20. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It in People [Arts & Crafts/Paper Bag]
The diffidently-sung “Anthem for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl” will reach you, even if you’re not in the targeted demographic. You will want to shout out the lyrics with the entire collective in the climax of “Almost Crimes”. You will want to dance around to “Pacific Theme” while no one’s around to see it, and maybe enjoy a cigarette to “Looks Just Like the Sun”, “Lover’s Spit”, and “I’m Still Your Fag” afterward. And that’s all without mentioning “Cause = Time”, with guitar and strings that suggest maybe we can do something about the situation we find ourselves in; we can fight it, we don’t have to submit.
Broken Social Scene, a full-blown collective, make sure that every song is packed with detail — things will stick to you at first because they’re catchy, but additional listens will reveal more. More guitars are going on in “Anthem for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl” than you would think. And even “Capture the Flag”, which captures their entire debut album in two minutes and change, or the string-laden closer “Pitter Patter Goes My Heart” are pleasures. One of the greatest gifts, musical or otherwise, Canada gave the world that entire decade. — Marshall Gu
19. The Avalanches – Since I Left You [Modular]
You know that feeling: when you hear a song’s chorus or just a stray verse or maybe a chord change that is just so good, so downright powerful and undeniably cathartic that you feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. You can probably name only a handful of songs that have achieved this effect, but with the Avalanches‘ Since I Left You, they managed to maintain it over the course of an entire album.
Crafted by a group of Australian DJs out of both original instrumentation and hundreds of samples, Since I Left You cannot be classified as belonging to a single genre because throughout its hour-long run time. It features every single genre you could ever think of: jazz guitars melt away into indie-electronica experiments, four-on-the-four club bangers transmogrify into Osmond Brothers’ send-offs, and spoken-word sound bytes are married to hip-hop beats, Brill Building vocal choirs, country croons, and, just for the hell of it, the bassline to Madonna’s “Holiday”. It’s an outright celebration of music with electricity coursing through its grooves as it interpolates the sounds of opera singers and turntable scratches without even the slightest hint of effort. The album sounds like every record you ever loved melting together to create something that you’ve never heard before.
Coming out at the end of the Napster era, Since I Left You wasn’t a mere mashup or Girl Talk-styled music nerd amalgam, no. Instead, it modified the DNA of DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing. It created something completely new out of tropes we are already too familiar with, subverting our expectations on an average of every 10 seconds. It is transcendent in its pop music pleasures, and, amazingly, after personally listening to this record end-to-end over 300 times, I am still hearing elements that I never heard before. Few records in history will ever have this kind of replayability, but, to be fair, few records have ever sounded like Since I Left You. — Evan Sawdey
18. Basement Jaxx – Kish Kash [XL/Astralwerks]
Despite the early millennial success of “Where’s Your Head At?”, the UK house duo known as Basement Jaxx were getting increasingly bored with the modern sounds of dance music. A simple, catchy chorus just wasn’t enough to satiate their tastes because, in a world dominated by the likes of Paul Oakenfold and Paul Van Dyk, they were left to ask, “Where is the fun? Where is the humor? Hell, where is the out-and-out weirdness of it all?”
With Kish Kash, Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe decided not to record one dance album, but about six of them. Instead of releasing all these things separately, they melted all their ideas down into these 14 songs, each one brimming with a half-dozen choruses that are basically playing over each other but somehow completely and thrillingly cohesive. Just take the Dizzee Rascal-featuring single “Lucky Star”, for example, which features an exotic keyboard trill, about four different layers of shouted vocal harmonies, synth pads coloring the chorus, a furiously strummed acoustic hook that comes in right before the 3:00 mark. Any one of these elements would stand as an amazing pop single on its own. Still, instead, they’re all put into one frenetic club banger that sounds dangerously close to exploding with over-enthusiasm at any given second.
Throughout the rest of Kish Kash, the boys root their songs in electroclash (“Cish Cash”), gospel (“Supersonic”), late ’90s R&B (“Feels Like Home”), and even string-drenched Bjork-styled electronic catharsis (“If I Ever Recover”). But those simple frameworks are soon filled with the duo’s off-beat personalities and eccentricities. The Jaxx’s insatiable, overstuffed brand of dance-pop quietly influenced the decade that followed. Still, as their subsequent efforts proved, Kish Kash is when they perfected their sound, throwing more memorable hooks into a single song than most bands will write in their entire career. — Evan Sawdey
17. Kanye West – Late Registration [Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam]
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear to see that Late Registration was nothing less than a statement of intent. Kanye West had gotten people’s attention with The College Dropout, but one wrong turn could have easily sent him towards the commercial and critical purgatory that many throwback rappers find themselves in. With Late Registration, Kanye West aimed higher than being the best rapper of his generation, even higher than being the best pop star of his generation. He aspired to be a pop savant, the sort of individual talent that rarely comes along. He brought along Jon Brion to give his beats more intricate arrangements. While he still used soul and R&B samples as a base, Kanye’s work on Late Registration seems more grandiose as if the ambition of “Jesus Walks” was blown up into a 70-minute epic.
Even the parts of Late Registration that seem baffling on paper (Adam Levine as a hook guy?) manage to work in practice. Less than ten years after Late Registration‘s release, Kanye West is regarded as one of the most controversial geniuses of his time. Many have argued that he has reached the heights of greatness that he’s insisted he could reach. But it all started here when Kanye showed the world just what he was capable of. — Kevin Korber
16. The Strokes – Is This It? [RCA/Rough Trade]
Much as Nirvana did with Seattle nearly a decade prior in 2001, the Strokes proved integral in revitalizing interest in a loosely affiliated scene in New York City. Along with their fellow Class of 2001 alums (the myriad “The _____s” bands that sprang up that year) offered an easily accessible gateway into the underground, ushering in a broader interest in musical styles predominantly labeled “indie” that has continued to this day.
Providing the perfect marriage of style and substance, Is This It? is a nearly flawless opening salvo. The lean, post-punk/garage rock hooks of guitarists Albert Hammond, Jr. and Nick Valensi, coupled with the utilitarian, driving rhythm section of Fabrizio Moretti and Nikolai Fraiture, provided the perfect backdrop for vocalist Julian Casablancas’ often distorted, languorously delivered lyrics. With its unfussy arrangements and skillful approach to pop songcraft, Is This It showcased a band that was more than just a handful of pretty faces and privileged New York City brats.
Singles like “Last Nite”, “Someday”, and “Hard to Explain” displayed a sound rooted in a musical past born from the underground, marrying the best elements of the Velvets, Stooges, and countless other critical darlings that brought the group early and high praise. Had they not delivered an equally solid album, the critical barbs directed at the hype behind the group before Is This It?‘s release would have been warranted. As it stands, the hype proved well deserved and, all these years later, Is This It? stands as a modern classic, worthy of inclusion alongside the best work of its influences. — John Paul
15. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood [Anti-]
Before proclaiming herself a “man-eater” on 2009’s Middle Cyclone, such fear was implied on Neko Case‘s 2006 album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Based on fairy tales and myth, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is feral. Raw and symbolic, the songs are open to interpretation. The ambiguity of “Dirty Knife” and “Star Witness” — the latter arguably Case’s finest career moment — signals a palpable danger. Hunters and their prey weave their way through the record, building upon the dichotomy of “Margaret Vs. Pauline”.
Adding musical polish and density to the wash of reverb that had become her trademark, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood was Case’s ascension from country crooner on her debut, The Virginian, to the role of honey-tongued Americana queen. Prolific prior to 2006, the album marked a turning point in Case’s career: having frequently used cover songs, Fox Confessor was composed of all original material, save for the rambling reworking of the traditional “John Saw That Number”. The album saw the beginning of a working relationship with Garth Hudson (The Band) as well as a decline in productivity on subsequent releases. (2009) debuted at number three on the Billboard charts, earning Case a Grammy nomination, as did her most personal release, 2013’s cathartic The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.
Independent and mainstream artists clearly admire Case, as you can hear her influence across a broad spectrum of music, but none come close to matching her power. The air of suspense on Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is visceral, not manufactured. Now just as famous for being a Twitter personality, activist, and New England farmer, Case the musician has seemingly been tamed since Fox Confessor Brings the Flood was released. Thankfully, we still have the music, which remains her best to date. — Eric Risch
14. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois [Asthmatic Kitty/Secretly Canadian]
Sufjan Stevens‘ fifth album, Illinois (2005), was a landmark in progressive indie folk, and its influences still carry on. Stevens had famously declared that he was going to produce one album for each of the 50 states (with 2003’s Michigan the first). That project died and Stevens later said the idea was “a joke,” one he perhaps “took too seriously.” Yet Illinois was so ambitious and so good that at the time, ridiculously enough, people actually thought he might pull it off. He is currently pursuing a hip-hop side project and just scored a ballet.
On Illinois, Steven is a moving and plaintive folk singer, the music is rooted in Americana and Illinois history, and themes range from Abraham Lincoln to Superman (conceived of in Illinois). Yet Stevens also brings waves of instruments from his mini-orchestra, and he is more indebted to Stereolab’s post-rock minimalism than Bob Dylan. Highlights include the cornerstone song, “Chicago”, and the stunning spirituality of “John Wayne Gacy, Jr”.
Illinois is lush, neo-Baroque/folk that you can either turn your brain off and relax while you listen to it, or you could otherwise explore its depths for another decade or so. — James A. Cosby
13. Radiohead – In Rainbows [Independent]
Lush and spiritual. Enigmatic and troubling. On its seventh studio album, In Rainbows, Radiohead‘s music has never felt so effortless as it traverses the entire emotional spectrum. Always the paranoid androids, songs like the anxious, propulsive “15 Step” and “Bodysnatchers” ring with the same nail-biting excitement that has continuously seeped into all of the band’s discography.
In Rainbows‘ universal beauty can be felt in “Nude”, which finds Thom Yorke delivering his most indelible vocal performance yet. Even the hustle and bustle of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” has a tenderness to it that makes it equal parts a lullaby and a skittering rocker. Yorke’s longing, echoing vocals gracefully ebb and flow over the shimmering textures. As the final reflective moments of “Videotape” unspool, it’s evident that In Rainbows is a master class in musicianship and subtlety by not only one of the best bands of the modern era but ever. — Andy Belt
12. Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine [Clean Slate/Epic]
The only album Fiona Apple would release during this decade, Extraordinary Machine was received by a fervent fan base after having been long delayed. What they got was essentially take two, after some unreleased tracks from initial producer Jon Brion were leaked before being re-recorded. Either version would have been fit for inclusion on this list, and Extraordinary Machine makes you wish Apple would cut a new album more often than once or twice a decade (if we’re lucky). You can be assured that when she has amassed enough songs she deems worthy of releasing, they will pack an emotional punch.
Everything about this album is completely methodical, from the confessional lyrics on “Not About Love” to the deliberate sour notes in “O’ Sailor”, and you can almost hear her heartbreaking on “Oh Well”. A lot of preparation and thought went into each track, yet it captures spontaneous energy as if Apple only had enough studio time to record each track in one take, and whatever came out of those sessions is what we got. Not only does it stand out for sounding like nothing else released in the 2000s, but it’s also a welcome departure from Apple’s previous releases. The album showcases her ability to reinvent her sound and continue to evolve without betraying who she is as a person and as one of her generation’s best singers-songwriters. — Steven Scott
11. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot [Nonesuch]
Chicago’s alt-country champions Wilco baffled their label Reprise with an album named Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The label was so baffled they told the band to get lost and sold the album’s master tapes back to them at a significantly low price. Wilco leaked Foxtrot‘s songs online, had a successful tour, sacked a valuable band member, and signed on with Nonsuch Records. From there, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was a critical and commercial success, topping many 2002 year-end lists.
Reprise’s trepidation and Nonsuch’s praise came from Wilco’s subtle-yet-sudden left-field approach that nearly dropped all traces of the band’s alt-country sound. Instead, singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy and multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennet would stretch their pop knacks beyond the new boundaries drawn by their previous album Summerteeth and take the sounds up to the atmosphere and deep underground simultaneously. Between Tweedy’s songs, Bennett’s arrangements, and Jim O’Rourke’s mixing, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was an album unlike any other. Lyrics containing silvery stars, scraping skyscrapers, and aquarium drinkers have the potential to sink hard if given the wrong musical context.
But Wilco’s new sound haunted and taunted listeners with the full realization that their first three albums promised. It was a snapshot of a blossoming indie scene, an industry in change, and a major label band placing all their chips on creativity. — John Garratt
10. M.I.A. – Arular [XL/Interscope]
Usually, essential albums attain that status thanks to some timeless quality they possess. But what makes M.I.A.‘s 2005 debut Arular a milestone achievement is a sense of timeliness that can’t be recreated or replicated almost a decade after its release. Before being M.I.A. got in the way of her message and medium, Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam delivered a revolutionary — in both senses of the word — pop manifesto on Arular, as she launched her war on the global war on terror through her socially-minded raps and guerilla iconography.
A document of its day, Arular introduced M.I.A.’s hybrid aesthetic just when the time was ripe for it. Her insurgent rhymes and Baile funk beats catered to first-world tastes dabbling in what was deemed exotic near the height of Hollywood’s Bollywood phase and just before indie rock “discovered” world music. Indeed, singles like “Sunshowers” and “Galang” resolved any contradictions between garnering commercial appeal and having a social agenda, as M.I.A. delivered her trenchant critiques on world affairs, economic inequality, and gender stereotypes by earworming her way into your consciousness.
Even though it’s been harder for her to find that sweet spot where pop and propaganda meet as her career and public profile have developed, M.I.A. took the fullest advantage of the platform she was given when it counted the most with Arular. — Arnold Pan
9. The National – Alligator [Beggar’s Banquet]
By the time Alligator was released in late 2003, indie rock was already in a solid state. And with it came some of the most vibrant bands to land lengthy careers (e.g., Spoon, Interpol, Wilco). Amidst the typical “burn out” scenario, the National had basically put their career progression on display with their previous releases. Their self-titled debut, Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, and the Cherry Tree EP charted a typical indie rock band finding their footing in strange surroundings (from Ohio to New York) and landing just beside the next big thing (their rehearsal neighbors Interpol were early stars on the scene). The National could have been the perpetual bridesmaid.
All of that changed with Alligator, however — but not overnight. Alligator was the perpetual slow-burn of an album, and it’s easy to hear why. Riddled with songs that are eerily hollow and lyrically troubled, the album was a bit misleading for folks who purchased it on the strength of their single, “Abel”, a brutal punk triumph with a screaming chorus of, “my mind’s not right.” Other tracks were equally tense and troubled; the album opener, “Secret Meeting”, with a shut-in protagonist, “Karen”, the narcissistic ode to a drunken stupor, and “Mr. November”, the nostalgic romp that relives the moment of being “carried in the arms of cheerleaders”.
What made Alligator such a slow success was a combination of authenticity, nervous anxiety, and a connection to deeper, darker themes running underneath America at the time. At a time when everyone was either grasping for larger themes or shutting them out for the common good, Alligator put everyone’s idiosyncrasies, insecurities, and dismay under a microscope. What we saw there was an unsettling reflection of lives gone wrong and a nation under constant fear. There was a little hope, but it was only discovered over several listens and several self-reflexive moments. Alligator doesn’t want you to forget what makes us human, but it doesn’t pull any punches either. And it does so in the quietest way possible. — Scott Elingburg
8. Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator) [Acony]
For all the archaic trappings that surround Gillian Welch and her songs, she’s always chafed at the idea that she makes old-timey music. Time (The Revelator) shows why. The album sounds timeless, full of myths and folktales, grounded in the acoustic music that she and partner David Rawlings have perfected, but drifting from song to song in a hypnotic dream state that doesn’t belong to any one era. It’s a landmark achievement that towers over pretty much every Americana release that’s come out since. Welch sews together imagery from tall tales told when America was spreading westward and finding its identity, from disasters that checked humanity’s enthusiasm at its progress, from the grief that life grinds into our time here on Earth, and from the electricity in Elvis Presley’s hips.
Time (The Revelator) takes all of these proto-building blocks and constructs a reality where the fiction of folklore holds as much weight as reported fact and feels like it touches the hem of some greater understanding. Welch and Rawlings caught sepia-toned lightning in a bottle, showing not only what the genre was capable of but also providing a soundtrack for our own individual musings on rebirth, growth, and identity. — Andrew Gilstrap
7. Arcade Fire – Funeral [Merge/Rough Trade]
To say that the debut album from this Montreal group has had a lasting impression on the musical landscape would be a huge understatement. Funeral is now widely regarded as one of the best albums released by a Canadian band, one that led to (eventually) a Grammy Award and massive concert tours where the outfit reportedly rakes in at least a million dollars a night. While some in Canada may feel that the impact is muted, thanks to excessive overplaying of the singles from that record on the radio and such, you can’t deny that Arcade Fire has essentially become this generation’s Big Thing.
Aesthetically, though, there is no inherent weakness with the LP, with each song building upon the last, and if you’re not moved by “Crown of Love”, you don’t have a soul in your body. It should come as no surprise that, according to Metacritic, Funeral has had the second most appearances on Top 100 albums of the double aughts lists right behind Radiohead’s Kid A. And here it is on our list. That all may not come as a surprise, but Funeral still retains its power and beauty years after its release and stands as an important landmark in shining a light on music made in Canada. And, yes, it is still very list-worthy. — Zachary Houle
6. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver [DFA]
LCD Soundsystem are the only band I truly regret missing. I don’t fault them for calling it quits while they were at their peak — but damn it, guys, did you have to make such great music before sailing off into the sunset? Sound of Silver is LCD Soundsystem’s triumph, a brilliant collection of dance hits that could have you rolling on the ground with laughter one moment and crying the next. Sound of Silver would have been a great album just by having the monumental “Someone Great” and “All My Friends”, but that didn’t satisfy James Murphy and his bandmates.
Instead, they made the greatest David Bowie album never made by creating their own version of “Heroes” and “Let’s Dance” and stretching it out to delirious lengths, like the feverish titled track or “Us V Them”. It is an album about growing up; Murphy might have focused his mid-life crisis into his music, but Sound of Silver could speak to any age group. With grooves this good and lyrics this potent, it was impossible not to fall under the spell. So head out into the night and dance yourself clean. — Nathan Stevens
5. Portishead – Third [Island]
My baker, an elderly fellow from Bristol, asked me what I thought about Portishead‘s Third. I wasn’t expecting to find him in a dark corner of the grocery section, lurking like a local Yeti between the meat and the English beef. “So, what do you reckon? Isn’t it a great record?” “Obviously,” I replied. But was it? When Third came out in 2008, Portishead sounded like a completely different band. This is quite normal considering that 11 years had passed since their self-titled second record rewrote the rules of trip-hop at the end of the noughties. Faster rhythms (“Silence”), industrial digressions (“We Carry On”, “Machine Gun”), and psychedelia (“Small”) make this album a clear departure from that weird fusion of hip-hop and electronica which is the territory inhabited by the likes of Portishead, yes, but also Tricky and Massive Attack.
Third is a necessary anomaly which seals the fate of a genre. An array of influences over the cinematic attributes; more krautrock and less ambient, colourfulness over monochromatism, Third is the album the 1990s left behind. Time has gracefully changed it beyond recognition to make it sound so contemporary and beautifully unmissable. My baker, a good man, nodded and went back behind the counter. — Alex Franquelli
4. Jay-Z – The Blueprint [Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam]
The Blueprint is lounge rap — luxurious, laid back, and best served with a stirred martini. Jay-Z is in full Sinatra mode; he’s no longer the hungry hustler on Reasonable Doubt, nor is he the new money player on Volume 2. This is Jigga in retrospect, enjoying the spoils of a hard-fought war. While Jay-Z peaks on The Blueprint, Kanye West begins his ascent. ‘Ye’s soulful production is still some of his best — check out the Jackson 5 sample on “Izzo”, or the Bobby Bland sample on “Heart of the City”. Elsewhere on the album, Jigga spits “The Takeover” — a wild haymaker at Nas that finishes their “feud”. And then there’s Eminem, who ditches the Slim Shady theatrics and kills on “Renegade”. It’s The Blueprint‘s only guest spot, and it’s quality over quantity, laid bare.
The Blueprint dropped on 11 September 2001. That morning was a gorgeous one, with a warm sun and clear blue skies. In hindsight, that’s exactly what The Blueprint was. It was that pre-9/11 New York beauty: the uptown opulence, the downtown swag, the cocky ‘make it anywhere’ pride before fire and steel fell out of the sky. — Kevin Wong
3. OutKast – Stankonia [LaFace/Arista]
It’s appropriate that OutKast released their quintessential album on the first Halloween of a new millennium. Stankonia was the result of Big Boi and Andre 3000 dressing up their already nuanced Southern rap template in a prismatic array of genres, tempos, and vocal deliveries, topping it all off with the kaleidoscopic dreadlocks of a George Clinton wig. By eschewing celebrity cameos in favor of hard-nosed underground rappers like Killer Mike and Gangsta Bo — and tackling its own verses with the confidence of veteran craftsmen — the Atlanta duo was able to make any wild flight of fancy sound like an organic extension of itself.
This wasn’t the first release to disprove the disrespectful notion that hip hop artists can’t have long careers, but it was the first mid-career hip hop album that proved experimentation in the genre could also sell tons of copies and win Grammys. There’s the speed metal jump rope rhyming of “B.O.B.”, the vintage cop show horn stabs of “Spaghetti Junction”, the Prince-ian boudoir compact that propels “I’ll Call Before I Come”, and the cheeky, unplanned pregnancy pop of “Ms. Jackson”, for starters. In hindsight, the artistic evolution that made this album special — Andre’s growing preference for singing and guitar playing mingling with Big Boi’s refined approach to straight rhyming — turned out to be a double-edged sword.
But think of it this way. Without the boundary-smashing example of Stankonia, Kanye West might not have had the nerve to make 808s & Heartbreak. Lil’ Wayne might not have felt free to explore all of that unhinged, hysterical territory on his mixtapes. And hip-hop today would certainly not have as many strikingly unique rabbit holes for us to get lost in. — Joe Sweeney
2. Radiohead – Kid A [Parlophone/Capitol]
Things were changing at the very start of the decade. The year suddenly, shockingly, started with a “2”. And the way pop music worked — not just how it sounded, but how it was made, how it was distributed, how it was listened to, and how it was received — was decidedly on the cusp of change. Who expected the best “rock” band of that moment, a band built around sturdy songcraft and serious guitar energy, to understand the change so utterly and reflect it to us in a stunning, immersive, seductive collection of tone poems?
Radiohead‘s Kid A arrived in 2000 with plenty of warning, but it still amazed us. “Idiotique” seems to be about an evacuation or apocalypse, underscored by a driving and syncopated loop of electronic percussion and a moving set of four sampled chord inversions from avant-garde classical music. “This is really happening,” Thom Yorke sings in his keening falsetto. “The National Anthem” rode a driving four-measure bass line to chaotic joy, allowing a group of eight saxophones and brass to play like a Mingus band on free-jazz amphetamines. “How to Disappear Completely” was delicate and shimmering, built on a strummed acoustic guitar, and a perfectly articulated vocal: “I’m not here, this isn’t happening.”
Kid A was (and still is) the sound of the biggest band in the land reinventing itself before our eyes — adjusting to a changing and terrifying world but doing so with beauty, humanity, and humility. That your tenth listen is better than your first (and your hundredth best of all) tells you that Radiohead made an album in 2000 that might still be around when the year ticks around to start with a “3”. — Will Layman
1. Burial – Untrue [Hyperdub]
Once upon a fog a million light-years from party-hard Skrillex, the UK was being torched by neoliberal policy, luxury condos bulldozing the high ideals of socialist modernist architecture as Blairite tanks replicated the damage tenfold in aid of their American buddies in the biblical realm of Mesopotamian Iraq. The soundtrack to the debris in the wake of this brave new millennium was dubstep, the b-side residue of wot-do-u-call-it grime that was as atmospheric as an UrbEx fever dream and more angular than a tetanus puncture.
The unsuspecting champion of this sonic, the archangel to excavate a shell of light from the shambles of a post-rave economy of careworn e-dreams purged of their remaining spinal fluid, was Burial, a shadowy figure who contorted Ray J and Christina Aguilera into sirenic trans and postgender beacons of luminance creeping through the hidden cracks of the suffering city. Burial didn’t wobble, didn’t glowstick, and preferred whole notes with evocative railway foley riddims to the epileptic spasms with bladder-shifting low-end that were so common in the scene.
Untrue is loner music, perfect for the earbud era, the echo of communality shifting away and the blistering melancholy that imparted on the unsuspecting solipsistic masses. The capture of this shift took form in textural shades of warm synth hums caked in reverb and drone, like spectral vapor trails drifting off some unseeable, unknowable center. It’s no wonder that a whole disparate genre (hauntology) came to be defined off its aesthetic. Meanwhile, its main impact on the scene it helped expose was blubstep, weepy dudes like James Blake and Jamie Woon, who took the expressionistic palette and extracted its emotional resonance for cheaper melodramatic affect.
Though Will Bevan has been ousted from his patented anonymity by the ensuing troll age, Untrue has refused to succumb to the historical burdens of its timestamp, poised to infiltrate the future like a ghost that refuses to stay buried. — Timh Gabriele
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This article originally published on 9 October 2014.