As great as 2001 was for indie rock as a whole, especially considering the garage rock explosion and all the bands I discovered as a result, whenever I think of the year, there is one band and one album that always comes to mind. Interesting, then, that I didn’t really come upon Elbow’s debut album, “Asleep in the back”, until the spring of 2002.
As I mentioned a few times over the course of this series, I made the move to Ottawa with Victoria in the summer of 2001. However, we were pretty regular in our trips back to Toronto that first year in the city to visit family and friends. The following spring we managed to coordinate a trip to Toronto with my friends’ annual spring camping trip to Haliburton. I had arranged beforehand to hitch a ride back to Ottawa with James, a friend of ours from high school, who was actually living in the area. It was a great trip as usual but a bit cold still and my ride back to Ottawa decided to ditch the trip early. And so it was that we made the three plus hour trip back in the wee hours of the Sunday morning and I got back to my apartment just before 6am.
Victoria wasn’t due back until much later that day so I had plenty of time to sleep. While getting ready for bed, I slipped into my CD carousel this album I had just gotten by chance and pressed play. In my sleep deprived state, the opening track just enveloped me in warmth and I smiled in spite of myself. I slipped under the covers and replayed the track, set the sleep mode, pressed the repeat button and fell asleep to it. Later, when I awoke, I gave the rest of the album a listen and fell in love with it too. It has since become one of my favourites, not just of the year, but of the whole decade. You might remember that another song off “Asleep in the back”, the first single off it, “Red” appeared at #12 on this list.
Of course, that opening track that serenaded me to sleep in that early morning in the spring of 2002 was “Any day now”, my pick for the best tune of 2001. At just over six minutes in length, it feels epic and immense, a song about yearning, impatience, and the need to break free. There’s something sinister about the organs, lots of sustain and reverb, menacing and teasing. And then, the bass drops in with the drums, heavy and violent but the violence never appears, it’s always a threat, which makes it worse, almost like a Tarantino film in this way. The tension is only raised by the hints of children playing at the playground. The vocals are repetitive and mechanical and mesmerizing, looping over and over again, practice makes perfect makes reality. Guy Garvey finally shows his stride and breaks out at the end, adding a flourish of vocals that foreshadow a whole successful career that this song is hoping for, twisting fate into a pretzel.
Not convinced? Listen to it again, maybe next time it’ll take. It certainly has done me in.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.