What Nathan Williams typifies above all in recent years is the DIY ethic. Williams recorded all these songs himself using his computer, and with little concern for arrangements or production. Perhaps it's the sign of a golden age that the personal computer and internet connection has given to everyday folks, Vivian Girls are the pre-cursor to Wavves, the big sister of Williams the fuzz-drenched wunderkind. It's debatable whether it's pop music, but Wavves with two v's is the jewel shared amongst blogspotters and second-hand, European Pitchfork readers with a taste for American indie rock and dreadful ambient dregs. 'Vermin' is my favourite, because it sheds a melancholic light on Wavves' otherwise bumptious persona.
59: Ricardo Villalobos - AchsoEP
European art wins out for me, it hits right at the heart. To generalise massively, perhaps Western-infected art, like much English 21st century music and film, and American similarly, is impeded upon by societal pains too easily. But then most European art of the 20th century is digesting the terrible experiment of Stalin's Communism, or the catastrophe of the Second World War. European wordless music has a chance to do something different, post-Classical. If Rudolph Arnheim claims that poetry fails after the holocaust then here Ricardo Villalobos in no way refers to such a thing, but proves minimal ambient music prevails. There is life positively spilling from these four tracks, and more than ever, kicks feel like heartbeats. 'Ichso' has a deeply pronounced beat that hits in a little before 5-minutes, and with the right sound system you'll never fail to be enlivened by it. Villalobos is a genius, his craft is a meticulous and endlessly rewarding one.
58: Gang Gang Dance - God's Money
Brooklyn is a goldmine. But Gang Gang Dance don't necessarily sound like they're straight out of New York City, more like the creature traumatised by a globalised community. This creature's pain is expressed in distinctly wonderful melodies, with bouts shrieking and delayed vocal loops. God's Money is the phrase a deceased friend of GGD's used to offer to receivers of his generosity, 'it's not my money, it's God's money,' he'd say. So God is at the heart of these songs, but it's up to fidgety critics to relay whether God is there or absent. For me, these songs are Holy things, 'Egowar' is a masterful expression of modern alternative music. If you're not cut-up when that strange xylophone-like loop comes in then, well.
57: Deerhunter - Fluorescent Grey EP
Deerhunter are the best guitar band of the decade, IMO. Cryptograms is the most innovative use of delay pedals, the antithesis of Bloc Party's twee. But an idea seems to surround the band that they're inaccessible. Well this 4-track monolithic slab of alternative guitar music solves that bollock-wrangle. 'Like New' is maybe about Deerhunter's deceased first bass player, Bradley Ira Harris, 'Be like new/be like you'. Or else it could be Bradford Cox shaking off the high school jinx, trying to be himself. Otherwise, 'Fluorescent Grey' is all about the city and the dying 'the city spotting/the corpses rotting/the glow'. The glow is the colour of dead flesh, as per the title of the EP. Above all that, these songs are invigorating to listen to.
56: The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
I know this is nailed-on as favourite for real fans of the Shins, but it's heavier-going than Oh, Inverted World. Is it the last really good record by this band? You'd have to argue for a long time to disprove that to some. Me, too. Chutes Too Narrow is altogether a more saddened event for the band, a little Camera Obscura in part, 'Gone for Good' sounds like it helped to write Let's Get Out of This Country in one go. The intricate, lyrical imagery of Oh, Inverted World are apparent though, with grass growing in the corners of James Mercer's bedsheets.
55: Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
Remember this is a personal list, and I think for a lot of people this Wolf Parade record is a certain Top Ten. My favourite is 'Dinner Bells', it's Spencer Krug at his loneliest, 'There'll be no more dinner bells/dinner bells to ring'. I also love how it's 7-minutes plus, it fills a space of time perfectly, never feeling hurried or overlong. 'Shine a Light' was played to me by a friend and we must have listened to it about sixty times that night, it was a memorable introduction to the band. Perhaps Wolf Parade have finally taken a back seat for Krug though, with Sunset Rubdown now arguably making stronger records, Dragonslayer in particular.
54: Department of Eagles - The Cold Nose
This is a long way from Grizzly Bear's dusty classical dirge, and it's got to be Dan Rossen's sense of humour that makes the whole thing such a treat. '$20 lamp! $40 rug! Playstation 2! Tony Hawk 4!' as on 'Forty Dollar Rug', an ode to popular consumerism for the twenty-something males far-flown from the nest. The songs are surprisingly strong here, a first attempt for Dan Rossen as a musician, and our chum Fred Nicolaus also. You get the feeling that songs like 'Sailing by Night' and 'Ghost in Summer' clothes are the early indicators of Rossen's future fruit. Sure, In Ear Park is a very good record, but Rossen's magnum opus is yet to arrive. I can't wait!
53: Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
Ouch, so Chutes Too Narrow helped Camera Obscura to write this record (material proof pending) but then it appears higher up! What a farce, someone email the media. Well, maybe 'Tears for Affairs' emotes like non-Brits cannot. Soz. That's flagrant racism. Nah, it's just different, Scotland is c-old. Or should I say, as only the Brits can! Look, 'Let's Get Out of This Country' besmirches all that, for these Scots want to live and love in cathedral cities like Munich and Prague: 'We'll wave goodbye to thankless jobs.../we'll find a cathedral city/you can be handsome and I'll be pretty'. Sounds good, ach aye.
52: The Knife - Silent Shout
This is where it gets heated. Silent Shout was Pitchfork's #1 record of 2006, but I'm sorry you don't put Joanna Newsom third behind TV on the Radio, and however much The Knife have crafted something like the best electronic record of the decade (for most people), well, you know, it's personal. Darkness and danceability are rarely married together, but then the Knife came along. Fever Ray is doing something like it currently, but it's less danceable and more minimal beat-intoxication. I listened to 'Silent Shout' on headphones in HMV in Liverpool, and I was scared. The headphones test thing was new, probably riddled by the bacteria of germy trance-face earholes, but the song blew that all away. 'Like a Pen', 'Marble House' and 'We Share Our Mother's Health' make me afraid of the sunlight.
51: Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Rob Pecknold, Tillman and co. are tapping into something divine. 'Meadowlarks' is distinctly gnostic-cum-early music, a song about a bird that I don't get to see in England. In fact, I saw a model of a meadowlark in the Horniman museum, and it's a creature worthy of the song. There is a sort of running, tree-hugging joke that follows Fleet Foxes around, and it's only because what is directly beautiful and wonderful gets scoffed at. Yeah, the Guardian are guilty of it, particularly in Michael Hann's review of Veckatimest recently, whatever they gave Fleet Foxes last year, 'landmark in American music' blah. On the BBC Culture Show, when Pecknold was asked by Lauren Laverne what his songwriting was about, he meekly replied that he wouldn't know how to write a song for a club night. Fair, Fleet Foxes isn't perfect, but Sun Giant is, nearly.