Murray Street is probably the best. Mellow by Sonic Youth standards, and probably my second or third favorite Sonic Youth album overall. The addition of Jim O'Rourke to the line up really brought a freshness to a band that had fallen into a pattern - growing pretty stale by the time A Thousand Leaves hit.
NYC Ghosts and Flowers (released in 2000 - so depending on if you're starting the decade with 01 or 00 is a matter of preference.... technically not starting till 01 but whatever) is the most avant garde release they've done in a long while. Inspired by beat poetry and the sights and sounds of New York City - the album is often divisive amongst fans. There are some really great tracks on there, and I often see it as a sort of stepping stone - going from A Thousand Leaves to the smooth, laid-back noise of Murray Street. Worth owning, even if Pitchfork doesn't happen to think so. Not my favorite album of theirs, but one of their more adventurous since first joining the Geffen label.
Sonic Nurse has some of the best material that Kim Gordon has done in a long while though, and probably the most significant she's been on an album since DIrty, especially the track "Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream" which is actually an attack on Mariah Carey, but got a title change when the label requested it. It's still pretty obvious that it's about her. Anyway - great track with some acerbic wit and solid bass lines.
Rather Ripped is an interesting experiment - some of the tracks hit, some of them miss. They attempted to record as a new band - sort of. Their guitars are tuned, and the production is dirty - kind of pushing back against the polished Murray Street. There are some really great standout tracks on there (Rats, Reena, Incinerate, Pink Steam).... but the overall sound of it seems to make it kind of divisive amongst fans.
New album this summer - back on an indie label with the first tracks ever where Kim, Thurston, and Lee will sing together. Thurston has said that the lyrics are "black metal inspired" - whether he's just being facetious or obtuse remains to be seen.
Also, Can't forget the SYR series. Self-released over the last 10-15 years, the SYRs are Sonic Youth in all their noisy, unedited glory.
I have 1 through 6, with 5 and 6 being released this decade.
5 is mostly a miss - Kim Gordon, DJ Olive, and Ikue Mori noodle for about an hour. Kim Gordon's solo material in general has been a turn off... Free Kitten for instance is kind of a mess.
SYR 6 on the other hand is interesting ambient/avant garde noise. It was recorded at an art museum exhibiting the films of Stan Brakhage (a favorite filmmaker of mine). Recommended. What's interesting about the recording is that Brakhage was adamant that there be no musical accompaniment, other than any he may have provided, to his films. He felt that they should be absorbed in silence, and pondered over, Your thoughts, suddenly overwhelmingly loud - accompanied only by the running of the projector. The score that Sonic Youth comes up with here borders on boring - subdued and unobtrusive, but its best moments reflect the scratched emulsion of Brakhage's films.... banging on strings, periods of silence, and odd tuning...
SYR 7 was released only on vinyl last year - haven't heard anything from it.
SYR 8 - It features a collaboration between Sonic Youth, Mats Gustaffon, and Merzbow. Sounds interesting, and I hope to pick it up sooner or later.
Other side/independent releases:
In the Fishtank Vol. 9 features Sonic Youth, I.C.P. Orchestra, and the Ex. I.C.P. stands for Instant Composers Pool - not Insane Clown Posse, just to get that out of the way. The Fishtank series gives two days of studio time to bands, and asks them to compose, record, and produce a project in that time. The album is avant garde to it's very core, and will not be for everyone. Raw and modern, if not post-modern. I recommend previewing the tracks somehow before a purchase (unless you can find it cheap). In my opinion, and you asked for that, it's a great album, but not one I can listen to all the time. An interesting collaboration with musical entities I would not normally put together.
Hidros 3 (To Patti Smith) is another collaboration Sonic Youth did this decade. Mats Gustaffson, a swedish Saxophone player and member of the improvisational, free jazz music scene collaborated with Sonic Youth here. This is closer to the No Wave days of Confusion Is Sex and their debut EP than anything they've done recently. But not really a step back - more of a hearkening back to those days. The only vocals are Gordon's - who will sporadically appear throughout the album's runtime to remind you that she's there. Everything is extended, stretched to it's absolute limit. It owes a lot to the work of John Cage, and other modern composers. The closest I can come to comparing it to anything Sonic Youth has done before is a mashup of Goodbye 20th Century, and their earliest work - but that's not really all that close. Not listener-friendly in the least - yet another left turn for Sonic Youth in what sometimes seems like a concerted effort to defy expectations.
NYC Ghosts & Flowers - 7/10
Murray Street - 9/10
Sonic Nurse - 7.5/10
Rather Ripped - 8/10
SYR5 - 3.5/10
SYR6 - 7.6/10
In the Fishtank Vol.9 - 7/10
Hidros 3 (To Patti Smith) - 8/10
Helpful at all? probably not.....
· 1 decade ago