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Best of the 00s: Iron & Wine, Jay-Z & The Jayhawks

Posted by October 2nd, 2011 No Comments »

Best of the 00s: Gabe Joins the 21st Century
Part 21: Iron & Wine, Jay-Z & The Jayhawks
By Gabe Baker & Matt Ashworth 

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.

Iron & Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days
Paste’s #37           

Gabe: Like many modern folkies, Iron & Wine appears to worship Nick Drake. Our Endless Numbered Days is all atmospheric moody ballads featuring Samual Beam’s mumbling musings about love and stuff. While undeniably pretty, I found Our Endless Numbered boring. It’s almost a shame that old Nick Drake is the touchstone for the modern folk scene rather than say, James Taylor. I know sweet baby James isn’t cool anymore, but clear vocals and simple melodies can have a timeless appeal. Grade: DNL

Matt: I went into this one expecting to kick myself for not paying more attention to the Iron & Wine albums previously. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard from friends and on KEXP, plus, that one song from the Twilight movies is gorgeous and their version of the Postal Service’s “From Such Great Height’s” is one of my favorite covers of all time. But darn if Our Endless Numbered Days didn’t turn out to be a snoozer. Sam Beam’s breathy, hushed vocals are pretty and the songs are intricately arranged, but instantly forgettable. I even tried a few times on head phones to see if that did the trick. Nope. Grade: DNL

The Jayhawks - Rainy Day MusicThe Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music
Paste’s #44

Matt: The thing I like best about the Jayhawks’ critically-acclaimed 2003 album is that it makes me feel young. At a time whem most things are starting to make me feel old, I gotta thank the Jayhawks for that. I dig radio rock single “Save it for a Rainy Day,” but the rest just sounds like boring, adult contemporary radio rock. It’s music for old people. Grade: DNL

Gabe: I’m struggling to articulate why I find Rainy Day Music is so offensive. I feel like I should find the straight-forward country rock found therein to be mediocre at worst, mildly enjoyable at best. Maybe the problem is that every track sounds like it should be a unreleased bonus track on a Byrds or Crosby, Still & Nash compilation. Something about it strikes me as dishonest, or maybe just cynical. Anyway, the Jayhawks are obviously talented musicians and their longevity is impressive, so I do admire them. From afar, preferably. Grade: DNL

Jay-Z - The Black AlbumJay-Z – The Black Album
Rolling Stone #14

Gabe:  This project has me listening closely to multi-platinum rap artists for the first time since the heyday of Snoop and Dre. So I may be one of the last people on earth to jump on the Jay-Z bandwagon. This project suggests that The Blueprint (with 5 votes) is Jay-Z’s true classic from the 2000s, but right now it’s hard for me to imagine Jay-Z topping the first three tracks on The Black Album. “December 4th,”What More Can I Say,” and  “Encore” are a triple shot of awesome. I like how he says stuff, and the stuff he says, and the music that goes with the stuff he says. Grade: LOVE

Matt: Suffice to say, I respect and admire Jay-Z. The H.O.V. has earned the title of “King of New York” by stringing together more than a decade of solid hip-hop albums, production credits and a worthy empire to go with it. This album doesn’t live up its considerable hype, though. “99 Problems” is one of my favorite hip-hop tracks ever and I love Jay-Z’s point of view and interesting rhymes, but, musically, the rest seems just seems kind of “OK.” Perhaps reading eight years of praise before actually listening to The Black Album created unfair expectations? Grade: LIKE

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