As a collective unit, our staff seems to have one universal thing in common: ranking things based on our opinions and passion for everything music related. Personally, I have always figured it to be just some strange issue that I had, perhaps filling a void in my life that maybe was not filled by something else? Nevertheless, I have found others on Mind Equals Blown who make a habit out of randomly jotting down the best songs in March of 2012, or continuously re-working the best albums so far this year – a task that many might find disturbing, but fellow MEB’ers simply understand the need for such things in this life. For that reason, I thought maybe we should make a feature out of this phenomenon. Let’s come together each month and just vent this obsession – yes, obsession!
For this month, we decided to start with the new millennium and the albums that thrilled and inspired us. So without further ado, here are our choices:
Jarrod Church’s #1 Album – The Art of Drowning by AFI
This dark and inspiring follow-up to the extremely impressive Black Sails in the Sunset further staked AFI’s claim to being one of the more diverse acts at the turn of the century. While their California punk influence still shines through, vocalist Davey Havok tones it down in a few spots, resulting in breathtaking beauty and power. In the midst of this transformation, the mainstream element certainly played a bit of a role which in turn created a definitive push-back from early fans of the band. Although the punk element has clearly shrunken, the group simply focuses their talents on creating a more accomplished and structured piece of art, which they did. Don’t get me wrong, the gang vocals and upbeat speed of the punk genre still dominate the album, but the bridgework and Havok’s vocal appeal – along with the group’s debut addition of electronic elements – create a masterful display of brilliance. As we all know, A Fire Inside have come a very long way since their early days and in a lot of ways it truly stems from The Art of Drowning. Not only is this one of my favorite records of 2000, but it ranks right up there with some of my favorites of all time.
Nick Moffitt’s #1 Album – The Moon and Antarctica by Modest Mouse
Isaac Brock is always hell-bent on the human condition. On The Moon and Antarctica he takes on the heavy issues – everything from desperate personal relationships to God and the Devil and the afterlife. The Moon and Antarctica is an epic journey from the onslaught of other people on Earth to the lonesome outer limits of the solar system. Brock tells this epic story from a relatable humanistic standpoint; opening track “3rd Planet” establishes the daily grind on our planet while “Dark Center of the Universe” and “Gravity Rides Everything” communicate the positives and negatives of our lives here. Modest Mouse take off with psychedelic road rage with “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” then bring us into the depths of the unknown with “Alone Down There” and the cosmic understanding of outer space on “The Stars Are Projectors.” This being their first album on Epic Records, Modest Mouse showed that you can be on a major label and still release a strong artistic album.
Jacob Testa’s #1 Album – Building Nothing Out of Something by Modest Mouse
Okay, I’m cheating a little on this one. Technically, this record is a compilation of work that was previously released before 2000, but Modest Mouse is my favorite band and I’d put this higher than most of their albums, even fan-favorite The Moon and Antarctica, which was also released in 2000. Every song is fantastic, from the classic “Broke” to the stark “Medication” to the strange love(?) song that is “Whenever I Breathe Out, You Breathe In (Positive/Negative).” There honestly isn’t a bad track on this album and it is far and away the album from 2000 that I’ve listened to the most. It’s moody, thought-provoking, and somehow very cohesive. Personal and philosophical, it’s best for late nights and early mornings spent alone. As far as older Modest Mouse goes, this is the record that gets you the biggest bang for your buck in terms of overall quality, and I’d say the same in terms of records for the entire year it was released.
Sebastian Fonseca’s #1 Album – Kid A by Radiohead
Kid A is the 21st century. A record that discards the idea that a rock band needs to use guitars and drums in all of their songs. A record that delves into the furthest reaches of the coldest and loneliest electronic music. A record that encapsulates the paranoia and mental isolation of a world on the verge of mass globalization. A record that during the 1900s would have been seen as bizarre experimentation, but in the new millennium was a chart-topper. A record that is vague – vaguely political, vaguely romantic, vaguely schizophrenic, vaguely human, vaguely robotic. A record that not only collects a band’s best tracks, but also puts them together in a manner that makes them impacting as a whole. Kid A is not just the year 2000, it’s the 2000s.
Tim Dodderidge’s #1 Album – Hybrid Theory by Linkin Park
Rap and rock. These two separate genres became a cohesive entity when Linkin Park’s debut Hybrid Theory blasted music into the next millennium. Not only did it propel the band into stadium-playing all-stars, but it proved that these five Californians had something special to give to fans of rap, rock, and the infused genre that would become known as nu-metal.
Vocalist Chester Bennington pounds his way through the songs with a voice as red-hot as the lingering guitars – guitars that tear into the songs’ melodies with a heart-stopping piquancy, but can also be absent without feeling missed. He sounds like a psycho as he bolts out the words “shut up” in the angst-ridden single “One Step Closer,” while he broods in songs like the piano-tinged “In the End.” These methods of control and recoil seem to balance each other out like magic, while they allow Mike Shinoda to flood the canvas with his pungent raps.
With how up-front the melodies of such a pungent sound are, the underlying layers of cognition produce something with depth and parity. Linkin Park are able to layer grungy guitars and metallic instrumentals without things sounding dissonant. Hybrid Theory is an album that is not only universal to fans of rock music – mainstream and underground alike – but it is a game-changer. It combined two genres together with such beautiful adherence that may never be seen again.
Landon Defever’s #1 Album – The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem
In the early days of Eminem’s career, soon after releasing The Slim Shady LP, he was a social pariah. With his dirty laundry being paraded around by the media, a divorce from wife Kimberly Scott and a lawsuit from his mother for $10,000,000, these personal troubles would prove to be fantastic fuel for his follow-up album The Marshall Mathers LP. Not only would it go down as the best album of the year 2000 (with close rivalry from At the Drive In and Rage Against the Machine), but it would simultaneously act as the best hip-hop album of the new millennium so far. MMLP is the prime example of how Mathers was able to string together fantastic narratives, using elaborate diction to emphasize points while using simple rhyme structure. Subject material ranged from his life in the public eye (“The Way I Am”), to his mother (“Kill You”), to his ex-wife (“Kim”), to society in general (“Who Knew”) and how people just take his lyrics way too damn seriously (“Criminal”).
There isn’t a single bad track on MMLP, but it is where Mathers released some of his best material to date. “Stan” just might be the best song of the decade – it pieces together the story of a mentally unstable fan who eventually commits suicide after Eminem doesn’t respond to his fan mail quick enough, simultaneously allowing the Dido-infused chorus to slowly work a sensitive angle over the disturbingly intimate storyline. “Kim” is equally polarizing as it works in some of the most creative yet horrifying verses fashioned by the artist to date. What works best about MMLP is that the words Mathers wrote down in a studio 12 years ago still feel just as powerful today. Every day we still face political turmoil, materialistic celebrities, crime, corruption and personal struggles in our own lives. However, with talented artists like Eminem around to comment on these tragedies, they’ll be that much easier to take in.
Megan Ammer’s #1 Album – Warning by Green Day
Warning is the bastard child of Green Day’s discography. Placed under their “Declining Phase,” its differences are emphasized and disliked. Yet, Warning offered something innovative and rousing. Its songs of social commentary and declaration of individuality demanded attention, allowing the band to casually spot and attack issues of the time. Employing elements to allow the album to remain honest and rude, Green Day used Warning to make a statement. The trio had grown up, taking a higher and, essentially, more effective role in their medium. “Snot-core’s biggest selling band” had declared war on bullshit, highlighting the real and larger problems. Warning installed confidence and is responsible for the current moralistic Green Day we know and love. A starting point for their future virtuous actions, Warning is undoubtedly satisfying.
Kaitlin Nichols’ #1 Album – New Found Glory by New Found Glory
Perhaps in an effort to denote that they had changed their name from “A New Found Glory,” NFG self-titled their second studio album. After the underground acclaim of 1999’s Nothing Gold Can Stay, the guys re-recorded the infectious “Hit or Miss” which eventually charted at #15 on Billboard’s Alternative chart. While this may not have been the most well received album of the year, and it may not even be as exceptional as its predecessor, New Found Glory’s self-titled undeniably paved the way for pop punk as we know it.
With catchy tracks like “Better Off Dead,” “Dressed to Kill” and “Boy Crazy,” this album never left my stereo. If nothing else, seeing fans scream the lyrics to these songs over ten years later at the Pop-Punk’s Not Dead Tour proves what a classic this album has become. And it’s not just us, the fans, who were affected by this album and what this album allowed this band to become. Where would The Wonder Years or Fireworks be today without NFG’s influence? Where would All Time Low and The Story So Far be without their namesake songs in the next release? An album that deservedly went gold and was my favorite album of 2000, New Found Glory was the next step in a small band’s huge career.
Jason Gardner’s #1 Album – Spiritual Machines by Our Lady Peace
The year 2000 began a particularly exploratory time in my musical tastes. To consider one of a solid handful of records – including The Marshall Mathers LP, Deftones’ White Pony, At the Drive-In’s Relationship of Command and the absurd nature of Blink 182’s live record The Mark, Tom and Travis Show – to be the best is a difficult task. But in recollection, none of those records spoke to me, both personally at the time and musically in terms of what draws me to bands even now, like Our Lady Peace’s Spiritual Machines.
A lot of people dog this record, preferring the radio-ready hits of Clumsy or the grittier cuts from Gravity. But the moodiest of nights in my confused, angst-riddled teenage years often found the sounds of Raine Maida and company’s dark, conceptually-tinged album stirring around my brain. “All My Friends” hits the balance of playful and dark right on the head, while “In Repair” and “Life” provide a huge one-two punch of hooks and strong songwriting. I get why this ended up as one of the less successful albums the group would put out, but even today it resonates in the band’s songwriting as their spirit to fight and not fall claim to regurgitation lives on.
Dylan Powell’s #1 Album – Fevers and Mirrors by Bright Eyes
The year 2000 is a difficult one for me to judge. The lack of defining music for me, coupled with the fact that I was seven years old and likely into the latest Backstreet Boys single, made it difficult for me to pick out an album that had any effect on me. But then I remembered that Conor Oberst‘s baby Bright Eyes released their third effort Fevers and Mirrors in the year 2000. Being the first Bright Eyes album I had ever listened to, it has a special place in my heart as it introduced me to the dark and dreary depths of Oberst’s mind. As a defining record in the emo genre of the early 2000s, Fevers and Mirrors captivates with its eerie premise spurred by Oberst’s dark lyrics and musicianship that offer up talents that range from producer Mike Mogis to the oh-so influential Tim Kasher of Cursive. From the abrasive “The Calendar Hung Itself…” to the haunting carnival-esque “Sunrise, Sunset,” Oberst whittles a bleak atmosphere of loneliness and lost love in this fascinating record.