While picking out the best CD's of 2001, my roommate, Dani, pointed out that there was a good chance that no one would have ever of heard the albums I selected. That's all right, I told him, there was a good chance that no one would actually read this anyway. But in all seriousness, for the four or five people who do read this (hi Mom!), I am going out of my way to introduce great albums from this year that were not on the forefront of the critics' list. These are some of the albums that fell through the cracks for no explicable reason. They're damn good but everyone is so busy drooling over the Strokes album that it's virtually impossible to notice anything else. [the Strokes Is This It? is a great album released this year that encapsulates all the frenetic vibe of NYC, with the skinny ties and indie rock retro-Reed of the yesterscene. Critics have embarrassed themselves by drooling over this yet unworthy band. I will recommend it to anyone but not officially. Just in a parenthesis). So if you're looking for names you'll recognize, I'm sorry – they're probably not here. But I should let you know that Britney came so damn close…if it hadn't been for her cover of that Joan Jett song.
If you're still reading (hi Mom, again), I have a proposition for you. If my descriptions of the following albums enchant you, let me know and I'll send you a copy of my Best of 2001 CD sampling all the listed bands and maybe some bonus tracks (like Pink's new song…even though her hair is no longer pink. Which I think is justification to change her name to the Artist Formerly Known as Pink). It's my way of saying thanks to you for reading this. And also, I would love to introduce people to new music. That's what this is all about.
The "Oooh, if I have this album in my room, then everyone will think I'm an intellectual" Award goes to:
If you do listen to this album and think, I don't get it. Is it me or is this band really weird and experimental, pushing the envelope of what music is and defying all forms of conventionalism? The answer is "yes." This Kid A brother does take a great deal of getting used to but then again in this world of microwaves and Purell hand sanitizers, isn't it nice when you finally put effort into something and reap the endless rewards? And if you're sitting there saying "I wish Radiohead would just go back and start writing music like they used to on the Bends album" then go pick up the Coldplay album. And while you're at it, pick up your blankey from your house in Teaneck, ya' big baby.
The "It Just Feels Good to Listen to this Ginchy Album" Award goes to:
The Shins, Oh, Inverted World
The shins are the most obviously ignored part of the body. When was the last time you said "thank G-d for my shins?" OK, I'm gonna say it – ready? Thank G-d for the Shins. Well, the band, that is (yuck, yuck – did you see that coming?). This album, by an ignored ecentric buncha cardigan wearers from Albuquerque, NM, is a bowl of Fruit Loops – sweet, sugary, and rough on the roof of your mouth. They're the great Sixties psychelica pop band for the 2000's and they will make you smile even if your first name is Oscar and last name is Grouch…not that I'm referring to anyone in specific. This is what the Beatles would sound like if they were aliens…not like the illegal ones from Mexico but like a far away planet alien.
The "Man, I'm Feeling Kinda Angsty and My Parents Really Don't Get Me" Award goes to:
Alkaline Trio, From Here To Infirmary
People, it's punk rock. Try not to run away in fear. They won't bite. OK, they actually might but this is a great album nonetheless. It is intelligently written, both lyrically and musically. It's the closest thing you'll get to being in high school again (man, you're pretty old, aren't you?). These guys opened for Blink 182 – and that shouldn't scare you either because Blink is known for their incredible sense of humor and impeccable taste in finding up and coming bands (see Sum 41). Alkaline Trio's words cut like an ironic knife ("if a$$holes could fly then this place would be busier than O'Hare") and their tunes are power pop odes to egging-houses carefreeness. Sticking It To Corporate America Lyric of the Year (you know who you are, you Merrill Lynch whores): "From blocks away I heard some screaming, that small child that you left bleeding, you stabbed him up not once but twice, well cubicles will not suffice." Yeah, rock on – take that Mister Nine To Five.
The "I'm Really Trying to Be A little More Sensitive This Year So I Stopped Watching the Man Show" Award goes to:
Mark Kozelek, What's Next To The Moon
This man is an absolute genius. The former lead singer of Red House Painters (the band from last years Gap commercial which sang "All Mixed Up" while everyone in khakis fell spiraling to the ground – scary imagery! Now let's go buy a sweater) makes an album of acoustic AC DC covers. I swear to you that this is actually true. And also too good to be real. He reworks the hard rock band's classics in a beautiful heart-piercing manner. He does what the Lilith Fair was unsuccessfully trying to do for years – he took the epitome of masculinity (rock n'roll) and transformed it into pure woe-is-me wuss (a folk orgy). This is Dawson's Creek-poignaint-scene-background-music waiting to happen. "No, Joey, I don't love you anymore, I'm in love with my Mother who I just found out isn't really my mother." "Does that mean, Dawson, that we're not going to the prom together?"
Bonus Fact: Mark Kozelek played the long haired bassist in Stillwater, the fictional band from the movie Almost Famous.
The "It's About Time They Released an Album Award" goes to:
The so-called "Green Album" rulz with a capitol "z". Read my full review that I wrote when the album came out (see in the sidebar), lazy. I am so mad at you for not reading it the first time. We are so not friends.
The "No, Really, I Know You Think You Are But You're Not Really Ready For This Jelly" Award goes to:
The Avalanches, Since I Left You
Party in a can. This sample-heavy dance album from a rowdy buncha Australians is more fun than coed Twister. It's fast paced, seductive and brings its own protection. Pregnant women and people with heart conditions look elsewhere. Whiplash guaranteed. Bonus: you can work out to it! Burn those calories, summer's almost here!
The "Sometimes When I Eat A lot of French Fries I Get Oily and I Have to Take
a Shower After" Award goes to:
Spoon, Girls Can Tell
Gritty and greasy, this album is (look, I talk like Yoda). Anyone who insists that rock is dead – and he isn't because I just saw him beat Chris Jericho's butt – should listen to this rawking piece of motor oil. It's a jittery collection of new wave spastic rock in the lines of Wire, Elvis Costello and the Pixies (I just had to show off my musical knowledge by name-checking 3 essential bands). It will move your bootylicious, get ur freak on and even izzo your whatever. Anyone drooling over the Strokes should look here as well. These guys come sans hype.
The "That Geeky, Ironic Guy Who Likes Reading Literature and Is Too Witty For
His Own Good, That It's So Good" Award goes to:
Clem Snide, the Ghost of Fashion
Remember that kid you went to school with that was a total nerd but then grew up and became so cool and funny that you can't resist…well, that's me…errr, I mean that's Clem Snide (a band, not a person). This album is so soothing and enjoyable, like a cup of Grandma's Tummy Mint tea, that the television show ED used a song of theirs for the opening credits (and if you're asking, that's my favorite TV show. If you're not, then go back to watching Friends reruns). This is a band that writes a song about Corey Feldman and uses the lyric "take one day at a time and marry Eddie Van Halen." Delicious. How can you not love them?
The It's-OK-Goyim-We-Can-Make-Fun-Of-Ourselves-Song-of-the-Year Award goes to
"Junky Jew," Track 9.
The "Midlife Crisis Thing Is So Overated Besides I Look Like Such An Ass In A Red Sportscar" Award goes to:
Neil Finn, One Nil
This man has embraced his age. And he is better for it. Perhaps one of the most underrated brilliant songwriters of our time, Neil Finn was the lead singer of Crowded House. You know them becuase you slow danced at your prom to "Don't Dream It's Over" – I was standing on the side watching you, making small talk about the punch. But enough about me, I think Finn is incapable of writing a bad song. Musicians everywhere worship his sophistication and feel the need to collaborate with him regularly. Eddie Vedder and members of Radiohead played with him on tour. Sheryl Crow and Lisa Germano join him on in creating this beautiful tapestry. These are the songs that Paul McCartney should be writing ("talking 'bout freedom?" I'm not). This is how you grow older and graceful. The musical equivalent of letting your hair go grey, not dying.
The "Why Wasn't This Album So Much Bigger – Like This Is Good Enough For
TRL, Right?" Award goes to:
Rival Schools, United By Fate
"Hi, I'm Tiffany and I'm from Long Island and I want to request "Good Things" by Rival Schools because their lead singer, Walter is so hot and I love the rock and roll – whoooooohoooooooooo." In a perfect world, you would hear that. Screw Staind, Linkin Park and anything remotely close to feigning rock on MTV. They should have been playing the hell out of "Good Things" this year. This is a commercial rock/punk album accessible to the masses. They overlooked this brilliant output AND like my mom says, it's their loss. Everything about United By Fate is right – it's rough but not to rough. It's experimental but not too experimental. It's cool but not too cool. Love 'em,
kids, don't leave 'em.
The "What Do You Mean There's No Elton John Cover or My Taste in Music from High School Is Now Justified" Award goes to:
Face to Face, Standard and Practices
One of the best power pop/punk bands out there – download the anthem "Disconnected" from '95 and feel like you're finally understood. This album, though, is a tribute to the bands that have influenced them over the years. With fantastic covers of artists ranging from INXS to the Ramones to the Smiths, it's a pleasure to see someone give credit to the uncool. It's even more enjoyable hearing a band taking someone else's songs and making it sound like their own. And this is in no way condoning that damn "Smooth Criminal" cover – crikey!
The "Wait…OK, They're a Cartoon and a Band…So Are There Real People Like Involved? Yeah? Real People and Cartoon People? I Am So Confused" Award goes to:
Josie and the Pussycats? The Archies? The Jackson Five? All have nothing on this band of cartoon freaks (real voices supplied by Damon Albarn from Blur and others). The real band member never show their faces, the animated alter egos do all. It's a banana split, ya'all so dig in. With enough groove and rump shaking to bring you back to the jungle, this is one of the funnest albums of recent memory. "Clint Eastwood" is hands-down my single of the year. Finally, musical enjoyment for the whole family especially since we can't count on Britney anymore. No way, man. This group don't wear their thong underwear on the outside.
The "Whoa, Dude, I Am So Chill Right Now I Can't Even Feel My Legs" Award goes to:
Zero 7, Simple Things
Air the Sequel (and if you haven't heard the original, Air's Moon Safari, then pick that one up, too. It's a must, must). With the right amount of candles, you can create the perfect mood for…sitting at home with your roommates watching Martin Lawrence movies (again?). But, ideally, this album could melt the hardest of hearts – yes, even Pharoah. Simple Things creates the aforementioned ambiance effortlessly because its electronica that's not synthetic. Even if you haven't done your laundry in months and things are looking really sloppy ( hi, Seth), this cleaning lady on a CD makes you look smoooooth. It's beauty incarnate. Like Molly Simms on the Old Navy commercials (Molly- call me, I'm in the book).
The "He Died So We Have to Pretend We Were Always Into Him" Award goes to:
the reissue of George Harrison, All Things Must Pass
How insensitive would it be if I made a joke about the album title? This double album was just reissued this year in really sweet packaging with incredible sound and bonus tracks. Buy it now and appreciate the original "shy one" from the original "boy band." And you too can say, yeah I always really thought George Harrison was the coolest one. Sure you did. You also thought "Across the Universe" was a Fiona Apple song.
Thank you for reading.