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Best of the 00s: Animal Collective, Beck & Built to Spill

Posted by March 25th, 2010 No Comments »

Best of the 00s: Gabe Joins the 21st Century
Part 4: Animal Collective, Beck & Built to Spill

Nada Co-founders Matt and Gabe are listening to 197 of the music press’s picks for “best albums of the 00s” for a series called Gabe Joins the 21st Century.

Animal Collective – Feels
#15 on Stereogum’s List

Gabe: Here are my notes on Feels. “Sounds like it was recorded inside a pillow. No melodies. Grating. Annoying. Like an art film.” I actively dislike this album. Stereogum’s selection of Feels as the 15th best album of the 00s reminds me of Lester Bangs’ pimping of Metal Machine Music. Either they are kidding, or they are treating pop music as some kind of intellectualized artistic statement instead of, you know, popular music. Which I think is dumb.


Matt: The pretentious production is the least of this album’s worries. I’m convinced Animal Collective is an elaborate hoax. It’s Kaufman-esque anti-art intended to test the limits of what consumers will put up with. Feels starts out kind of hopeful. Opener “Did You See the Words” has some pleasant vocal harmonies and a regal, building vibe. It is immediately followed by “Grass,” a passable Syd Barret era Pink Floyd outtake. Neither track is great, but they provide just enough to suck you in and keep listening through “Flesh Canoe,” an abstract, tuneless mess. By “Bees” the album has reached “Hey man, I think something’s wrong with your stereo” proportions and the joke’s on you. Doh!


Beck - GuerroBeck – Guero
#34 on KEXP Listener Countdown

Gabe: I married a Jersey girl on the Jersey Shore in the summer of ’96, and Beck’s Odelay was the soundtrack to my summer of love. We were already Beck fans due to One Foot In The Grave and Mellow Gold, but Odelay was a relevation. Beck somehow mixed Beastie-style sampling with folk sounds and his own deadpan delivery of clever lines to create universally-loved party jams. Guero sounds a lot like Odelay, except I’m 13 years older and Beck’s a Scientologist and the dew is off the rose and it’s hard to imagine thinking, “Gee, I sure would like to give that Guero another listen”.

Grade – LIKE

Matt: I was hoping a recurring theme of this exercise would be “Gabe listens to album Matt’s already heard, says something stupid, Matt gets to make fun of him for being so unperceptive,” but, so far, you’ve really let me down. In fact you’ve unknowingly agreed with me nearly 100 percent of the time so far.

I agree that Guero sounds like Beck. As such, it’s an enjoyable presentation of the unique musical concept he unveiled and perfected in the late 90s. It does nothing to advance it, however, and therefore sounds a bit dated. That said, if I were a young whippersnapper who stumbled upon Guero in 2005 as my first exposure to Beck, it might have made a big impact on me. But I’m not. And it didn’t.

Here’s what Graham said about Guero when it came out.

Grade: LIKE

Built to Spill - LiveBuilt to Spill – Live
#10 on Nada’s List

Gabe: Nada has Built To Spill’s live album as the 10th best album of the decade, but it doesn’t rate on any of the other lists. Either Nada knows something that the rest of the world doesn’t, or we might be a wee bit biased in favor of these local heros. Probably a bit of both. But it’s not our fault that Built to Spill happens to hail from Boise. And we can’t be blamed for the fact that BTS’ 1994 release There’s Nothing Wrong With Love just so happened be one of the pinnacles of what was then called alternative rock. And that we were in college at the time, which gave us the time, energy and love to listen to BTS until it got scratched into our souls. So, yeah, there’s some nostalgia at work in this selection. But Live delivers the rock music with electric guitars, bass and drums, with rhythm and melody with beauty and joy and fist pump moments along with some angst and stuff to keep it real. If nothing else, download track 6 (“Car”), and see if it doesn’t make you happy.

Grade: LOVE

Matt: Last summer, at my wife’s suggestion, I took the bus from our new home in West Seattle to 9th and Pine for the Capitol Hill Block Party. I stopped just long enough to pee after slamming a couple Loko 4’s en route, grabbed my press badge, and headed in just as Built to Spill kicked in to “The Plan” (the opening track on Live.)  I stood among the hipster youth as the band ran through their best songs, as chosen by KEXP listeners earlier that week. There was a point during “Virginia, Reel Around the Fountain” (track 5) where I felt a physical change in my body, like I was experiencing something of inexplicable beauty more powerful than the nostalgia of listening to songs I had almost forgotten I adored.

The opening chords immediately brought me back to a dirty, smoky apartment in Olympia, playing air drums with friends to that song on 10. I stood trance like for the whole song, happy that I was the old guy alone at the show, with no one to ruin my moment. Built to Spill Live captures why I listen to music better than any other live recording in history.

Grade: LOVE
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