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Lee Ranaldo picks his favorite albums of the decade

As part of the all-consuming "best of the decade" (and "worst of the decade") fever currently afflicting every media outlet going these days, WFNX has been asking some of our favorite bands and artists about their favorites of the decade. Last Friday, for instance, Metric answered the question with a song (sort of - their favorite was actually Is This It? but "The End Has No End" appears on Room on Fire). This past Sunday, Fletcher caught up with Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth backstage at the Wilbur Theatre. The video of his response is above; skip to about five minutes in to get his thoughts on three of his favorites from this decade, along with which Sonic Youth album from this decade he prefers. Or, read the (abridged) transcript below:

FLETCHER: With Sonic Nurse's crazy acclaim, great reviews always, that seems to be the record that the critics say is your masterpiece for the 2000s. But you, Lee, what's the album from Sonic Youth you think is pivotal to this decade?

LEE: To this decade?

FLETCHER: To this decade. To the aughts.

LEE: The aughts. I was wondering if you were going to use that expression.

FLETCHER: Should I not use aughts?

LEE: I think it's fine. In a way it's preferable . . . I would say for this decade, it's The Eternal, the most recent one. Because in a way I think it really - it's so cool at the end of this decade when we've been playing together for so long to be really energized about the most recent music you've made. The aughts started for us with Murray Street, made in New York City in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and all that. Sonic Nurse we made with Jim O'Rourke, and then we made another record, Rather Ripped, on our own, and then we hooked up with Mark, Mark Ibold on bass, and made this one, and it bodes well for the future that we're having a lot of fun with this one.

-- snip -- 

FLETCHER: We want to get some of your picks from the 2000s, what would be in there?

LEE: I've got three for you. One from early, one from the middle, and one from recently.

FLETCHER: Let's go through them chronologically.

LEE: First one would be Bob Dylan's "Love and Theft", 2001. 

FLETCHER: Released on 9/11, 2001.

LEE: I bought it that day, in lower Manhattan. It felt very perverse going out to the record store while all this crazy stuff was happening. It was really kind of wild. We were at Kim and Thurston's, actually, at that point.

FLETCHER: Was there some sort of comfort in making that purchase that day?

LEE: I don't know. It was the only moment of normalcy in an otherwise totally crazy day, in a sense. But I just think, that record, for someone like him . . . I love that record, but it's just to put him in this top three, really. As long as he's been making records, he still inspires me almost as much as any artist just in terms of his output and what he does.

Number two: I don't remember when this record [came out], but Cat Power, You Are Free. Must be somewhere in the middle. I love that record to death. I think that Chan is amazing, and I still think to my mind it's her most perfect record. I listen to that record and I think of it the way . . . when I listen back to Leonard Cohen's early records, they have this really special quality in the way they sound, and they have this really special emotional quality, and I listen to that record on the same level. I think that record could go up with Songs of Love and Hate or Blue or any of those records from that period. I think it's an absolutely beautiful record.

The completion one is a little bit more left-field: this guy who's gone for many years called Smog, Bill Callahan. He just released his first record under his own name, Bill Callahan. He's been making Smog records for fifteen years or more. They started out experimental and they've gotten more country-western, very beautiful, super dry, deep, Johnny Cash-style voice. I think what he does is great. And his record from last year was called - it's got a screwy title, I Wish We Were An Eagle. I think that's what it's called. It's an amazing record, I've listened to it a lot this year. It's just voice and super-stripped-down bass drums and guitar, and some cellos. It's really good.


Sonic Youth is an experimental rock group formed in New York City in 1981. The band consists of Thurston Moore (guitar, vocals, bass), Kim Gordon...

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  • mike said:

    why is the camera facing the interviewer the whole time?

    November 26, 2009 5:21 AM
  • Matías said:


    i was wondering the same

    November 26, 2009 6:16 PM
  • Carly Carioli said:

    We asked Fletcher the same question: "Um, dude? Why is the camera on you instead of on Lee?" And apparently the answer is: Lee Ranaldo insisted on the camera placement you observe above. Camera shy much?

    November 30, 2009 3:56 PM

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