…and we’re off! So let’s be real here folks- the 2000’s (or ott’s as some call them?) were a great decade for music, no matter what a debbie downer or purist you might be. I think it’s important to try and engage with the music that is new and relevant to the world you’re living in, rather than get bummed out about the “glory days” being gone, the grass being greener, and basically just blaming yourself for not having been borne earlier. The truth is the grass was never green and things have always been shitty and fucked up, at all times, in every decade, so you may as well engage in the here and now. As long as there are people around there will always be vibrant and important art being made. There was no shortage of that in our decade!
So anyway, let’s get on with it. To our fifty best albums of the decade countdown! Of course, these represent my personal favorites. I do not pretend to be an authority on all music, nor do I retain the right or ability to determine what the best music of the decade was for anyone except me. So take this list with a grain of salt! And of course, write your own! I will do these entries five at a time, once a week, til the end of the year! Here we go….
50. Fugazi-The Argument (2001)
This one sneaked in at the top of my list at the last minute, likely to the chagrin of folks reading this. The truth is that I have never been that into Fugazi. I know, I know, I am betraying my D.C. scene roots. I’ve always been someone who has to see a band live to really understand what they are about, or to form any kind of a personal connection with their music. I can’t go and get weepy eyed about a Led Zeppelin record, because unless I’ve experienced what they can do right in front of me, it doesn’t really speak to me. This applies even to hometown heroes like Fugazi. The thing is though, this truly is a terrific album, hailed by many as their best. Considering it is likely the last we’ll ever hear from one of the most influential punk bands in history, I thought it respectful to include this on my decade end of list. While I am sure if I hadn’t been away at summer camp when they played Fort Reno in the summer of 2002, I would have been an instant convert, I guess I missed the boat on the bandwagon. It’s a shame, since they are obviously one of the greatest bands of our time.
49. Further Seems Forever-The Moon Is Down (2001)
This would be way higher on my list if I felt it was more of a complete album, but this is one of those records that has a few songs that I’ve never bothered to listen to for some reason. Nonetheless, even the first half of this album is enough to carry it into my top fifty. Though it’s been many years since this was at the top of my playlist, this album is still a dazzling display of musicianship and gutwrenching, golden era emo. Most people know that this is the band that Chris Carraba from Dashboard Confessional was in before he made it big. There are many things that I might object to on this album today (the heavy Christian overtones, the Dashboard thing), but one can’t deny the cathartic and soaring choruses, the mindbending guitar and drum work, epic production quality, and overall hugeness of this album. Hell, it sounds downright inspirational at several points. This is definitely one that you will find yourself coming back to quite often over the years, even for a short burst for nostalgia’s sake. I’ve met a lot of indie snobs over the years who have confessed an earnest, undying love for this album. Proof that you can’t keep a great high school emo album down.
48. Mirah-You Think It’s Like This But Really It’s Like This (2000)
Few other records bring me back to such a specific time and place like this one. It was my dear friend Shara, with whom I had a radio show bright and early on monday mornings fall semester of my freshman year at Guilford College, who introduced me to Mirah. The first tracks I heard of her were off of that year’s C’Mon Miracle, but it’s this record that continues to be her masterpiece, in retrospect. 16 tracks of lo-fi, brilliant indie pop from this queer, Jewish, Portland based songstress. From late night diner trips, to brisky cold fall bike rides, to the run down tiny houses of downtown Greensboro, to its bleak yet memorable post industrial landscape, my heart aches with nostalgia whenever I hear even one note off this album. I got the great pleasure of seeing her that fall at a show that my college radio station, WQFS, even sponsored, at a long since closed record store on Tate Street in Greensboro. I barely even hear songs when I hear this album, what I hear instead is the feeling of a clueless 18 year old just beginning to see the world outside his own inherently sheltered high school existence.
47. Kodan Armada-Collections Volume One (2004)
Another album that I can’t listen to much anymore, yet tugs hard on my heartstrings whenever I hear it, is this collection of singles from this Louisville hardcore/screamo outfit. For a couple years they were one of the biggest bands on the national screamo circuit, until they broke up, like most great bands, seemingly before their time was up. Most people who loved Kodan will mention their insane live shows, their use of not one but two lead singers, the fact that they always chose playing on the floor over playing on a stage- but these recordings also suffice as an appropriate document of one of the more intense, heart-on-your-sleeve punk bands of the decade. Even if you’re turned off by the abrasive nature of it, you can’t deny the amazing energy projected forth on each of these tracks. The centerpiece of this collection is lead track “No One Has Ever Had Three Letters,” a song about a band member’s experiences with a family member recovering from the trauma of incest. The song still brings me to tears when I hear it. The band managed to make something bright and beautiful out of the darkest corners of our world, how great art should be. Kodan Armada represent some serious salad days for many punk kids who are all growing older with each season, several years after their sudden breakup, either conjuring up the warm memories of youth or the painful feelings of regret and angst that may have led you to one of their shows in the first place. I was lucky to become friends with one of the vocalists, Dan Davis, who lived in Asheville, North Carolina during the few years I lived in Greensboro. I don’t see Dan around much anymore, and when I do it’s only for a few minutes, but I hope he is doing well in Louisville. The final plea of the final song on the album rings forever true of this and so many old friends and faces that come to mind when I hear these songs: “Distance Kills Us All.”
46. Stop It!!-Self Made Maps (2004?)
In March of 2004, I worked with my friend Carni to set up a benefit show at the old Cafe Mawonaj in Washington D.C., where our young bands got the chance to play with a few groups we really looked up to: Del Cielo, Tradition Dies Here and Richmond, VA’s Stop It!! A curious name for a curious band, I wasn’t a big fan when I asked them to play the show, I just knew they would bring a lot of people out. They did not disappoint as they proved to be the best band of the night, and this album proved to be a kind of soundtrack to my life for the next several months, some of the more eventful, blissful, dramatic, and important of my life. Taking influence from At The Drive In, Sonic Youth, and every other great fucking band, this album packs an urgency and kinetic energy miles above 99% of other hardcore albums released this decade, done with astounding attention and care for details. These songs brood and build, never quite giving you the payoff until you realize that is the payoff itself. Songs like “Maybe She’s Born With It” and “Name & Number” bring me back to my lonely freshman year dorm room, where these songs provided me with the perfect soundtrack to transition, loss and alienation in a setting where nothing was certain. Even more so, “Remove Your Teeth” instantly recalls driving up and down the east coast summer of 2004, on a botched tour effort with my band and some of my closest friends at the time. One of the few good things about the city of Richmond.
…and that’s it for now! Keep checking back! Next Thursday you’ll see 45-41!