The Decade’s Best, Part III

40. Blitzen Trapper – Furr.  The single and title track is about a transformation into a werewolf.  Can I just say, I’m sick to death of werewolves?  Why has this whole vampire/werewolf/zombie thing suddenly become a cancercous growth of jokes, parodies, series, etc etc etc?  And yet… a line like “I still dream of running careless through the snow” or  “I’m a rattlesnake babe, I’m like fuel on a fire” speaks volumes, rising above all that goofy one-dimensional ‘monster movie’ bullshit.  Furr is a GREAT album, in all its relgious reference-y alt-folk glory.  The old time-y barn dance-y Saturday Night is a nostalgic little piece of heaven and the bouncy, chunky rock n’ roll AM radio-style Gold for Bread will have hipsters bounding around their bedrooms in their plaid shirts and skinny jeans… myself included.  What of it?

39. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga.  While this isn’t regarded as Bright Eyes’ BEST record to date, there is really a kind of magic here, and not just the overtly referenced psychic magic that Oberst wants you to hear; it’s the magic of a young artist coming into his own, taking risks, continuing on a pathway of walking directly on the production/lo-fi line.  The title track is the obvious superstar moment here, the lyrics soaring with mysticism, politics and romance, the melody a strong pull back into the early days of folk tales and boxcar travelling songs.  The first time I heard Cassadaga was the summer before my fourth year of university, and the best summer of my life (and at that, a GREAT GREAT summer for music too).  This album really meant a lot to me in terms of my musical and personal growth.  As an aside, I met/saw Oberst in concert the following fall, while his Bright Eyes moniker toured to promote Cassadaga.  It was a great show.

38. Josh Rouse – 1972.  Rouse is widely considered “lame dad rock” compared to some of his edgier-sounding contemporaries.  However, there is a place in the ipod of my heart for Rouse always, because I don’t care what people “widely consider” to be anything.  What I care about is a retro throwback concept album with catchy 1970’s pop radio homages like the title track, which references AM radio queen, Carole King.  I  care about the disco-lite “Comeback” with its strings and jazz flute and unbelievably catchy and oddly grooveable bridge.   I care about the bouncy sunshine-y “Love Vibration”, which taps into the best false nostalgia EVER.  And I certainly care about Rouse attempting  to recreate Barry White makeouts in the back of a toaster van by singing, “it’s the end of the night and I’m feeling sexual” on Under Your Charms.  The charming singer/songwriter that Rouse is ignores this cheesy throwback in songs like Sparrows Over Birmingham and Rise.  Josh Rouse has a gentle style of singing and songwriting but underestimating gentle-ness is something no one should ever do.  This album is nothing short of sweet, loveable summertime perfection, and it doesn’t need to be anything more than that.

37.Kylie Minogue – Fever.  Towards the end of the nineties and venturing into the new decade, dance music needed help.  The days of Aqua and Whigfield were gone and instead, were being replaced with a cruel onslaught of horrible rap/pop acts and forgettable Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys imitation groups.  And then Fever came along, and almost singlehandedly resurrected a dying and often unfairly ridiculed, dismissed genre.  An unlikely savior, Minogue was a teen superstar in Australia and almost like Madonna on a smaller and less significant scale, underwent several transformations, first as a bubblegum pop artist and then during the nineties, releasing darker material on independent labels.  Fever was her North American breakout album and the album’s first single, Can’t Get You Out of My Head is to me, one of the definitive songs of the decade with its slick production and futuristic video featuring Minogue’s erotic poses and outfits that didn’t look sleazy or overt but rather, a clean brand of sexuality rarely seen in North American music videos.  The album is packed with wicked dance jams and spawned quite a few singles, and when I was in the ninth grade, I simply could not get enough.  Nowadays, Lady Gaga is a big deal in the dance world and justifiably so, but Fever I would argue, opened that door and made the people dance once again.

36. Lady Gaga – The Fame.  “Let’s have some fun, this beat is sick; I wanna take a ride on your disco stick.”  Actually, that’s all I really NEED to say about The Fame, but I won’t stop there.  Consider for a moment, the 1930s: the world was in a horrible state of depression, both mentally and economically, obviously; and the climate didn’t make things any better either.  Essentially, the world was poor but downtrodden citizens gravitated to the movies, featuring grand spectacles and happy, cheery songs and in those movies, they found smiles, hope and solace.  I think The Fame is this decade’s grand movie musical.  We are now in economic crisis and environmental crisis, we’re poor and we’re scared and Americans are stuck in Iraq for no apparent reason, and the new president, a symbol of hope and change, has done little in terms of hope or change as of yet.  And here comes Ms. Gaga, telling everyone to “just dance”.  She sings about “cadillacs and liquor bottles”, about money and excess and partying and glamour and fun.  And the world responds to that kind of music sometimes, more than doom and gloom and sadness.  And no matter how old the world gets, no matter what changes, people will always love to dance.  Of course, there’s good and bad dance music; there are some dance songs so forgettable and bad, you don’t even hear them at Chuck E. Cheese let alone a legitimate club.  But Lady Gaga is EVERYWHERE.  And she’s amazing and talented and produces DAMN good music.  Her debut is a stunning ode to excess, and tells us exactly who the artist is and what she stands for.  And she most certainly is an artist.  God love her.

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