Friday, October 30, 2009

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

I can't believe I made it all this way through the 2000s without including anything by Spoon, but I think this album (Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga) is as good as any of the others. Here's another top notch 2007 musical performance from the Letterman show.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Onward to 2007!

The second album after Boys And Girls In America that restored my faith on 21st century rock was Boxer by the National, another one of my nominees for band of the Naughties.

I saw the National perform most of the Boxer songs the first time I saw them live in late 2006, and was almost immediately transfixed. They reminded me of early R.E.M. with the added urgency of Joy Division. Matt Berninger's vocals were nearly as inscrutable as Michael Stipe's, but they complemented the band almost perfectly, just like the other five members complemented Matt's singing. They were like different parts of a jigsaw puzzle that were all in the right place.

Here's Boxer's opening track "Fake Empire", performed live on Letterman's late show for the National's national television debut (too many possessives!).

Note that Dave is holding up the LP of Boxer. I have this record on vinyl, and it sounds phenomenal. There are a lot of bad things about the LP format, since it's inconvenient and non-portable, but it makes bands like the National shine. Even on my cheap stereo, it's like they're right there playing in the room with you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Boys And Girls In America

My final album of 2006, and another favorite of this decade is Boys And Girls In America by the Hold Steady. This album (from late 2006) and my next one (from early 2007) helped to restore my "faith in rock and roll" when it was on life support.

Hearing them play the songs live before I heard the album helped me to understand what the Hold Steady were about, and why they appeal to so many people. Here's "Stuck Between Stations" on Letterman.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

That Striped Sunlight Sound

I usually agree with the general consensus by the powers that be that live albums "don't count" when ranking top records of the year/decade/epoch, but I'm making an exception for That Striped Sunlight Sound by The Go-Betweens. I like this live album (and DVD) even more than the three G-Bs studio albums during the 2000s.

This album was released in early 2006, just before Grant McLennan died, and documents the Brisbane homecoming show on the final Go-Betweens tour. Grant & Robert and their backing band (bassist Adele Pickvance and drummer Glenn Thompson) go through 16 songs from the Go-Betweens catalog, from early singles like "Karen" and "People Say" through tracks from their mid-80s heyday and solo eras, all the way to their final album Oceans Apart.

The latter G-Bs played the early songs even better than the original band did. I like this stripped-down version of "Clouds" even better than the original, which was one of my all-time faves off 16 Lovers Lane.

The DVD version also adds ten bonus tracks of Robert Forster and Grant McLennan alternating selections from each of their albums. I bought the disc at a Tower Records blowout sale shortly after Grant McLennan passed away, and nearly broke down during the interview segment when he said he thought "our best work is still ahead of us". It would have been too. Here's Grant's kitchen table version of "Bye Bye Pride".

Monday, October 26, 2009

What If It Works?

Another 2006 album by the Loud Family and Anton Barbeau. I don't think I could list a best of the decade without anything by Scott Miller or Anton Barbeau, and this gets a slot for both of them.

My post from a couple months ago called this album "fun and listenable, but hardly earth-shattering", so it may not be best of the decade material, but I can't imagine this decade without What If It Works?. Plus it gives me an excuse to post this video for "(Kind Of) In Love" (the one Scott/Anton co-write on the album).

Double cute kid alert!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Field Music

The self-titled debut album by Field Music (the band) came out in 2005 in the UK, but didn't come out until early 2006 in the USA. The American album had a few bonus tracks, including this one ("You're Not Supposed To"), which is probably my favorite FM track.

The updated US version of Field Music was my favorite album of 2006. I think those three extra bonus tracks turn a pretty good album into a great/classic one that might be my favorite album of the 2000s (more on that later!).

Friday, October 23, 2009

Descended Like Vultures

Another great album from 2005 is Descended Like Vultures by Rogue Wave. Here's the video for "Publish My Love".

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Teenage Fanclub's Man-Made was my favorite album of 2005, so I should rank it as one of the top albums of the decade.

Here's "Born Under A Good Sign".

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


On to 2005, and Sufjan fan videos!

Back at the start of the decade, Sufjan Stevens announced the intention to release an album for each of the 50 states. Ten years later, he's done two, Michigan and Illinois, so he's got 48 more to go, which might take awhile at two states per decade.

And Sufjan still hasn't released a followup to Illinois five years after its release, but that album still sounds as great as it did in 2005. As a former Illinois inhabitant, I was impressed that he squeezed in references to nearly every city and historical figure in the state (from Lincon to John Wayne Gacy) into the album, and even more impressed that it was entertaining as well as informative. Here's "Chicago", an even better song than the musical it isn't based on.

Monday, October 19, 2009


In my mind, I will always link American Idiot with Brian Wilson's SMiLE, because I bought them on the same day with a Best Buy gift certificate. The BB checkout person asked if I was buying Green Day for my kid or Brian Wilson for my dad, and was astounded when I said they were both for me. Apparently suburban big box retailers weren't accustomed to buyers with to cross-generational (and genre-ational) taste.

The story of the Beach Boys' Smile is well known. Because of pressures from the group and label, Brian Wilson abandoned the project in early 1967, and it remained unreleased and unfinished for 37 years. The album was widely available on bootlegs as a handful of completed songs (mostly released on 1967's Smiley Smile) and assorted fragments of other songs.

In the late 1990s, Brian started touring again, backed by members of L.A.'s Wondermints, and started performing some of the Smile tracks along with more well known hits. After a tour where they performed Pet Sounds with an orchestra, they decided to perform another show with Smile, and had to fit the unfinished parts into something cohesive.

The new Smile was designed to be performed onstage, and the album was just a recording of the performance with a few overdubs. Some parts are identifiable from the bootlegs, and other parts were written by Brian and Van Dyke Parks in 2004 to tie up the unfinished album. I was skeptical of that approach until I heard the album, then I was completely floored. Along with nearly every other long time Beach Boys fan.

Here's the first part of Smile, "Our Prayer/Gee" into "Heroes and Villains", taken from the live DVD. The live Smile I saw at the Greek Theater in Berkeley was one of the best concerts I've ever attended.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

American Idiot

Onward to 2004!

Green Day's American Idiot is an album that almost perfectly captures the mood of its time. It came out in September 2004, at the height of the Iraq war and just before GWB's re-election, and plays like an encapsulation of what was happening in the world at that time.

The narrative gets kind of confusing (seeing American Idiot, the musical last month helped clarify some of it for me) but the songs make it fit together. I wasn't much of a Green Day fan before American Idiot, and am having trouble getting into its followup 21st Century Breakdown (70 minute albums don't work for me anymore!) so I think AI might be the one time I "got" what Green Day was trying to do.

The live CD/DVD Bullet In A Bible (the whole album performed live) is also worth checking out. I don't know if I'd ever make the effort ($$) to see Green Day live, but they're the closest thing to a stadium/arena juggernaut that we have in this century.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Welcome Interstate Managers

Mid-October and it's still mid-2003.
My October "best of the 2000s" might bleed into November!

Looking back, 2003 was a really strong year for music! I ended up ranking Welcome Interstate Managers by Fountains of Wayne lower than I should have that year, because there were so many other great albums, and it seemed like a step down after Utopia Parkway.

Six years later, I rank WIM as one of the high points of this decade. The trick is to treat it like a 12 song album (ending with "Fire Island"), with tracks 13-16 as "bonus tracks". The first dozen songs are almost perfectly crafted, and flow seamlessly together, and makes for a great forty minutes of listening.

This album was FOW's commercial breakthrough that earned them a 2003 Grammy nomination for "Best New Artist"(?), thanks to a hit single with a saucy video featuring Rachel Hunter, but "Stacy's Mom" is probably no better than the fourth or fifth best song on the album. My favorite song on WIM is "Hey Julie", which is catchy and bouncy and almost perfect in every way.

Also, "Hackensack"!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Electric Version

The New Pornographers are another one of my finalists for artist of the decade. Their four albums during the 2000s stand up to anyone this side of Ted Leo. And just like Ted, I think their second one, Electric Version, is the strongest of the batch.

The NPs are a true supergroup, with multiple members who all write and sing, and the different aspects of the band (especially Carl Newman and Dan Bejar) seem like they shouldn't mesh, but they do. Electric Version was the album where everything fit together the best, and it's the one that I keep coming back to. Here's the title track, not the best song on the album, but the best video on youtube.

I have a few friends with kids, and Electric Version seems to be kid-friendly, because of the hooks and the tempo. Having your kids like a band called "the New Pornographers" might be a challenge, but their music makes it worthwhile.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hearts Of Oak

I forgot to post an album yesterday with the rainstorm, so I'll need to post two albums today to get caught up..

Ted Leo is one of the names on my shortlist for artist of the 2000s. I'd put Ted's four albums (and three EPs) up against anyone's output over this decade, with 2003's Hearts Of Oak as the pick of the batch.

Hearts Of Oak is a good example of putting old things together in new ways. There's a variety of under-utilized influences, from Thin Lizzy to the Specials to Dexy's Midnight Runners, all thrown together into a Celtic punk-funk-pop hybrid that sounds unlike anything else.

Here's a solo version of "The High Party", one of the many standout tracks on the album, but this solo version (featured on the companion Tell Balgeary EP) is even better than the full band Hearts Of Oak.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Girl God

Another 2000s album that I might be alone in ranking so high is Girl God by the Chevelles. I downloaded it from emusic back in the old days when downloads were unlimited, and was astounded at how consistently great it was.

The Chevelles also have a recent compilation called Barbarella Girl God, but I'm speaking of the original 2002 album Girl God. Most of the songs on the compilation come from the album, but Girl God is like a self-contained greatest hits album, with 13 great songs and no filler.

The AMG review claim that the songs are kind of interchangeable, which would be a problem if they weren't so great. Here's "Angelina Jolie" one of the interchangeably fabulous songs from Girl God.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Another notable album from the 2000s that was delayed due to label issues is Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. This album was scheduled to be released in 2001 (on 9/11/01 actually), but was pushed back to April 2002 when it was rejected by Warner/Reprise. The band ended up buying it back from the label and releasing it on Nonesuch (a Warner/Reprise subsidiary), which is like sticking it to the man by taking money from his left pocket and putting it back in his right pocket.

Still, despite all the drama behind the back story of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the album itself was really good. Here's my favorite track "Heavy Metal Drummer" from the film I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Onward to 2002.

Back in 1996, before Brendan Benson was a Raconteur or associated with Jack White in anyway, he made a great solo album called One Mississippi with Jason Falkner. The album got loads of acclaim but didn't sell in sufficient numbers, so he was immediately dropped by Virgin Records, and the album was exhiled to the dollar bins.

Six years later, in early 2002, Brendan resurfaced with another great album called Lapalco on a small indie label. This album was even better than the debut, and was met with even better reviews, including plaudits from notables like Jack White, which gave Brendan even more sales and a higher profile than One Mississippi did.

He later joined forces with Jack in a band called the Raconteurs, and made a couple more solid solo albums, but Lapalco was Brendan's high water mark as a performer, and the one album of his that I keep coming back to. Easily one of the top albums of the 2000s. Here's an acoustic performance of "Metarie".

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oh, Inverted World

2001 was also the year that gave us Oh, Inverted World by the Shins.

I saw the Shins live at the S.F. Noise Pop festival before the album came out, and was immediately charmed by their songs, even though the band had no stage presence whatsoever. James Mercer didn't say more than three words during the entire set, but the band just kept playing one great song after another. I was especially taken by this song "New Slang", which became their calling card.

Some character in a movie said "this song will save your life". It hasn't saved mine yet, but that wordless chorus slays me every time!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Coast Is Never Clear

Pimping more of my Bay Area homies! From later in 2001, here's The Coast Is Never Clear by Beulah, another album of my decade.

This album was delayed due to label issues (Beulah's label folded and was reformed under a different name) and it ended up being released on 9/11/01. An unfortunate day to put out an album (even though Dylan's Love & Theft also came out on 9/11), but multiple plays of The Coast Is Never Clear was my best way of dealing with the post-9/11 malaise.

Here's a live version of my favorite song off the album, "Gravity's Bringing Us Down". Notice Miles Kurowsky's Big Star t-shirt!

Both Beulah and the Orange Peels had songs end up in Target commercials, proving that Target is infinitely cooler than Wal-Mart.

Monday, October 5, 2009

So Far, So Great!

On to 2001, the second year of the 2000s and first year of the 21st century. Moving from a Radiohead album ranked highly by most discerning rock fans to an album favored mainly by reactionary power pop obsessives like yours truly.

Shortly after it came out in February 2001, I proclaimed So Far by the Orange Peels as the "greatest album of the century (so far)" on a certain music-related email list. My post was a play on the album's title and the fact that "the century" was less than a month old at that point, but I really did like the album a lot.

My recommendation was greeted by a chorus of mocking condescension by self-satisfied individuals who accused me of giving up on "modern music" for liking an album that was so derivative and boring, but I didn't care then, and still don't care now, what people think about what I like. So Far is like musical comfort food to me, hooky pop songs with singalong choruses and words that you don't have to think about. And nine years after its release, its still one of my favorite albums of the decade, as well as the century.

Here's the title track "So Far", performed live on S.F. local TV.

If you don't like this song, then I don't like your taste in songs!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Kid A

Pitchfork just listed Radiohead's Kid A as the top album of the 2000s, so I guess I should also put it on my list. It's okay.

When the album came out in October 2000, many critics (like the one from Pitchfork) hailed it as the Second Coming, which prompted an immediate backlash. I was skeptical about Kid A initially, but have grown to appreciate it. It sounds a lot more mainstream now than it did when it came out, and is almost a "safe" pick for album of the decade. The Nevermind of the 2000s.

A few months after Kid A, Radiohead put out an album of more "conventional" song from the same period called Amnesiac. They did this in part to appease the Kid A naysayers, and in part because they had more material than they knew what to do with, but nine years on Kid A is the one that's hailed as a masterpiece, while Amnesiac is largely forgotten.

Radiohead haven't really made a bad record (after their first one), but they've put out a few that seem to recycle their previous ones. Nowadays, when I feel like listening to Radiohead, it's either OK Computer or Kid A, while the other albums sit unloved on the virtual shelf.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bachelor number two

Aimee Mann - Bachelor No. 2 or, the Last Remains of the Dodo
(May 2000)

The first two Y2K albums in my library, alphabetically as well as chronologically, are Yo La Tengo's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out and Attractive Nuisance by the Loud Family, which both came out in February 2000. Both of these albums have their moments, but it's hard for me to consider them "best of the decade" material. The YLT album is about twice as long as it needs to be, and the LF album mostly reminds me of the tour and subsequent breakup of the band.

The second third of the year kicked off with the release of a couple of "number" records, Elliott Smith's Figure 8 and Aimee Mann's Bachelor No. 2. I always think of these two albums as siblings, since they came out at the same time and have a similar sound, thanks to Jon Brion's signature production on both.

Elliott's album ended up being the last one of his career, and I've actually wanted to like it more than I actually do. The combination of Elliott Smith, Jon Brion, and Abbey Road studio in London should be a winning combination, but most of the songs just aren't that good. Aimee Mann's album on the other hand, was initially underwhelming, but I've come around to thinking it's one of the best things she's ever done.

The title Bachelor No. 2 refers to the initial album being rejected by Interscope for not being commercial enough, so Aimee bought it back from them and released it on her own label. When the album was rejected in 1999, she had a fairly low profile, but picked up a lot of publicity over the next few months out of the label rejection and the movie Magnolia, so by the time Bachelor No. 2 came out, Aimee was back in the limelight. Striking while the fire was hot.

The album sounds like an extension to Aimee's two previous albums, with the same band and producer. Jon Brion's kitchen sink production gets in the way of a lot of artists he produces (cf. Fig. 8 and Jewels For Sophia), but fits Aimee Mann's style perfectly. The albums she made after Bachelor suffer from listless production and arrangements, but JB keeps things interesting on the early ones.

Aimee always brings the songs, but she had a full batch for Bachelor No. 2. Initially everything seems to blend together on the album (a common criticism of Ms. Mann), but when I play it now (as I'm doing right now), it sounds like one great song after another. "Ghost World" is probably my favorite Aimee Mann song ever, but there are two or three others just behind it, and nothing less than good on the entire Bachelor No. 2 album.

I'm going to see Aimee this weekend at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, or rather I'm attending the festival on Sunday and she's playing there, so if I'm at the Arrow stage during her set I might check it out. Or not, whatever, it's cool. I kind of broke up with Aimee after her dull post-Bachelor releases, but we're still kinda friends, I guess.

Aimee Mann - Ghost World (embedding disabled)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Albums of the decade

The NaBloPoMo blogging theme for October is "HAUNTED", but my theme for October is "greatest albums of the 2000s".

That's 2000s as in decade (from January 1st 2000 thru December 31st 2009), so I'm three months early, and this list might exclude London Callings that are coming out in the next few months.

I'm going to list albums in chronological order through October, starting at the dawn of the new millennium (1/1/2000) and continuing through the present. It's hard to list any current albums as "best of the decade", so there might not be much from 2009, but everyting should be spread across the years. My general guideline will be three albums per year, with at least one and no more than five from any given year.

Setting the wayback machine to the distant past, the year 2000.