Friday, April 11, 2008

Great Albums of the Oh-Ohs

Beginning with this week’s Friday Feature we turn from the Nineties to the Oh-Ohs, or whatever they’re called. We begin with what are, in my humble opinion, the best albums of the first 4/5 of the present decade.

1. Chutes Too Narrow (The Shins): The guys sort of got onto our radar via the film Garden State (though I was already listening to them, of course, but it was nice to have the rest of the culture catch up to me). This album, their sophomore effort, is probably their best, as it captures the best elements of Oh Inverted World (their debut) and Wincing the Night Away (their most recent).

2. Show Your Bones (Yeah Yeah Yeahs): Karen O is the new Joan Jett.

3. The Crane Wife (The Decemberists): It was a toss-up between this album and Castaways and Cutouts, which was the first of theirs I heard. They’re so unique, combining cool instruments (like cellos and hurdy-gurdies) with Colin Meloy’s macabre lyrics, often involving phalanxes, dirigibles, and killer plays on words like this one: “Within sight of the baroness, seething spite for this live largesse; By her side sits the baron, her barrenness barbs her.”

4. Our Endless Numbered Days (Iron and Wine): Hushed, subtle, and oh so beautiful. Makes ya wanna grow that beard.

5. Quiet is the New Loud (The Kings of Convenience): The best of Lo-Fi. Plus, since I didn’t include anything by Feist I had to give Leslie a shout-out here since she sings with these two Norweigan guys.

6. In Rainbows (Radiohead): Not only is this their best effort since OK Computer, but they totally messed with the entire music industry by releasing it independently on their website for however much their fans felt like paying. I love anarchy, especially in the U.K.

7. Neon Bible (Arcade Fire): This band from Montreal has like ten people in it or something, and in concert they are so entertaining, switching their diverse and sundry instruments at random. They're one of the few bands whose stock rose significantly after seeing them live.

8. Hot Fuss (The Killers): What the heck is "Somebody Told Me" about anyway?

9. I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (Bright Eyes): I love this line from "At the Bottom of Everything": "We must blend into the choir, sing as static with the whole; We must memorize nine numbers and deny we have a soul; And in this endless race for property and privilege to be won, we must run, we must run, we must run." The satire is so thick you could cut it with a knife.

10. Boxer (The National): Thank you, ACD, I am forever your humble servant for telling me about these guys. Singer Matt Berninger is like a Leonard Cohen for the new generation.

Honorable mentions: Accelerate (REM), Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Spoon), Seven Swans (Sufjan Stevens), Runaway Found (The Veils), Our Ill Wills (Shout Out Louds), Favorite Worst Nightmare (Arctic Monkeys), Final Straw (Snow Patrol), How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (U2), Transatlanticim (Death Cab For Cutie), American Idiot (Green Day), A Rush of Blood to the Head (Coldplay), Rock Steady (No Doubt), Brushfire Fairytales (Jack Johnson), Stadium Arcadium (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Make Up the Breakdown (Hot Hot Heat), Turn on the Bright Lights (Interpol), and Yours Truly, Angry Mob (Kaiser Chiefs).