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Ramona Falls Best of the Decade Artist Survey

Paul Alcott

Dec 20, 2009 Best of the Decade Bookmark and Share

Under the Radar’s Best of the Decade/Year-End Issue features our Best of the Decade Artist Survey. For Under the Radar’s 7th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to the last decade and asked them for a list of their best albums of the decade. Some of the surveys didn’t make it in the issue and some answers from surveys that did make it in the issue had to be trimmed for space. Those surveys and answers are posted on our website. Pick up our Best of the Decade/Year-End Issue to read surveys from Camera Obscura, The Dodos, El Perro Del Mar, Final Fantasy, The Hidden Cameras, The Horrors, The Invisible, Ladytron, Sondre Lerche, Jamie Lidell, Loney Dear, Los Campesinos!, Mew, Midlake, Okkervil River, Stars, Telekinesis, The Twilight Sad, and Vivian Girls.

Paul Alcott

Ramona Falls

Top Ten Albums of the Decade

1. The National: Alligator—What an amazingly subversive album. The first time through, it sounds like some bland VH1 shit. The 53rd time through it’s still surprising me.

2. D’Angelo: Voodoo—Devastatingly sexy. Why can’t all modern R&B sound this good? Such a masterful recording/performance.

3. Herbert: Scale—The culmination of a musical career. Who on earth can play totally legit house, jazz, and symphonic music? Nobody… except Matthew Herbert.

4. Jay-Z: The Blueprint—“The flow of the century” wraps it up pretty neatly. “The Takeover” may be the most brutal/sophisticated/hilarious series of insults in musical history.

5. Destroyer: Your Blues—Dude is so wanton. He comes at you like, “I’m going to break your heart with MIDI flutes. That’s right… MIDI flutes! ” And he absolutely does.
6. Parenthetical Girls: Safe as Houses—How can you make an album this beautiful with a male music critic singing a series of pregnancy-anxiety jams? You can’t. Don’t try.

7. Songs: Ohia: Ghost Tropic—The bleakest, most life-dis-affirming album I’ve ever encountered. Manna for depressives. I have to use this one sparingly.

8. Cannibal Ox: The Cold Vein—The most original sonic/lyrical vision of what hip-hop can be. Mud-splattered “Beyond Thuderdome” production and writing that reconciles hubris, hopelessness, and empathy.

9. Mitch Hedberg: Mitch All Together—A genius at his peak. Impossibly funny. Impossibly musical.

10. Jens Lekman: Oh You’re So Silent Jens—I’m still trying to figure out how much this guy is putting us on and how much he really is this hopelessly adorable, hopelessly clever, hopelessly love-starved foreigner.

What was the high point of the last decade for you, personally?

I’m holding my breath that it’s coming up in the next month and a half.

What was the low point of the last decade for you, personally?

I mean… do you really want to hear about me listening back to music that I’ve made and crying because it isn’t any good? Of course not! So let’s talk about this: last year on a business trip, flying back from Chicago to Portland, I was reading a novel containing a fairly graphic botched nose job scene. I don’t do very well with gore. I do especially poorly with botched nose job fiction… and I passed out. In and of itself, passing out isn’t so bad. Sure, there’s the profuse sweating, and the ringing in the ears, and the disorientation. All of that is sub-satisfactory, but tolerable. It’s the loss of bladder control that really poisons the whole experience. So, yeah, when I regained consciousness, it took me a few minutes to figure out that the dampness of in my seat was a different style of dampness than the dampness of passing-out sweat. Not being able to hold your liquor is one thing… but not being able to hold your fiction? Inexcusable.

What are your hopes and plans for the next decade?

Retaining my hair.

Which artist and their music do you think most defines the last decade and why?

Probably Timbaland. It seems like the ’00s were the decade that hip-hop really took over as the dominant language in pop music, and the intelligence, adventurousness, and craft that he brought to production seemed to permeate so much more than just rap music.

Which musical trend or scene from the last decade do you feel was most overrated/overhyped? Which one was most underrated/under-hyped?

Personally, I had very little use for the lo-fi thing that sprang up in the last couple of years. Maybe I’ve invested too much time and money into buying mics and preamps, but blurry/out-of-focus electric guitars and unintelligible vocals just bore me to death these days.

Do you think what is considered “indie rock” is different than it was when the decade started? With the commercial strides made in the past decade, how do you think the definition of “indie” rock has changed?

That whole Wavves/Vivian Girls thing aside (and I do hope we put it aside rather quickly) is seems like we’ve grown more appreciative of professionalism and ambition in our independent rock and roll. Pavement seemed to define late ’90s indie rock, and it seems fair to say that Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective define late ’00s rock. Our recording technologies have become so much cheaper and better, and it seems like we’ve gotten to the point where you can attempt much more ambitious recordings without a major label budget.

What big issues and challenges do you foresee musicians and the music industry facing in the next decade?

It certainly seems that revenues/quality-of-living look to decline. But don’t we get better art out of starving artists? I welcome the decline of the affluent musician.

Which political and societal change/development from the last decade most concerns you? Which one most gives you hope?

Obesity in America gets me down. Climate change deniers get me down. The race for the bottom in infotainment news gets me down. I suppose I’m encouraged that we’ve cracked down on steroids in baseball. Oh, and that bit where John Stewart went on Cross Fire and ripped the hosts a series of new ones.

What are your thoughts on President Obama’s job performance thus far?

I honestly get most of my media exposure from FOX News radio, so I’m under the impression that he’s a hollow embarrassment and that we’re headed into socialized hell… but you might want to ask someone else, because I might not have the whole story.

What are your thoughts on the healthcare debate and what would your preferred eventual outcome be?

Man, I wish they could have done it in fewer than 2,000 pages. Because I read Proust when I was in college and that was, like, top-notch writing, and it started to drag around page 1,800. 2,000 pages from congressional representatives? It’s the profusion of bad prose that really bums me out.

Which global issue (or issue within your own country) would you most like to see resolved by 2020?

Mugabe out of power in Zimbabwe.

How do you think you’ll describe the last decade to your children, grandchildren, or other young people in the future?

It was the decade when the Internet got good.

What was your life like in January 2000 and how has your life most changed since then?

In January 2000 I was writing songs and reading poetry. In November of 2009 I’m programming databases for an infomercial company. The slip was so subtle, I hardly noticed it happening. I’ve been assimilated.

How are you most like your parents? How are you least like them?

Well, there are some genetic similarities that are hard to deny, my mother’s lankiness foremost amongst them. But I like to rock it non-stop and they go to bed around 8 PM these days.

What were some of your favorites of the last decade in terms of movies, TV shows (which ones did you watch most religiously), books, comic books, websites/blogs, and video games?

Was City of God filmed in the 2000’s? Beause that film KILLS. Chris Adrian’s novel The Children’s Hospital KILLS as well.

Which technological advancement from the last decade are you most surprised that you previously lived without?

I actually haven’t even gotten a cell phone yet.

Where (which city) and how did you celebrate December 31, 1999 and January 1, 2000? Did you make any preparations for the Y2K threat? Do you already have plans for New Year’s Eve 2009?

I was in Paris for New Year’s 1999. They rigged the Eiffel Tower up with so many fireworks that it was as bright as noon.

If you could be God for a day, what would you do?

Make some new ice caps, STAT!

If you could travel in time and visit your 10-year-old self, what would you tell them about your future?

Please. I’d tell him who won every major sporting event and that he needed to start placing some bets QUICK!

Which conspiracy theory do you most believe?

The C.I.A. selling crack. My only hesitancy is that I would think the C.I.A. would have made better rap albums if they actually really did sell crack.

What were your goals for your music career at the beginning of the decade? What have/haven’t you accomplished?

I was looking to rock the fuck out. I came in just shy.



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