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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.

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1992: #5 The Cure “Friday I’m in love”

<< #6    |    #4 >>

Happy Friday! TGIF! Friday I’m in love! (Sorry. I just had to do it.)

“I don’t care if Monday’s blue
Tuesday’s grey and Wednesday too
Thursday, I don’t care about you
It’s Friday, I’m in love”

I’ve written in the past about how I finally got myself deep into the depths of The Cure after the release of their 1989 masterpiece, “Disintegration”, though the real roots of my love for the band came by way of their early singles. Nevertheless, while this love was burgeoning, Robert Smith and his bandmates were in the studio, recording the songs that would become their highest selling album to date, “Wish”. Hence, this was the first anticipated album by The Cure for me. I distinctly remember going out to buy the CD single for the first single to be released off the album, which was “High”, a happy-go-lucky, chiming and jangle pop song for sure. But it would be the next single that would knock it out of the park.

“Friday I’m in love”. Now this is pop. And as Robert Smith learned, pop magic is really that – magic. A freak of nature.

When he came up with the melody and chord progression, he was spooked. It sounded so good, so familiar, so perfect, that he was sure that he didn’t write it. Much like Paul McCartney and his worries about “Yesterday”, Smith called everyone he knew just to make sure he wasn’t plagiarizing someone. It turned out it was only the drugs and of course, another happy accident. When they recorded it, Smith messed it up and the song turned out slightly faster and at a slightly higher pitch than planned. But even that was perfect. And why mess with perfection? Why indeed? Especially when the song was happier than anything you had ever written before and had any business at all writing.

“Monday you can fall apart
Tuesday, Wednesday, break my heart
Thursday doesn’t even start
It’s Friday, I’m in love”

Like I said above: this is pop. We all need good pop sometimes. Definitely pop like this that is jangly, full of sunshine and sparkles and confetti, complete abandon, screaming Byrds and raging Beatles. This is goth having a day at the beach, lying on a holiday blanket, and eating a picnic lunch. It’s Robert Smith and the boys saying: “F**k it. It’s Friday.” Leave behind your hang ups. your stresses and anxiety, your fears and anger, everything on your to-do-list, just let it go. Give in to joy. The weekend is yours.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.

Categories
Albums

Best albums of 1989: #3 The Cure “Disintegration”

For those that only have a cursory knowledge of The Cure, “Disintegration” is likely where they get the impression of the band as dark and dreary, which, not coincidentally, was my own first impression of them.

I distinctly remember an afternoon a few years earlier, a friend of mine from my street excitedly telling me how he was going to see a concert that evening with his older sister. A band that I had never heard of, yes, The Cure, and he rhymed off a litany of songs that, surely, I had heard. And I felt so bad that I hadn’t, that I eventually fibbed when he came to a song or two of which I absolutely must have heard. I finally listened to some of those songs a few years later when I borrowed a couple of CDs off my friend John (or was it Tim): “Staring at the sea”, the early singles collection, and this one, “Disintegration”.

After all the success of their singles in the 1980s and the increased sales of their previous album, “Kiss me kiss me kiss me”, frontman Robert Smith became disenchanted with the idea of his group becoming a successful pop rock band. This and the realization that he was shortly to be turning 30 years old pushed our friend Robert into depression and heavily into psychedelics. He then set out to make a record that reflected his mindset at the time and returned to the dark, goth rock sound The Cure had explored on some of their early records.

Of course, when their labels heard the album, expecting more of the new wave inspired pop they were used to selling, they pushed to delay the album’s release date. Their worries turned out to be needless because “Disintegration” would go on to be the band’s biggest selling record ever. Not only that but it is considered by many to be Smith’s best work, the album finding itself on many lists (yeah, not just this one).

As dark and atmospheric and grandiose as most of “Disintegration” is, the album is not without its singles, and many of these charted quite high. And its from these that I offer my three picks for you, mostly because these are some of my early favourites from the album, indeed, some my earliest favourites ever from the band.


”Fascination street”: That haunting and foreboding bass line, ringing and echoing guitars, sounding very much like the squealing of bats or other creatures of the night, it’s all very dark. The intro carries on well over two minutes, setting a mood to wallow in, before Smith even starts in singing about a night out in New Orleans. “So let’s cut the conversation and get out for a bit, because I feel it all fading and paling, and I’m begging to drag you down with me, to kick the last nail in.” An odd choice for a single but that’s what it was. Elektra, The Cure’s American label, refused the band’s first choice for the album’s first single, which was “Lullaby”, as was it everywhere else in the world besides North America, and went with “Fascination Street” instead. It hit number one on Billboard’s newly established Modern Rock charts and set up “Disintegration” for its unexpected and wild ride on the charts.

”Pictures of you”: Even at seven and a half minutes, this track is not the longest on the album but is quite long for a single. This was the final one to be released off “Disintegration” and it is apparently either about the aftermath of a fire and finding photos or based on an essay by some mystery author whose name is similar to that of Smith’s wife, both tales have been woven by the frontman. The song is a meandering piece that shimmers and wavers in that lovely space that occurs behind your eyelids as you sit in your dimly lit teenaged room, crying over your lost first love. “Remembering you running soft through the night. You were bigger and brighter and whiter than snow and screamed at the make-believe, screamed at the sky and you finally found all your courage to let it all go.” Such beauty in pain.

”Lovesong”: Written by Robert Smith as a gift for his fiancée at the time and now wife, Mary Poole, it is likely the most emotional piece on the album and has been used as a wedding song by more than a few of my friends. When Robert Smith sings, “Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am whole again”, you feel as he feels, even with such simple words. It is about as upbeat as “Disintegration” gets and the closest thing to an obvious single but yet doesn’t feel out of place given its big sound. It also has one of my favourite bass lines ever, which wasn’t even ruined for me by younger brother who played it over and over and over after someone had taught it to him.


Check back next Monday for album #2. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. The Jesus And Mary Chain “Automatic”
9. Galaxie 500 “On fire”
8. The Beautiful South  “Welcome to The Beautiful South”
7. The Grapes of Wrath “Now and again”
6. New Model Army “Thunder and consolation”
5. The Wonder Stuff “Hup”
4. Pixies “Doolittle”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.