat
People who know me know that Steely Dan and Donald Fagen have made and are still making some of my favouritest music, and a new solo album by Fagen is a cause for rejoicing in and of itself, and Morph was even more so, with some of his best songwriting yet.
Ah! The Doves. No doubt one of my favouritest British rock bands. They have yet to disappoint me, and what’s more, they seem to be getting consistently better after four albums. Their classic tracks are such monuments of beauty… I’ll just let them do the talking…
Gonzales – Solo Piano
Jason Charles Beck, originally from Montreal (unless I’m mistaken) is one of those true artists who can do just about anything, and well. He’s done electro, hip hop, and even classical music on his Solo Piano album. That record sees him channeling the spirit of every great composer for the piano from Debussy to Keith Jarrett. The CD is an absolute must, but if you get the chance to catch him in concert, don’t miss it, because to top it all off, he is an amazing performer!
Gorillaz vs. Spacemonkeyz – Laika Come Home
Little heard of before or since, the Spacemonkeyz had the idea of remixing the entire Gorillaz first album à la Dub, and thus was born Laika Come Home, my favourite Gorillaz album. No, really, I think this one is the best of the lot even though it’s not entirely a Gorillaz album. If you like Dub, this album is really worth the fistful of peanuts it’ll cost ya.
Jesse Somfay – A Catch in the Voice
Like I said in my best of 2009, this human being has the uncommon talent to create beauty, but with his 2009 album A Catch in the Voice released on Pheek’s Archipel imprint, what he created is beyond words. Strictly speaking it is “electronic” music, but incredibly organic at the same time. In any case, like I just said, trying to affix words to his creations is quite futile. Just let the waves wash over you…
Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around
I picked this one because it’s the one that introduced me to Rick Rubin’s American series with Cash, but I might as well have picked any of them as they all contained blindingly eloquent examples of Cash’s talent as an interpreter. When he sings someone else’s song, it instantly becomes his. Many artists that were covered by Cash in the American series have said they felt they could no longer sing their song after hearing Cash sing it… The day he died was a sad day for the world, but a happy one for him, since I was finally reunited with his life’s true love, June Carter. RIP, Man in Black.
It took a Swede of Argentinian origins to reconcile me with Folk music. I first heard this Gonzales as a guest singer on a Zero 7 album (see below, they are also part of my best of the 2000s) where he sang on their version of his song Crosses, and I was immediately under the spell of his voice, so I decided to explore and discovered a wonderful album, Veneer, which was followed by an equally wonderful second album, In Our Nature.
Kings of Convenience
It took a pair of Norwegian to reconcile me with Folk music… Although in their case, I’d say they (Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe) are not as clearly folksy as Gonzales (see above), with strong jazz and even bossa inflections in their music. In both cases, nonetheless, it is their voices that first drew me to their music.
Talk about zeitgeist: one can almost smell New York when listening to a LCD track, but one can also hear, condensed in a few sharp words, the whole youth underground culture of the 2000s and its intense hybridization (re. Losing my Edge). Is James Murphy God? Nah! But he sure is one of the best artists of the 2000s, definitely. I would’ve loved to include the cover of Carl Craig (as Paperclip People)’s Throw that LCD do live, but the only clip I found was too short and sounded bad. Regardless: to me, the very idea of covering such a dancefloor track with a live band says it all about Murphy et al.
Yeah… Saying I love Lindstrøm has become cliché by now, as people who know me well will readily tell you. Still, this man has singlehandedly led a whole movement for the past five years or more (depending on where you place the beginning) and keeps banging out incredible tracks, like his recent 42 minutes version of the Christmas classic Little Drummer Boy or Baby Can’t Stop, from his upcoming album with vocalist Christabelle which sees him going in a disco-funk direction à la M.J. circa Off the Wall! Boogie on!
Luomo – Vocalcity
I picked Vocalcity because it was SO important to me when it came out, but especially the track Tessio, which gave me back hope that true House wasn’t on its way out, as it seemed to me back then (in 2000). If you hold any pretention of loving electronic music, your record collection simply isn’t complete without Vocalcity, and with the shortest track clocking in at 9:56, you can rest assured you’re getting your money’s worth with this one!
Malajube – Labyrinthes
If you’re from outside North America, chances are slim you’ve heard of these guys, unless you ear is firmly pressed on the indie-rock railroad track. I wasn’t a fan of theirs before this third album. As a matter of fact, I barely knew more than their name and didn’t try to learn more, as I tend to shy away from bands that are too hyped, as was the case when their second album came out. However, when I received Labyrinthes in the mail last February, I thought I’d give them a real listen, and they blew me away. Definitely in my top 3 best albums of 2009 and top 5 of the 2000s. Indie-rock, yes, but with Prog flourishes that don’t need to blush in the presence of their elder statemen, Labyrinthes is an album borne out of personal hardship and, as most such albums, it radiates an intense light. And I did listen back to their earlier stuff: doesn’t measure up to this. Here’s a link to download the excellent opening track Ursuline.
Here’s another Québec artist who you probable never heard of if you live outside this province. I even feel strange writing about him in English! But what Martin Léon does different from most other Québec artists is write stuf that’s beyond the usual pop love song drivel. He is a true composer (who has studied with Ennio Morricone) and a great writer, and his ear is atuned to what’s going on in the world. The result are amazingly unique little gems. He’s only got two albums (more if you include his stint with the band Ann Victor), but they are priceless, with a little favoritism on my part for his first, Kiki BBQ.
Initially, I was only going to include Mig’s first full length, Miguel Graça presents Soulnotmind: Shining Stars, but then, while researching for links and stuff, I realized that his other albums released during the 2000s had as much impact on me as that first one, although it does hold a special place in my mind and heart. Quite difficult to find stuff to link to, but here’s one taken off his second album, Monkey Mass, and co-produced with my buddy Fred Everything.
Dominic Salole is an artist who’s part of of the incredibly talented gang sometimes referred to as the “Canadian Crew” that includes Gonzales, Feist, Peaches and Taylor Savvy. Mocky is a multi-instrumentalist with an uncanny talent for great productions and even greater melodies; he’s often involved in the album production of his fellow Canadian Crew members. On his own, he’s released four albums in the 2000’s, with the latest, Saskamodie, almost being a pure jazz album. The whole Canadian Crew is worth discovering, but my suggestion is that you begin by Mocky’s productions (and save Feist for last, since y’all probably know her anyways).
Moloko – Statues / Forever More (FKEK Remix)
I would’ve included the whole Moloko catalog if I could, but Statues is their only album which came out in the 2000s (oops, not true: Things to Make and Do came out in late 2000) and, sadly, t was to be their last album, too (so far). In a way, although it is sad, it is also a good thing because Moloko can only be Mark Brydon and Róisín Murphy, and the proof is in the pudding: what dear Róisín has done since is OK, at best. However, to cite Wikipedia: “While both currently pursue projects outside of Moloko and state that there are no plans for Moloko at the moment, Murphy has been keen to stress that the group are not necessarily defunct and that she has no interest in ‘burying’ the project.” So, there. I’ve put emphasis on the François Kevorkian and Eric Kupper remix of Forever More because, well… It is one of their best productions, simple as that!
New Order – Get Ready
I’ve always been a great fan of N.O. and I can’t tell you how elated I was when rumours of a new album started floating around in 2000. I think a lot of people were surprised, at first, at how much more rock-sounding Get Ready was compared to what Barney & Co. had done before, especially Republic, which had preceded it 10 years before. Well, not I. I embraced this new hard sounding sound which perfectly suits Hooky’s bass and Barney’s voice. In any case, it also contains one of their best songs, Run Wild. I did enjoy Waiting for the Siren’s Call, but nowhere near as much as Get Ready.
Quantic/Quantic Soul Orchestra
Wow! Here’s one guy who really blew my mind during the 2000s (although I’ve been a bit less into his productions of late). Will Holland is a rare musical genius who can play almost everything and compose in almost any style. As a matter of fact I’m certain he can compose any style of music, I just haven’t heard him do so. He’s known as The Quantic Soul Orchestra, The Limp Twins, Quantic and his Combo Bárbaro and other monikers, he works alone or with a full orchestra and everything he touches becomes groovy. Y’all should really hook up with Will, trust me!
Social System – Autumn > Spring
Dearest Pheek, a true visionnary and a dedicated man. I have immense respect for him as a person and as an artist, but also as a label manager: he has great flair for discovering and nurturing fresh talent. This album is a collaboration between Jean-Patrice and Jason Corder. Now, Pheek’s releases are amazing little gems, and Jason can hold his own, too, but together, they created something that’s greater than the sum of its parts, and Autumn > Spring is an aboslute must in any record collection. JP, I couldn’t find any other source, so I’m embedding a track off your album instead of a YouTube clip. It is protected even in the source code, so in principle it is impossible to download and besides I’ve encoded it @ 128kbps. If you want me to remove it, let me know.
The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Much like Luomo gave me back hope that House was not dying, the Flaming Lips gave me hope that rock was still able to offer something creative. Wayne Coyne et al. have been at it for almost thirty years already, and they show no sign of slowing down or losing their edge, and if only for that, they deserve their presence on this list. And once you listen to their integral cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, you’ll either love them for life or hate them forever.
Trentemøller – The Last Resort
Much maligned after his immense and relatively rapid rise to fame, Trentemøller still deserves his spot on my list of the best of the 2000s. The Last Resort, whether they care to admit it or not, blew everyone’s mind by (to my ears, anyways) bridging the gap between minimal techno and more melodic House. Now, let’s just wait and see if he’ll top himself. So far it’s been over 3 years since he’s done anything worthwhile…
They’ve only released two albums in the 2000s, but I’d be hard-pressed to say which is best. No matter that, Underworld have been one of my favourite electronic bands since the day I first heard dubnoheadwithmybassman in 1994, so even if their latest releases had been total crap, I’d still have included them on my list!
Ah! my darlings Zero 7! Hardaker and Binns (whose name even sounds like a cool menswear line or pocket knife brand) have never produced anything I didn’t totally fall in love with, even their latest album, Yeah Ghost, which has left many a fan perplexed. Their music is always soothing and uplifting, even though it knows how to be a bit sad, at times. One of my fantasies: drivng along the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible while listening to the track below…