Top Albums of The Decade: Part Three

by Katherine


1. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People

Every music fan has a moment – a one, defining, outrageously influential moment where music takes on a new form, transcends it’s humble origins and becomes something sublime- this moment becomes a benchmark for all the music they’ll listen to for, well, the rest of their lives. For most people, this moment is a communal experience – it could be that moment in the sixties, smoking weed to ‘The Jimi Hendrix Experience’ , or hearing ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ for the first time, or listening to ‘Crooked Rain Crooked Rain’ in their dorm room, or ‘Surfer Rosa’.

For me, it happened one boring summer, lying on my bedroom floor, listening to ‘You Forgot It In People’ for the first time.  Even at the young age of 11, and with little or no prior experience in the world of indie rock, I could see what an awe-inspiring album this is. ‘You Forgot It In People’ is an incendiary, kinetic, explosive firecracker of an album – and it’s one you can’t help but directly involve yourself in. It’s impossible not to listen to ‘KC Accidental’ and not feel your pulse frantically race in unison with the nerve-ripping, searing ribbons of guitars, it’s impossible not to feel your heart pound along with that erratic, gorgeous  gun-shot percussion, and it’s impossible – in that one, crystalline, climatic moment, where the reams of roving guitars explode into pieces of glittering, violin laced shrapnel – not to feel like your head is exploding, even a little bit. Or even the crystalline, cyclical  ‘Anthems For a Seventeen Year Old Girl’, where Emily Haines voice seems to be trapped, suspended in some some vast, cavernous space, like a butterfly pinned to a corkboard, as lazy banjo and rushing, cascading strings interplay languorously below her.

And God, the lyrics – there’ll never be a track that encapsulates the horrific doubt of being in love more than ‘I’m Still Your Fag’ does; against the unassuming backdrop of gently-rolling guitar and lush, wafting horns, a tale of heartbreaking proportions is spun, detailing the singer’s relationship with a married man: ‘It’s a possibility to live without this/ Clinic love to fill right up with all the broken kids/ I swore I drank your piss last night to see if I could live/ But my wrists couldn’t stand the light that we missed.’ Listen to the crack in his voice on ‘I swore I drank your piss last night’, and feel your heart shatter. Or the cathartic ‘Pitter Patter Goes My Heart, which rolls in after the warm throb of ‘Lovers Spit’ and feels like the air after the storm – fresh, and clean, and still resonating with the turmoil of what has come before.

And I could go on, analysing and exalting every track on this God damn gorgeous album, but it’d be pretty pointless. I could never come close to the rolling,  seasick, emotional lurches this album manages to evoke in me. Because it’s that good. It really is.

Download: Everything, but especially ‘KC Accidental’, ‘I’m Still Your Fag’.

2. Joanna Newsom – Ys

If ‘The Milk-Eyed Mender’ debuted Joanna as a gawky, grating but undoubtedly talented folky, then ‘Ys’ was her chrysalis effect – after a 2 year hiatus, Joanna emerged sleek and cinematic, her simplistic, ‘Mender’ era rootsy tunes eschewed for something grander, exhilarating and achingly expansive. The trademark glittering harp was still there, but it was nestled inside a surging torrent of stabbing, spiraling strings, courtesy of Van Dyke Parks, which flitted and flickered refractively, giddily around Joanna’s tangled, lengthy reams of verbosity.

The lyrics in ‘Ys’ are a wonder within themselves – unbelievably lush, intricate and involved , they present a remarkable playfulness with words (see Joanna’s furious tumble through the unforgiving syllables of ”Awful atoll, oh incalculable, indiscreetness and sorrow, bawl, bellow, Sibyl sea-cow all done up in a bow!’ in ‘Only Skin’) as well as an intense passion for mythology and the simple squareness of folk tales and parables – ‘Monkey and Bear’ starts off as a simple, pentatonic tune which recalls a nursery rhyme, but soon expands into an incredibly involved tale of epic proportions, detailing the relationship between a gullible bear and a manipulating monkey. The story doesn’t end well – the bear ‘Ursula’ ends up escaping from the controlling monkey, and drowning while trying to catch fish in a pool (‘Now her coat drags through the water, bagging with a life’s-worth of hunger, limitless minnows’). In the hands of a less-worthy artist, ‘Monkey and Bear’ would have surely ended up as a bombastic, indulgent yarn – but Joanna’s ceaselessly creative instrumentation, as well as her impenetrable conviction in her own vivid lyrics makes ‘Monkey and Bear’s nine and a half minutes pass by like seconds.

Granted, Joanna’s particular brand of whimsy remains a hard sell – the over-long, over-ambitious ‘Ys’ was hardly ever going to win her any new fans, and those that found her voice grating and lyrics indulgent on ‘Milk-Eyed Mender’ aren’t going to have their opinion changed by ‘Ys’, but for those who can indulge Joanna’s idiocracies, ‘Ys’ will be a revelation – for the patient listener, there’s world of lucid beauty locked in ‘Ys’, and will leave them (in Joanna’s own, evocative words) ‘dumbstruck with the sweetness of being’.

Download: Preferably it all, but if you had to choose – ‘Only Skin’, ‘Monkey & Bear’.

Recap:

1. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People

2. Joanna Newsom – Ys

3. Illinois – Sufjan Stevens

4. Kid A – Radiohead

5. Funeral – Arcade Fire

6. Set Yourself On Fire – Stars

7. Alopecia – WHY?

8. Untrue – Burial

9. Challengers – The New Pornographers

10. The Milk-Eyed Mender – Joanna Newsom

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