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Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #38 The Avalanches - Since I Left You

 

Top 100 Albums of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one album and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 album of the decade!

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

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#38 Avalanches - Since I Left You

I would have been thirteen when Avalanches' Since I Left You came out, and upon first listen it clanged of a sort of residual timelessness. This is before I knew what timelessness was, or at least before I experienced it in any first-hand sense. So my reaction was much more basic: though I had no idea just how rarely I would get this sensation in the future, I knew that this was an album I'd be listening for many, many years. It came to me by way of my older brother, at a time when I was listening to and devouring the better portions of popular radio (what's up, Cake?), long before I had any engrained interest in this whole music scene. Since I left You, though I realize now that it was, didn't feel novel or groundbreaking. It felt like a warm, well-used classic, a gateway to all sorts of genres – jazz, funk, very early hip hop and soul – that in my youth I had no working appreciation for. In its actual release year of 2000, I was convinced this was an album survived from sometime before I was born.

Of course, such a visceral reaction in the days when I was uncynical about music (oh, how much I'd pay to thin out my cynicism sometimes…) must be checked against the emotional distortion inherent in the workings of nostalgia. Coming back to this album for the umpteenth time – but the first with a real critical ear – it still strikes me as brilliant. It's lush, it's complex, but more than that, each element takes its turn in the foreground: each sample, each riff, and each borrowed genre in turn. The transitions are as smooth as they are stylistically strident – take the cut from the sawing synthesizer of "Flight Tonight" into the brief elevator-piano crooned interlude on "Close to You." And it produced any number of standalone hits, among them the title track and the playful, elementary "Frontier Psychiatrist." This is one of the best sample-based albums of the decade – everything, as they say, is in its right place, backdropped with humble and appreciative nods to the past. Fittingly, it is this quality that will carry its legacy long into the future.

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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