Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Top 6.666666 Albums of the First 2/3 of the '00s

August 31, 2006 marked the end of the first two-thirds of the decade. To celebrate, I'm making lists.

Top 6.666666 Albums of the First 2/3 of the '00s

I Am The Orange Prince
- Lock Up Your Daughters (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003)

The late lamented trio's second and final album gets the coveted "2/3" spot because this disc was never released. I could burn you a copy if you really wanted it. I may be biased by the fact that I'm collaborating on a screenplay with the guitarist, that I used to married to the bassist, and that I've been good friends with the keyboardist/producer/multi-instrumentalist since back in '84 when we learned the intricacies of the "glorified adding machine" in a stuffy meeting room in Edina, MN . I could be biased by the fact that I wrote the chorus to Moons In June. But this list isn't about my personal connections. No, it's about the joyous songs. From the Amish-emo Gregorian chant of On Our Honor to the post-Human League sizzle of Jamie to the positively Eitzelian crooning that drives Martian Meadows Metals, this band sounds like they're having fun and that fun is awfully infectious!

The Naked Dutch Painter and Other Songs
- Stew (2002)

L.A.'s best songwriter still hasn't released his masterpiece (either solo or with his band the Negro Problem) but this is close enough. The title song evokes a memorable trip to Europe (really who hasn't known at least one naked Dutch painter in his/her life, whether in Amsterdam or Garden Grove?) The Drug Suite includes the line "Adams and Crenshaw is beautiful" and you know what? It is. Love Is Coming Through The Door is a modern pop masterpiece. And so on. Plus - I saw Stew and bandmate/girlfriend(?) Heidi in the Grove parking lot once. They seemed like good people.

Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lake State

- Sufjan Stevens (2003)

On the first of his series of albums for every state, Sufjan Stevens nails his home state's beauty/tragedy/ethos/history in a way that he didn't exactly do with his follow-up (itself a candidate for this list if it were 9.999999999 entries long) Illinois. Especially tasty tracks include Flint (For The Unemployed And Underpaid) and Romulus. (shout out to Michigan!)

4. The Ghost of Fashion
- Clem Snide (2001)

Shakespeare painted the Mona Lisa. DaVinci built the pyramids. Kennedy freed the slaves. Eef Barzelay wrote Joan Jett of Arc:

She’d fix me a dinner of sunflower seeds
And ready-whipped topping inhalers
And take me down south with Hall and Oates in her mouth
My first love, my Joan Jett of Arc

My black heart was heavy
But her mom’s Cougar was fast
As little pink houses were whistles
And it was all you can eat at the Sizzler that night
My steak-burning Joan Jett of Arc

The shopping malls and roller rinks all dimmed their lights
Cicadas and crickets were silent
And the train tracks like stitches skidding bicycle tires
As I slipped in my Joan Jett of Arc

And the birds that were crushed
Once had air in their bones
As oil was refined in her honor

The rest of the songs are nice too, though Moment In The Sun is forever marred by its placement as the theme song to the TV series Ed (really? an annoying guy moves back home and opens a bowling alley - that's your show?)

3. Liz Phair (2003)

I really wanted to put this at #1, to stick it to those critics who trashed this album 3 years ago (
I'm too old to use the word "haters" otherwise I would yo.) But I just couldn't do it. #3 seems right. Here are some examples of the critics' misguided words:
  • "it might as well not even exist"
  • "to her discarded fans, at least, she's given the ultimate finger"
  • "shallow, soulless, confused"
  • "pop-by-numbers disaster"
  • "endless barrage of banalities"
  • "trite and shrill"
  • "crass and bloated"
  • "grotesque exercise in self-parody"
My reaction: Sweet songs, fun production, her best vocals ever, and yeah it's not quite at the level of her first three albums, including greatest-album-of-all-time Whip-Smart, but I implore you to listen to it loud in a car with windows open and/or top down. You'll understand.

2. American III: Solitary Man
- Johnny Cash (2000)

You may prefer American IV, with its serviceable covers of bad Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode songs. I prefer this album, with its amazing covers of bad Neil Diamond and Nick Cave songs and great Tom Petty and Bonnie "Prince" Billy songs. And if your heart doesn't break and then get stitched back together when listening to his version of U2's One, you don't belong in my world.

1. Separation Sunday
- The Hold Steady (2005)

I've written better about this before. After repeated (and repeated and repeated) listens over the past 16 months, I feel the same way if not stronger. Craig Finn's singing and lyrics are pretty much flawless. The other guys play their instruments well. I haven't lived these songs but I've felt them. I don't like to make lists but here's a list of my 5 favorite couplets from the album (slashes and uppercasing added by me):
  • 5.
  • She crashed into the Easter mass with her hair done up in broken glass/
  • She was limping left on broken heels when she said "Father can I tell your congregation how a resurrection really feels?"
  • 4.
  • When we hit the Twin Cities I didn't know that much about it/
  • I knew Mary Tyler Moore and I knew profane existence.

  • 3.
  • City Center used to be the center of the scene/
  • Now City Center's over. no one really goes there

  • 2.
  • She said I really like the crowds at the really big shows/
  • People touching people that they don't even know, yo

  • 1.
  • Tramps like us/
  • And we like tramps


John said...

'I Am the Orange Prince' can be found here.

Sorry, still no link for artwork. :(

You Made Me Cry Tonite said...

I remember Lock Up Your Daughters! They were having fun. And that fun was awfully infectious. Well, it was fairly infectious. More like the sniffles than the whooping cough, tho.