I have completed my extra credit assignment, compiling my top albums of the decade. I decided to do things a little different for this posting. Instead of writing about how great I think these ten albums are, I've decided to share the fond memories I have of each album. A little self-indulgent? Yes. But hopefully you are entertained by these yarns. I had a lot of fun looking back and reflecting on these albums.
I was going to have Dungen – Ta Det Lught as my 10th selection, but on Friday when I informed George of my list, he berated me for 5 minutes for not putting The College Dropout on my list. I believe he threatened to smash a glass over his head, put a cigarette out in my eye, and a few other things, which I can’t remember as they were rapidly fired at me and I couldn’t stop laughing to hear everything. But, he’s right. College Dropout…man I played the shit out of that album. I remember hanging out after bar at George’s, another late night of drinking, toppers and MTV Jams, back in the fall of 2003. The video for Thru the Wire came on and we were hooked. This wasn’t the uber-ego Kanye that we all love to hate in 2009 – he was humble, down to earth, an everyman in a world of mainstream hip hop that was dominated by Lil Jon and 50 Cent. Getting to see Kanye perform a set at the Rave before the fame was amazing – as was the guy in the backwards Clyde Drexler jersey standing by us.
I got to see Hope of the States in Chicago and learned a very valuable lesson: Bands from Europe have no idea where Whitewater, Wisconsin is and if you tell the drummer that you are the WSUW Program Director, they will buy you and your friends vodka tonics til 4 AM. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that Chad and I had a couple lovely Finnish women in tow, but it was very enjoyable, drinking with the band (minus the lead singer) after enjoying them performing a fantastic set. After the bar, they let us hang out on their tour bus while Chad got his car, which allowed me to have my “Almost Famous” moment of the decade. As I followed behind Lauramaria and Sini, the band led us to the back of the bus where their mysteriously brooding (asshole?) lead singer was hanging out. He very graciously greeted the girls, but once he saw me, he gave me a look of “who the hell is this guy and why is he on our tour bus”. Once his bandmate informed him that I was the program director of the high-profile radio station WSUW, he jumped out of his seat to shake my hand, ask how I liked the show was, etc. The only thing colder than his initial greeting to me was the car ride back to Whitewater – Chad’s heat didn’t work in his car. Eek!
#8 The Strokes - Is This It
2001 was a bit of a transformative year for me musically. I did, do, and will always love me some classic rock & brit rock, but the summer of 2001 found me absolutely bored with the whole ‘jam band’ scene that had dominated listening habits for the previous two years and I needed something new to sink my teeth into. Is This It (and before that, The Modern Age) was exactly what I needed to rejuvenate my interest in new music. Of course, being the fickle music snob that I am, my interest in The Strokes was short lived (Room on Fire? Yuck!) and one fond memory I have is my friend Anne showing up at Denny K’s sporting a t-shirt with The Strokes logo on it and coming up to me to preemptively apologize for wearing it. That was weird on a number of different levels, but since my music snobbery/assholeness does not discriminate and knows no bounds, it kinda made sense.
#7 Sigur Ros - Ágætis byrjun
Our generation had our “Where were you when JFK was shot” moment in 2001, when the World Trade Center was attacked. My “What were you doing on 9-11” answer will always include Ágætis byrjun. Living in a house with 9 other guys, there were a wide variety of reactions to the attacks. One of my roommates bought a quarter barrel of beer, a few others panicked and waiting in line for an hour to fill their gas tanks up because “the gas is going to run out”, while I reflected on the attacks by enjoying the quarter barrel in my room with Jeff and Jamie. The three of us watched the news coverage with the television muted, lights dimmed, and listened to Ágætis byrjun on repeat. It was quite surreal and hypnotic, watching slow motion footage of the planes slamming into the towers while Svefn-g-englar blared. The music seemed to match up perfectly with the visuals, not unlike Wizard of Oz & Dark Side of the Moon. Having said that, the whole experience creeped the hell out of me and I don’t think I’ve listened to the album from start to finish since 9-11.
#6 Avalanches - Since I Left You
Had a lot of good times listening to this album. Seemed to be a staple, along with Beverly Hills 90210, at George’s apartment in Whitewater on those hung over Friday mornings when all we would want to do is lay around to regain our strength to go out partying later that day. I remember laughing hysterically the first time we listened to Frontier Psychiatrist- “That boy needs therapy!” It had me hooked on first listen, but the samples are layered so well that every time we would listen to the album, we could find something new and interesting in the songs. Still waiting for that follow-up, maybe 2010? Getting samples cleared is a bitch, I guess.
#5 The National - Alligator
It was a real toss up, trying to decide between Boxer & Alligator, but I chose Alligator because I don’t have any humorous memories or stories about Boxer. Two years ago, during our annual Whitewater alumni Wisconsin Dells trip, our post-bar drinking turned into a sing-along that lasted until the sun began to rise. While most of the night/early morning was dominated by drunken renditions of Oasis songs, the highlight for me was hearing Mr. Mark Malone belt out Mr. November. Every time I hear that song, I think of Mark, one foot resting on the seat of a chair, using his Miller Lite can as a microphone, singing Mr. November. Of course, Mark decided to create some alternate lyrics for the chorus- sometimes it was “I’m not fucking sober, I’m Mr. November!” other times it was “I won’t fuck her sober, I’m Mr. November!” It’s one of those moments that will always live in my memory and I think about every time I hear the song.
#4 The White Stripes - White Blood Cells
I really don’t know why so many people/publications rank Elephant over White Blood Cells on their top albums of the decade list. I guess that’s where the whole “personal preference” thing comes into play. Love this album from start to finish and I have Mr. Jeff Tyree to thank for introducing me to them. I remember him bringing this album over to Regent apartments in Whitewater, sit me down and make me listen to it. I was a little hesitant because the band was being showered with the hyperbolic praise that NME usually bestows upon 5 to 10 different bands a year. This time they were right, though. One of my favorite concerts of the decade was when I got to see the band perform at (I think) Shank Hall. They really blew me away.
#3 Libertines - Up The Bracket
Strangely enough, I don’t really have any good stories about Up The Bracket. It’s easily one of my favorite albums of the decade and any time I would go to Vox (RIP), I’d throw some money on the jukebox and, assuming I was drunk enough, do my best Pete Doherty impression to either The Good Old Days, Time For Heroes, or Up The Bracket. Actually now that I think of it, I do have a story. This album partially contributed to one of the low-lights of the decade for me. Driving home from the bars on I-94, I saw my Up The Brackets cd laying on the passenger side floor of my car and decided I’d reach down and listen to it. Obviously not the best idea, since the Federales were on to me shortly afterwards. I’m not going to say it was worth it, but the album is so good that I don’t hold a grudge.
#2 Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, Thats What I'm Not
Besides the music, the thing that makes the Arctic Monkey’s debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, so great and indicative of music in the ‘00s is that they owe a large part of their early success to things like Myspace, file sharing, etc. The band built their fanbase and fueled the hype and anticipation for their debut album by putting a collection of their demos on their website. When I went with Chad to see them perform in March 2006 at the Metro in Chicago, not only was it the most packed concert I had seen at the Metro, but the entire crowd were singing along to songs that wouldn’t be “officially” released for another couple months. A few months earlier on New Years Eve, also at the Metro, Chad, Clinton and I decided it would be a good idea to talk to a group of girls in British accents and claim we were the Arctic Monkeys. We correctly assumed that, at the time, the girls had no idea who the band was and looking back, I wonder whether they a) tell their friends that they partied with the Arctic Monkeys or b) look back an laugh at those drunken fools with crappy fake accents, claiming the be the Arctic Monkeys. Either way it was quite entertaining.
#1 Radiohead - Kid A
Its funny that an album that is universally accepted as one of the best albums of the decade, was one of the most polarizing albums of the decade when it first came out. I remember in 2001 sitting in Alison Thurner’s basement getting into extremely heated (drunken) arguments with friends who would impersonate Radiohead performing songs from Kid A by miming typing on a keyboard (You remember that, Freer?!?). Now, you can look at those same people and they’ve grown to love the album. For instance, Freer has on his Facebook page (yah, I’m stalking) Kid A as one of the 15 albums that “had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it”. But what I’ll remember most of this album is that this is probably the first album (at least that I remember) that I obtained as a “leak” on the internet before it was available in stores.I remember being blown away at first listen, burning copies and running them over to friends’ dorm rooms because they HAD to hear this. Its common place nowadays, but it seemed crazy at the time. Combine this novelty with the albums’ futuristic, decade defining sound, and you have THE album of the decade. Kid A changed everything. (Side note: Their performance @ Grant Park in support of Kid A was the best concert I saw this decade. Third encore of True Love Waits was unbelievable!)