Sending off the Decade: Best of 2001
Note: Matt Poindexter continues his monthly installment of looking back at the best albums of the 00’s. For February, he goes over his favorite albums of 2001.
Previous Installments in Sending off the Decade: 2000
Top Ten Albums: 2001
- Hey Mercedes – Everynight Fire Works
I don’t care what anyone says, this record was so much better than anything Braid put out. It is a shame that Hey Mercedes could never escape the “emo” tag. This record sounds nothing like Dashboard Confessional or Get Up Kids – the musical and lyrical complexity far surpasses anything those bands accomplished. Instead, Everynight Fire Works rocks harder and louder, and requires more thought. This is possibly the most underappreciated album of the decade.
Favorite song: “Que Shiraz”
- Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire – The Swimming Hour
Andrew Bird’s first great record (of many). Also, the last record he made with his backing band, Bowl of Fire. The Swimming Hour is the record to turn to if you want to see AB craft catchy tunes while wearing his influences on his sleeve – 60’s rock, some jazz, folk, blues, and even some Latin tinges are represented in the songs here. It is just as good as any album Bird’s released so far.
Favorite song: “Headsoak”
- Pete Yorn – Musicforthemorningafter
Forget anything you hear about the Hold Steady, because this is the best Springsteen record not recorded by the Boss himself. And Pete Yorn is from New Jersey too, which definitely makes that first sentence true. Musicforthemorningafter is probably the most enjoyable recording on this list too. The songs just scream “the 90’s just ended and we’re gonna do this, you know?” No wonder some of these songs found their way onto shows like Dawson’s Creek, Felicity, and Smallville before the record came out. And no, you shouldn’t hold that against him. This one is that good.
Favorite song: “Life on a Chain”
- Radiohead – Amnesiac
These are the songs from the same session that weren’t on Kid A a year before. They should be b-side quality then, right? No. These songs are just as good as the songs that made Kid A a number one album in 2000. Amnesiac just happened to be released in a year where any of the top seven albums would have been number one any other year. “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box” is where Radiohead proved that walking blues basslines and electronic music could go together. “Pyramid Song” is where Radiohead proved they were writing music that could be played on MTV, but it didn’t actually have to have a time signature. Yes, Radiohead might be the band of the 00’s, and they released their best album in the 1997. That’s how good they are.
Favorite song: “Pyramid Song”
- Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun
Bear with me here: I know this song came out in Iceland in the 90’s, but it wasn’t available in the North America market until 2001. Which was about the time most people were introduced to these strange guys. Yes, the guy sings in Icelandic and also a madeup language. Yes, the guitar is played with a cello bow. Yes, it is an amazing album. I feel that it is a testament to the idea that you don’t actually need to know what the songs are about or mean – the music is more important.
Favorite song: “Starálfur”
- The Microphones – The Glow Pt. 2
This record not being in the top five is a good indication that 2001 was a bonkers year for music. I knew something was different about this record when I sat down to learn how to play the songs and realized Phil Elvrum didn’t really tune his guitar at all. That aesthetic dominates this record – imagine an album that upon first listen sounds like you could easily make it in your garage for under 100 dollars. Then, it dawns on you that the album is masterfully panned in stereo in a way that you would never even dream of. That entire idea – complexity that masquerades in a childlike costume, is what makes The Glow Pt. 2 a one-of-a-kind record.
Favorite song: “The Moon”
- Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)
Gillian Welch’s quietest record, Time holds some of her most haunting songs. Instead of using the traditional chord sequences from her first two records, Welch and musical partner Dave Rawlings focus more on dissonance and longplay song formats. Opening song “Revelator” is more like an early Songs: Ohia tune than classic country. “I Dream a Highway” – the closing track – is a 14 minute slowburn. Between the two, the album sounds like a Christian-themed rumination on the apocalypse – Abraham Lincoln is shot, Elvis dies, and the tone is one of brewing darkness. When Johnny Cash made his last few records about the second coming.
Favorite song: “Revelator”
- Thursday – Full Collapse
When a band gets billed as the next great thing, then doesn’t deliver, they catch some flack. When that same band is responsible for leading the genre that eventually spawns trash like My Chemical Romance and Hawthorne Heights, they get a lot of hate. Forget all that though – go back to 2001 when Full Collapse was an album without baggage. Thursday has a new record coming out in 2009. I doubt I’ll listen to it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t listen to this one often. Just listen to “Understanding in a Car Crash” again and tell me this isn’t a (guilty) pleasure.
Favorite song: “How Long is the Night?”
- Ben Folds – Rockin’ the Suburbs
People in the Chapel Hill music scene are always going to rag on anything Ben Folds does that doesn’t have “Five” tagged on the back of it. Folds is both Yoko Ono and John Lennon, no matter what he does. Don’t remind them that Rockin’ the Suburbs in all its Pro Tools and synthy glorysounds more like the 1990’s than most of the Ben Folds Five material. “Annie Waits” is one of Folds’ best pop songs; “Still Fighting It” is one of Folds’ best songs period, and live staple “Not the Same” is followed by the title track. For better or worse, this is what we weren’t getting from the BFF years.
Favorite song: “Not the Same”
- Saves the Day – Stay What You Are
This one runs the emotional spectrum. “At Your Funeral” ruminates on the death of a friend. “Freakish” is a study in social alienation. It also had the great video with the Muppet looking things. “As Your Ghost Takes Flight” starts off with the speaker wishing he had nailed someone to a wall and filled up bottles with the person’s blood, which is both disgusting and intriguing. Also, they had hooky guitar riffs that remind me of a cross between Maiden and Boston. Who wouldn’t listen to that?
Favorite song: “At Your Funeral”