Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Flashback to the Oughts: 2001

As I started to wade into the possibility of curating “best-of” playlists retroactively an even more dangerous idea came into my head: should I commit to posting a series on the project?

I have done a couple of series on the blog, and in retrospect they have been a mixed bag.  I completed a good series on Rush’s studio catalog leading up to the release of Clockwork Angels, but I also have a series on Jellyfish’s ties to other power pop groups that, unfortunately, remains unfinished to this day (although I do have an idea as to how it ends). More recently, The Superhero Theme Project documented my efforts to convince my eldest daughter P that a set of carefully selected orchestral pieces were actually superhero themes.  That was a very satisfying run that stretched out over a couple of years, but due to the nature of the project/experiment it had no clear conclusion and fizzled out towards the end.

In retrospect, a deciding factor for the success of a series is clear boundaries, which Flashback to the Oughts will have: ten posts each with ten outstanding selections to represent every year between 2000 and ending in 2011, the year that the blog began.  Like my annual “best-of” lists, selections will be made primarily based on the albums relevance to my experiences that year, rather than release date.  This provides continuity with the parameters that already exist on the blog.

It also makes things significantly more difficult to reconstruct because experiences don’t necessarily line up with the calendar year.  In 2001 I had a home situation that was to get worse before it got better, causing a move under duress that make my memory episodes particularly disjunct.  The list that follows, however, lines up well with both my recollections and what little actual documentation exists from that year.

10. Gorillaz - Gorillaz:  I admit that this entry is problematic because I did not (and still do not) think that it holds together well as a cohesive album.  Clint Eastwood, however, became so ubiquitous in 2001 that I cannot think about that year without it coming to mind.

9. Yes - Magnification: This album’s grandiose orchestral approach promised an interesting direction for the group, and at times it captures the best aspects of Yes.  It was not without its flaws, however, and would also sadly be the last time that Jon Anderson would record with the group.

8. Arena - The Visitor:  I am wary of melodramatic progressive rock vocals, but Arena’s rumination on a near-death experience is “more Marillion than Marillion." I tried to follow them after singer Paul Wrightson left, but none of them resonated with me like The Visitor did.

7. Chomsky - Onward Quirky Soldiers: Chomsky’s follow-up to A Few Possible Selections to the Soundtrack of Your Life had many outstanding songs and performances.  It also seemed a little forced at times, as the band was furiously paddling out to catch the last wave of big record label support before the music industry ran still.

6. Ours - Distorted Lullabies: Bandleader Jimmy Gnecco positioned himself to fill the void left by Jeff Buckley with this release, and he was pretty convincing in the role.  I had a particularly memorable moment wandering in a German forest in 2001 with Distorted Lullabies on a Discman.

5. Transatlantic - Bridge Across Forever:  Although it did not reach the same heights as its predecessor, Transatlantic’s sophomore release was noticeably more consistent.  The band’s members seemed to have developed a better rapport both in terms of collaboration and performance.

4. Anekdoten - From Within:  With a dark gothic approach that used King Crimson’s Red as a starting point, Anekdoten had a thunderous take on progressive rock that stood apart from the clean symphonic work that I was into around this time.

3. Weezer - Weezer [green]: While many fans criticized Weezer [green] as a sellout after the relatively adventurous Pinkerton, its direct, streamlined songwriting seemed to speak directly to my inner teenager.  That insecure part of me probably needed some attention at the time due to the circumstances surrounding that year.

2. Jon Brion - Meaningless: Again, due to my fascination with the Jellyfish Family Tree, this was probably one of my most highly anticipated albums of the year, and I went to great lengths to procure a copy as soon as it was available.  It did not disappoint me in the least - it remains a unique power pop classic in my collection.

Album of the Year 2001
1. Tool - Lateralus:  I had checked out Tool in the early 90s when they released Undertow and although I liked it well enough, I did not follow them after that.  At the suggestion of a student, I gave Lateralus a shot and was blown away, and to this day I am still unraveling the complexities of the album.  

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