This week’s Heal Yourself And Move—a biweekly column about dance and electronic music, written by Maryland’s finest, Andrew Field Pickering—runs through some of Andrew’s favorite albums of the decade, an often difficult format for what is so often a song-centric type of music. It’s a great companion to his rundown of 2009 and accompanying mix from last column. Check that here and check his picks for the last ten years after the jump.
In these Modern Times (like Charlie Chaplin, on rollerskates next to a giant renovation hole) that we live in, it is straight up hard for a lot of people, myself included, to digest an album. I remember being a kid in the ’90s (when I was not yet aware of the glories of 12-inch culture) where “the album” was the shit. You had to wait for something to come out, go get it, and then pump that bad boy the whole way through. And my most heralded discs back then were the ones that killed it from beginning to end, complete with fun skits (De La Soul is Dead comes to mind: I got the bid-ox, lets do this like Brutus!) or transcendent interludes, or just ten songs in a row that kicked ass.
Dance music, especially, is just too fast (in production, digestion, mixing and promoting terms—not BPMs) for LPs. Most of the time. There are dudes and dudettes out there who go long form with their creations, or follow up a tight single with other tracks and package it all as a double or triple pack of 12-inchs. Below are five of my favorites from the last ten years.
Actress, Hazyville (Werk Discs)
OH how i wish i could grip this on vinyl. Werk Discs puts out some sick shit, but nothing else activates my kush-brain quite like this one. This dude must have four or five legs, because he’s got a foot in everything I like, from tweaked instrumental hip-hop ( “I Can’t Forgive You”) to that always sleek Detroit vibe ( “Crushed”, “Hazyville”). Opener “Again the Addiction” is in a murky world of its own; I love it but I can’t really wrap my head around it, and tracks like “Green Gal” and “Doggin” are challenging in the best ways, like “Do I DJ this? Can I really DJ this?” More than anything though, the melodies, digital dust and textures of this whole album just put me in a place, you know? Every track transports me to a very specific, personal, confused world, and I love it.
The hands-in-the-dirty-foggy-air cut (and my favorite cut on the album) is “Ivy May Gilpin”, which is a perfect execution of melodic, grimy house. It sounds to me like a song Steve Poindexter would make, if he lived on the equator. I feel like I’m in a sewer and on a beach at the same time, big headphones on and a paint marker (forest green) in my hand.
Newworldaquarium, The Dead Bears (Delsin)
I bought this when I lived in Spain a couple of years ago. I brought it back to the house I was at, and played it to myself on this bootleg Fischer-Price turntable. When the a-side was finished, I sat up, shook myself out of “the zone” and turned the record over. I did that four times, each time sinking further into the mattress while the tracks played. There is no heaven, but “Avon Sparkle” makes it sound like there miiiight be one, and that, when you get there, big body Chicago girls will vibe with you and pass the J. I love how aggravatingly short “Star Power” is, and how much it sounds like the percolating intro to “Sign O’ The Times” by Prince. Fuck it, I just think the whole album is genius. You gotta have this one.
Autechre, Confield (Warp)
I’m not gonna fake like I can dance to this, but this was a major album for me. This was the first Autechre I ever heard, and I bought it out of sheer curiosity after reading about it. Back then I had to get to the early shift at this daycare I worked at, and I put this on for the first time during one of my long ass walks to said job. It was completely alien to me (and to many Autechre fans at the time too, I remember reading) but at the same time jump-started my desire to take in purely electronic music. This LP was a major impetus for my interest in techno, house, and all the deviant electronic/noise/ambient music in between. One time, I heard the homie Ari G from Beautiful Swimmers scream like a banshee while listening to this on headphones. Good times.
Theo Parrish, Parallel Dimensions (Sound Signature/Ubiquity)
I realize every time I DJ the song “So Now What” off of this that I shouldn’t. That jam is for the mind, and people usually slow down, dumbfounded, at the seemingly off-balance samples that kick-start one of the illest albums of any decade. But once those drums hit and the beat reveals itself, I (and maybe only I) lose my shit. Maybe I’m not mixing it right? Anyway, this album is full of jaw droppers, my favorite of which might be “Brain”, which reminds me of…
J Dilla, Donuts (Stones Throw)
In reading people’s reviews of the aughts, I’m not seeing enough love for this album. There is basically a new genre of electronic music/beats etc that could be called “Post-Dilla”, due in no small part to how big this album was in the underground when it hit. The fervor around this when it came out close to Dilla’s death made a lot of people reach for those MPCs. It also inspired a new generation of producers to leave the idiosyncrasies in their beats. I think its hard to argue that anybody doing hip-hop/wonky/etc (and Dilla’s influence spreads beyond that too) these days who doesn’t quantize their drums owes a little bit of their vibe to this dude, and probably to this album in particular. When “Walkinonit” switches gears (the 00:45 mark in the YouTube video above), and the sampled voice croons “baby waaaaalk on byyyyyyyyyyyyyy”, it’s game over. I usually hate to rate things on scales or say that something is the absolute best of a year or a decade, but this shit is the best. RIP.