Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #3 Boards of Canada - Campfire Headphase


Top 100 Albums of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one artist and continue every day until we unveil our #1 album of the decade!

Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.

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#3 Boards of Canada - Campfire Headphase

When a contemporary rock act sounds time-worn, there’s grit and speckled static, lending them a rugged old-fashioned bent. When Boards of Canada angles for the same aged effect on an electronic album, something else entirely slips loose: an eerie, wondrous discovery, like peering in on a past that was supposed to stay hidden from you. Listening to Campfire Headphase is like finding a lost artifact in disrepair: a sunken ship torn apart by time and algae, an old stuffed animal warped and loosening at the stitches, a yellowed print caked in dust. It’s temporal voyeurism: the detuned, sputtering lead in “Chromakey Dreamcoat,” the submarine radio static and diluted wash of “Sherbert Head,” and everything else – all of it points to some lost time and place that Boards of Canada delicately, expertly pieced together like musical anthropologists. And it’s for our benefit: you get the notion that what’s in your headphones has not just been revived, but rather saved from the brink of dissolution.

Even the cleaner tracks feel worn in. Campfire Headphase is unquestionably more structured and guitar-driven than previous efforts, but the more straightforward tracks still sound like a delicate beautiful mess. “Dayvan Cowboy” starts off like an empty arena-rock soundcheck before a full, slow-strumming guitar warbles in like a thin, wobbly piece of sheet metal. The drums are noticeably crisp and full, but hazy violins and bells eventually bleed through to the forefront and wash away the first half of the song, as if tossing it back in an archive to be pulled out again at a later date. The short, plucky “Constants Are Changing” can’t hide an airy, oscillating pad or a lead key line that sounds about two decades too ancient. It’s all balanced with precarious skill, wrapped up in a package that unfolds a sort of melancholy, branching emotional narrative. Campfire Headphase won a grip of awards as various publications’ top album of 2005, and for once the music outlets picked an album with serious lasting force. It’s a completely engulfing experience that will stick with us long after this decade becomes a strange, mystical afterthought.

- Phillip Taylor-Parker

[ play ] | [ download mp3 ] Boards of Canada - Chromakey Dreamcoat

Check back tomorrow for the next album! To see the full list of the Top 100 Albums of the Decade, click here.

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