25 October 2010

Top Albums: 2001

{ Think back to the late-90s for a little bit and you'll remember some dark times in pop music. A lot boy bands and pop princesses. And, sure, it's hilarious to listen to a little Backstreet Boys (pictured above) and some *Nsync here and there. But thank god we had these records in the early 2000s to keep ourselves from blowing our brains out. }

First off, lemme address why I'm starting off at 2001. If you want to be technical, the decade starts off at 2001 and the end of the decade is, well, this year: 2010.

In reality, it's mostly because I'm doing these top album posts once a week and there are ten weeks left in the year and it just works nicely to start at 2001.

But before I continue with 2001, lemme talk about 2000 really quick. There were a lot of great records that came out that year and here's a quick list of my top records from 2000.
  1. Thievery Corporation - The Mirror Conspiracy: Let me pull the I-was-listening-to-Thievery-Corporation-Before-"Lebanese Blonde"-Was-Featured-In-Garden-State card here.
  2. Sigur Ros - Ágætis byrjun: Thanks to Radiohead for turning me on to this record.
  3. St. Germain - Tourist: A fantastic blend of jazz and French house. This record was released on the famous jazz label Blue Note.
  4. Radiohead - Kid A: One of the last times where I remember standing in line at the record store to buy this record at midnight.
  5. Phoenix - United: This is another record where I can proudly say I was listening to these guys before they blew up in the last couple years. I still like this record way better than their new stuff.
Alright, that's that. Now on to 2001!

5. Radiohead - Amnesiac

After blowing minds with OK Computer, Radiohead decided to take their sweet-ass time before they finally released Kid A in 2000. So, imagine my surprise/delight when Radiohead released Amnesiac the very next year.

Radiohead fans - like myself - were beside themselves.

TWO Radiohead records in less than a year? Amazing.

And the material complimented Kid A very nicely. Amnesiac was the guitar record we wanted from Radiohead after the (pleasant) electro-shock that they gave us with Kid A.

But as some time went on, I don't know if Amnesiac really stands the test of time. There are a lot of great songs on this record like "Knives Out" but of all the Radiohead albums, I find myself coming back to this record the least often.

But in 2001? Easily in the top five.

4. The Avalanches - Since I Left You

I feel like Since I Left You by the Australian group The Avalanches was one of the best albums that you've never heard.

A lot of critics in 2001 placed this album near the top of their "Best of" lists and even near the top of their "Best of the decade" lists.

Is this album really that great?

Actually, it is.

Since I Left You produced one of the best singles, like, ever, in the track "Since I Left You."

It is indeed a fantastic album. But the most amazing part of this record is the fact that The Avalanches took about 3,500 samples from their massive vinyl collection to create this album. It is truly an exciting and ambitious debut.

Since 2001, The Avalanches have struggled to release a sophomore record for a variety of reasons. And since then, their follow-up to Since I Left You has been one of the most waited-for records since Loveless by My Bloody Valentine.

I don't know if the follow-up to Loveless will ever happen but allegedly The Avalanches will release their next record later this year. But I'll believe it when I have the album in my hands.

3. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - BRMC

Take a listen to "Whatever Happened To My Rock 'n' Roll (Punk Song)" and your faith in rock 'n' roll would have been restored back in 2001.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released a thrilling record with thick guitars reminiscent of the Jesus and Mary Chain and inspiring kids to pick up guitars, get together in garages and just rock out.

As a musician, this record was probably one of the most influential in my life.

2. Ed Harcourt - Here Be Monsters

If Black Rebel Motorcycle Club restored my faith in good old fashioned rock 'n' roll, Ed Harcourt certainly restored my faith in singer-songwriters.

Simply put, Here Be Monsters might be one of the most beautiful records that I have ever heard in my life.

Harcourt's piano-driven songs are accented with gorgeous horns, subtle strings, fabulous melodies, and a tasteful guitars. Along with the smart '60s/'70s pop-sensibility found on this album, Harcourt's production also includes enough quirks and weirdness to make it interesting listen after listen after listen.

This record also yields one of my favorite lyrics, "If you need to kiss me then you'll most definitely miss me when I'm gone." Inspirational words for any young songwriter.

I remember getting this record on my desk when I was the arts and entertainment editor for my college newspaper and I still have it to this day. It's absolutely amazing.

1. Daft Punk - Discovery

There are times when a single off an upcoming record is so damn good that it's almost impossible for the album to be anywhere close to being as good.

And when that track is the very first track on the album? Double whammy. The album is doomed.

French-house funkmasters Daft Punk threw caution to the wind and confidently placed "One More Time" at the beginning of their album. "One More Time" was an absolutely massive club anthem and it quickly seeped into mainstream consciousness. Nowadays, it's a fixture at any dance club and you can even hear it blasting through the PA system in sports stadiums.

I remember sitting with a DJ friend of mine back in 2001 and listening to "One More Time" and sitting back and marveling at the amount of layers in this surprisingly lush song. We agreed that at any volume this was the perfect ecstasy record. Not that we knew anything about that sort of mind-altering substance (Ha!).

{ Daft Punk - "One More Time" }

When Discovery was released in March of 2001, it did not disappoint.

"Aerodynamic" was a punishing electro-glam-rock song, "Digital Love" made its way to a goddamn GAP jeans commercial without Daft Punk losing any of their luster among critics, "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" was so influential that even hip-hop producer extraordinaire Kanye West sampled the song and turned it into a number one single and picked up a Grammy for his troubles.

Discovery also produced steamy sex-tracks like "Nightvision" and "Something About Us." Daft Punk easily beat other French House producers at their own game with funktastic tracks like "Voyager" and "Face To Face."

The impact and influence of this record on up and coming producers is undeniable. The quality of this album from start to finish is undeniable. And there's no denying the fact that Discovery is easily the best album of 2001. And maybe of the entire decade, but that's for a later post.

{ What?! You don't own this record? Buy it now. Now. NOW. }

Please be sure to read my post explaining this little project and, more importantly, the criteria that I'm using. Thanks!