10. Madonna — Music
Well, after “American Pie” the skinny bitch owed us for damn sure. So with the reins passing from Yahweh to Mirwais, she simplified, sifting only the schlockiest sound effects from the latest electrodance trend which, ever so conveniently, was sonically akin to her one true love, disco. Fans who prefer Madonna the conceptualist to Madonna the songwriter might give the nod to Erotica, that other fully realized full-length which so neatly bookends her decade as an album artist. I get its appeal. But I’ll take music over erotica any day.
9. Quickspace — The Death of Quickspace
Where Tom Cullinan’s former band, Th’ Faith Healers, chugged with frictionless motorik precision, here the guitarist grinds gears. His sprawl unspools freely as banshee cutie Nina Pascale yowls her way across the moors, and if ain’t the creepiest electric British folk since Satan gave Sandy Denny her fatal shove then my name’s Tam Lin. Wish I’d caught them live–those Faith Healers reunions were killer.
8. Del the Funky Homosapien — Both Sides of the Brain
With a fine weirdo side-project (Deltron 3030), a featured Gorillaz cameo, and, above all, this exuberant overflow of lyrical imagination, Del really did seem poised to dominate the decade–or at least his own tiny underground corner of the same. But if he was the kind of guy with the drive to dominate, he wouldn’t be the casual wordslinger who prevails here. Instead he mostly disappeared till 2008, returning with an offhand boast that he’s been on “cruise control,” after what I’m sure was a quite content decade pissing away his “Clint Eastwood” residuals away on the latest video games. I bet deep down he’s a happier guy than Jay-Z.
7. Rokia Traore — Wanita
This Malian diplomat’s daughter is gifted with a gentle soprano that’s all but wispy by the earthy standards of West African women, with a lilt that’s as eager to please as it is modest. And yet, just underneath a prettiness that’s never brittle is a supple toughness that her translated lyrics bear out. Hard to say what her folkish African neo-traditionalism represents back home, if anything, but she reminds me of middle-class Western women who take up baking and knitting in their twenties, re-imagining the expressive craft of their grandmothers as both a bourgeois comfort and their gendered birthright.
6. The Go-Betweens — The Friends of Rachel Worth
A mere admirer of this cult band’s esteemed 80s LPs, I love these Aussies’ aughts unconditionally. Falling into each other’s chord changes with assured ease and simple familiarity, Grant McLennan and Robert Forster professionalize an approximation of a skeletal, semi-acoustic indie-pop aesthetic, and Janet Weiss on drums don’t hurt. Reunited and middle-aged, the duo rummage through their past–Forster’s specific details so intently focused they don’t require context to gain emotional heft, McLennan’s more generalized yearning befits his blithe melodies–and end on a superb note of rock criticism, as “When She Sang About Angels” distills Patti Smith’s charismatic je ne sais quoi.