The Walkmen make you wish the phrase "the The bands" was just a copy-editing mistake. But don't let the fact that they've got those three little letters stapled to their name make you think they come pre-approved with modeling certificates. Even if these former members of the überhyped band Jonathan Fire*Eater sound a little like the Strokes, they're decidedly less trendy and more timeless than the it-band next door. The Walkmen are your indie-rock drinking buddies, the guys who shake out their best Bowie vibrato on guitar, worry aloud that their friends might be poseurs, insist that they were the first ones to love that LCD Soundsystem single, and spend their lonely nights trying to prove they're not bored. Except, occasionally, they sing about vacationing in France. Really, they're just like you--only better. Please try not to hate them.
They insist, "Call me Mr. PleaseBelieveIt." Somehow, you can't. Clipse may talk a big game about their gangster friends in Virginia, but every time they reference "the ghetto," you notice they're rapping over a variation of the same PlayStation beat the Neptunes created for Justin Timberlake. There's a playfulness to their violence: Malice and Pusha T are like video-game thugs, Grand Theft Auto players who are just as likely to reference Keanu Reeves as they are to name-drop Phillip Michael Thomas. When Malice admits that some people cheat on their lovers with "the heat--a pearl-handled chrome thing that I call Sweets," you can't bring yourself to believe he's describing a gun. Maybe he's talking about a dildo?
9. The Streets,Original Pirate Material(Locked On)
London Bridge had to burn down so that Birmingham could start burning up. Not since Pulp's A Different Class has an English outsider garnered so much attention for writing sharp songs about urban decay, unemployment, and street violence without making it sound like a very special episode of Neighbours. Mike Skinner's '90s-style UK garage-laced hip hop might not fly in Compton clubs, but his street cred is more Irvine Welsh than Ice Cube. The 22-year-old's laddish cockney spits slang about the kind of geezers who live on the dole, drop E to the sounds of Artful Dodger, and shag their birds in the pub's WC. And somehow, to us Yanks, the bloke still sounds like he's speaking American.
Forget the soundtrack of our lives--this one's the IMAX score. Black Dice's song titles alone ("Things'll Never Be the Same," "The Dream Is Going Down," "Endless Happiness") are epic enough to etch a lifeline onto vinyl like the growth rings on tree stumps. Drop the needle, and band members sputter only gibberish: caaaaaw, blahgh, hug-uhhh. Sequencers turn guitar chords into your brain's inner voiceover played in reverse. Drums thump erratically, like a condor caught in a parakeet cage. And when it's over, you've gone from birth to death in just under an hour. You'll never listen to anything that goes verse, chorus, verse again. Well, at least not until the next Felix da Housecat single.
The next ten: 11. Goodiepal, Narc Beacon (Skipp); 12. Liars, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top (Mute); 13. Fischerspooner, #1 (Ministry of Sound); 14. Neko Case, Blacklisted (Bloodshot); 15. Spoon, Kill the Moonlight (Merge); 16. Múm, Finally We Are No One (Fat Cat); 17. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, S/T (Shifty). 18. Desaparecidos, Read Music/Speak Spanish (Saddle Creek); 19. Missy Elliott, Under Construction (Elektra); 20. RJD2, Dead Ringer (Definitive Jux)