Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Flashback to the Oughts: 2005

Every year since I started this blog, I put myself through a soul-wrenching struggle to create a satisfying “best-of” list.  I don’t have too much trouble coming up with representative entries.  That aspect is mostly a matter of record-keeping, which kind of takes care of itself in the process of writing.  Ordering these titles in a way that will stand the test of time, however, is a bit more difficult.  Occasionally, some albums that I have ranked very highly in their respective years have not come off of the shelf much since, while other lower ranked entries and honorable mentions have proven to be more durable.

Creating a “best-of” list retroactively for a year gone by is no less problematic, but the issues of accuracy and durability seem to be inverted.  This is especially the case in the early oughts, as record stores were still kind of a thing.  If I did not purchase an album on Amazon back then, I have few definitive calendrical references for what I was listening to and when.  The slippery nature of memory resists definitive sequencing, making accuracy a primary concern.  Once I can sketch out a clear picture of what was in rotation during a given year, however, hindsight allows these selections to fall into order relatively easily.  

The list for 2005, however, has been probably the biggest struggle yet. The records from that year hang in between online purchases and record store walk-ins. Stitching these together with my memory episodes was particularly difficult because I was existing at the crossroads between being a band director, a graduate student in ethnomusicology, and being increasingly involved in my "significant other's" world.

10. Green Carnation - Light of Day, Day of Darkness: I listened to this hour-long track a whole lot in 2005 on my old Zen player as I walked to Cross-Cultural Ensemble rehearsal with my Stick strapped across my back.  Although I have not listened to it much since, upon revision I found it pleasantly familiar, if a bit thin in the production department.

9. Porcupine Tree - Deadwing:  Although it may not be apparent from Lazarus, which is included above, Deadwing was Porcupine Tree’s heaviest album to date.  It also followed their most commercially successful album and I have always felt that the writing, which is still more nuanced than most, suffered a bit under the burden of following its standard.  

8. Panjabi MC - Beware: By 2005, my ethnomusicological studies had given me a deepened appreciation for intercultural popular music and a growing interest in the music of India.  Not only did Beware sit at the intersection of these two fields, it was catchy enough to win over my significant other.

7. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema: Although I had been introduced to The New Pornographers during my late 90's power pop jag, it was 2005 before I wandered into a record store in Massachusetts and picked up Twin Cinema. I have been a staunch advocate ever since.

6. Frank Zappa - Studio Tan:  Zappa’s music was always finding its way from used CD bins into my collection during the oughts, so although his music was ever-present, it is nearly impossible to unravel specific dates.  I do know for certain, however, that I took a Summer class on the music of Frank Zappa in 2005 and Studio Tan was in heavy rotation during that time, along with Broadway the Hard Way and several volumes of the You Can’t Do That on Stage Anymore series.

5. Fountains of Wayne - Utopia Parkway:  Perhaps one of the best post-Jellyfish power pop albums in my collection, mostly because it is stylistically distinct.  For the most part, Fountains of Wayne relies on outstanding songwriting more than overt semiotic nostalgia for their success.

4. Ramnad Krishnan - Vidwan: Music of South India: Songs of the Carnatic Tradition: On the suggestion of my Indian music teacher, this was the first album of Indian classical music that I ever purchased. Although I started unpacking it in 2005, I am still unraveling its nuances.

3. Rumah Sakit - Rumah Sakit: To this day, the details about Rumah Sakit remain vague - they are references to them everywhere, but it is difficult to pin down their origins and history. Nevertheless, my expanding appreciation for rhythmic complexity in Indian music allowed this album to spark my interest in so-called "math rock."

2. The White Stripes - Elephant: In direct contrast to all of the deeply complex stuff I was into in 2005, Elephant's focus on low-technique rock songwriting rose to the top of the heap. Pardon the video in the playlist, by the way - I will always remember showing that to the Pop Music and American Culture class I was TA for a couple of years later.

Album of the Year: 2005
1. Brendan Benson - The Alternative to Love: Although I was a fan of Brendan Benson's since One Mississippi, this album convinced me that he could do no wrong as a songwriter. There isn't a single dud in the bunch.

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