Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2001 : 20 "Archie and Veronica" by Lovage

Could this be the sexiest song ever written about necrophilia? Everything about this song is delicious and over the top—Mike Patton's rich, evil snarl, Jennifer Charles's moaning and overt sexiness, the sleazy purple-hued lyrics. All of the artists involved in this project (Dan the Automator and Kid Koala are in on it too) have so much talent they can basically throw together a lounge parody act that still ends up being better than 95% of the music out there.

Angela Smith

Listen: Lovage >> "Archie & Veronica"

2001 : 19 "I Was A Kaleidoscope" by Death Cab For Cutie

Just lay down a good opening guitar riff at the start of a song. Often, that is all you need to capture me. The opening riff on "I Was A Kaleidoscope" carries me through the whole song. Skip back to the opening of the song a few times and just listen to it. When I hear it I cannot help dancing in my seat, like I am Rudy from the Fat Albert Gang.

I put on my overcoat and walked into winter - my teeth chattered rhythms
And they were grouped in twos or threes, like a morse code message was sent from me to me.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Death Cab For Cutie >> "I Was A Kaleidoscope"

2001 : 18 "I'm Alright" by Jeffrey Foucault

When I listen to this song, no matter what sort of mood I was in before I put it on, no matter what I was doing, I really am alright. It tugs at my heartstrings and calms my soul, and the line about cars with second gear never fails to make me tear up at least a little bit.

In the tent sale of my dreams
I had marked so many down from what I paid
Growing up and growing older
I thought man there ain't no profit in this game
And then my friends began to own things
And make thirty five a year
They got jobs with health insurance
They got cars with second gear
But I'm alright

April Walker

Listen: Jeffey Foucault >> "I'm Alright"

Monday, June 29, 2009

2001 : 17 "I Want Wind To Blow" by The Microphones

Readers of this blog may have notes that it's at least in part devoted to celebrating those clusters of memories which indelibly link specific albums to specific times and places. A partial listing of my own albums that feature in such memories might include Patti Smith's Horses (the soundtrack to my first apartment in Tucson) and Tortoise's Millions Now Living Will Never Die (the soundtrack to my final apartment in Tucson). By 2001, however, I'd left that city for the crumble and overcast glory of Chicago, and one of the first albums I listened to death there was The Glow, Pt. 2 by the Microphones. Its ramshackle song structures, ultra-low-fi production, and mumbled lyrics ("The sound of cars / the smell of bars / the awful feeling of electric heat") still evoke the feeling of being in that cramped apartment, surrounded by compact discs and books, looking out the window at the wires and brick of North California Avenue, feeling wistful for relationships that had ended, and generally being a man in my late twenties in every possible way.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: The Microphones >> "I Want Wind To Blow"

2001 : 16 "You'll Be In The Air" by The Microphones

This song is just a soundscape. The voice fades from the front to the back. The guitar and keyboard run back and forth like waves at the beach, sometimes lapping and other times crashing. The song removes me from thinking about lyrics or myself, or anything outside the present moment.

The whole album The Glow, Pt. 2 still amazes me. I listened to it because Jeremy told me it was one of the best albums of the year. It had a huge effect on me, adding to my interest in K Records. The album still moves me away from my normal way of listening to music to a more instinctive place.

Rich Thomas

Listen: The Microphones >> "You'll Be In The Air"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

2001 : 15 "Islands (Part III & IV)" by Mirror

lowering weather, and fog everywhere, creeping and indistinguishable. the death of the sun, and water losing its foothold, slipping where it flows.

hanging in the misty clouds, earth and gas looming. if this day ever broke—i'm lying out under snow-flakes, lowering slowly upon a nether sky of fog, the fog is everywhere.... in hanging places (never too thick), a soft black drizzle in the sight of heaven and earth.

a soft manipulation of charles dicken's bleak house (1853) while listening to mirror's "part III" and "part IV" from islands

release details: http://www.discogs.com/Mirror-Islands/master/42167

matthew swiezynski

Listen: Mirror >> "Islands (Parts III & IV) "

2001 : 14 "Hard Again" by Scott Tuma

dissonant sweeping harmonies meld with tinkling chimes and delicate virtuosic guitar pluckings, harmonium and harmonica converge in a world of rustic remembrances, earthy tones and rural landscapes are conjured up through sounds of what seem to be a distant car horn or a scratchy old film projector... it is the music of a daydreamer—with a quality of sound that's both magical and warm. these are key elements to any work by scott tuma and hard again is the first solo release that introduces us to this pleasantly intimate world.

web page: http://www.myspace.com/scotttuma

label: http://www.atavistic.com/albums.php?id=346

diane granahan

Listen: Scott Tuma >> "Hard Again"

Saturday, June 27, 2009

2001 : 13 "Under Your Spell" by Joss Whedon (feat. Amber Benson)

I know the idea of a musical episode of a TV show sounds like a bad thing. I know that the idea of all the singing and dancing sounds like it will lead to folly. We can all make jokes about how Cop Rock was on of the biggest flops in TV history. Of course the idea of a musical episode of a hit TV show is a bad idea.

That was, of course, until we saw the episode. The musical episode of Buffy was great. Not only was it one of the best episodes of the series, it was one of the best episodes of the decade. According to TV Guide is it one of the best episodes of all time.

With this episode not only did Joss Whedon show he understood his characters, but he understood the show's fans also. I knew a lot of Buffy fans at the time and none of them disliked the episode. Most people I talked to loved the episode. It was better than many of them expected.

The episode was not only a chance to have his characters sing and dance, but it was a way to have them tell a story with the musical numbers. The characters explore themselves in this episode in a way that they do not in other episodes. This episode has key plot points for the season. It is everything that anyone who loves the show could ask for.

There are so many good songs from this episode I could pick. Several of them still give me goosebumps. I picked "Under Your Spell" because Amber Benson as Tara knocks this out of the park. Her voice is just amazing. She expresses the character so well. It is just the best.

I am amazed at how well this song has held up over this decade. Most of the time things like this tend to age poorly. Even watching this episode now it still works, maybe better than the rest of the show.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Joss Whedon / Amber Benson >> "Under Your Spell"

2001 : 12 "Revelator" by Gillian Welch

I have always had some interest in traditional folk songs and Americana, but have just been too damn lazy to do the necessary research to discover those lost gems. Thankfully, I have Gillian Welch to do the work and deliver me a similar feeling in maybe a prettier package. This, unfortunately, has not always been easy on Gillian, who often comes across as a woman lost in time trying to revive the past.

She addresses this problem (and the complaints of her critics) on her 3rd album with "Revelator." What seems at first like a love song—"Darling, remember, when you come to me"—is most likely a message to her listeners. Though warning us that she may be a fake and an imitator, she also shows that she has done her homework. After all, how many people know what a "katy" is or that there was an old folk song "John the Revelator?"

Despite all these apologies, the song is fucking gorgeous. Gillian's voice is like velvet, but perhaps the most beautiful thing about this song is the intricate and meticulous fingerpicking on the guitar. David Rawling and Gillian work together as a flawless pair and it is impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends.

(For further proof of how "Appalachian" Gillian really is, see the video:)

E. P. Johnson

Listen: Gillian Welch >> "Revelator"

Friday, June 26, 2009

2001 : 11 "Knock Loud" by Neko Case

Ten years have passed
Since you walked out of my life
But late last night in the pharmacy
You were in the line in front of me
So I ran away to hide

A lot of reviewers call Neko Case's voice "plaintive", but I don't think that's quite accurate. Plaintive seems to apply more to the cowboy poets she obviously reveres, the thin-voiced men who sing time after time their lonesome lives. Case's voice is too rich and full in comparison. The best word for it might be "yearning". Her songs are bursting with desire: for love, for the things she's lost or can't have, for change, for solitude.

Interestingly, because it fits so well with the canonical themes of her own music, this is a cover song. The original songwriter is Sook-Yin Lee, a Canadian performer who is probably more familiar to many readers as Sofia, one of the lead characters from the movie Shortbus. This song would have fit quite nicely on the soundtrack for that film, thematically. Case's plea for the listener to find her in bed is more about longing and loneliness than lust.

Angela Smith

Listen: Neko Case >> "Knock Loud"

2001 : 10 "Battlefield Nurse" by Diane Cluck

she's got eyes like a battlefield nurse
the kind that keep you calm when all around you things are getting worse oh

There is something great about epic songs. Every once in a while I want a song that goes more that six minutes. The older I get, the more I enjoy it when artists take a chance with how long a song goes. You can step out of the Rock format and not worry about radio airplay. Some of my favorite songs from the last couple of years are really long.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Diane Cluck >> "Battlefield Nurse"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

2001 : 09 "Gone to Earth" by American Analog Set

I swear that a friend of mine introduced me to American Analog Set, but he thinks that I introduced him to them. That fact that neither of us can actually remember is a testament to me of how AmAnSet was destined to become such a staple in my regular listening that I can hardly believe there was a time I did listen to them on a regular basis. This is a song about a space explorer or escaping some sort of apocalyptic scenario in a spaceship. They pretty much had me at hello.

The receiver
In my rocket ship
Always stays in tune
To the right waveband
In galaxies unknown
Further suns in bloom

April Walker

Listen: American Analog Set >> "Gone to Earth"

2001 : 08 "A Raga Called John, Part Three" by Pelt

The music world, collaborative and promiscuous by its very nature, tends to generate its share of "strange bedfellows"-type alliances. A good example could be seen by those who kept an eye on psychedelic music throughout the Aughts: early in the decade that scene was characterized by a lot of heady cultural exchange between the free folk subculture and the drone subculture. This fecund blooming of partnerships between two microgenres of music that didn't look that similar on the surface was puzzling: both groups were obviously interested in prying at the doors of perception, but was there really a meaningful sonic kinship, or were these just folks who got along because they liked the same drugs? For my money, this is still an open question, but it's helpful, now as then, to have the band Pelt to gesture at as an illustration of the potency of the allegiance. Everything seemed to flow into them—Fahey-esque Americana guitar, Indian raga structure, ethno-drone instruments from around the globe, acid-trip logic, the blasted-out hum of post-Sonic Youth rock amplification—and from this nexus materialized this campfire apparation: the 2001 double album Ayahuasca. This album maintains real value for me as an awesome synthesis of disparate influences.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Pelt >> "A Raga Called John, Part Three"

2001 : 07 "Timorous Me" by Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

Ted Leo gets a lot of comparisons to canonical "not quite punk, not quite power pop" songwriters, such as Elvis Costello. One point these comparisons miss is just how overwhelmingly positive his music is. Even in the depths of his angriest political songs, hope thwarts the negative. Teddy Rockstar is so full of "just go out there and fucking do something!" tenacity that listeners inevitably walk away with some of his residual energy. "Timorous Me" is not a political song but it excels at what it is, an "ain't life grand" ballad. In Ted Leo's lyrics, an awkward handshake is just about the greatest thing in the world—and without resorting to some Twee bullshit. If you're not grinning when "Timorous Me" breaks into hand claps, you've never had a real friendship in your life.

James Specht

Listen: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists >> "Timorous Me"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

2001 : 06 "Smooth Criminal" by Alien Ant Farm (covering Michael Jackson)

What I love about cover songs is that it can show you how good a song is without all the baggage that might be attached. Before Alien Ant Farm it was hard for me to think about "Smooth Criminal" without thinking about the Moonwalker video game, Michael Jackson grabbing his crotch, spinning in circles, and being chased by Joe Pesci. When I hear Alien Ant Farm do this song I think about how good the song actually is. People are still surprised when I say I like this song.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Alien Ant Farm >> "Smooth Criminal"

2001 : 05 "Everything Hits at Once" by Spoon

I debated for quite some time about even putting this track on my best-of list. I don't listen to it very often, and when I do, it generally makes me feel pretty awful. But it's a good song.... Or a great one, actually, when I consider that the impact of hearing this is the emotional equivalent of being run down by a car. When it comes on someone's playlist at work it often serves as my cue to take a walk around the block and clear my head. It makes me feel as if no time has passed at all since that spring when I agonized along with this song, thinking about how much I missed my sweetheart but also the enormous mistake I was making by dating her. You see, the lyrics reminded her how much she missed someone too, she'd told me one night. That person just wasn't me.

Angela Smith

Listen: Spoon >> "Everything Hits at Once"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2001 : 04 "Love With The Three of Us" by Stereo Total

"Love With the Three of Us": if there was a better song written about the practice of menage a trois this decade, I'm pretty sure I didn't hear it.

Actually: can anyone claim that there's been a better song written on this topic? Like, ever?

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Stereo Total >> "Love With the Three of Us"

2001 : 03 "I Will Bury You in Time" by Jeff Magnum

"It's about me and a rockstar in a hole by the beach"

I will bury you in time
When the sea begins to slide
Into this hole where I am smiling on your shoulder
You have buried my beliefs
Where all you sisters sleep
That their scent the purity will make
When the youth is over
Standing in some lost October

Jeremy and I have talked about what album from the 1990's cast the longest shadow in the 2000's. When this conversation comes up, I always go with Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. There was a time in 2001/2002 that everyone I knew loved this album. It was all we listened to and all we talked about. I ended up getting a second date with a woman by giving her my copy of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea on the first date. It was the kind of album where most of my friends listened to over and over again. As the decade went on more and more people were listening to it.

The album was released in 1998, but no one, at least no one I knew, was listening to it in 1998. I had a conversation about it in 1999, but I really did not listen to it until 2001. Luckily the Jeff Mangum Live At Jittery Joe's album came out in 2001, So I could fit it into the project. The live album was recorded because bootlegs of live Neutral Milk Hotel shows were fetching hundreds of dollars on eBay.

The first version of this song I downloaded from the internet. I was amazed at hearing Jeff Mangum's voice. It so sound like he singing because he has to, not because he wants to. It is like this song is busting out of him and he has to sing it to keep from going mad.

I think that Aeroplane Over the Sea is one of those albums in the pantheon of great albums. It is an album that moves me every time I hear it. As well as I think I know it, there are still things that open up to me. It was the kind of under the radar album that was perfect to spread via the internet. It was the kind of album where everyone who really cared about music knew it, but you still needed to explain it to people around the office. Listening to it did feel special in that way.

I see the long shadow of Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea everywhere. Not only do I see it with Elephant 6 bands like Apples In Stereo and Of Montreal, but also with bands like the Decemberists and artists like Joanna Newsom. The albums had a lot of instruments and was still lo-fi. I hear parts of this album when I listen to CocoRosie and Polyphonic Spree. I might be reading into this too much, but for five or so years I saw this album everywhere.

And if I was the king of all the kids
You'd you hear me singing in my spit
But all you would hear is the shit inside my burst emotions
I will bury you in time
When the sea begins to slide
Into this hole where you and I will sing our songs unbroken
As the water starts its chokin'
dee dee dee dee dee etc.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Jeff Mangum >> "I Will Bury You In Time"

Monday, June 22, 2009

2001 : 02 "Baby Lulu" by Stereolab

A friend introduced me to Stereolab with their album, Sound-Dust, which had just come out. It was summer and to me this is the perfect summer sound, happy and dreamy. I found out later that Sound-Dust is not considered one of Stereolab's strongest efforts, but it remains at the top of my list. I have layers of memories built on years of listening to Stereolab with a soft warm breeze blowing and the sun shining on my closed eyelids.

Nancy Pokrywka

Listen: Stereolab >> "Baby Lulu"

2001 : 01 "Chicky Boom" by Thomas Brinkmann

My favorite memory from college happened at a dance party. We're talking 1986, so techno and house were these amazingly new things. A German exchange student friend of mine stepped up to the turntables with his bag of records, and, to everybody’s surprise, turned in an excellent, seamless set. With his last record, he grabbed the mic and announced, "I was born in Germany, but my soul is pure funk." This song reminds me of him, and it was made by a funky German: Thomas Brinkmann.

Neil Jendon

Listen: Thomas Brinkmann >> "Chicky Boom"

Friday, June 19, 2009

2000 Day of Rest


And thus we draw the curtain on 2000. This blog will now come to rest momentarily, and will resume with write-ups of music from 2001 after the weekend. The tracks from 2000 will remain on the site until around June 29th, so enjoy.

Remember that parties interested in participating can e-mail me for an invite: "projects" at imaginaryyear.com.

Thanks to everyone who provided write-ups and tracks so far!

Jeremy Bushnell

Thursday, June 18, 2009

2000 : 32 "Var" by Nils Økland

No discussion of the music of the Aughts is complete without reference to Norway's Rune Grammofon, perhaps the single most consistently intriguing label of the decade.

One reason this label's releases appealed to me so strongly was because of their eclecticism. They adhered to no particular genre stricture, and consequently they were free to romp across an intimidatingly broad expanse: their discography includes albums of electronica, modern composition, cerebral jazz, stark drone... They seemed perhaps happiest releasing albums that violated genre boundaries in and of themselves, or otherwise proved hard to classify. As evidence, one need look no further than their very first album, Supersilent's 1-3 (1998): a three-hour, three-disc set consisting mainly of free improvisational pieces that unexpectedly melt down into passages of electronic abrasion.

But today I want to talk about something prettier. Specifically, Rune Grammofon's 15th release, Nils Økland's Straum (2000), an album consisting primarily of fiddle music. It's very lovely, but no less of a damned thing in terms of classification. This track, "Var," for fiddle, piano, trumpet, and voice, is airy and drifty enough that it could fit on a New Age sampler without incident, and yet it's impossible to listen closely to the piece without noting its roots in jazz and improvisation. And Økland's playing the Hardangar fiddle, a traditional instrument of Norway, so maybe we should be talking about it in terms of "folk music?" Or should he be treated as a composer for the fiddle, creating something that fits that oxymoronic category, "modern classical?"

Sigh. One really shouldn't agonize over something this beautiful.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Nils Økland >> "Var"

2000 : 31 "2-15" by The Marquis de Tren and Bonny Billy

This is the first song from the album Get on Jolly in which all song titles are just numbers.

This song sounds as if it is sneaking up on you, quietly following you, testing the waters before it shows itself to you. Something is playing backwards, but it's hard to identify. It is dissonant and yet melodic at the same time and its tenderness is so beautiful. Will wanders though with his delicate shaky voice and sings:

When you ask me to sing,
it feels like my heart will burst with pride,
and I look at your face,
and tears come to my eyes.

All that's harsh and wrong,
in my life melts into one sweet song,
and my love spreads wings,
like a glad bird flying over the road.

I know you take pleasure in my singing,
I know that only when I sing do you hear me,
cause then I touch things I can't touch,
I touch parts of you that I can't really touch.

And drunk with the joy of singing,
I forget myself and call you my friend.

I'm here to sing you songs,
in your room I have a corner seat,
in your world I have no work to do,
my life can only break out in songs that have no purpose.

E. P. Johnson

Listen: The Marquis de Tren and Bonny Billy >> "2-15"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

2000 : 30 " Venus Stop The Train" by Wilco


I keep my distance cause she falls in love with everyone
Smoking grass and taking Christmas trees
She falls in love with me
I'm polite to her
I reach my soft hand out to her
I've known her for a very, very long time

The simple composition of the song makes one thing clear: this song is all about Jeff Tweedy's ability to perform. It is not about his skill as a singer, his ability to play piano, or the strength of his voice. It is about his ability to use his voice to connect with the audience. I amazed at how he trusts his voice without sounding like he trusts his voice.

There is something about Jeff Tweedy's voice on this song. It is sad, scared, and a little tired. You can tell that he is trying to explain himself and defend himself. He is singing about why he stayed away from a woman he might have loved. I am not sure if he is really singing this song about someone else or about himself.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Wilco >> "Venus Stop The Train"

2000 : 29 "Beeroth" by Masada

Masada turned me on to jazz. This was the first time I realized "Hey, it's not all 'Kinda Blue' and 'My Funny Valentine' — jazz can be aggressive and unpredictable!" And Masada is definitely further in that direction than most bands around. The group plays a warped klezmer free jazz, songs ranging from 2 to 15 minutes, each song sounding markedly different. Some are introspective and dead serious while others are blasts of playful, unbridled energy. The heads are memorable, the energy is high and the playing is phenomenal. Years later I would end up flying to New York on New Year's Eve just to catch a show of Electric Masada (an expanded group playing the same songs) and it was the best show I have ever seen in my life.

This song is a drum feature as I ended up copping as much of his style as possible. Joey Baron is a delight to watch and truly one of the most musical drummers around.

Chris Pollina

Listen: Masada >> "Beeroth"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

2000 : 28 "Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby" by Emmylou Harris & co.

I don't think we should blame the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack for the resurgence in roots music (see: Things White People Like) which saturated coffeehouses and public radio in the early part of the 00s. It's not the soundtrack's fault. It was just trying to make us happy! I love this song and my roots don't include banjos or the Appalachian Mountains. This song just sounded so perfectly fresh and simple when it came out that it was impossible to resist.

Angela Smith

Listen: Emmylou Harris, Alison Kraus, and Gillian Welch >> "Didn't Leave Nobody But the Baby"

Monday, June 15, 2009

2000 : 27 "New York" by Richard Ashcroft

I am visiting Portland for the first time after I left it. I am trying to decide if I did the right thing or not. My job is better, but San Jose cannot hold a candle to Portland. I can't sleep so I go for a walk. I am walking around an empty downtown listening to a mix I made for myself. I am trying to figure out where my life is really taking me. Do I stay on that path or change it?

Richard Ashcroft's "New York" comes on. The words just grab me. He is singing about a place that I have not been in years, but it still feels like my life. The song feels like when someone straps a Steadicam to an actor and makes him walk the streets. That is just how I felt. The world around me is spinning, but I have to keep walking. I feel a little sick at the spinning, but I am the only person who can get me where I go.

This song still feels this way to me.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Richard Ashcroft >> "New York"

2000 : 26 "Sophteonal" by Aix Em Klemm

when i first heard "sophteonal," the third track from aix em klemm's self-titled release, i was immediately drawn to its unique structure and sweeping repetitions. the disc opens with expansive and ever-encompassing drones amid whispering murmurations and insect-like chirrings, but this particular track somehow stands out from the rest. it is lush and melancholic, a dream-state where piano, guitar, and scratchy electronic distortions seem to echo one another in a fragile, undulating dialogue. hearing "sophteonal" originally induced me to seek out the recording but the overall album is not to be ignored either, as it offers delicate washing effects and subtle reverberations throughout, not dissimilar to a sense of being suspended in time.

aix em klemm is a side-project of adam wiltzie (stars of the lid) and bobby donne (labradford).

diane granahan

Listen: Aix Em Klemm >> "Sophteonal"

Sunday, June 14, 2009

2000 : 25 "Frontier Psychiatrist" by The Avalanches

For a couple of months there, I couldn't seem to get on with my day unless I listened to this song at least once in the morning. I don't know what that indicates about my mental state, exactly. This is a pretty great example of guerilla pop, though, and even now the phrase "you're crazy in the coconut!" makes me laugh like a maniac.

Angela Smith

Listen: Avalanches >> "Frontier Psychiatrist"

2000 : 24 "Touch Deprivation," by Diane Cluck


They did a similar experiment in New York
And this is what they did:
They rolled out the sheets of tarmac
And sliced them into grid
Then they filled the maze with people
But they told them not to touch
They convinced them it weren't civilized
And we believed as much
Why do you apologize
When you bump into my arm on the train?
And you apologize three times
Like it really caused anyone harm or pain
Being bumped into
Do you know you are the first person
To touch me in a month?
And sometimes I like the feeling of accidental touch

I am amazed when a song writer captures something I have felt in my life so well. It is something I have gone though and this song hit the idea completely. There is something about living in a city where you do not know anyone, when you are alone, when you have not touched anyone in as many days as you can remember.

As Diane Cluck sings about this feeling her guitar is a perfect guide though this world. It makes me think about someone ice skating through this song. It is always behind the voice, not taking away from it.

There are few better expressions of loneliness and alienation than this song. Even with all that, the song is still optimistic. There is still a chance for us to use our skin for our language. This song makes me want to cry for all sorts of reasons.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Diane Cluck >> "Touch Deprivation"

Saturday, June 13, 2009

2000 : 23 "The Koln Konzert," by Vert (covering Keith Jarrett)

For those unfamiliar with Keith Jarrett's solo piano performances, here's what you need to know: one man, one piano, a packed house—a date with genius, or not. Some of Jarrett's solo improvisatory performances are monuments to how a virtuoso bent on self-exploration can startle an audience into rapture and recognition (The Köln Concert, Vienna Concert), while some are monuments to how said virtuoso might never pass through fertile terrain on the journey (Paris Concert). What interests me about them is that—unlike Vert's stellar glitch interpretation/deconstruction/celebration of Jarrett's renowned '75 Köln concert—the solo performances exhibit a familiar (and comforting, I must say) orientation toward the self: we're repositories for discovery, 99% pure at the core, if not completely knowable then at least available where it counts if the vision-quest is vigorous enough. Very '70s, very Romantic—and not bad at all in my estimation. But Vert's The Köln Konzert takes Jarrett into the 21st century. And though it's less searching and dramatic, it's no less triumphant. Whereas Jarrett's tendency in the solo performances is to vamp for an extended period over one or two repeated chords until something clicks and he takes off in a flurry of improvisation, Vert, in his own solo Köln concert (FYI, performed in a Köln bar) isolates and simplifies critical Jarrett motifs, blends them with the requisite digital whirrs and glimmers of the genre...and produces entrancing music. The piece gets its power from the way Vert plays on the listener’s memory of Jarrett's Köln. Recognizable fragments drift into focus, sometimes disappear too quickly, sometimes get stuck and repeat. Vert's Köln also conjures a 21st century vision of mind-space, which makes it good fodder for this Y2K retrospective and an interesting contrast with its muse: the piece is full of floating debris, the partially glimpsed—and a few really important themes Vert won't let go of no matter what. This is why, when the primary theme from Jarrett's composition emerges cleanly at the end of Vert's, free of blips and sonic mirages, I tear up if I'm listening—rather than having one of my ADD moments. Vert plays it on something that sounds like a glockenspiel and the theme—impelled and yearning in the original, though fragile—is tender here, as if it survived the storm by getting smaller, like a Key Deer. It suggests to me that the core humanist ideals of the '70s—and our essential memories—haven't been obliterated by the march of time, they've just changed. Not bad at all.

Eric Burger

Listen: Vert >> "The Köln Konzert: Part Five"

2000 : 22 "The Crystal Lake," by Grandaddy

I was living in Columbus, OH when I received a copy of this album (The Sophtware Slump) from my cousin in California. I loved it, and still do, and remember thinking that this is what California sounded like (I still hadn't been), which is a perhaps odd association, even though they were from CA. A few months later, I visited my cousin. We hiked Muir Woods, and then we drove down 1 (or is it 101? I can’t remember) to San Francisco, listening to this album. Right as we came around a bend, and the Pacific came into view for the first time, this song came on. True story. Looking back, I think the "We gotta get outta here" refrain must've been potent back then too, as that was exactly how I felt about living in Columbus. No offense, Columbus. I love you, but we would've killed each other.

Patrick Culliton

Listen: Grandaddy >> "The Crystal Lake"

Friday, June 12, 2009

2000 : 21 "There's Too Much Love," by Belle and Sebastian

I could dance all night like I'm a soul boy
But I know I'd rather drag myself across the dance floor
I feel like dancing on my own
Where no one knows me, and where I
Can cause offence just by the way I look

Belle & Sebastian is one of the few bands that makes me think that I listened to The Smiths and got the right lessons. "There's Too Much Love" has the right combo of catchy lyrics and interesting melody that makes songs contagious. When I hear this song I can imagine Stuart Murdoch sitting around his room listening to "How Soon is Now."

I also think they did a good job as a 7-piece band. They use the size of the band to make the songs interesting, not large. I think that is what makes "There's Too Much Love" interesting. It does not sound like a typical pop or rock song.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Belle & Sebastian >> "There's Too Much Love"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

2000 : 20 "Feel Good Hit of the Summer," by Queens of the Stone Age

Queens of the Stone Age is a band featuring the guy who used to be in Kyuss, which is kind of a dubious pedigree as far as I'm concerned, and I wouldn't say that they were a great band. But I'm glad they existed, if only for "Feel Good Hit of the Summer," a song in which the lyrical content consists entirely of a list of recreational drugs, repeated unto excess. Should you appreciate it as a song built around a formal constraint? Or as a uniquely explicit representation of the Dionysian linkage between substance abuse and rock musicianship? Uh, sure, but for my money the song's real value simply inheres in the way it evokes a lifestyle so hedonistic that it would kill the most of us very quickly, were we to adopt it. This ignites a special kind of vicarious pleasure in the listener's head, and I'd argue that that type of pleasure is one of the fundamental reasons popular music even exists in the first place. Enjoy!

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Queens of the Stone Age >> "Feel Good Hit of the Summer"

2000 : 19 "Remember the Mountain Bed," by Billy Bragg and Wilco

Do you still sing of the mountain bed we made of limbs and leaves:
Do you still sigh there near the sky where the holly berry bleeds:
You laughed as I covered you over with leaves, face, breast, hips and thighs
You smiled when I said the leaves were just the color of your eyes.

Memory is a strong thing. I first heard this song driving down the Alameda in San Jose. I was lost, but I kept on driving thinking that if I kept doing one direction I would get to someplace I recognized. It worked just as I finished hearing this song for the first time.

I went to see Wilco alone in San Jose. I remember crying when I heard this song. It was so beautiful to hear live, I thought my heart would burst. Maybe it was just that I did not have anyone to play this song for. I walked home singing this song to myself.

Jeff Tweedy played this song in his solo concert. He asked everyone to be quite and walked out to the edge of the stage, with his back to the mic. He started playing this song and everyone in the concert hall was quiet. We all held our breaths so we could hear him better. At least that is the way I remember it.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Billy Bragg and Wilco >> "Remember the Mountain Bed"

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2000 : 18 "I See A Darkness," by Johnny Cash (covering Bonnie 'Prince' Billy)

A Bonnie 'Prince' Billy cover, and on it Will Oldham sings backup, but the Johnny Cash version is superior in every way. Yet more proof that sometimes a cover version can be even greater than the sum of its (original song + different artist) parts. Cash's weary, rich voice is perfect for the subject matter: camaraderie, depression, suicide, and yet also hope.

Angela Smith

Listen: Johnny Cash >> "I See A Darkness"

2000 : 17 "Sonic Wind," by Calexico

"Sonic Wind" by Calexico reminds me of the view of the Sonoran desert landscape from the highway—cholla, mesquites, saguaroes, and the jag of mountains in the distance. I like the urgency and the expanse.

Hannah Haas

Listen: Calexico >> "Sonic Wind"

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

2000 : 16 "3rd Planet," by Modest Mouse

The universe is shaped exactly like the earth if you go straight long enough you'll end up where you were

There have been points where I have felt like part of an atom. I feel tightly packed, yet there are big voids between my neutrons and electrons. I feel both small and empty. That is the feeling I get from this song. We all feel like we are watched, we all feel like we are alone, we all feel like we are crowded. Over and over again the pattern repeats, even when you change scale. I think that is why this song works so well.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Modest Mouse >> "3rd Planet"

2000 : 15 "Her Ghost in the Fog," by Cradle of Filth

While other bands were negotiating the millennium variously, (they were n'sync or blue da da dee da da da) Cradle of Filth was chasing Her Voice in the Fog. Long the provenance of metal, and taken to new commercial and sometimes comical heights by King Diamond in the late '80s, the literate neo-baroque comes into its own on this black metal mass-terpiece. Of course, thematically, there's nothing new about employing satan to pursue alabaster women. It just rarely sounds this good. Blast beats come standard with the genre, but Dani Filth's vocal range, the addition of Martin Powell on keys, and Ms. Sarah Jezebel Deva's operatics are so fucking fine that modern Goody Browns might just stick to the woods.

Justin Timberdrake

Listen: Cradle of Filth >> "Her Ghost in the Fog"

Monday, June 8, 2009

2000 : 14 "Kingdom (Restoration)," by VNV Nation

Chances are, if you visited a nightclub which played goth or industrial music at any point in the early Aughts, you heard this track. You might even have danced to it. That's okay, no one has to know. My peers always seem a touch embarrassed about any part of their histories which involves goth clubs. Recording technology allows us to swoop and stomp in the privacy of our own homes, nowadays. You probably thought these guys were German, too, am I right? It's a perfectly understandable mistake. Actually, Mark is British and Ronan is Irish. They are nice chaps, by all accounts. The album this remix is on, Standing/Burning Empires, is one of the finest ever released in the genre known variously as synthpop, EBM, or futurepop. But hey, I'm just making small talk. The fact is, I wish I had a more eloquent description of this song than "argh, it's just so fucking GOOD!" I really don't. You will just need to listen to it. It is so, so fucking good.

Angela Smith

Listen: VNV Nation >> "Kingdom (Restoration)"

Sunday, June 7, 2009

2000 : 13 "Ink and Needles," by Diane Cluck


He says, "Why are you bare?
Bare as the day, day
you were born from your mother?"
I say, "So you can tattoo me
with the marks of a lover."

What amazes me about "Ink & Needles" is how intimate the song is. Every time I hear it I think about people and my relationship with them. It reminds me how close you can be with someone else, but they are always on the other side of your skin. Even if you are close to them they are far away. I think Diana Cluck's voice captures this well.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Diane Cluck >> "Ink & Needles"

2000 : 12 "reflection. refraction. (third bench)" by steve roden

perhaps anyone who knows the slightest bit of my musical interests would find it redundant that i selected steve roden for this particular post. however, since he is a "desert island" favorite of mine, it proved inevitable, especially after sifting through my collection and realizing how much of an enormous impression his second trente oiseaux release four possible landscapes has made on me. it is in fact an album that really shapes much of what i listen to today.

when i first listened to this disc i was working as an artist's assistant embroidering abstracted images onto large scale canvases. i remember hearing the sounds as they seemed to reflect my very own activities—plucking, dripping of paint, thread pulling through layers of pigment and open weave... the sounds seemed to trickle out into my apartment space and gracefully seep and bleed through the air. the experience was incredibly moving for me and after hearing his earlier work, it was the threshold of a new realm of listening.

the track included here is "reflection. refraction. (third bench)." steve mentions in the liner notes that in some parts he used recordings of a light switch from a cabin house. my only guess is that this may be what one might be hearing. in any case, whatever space or object it stemmed from, it is truly one of the most beautiful, emotive, and poetic musical abstractions that has ever made its way into my ears...

artist: inbetweennoise.com
label: http://klangstaub.com/trenteoiseaux/shop.html

diane granahan

Listen: steve roden >> "reflection. refraction. (third bench)"

Saturday, June 6, 2009

2000 : 11 "Sweepstakes Prize" by Mirah

Most anyone who has spent much time making mixes has made at least one mix that was intended for a person who they were romantically interested in. To really make a "courtship mix" with the requisite fervor, one must believe that certain songs possess an almost magical capacity to seduce the listener. People who believe this, of course, are themselves not immune to the seductive capacity of song, and may in fact be even more susceptible to it than the average person. And so, every once in a while, a mix-maker comes upon a song that causes them to fall into swoon, and they can only hope that this song will never be aimed at them with seductive intent, for they know in their bones that they would be helpless to resist whoever wielded it. To many people, Mirah's 2000 track "Sweepstakes Prize" may simply be a run-of-the-mill indie-pop confection, but when I first heard it I knew it was a song that was personally irresistible, and I reacted to my discovery of it with a sort of hideous chill, the same way one might react to discovering a bullet with one's name engraved upon it.

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Mirah >> "Sweepstakes Prize"

2000 : 10 "Everyone Needs an Editor" by Mates of State

I feel right all the time
I am right all the time

I love the sound of the organ and the drums together. I like their choice to just use those two instruments. It is simple and complex all at the same time. The interplay between the two of them makes the song. Organ v. Drums, Voice v. Voice, Woman v. Man, Wife v. Husband—this song captures all those things. I listen to this song over and over again trying to find out what I can learn about the Mates of State.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Mates of State >> "Everyone Needs An Editor"

Friday, June 5, 2009

2000 : 09 "Strayed" by ((smog))

Despite its silly tittle, (smog)'s 2000's release Dongs of Sevotion is a haunting collection of deeply intimate and disturbing songs. (Perhaps he was trying to say that despite attempting devotion, he is just too deeply mixed up to pull it off.)

Focusing on the topics of sex and death, the album gives me the feeling of listening to a confession at a death bed. My heart aches and pangs along with the sparse pumping rhythms that propel us along. Unfortunately, the sheer magnetism of this album is the journey (my double-feature set would package this with Lou Reed's magnificent Berlin), making it nearly impossible for me to choose a representative song.

Yet, I have decided to take it easy on any listener who has not heard this album and offer up the slow, Velvet-Underground-inspired groove of "Strayed". Perhaps the most beautiful and least heavy song included, this is the closest we will ever get to an apology. The man that many have referred to as a misogynist and a creep is not without his faults here, but I am almost ready to forgive him.

"I have been an alley cat and a bumble bee to your panther and your wasp," he states, accepting his faults, but not leaving her without the responsibility of being a predator herself. He has recognized his mistakes and the path that he has strayed down, the one that has led him to becoming one of "those men", the lonely desperate kind with pin-ups on their wall.

Don't worry Bill, if I can't forgive you, at least I understand.

E. P. Johnson

Listen: ((smog)) >> "Strayed"

2000 : 08 "The Fool" by Pelican City (covering Neutral Milk Hotel)


I know it is just a re-mix. I know they just took the original instrumental track from "The Fool" and added some extra beats and a synth. I know they did not do that much to this track, but is just different enough to mean something. It is just different enough that I can listen to it over and over again. It is just enough to take root in my brain. I know it is not much, but it is more than enough. When I hear this now I wonder why more people have not remixed other Neutral Milk Hotel tracks.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Pelican City, "The Fool"

Thursday, June 4, 2009

2000 : 07 "Solid" by the Dandy Warhols

Anyone who has seen the 2004 documentary Dig, about the musical and personal rivalry between the Dandy Warhols and another band, can attest to at least one thing: this group is comprised of total assholes. Seriously, kids, don't do drugs! This song has all the Californian pop snark of "Bohemian Like You" but seems to be directed more at their fellow jerks Brian Jonestown Massacre than at hipsters in general, which makes it even juicier; a dis served with a wink and a coked-up smile. Hilarious, but also good enough musically to make me shake my head in dismay at the stupid antics this band gets up to. Then again, could they have managed to create this sober? Now there's something to ponder.

Angela Smith

Listen: The Dandy Warhols >> "Solid"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

2000 : 06 "Shake It 'N' Break It," by Baby Gramps

  While this album was released in 2000, I didn't actually hear Baby Gramps until about 2004 or 2005. I was in a party in the woods at an anarchist commune and some girl was pushing a shopping cart playing a really lo-fi folk song of the weirdest aspect I'd ever heard. His voice was gravelly, then rubber band stretching up to ridiculous heights, full of pauses and exclamations, some Anthology of American Folk Music from some pleasantly schizophrenic elf. I figured it was the woods and my stoned state that made it seem so odd. A few years later I found out it was actually much stranger and more wonderful than I thought.

Baby Gramps is idiosyncracy embodied. His guitar playing, demeanor, and vast range of vocal approaches are masterful, exciting, and imbued with hilarity. At his shows, crowd participation is mandatory and it's always fun to take a look at the rows of smiling folk of all ages. If Baby Gramps doesn't bring a smile to your face, there is something seriously wrong with you and I don't want to be your friend.

Chris Pollina

Listen: Baby Gramps >> "Shake It 'N' Break It"

2000 : 05 "Sad Sweetheart of The Rodeo," by Harvey Danger

The Marlboro Man died of cancer
and he wasn't a rocket scientist when he was healthy. ("ha ha ha.")
She took one last gulp of his soft city condescension
and blasted off from his little launch pad to parts west.
Sad sweetheart of the rodeo.
Wahoo, not an urban legend now.
Sad sweetheart of the rodeo.
(Lonesome Cowboy Bill, where are you?)

I loved the first Harvey Danger album. I thought it was great outside of the one hit they had. It was an album that really had an effect on me. It really seemed to fit that moment in my life when it first came out. It was a few years between their first and second album. I was not about to run out to buy the second album as soon as it was released. I was in a different place in my life.

I was working at TiVo at the time and we were watching a lot of MTV2 and Much Music in our cubicle. It was an easy way to pass the time while we worked. I remember the first time I saw the video for this song, I turned up the volume to listen. I was hooked right away and bought the album quickly after that. I think this is the last album I bought on the strength of one video.

I love the narrative of this song. The story of a woman who works in an office and hates her job. There are two or three women I knew at that time who fit this description. People who wanted to escape the life they were living were pretty big even with the dot.com boom. I knew a few women who felt they should be someplace else.

In the video it is clear that the singer is watching a woman who is thinking this. He is watching her. I think I had a crush on one or two of those women who wanted to be someplace else. They were thinking about some distant life while I was thinking about them. Yeah, this song struck home a little.

Rich Thomas

Listen: Harvey Danger >> "Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

2000 : 04 "Why I Write Such Good Songs," by Kleenex Girl Wonder


In a fair world, this band would be as big as the New Pornographers. Let's get to work on that, shall we? This song is a good place to start: bright, peppy, and with lyrics that make me want to make out with the singer.

Angela Smith

Listen: Kleenex Girl Wonder >> "Why I Write Such Good Songs"

2000 : 03 "Letter From An Occupant " by The New Pornographers

What the last ten minutes have taught me
Bet the hand that your money's on

I hear this song and I want to explode. I want to dance, sing along at the top of my lungs, drive my car well above the speed limit, and scream into the air. I want to rock when I hear this song. This song makes me want to be: there is nothing more I can ask for.

The whole album Mass Romantic says one thing to me: "Let's Go!" The New Pornographers do an amazing thing: they reference a 60's British Pop/Rock style without ever being nostalgic. It has a kind of life and vitality that made that music work back then and now.

For the love of a god, you say
Not a letter from an occupant
The song
The song
The song has shaken me

Rich Thomas

Listen: The New Pornographers >> "Letter From An Occupant"

Monday, June 1, 2009

2000 : 02 "Mountain Music," by Momus

Rich Thomas and I occasionally debate which music-related events from the 1990s cast the longest shadow over the music of the Aughts. At the top of my list is usually the 1997 reissue of Harry Smith's great Anthology of American Folk Music. Pretty much everyone who bought a copy of the reissued Anthology immediately went out and bought a banjo or a fiddle, and would end up doing at least a short stint in a freak-folk band by the end of the decade. Needless to say, this also led to a lot of engaging head-clutching about issues of authenticity and fake authenticity: i.e., is is OK to go around emulating the music of (say) hardscrabble West Virginian working-class people if you're (say) a white kid from some middle-class suburb somewhere? But issues of authenticity are awfully tricky, and this fact is nicely pointed out by cultural wag Momus on his 2000 album Folktronica. This track, "Mountain Music," points out (and embraces?) the oddity of appropriating old-time music for a modern context while simultaneously critiquing our entire notion of authenticity, pointing out the ways in which it's a distorting (and comforting) illusion. Representative verse: "It never was so simple / it never was so pure / the folks who made it never were / so ignorant and poor / They traveled round the world / and never stayed where they belonged / and if they had we'd never have / these lovely mountain songs."

Jeremy Bushnell

Listen: Momus >> "Mountain Music"

2000 : 01 "Vinyl Coda III" by Philip Jeck

The Aesthetics of Decay. Artists as diverse as Bill Morrison, Andrew Goldsworthy, and Jeremy Bushnell have addressed it in their work. I thought it would be interesting in the first year of a new century to look at an artist and a piece of music that consciously looks back at a medium that, while certainly outdated, is still revered among some audiophiles for its warmth, physicality, and ritualistic aspects.

I first heard of Jeck through his Vinyl Requiem installation in 1993, which was a performance for 180 Dansette record players which he salvaged from old junk shops and trash bins. Each turntable spun, simultaneously, a different scratched, warped, and sometimes broken piece of discarded musical history. Warbly opera singers balanced atop the echoes of distant marimba patterns, melting string quartets dissolve into a patina of surface hiss. Layer upon layer of sound and memory was piled atop of each other, until it became a dense thicket of loss and rebirth. However, not merely content to set the Dansettes off spinning and let them go, Jeck does quite a bit of manipulating of the sounds, balancing unintended surprise with artistic vision and forethought. In fact, it wasn't until the Vinyl Coda series of concerts for Dutch radio in 1999, eventually released on CD in 2000 and 2001, that Jeck mastered this difficult medium, able to sculpt these excavations of buried music from the last century into something more than nostalgia, transcending their original sources and combining them into a new coherent piece that challenges a disposable culture's fixed notions of temporality and progress.

This excerpt is from Vinyl Coda III, recorded at the end of the last century (November 28, 1999), released in 2000.

Darren DeMonsi

Listen: Philip Jeck >> "Vinyl Coda III" (An excerpt: minutes 32 through 42.)