Wednesday, May 26, 2010

FP Top 5: Double Albums (2000-2010)

(Our Weekly Wednesday Countdown)

At their best, double albums are double the pleasure: musicians push the boundaries of their creativity and fans get extra time with artists they love. In a form that attracts the prolific, the experimental, and the indulgent, there have been successes (The Beatles, a.k.a. The White Album), catastrophes (Tales from Topographic Ocean), and even the occasional sales boosters or shortcuts to fulfilling contracts. 

In the vinyl days, a double album was easy to spot: there were two records in the sleeve. Later many double albums fit on one CD. Now the difference between single and double albums is measured in megabytes. Yet even in the digital age, albums endure and artists continue to make them super-sized.  Here at FP, we're waiting on the corner of Keap and Hope to see if Wolf Parade decides to make their new album a double.

For now, our Top 5 double albums contains no greatest hits collections, anthologies, concert recordings, or bonus remixes. We do, however, allow for the co-release, a trick that dates back to Use Your Illusion. Thanks, Axl. And since we posted our Top 5 double albums of all time on Sunday, today we highlight albums from the last decade.

5. Outkast, Speakerboxx/The Love Below (2003)
Outkast arriveed on the scene as a 21st century reincarnation of George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic machine, with equal parts fashion and funkiness. Their double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below won the Grammy for Best Album, edging out the White Stripes, Justin Timberlake and Missy Elliot. It featured the infectious "The Way You Move" and the ubiquitous "Hey Ya," whose refrain "shake it like a Polaroid picture" was so popular that the camera manufacturer issued a statement warning people not to do that unless they wanted to ruin their photos. We're pretty sure nobody listened. 

Outkast - The Way You Move (Official Music Video) - Watch more top selected videos about: OutKast

4. Tom Waits, Alice/Blood Money (2002)
Over three decades, Tom Waits has unveiled 21 records and almost as many personae, from folky bluesman to lounge piano act to carnival barker to movie star. He's also the songwriter behind one of  our favorite covers album of all time, John Hammond's Wicked Grin. Back in 2002, he released a pair of soundtracks for plays inspired by literary classics.  Alice is based on a play inspired by the relationship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, the original inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. Blood Money features songs written for the play Wozyck, unfinished when author George B├╝chner died in 1837, remade many times since on stage and screen, and re-adapted by Robert Wilson, who also directed Alice. 

Tom Waits - Alice

Tom Waits - Coney Island Baby

3. Joanna Newsom, Have One on Me
Ok this one is actually a triple album. That takes guts, especially when you play the harp and sing like a warbly pixie. Moreover, the songs on Have One on Me are so long, there are only six per disc. (The title track is nearly 11 minutes).  Somehow, Newsom pulls off the feat. She meanders and moans, with her harp and voice backed by horn and string arrangements and lusher instrumentation that previous records. And in typical offbeat fashion, she announced the record via comic strip.  
No wonder, she landed the #2 spot in FP's Top 5 American Women

2. Flaming Lips, Embryonic (2009)

If today's topic were quadruple albums, the prize would go to the Flaming Lips' Zareika, a collection of four albums meant to be played simultaneously on four stereos. Bonus points awarded if this sonic experiment occurs at a party in Jersey City. Instead, we give the honors to the Flaming Lips' Embryonic, a double album that includes contributions from MGMT and Karen O, who happens to head the list of FP's Top 5 American Women.  This summer, the Lips are back on the road, with high- profile shows at Bonnaroo and the Central Park Summerstage.

1. Deerhunter, Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
Recorded as two separate albums, Microcastle and Weird Era Cont. were bundled together after the latter accidentally leaked online. We consider the two records of a piece, unified by the pop sensibility, the shimmer and fuzz of the guitars, and the haunting voice of Bradford Cox.

Deerhunter, Agoraphobia (from Microcastle)

Deerhunter, Never Stops (from Microcastle)

Deerhunter, Operation (from Weird Era Cont.)


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