I like alt-J. I like them a lot. I think they’re among the most talented bands out there today. Modern indie rock is all about bands finding new sounds. Acts like alt-J, Fitz & The Tantrums, Bastille, Kongos, and Bleachers have found monumental success with their unique sounds. The versatility seen in alt-J’s music is something that isn’t often seen today, and the fact that they actually follow the album formula makes me respect them immensely. They don’t just focus on a hit single. And I do really like An Awesome Wave.
But the, number one, best alternative rock album in the past ten years?
The scope of alternative rock is immense. While it may not be greater than that off the “rock” scope, there’s a still a lot that can fit under there. And in the past ten years, there have been some great albums. Which I’ll name in a second.
But first, we need some back story.
So I typically listen to full albums at a time. That’s just the way I do it. I’m a rock guy. For the most part, I can’t really listen to rap or hip-hop. I just like rock better. So when we got to college and I see on Spotify that Bowman is listening to bands like alt-J on a regular basis, it brought a smile to my face. After years of trying to convert him, he’s finally on the rock album grind. I love to see that. I’m a little pissed that it wasn’t really me who did it, but a win’s a win (Credit will be given to future Stitched Up music writer Tom Fuccillo for now).
But now what’s happened is he’s gotten his first dose of album fever. Everyone falls victim to album fever. The second you hear an album you like, it’s instantly the best thing ever. For a few weeks at least. That’s usually when you start mixing it into the other music you find yourself listening to frequently. Then it may blend with your group of favorite albums, but you’ll realize that it isn’t the best thing ever created by man.
And I’m not saying I’m immune to this. But I also didn’t go crying glory when I listened to Train’s Save Me, San Francisco in 2009. That may have been the first full album I ever connected with, but even in the early days of my album exploration I wasn’t going to go out and boldly say that Save Me, San Francisco was the best alternative rock album of the last ten years.
That being said, I just feel Bowman is falling under the spell of album fever. Unfortunately for me, the time frame he gives falls just short of 2004, which was one of the biggest years in alternative rock history. But from 2005 on, here are some albums that are widely renowned, some may have been deemed “perfect” at one time or another. For the sake of instilling credibility, I’ll break it down to just ten. And trust me, it’s hard for me to not include some of my personal favorites.
The White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan
Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, I’m Not
Muse, Black Holes & Revelations
My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade
Radiohead, In Rainbows
Coldplay, Viva La Vida
The Strokes, Angles
Foo Fighters, Wasting Light
The Black Keys, El Camino
Beck, Morning Phase
(Before anyone gets pissed, I’m also abiding by the unwritten “one album per band” rule that is understood when anyone with any knowledge of music makes a list.)
Now let’s pretend for a second that alt-J’s An Awesome Wave is a perfect album. That being that every single track is amazing. But now apply that to these ten albums. 11 perfect albums, where do you rank An Awesome Wave? I’d put it at number 11 every single time, if it were to be pitted up against these ten albums.
But it’s not perfect. And therefore it’s not right to pit it up against these ten albums, many of which are either perfect or a track or two off from being perfect. And I don’t even like The White Stripes that much either, nor do I really give a shit about Radiohead (other than OK Computer). But here’s the analogy I made yesterday:
Think of an awful movie. Let’s use The Box as an example. Awful movie. Terrible movie. However, if someone were to, for some reason, feel an emotional connection to this movie, it isn’t necessarily out of the picture for them to say it’s their favorite movie. And that’s fine. But you’re not going to say The Box is the greatest film ever made. That’s just ridiculous. Maybe no one can decide on one movie in particular, but there is a definitive group of movies that are universally known as the greatest movies ever made. The Godfather. Good Will Hunting. The Dark Knight. The Shawshank Redemption. Pulp Fiction. Even the person who feels emotionally connected to The Box will still tell you one of these movies is the greatest ever made. That’s common sense.
And it’s the same exact thing for even a subject as narrow as “The Best Alternative Rock Album In The Last Ten Years”. You ask that question, and you’ll get El Camino. You’ll get Wasting Light. You’ll even get Viva La Vida. You’ll definitely get Black Holes & Revelations. You will not get An Awesome Wave. If the question is, “What is your favorite alternative rock album of the last ten years?”, maybe you do get it. And that’s fine. My answer to that would be Weezer’s Everything Will Be Alright In The End. I don’t think it’s perfect, but it’s my favorite.
So in conclusion, I just think Bowman has album fever. He’s listened to his first full album and he comes right out and is making bold statements. Vintage Bowman. Listen to the ten I listed above and try to tell me that An Awesome Wave is better than every single one of them. He’ll be saying something similar about whatever he’s currently listening to in a few weeks, which according to Spotify is The Strokes’ Room On Fire (which is perfect) and Foals’ Holy Fire. This kid just likes fire I guess.