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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Millenium Project: Day Eight (Albums 30-21)

30. Sparks - Hello Young Lovers (2006)
I wasn’t overly impressed with 2001’s Lil’ Beethoven, but it turns out that that was just a warm up for this brilliant album. Unlike anything else out there, Sparks mixes pop and dance song craft with orchestral arrangements, witty lyrics and everything else they can think to throw in. Just listen to closer As I Sit Down To Play The Organ At The Notre Dame Cathedral or rock-opera opener Dick Around. There are also some brilliant pop moments here as well, like the should-have-been-hit Waterproof.

Sparks - Waterproof

29. The White Stripes - Elephant (2003)
I’ve never been a real big fan of lo-fi. I’m a dramatic person and I like to have my music dramatic and epic as well. On the other hand, there is nothing better than unabashed, pure rock ‘n roll in its most simple form. Elephant is a shining example of exactly that. I was hooked from the first listen. The songs are short, punchy and immediate. The White Stripes will never make a better album. Seven Nation Army is just a thrill of sound and sex from end to end.

The White Stripes - I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself

28. Brainpool - Junk: A Rock Opera (2005)
Green day may have had the more popular opera, but Brainpool had one that shouldn’t be looked over either. In the classic tradition of the Who’s Tommy, Junk spans and crosses genres, tempos, instrumentals and pop songs to brilliant effect. The story is a bit rubbish, but that’s not the point. Sprawling two discs, the thing is epic in scope and sound. It’s hard to really highlight one track because they blend together so well. Shame this didn’t catch on, because mainstream rock needs theatricality and storytelling like this.

Brainpool - Here Comes The Man

27. Shania Twain - Up! (2002)
Shania finally decided to go pop with this release (well…sorta - we got a pop and country version packaged together). Regardless of the genre, this album is the closest that we’re gonna get to a 21st century Abba release. Ka-Ching might as well be the new Money Money Money, (Wanna Get To Know You) That Good! the new Knowing Me, Knowing You. Despite being a long cd at 19 songs, every one is a catchy, can’t-get-it-out-of-your head winner. It’s also surprisingly diverse in a really kitschy way. There are more exclamation marks in the titles of these songs than in most novels (two in Waiter! Bring Me Water!). And, come to think of it, an exclamation mark could have been the universal symbol for this album, because it describes it perfectly.

Shania Twain - What A Way To Wanna Be!

26. Green Day - American Idiot (2004)
A rock opera in spirit (if not completely consistant execution), American Idiot is the best mainstream punk record of the new millenium. I cannot think of any other album that has evolved a band as much as this one did for Green Day. It took them to a completely different level. The standouts (other than the fantastic singles) are the two 9-minute, epic operettas (Jesus Of Suburbia and Homecoming). Simply stunning work. This album deserved every accolade it received and more.

Green Day - Jesus Of Suburbia

25. Nellie McKay - Get Away From Me (2004)
Truly an original, Nellie blends hip-hop attitude with Doris Day type crooning. Stretched out over two discs, this was really an ambitious debut. Every song is a winner and the album is so varied that it becomes quite surprising as McKay jumps genre after genre. There’s 60’s pop (David, Ding Dong), Jive (It‘s A Pose), Alanis-style angriness (Inner Peace), rap (Sari), weird eastern-influenced dance (Waiter) and much more. Most importantly, the songs are hilarious, clever and completely different than anything out there.

Nellie McKay - Toto Dies

24. Hedwig And The Angry Inch Original Soundtrack (2001)
Hedwig is the greatest rock musical of the 21st century, no question. Not only fantastic music, but an equally engrossing and touching story. Taken on its own, the album is a near-perfect example of punk rock theatrics. From the manic opener Tear Me Down to the achingly beautiful Origin of Love and Midnight Radio, the cd is a worthy successor to the Rocky Horror soundtrack. Catchiest is the singalong Wig In A Box, which covers more musical ground than any mainstream music has been able to do this decade.

Hedwig And The Angry Inch - Wig In A Box

23. The Lovemakers - Times Of Romance (2005)
One of the best synth-pop albums ever recorded, Times of Romance remains a mystery to most music listeners, unfortunately. While each song sounds like it could be a #1 single, none were. Still, Gonna Find, Set Me Free and Falling Apart remain #1 hits in my mind. Sounding like a mix of Duran Duran and Cyndi Lauper (and, god, what could be better?) Times of Romance is definitely a party record. But, it’s not a stupid one. These are pop songs, for sure, but pop songs with an edge to them.

The Lovemakers - Set Me Free

22. Robyn - Robyn (2005)
I never really warmed to any of Robyn’s previous releases (don’t kill me), but with this, her “electro pop” album, I was officially hooked. With a string of instant classic singles (Be Mine! leading the way), the album is one nonstop hook. Konitchiwa Bitches remains the best faux-rap song ever, while the hilarious interludes (and intro) are absolutely hilarious. I would go so far as calling the sound of this album the future of pop music.

Robyn - Be Mine!

21. Justin Timberlake - Justified (2002)
I was a massive Michael Jackson fan growing up (and still am). Because of this, I was an instant fan of Justified, which takes its inspiration from MJ classics like Off The Wall and Thriller. Of course, it’s not as good as those masterpieces, but it is the closest this decade has to offer. Plus, in addition to performing fantastic R&B/pop throwbacks (Rock Your Body, Last Night), Timberlake also created some of the most avant garde (yet still mainstream) pop music out in 2002. Cry Me A River is a miraculous example.

Justin Timberlake - Cry Me A River

(Music is for evaluation purposes only. Buy these fabulous albums here.)


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