(My) Best Albums of the 21st Century

Having done a Best Movies of the 21st Century list last week, my brain immediately began pondering my other great creative passion: music. I play a lot more songs than I watch films, so crunching sixteen years worth of music down into 25 albums (as I did with the movies) seemed a bit overly reductive, so after cutting and parsing and pasting, I ended up with 64 records, about four per year. That seemed about right. (And it means that if I decide I want to make a tournament out of this at some point, I’ve got the right opening pool).

As noted in the movies post, I’m a calendar pedant, so I note that the 21st Century began on January 1, 2001, not a year earlier. So there are no albums from the year 2000 here. That preamble noted, here’s what I consider the best of the best from my collection, of the pool of albums released from 2001 to 2017, in something approaching alphabetical order. What’s on your own list?

. . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Source Tags & Codes (2002)

Alice Donut, 10 Glorious Animals (2009)

The Black Angels, Phosphene Dream (2010)

Chance The Rapper, Coloring Book (2016)

The Chap, Mega Breakfast (2008)

The Clean, Mister Pop (2009)

Clutch, Robot Hive/Exodus (2005)

COIL, Moon’s Milk (In Four Phases) (2002)

COIL, The Ape of Naples (2005)

Dälek, Absence (2005)

Dälek, Gutter Tactics (2009)

David Bowie, Blackstar (2016)

David Bowie, The Next Day (2013)

Death Grips, Government Plates (2013)

Department of Eagles, The Cold Nose (2007)

Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, Surf (2015)

Edan, Beauty and the Beat (2005)

Ezra Furman, Perpetual Motion People (2015)

The Fall, The Real New Fall LP (Formerly “Country on the Click”) (2004)

The Fall, Imperial Wax Solvent (2008)

First Aid Kit, Stay Gold (2014)

Frightened Rabbit, The Winter of Mixed Drinks (2010)

Gangrene, Vodka and Ayahuasca (2012)

Gay Tastee, Songs for the Sodomites (2009)

Goat, World Music (2012)

Golden Suits, Kubla Khan (2016)

The Hanslick Rebellion, the rebellion is here (2005)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

Here We Go Magic, A Different Ship (2012)

Ian Anderson, Homo Erraticus (2014)

Japanther, Eat Like Lisa Act Like Bart (2013)

Jed Davis, Small Sacrifices Must Be Made (2012)

Jesu/Sun Kil Moon, Jesu/Sun Kil Moon (2016)

Jonathan Richman, Ishkode! Ishkode! (2016)

Jowe Head and the Demi-Monde, Diabolical Liberties (2010)

The Kamikaze Hearts, Oneida Road (2006)

Korn, The Paradigm Shift (2013)

Max Eider, Hotel Figueroa (2002)

Melvins, (A) Senile Animal (2006)

Melvins, Hold It In (2014)

Mindless Self Indulgence, You’ll Rebel to Anything (2005)

The Monkees, Good Times! (2016)

Mos Def, The Ecstatic (2009)

Moses Hightower, Onnur Mosebok (2012)

Napalm Death, Apex Predator – Easy Meat (2015)

Napalm Death, Time Waits for No Slave (2009)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dig Lazarus Dig!!! (2008)

Pas/Cal, I Was Raised on Matthew, Mark, Luke and Laura (2008)

Paul McCartney, Memory Almost Full (2007)

Pere Ubu, Why I Hate Women (2006)

Planningtorock, W (2012)

The Residents, Demons Dance Alone (2002)

The Residents, Animal Lover (2005)

Snog, Last Of The Great Romantics (2010)

System of a Down, Toxicity (2001)

Teho Teardo and Blixa Bargeld, Nerissimo (2016)

Terry Hall and Mushtaq, The Hour of Two Lights (2003)

Thighpaulsandra, The Golden Communion (2015)

Tom Vek, Luck (2014)

The Wasted, We Are Already in Hell (2006)

Ween, Quebec (2003)

Wire, Send (2003)

Wire, Silver/Lead (2017)

Xiu Xiu, Angel Guts: Red Classroom (2014)

(My) Best Movies Of the 21st Century

The New York Times recently issued a list of “The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century So Far,” which you can read here. Probably unsurprisingly, I don’t agree with much of it. So equally unsurprisingly, I felt I had to make my own list. Because me.

Note that I am being a calendar pedant in framing my choices: the 21st Century began on January 1, 2001, so there are no movies from 2000 here. Had I included the final year of the 20th Century, I likely would have added Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Requiem For a Dream to the list below at the expense of two of the 2001-2016 films.

I also don’t have any 2017 movies on the list. Get Out and Trainspotting 2 are the  best new films I’ve seen this year, but neither has sat with me long enough for me to consider it a serious contender for posterity’s sake.

My first cut at this list had 42 movies on it, so I was glad that I didn’t have to stretch to pad out a list of 25. I took me a while to figure out which 17 to drop, with some tough choices toward the very end, but I feel good about the final list I developed, and share it with you below.

For foreign language films, I’m using the titles that were most commonly used in domestic advertising campaigns, even if they were originally titled in their native languages. The list is is alphabetical order, so I’m not bothering to hierarchically rank them further.

This is all. List away . . .

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Black Swan (2010)

City of God (2002)

Donnie Darko (2001)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

The Fountain (2006)

Frank (2014)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Inside Out (2015)

Let the Right One In (2008)

The Lobster (2015)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Lost in Translation (2003)

Melancholia (2011)

Moonlight (2016)

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Mulholland Drive (2001)

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

The Piano Teacher (2002)

The Prestige (2006)

Under the Skin (2013)

Volver (2006)

WALL-E (2008)

Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

Anesthetized

no data,
doesn’t matter
get some facts and force them into
tangled webs of gossamer
and lies
the scientists are vying
with the publicists and naturalists
romanticists and classicists
and spies
the talking heads are talking
as the chopping blocks are chopping
and the commentators comment on it all
home looking, works cooking
we crash the couch and force the spike
into our flaccid arteries
and let the world
fall upon us with a sigh
on flat screen tablets
and in digital surround
on a rising stream of noise we swim
it engulfs us and we drown again
anesthetized
’til tomorrow when
we rise
poor Lazarus
to watch again

(Note: I wrote this in 2004. Hard to believe how much worse it’s gotten since then. Poor Lazarus, indeed.)

Best Albums of 2017 (First Half)

Today marks the six month anniversary of my 25th Annual Album of the Year Report, meaning that it’s now time for the mid-year report of 2017. As has been my June 1 practice in most recent years, I offer the following interim list of eleven new records that have most rocked my world since the preceding January, plus any late additions that came out last December after I closed out 2016. Some of these discs will very likely be contenders for “Album of the Year” honors come December 2017. The list is in alphabetical order by artist (more or less), with links to help you explore. Happy listening . . . and let me know in the comment section what you’re loving that’s not listed here so I can check it out myself before year end!

The Black Angels — Death Song

David Bowie — No Plan (EP)

Robyn Hitchcock — Robyn Hitchcock

Irontom — Partners

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard — Flying Microtonal Banana

Meat Wave — The Incessant

Pile — A Hairshirt of Purpose

Awa Poulo — Poulo Warali

The Residents — The Ghost of Hope

Wire — Silver/Lead

Xiu Xiu — Forget

 

The Warrior Has Fallen

The warrior has fallen,
the armor joint between his chin and his chest
pierced by an arrow.
A lucky shot from across the field,
severing an artery:
the warrior has fallen.

The foot soldiers rush forward
to pull the warrior from beneath his war horse.
They lift his helmet:
blood runs from his open mouth, jaw slack.
Arrows continue to fall.
The foot soldiers rush forward.

The lancers are advancing
from across the field, their pikes sticky with the blood
of screaming peasants
who had walked to war with staves and clubs,
victory promised to them.
The lancers are advancing.

Untrained field hands are huddling
without shields and armor, watching for a signal.
But the warrior
is dead or dying, despite his armor
and his war horse, and his gold.
Untrained field hands are huddling.

Chaos on top of carnage,
the army of serf soldiers attempting to flee.
Escape routes closing,
horsemen chase them down, blocking
their paths into the forest,
chaos on top of carnage.

The warrior has fallen.
As he dropped his commanding aura died with him.
Confused and frightened
servants suddenly understand war:
there are no sure victories.
The warrior has fallen.

Copyright 2004, J. Eric Smith