Post-2000 Music I Can Get Behind

  1. I'm an old fart and I don't like all this noise. Most of it is rubbish. But you whippersnappers have done some good, I tell ya.

  2. Radiohead: Kid A (2000)
  3. Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
  4. Janelle Monae: The ArchAndroid (2010)
  5. Battles: Mirrored (2007)
  6. The Shins: Oh, Inverted World (2001)
  7. Zs: New Slaves (2010) - intense!
  8. The Shins: Chutes Too Narrow (2003)
  9. Supersilent: 6 (2003)
  10. Shit and Shine: Ladybird (2005)
  11. Animal Collective: Spirit They're Gone Spirit They've Vanished (2000)
  12. Spring Heel Jack: Disappeared (2000)
  13. Fiery Furnaces: Blueberry Boat (2004)
  14. Boris: Boris at Last-Feedbacker (2003)
  15. Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (2011)
  16. Spring Heel Jack: Amassed (2002)
  17. The Residents: Animal Lover (2005)
  18. Comets On Fire: Field Recordings From the Sun (2002)
Author Comments: 

My initial thoughts (Nov 2010): So I have made an effort to listen to more 00's music. But I'm getting the faint sense that sage Scaruffi is accurate here too. What was so great about the last decade? Am I missing something? Yes, I know we had Joanna Newsom, and she is pretty great. But has there been anyone pointing the way forward? What is the future of music? Increasing noise? Now that isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it's not exactly the new game in town either. Great bands have incorporated noise elements as an ingredient in a much wider palette of sonic wonderment for YEARS NOW. From the Velvets to the Butthole Surfers (not to mention Hendrix!), noise has been an interdependent element, complementer, enhancer, and mutual partner in the architecture -- NOT THE DAMN ENTIRE THING. OK, I'll admit that I don't really know what I'm talking about. If I'm attacking the likes of Merzbow and other harsh noise-fiends, I may as well be preaching to the choir (right?). And I haven't even heard Boris yet (what the HELL does he know??) So what am I babbling about? I don't know.

Yes, sorry to say but you're missing something. In the same way the ultra snobbish classic critics were missing something with jazz in the early 20th century, the way the jazz critics were missing it with the Stones in the 60s, and the same way the 'Classic Rock' critics were missing it with Talking Heads and Joy Division in the late 70s.

Music undergoes paradigm shifts, and staunch defenders of the 'classic' style do not take well to change.

Innovation of rock music (the broad term I'm using to include all the choices above) is still happening in the album format, but it is certainly not the driving formal force. EDM music is where much of the true innovation is coming from (not David Guetta, think more Swamp81); EDM favours 12"s and singles, not albums. This shift is much like the movement from classical structures (symphonies et cetera) to 3 minute pop-song format.

If you feel this music is still lacking, then your aesthetic criteria are simply not matched to it. Classical critics talk centrally about melody, harmony and structure (with timbre being an almost absent concept - the instruments haven't changed in a very long time (generally speaking)), whereas within popular 'rock' the focus is more on memorable tunes and unique sound. (Good) EDM is focused much more rhythm, timbre, gradual shifts and atmosphere, almost with melody being an incidental by-product. It has a lot in common with Minimalism. If you're not a fan of Steve Reich, I doubt you'll like Ricardo Villalobos.

I might just be stubborn in my preferences. I'm not even that big of a fan of modern rock groups. Maybe I'm missing whatever genre or album (or 12" or single) that would connect me to the present.

What EDM would you recommend, especially for a newcomer?

Firstly, before I recommend anything I think I should say that having a soundsystem which can fully articulate bass sounds is very important because some of the recommendations are very bass-driven. So, here are a few to check out

James Blake - James Blake (album, and an incredible one at that. Poorly understood by many who claim to like it. To qualify that comment, I mean they don't appreciate a lot of the subtler things he's doing.)
Addison Groove - Footcrab (song)
James Blake - CMYK (song)
Digital Mystikz - Neverland (song)
Aphex Twin - Windowicker (song)
Burial - Kindred EP
Joy Orbison and Boddika - Froth (song)
Burial - Untrue (album)
Burial - Burial (album)
S-X vs Ramadanman - Woo Glut (song)
Joy Orbison - Hyph Mngo (song)
Akufen - My Way (album)

To be honest, you should try and get these all at 320 if you can, but if you just want a taster to see if it's worth delving deeper then most of the songs are on youtube. Again I'll mention how focusing on things like rhythm, impulse and atmosphere will stimulate the intended response. Some of this music has little to no melody. That said, if these leave you cold then I guess it's just a taste thing and fair play for at least considering their merit.

NB. For what it's worth, a couple of recent 'rock' songs that I think are fucking fantastic

The Mars Volta - The Malkin Jewel
Battles - Futura

Thanks! This should get me started. Have a nice pair of headphones, that should hopefully do the trick.

Pretty sure I heard the Kindred EP and liked it. Battles are pretty awesome, one of my recent faves actually :)

What do you think of Shackleton? Music for the Quiet Hour / The Drawbar Organ EPs? I could do without the random noise bursts of political etc. announcements. That is electronic music that i can get behind. Not a fan of dubstep (Burial, Blake), though the few obvious dubsteop tracks on Shackleton's compilation Fabric 55 were pretty good.

Wow, you found an album that i haven't heard: New slaves. What do you think of the latter half of Blueberry Boat (tracks 8-13)?

O, wtf, no Lemon of pink, Tobin, Toby Driver/Kayo Dot, Xiu Xiu, JOANNA!!!?

Honestly it's been awhile since I've listened to many of the albums on this list. This is my main problem with the last decade, music that isn't generally compelling enough to revisit. Little to no craving. And no emotional connection. I might really have old school preferences or some mental block where I prefer older things. Certainly quite a few of the great albums of the 60s and 70s have aced the test of time - I hope I'm just being sensitive to that.

That said, I don't think I like the original spirit of this list. I don't want to be close-minded, and I want to hear all the new stuff, even if I like to poke some fun ;)

New Slaves is a noisy racket. Made a good impression but now .... Hmmm ... Put it on your radar screen.

Can't remember last side of Blueberry. But Mason City was really good. I think that album is definitely inconsistent, but it really kills when it works.

I don't think I like Xiu Xiu, but this is probably colored by walking out of their show. Joanna and the rest are fine. Can't fault any of these artists. Don't think I've heard Kayo Dot yet.

"No emotional connection" -- I was going to ask another friend (a Scaruffi nut) who is a Zappa nut about the emotional content of Zappa's work. I watched the new DVD From Bizarre to Straight and relistened to his 60s stuff (still gotta get through the highlights of 70s and 80s) and I downgraded everything of his. Even Absolutely Free dropped off the list of "must have/masterpiece" albums (Brown Shoes is still as good as anything anyone else has ever done), but only Uncle Meat is left and that is because of the consistent potency of intellectualism; it still lacks the emotional content of Flipper or Hendrix. you have a tremendous emotional connection to Zappa's work?

I only find it intellectually stimulating. I still like/love other albums that do not have the overt emotionality of Flipper (which spills over and gets all messy) like The Ex, Henry Cow (?maybe), (Zappa: Uncle Meat), Tobin, etc. but they register so high on the intellectual scale (for now) that they overcome their deficiency.

Oh come now. Isn't that a very common criticism of Zappa?

I would definitely place artists higher than him for emotional connection, but it's there in his work. Usually more in the way of individual tracks than complete albums. But in his earlier Mothers work I think he found a way musically to make some of his satirical lyrics work emotionally, both derisively and sometimes also in a straightforward sense. Freak Out! has these kind of moments. Sometimes he did seem pretty sincere like in "Mom and Dad" on WOIIFTM. But a good instrumental pick which I really love is "Blessed Relief" on Grand Wazoo.

Btw when I say emotional connection I really mean that the music has grown on me. It's become a good friend. And it's been hard to get that attached to newer stuff. But I'm going to keep trying.

It may be, i really don't know, or i am selectively forgetting. He is just a kid playing with the knobs, as is everyone else, but doesn't transcend that but merely exacerbates it. He was always more of a robot (a plastic people) rather than the human; a pseudo-intellectual, which is brilliant on "Brown shoes don't make it", "Wowie zowie", "Concentration moon", and "What's the ugliest part of your body".

Actually, he becomes a human when he shut up and played his guitar on "Willie the pimp", the track that keeps him a great guitarist.

Man, Zappa bashing time. I would take Zappa to task for his comedic approach. His ridicule tends to alienate more people than win him fans. Even people that might agree with what he's saying (hypocrites should be called out) end up disliking what sounds like a guy obsessed with mocking everyone and making childish noises. It's not entirely accurate and not really fair, but he took that risk. His stuff can be preachy, and maybe what he lacks the most is empathy. The really bad side effect is that he attracts very antisocial types who reinforce this image. Basically, there is a big difference between dissatisfaction with your culture and outright hate of humanity.

Anyway, I'm not sure why Zappa came up in this discussion. While I do really enjoy his early albums, and consider them favorites, it doesn't have much to do with their emotional resonance. His music works for other reasons, particularly in how peculiar it is. I hope this isn't turning into a "Scaruffi-esque" appraisal of the emotional power of art. That's an interesting discussion (both emotional power and whether this is really Scaruffi's ultimate criterion) but it doesn't factor into my favorites. I love stuff for all sorts of reasons. If I feel like listening to anything a lot, if it satisfies me regularly, then it's probably my favorite.

:) Haha, yeah i guess i am in the mood...and since i am, he is an ultimate hypocrite: he hated and lampooned "the man" bringing people down and he was the ultimate "man" in his music business; a ruthless businessman who left numerous people out to dry, usually for ego sake. But, but, but, but, Beefheart was a sadistic maniac, Dylan was nothing more than a songwriter/performer (Elvis, Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie), Lou Reed was a maniacal vortex of hypocrisy, uhmmm, everyone is a hypocrite in some way. I am probably a HUGE one, or maybe that is vanity, maybe i am just an average hypocrite.... None of that should take away from what they did, even if they didn't do nearly what people think they did, Beefheart's albums were as much the Magic Band as the Captain's (John French, Bill Harkleroad, etc.).

Scaruffi: no, he is all over the map on that, though very consistent with being all over the map.

Zappa: I still LOVE, all those tracks i mentioned above, plus, "Hungry freaks", "Help, I'm a rock", "Dog breath", "King kong", "Willie", "Yellow snow", "Black Napkins"...and the other bands who i said were robotic. They are the other end of the spectrum. And, listening to his 70s stuff, i cannot figure out why he is not talked about for being a better guitarist; not THE greatest, but top 30ish maybe.

Zappa 2: he came in the discussion on my whim, sorry. I just finished the new documentary about his early record labels. Have come across as colder and colder to me over the last 6 months or so.

Well, glad you got it off your chest. It doesn't seem uncommon that fans reevaluate Zappa at some point. Dude was definitely a jerk a lot of the time. He is much better when he focuses on absurdity, silliness, and just plain oddness.