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Albums

Best albums of 2000: Albums #10 through #6

It’s been more than six months since I started one of these Best albums of the year series so I figured it was about time for a new one. This time around, I am taking for focus my favourite albums of the year 2000, the year chosen in a random, not quite random kind of way*.

My relationship with music around this time was what you could term complicated. If you go back and look at the list of my favourite tunes of 2000 that I did a few years back, you’ll note that it’s only a list of fifteen songs, rather than the usual thirty. I had a real hard time finding music that I liked in those days and this can be attributed to many things. It is most of all likely because I was on a low after the wealth of great British music being exported to Canada during the Britpop explosion in the second half of the last decade. So for me, great songs were few and far between but I still managed to identify ten great albums as favourites when taken as a whole. And it is these that I plan to present to you over the coming weeks.

If you’ve been around these pages before, you’ll recognize today’s post as the tease, introducing the five albums that round out the latter part of my top ten. From here, I used to out my five favourite albums for the year over the course of the following five Thursdays, one per week, but given how well it went when I stretched out my countdown of albums I did for 1991 back in January, February, and March, I’ve decided to do the same here. I will still focus on an album per post, doing my best to the paint each album’s importance to me and to music in general, but instead, will do so every other Thursday and wrap all this up in the beginning of October.

So let’s do this. And of course, as we do, I’d love to hear your thoughts, both on my picks and what your own would be, if you had to rank your top ten albums for 2000, in the comments section provided with each post.


#10 Richard Ashcroft “Alone with everybody”

Still smarting from the breakup of the Verve a mere two years after the release of the near perfect “Urban hymns” in 1997, I went out to the stores to purchase the first Richard Ashcroft solo album on the day it was released. When I arrived back at my apartment that afternoon, I realized that my roommate and friend, Ryan, had done the same and we both sat down that evening to give it a listen. But I’ll stop right there because this is a story that I already told when the lead single “A song for the lovers” appeared at number five on my Best tunes of 2000 list. I’ll just say that I really wanted all of “Alone with everybody” to be just as great as that first single but in my mind, it was only half successful. Richard Ashcroft is a phenomenal voice and songwriter to be sure, but he definitely needs a sounding board. There is an unfortunate amount of forgettable mediocrity on the album but luckily, those are more than balanced by exuberant moments of pure pop perfection.

Gateway tune: “A song for the lovers”


#9 The New Pornographers “Mass romantic”

It’s always been interesting to me that The New Pornographers were referred to as a supergroup right from the beginning. Sure, each member all had other projects on the go, but I’d hazard that when their debut, “Mass Romantic”, was released, only Neko Case and Destroyer’s Dan Bejar had anything resembling a following on their own merit, and even those must be taken with a grain of indie salt. Nowadays, though, the title certainly fits and it’s truly amazing to me that such a large collective of artists have enjoyed such successful longevity together. This debut was three years in the making and displays a wealth of power pop worthy of the praise heaped upon it. It wasn’t always a favourite of mine but it has grown steadily in my esteem over the years to exponential heights.

Gateway tune: “Letter from an occupant”


#8 The Cure “Bloodflowers”

Much like the album at number ten, I bought The Cure’s 11th studio album, “Bloodflowers”, on CD pretty much as soon as it was released. I had gotten into the iconic post-punk band led by Robert Smith over a decade earlier and the love affair that followed culminated with my purchase and adoration of their 1992 album “Wish”. I completely missed out on the interim album, 1996’s “Wild mood swings”, and still haven’t ventured into that whirlpool, with the possible exception of the singles. Speaking of which, the lack of any obvious singles on “Bloodflowers” was what struck me right away on first listen. It was definitely a return to their darker sound, but bigger in scope and immersiveness. Indeed, the whole is greater than its parts in this case, a complete album experience.

Gateway tune: “The loudest sound”


#7 The Weakerthans “Left and leaving”

The Weakerthans are a band that I’ve known for many years but never really appreciated until it was too late. I saw them live twice, once in 2001 (one year after this particular album was released) and again 2008, but in both cases, I wasn’t actually at the show to see them. And though I enjoyed them both times, I didn’t actually getting around to diving deeply into their music until well after they went on hiatus in 2014. Indeed, their sophomore album “Left and leaving” still wasn’t even on my radar when I started counting down my favourite tunes from 2000 back when I started this blog in 2017. Nowadays, though, I find myself in awe of this melodic folk-rock band out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the incredible lyrics of its frontman, John K. Samson. Like all four studio albums by the group, “Left and leaving” is chock full of literate narratives that name-check Canadiana, Winnipeg in particular, and speak to each and everyone of us unsure of our place in the human condition.

Gateway tune: “Left and leaving”


#6 The Clientele “Suburban light”

I first got into the reverb-drenched indie pop of London, England’s The Clientele with their sophomore studio album, 2003’s “The violet hour”. Everything I heard off that album smacked loudly of Luna, another band with which I had been obsessed around that time, except that all the production sounded purposefully older and frontman Alasdair Maclean’s vocals were a lot more breathy than those of Dean Wareham. Nonetheless, I was in love and set about ensuring my eyes and ears were alerted to anything the band had previously released and news of anything new. For years, I thought their first proper release, this one, “Suburban light”, was a compilation album and so wouldn’t be eligible to appear here on this list. However, it was a simple misunderstanding on my part that had basis in the fact that at least half of the songs on this album had been released previously. But perhaps I am talking too much and just need to let you click on the link below for a sampling of what’s on offer. If you like sunshine and lemonade light and naps under the shade of trees and a light a breeze, The Clientele, this debut especially, might just be your cup of tea.

Gateway tune: “Rain”

 

*Don’t ask me how I am choosing the years for these flashback/throwback best albums series… I am trying to spread them out and at the same time, trying not to interfere with the Best tunes lists I’ve got on the go. It’s a delicate game, definitely not for the faint of heart…


Check back two Thursdays from today for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

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Albums

Best albums of 2007: #2 The New Pornographers “Challengers”

So The New Pornographers have hit these pages a few times in this blog’s inaugural year. The Canadian indie power pop supergroup is a great band that has defied the odds and last for well over the predicted one or two albums. In fact, “Challengers” is the group’s fourth album and have since come up with three more since 2007.

This album was a bit challenging (pardon the pun) for the group’s long time fans because there was less power in the pop here. All the other elements we have grown to love, the big and interesting instrumentation and arrangements, the turn taking and melodies on vocals by all four principal vocalists, and the way the different elements come together so cohesively are still prominent but just muted. For some, this meant requiring more listens to accept the new record but I had no issues at all.

For me, “Challengers” was love on first listen. Interesting, then, that many critics considered this more the natural sequel to AC Newman’s quiet debut, “The slow wonder”, an album I didn’t much care for, rather than the bombast of The New Pornos’ third record, “Twin cinema”. I thought the toned down approach allowed for the all the pieces room to grow and the results were quite stunning. I don’t know if it’s fair to call this my all time favourite of their albums, given that they are so consistently good, but it just might be.

If you’re not familiar with this stellar group or just this album (or even if you are), have a peek at my three picks for you below and let me know what you think.


“Mutiny, I promise you”: I’m not sure I know what this song’s all about but I just love the idea of promising a mutiny, usurping the captain on the high seas like a pirate. And not just warning in advance but promising it. The song is one of the more upbeat and energetic of the bunch on “Challengers”. It’s like all the instruments are turned up to eleven and their players are at them like crazy. The vocals, too, gang-like, are almost an all out shout, except they’re so beautifully harmonized between Newman and Kathryn Calder. And when they briefly pause their playing to sing “And here is the mutiny I promised you” at the bridge, it’s oh so sweet.

“Myriad Harbour”: This is easily my favourite Dan Bejar penned and sung track. He is so weird but on this track, it works. His almost whiny voice is singing conversationally, for some reason, reminding me of Lou Reed, and he’s glorifying Manhattan too, which is perfect. “Stranded at Bleeker and Broadway, looking for something to do.” The way the guitar climbs up and down, Bejar rejoins and the rest of the band responds, the harmonica flourishes, it all just makes me smile, over and over again.

“All the old showstoppers”: That Carl Newman, he’s quite the lyricist. His songs are rife with wordplay that twist and turn our normal ideas and always leave things open to interpretation. I’ve tried to untangle this one, the meaning seemingly just there beyond reach, but I’ve decided to give it up and just enjoy the tune. And “All the old showstoppers” is a fun one. A verse melody that feels very mechanical while Newman sings a call and answer with Neko Case and Calder. It all comes together joyously for the chorus though, instruments and voices in one sweet harmony.


For the rest of the albums in this list, check out my Best Albums page here.

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Tunes

Best tunes of 2010: #6 The New Pornographers “Crash years”

<< #7    |    #5 >>

Here we are at number six on this Best tunes of 2010 list and we have the second appearance by The New Pornographers, who we saw months ago at the number twenty-eight spot with “Sweet talk, sweet talk”. Both that song and this one, “Crash years”, appeared on the New Pornos fifth studio album, “Together”, which was dedicated to Kathryn Calder’s mother, who had recently died and was, incidentally, Carl Newman’s sister. It’s an interesting story involving adoption and discovering family they didn’t know they had and if you’re curious, it’s easy enough to google. But back to the song.

“Crash years” was the second single released off the album and it’s a real humdinger. The words were written by Newman as are the majority of the songs on their albums but he leaves the lead vocals here to the unflappable Neko Case. The peppy rhythm section is kept honest by just there guitars and breezy staccato keys. And there’s the awesome use of whistling after every chorus that doesn’t sound at all out of place. This is all gorgeous, of course, but what really makes this song for me is the driving and thumping cello, smooth like a well oiled villain’s moustache, and if you’ve turned the volume on your stereo up just so, you can feel it deep within your soul.

“Crash years” could be a nod to the financial woes and economic slowdown at the time, a topic that could hardly be ignored. It’s hinting at the evils of stock markets and clocks and banks… oh my. But Newman doesn’t really point fingers. He just shrugs. The upbeat feel of the song suggests we’re all in the same sinking boat, all ruined, so why get down. Just hum along with the cello and everything will be alright.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.