The Top 100 Albums of the Decade (part 9)

Sun Kil Moon—Ghosts of the Great Highway
Caldo Verde, 2003

Between the band name and ten song titles on the debut of Mark Kozelek’s post Red House Painters project, the names of four boxers and one Judas Priest guitarist are mentioned. Often sprawling, gorgeous odes to past relationships and experiences, the songs of Ghosts of the Great Highway work like telescopes to memories of old photographs when set among these real life characters of pop culture. Kozelek has always relied on objects of focus for his imagery—even in the Red House Painters days, there was always a “Rollercoaster” or a “Blue Guitar” he would utilize to get a point across. Though Highway is at best a very loose concept album, Kozelek’s focus is uniform in that these characters become his main source of expression. Granted, it’s not entirely clear what sort of significance they hold in his life—or why we should think they are important—but in the end, that’s not the point. The point is they were significant enough for Kozelek to devote a record to them, and a few people cared enough to listen. Yes, Kozelek still has that stubborn take-it-or-leave-it approach about him, but he also still has one of the best voices in music—a voice that sends the 14-minute-plus “Duk Koo Kim” into epic territory. (Note: This was the RGH selection for best album of 2003.)

Deerhoof—Friend Opportunity
Kill Rock Stars, 2007

One of the coolest things about music is that it does not have to make any sense whatsoever. Sure, there are “rules” and there is “theory” that one can follow if one so chooses, but if one does not, there is no Music Police that will hunt them down if all their songs don’t stick to the verse/chorus/verse formula. Deerhoof know this, and for many years, they have shamelessly produced what many have called “noise”, “crap”, “talentless garbage”, etc. But like a lot of bands that have stuck around and put out albums relentlessly (see Animal Collective), Deerhoof have carved their own little niche into rock music, a niche that cannot really survive without them in it. It’s brilliant, really—how else do you simultaneously justify and solidify your existence? It certainly can’t happen without releasing at least one album like Friend Opportunity, an album that is simultaneously anti-rock and rock tribute, while all the while being so much more. “The Perfect Me” is the perfect opener, wielding a stabbing, infectious guitar/keyboard riff which sounds like some drugged out cousin of Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life”. Deerhoof prove with the following “+81” that their weirdness does not come without pop sensibilities, but predicting what comes next might prove difficult—the beauty of “Whither the Invisible Birds”, the chaotic cadences of “Cast Off Crown”, and the final apocalypse that is “Look Away” are not the everyday rock and roll fare…and that’s a really good thing. (Note: This was the RGH selection for Best Album of 2007.)

The Darkness—Permission to Land
Atlantic, 2003

The Darkness pissed people off in the same way Guns N’ Roses pissed people off back in their day. The only difference, of course, is that when Guns N’ Roses did it, they were on top in the music industry and could not be stopped. The Darkness may have been huge at one point, but they were never overwhelmingly huge—maybe it had something to do with the attitude they adopted being seen as an “old-fashioned” way for bands to act. Or maybe, the music itself was seen as old-fashioned. It is a throwback, but certainly one of the more glorious ones in recent memory. Justin Hawkins’ vocals embody the spirits of Freddie Mercury and Rob Halford—purely metal intentions with a penchant for falsetto and operatic hijinx—while brother Dan’s guitar skills would even be intimidating to the likes of Journey’s Neal Schon. Most importantly, Permission to Land comes chock full of hooks galore from beginning to end. Present of course is the karaoke/drunk party sing-a-long fave “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, but more notable are unshakable power pop gems like “Growing on Me” and “Love is Only a Feeling”, and the impossible-not-to-sing-along-to “Get Your Hands off My Woman”.

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One Response to “The Top 100 Albums of the Decade (part 9)”

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