Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #17 Battles - Mirrored
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.
#17 Batttles - Mirrored
Mirrored makes me feel like I’m inside a video game. Not one of those modern, next-generation Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 types of video games, but the retro arcade ones. The jittery, cascading guitar lines and the rhythmic electronic pulses just translate well into the pixelated worlds of Pacman, and Metroid, which were released twenty years ago. Which isn’t to say that the album is confined to the 8-bit sound those games were – Ironically, despite all of the connections I make between the album and old-school video games, Mirrored is one of the most advanced, forward albums I’ve ever heard.
Battles created an album that sounds like it came from the future, but not a dystopian one in which machines have taken over everything and enslaved the human race. Mirrored is the sound of technology coexisting with man. Sure, there’s no way in hell you can strum an acoustic guitar along to it and the sheer number of wiring and hardware required to play any given song off Mirrored is enough to power The Six Million Dollar Man, but there are distinctly human tendencies that can be heard in the midst of the intricate layering of riffs, pristine polyrhythms, and electronic manipulations. John Stanier’s drumming is as precise as the ticking of a watch and as forceful as a piston, but the primal pounding on the tightly wound skins of his drumset make it clear that only flesh and blood is capable of making that sound. The guitars weave in and out of each other like those little metallic spidery robots in Minority Report, but you can hear the tension on the strings as Tyondai Braxton and Ian Williams press their fingers on them. And Braxton’s singing might make you think of an android with the pitch of a sped-up chipmunk, but the growl of a human throat can be discerned beneath his processed vocals.
All the talk of machinery and technology might imply that the album is robotic in the worst sense: Efficient but boring, functional but static. This is not the case. Mirrored is unpredictable, dynamic, and most of all, fun. Every note is carefully calculated, yet the songs maintain a sense of urgency and adventure as you find yourself surprised at every turn the music careens around. The playfulness that Battles brings to the table makes Mirrored more accessible and palatable to those who might have been initially turned off by the labels “math rock” and “prog rock,” which fail to categorize Mirrored in the first place. Because really, this is an album that defies categorization. There are other albums you can kind of use as reference points, but no other album has made me think “Why has no one done this before?” and “How the fuck do they DO that?” at the same time. And that lands Mirrored a deservingly high spot on any list.
- Kevin Na
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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