03 August 2009

Preparing to Delve Into the Naughty Naughts, Musically Speaking...

Bill Simmons, over at his BS Report has mentioned that it's getting time to start doing end of decade retrospectives. He's one of those poor beknighted folks who think decades start in the zero year and end in the nine. That's how he's come up with Almost Famous as his tentative choice for best film of the Aughts. I prefer Naughts, personally, but neither caught on for the decade with no name.

So, thinking about these things, I've decided to delve into the music released since the end of 1999 and see what's held up, what I've been listening to ever since it came out, what was great then but unlistenable now, and what gems did I miss the first time around.

I've been using my ZunePass, coupled with Wikipedia's list of album releases to augment my collection so I can make a better appraisal of the music that came out each year after 1999.

Here's my preliminary favorites for each year from 2000 to 2009, each year will get its own post, and each year will get at least five albums with some in depth commentary, but for now, just the highlights of my thought process of the moment:

2000: PJ Harvey, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. I think this is PJ Harvey's best work, and the best album that year, it's the one that's stuck on my various devices with the most tenacity since it came out. The only other CDs from that year that I've always made certain to have available at all times have been Stankonia by Outkast and Lovers Rock by Sade. Reviewing the wiki list of releases, I've downloaded a bunch of albums to review.

2001: Nikka Costa, Everybody's Got Their Something. Love that album, great bit of funky soulfulness and soulful funkiness. Other essential albums released that year are White Blood Cells by The White Stripes, Vespertine by Bjork, Songs in A Minor by Alicia Keys, Simple Things by Zero 7, and Discovery by Daft Punk. 2001 was a very solid year, musically.

2002: Beth Orton, Daybreaker. I like me some Beth Orton, haven't gone through the 2002 (or later) releases to see what I'm missing yet, but from the stuff that's already on my hard drive, that's my favorite.

2003: Kylie Minogue, Body Language. I will never apologize for loving that album, dammit. Lot of strong titles this year, too, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below from OutKast, Elephant from The White Stripes, High Dive by Maria McKee, Bare by Annie Lennox, Fever to Tell by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and any one of those would be less embarrassing to claim as a favorite, but Kylie's album is popdance-perfection. It's the best produced album of the past ten years, and music is more and more a producers medium, so this is an album that demands respect.

2004: Sia, Colour the Small One. By this time, I wasn't buying CDs as much as in the past, I think I may have already been a Rhapsody user by then, so I was already in the habit of 'renting' music. So, until I go over the wiki of releases, I won't really know what I'm missing, but Sia's first album is great, and worthy, and other solid releases that year were Musicology from Prince, Uh Huh Her from PJ Harvey and Contraband by Velvet Revolver.

2005: The White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan. I think this album holds up well, it's my favorite of theirs. Other great stuff from that year, Brazilian Girls by Brazilian Girls, Pedlin' Dreams by Maria McKee, Can'tneverdidnothin' from Nikka Costa, All Rise by Inara George, CeU by CeU, Demon Days by Gorrilaz, and Naturally by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

2006: Bat for Lashes, Fur and Gold. This album holds up really well to repeated listening. I'd be surprised once I go over the list of releases that this remains my favorite, though. Other albums that I enjoy from that year are Jenny Lewis' Rabbit Fur Coat, DJ Shadow's The Outsider, and Goldfrapp's Supernature.

2007: Maria McKee, Late December. By 2007, she'd been in the business 25 years (Lone Justice formed in 1982, but their first big label album didn't hit till 1985), and she brings all that experience to this album. Her voice is an amazing instrument, one which she wields with both power and delicacy, by this time she's left the rootsy country inflected rock behind and has headed into a more theatrical almost Sondheimian direction, and it's brilliant stuff. Lots of good stuff that year that I still enjoy listening to, including Charlotte Gainsbourg's 5:55, Lily Allen's Alright, Still, Mark Ronson's Version, Sharon Jones' 100 Days, 100 Nights, The Bird and The Bee's The Bird and The Bee, and Rilo Kiley's Under the Blacklight (even if the critics didn't like that one).

2008: Lady Gaga, The Fame. She's ridiculous, she's a fame-whore, but she's also put out the definitive dancepop album of the latter part of this decade, and to come from nowhere to be ubiquitous is quite an accomplishment. Stuff like this doesn't happen any more, yet she managed to do it, so strictly for marketing alone, she garners respect. Since 2008 seems like only yesterday (or at least last year), lots of solid stuff still getting lots of play, like Duffy's Rockferry, The Dresden Dolls' No, Virginia, Nikka Costa's Pebble to a Peach, Sia's Some People Have Real Problems, Lykke Li's Youth Novels, Goldfrapp's Seventh Tree, and Jenny Lewis' Acid Tongue.

2009: Ida Maria, Fortress 'round My Heart. We're only just beginning the eighth month, so picking a favorite is decidedly premature, but this is a fantastic album that has great energy and just doesn't stop from start to finish. Have to sort out the UK v USA release date conundrum in determining which year to place these albums, however. Much of the music I like right now gets released there first. The Dead Weather's Horehound may supplant Ida Maria, but haven't made up my mind on whether or not it's dead brilliant, or kind of predictable, or predictably brilliant. Regina Spektor deserves plenty of respect for Far, Prince's triple album has plenty to offer, Lily Allen came out with another solid effort, as did Bat For Lashes and The Bird and The Bee.

The interesting thing about this list is that nothing from the last few years would sound out of place in '00 or '01, and the stuff I liked from '00 and '01 sounds fine when put next to the stuff today. That wasn't the case with what the biggest hits were, with Spice Girls, Britneys, and Boy Bands still moving lots of units.

And obviously, from this list, I'm a sucker for a female lead singer, the only act topping a year that doesn't feature a female lead exclusively is The White Stripes.

Also, I'm ignoring the various best of lists that are put out after each year in determining which music to re-listen to, I know what I like, and what I liked, and music criticism is such a fractured and tribal thing that no one reviewer, or even one editorial staff encompasses what I enjoy in music, so there's really no guide out there but my own ear.

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