2001 is a hard one for me – not for lack of great music, but more because I was a depressed human making bad decisions during most of that year, and come that September, the national climate took its own downturn. The feels, man. Let’s have them.
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger – Daft Punk
But first: Daft Punk Dance Party Time! Though they were known for some more unusual videos, honestly, I’d rather just listen to the songs. I sat through this sequence of anime and felt a mixture of boredom and discomfort from the flashing visuals. Even before I had fibromyalgia-related sensory issues, I’ve never really been one to get too excited over this style of animation. Still, this is a great song.
Izzo (H.O.V.A) – Jay-Z
It took me a long time to properly appreciate Jay-Z, at least five years after this song was first released. In 2001, I was mostly annoyed that MTV seemed to play his videos constantly, and he was all over Rolling Stone, to which I subscribed at the time. Now though, I dig him. I don’t put him on often, but when I do, it’s a good time.
Living After Midnight – The Donnas
Because, truthfully, I was still a punk eighteen-year-old, and despite my inexplicable love for early-to-mid-’90s gangsta rap, I had no idea how to appreciate good hip hop yet. Instead, I would blast The Donnas in my car, particularly this Judas Priest cover. Maybe I didn’t always look like what someone would consider “punk,” but to me, punk rock is all about the attitude. The Donnas do not give one single fuck what you think they should be doing, and I love them for it.
Life on a Chain – Pete Yorn
Oh, poor Pete Yorn. When I saw him open for Weezer in 2002 (whose “green” album also came out in 2001), the university campus guys running the sound did not do a good job. The sound was all guitar and the vocals needed to be turned way up. After hearing the crowd murmur ahead of time, “Who is Pete Yorn, anyway?” and me saying, “No, he’s great. I have his album, trust me,” I doubt he won any new fans that night. When Weezer came on, they adjusted their sound manually from the stage and sounded much better. I hope the rest of the tour was better.
Still, yes, musicforthemorningafter is a good album, and “Life on a Chain” is the opening song and sounds particularly good on headphones. I bought it in Florida at the Virgin Megastore in Downtown Disney, the summer after I graduated high school. He’s still around, and I own his second album too, but the first one is still my favorite.
Dear Old Greenland – Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire
My husband has played The Swimming Hour about eleventy-gerbillion times over the course of our eleven year relationship. I wanted to talk about “Too Long,” the Mississppi Sheiks cover on the album, as it’s one of my favorites, but YouTube is not forthcoming and “Dear Old Greenland” is a close second. The lyrics are amusing:
Greenland is a place where souls go to dry out
It is a vast and terrifying place full of ice fields and tundra
Bereft of fire and in the horror of its imposing irrelevance
there’s a sort of peace
piece of pain, piece of nothing
Well, friends, I tell you what
I’m going there…
Grey – Ani DiFranco
No, 2001 was not the most mentally stable year for me. I was fighting with my then-boyfriend a lot, and us not breaking up when I moved three hours away for college didn’t help, particularly because I expedited the breakup by dating other people. Plus, I was a long way off from being diagnosed with depression, so my brain was not in a good spot.
I saw Ani DiFranco play that fall, shortly after the release of Reveling/Reckoning, and in my screwed up head-space, I made the mistake of saying to then-boyfriend that “Grey” reminded me of us. Oh, yes, I see how that looked to him – “What kind of paradise am I looking for? / I’ve got everything I wanted / and still I want more” – but somehow that sad-loneliness wasn’t what I meant. The part I was thinking of, but failed to articulate was:
And what can I say
but I’m wired this way
and you’re wired to me
and what I can do but wallow in you
And even that, in retrospect, still says a lot about the health of our relationship. Unsurprisingly, it ended shortly after that. He wrote his own depressing song called “Grey Day,” got all the girls to swoon, “Oh you poor, broken-hearted thing,” and I went on to date the future-mister – The future-mister who had been biding his time for me to sort out myself before we were anything more than friends.
People, sometimes we can be really shitty to each other in our relationships, but sometimes, it’s all for the best.
Paper Moon – Whiskeytown
This might be the least Whiskeytown-esque song ever, but I love it. It’s like they decided, What the hell, let’s do a romantic island song. This was their last album together before record label trouble and final in-fighting nudged Ryan Adams towards his solo career, though it was released after his first, Heartbreaker.
It’s a happy little tune I enjoy singing, and Pneumonia is a good album.
Sing – Travis
Previously, I’ve talked about “Flowers in the Window,” taken from the same Travis album, The Invisible Band, but “Sing” is probably the single people remember: “For the love you bring won’t mean a thing / unless you sing/ sing, sing, sing…”
I really like the whole album still, even if I’ve been less interested in them as a band after it. This video is funny too. A monkey and a food fight! What more can you want?
Last Nite – The Strokes
I always forget how much I love this song and the whole album, Is This It, until I happen to hear parts of it while out somewhere. A coffee shop I frequent is fond of playing it. I have a burned copy stashed somewhere, and yet I continually forget that I have it. Perhaps The Strokes were a bit too over-hyped as some sort of rock n roll saviors, but I don’t think that diminishes this album at all.
“Last Nite” just makes you want to bob your head, doesn’t it? Maybe do some steering wheel drumming? Yes.
Rockin’ The Suburbs – Ben Folds
Let me tell y’all what it’s like
being male, middle-class and white
Ben Folds’ self-aware, goofy songs make me laugh. Plus, Weird Al is in the video, taking the self-parody up another level. The rest of Ben Folds solo album isn’t as silly, and it has its fair share of his signature plaintive ballads, but I’ve got enough serious songs in this week’s column. Let’s just enjoy this until we move on to another moody one.
I Don’t Like Mondays – Tori Amos
Being an American born in the early ’80s, it is unsurprising that the original Boomtown Rats song didn’t register on my radar until adulthood. Tori Amos’ cover album, Strange Little Girls, has a lot of great songs, and I love this one (as well as the original). She pushes the melancholy danger even further, and it was a perfect fit for this segment on The West Wing.
Firecracker – Ryan Adams
Kiss me slow and softly / Make me dream of you
Gold is such a great album, one that is overshadowed by the circumstances of its release. Ryan Adams’ song “New York, New York” was the planned single, and they filmed the video with the then-present full NYC skyline on September 7, 2001. We know what happened four days later. Because of that, Adams refused to capitalize on the song or play it live, not until years and years later.
Instead, let’s go with a song that has a happier context, “Firecracker.” I dig the harmonica, the romance, the rambling guitar. Even with its fatalistic “I just want to burn out hard and bright” attitude, it makes me happy.
The People That We Love – Bush
Speaking of albums that were affected by September 11, Bush’s October-released Golden State originally had a shadowy airplane on its cover, and they swapped it out for plain gold with just their name and the title. The song “Speed Kills” was re-named “The People That We Love,” and it was all yet another scrambling in pop culture to find the right tone to strike so close to a massive tragedy.
The things we do to the people that we love
the way we break when there’s something we can’t take
destroy the world we took so long to make
Golden State, to me, was the last “proper” Bush lineup, which is to say, the original. I mean, yes, they’re “reunited” now with Robin Goodridge still drumming, and Chris Traynor is the guitarist that toured for this album when original guitarist Nigel Pulsford left, but… Okay, call me a bit cranky, but I wish this band were still around. Dave Parsons on bass, Nigel standing as the superior guitar player, all of it. They were better then, and I really love this album.
Standing Still – Jewel
Among our many arguments about music, old boyfriend and I had a disagreement over the merits of this song. Maybe he had decided to be purposely contrary, but he didn’t like that “Standing Still” sounds like an upbeat, happy song, but the lyrics are not: “Do you need me like I need you? Or am I standing still?”
My position was that a sad song did not have to sound like “sad bastard music” – the term he also liked to use when the music I enjoyed swing too far the other direction. I mean, who was he to write these rules about how a mood “should” sound? Etc. etc. Gee, how surprising that we were not compatible! Still, we were seventeen and eighteen, then. The force with which we might argue a certain idea was not always rational, and that’s okay.
Anyway, Jewel’s third album was the last time I cared about her music, since after that she took a weird pop turn that I couldn’t ever figure out if it was serious or satire, and then the songs started appearing in razor commercials. After that, I lost track of her music. Anyone know if she’s doing anything decent now?
Wish You Were Here – Incubus
Bless Brandon Boyd’s apparent shirt allergy, ha. He is a beautiful, beautiful man, and Morning View is an excellent album, maybe Incubus’ best. I go back and forth between slightly favoring this or Make Yourself, but just own them both and you’ll be happy. Promise.
The sky resembles a back-lit canopy with holes punched in it…
The mister had just purchased this album when we first started dating, and since we both liked it a lot, we played it almost constantly. Of course that colors my perspective, but isn’t that how it always works with music? It reminds us of a time and a place, and the important people who shared those moments with you. Music helps us remember, and it helps us make sense of life, as does any art. Why else do we create and enjoy it?
All right, fire up your nostalgia engines and consult Wikipedia’s 2001 music roundup, then tell me your favorites.