Okay, okay, so I don’t profess this to be any all-encompassing superlative critical summation. I’m admittedly not the hep young fella I once was and am way behind on the seriously *next* shit. The following are just the platters that spent the most time jazzing me from ’00 through around ’07, right around when I started hating all music — and musicians and clubs and bands and singer-songwriters and myself by association. In the intervening years, I’ve listened to a perhaps unhealthy amount of NPR and become hooked on British radio drama. Anyway, I’m better now thanks, and ready to re-engage. So in the meantime, may I respectfully submit my top-to-bottom best 10 albums of the (aptly-named) 00′s.
List after the jump.
1. Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator)
A haunting, diamond-cut psychedelic epic. Abraham Lincoln, LL Cool J, Elvis Presley, Casey Jones & Steve Miller meet in that room at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The truest incarnation since Neil Young‘s “On The Beach” of what Gram Parsons termed Cosmic American Music. It defined for me what it was to be alive and American in that historical moment.
2. Mitch Hedberg, (Bootleg) Live At The 40 Watt, Athens GA 4/9/2002
[available at http://www.hedburgh.com/media.shtml] I’m resigned to the fact that saying this pegs me as a living cliche but: for me, in the ’00s, comedy became the new indie rock. [Editor's note: me, too.] It was unexpected, uncharted, alive, tangible and perhaps embarrassingly empowering. A friend came through town on tour with a copy of this not two weeks old and it was the most hilarious, mind-bending thing I’d ever heard. I subsequently went on to memorize the entire 70 min set and recite it to anyone unlucky enough to be trapped in a car with me. I resisted how deep an effect it had on me until Mitch’s death in 2005 and I found myself sobbing in my car on lunch break from work.
3. Aimee Mann, Bachelor #2
Though most of it was the soundtrack to the movie Magnolia, Bachelor #2 was not released in full flower until 2000. Jon Brion‘s sentimental genius in the producer’s chair serves up lushly arranged letdowns, opiate-tinged heartbreaks, and barbed tributes. Never has such deep disappointment and resignation been so gorgeously laid out. [Ed's note: Finally, someone shows Aimee some love!]
4. Missy Bly, Clean Bee
As I’ve noted earlier on these pages, it’s easy to forget that childhood is spooky and disorienting. Missy somehow finds a direct channel to these feelings though, and paints 13 portraits of jealous, despairing and ultimately feral children. Spare, lo-fi genius. Just Google “Missy Bly,” will ya?
5. The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow
I’d missed out on Oh, Inverted World, but this one hit me right in the face with its explosive glee and shiny production. It’s a winner from start to finish with sharp turns of melody, phrase and mood. I’d worried for a while that they’d unjustly yanked the twisted-pop crown from the grips of my previously-underappreciated friends Of Montreal, but… well, I guess that’s fixed now, ain’t it?
6. The Streets, A Grand Don’t Come For Free
As hip-hop became bloated with increasingly yawn-inducing claims of criminal/sexual/financial prowess, up jumps this scallywag with his scrappy beats and tales of lovable chav hijinks. Whip-smart, surprisingly emotional, and hey! it all turns out to be one long intricate story by the last track. Best listened to at ear-splitting volume on a cocaine & beer all-nighter.
7. Spoon, Kill The Moonlight
And speaking of cocaine… an absolutely gripping, heart-pounding, right-now rush of a record. Spectacular slapback, whack and crash. Also, not in recent memory has a piano been so rocking and menacing.
8. Tenacious D, Tenacious D
Yes. Comedy about rock which is better than actual rock. Other bands have implied it, hinted at it and generally pussyfooted around, but The D just puts it right out there: “This is the greatest and best song ever written.” I’d contend that there’s no greater, more explicitly self-affirming moment in rock n’ roll than at 2:35 in “Kielbasa” right after JB confirms that it’s in fact Tenacious D time motherfuckers, then explodes with a mighty “FUCK! YEAH!”
9. Amy Winehouse, Back To Black
Try and remember that moment, a year or so before her name became an adjective that meant self-obliteration: she was the new queen, razor-sharp and full of spunk. She may never regain that stature, but against a world of white girls (and black girls, for that matter) trying to put it on like they’re all that, she unquestionably had it and I hope still does.
10. David Cross, It’s Not Funny
Do you remember when George W. Bush was president or, like me, have you almost completely blocked that out of your mind by now? Can you believe that shit happened for most of this past DECADE? Do you remember all the bullshit solemnity and baldfaced horsefucking of truth that went on? David Cross came at that shit with a baseball bat with a nail in it, and it was awesome. For all you secretly believed but didn’t want to be the one to say, David Cross was all too happy to be that guy. [Ed's note: AMEN, BROTHER.]
Neil Cleary is a musician and general all-around bullshitter whose false modesty won’t allow him to admit that his own two albums, “Numbers Add Up” and “I Was Thinking Of You The Whole Time” are really the two best albums of the ’00s. Like, objectively. He is currently in a death race to get his undergrad degree before he turns 40, but after that will seriously come at you like Wolverine with… y’know, another Wolverine strapped to his chest or something.