0016: The 50 Best Artists Working

  1. Modest Mouse
  2. Sufjan Stevens
  3. Joanna Newsom
  4. Spoon
  5. The Decemberists
  6. The Streets
  7. The Mountain Goats
  8. The Fiery Furnaces
  9. Iron & Wine
  10. Dizzee Rascal
  11. Bjork
  12. The Shins
  13. Devendra Banhart
  14. Radiohead
  15. Animal Collective
  16. Outkast
  17. Broken Social Scene
  18. The Books
  19. The Microphones (& Mt. Eerie)
  20. Sonic Youth
  21. Yo La Tengo
  22. The Arcade Fire
  23. Deerhoof
  24. The Flaming Lips
  25. Missy Elliott
  26. Sigur Ros
  27. Caribou
  28. Annie
  29. The Go! Team
  30. Bonnie "Prince" Billy
  31. Cat Power
  32. Xiu Xiu
  33. Death from Above 1979
  34. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
  35. MF Doom
  36. M83
  37. Wilco
  38. Godspeed You Black Emperor!
  39. The New Pornographers (and all solo/side work)
  40. Bright Eyes
  41. The Hold Steady
  42. Mates of State
  43. The White Stripes
  44. Ghostface Killah
  45. Magnolia Electric Company
  46. Jay-Z
  47. Fennesz
  48. M.I.A.
  49. Daft Punk
  50. M. Ward

I do love Elephant, and I've been meaning to pick up the Strokes album, the Flaming Lips album, some Elliot Smith, and some Beck. Have you heard Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? I think it's awesome. Good list.

The Strokes' album is great, with Is This It? and Elephant, we have two rock and roll classics in the first four years of the new century. Which Elliot Smith and Beck have you hear?

Umm... none...

Actually, I've heard Elliott Smith's song "Coming Up Roses", and snippets of Beck here and there. But both artists are pretty acclaimed, and I've been meaning to pick up something by each of them.

Elliot Smith's song "Needle in the Hay" is used in The Royal Tenenbaums, and he was nominated for an Oscar for "Miss Misery" which appeared in Good Will Hunting. I recommend Figure 8, but I haven't heard most of his albums.

Beck is great, but Sea Change is VERY different than the rest of his work. I'd buy Odelay and Mutations before checking out Sea Change.

Is This It?...a rock and roll classic...you said it yourself. It pains me to see The Fiery Furnaces and The New Pornographers in front of The Strokes, which clearly were on this list, but now nowhere to be found.

Well, that comment was posted about a year ago, and as is the case with many artists/movies/albums/books, The Strokes have just sorta soured in my mind.

Really, they are fine songwriters who are extremely competent musicians. However, that is not enough to make a great band. I feel like their music lacks experimentation (especially seeing how little they changed in any way between albums) and especially emotion. Maybe it's just me, but the more time passes, the more the album feels soulless.

Now, I still think that these albums (Elephant and Is This It?) will go down as "classic" albums. There's no question that they created a splash, they definitely defined a moment in time, and their fans are many. However, I just plain don't like the band that much.

PS: The Fiery Furnaces and The New Pornographers are ten times the bands that The Strokes could ever dream they were.

Pardon me for playing the devil's advocate, but how could you claim their music lacks experimentation if below you say that they are one of the most influential contemporary indie bands? Unless you are only talking about Room on Fire...

I was specifically referring to Room on Fire.

What I meant is that they have already fallen into a specific formula, and I very highly doubt that their future work will be a sudden change of heart.

It's not that they're not a fine band (they are nowhere near a bad band at all) it's just that their first album is so...well, dull after you've listened to it a few times. Room on Fire just felt like listening to Is This It? for the hundredth time.

I really am not trying to say that they're talentless hacks. It's just that they have ceased to entertain me, and they never really moved me, so what's the point of listening to them anymore for me?

I understand. Not having heard Room on Fire, I couldn't defend the band against any criticisms of it, but I do still love Is This It after listening to it quite a few times.

Hmm. Do you think you could come up with some estimate of how many times you listened to it before you stopped enjoying it as much? If I've listened to it less frequently than you, perhaps this terrible fate will befall me as well.

Really, it was about twenty times, and my misgivings actually kicked in a lot earlier than that.

I think it was the fact that I was never able to listen to it twice in a row (or even in one day) without becoming extremely bored or just sick of the music. I know that sounds like nitpicking, but I could (and have on several occasions) listen to my favorite albums several times in one sitting. It was this that originally made me question my enjoyment of the album. After that I realized that it just felt like listening to one long song that never really goes anywhere. This may seem like a very harsh indictment, but, really, it's just that guitar rock very rarely feels fresh or interesting to me.

A lot earlier than twenty times? Hmm... okay, I think I'm safe from having the Strokes fall from grace then. Lucky me.

Anyway, see here I am going with the flow of defending the Strokes, when championing the White Stripes (definitely a better band, in my opinion) would be more consistent with my taste. But really, let's not get into that. :-)

Actually, I do like The White Stripes a lot. I just feel like they don't make me feel the same way they used to. The stuff that felt new and different is less new and different the more you explore the music out there. I guess I just realized that there are a lot of albums I'd rather listen to than Elephant.

That said, The White Stripes are better than The Strokes by a long shot. In fact, I may come full circle and love 'em again if their next album is great.

Hey, how's U Arts treating you, anyway?

Oh, it's wonderful! I'm really enjoying both the work and the people. But the best thing is the city. Philly is a great place to be when you're young and any sort of artist. Being an actor and living smackdab in the middle of the theater district ain't half bad.

Also, city life means both great indie movies and great shows/concerts within walking distance.

Seriously, college is...wonderful.

Oh, AJ, speaking of all this, how is life treating you? Forgive me for not remembering your plans for the year, I'm terrible with that. Are you in college? Taking a year off? Either way, I hope you're doing well.

Haha. I'm about three miles away from you, having a great time here at U Penn. I'm a bit more segregated from the city than you are, but I like Philly a lot too.

Wow...I'm something of a dumbass at times.

How do you like the school? I have heard mixed things, and I guess it depends on your major and your dedication.

Yeah, Philly is pretty wonderful.

I'm really enjoying it so far. Even though I'm in Wharton (the intense business school), it's not that time-consuming, and my classes are mostly interesting. And the people around here are really awesome.

Oh, and even though I'm going for the business education, I'm still getting some good artsy stuff in too - I'm gonna be in a production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood in the fall.

Honestly, I don't think I've ever heard bad things about Penn as a whole from students. I guess it depends who you talk to.

"fine songwriters who are extremely competent musicians."-

Wouldn't The Velvet Underground fall under that exact same description? They are LEGENDARY.

"lacks experimentation"-

The Strokes have already quoted that the third album will be more experimental. Is This It? was more-or-less a archytype for the "cool" bands this decade, that's an experiment in itself. It does not take a half-baked mini-opera to be profound and "experimental", besides The Furnaces ripped off The Who (obviously).

'Room on Fire' was a move in a forward direction, and even included a ballad or two as well as a more dancy feel (which should be positive, because "Electric Version" sounds quite alike).

"Ten times the bands"-

Clearly an opinion based statement suggesting that we hugely clash when it comes to this subject. At least those two bands don't sound like Linkin Park.

Oh God, Linkin Park. Shudder.

Well, yes, VU were just that, but that wasn't an attack on the band. The difference is that The Velvet Underground were not only fine songwriters and competent musicians, they were also extremely moving and not a single album of theirs sounded like another. In fact, part of the trouble for me in judging which album of theirs I like best is that they all have such incredibly different feels and sounds that it's like comparing apples and oranges, to use an incredibly lame cliche.

Well, I take back my comments about my doubts when it comes to their experimentation. I'll give 'em a chance with the third one.

The term half-baked mini-opera strikes me as an odd way to describe Blueberry Boat. Yes, it is a rock opera, but I have no idea how it is in any way half-baked. The music is joyously unpredictable and, at times, beautiful, and the songs may not tie together, but they don't need to. Each song is a mini-opera, and it works incredibly well in my eyes.

Other than the idea for the opera, how is it Who-like? I've read interviews with them in which they cited The Who as a favorite band, and the inspiration for the idea of doing an opera. But past that little seed of an idea, what did they borrow from The Who?

Room on Fire is a fine album. It is in no way a bad record. My problem is that, listening to it, not a single moment stood out to me. There were, upon multiple listens, some tracks that I liked more than others, but overall, I just have grown sick of listening to them.

You're right, we actually agree on a lot, and I mentioned that in a post on your Best Albums of the 2000's list. I really do think that we have a lot in common, but The Strokes are one major arguing point that we've both gotten very passionate about.

Really, I just plain am sick of The Strokes, and all these posts have just been my thought process when it comes to explaining why they have stopped appealing to me. I love The New Pornographers and The Fiery Furnaces, so, in comparison, they are far better bands in my eyes.

The VU couldn't receive enough praises. I like every song of theirs' that I've ever heard with the exception of a few on 'White Light/White Heat'. The Strokes, mostly on their first album, were just as moving to me, personally (especially the first 6 songs and "Hard To Explain").

Now, this third album is absolutely critical for the fate of The Strokes. I remember when I was in middle school, Pearl Jam released 'Vitalogy' (3rd album). It was a little edgy, more experimental, and established an atmosphere unlike any before for the band. I loved the album. I can only hope that for The Strokes. If they pass "the Vitalogy test", it will meet it's expectations. If it's another 'Room On Fire', I will be really let down, then again if it's hooky and slick and a progression past Franz Ferdinand's sound, I'll live with that too. (Whew)

Towards the Furnaces, I'm being a little too critical. I just meant that "A Quick One, While He's Away" was brilliant, and I didn't find that to be appealing when I heard 'Blueberry Boat''s recycling of it. I don't like that band, but I do admire 'Boat' for it's quirkiness.

Here's the thing: if The Strokes' third album is interesting enough to make me reconsider them, I will glady do so. I have nothing against them, they just have fallen off of my personal favorites list.

I think your analysis of their Vitalogy challenge is completely accurate. I wish them the best. I mean, if a band of mine didn't keep growing, I would knock 'em down a few points.

Would you say, then, that for a band to be great it must have a strong componenet of experimentation?

I would, because the best bands always keep experimenting, and trying to make their sound better and better. The ones who don't try new things fade out quickly.

Well, then I'll have to disagree. I think there are several styles of music that have no yet been exhausted, and the best music of that style has yet to be written/performed. There are and have been some great bands creating great music in familiar styles.

I actually agree completely with this statement. When I refer to experimentation, I don't strictly mean the creation of a new genre. I think that experimentation within a genre is a great thing.

Style and genre don't bother me at all. I think that almost any style or genre (and this applies to all arts, not just music) can be brilliant if the right artists perform it.

For instance, recently there has been a revival of folk music in the indie rock community. It is one of the oldest genres still being done today, but the best artists of the genre still sound fresh and interesting. Most of this has to do with the voice and sound (not referring to literal voice and sound) that they use. By not being afraid to make distinct music within a well-known genre, these artists are actually furthering the "style". The artists that come to mind are Sufjan Stevens and Devendra Banhart, and, to a lesser extent, Iron and Wine.

A clarification: I wasn't referring to genre. Genre is too broad, and you can easily be experimental within a genre and create a totally new sound. Also, I have a hard time calling 'indie' a genre, since it relates to the business of music rather than the sound.

I meant something much more specific by 'style' (it's a clumsy one, but can you think of a better one?). For example, I'd argue that Sigur Ros and Godspeed You Black Emperor are the same genre but slightly different 'styles' (though, GYBE and Mogwai would be the same style). On the other hand, Fiona Apple and Tori Amos are probably both the same genre and the same style. But, Fiona Apple has created some REALLY great music (better than Tori's, I'd argue) without really experimenting without the style.

Does that make ANY sense?

Oh, when I say experimentation, I don't mean inventing a totally new type of music. I mean reinventing yourself. Like the Beatles remained popular for a long time because every couple of years they would reinvent themselves. Same thing with David Bowie and Madonna.

Well, the term experimentation is limiting, but I always feel that there is room for growth in all arts, especially music.

A band that is content to keep doing exactly what they've always done is a boring band in my eyes.

There is a difference between entertainment and art I suppose. I am not trying to say that art is all that one must listen to, but I have to admit that I find it more interesting. Some of my favorite artists have had albums that went in completely different directions than the rest of their work, and some times it doesn't work, but I am much more willing to give the benefit of the doubt to artists expanding themselves than I am to artists who remain stagnant in their work.

There is nothing wrong with a pop song, but I find that the most interesting pop tends to also be the most adventurous. Hence my love for the wild tangents of The Fiery Furnaces and the nearly overwhelming musical layers of The New Pornographers. These bands are willing to take risks and create a distinct sound with every opportunity they are given. I will give credit to a band that creates a great album that is a "breath of fresh air", but if the band never moves past that point, the art moves on without them.

I'm all for experimentation, but in my experience consistency and damn fine music has always been 100 times more important.

The Strokes basically singlehandedly began an indie rock wave that has produced the best music of the decade. Not to have the Strokes in the top 5 let alone the top 50 is a sin.

And its this sort of ciritcism that made them make an album like First Impressions of Earth instead of staying with the same formula they used for the first two albums. Its a pity

Are you sure you want to leave The Strokes off this list?

Yes! The Strokes are fun to listen to, but what have they contributed to Rock...nothing new certainly mein friend.

except the new decade's indie rock revival. but other than that...

Very sure. The more independent music I delve into, the less the Strokes feel like anything remarkable. They are a fun occasional listen, but I have a hard time deciding to listen to them. These other artists are both artistic and interesting. The Strokes are slick and entertaining, but they'd be pretty low on my list right now.

The Strokes are most definetely remarkable. Many of the bands that are emerging (The Killers) are biting their style -not saying it's all original. Many of the bands that are emerging are biting their sound (Franz Ferdinand). And I will probably be hated for this- but their debut album is more entertaining and consistent than "Moon and Antarctica" or "Elephant", two of the most acclaimed records this decade.

When this decade is done, they will be heralded as bringing back "cool" to rock and roll, much like Nirvana was last decade.

I don't think the last album was anything special, but "Is This It" was a breath of fresh when it was released, and it still is today.

I find it consistent, certainly, but boring.

I think the adventurous soundscape of Elephant and The Moon and Antarctica is far superior to the grind and churn of The Strokes.

Sure, it was a cool band at the time, but Nirvana isn't my favorite band of the 90's, so that doesn't really do much for me.

Nirvana is NO WHERE NEAR my favorite band of the 90's either. And I do love Modest Mouse (I owned "The Lonesome Crowded West" well before MM was mentioned in any magazine). All I'm saying is they are just as talented and important to today's rock landscape as Nirvana was in 1992.

I've always said "The Moon and Antarctica" was overrated. I haven't listened to it many months though. I can say "The Lonesome Crowded West" is much more accessible and better personifies Modest Mouse as well as Isaac.
As for Elephant, it's great, and I think it's probably the best album last year, but personally "Is This It?" speaks and rocks harder.

All three of these bands are awesome and I will definetley listen to them for years. But, the Strokes don't have a single weak track that I have heard. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the third album.

I LOVE The Lonesome Crowded West, but The Moon and Antarctica will never stop thrilling and amazing me. I have listened to it god knows how many times, and I still get a kick out of every track.

Is This It? really wore out its welcome for me early.

I'm not sure you can say that an older album defines a band if they seem to be constantly moving in a different direction. That said, I completely understand what you're saying, and might agree with it.

By the way, Pavement is by far the best band of the 90's.

Pavement does truly rule

What's yours? Out of curiosity.

It's close call, between Pavement and Radiohead. I would rather look at albums.
Favorite albums of 90s:

1. OK Computer/ Radiohead
2. The Soft Bulletin/ The Flaming Lips
3. Slanted abnd Enchanted/ Pavement
4. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain/ Pavement
5. Lonesome Crowded West/ Modest Mouse

I do agree with you that even though Is This It has only been around for three years, its influence is already apparent. I definitely agree that if there was no Is This It, Franz Ferdinand would certainly sound very different. However, influence means nothing if you don't like the album. I suspect it's just a personal thing. AAA did say the album wore out its welcome quickly.

Me, I love it. I've listened to it many times, and I recently gave it another listen and still found new things to like about it. I don't think there's a weak song on it, and there are many very strong ones.

But hey, maybe I'm just easy to please. You won't hear any disparaging comments against Moon and Antarctica or any White Stripes albums here!

Re: Franz Ferdinand
Absolutely! The first thing I thought of when I listened to their album was 'The Strokes!' They, in my opinion are easier to give repeated listens to than The Strokes. They feel rawer, and, frankly, I can tell all the songs apart. A feat I have barely achieved with Is This It?

I don't dislike the album at all, but I find very little substance to it. Sure, you can say the same thing about FF, but I'd rather have pop that I can dance to.


Okay, substance is debatable I guess, but you can't tell all the songs apart? Really? How many times have you listened to it? It took me a few listens, like it does for any album, but I think each song certainly has its own distinct flavor. They all have a similar sound, sure, but you have to go to They Might Be Giants for total song-by-song versatility. :-)

Now you can continue to disagree with me about the substance of the lyrics, but I think the lyrics sum up the twentysomething-sneeringly-drifting-through-life attitude of the Strokes. Especially:

"You say you want to stay by my side / Darling, your head's not right / You see, alone we stand, together we fall apart / Yeah, I think I'll be alright"

"Dear, can't you see / It's them, it's not me / We're not enemies / We just disagree"

"Work hard and say it's easy / Do it just to please me / Tomorrow will be different / So I'll pretend I'm leaving"


And hey, you can dance to "Hard to Explain"! Just watch! *AJ shakes his groove thang*

At the risk of sounding like the old fogey I am, I confess that I still really enjoy The Strokes' debut, yet I find the Franz Ferdinand album a bit disappointing. It is fun, but I guess my reaction is oddly enough rather close to AAA's reaction to the Strokes - it seems a bit light and refuses to stay in my brain.

Which, naturally, may well just be my poor little brain's fault...

I haven't given up on it yet, though.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Franz Ferdinand is just so damned fun, that I can excuse their lightness. Now, both The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand just feel like they've been posturing, but I far prefer FF's act.

Mmmm, to update this statement:

I really need to spot patterns. The constant comparisons to The Strokes should have clued me in...I have indeed gotten sick of Franz Ferdinand. Their album has been steadily slipping down my Top Ten of 2004 list, and I, frankly, do not miss its presence.

You think the direct comparisons would have made me consider that they may have a similar problem aging for me...but noooo, I had to go saying that they were too fun to get sick of.

I will now eat those earlier words.

I was exaggerating when it came to telling songs part...I was just saying that The Strokes tend to tiptoe away from any sort of interesting experimentation. They are the ultimate indie/cool formula rock band. Now, I actually do enjoy them, but I just don't find it rewarding to listen to their music when compared with my favorite albums of this decade.

"Hard to Explain" is the best track on the CD.

I agree with you on "Is This It". In my opinion, all the songs do sound alike, and they seem to be trying to sound just like the Velvet Underground, instead of creating their own sound.....

I'm glad to see that I'm not alone. It's funny..."Is This It?" was really the first buzzed about pseudo-indie/not really album I ever bought, and I liked it, but my complaint was always that I couldn't ever remember which track was which. I just thought I wasn't cool enough.

But the more I listen to it and the follow up, the more I think that I actually was at least a little justified. They're a fun band, but I feel like there isn't a whole lot to them besides musical competency and the aura of cool surrounding them.

BUT, I will agree that their first album is influential on the music scene today. I would argue that The Strokes and Interpol have been the most influential mainstream indie bands yet.

Just listen to The Arcade Fire if you don't believe me about Interpol. Someone the other day was discussing The Arcade Fire's album, and made a comparison to Interpol's Turn on the Bright Lights. They said that it was similar to The Ramones and The Clash. The Fire Arcade may be inspired by Interpol, but they are moving in a different, and, arguably, more interesting direction.

If that's the case, I can't wait for The Fire Arcade's London Calling!

PS: I am going off on tangents left and right here...wow.

Ignore me caling them The Fire Arcade in that last little comment about them.

I'm just plain stupid at times...or always.

Where is Coldplay??

Ummm...somewhere around 30 or 40. When it comes to British balladeers, I would take Damien Rice over Chris Martin any day.

Heck, I'd take Mike Skinner's (The Streets) emotional epics over Coldplay's entire body of work as well.

Where's the White Stripes??!??

They are now officially number 22. They got bumped off by the inclusion of Dizzee Rascal.

Jack and Meg are great rock and roll performers. Great. However...that's really all they are. I've listened to Elephant and De Stijl countless times, and while I still enjoy it, I don't find myself connecting in any way to the music. Sure, they are the best of the original wave of mainstream garage rock, but...I dunno.

I suppose my love for them has just faded away, to borrow a classic rock term.

AAA, I would love to hear your thoughts on an interesting band that appeared on the scene recently, The Strokes.

Do you like them?

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs (who knows this isn't funny but is gonna post it anyways...)

To the moon, Bangsie, to the moon..

They're so indie, he probably hasn't heard of them.

AJ, you are always the voice of reason and humor.


The Strokes are certainly a much better band than the Fiery 'hack' Furnaces. For God's Sake AAA, The New Pornographers? The Streets... dear God I need a drink. The strokes are the modern day ramones...the fiery furnaces are the modern day C&C music factory...the new pornographers on here shocks me...I'm going for that drink now.

The Strokes are a complete rip-off of the culture that The Ramones created. The Ramones were a blast of fresh air who played for the sake of playing. The Strokes, no matter how you cut it, are an overhyped bunch of pretty rich boys who can play their instruments. You can think that they're good, but they are definitively the antithesis of The Ramones. Their music is produced, planned, and totally aiming for commerical success.

The Fiery Furnaces are travelling in an entirely different orbit. I'm not sure I see this comparison at all. How in the world are they hacks? What is it about their music that is in any way "hack"? I know that other bands use synth, but what else is in any way "borrowed" or cheap? Blueberry Boat is one of the freshest, most surprising albums in recent memory. The music is so thick and constantly surprising that I am amazed that more rock fans haven't enjoyed them. They may not be the next Beatles (or Ramones) but they are a worthy and interesting band in their own right. They are not riding on the coattails of great bands before them (The Strokes owe so much to The Ramones and The Velvet Underground they should be paying them royalties), except of course if you consider being inspird by The Who to take on a rock opera to be in some way ripping off. Rargh! AAA mad!

Oh, and The New Pornographers are one of the single best pop groups of all time. Their music is all hooks, its all innovation...it is just pop rock at its very finest. Not only are they more honest than The Strokes (they are not shooting for the "we are somehow rebelling" attitude that The Strokes so undeservedly sport) but they also are far more musically inventive. Terribly emotional? No. But, the music (unlike The Strokes) is inventive and fresh enough to keep me very interested. Plus, as proven by their members' spin-offs and solo projects, they are basically a miraculous grouping of immense talent.

The Streets are an evolution of hip-hop, or, better yet, it is a close cousin. Mike Skinner is travelling in musical directions that nobody else has or is touching. Original Pirate Material is a shocking album just because it sounded so different; A Grand Don't Come for Free is a brilliant, heart-breaking album that is perhaps one of the best examples of an artist appreciating where his style can take him. Sure, it could have been another party record detailing slacker life in London, but, instead, it is an honest story of a twenty-something who feels not only adrift but also cheated by the world. It is one of the most moving albums in recent memory.

Sorry if that was at all rough, but a nerve was hit.

I'm staying out of this one....

it takes alot not to comment on The Pornographers though.

What's with all the venom towards The New Pornographers around here?

I dunno. I've only heard a couple songs by them, but I love what I've heard so far.

Well, it's you and me versus the rest of Listology evidently...sigh.

But I am really glad to hear you enjoy them.

Wow, I just checked out a lot more New Pornographers music, and... they RULE!!!!

So glad to hear that!

I hadn't even thought of recommending them during our discussion, but I'm thrilled to hear you like them.

Well, yeah, they aren't what I'd specifically mentioned looking for, but that's not the only kind of music I like.

I understand. I wasn't accusing, I just meant that I love the band, and had I known that I was something you would have liked, I would have recommended them immediately. Of course, I have a lot of different tastes in music too, so it's totally understandable.

What do you think of Death Cab for Cutie? There are only a few tracks I like by them, but the ones I do, I really like.

I only own one Death Cab album, and I really like it (it's a 90's album though, so it has no real effect on this list), but I haven't heard enough of them to make any real judgement. However, I do love The Postal Service, which is a Death Cab side project, so I tend to think I would like them.

Oh, and what is The New Pornographers' solo/side work that you would highly recommend?

A.C. Newman (the major songwriter of the band) put out a great album this year called "The Slow Wonder". Also, Neko Case is a solo singer and has a few albums that I haven't heard. Also, Dan Bejar's main project is Destroyer, who released "Your Blues" this year.

Check 'em all out if you like the New Pornographers.

I guess I'll ask you this as well, since you're the Listology music guru I'm most aware of:

What artists, in your mind, are pushing music into new areas? I'm not really talking about totally bizarre avante-garde music that nobody listens to anyway, but like what Radiohead did with OK Computer. Perhaps the best examples right now simply aren't as obvious or quite as masterful as OK Computer, I dunno.

I doubt M83 fits into this category, and probably not Kasabian, so I'm stumped.

And, are we coming close to exhausting the possibilities of music, or have we just begun?

I should also note I'm talking mostly about varities of pop/rock/electronic music (probably, a fusion of all three in some way), not rap or hip-hop of jazz or classical or anything.

This is a truly hard question.

I'm not sure that anyone right now is completely changing music the way that OK Computer did. I think most of the great bands are exemplifications of near-perfection in their genre, but very few are pushing boundries the same way Radiohead did.

There are some bands that have managed to invent their own distinct sound, which is almost as important. I think Modest Mouse, The Streets, and Bjork are great examples of this. All three are very distinct and seperate, but I'm not sure if they are changing music.

There has been no great artistic watershed as far as I can see, but, of course, we might not know until a couple of years and a lot of influence later.

Maybe The Moon & Antarctica will go down as one of the symbols of 21st Century music, maybe it'll be The Postal Service. I honestly think that there has been no OK Computer.

But, maybe we're overestimating OK Computer's influence. I was young when it was released, maybe some felt that it wasn't as distinct as others tought, and it was just a successful example of an already existing movement.

I know this seems like a cop-out, but if you want a definitive answer, I will pose the question again.

Q: What artists are experimenting and pushing into new areas of music?

A: The Streets (I know they're hip-hop, but they appear in the Rock/Pop section of your local Best Buy, dunno why), Bjork, Modest Mouse, And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, The New Pornographers, Wilco, Sigur Ros, and The Fiery Furnaces.

That is an incomplete list, but they are the most apparent examples for me.

Now that I think about it, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot may be seen as an OK Computer-esque album.

I do think that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the most OK-esque album of the first half of this decade. But, I'm not convinced that Modest Mouse and The Streets are "pushing into new areas of music". How are they doing this?

Well, I think that The Streets are/is/whatever taking the form of hip-hop and subverting its usual focus on rhyme and beats to create a more lyrically/narrative driven form of hip-hop.

There are no other artists who are taking the risks that Mike Skinner is. He turns hip-hop into a glorious mix of angst and beauty, which is something I have heard nobody else even attempt.

As for Modest Mouse, they definitely fall into the distinctive sound category more than the pushing boundries category. Isaac Brock is one of the few vocally interesting indie frontmen in the business, and their lyrics are the best in the music industry. Instead of focusing on guitar or mood, Modest Mouse creates very seperate/distinctive songs that reflect very honestly, but not obviously, the emotional and mental states of an unhappy drifter who does not understand why he is unhappy. As opposed to other bands, whose lyrics are either emotionally blunt or poetic and cold, Modest Mouse creates a perfect balance between the two.

Modest Mouse may not influence or challenge the music industry as much as Radiohead or even Wilco, but I defy you to name another band that has a similar sound.

Modest Mouse's peak: 1997-2000. I seriously doubt they will release a stronger album than in those years.


Well, they've only had one album since, and it was good...just not as great as their masterworks.

So, let's just see what happens with the next one. Let's not ring the death knell quite yet.

Well, they have released EP's and I've seen them perform a couple of times since Moon, there's enough material to convince me that their peak is over---unless---the next album is not quite as silly and MTV oriented. I just call 'em like I see 'em. Viva LCW!

I dunno, Good News is silly at times, but I think it has very dark themes...I'll discuss more later.

Yeah, it's a really tough question - thanks for being willing to answer it. I think Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a fantastic album, but probably not as important as OK Computer, though I would say that OK Computer was more about perfecting and popularlizing an existing movement in music - just, to a much greater extent than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot did for its style.

Here is a great article on the subject, which I think is probably very correct. (Don't worry, it eventually gets around to discussing pop music.)

Early in the decade, both Dirty Three and Low continued their interesting journeys into their own musical wonderlands. Dirty Three uses a guitar, drums, and a violin to create haunting, sometimes rocking instrumentals, and Low is taking sadcore to some interesting places.

Solex has certainly had its moments as well (Low Kick and Hard Bop is one of my favorite singles of the decade, even if hardly anybody played it). Allmusic discribes Solex as "lo-fi techno-pop," although that misses her strong singer-songwriter roots a bit.

Boards of Canada and Spring Heel Jack both are pushing borders in the electronica realm.

And of course, there is always The Flaming Lips. I don't think the critics have yet worked out a term for what they're doing. (Mercury Rev's late 90s' album Deserter's Songs is a next-door neighbor.)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Ah, The Flaming Lips! How did I forget them?

L, as usual, you come in to save my ass with definitive answers. Very good points you make, by the way.

It was a great, challenging question, and my responses should be seen as merely supplements to your own excellent choices. The Furnaces are especially promising among the younger bands...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I'm glad to hear you like the Furnaces!

They seem to be quite unpopular around these here parts.

I've noticed that. It rather baffles me.

I fell in love with the band from a killer song off an Uncut music sampler, Two Fat Feet. It was the type of song I loved on first listen, but grew obsessed with by the tenth. I have only heard the new album twice, but it has already tatooed itself onto my must buy list.

If they keep moving forward like this, The Fiery Furnaces are definitely one band all rock fans should keep their eyes on.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well put, we should keep our eyes on them. But, in 2004, they don't yet belong in the same conversations as the creative genius that is The Flaming Lips.

I dunno, I like Blueberry Boat more than Yoshimi. But they're both great.

If you guys are pushing The Fiery Furnaces, I'm pushing Kasabian.

Listen to their whole album online

Never heard of Solex or Spring Heel Jack, gonna have to check them out! For me, the 'progressive' part of Dirty Three's and Low's music happened in the 90s, but I'm not really an expert on them.

I've thought Flaming Lips was basically like Mercury Rev, but now, with Yoshimi, just more pop-oriented.

My 'suggestions' for some things that haven't been tried to my knowledge:

I'd love to hear an album of songs done with an 'orchestra of guitars,' where each guitar (or set of guitars) is running on a different multieffect to give them a different sound - and each would play a different role in the melody, harmony, or percussion, so that it could be a finely-tuned and well-planned orchestra of guitars playing first familiar, then original, music.

How about some funk electronica, eh?

I'd also like to see see something like M83 but with a more improvisational (jazz, I suppose) song structure.

Please post your own suggestions for uncharted musical territories!

Is that it, then, for uncharted musical territories?

I got distracted from this conversation and never found my way back.

As a non-musician, and a confessed I-know-what-I-like-er, I would have trouble pinpointing an exact genre I would like to hear experimented with.

But, I'm sure that there are others on the site who would have a better time at handling the question.

Damn it, Triple A, I'd rather get a self-important answer than an attractively modest dodge. :-)

Woah, hey, that statement could make for an interesting discussion all its own...

And yes, that last sentence was a self-important non-answer.

Well, see, I have a lot of trouble defining genres, so I have trouble explaining the type of music I would like to hear.

It wasn't so much a dodge as it was an admittance of inability to express my musical fantasy.

But, if I had to imagine an album I would love to hear I suppose it would be a concept folk album set around the New York hipster scene. You know, something like Sufjan Stevens seeing a Strokes or Interpol show and discussing his reaction to the scene.

Of course, that's a completely different kind of answer than your question deserved.

No, no, I was just playing around with that last post, but thanks for offering one of your ideas.

Whenever I think of commentary on the hipster scene (though, probably not NY), I think of The Dandy Warhols and, quite differently, Say Anything (yeah, the band, not the movie). But of course, neither of them plays folk music.

I recently happened upon this discussion again, and it made for damn good reading. I had a big question though. Luke immediately started off by asking what recent albums could compare to OK Computer, but I would like to see the influence of OK Computer firmly established first. How did OK Computer change the shape of music of the past seven years? Where has it had so much influence that in 2004 we call it a landmark in innovative music?

Honestly, I don't hear it that much, and Radiohead took so much from Pink Floyd that I think it would be wrong not to give Gilmour and Waters at least part of the credit. However, maybe I'm ignorant on the matter, so I ask you to show me the effects of OK Computer's influence. I'll take anything you'll give me, general (how Radiohead changed the entire mentality of the music artist) or specific (give me specific songs, instruments, studio effects). So convince me, o Listology crew.

A good question. I'm not as well-versed in music as I am in film, so OK Computer stood out as an album that seemed really important to me. Perhaps it isn't the influential album I think it is (but I still really, really, really, really like it). Would one of our local Listology music gurus care to discuss this?

Truthfully, because of my late introduction into indie/critical-favorite music, I did not really get a chance to track any of Radiohead's real influence.

However, Radiohead isn't really the sacred cow for me that it is for others. I LOVE Kid A, but I don't consider them to be the be all end all.

That said, OK Computer is a really solid, well-constructed album.

Alright. How about dcstar or lbangs? You two were in the original debate as well.

Radiohead's biggest contributions to contemporary rock music was to shatter the post-grunge and Brit pop templates that had an iron hold on the scene, to open up roads into prog rock, arena rock, and grand album-length statements, and to forge a style that in a very watered-down form would emerge as the mope rock so popular on college campuses and in the CD players of post-grads over the last few years.

They also, with several highly-charting albums, showed just how little the contemporary rock audience relies on radio airplay to hear new music.

Well, at least those contributions are a large part of Radiohead's influence...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Have you heard The Secret Machines? If so, what did you think?

Oh and the utterly fantastic Xploding Plastix.

They didn't do much for me, but I didn't hear the whole album, so I'd give 'em another shot.

This question is specially directed at you (and darktremor).

I still think Sigur Ros should be in the top 5. :-)

I commented with suggestions. I've recently had a renewed phase of Sigur Ros fandom, so maybe they'll move up the list.


I nominate Max Richter. He's released an album each in 2003 & 2004, sounds like Brian Eno, Philip Glass, and something else, and may quickly prove to be as good as either of them. The Blue Notebooks, now that I've discovered it, is easily my new favorite album of 2004. Check it out, especially the track 'Shadow Journal' which might be one of the best songs I've ever heard.

I finally downloaded Max Richter's album, but I haven't really had a chance to listen to it. I'll be sure to let you know what I think when I do.

Awesome! I hope you downloaded The Blue Notebooks, as it is far superior to Memoryhouse.

Did you consider The Dandy Warhols? They seem to get dismissed as mere hipsters, but I think they are quite a bit more than the sum of their posturing; 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia is one of the better albums of the turn-of-the-millenium, in my opinion. And what about Poe? Haunted was amazingly underrated.

Am I right in saying you don't like electronic acts as much? I would definitely consider Air, Basement Jaxx, and Cornershop for the list if it were opened up a little more in that direction...

Johnny Waco

Actually, I really like a lot of electronica. I just find it harder to "get into" it then indie rock or folk. Caribou is an example of an electronica act I love. Plus, I actually really like the Air I've heard...I'm just not as familar with them. I own two albums, but I really haven't been exploring the albums I downloaded recently...sumemr always makes me want to pull out albums I already know and love.

I've neevr really heard a Dandy Warhols album, so I guess they have a tough handicap on this list.

Also, as far as other electronica acts on my list, don't forget that Daft Punk and Fennesz are most definitely electronica, and The Books and M83 are basically electronica.

godspeed you black emperor is fantastic. especially lift your skinny fists like antennas to heaven

Wow. It's absolutely amazing how similar my list would look to yours. Although I'd personally also have (in the same vein of Indie Rock):
Scott Walker

I personally wouldn't include Daft Punk after their last album/disaster (and maybe not include a couple of others I haven't yet listened to). You really seem to love Indie Rock, and I agree: that's one of only two areas doing anything interesting musically these days. I think the other is a little under-represented though: electronic. If you were going to expand into that area more, I think the best place to start would be these artists (for currently working, at least near their peak, that is):

Matthew Herbert (definitely cehck this guy out, especially his latest, and heavily acclaimed "Scale" album and his classics "Bodily Functions" and "Around the House." I think you'd really love this one)
Ricardo Villalobos
Dominik Eulberg
Richie Hawtin/Plastikman
Jan Jelinek/Farben (especially see his work as Farben)
Tim Hecker
Vladislav Delay/Luomo (especially see Luomo)
The Orb
James Holden
Ellen Allien
The Knife

Actually, you've inspired me to make just such a list.