Saturday, April 8, 2017

Flashback to the Oughts: 2000

In my last roundup, I described how using Plex as my primary music portal in the house has subtly changed my listening habits. Most prominently, I compiled some playlists using the year-end “best of” postings on this blog - one for each year since I started posting in 2011. Although I still prefer listening to full albums, making these lists was pretty satisfying and provided me with a plan of attack for expanding the library on my computer.

Then, dangerously, I got to thinking: would it be possible for me to reconstruct my listening history and memory episodes well enough to retroactively create a top ten list for a year without a formalized "best-of" list to go by? If so, how far back could I go?

Well, the blog started in 2011 as a way to satisfy the writing addiction that I had generated during my master's thesis. Its seeds, however, were actually sown way back in the early 00’s, when I was a decently ranked Amazon reviewer. Using these prototypical postings as a starting point, I was able to assemble pretty satisfying lists that stretch all the way back to 2000.

To set the stage, it is worth mentioning that the progressive rock “supergroup” Transatlantic released their debut album SMPTe in 2000. Although it did not make the top 10, the album had a huge impact on my listening habits that year. My investigations into Transatlantic led me down a virtual prog rock rabbit hole. The list reveals that I was clearly in the throes of this “progressive rock renaissance” in 2000. There was also a smattering of power pop, local, and alternative music, which were the primary strands I was following at the turn of the century.

10. Spock’s Beard - V: By 2000, I had already ordered all of Spock’s Beard’s back catalog from progressive rock websites. In some ways, V felt like a culmination of all of their work, and served as the template for Neal Morse’s contributions to Transatlantic.

9. Radiohead - Kid A: For a good portion of 2000, I theorized that if The Bends was Radiohead’s Joshua Tree, and if OK Computer was their Achtung Baby, then Kid A could be their Zooropa, which was not intended to be a compliment. Time has shown this analogy to be foolhardy, however, and Kid A ended up launching the band on a creative trajectory that informs their path even today.

8. The Flower Kings - Flowerpower: This was one of the albums that Transatlantic led me to, and was my introduction to the group. At over two hours of music, it’s a lot to take in at once, but in terms of quality material it stands as one of my favorite Flower Kings releases.

7. King Crimson - The ConstruKCtion of Light: The detuned vocals that opened lead track “Prozac Blues” clearly announced that this would be a unique iteration of Crimson. Once the initial shock wore off, however, The ConsctruKCtion of Light proved its legitimacy in the band’s catalog.

6. Aimee Mann - Bachelor No. 2: I admit that my reception of this album was a bit lukewarm in 2000, mainly because I was disappointed that Jon Brion’s (whose work I was obsessed with thanks to The Greys) fingerprint was not as prominent as it had been on its predecessor I’m With Stupid.  Time has been incredibly kind to it, though, and although clearly being associated with the year 2000 in my mind, Bachelor No. 2 has also transcended this time, earning “classic” status.

5. Kevin Gilbert - The Shaming of the True: This is an incredibly heartfelt rock opera by one of the industry’s most tragically unrecognized musicians. Gilbert passed on before it was completed, but Nik D’Virgilio of Spock’s Beard compiled and released it posthumously, allowing Gilbert’s unique genius to shine brightly one last time.

4. Porcupine Tree - Lightbulb Sun: I was gobbling up Porcupine Tree during this period, and I know that I also was into The Sky Moves Sideways, Signify, and Voyage 34 in 2000. Lightbulb Sun, the immediate successor to the pristine Stupid Dream, was the standout.

3. Dream Theater - Scenes from a Memory: This still stands in my mind as Dream Theater’s finest moment, where it seemed as if they might evolve into something beyond prog-metal. Alas, they fell into the trap of their own nostalgia and have never quite recapture the magic of this great rock opera.

2. The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin: In 2000, this album was nothing short of magical. I spent a whole summer driving around Denton with this gleefully blasting out of my car windows.

2000 Album of the Year
1. Chomsky - A Few Possible Selections for the Soundtrack of Your Life: If you were around me at all in early 2000, I guarantee that I tried to get you to listen to this album. I loved everything about it - its energy, its angularity, its quirkiness, its intelligence, and its surreal album art.

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