Better late than never, I say!!! So here it is, my favorite ten albums of the 2000’s. Sorz for taking so long, I know we are already a month and a little into 2k10 but I sat on this for awhile cuz I didn’t want to forget something important…which I almost did. Anywayzzzzzz.
10 • Bombs – The Bright Future (2007) So we’ll start here with the one I almost forgot (sorzzzzz bombs!!!). This is a Brooklyn band which, sadly, didn’t last. The good news is that if you click on the link, I think you can download their only record for free, so get to it (special thanks to Model-004 for finding the link!!)!!! Although this trio consists of bass, drums and keyboards/vox, Bombs is in no way a synth pop band. In fact, if you asked them, they would tell you that they are a rock band but without guitars. I don’t know that I would call what they did “rock”, but I would call it radical. Very danceable groove oriented rock, I guess. Plus the vocals. The vocals on this record take me on a one way trip to rad town. And the lyrics. Give me a vocalist who half drones half yelps lines like, “Who wants to cut their own wrists, take a bunch of pills and put a bag on their head, jump off of a bridge? Yeah” and I am in heaven. The record is not without fault however; compared to the way they were live, the drums and bass just aren’t as powerful on the recording. It’s really too bad they aren’t around anymore. I would love to hear them again.
9 • The Sounds – Living in America (2003) What do I do when I can’t get my Blondie fix (having listened to the first four Blondie records to death…)? I listen to The Sounds. Although their latest record, “Crossing the Rubicon” is really overproduced, I will always love this record. Immediately grabbing pop punk gems like “Living in America” really should be listened to over and over and over. Great pop sensibility delivered with a tongue in cheek sneer. The follow-up to this record, “Dying To Say This To You” is also great, but “Living In America” is the record I like the best.
8 • Dat Politics – Mad Kit (2009) Although Dat Politics started as a very experimental synth band, they made the switch to being vocally driven starting with 2006’s “Wow Twist” and I love it. 2009’s “Mad Kit” gives you the best of both worlds by toning down some of their most childish antics, adding some of the vocal-less noise back in, and what results is without a doubt their most mature yet intensely creative album to date. Hmmm…maybe mature is the wrong word. There is definitely a song called “Huff and Puff” on this record where they yell out “You’re gonna bleed cuz you’re a jerk nobody needs”. You can expect a lot of cartoon sounds here, coupled by heavily effected vocals that more often than not are cut up and sampled in various effects and pitches. While the formula is, at it’s core, quite simple, I have not heard synth pop done quite so well or sound quite as warm and human–despite all the overdrive.
7 • Tommy February6 -Tommy Airline (2004) When Tomoko Kawase took a break from her J-pop, alt rock band, The Brilliant Green (The Brillian Green is total grosstown), to make a solo project, I would have never expected the result to be Tommy Februrary6. Taking inspiration from American and British 80’s synth pop acts, Tommy Februrary6 is all cheesy synth hooks and Latin Freestyle beats. Of the two albums that Kawase released under this moniker, 2004’s “Tommy Airline” is by far the superior of two. The music is all fluff, but in the best way. Beginning with a broken English welcome, “Thank you for choosing Tommy Airline”, the album is 12 tracks of synth pop heaven. Kawase’s vocals have that slightly pitchy, emotionless charm that many 80’s pop acts have, and all of the arrangements sound as if they were composed with bad midi keyboards. This is certainly not a heady affair. And thank God…cuz then it would be less fun.
6 • Lost Sounds – s/t (2004) On the other side of 2004 is the self-titled release by dark wavers, Lost Sounds. While I do call this dark wave, it is not the polished LA dark wave of bands like TheStart. Everything here is fast and distorted…not surprising given that the band is fronted by Jay Reatard and Alicja Trout who split the lead vocals throughout the album. What makes this record so great is that while it has it’s fair share of angsty screaming, it is also still full of melody–vocals, guitars and synths are full of hooks. Though both Alicja and Jay have been in many stellar projects, this is my favorite; it’s absolutely perfect for those times you find yourself having to walk through midtown…if you’ve done it, you know what a hateful experience it is.
5 • Urbangarde – Girls Only Live Twice (2008) Let me start my loving rant about this band by saying that you MUST go to youtube and watch their video for “Don’t Take Off Your Sailor Fuku”. Once you’ve seen it, you should know why this band is so amazing. They are a five piece (though one member seems responsible only for visuals) fronted by Yokotan (vox & virginity) and Temma (vox & poetry & composition & artwork) who share vocals pretty evenly–offsetting her sweet style with his lecherous growl. They also feature a man in a giant baby costume. But this is not to say that their awesome visual aesthetic outshines the actual music. The record itself is an excellent listen from start to finish, standout tracks are many, and even the final track is as strong as the first. Their music is a high speed, over-saturated mix of punk rock and synth pop. but there is also an element of high drama here–most songs sound quite epic. While their style may be to busy for some to tolerate, I find this to be a perfect headphones record; I love that I can find a new part I didn’t notice before upon each listen. Busy as this record is, though, there are melodies to spare, and nothing is ever too buried in the mix, making this a sugar punk gem.
4 • The Model – Physical (2007) I’m not sure if I got this release year right. The album was released a year later with three bonus tracks, so I can seem to find the actual date of it’s initial release. What would happen if Morrissey fronted The Human League? Listen to this record and find out. Without a doubt this is a record that makes everyone love synth pop. Markie’s vocal performance is impeccable and the synth work is near perfection. Though the Yaz-(or post John Foxx Ultravox)esque “Do You Believe In Angels” is the obvious single here, I cannot stop listening to “I Won’t Be Hanging Out”. How can you not dance to these beats? This record is pop perfection, complete with an odd lyrical reference to Condoleezza Rice. Though this band appears to have broken up, you can still enjoy synth work of a similar style in Elizabeth Harper’s new project, Class Actress, or just download “Physical” on iTunes. Every track is worth it, including the three new tracks that were added to the digital release in 2008. Who doesn’t love the silver fox?
3 • POLYSICS – Now Is The Time! (2006) Polysics is my favorite band. Hands down. For ever. Times infinity. And “Now Is The Time!” is, without a doubt, the strongest release of the many they have had in the last decade. The sound of Polysics is Devo on crack, and was one of the main inspirations (as far as I am concerned) for Last Year’s Model. Beginning with “Tei! Tei! Tei!” the album is a high octane wierd-out of yelping vocals, alien synth and distorted punk rock guitars. I especially love “Coelakanth is Android” (which takes it’s name from a song by another favorite band of mine, 80’s new wavers P-Model); the brilliant Suzi Quattro cover, “Wild One”; sugary synth pop closer, “Baby Bias”; and the cell phone hate punk of “Walky Talky”. You really don’t need to understand Japanese to appreciate this–some of the lyrics are in English, and some, such as in “I Me Mine” are in a made up Polysics language. This record is full of manic punk rock energy delivered with a new wave tongue-in-cheek and I cannot reccommend it enough.
2 • Tribeca – Dragon Down (2005) This, the second release from singer/songwriter Lasse Lindh and producer Claes Björklund, is even better than their previous effort, Kate-97. Moving even farther away from Lindh’s guitar heavy confessionals towards a more dancable aesthetic, this record delivers some of the best pop songs I have ever heard. This album was described by Model-003 as “The Postal Service with balls” and I am inclined to agree. The vocals on Dragon Down are far more nuanced and awkward and the synth work is far more varied. Did I say awkward? I meant it–Lindh whispers, Elliott Smith style, about heartbreak in a most peculiar way. On album opener, “La, La, La, ect.”, he says “So I love you, I guess that’s a good thing…” and later talks not about romance, but mundane relationship details such as “we could eat our meals together”. The next track is about taking a girl’s virginity and it is entitled “Her Breasts Were Still Small”. There’s definitely a lyric later on about taking someone from behind, too. ummmm…yeah. So maybe he’s a total creep, but this record is radical. When Lindh is sad he admits to reading Spider Man in the dark. He also claims he has “a cynical soul, a cynical haircut”. In closing, I will add that “Solitude” is the best song ever. I think I’ll listen to it now (for the millionth time).
1 • Plus-Tech Squeeze Box – Fakevox (2001) And so, here we are, at my favorite album of the decade. Not too many people have heard about Plus-Tech Squeeze Box, which is odd, cuz everyone seems to have heard of Cornelius’s “Fantasma”, and “Fakevox” takes that busy electro pop genre crossing idea and perfects it on this, their first release. On this record, PTSB is a trio: programmer Tomonori Hayashibe, multi-instrumentalist Takashi Wakiya and vocalist Junko Kamada. Like most of my favorite releases, this album is a mish-mash of styles, based heavily in super sweet pop / punk / synth pop. Much like Urbangarde’s “Girls Only Live Twice”, this album does it’s best to cram as much aural stimulus as it can into each song, but it also changes genres constantly inside each song. On the album’s second track, “Early Riser”, what starts out as a straight ahead punk song suddenly shifts into a television commercial jingle breakdown before ending with more sugar punk, punctuated by more commercial jingle samples. The album continues from there, blending elements of pop, punk, new wave, dream pop, jazz, indie guitar pop (how many kinds of pop can i reference), cartoon music, advertisement theme songs and even country into 14 tracks (12 for the album plus 2 remixes) of the most inventive music I have ever heard. What truly makes all of this outstanding, however, is that while the styles shift constantly, PTSB never loses sight of each song, allowing excellent vocal melodies to hold their own over an ever changing landscape of sugary noise. This is the record that made me want to start a punk (pop) band. Is that weird?
So yeah!!! I hope you enjoyed it. I’ve been working on it for ever but it still seems like it doesn’t read very well. The reader is like, “Why does every record listed here feature ‘the best pop song ever’?!?!” Well, angry reader, that’s because this was a good decade for music and I like a good melody. I’m sorry, but all these albums rule the school 2k104lyf. Or something like that. I wish I was more articulate. Oh well. Guess I should have finished college. <3 <3 [X_X]6 comments