Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Albums of the Aughts: 2001

Continuing in my month-long journey down memory lane, here are my 10 favorite albums from 2001 (plus a few extras), a year that marked my formal introduction to punk rock.

“Gold,” Ryan Adams
This album didn’t make Ryan Adams a household name, so I guess nothing he writes ever will. He apparently agrees, because in the years since he’s never tried to recapture the pop/rock mastery showcased with such ease on this record. “Gold” is Adams at his most palatable, his most accessible, and it provides a fascinating complement to the more raw emotion, songcraft, and production of the previous year’s amazing “Heartbreaker.” There’s a pleasant polish to “Gold” that’s unique among all his records to date (though 2007’s “Easy Tiger” came closest to recapturing it). I’m not saying this is necessarily Adams at his best, but it’s definitely one facet of his talent that’s been underutilized since. Ironically (or, perhaps, appropriately, given Adams’ prolific career) my …
Favorite Track: is "Gold" b-side “Rosalie Come and Go”

“From Here to Infirmary,” Alkaline Trio
This perfect album was my official introduction to punk, and rarely has it been bettered over the past several years. With only one track breaking the four-minute mark, every song is strong, intense, and catchy as all get-out. AT3 don’t deviate much from their basic hellfiery formula, but each entry is varied enough to keep you interested throughout its 38 minutes. I loved this album right from the start, and it launched me into the genre full force. I spent the decade investigating punk’s past and present (look down this list alone for proof); I didn’t like everything I found, but the trip started right here.
Favorite Track: The heartfelt “You’re Dead”

“Comfort Eagle,” Cake
There was a time when Cake was one of my very favorite bands. That period is long past, but “Comfort Eagle” serves as a good summary of everything I loved about them. I haven’t listened to this CD in years, and just looking at the song titles I start singing the choruses in my head instantly. It’s quirky, groovy, funny, full of memorable hooks and melodies, and will melt your face in spots, especially my …
Favorite Track: “Comfort Eagle”

“So Impossible,” Dashboard Confessional
2001 was a massive year for Dashboard founder/frontman Chris Carrabba. Not only did he break out with his second D/C album, “The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most,” and deliver his only album with previous band Further Seems Forever (see below), he also found time to release this incredible EP. Here’s what I wrote about it last year as part of my piece on fave EPs (it all still holds): A concept album in four songs, this release vividly describes all the nervous and exciting stages of newfound love—from the silent pining of “For You to Notice,” to the this-might-just-work hope of the title track, to the pre-date jitters of “Remember to Breathe,” to the triumphant glee of “Hands Down.” This is my favorite D/C release.
Favorite Track: “So Impossible”

“Love and Theft,” Bob Dylan
This album has the unfortunate circumstance of being released on the day of our country’s most devastating and violent attack, so it will always have a slight melancholy tinge to it. That being said, “Love and Theft” is a joy from start to finish, as Dylan unleashes his swashbuckling self all over the American songbook yet again. I’m no Dylanphile, but from what I understand this marked a resurgence for the troubadour that has led to quite a productive decade. It was my first foray into his work, and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to start.
Favorite Track: “Honest with Me,” which contains one of my favorite riffs of all time

“The Moon Is Down,” Further Seems Forever
Chris Carrabba said goodbye to the more traditional punk form of the early aughts with this incredible album—his one and only full-length as frontman of FSF—before focusing exclusively on Dashboard Confessional. But what a sendoff! Right from the opening track’s guitar explosion, this album never lets up with its angular riffs and soaring choruses. Ballad “Just Until Sundown” proved a Dashboard preview of sorts and Carrabba would later make shifts back toward his stronger FSF sound, but he hasn't rocked this hard since. Too bad, because it suited him well. “The Moon Is Down” is as fine a record as he’s ever produced.
Favorite Track: “The Moon Is Down” (made extra special for referencing “Ender’s Game”)

“10.9.00, Chicago, Illinois,” Pearl Jam
What better way to commemorate the best concert experience of my life than for the band to release an official bootleg of the entire show? There’s not enough time/room here to go into what made this night so amazing, but needless to say I was ecstatic to be able to relive it on a professionally recorded and produced CD. Once again, Pearl Jam proved innovators, trend-setters, and, most important, extremely fan friendly, as their ambitious 72-concert live series from the 2000 tour launched a thousand imitators.
Favorite Track: “Release”

“The Golden Hum,” Remy Zero
I found this band well after they were gone thanks to their inclusion as the main title theme for TV series “Smallville.” So while I came for glorious …
Favorite Track: “Save Me” …
I stayed because this is a fine album, one of several excellent swan songs from this decade. Though they were ripped for being Radiohead-lite, I can’t stand Thom Yorke, so that suits me just fine. A nice companion piece to the previous year’s “Unified Theory.”

“Stay What You Are,” Saves the Day
If “From Here to Infirmary” is Entry 1A in my modern punk education, then “Stay What You Are” is 1B. From the tremulous opener “At Your Funeral” through to the last gasp of “Firefly,” this is hands-down one of the best pop/punk records of the decade. Though Saves the Day would get tagged with the derogatory “emo” label and go completely off the rails running away from that genre, “Stay What You Are” remains a perfect moment in time.
Favorite Track: “At Your Funeral”

“White Blood Cells,” The White Stripes
The White Stripes may have broken into the mainstream with their hit “Fell in Love with a Girl,” but that shambling near-wreck of a song so turned me off, I almost missed out on what has become in the intervening years one of my all-time favorite bands. No, the strength of this record is, as usual, in Jack White’s guitar, which is on full display in just about every song but the lead single, from leadoff firestarter “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” to “I Can’t Wait” to the inescapably catchy “I Think I Smell a Rat.” “Blood Cells” also showcased the Stripes’ quieter, funnier side on cuts like “Hotel Yorba,” “We’re Going to Be Friends,” and “Same Boy You’ve Always Known.” And then there’s the song that balances these sides perfectly, my …
Favorite Track: “I’m Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman”

"How I Spent My Summer Vacation," The Bouncing Souls
“The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most,” Dashboard Confessional
“Change,” The Dismemberment Plan
“Sing Loud, Sing Proud,” Dropkick Murphys
"The Argument," Fugazi
“Everynight Fire Works,” Hey Mercedes
“The National,” The National
“Live in New York City,” Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

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