Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Overlooked Classics 2000-2009

Best of the decade lists. I tried, I honestly tried. But for some reason I was overcome with severe anxiety and could not continue. I was torn between albums that really meant something to me in my formulative musical evolution and albums that deserve massive amounts of critical praise but don’t really have much sentimental value beyond my favorable assessment. I mean did I really think Bright Eyes, Appleseed Cast, Cursive and Owen (the four biggest moments of my high school career) should beat out William Basinski on my best of list? Man, what a tough life I lead. So, with Crawf’s incredible forthcoming best of list I decided to focus on albums that probably won’t be featured in anyone’s best of list but, if you found them, they would make your life that much better. These aren’t undiscovered more than they are overlooked. Here we go.

Ryan H.

Aloha Light Works (Polyvinyl, 2007)
This (mini-album, ep?) is completely perfect in every way. Reigning in their mathy time changes and muzzling the bleatings of their signature Wurlitzer and vibraphone a little bit, Aloha produced the most subdued, warm Album of their career. Seven songs weave a narrative centered on themes of redemption, season changes and an ethereal sense of hope around simple acoustic guitar lines, vibraphones and drumming from famed percussionist Cale Parks. “Gold World” is spectacularly pretty, totally perfect for the clich├ęd fantasy of being at home during a snow storm curled up in a blanket with a good book. Plus, the TOME took its name from the song “Trick Spring”. Mysteries revealed!

Now It’s Overhead Now It’s Overhead (Saddle Creek, 2001)

If there was ever an album that captured the lushly orchestrated folk-pop pre-Indie-blow-up Omaha, Nebraska it was the self-titled debut of these Athens transplants, Now It’s Overhead. Composed of one half Azure Ray (Maria Taylor and Oneida Fink) and the other half multi-instrumentalist Andy Lemaster and ex-Sugar bassist David Barbe, Now It’s Overhead just seemed to encapsulate everything cool about Ted Stevens and Mike Mogis’ textured production style. But, the intangibles are what make this album so amazing, the breathy backing vocals of Maria Taylor and Oneida Fink, the way Andy Lemaster’s thick Georgia drawl elongates vowels in “Blackout Curtain”, Barbe’s pulsing basslines on “6th Grade Roller” and “With a Subtle Look”. Azure Ray would later go on to great fame as a duo and solo, Andy Lemaster would reform NIO for three more excellent albums. But for one fortuitous moment the stars aligned for a perfect slice of beautifully textured melancholy.

Swords Project Entertainment is Over If You Want It (Arena Rock, 2003)

Indie Rock has turned into a pretty slippery term within the past 10 years. But whatever it means or it doesn’t, whenever I think of the term “Indie Rock” I think of bands like the Swords Project. Or more specifically, I think of 2:20 seconds into the second song off of “Entertainment is over” when, after a 2 ½ minute intro of disembodied vocals floating over a sea of electronic manipulation, some heavily distorted drums and hiccupping keys kick in to announce “Exploding Bottles/and red figurines/gang planks for catwalks into a sea of pills”. Sprawling tracks replete with bowed violins, a dump truck full of electronic meanderings, a tight rhythm section for some reason embody early 2000’s indie rock. This is an obvious bridge between the formulaic nineties and the literally-anything-goes late 2000’s. For fans of Jim Yoshii Pile-Up, Pinback…nostalgia.

Telegraph Melts Illium (Absolutely Kosher, 2000)

Sometimes experiments should remain as experiments. But sometimes a haphazard, seemingly anachronistic genre blending coalesces in such a way that it begs to be heard. Telegraph Melts was a one-off project between Amy Domingues (cello) and Bob Massey (electric guitar) that meld ponderous guitar lines with a thunderous electric cello and sparse drumming from Devin Ocampo of Faraquet. The electric cello can be heavy, like really heavy. Throw some distortion on that thing and it has some serious bite. In each tension filled composition, Amy’s beautiful lilting notes give way to manically bowed bursts of jaw dropping metal like riffs. The electric guitar has finally been upstaged! Sometimes the tracks wander a little too much for their own good, only to be pulled in by Ocampo’s steady time-keeping and Domingues/Massey’s lines circling each other like hungry wolves. For fans of Helen Money, CJ Boyd.

Rhys Chatham A Crimson Veil (For 400 Guitars) (Table of the Elements, 2007)

In 1992 minimalist composer with huge ideas compiled 400 guitarists to play a 12 hour living, breathing testament to sound by playing on the bascilla of the Sacre-Couer in Paris, France. We have the pleasure of having on record an hour of this beautiful landmark of sound. For how incredible this sounds in headphones it must have been a life changing experience to see and hear it live. As amazing as it is, however, I feel like the recording suffers from the Watchman complex. Something as intense and complex as the Watchmen fails in all of its recreated forms, a.k.a you Zak Snyder. I don't want to say "you weren't there, you don't know", but you know...whatever. What we do have recorded is pure magic, buzzing droning guitars cram sound into every known centimeter of space available in your ears. Like a glacier, the most powerful earth shaking moves come from the most minute movements. Although the sound can be overwhelming the smallest movements of tone come slowly and envelop you in a buzzing avalanche of beauty.

1 comment:

  1. ya, i know what you mean, i tried making a decade list, but its just too hard. but just so ya know, if i did make one Cursive's Domestica would of easily made the top ten.