90. MISSY ELLIOTT- MISS E… SO ADDICTIVE (2001)
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After her extraordinary and game changing debut “Supa Dupa Fly” in 1997, Missy’s follow-up “Da Real World” was a comparative disappointment. For “So Addictive”, her third release, she along with fellow Va. Beach native and super-producer Timbaland, were officially back in business. Lead single “Get Ur Freak On” was perhaps the single of the year for 2001 and a party jams for all times. Follow-up “One Minute Man” is not far behind it and the rest of the album is filled with fun, sexed up, club ready jams. Missy is a triple threat with wicked rapping, along with her writing and singing and Timbaland was simply the most influential producer in rap and r&B and the turn of the millennium with the possible exception of the Neptunes. This album may be his definitive production statement.
89. THE DISMEMBERMENT PLAN- CHANGE (2001)
The D-Plan is fairly unknown except for indie-kids of a certain age and/or music lovers in the D.C. Metropolitan area. I wish that everyone knew them as they are one great band. The drummer actually went to my high school and the bass player my college though I really didn’t know either of them. “Change” is their fourth and last album. It may not be quite as good as 1999’s “Emergency & I” but “Change” is their second best full length by a mile. They were emo before emo became a laughing stock. They took their cues from everyone from Fugazi and Rites of Spring to Prince and The Talking Heads. They told indie kids stop standing around and start dancing years before it became de rigeur. That said this is their darkest album- it seems made for broken hearted young men to listen to well after dark. Hopefully many more people will discover this amazing band- it would be criminal for a band this good to fade away into obscurity.
88. ROBYN- ROBYN (2005) (U.S. Release 2008)
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Robyn is a 30 year old Swedish woman who has been an International pop star since she was a teenager and even had several U.S. hits, though she certainly wasn’t anything close to a star here. Robyn is also a complete badass. She reworked and updated her sound away from teen pop and toward a combination of American R&B, electro & club music and the indie-pop currently prevalent with so many bands in her native country. It is absolutely criminal that at least several songs on this record weren’t playing alongside the best U.S. pop of this decade. “Be Mine” should have been getting airplay right between “Toxic” and “Crazy in Love”. Robyn also writes her music, is very involved in production and runs her own label- Konichiwa Records. If you like your pop music with tons of attitude, fun & accessibility but still outside of the traditional pop machine, then Robyn is your girl. Just don’t mess with her.
Buy Be Mine! – Robyn
87. LES SAVY FAV- LET’S STAY FRIENDS (2007)
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“Let’s Stay Friends” is LSF’s first album release after the career spanning singles compilation, “Inches” from 2004, which easily would have made this countdown if it weren’t for my self imposed rules against compilations. While “Inches” certainly remains the best introduction to this great band, “Friends” is a very worthy follow up. Les Savy Fav was doing the dance punk/Gang of Four revival thing in New York City in the late 90’s- certainly a few years or so before anyone else did. “Friends” sees the band drifting away from the sound & the scene they helped start into more mature and more polished territory. Though this often creates a mellower, trippier vibe than their usual fare, the music never gets boring. Piano, horns and dub reggae bass are added to the mix and the vocals are sung rather than shouted. But take one look at the gleam in maniacal frontman Tim Harrington’s eye and you know that this is a band that will always continue to bring the noise as long as they are still around- there will be no growing old gracefully for them!
86. FUGAZI- THE ARGUMENT (2001)
As of this date “The Argument” is this D.C. post-hardcore institution’s sixth and final full length album and it does not disappoint. I consider each Fugazi release a necessary purchase- with the possible exception of 1998’s “End Hits” which I’ve still somehow never heard. While the band uses the same template of emotional, shouted vocals, anti-corporate, socially conscious lyrics and thrashing guitars, they change up their sound on every album and never repeat themselves. With “The Argument” their songs are more melodic and catchier than anything they’ve done since the “13 Songs” days. They also add texture with strings and piano on several tracks. If this album ends up being the last word of Fugazi then they’ve gone out well.
85. PJ HARVEY- STORIES FROM THE CITY, STORIES FROM THE SEA (2000)
“Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea” is PJ Harvey’s fifth full length album and her most commercial sounding. Gone is the uncompromising, aggressive lo-fi punk of her first two albums as well as the eccentric singer-songwriter style of her third and fourth. As it turns out this album was not a permanent turn toward the commercial for Harvey, but just another stylistic shift that she experimented with before moving on to other styles later in the decade. The album chronicles PJ’s times living in New York City- far away from her home in the English countryside. The writing is tight, the production is big and the songs for the most part sound great. It’s a pleasure hearing PJ’s amazing voice sing behind songs you could actually imagine being played on the radio- even if one of them ever were. Tracks like “This Mess We’re In” and “You Said Something” took on new meaning after 9/11 with their imagery about New York City buildings and helicopters. Art imitates life, life imitates art.
84. MASTODON- CRACK THE SKYE (2009)
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I’ve listened to plenty of aggressive music in the last two decades; not much outside of the occasional Boris or Tool release (that’s what she said) would really even be considered Heavy Metal. Well Mastodon is my Metal band. And they are unapologetically Metal. And I am on board. “Crack the Skye” is their fourth album release and probably their most varied and proggy (though I’ve yet to hear their debut). Mastodon always seems to go high concept- this album is based on Tsarist Russia but you need not be a student of history to enjoy the thundering power of tracks like “Oblivion” and “Divinations” or the sweeping epics like the 13 minute “The Last Baron”. Like Metallica (way) before them, Mastodon doesn’t want to be put in a box. At times they can sound like thrash or death metal, and their singer has aggressive howling vocals but he has far more depth than the typical cookie-monster vocalist so typical in Metal these days. And the band while aggressive and heavy as all get out, can also change time on a dime; slowing the music down to either convey creeping doom (again like old Metallica) or go into instrumental passages of intense beauty.
83. RYAN ADAMS- HEARTBREAKER (2000)
In a career made up of a zillion album releases, former Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adam’s solo debut “Heartbreaker” is his one masterpiece. It’s an ode to both sadness and the American South. With the exception of a few Whiskeytown-style rockers, and the great upbeat leadoff track “To Be Young (Is to be Sad, Is to be High)”, “Heartbreaker” is made up of all ballads. But fear not, there isn’t a single radio ready power ballad in the bunch- the songs are all rooted in old school country- Emmylou Harris even duets on the terrific “Oh My Sweet Carolina”. This is a beautiful, sad, drinker’s lament album to be played in the wee small hours of the morning. Adams remains prolific to this day, but has yet to match the quality of “Heartbreaker”.
82. THE EXPLODING HEARTS- GUITAR ROMANTIC (2003)
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The Exploding Hearts were an extremely fun, loose power-pop meets punk group from Portland, Oregon. Though they had obvious influences- namely the Buzzcocks, the Undertones & early Clash, their sense of glee at bashing out a great hook, and their overall tunefulness and excellent song-writing made them stand out from the pack. This is my favorite true punk record of the 00’s- simply better than a more popular album like “Vendi, Vidi, Vicious” by The Hives which actually barely missed the cut. In the days of the current trend of blending many different musical genres, the Exploding Hearts keep it simple- writing mostly 2-3 minute tunes that make up a barely 30 minute album. As soon as the album’s over you’ll want to press the reset button/move the needle back to the front of the record. Tragically ¾ of the band were killed in a bus accident in 2006 and there was never a proper follow-up other than a compilation of the group’s non-album single releases. They are missed.
81. THE FLAMING LIPS- EMBRYONIC (2009)
“Embryonic” is a return to these twenty + year vets earlier days as acid-drenched, psychedelic indie-freak shows. However, in the old days the Lips went lo-fi by necessity and “Embryonic” is a nod to Pink Floyd’s brain melting albums of the seventies like “Dark Side of the Moon”, using all of the modern technology at a major label’s disposal. The Lips even managed to cover “Dark Side” in its entirety as their follow-up release to “Embryonic”. The album is packaged as an old school double album with two distinct sides, even though each disc barely runs over thirty minutes and would have easily fit onto one cd. Though there are many layers to the music, and it hardly announces its accessibility on first listen, with any luck scores of future heads will revere “Embryonic” the way Floyd is revered today. It’s a future classic for the 2020’s!