Saturday, February 7, 2015

Albums of the Year 1997-2005

My year-end music lists are public record, going back to 2006, but that was hardly the first time I reflected on the year in music as I knew it. What follows is an attempt to reconstruct, without revision, my albums of the year for the preceding nine years of music. Of course it’s easy, with the benefit of hindsight and decades-long bombardment from a hundred canons, to go back to any year of my choosing and come up with a flawless personal list, and that’s an entertaining exercise but not a very meaningful one. Well, duh, there’s also not much that’s meaningful in the entertaining exercise below, but, for the time capsule, here’s what I thought was good in my pre-teens and teens.

1997: Radiohead - OK Computer

The first year it occurred to me that I, too, could make a list of my favorite stuff. It has to start sometime. I dimly recall drafting a list on notebook paper, with this obvious #1, The Chemical Brothers just below, and the rest a blur. I’m optimistic that it’s still sitting in a drawer or box somewhere.

1998: Spacehog - The Chinese Album; Possum Dixon - New Sheets

On the ballot I mailed to Rolling Stone naming my favorite stuff of the year, I’m sure I listed one of these, but I don’t remember which one. Later, when I saw Spin’s year end list, I immediately decried the absence of both. I was so superior! These are good albums so I’m not gonna say I was duped, but putting them above the still unheard likes of Elliott Smith and OutKast (my sisters were spinning the Ls, Williams and Hill, which I enjoyed but didn’t totally claim) is the kind of thing that only an 11-year old could come up with.

1999: Pavement - Terror Twilight; The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin (???)

The more I think about it, the more I’m sure that I didn’t hear The Soft Bulletin until the following year (with headphones on the family stereo behind the couch, where my sisters sat watching one of a handful of movies, any of which couldn’t have been on video until early 2000), which leaves Pavement as the only real contenders.

2000: Radiohead - Kid A

“This is my favorite album from this year.” I might’ve said it exactly like that, to my mom, while she drove us out to my friend’s Christmas party and we listened to my taped copy. A few months later, and for many years to come, my default favorite became Idlewild’s 100 Broken Windows.

2001: Daft Punk - Discovery

Could not have been anything else, though I don’t remember making any declarations this year.

2002: Sonic Youth - Murray Street

The point at which my teenage interests reveal themselves as hopelessly old. Only decades-running bands, for me!

2003: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Pig Lib

Malkmus was still totally my guy at this point. Here’s the album that established his even-numbered solo works as jam-prone, so you wouldn’t think this would still be going strong as my favorite. But there’s also a lot of pop sense in the mix, and I latched onto all of it pretty quickly, and with intensity.

2004: Ken Stringfellow - Soft Commands

I’d gotten into The Posies, and Stringfellow’s Touched, the year before, but I wasn’t fanatical or anything so it’s hard to remember why I had to hear this album immediately. But I’m glad I did. A pop universe traversing set for the almost-adult.

2005: Sleater-Kinney - The Woods

A curious situation: They’d been my sisters’ band, or my sister’s band (will have to check on that), but had been abandoned, leaving me to pick them up again, as if brand new, a few albums later. I didn’t get that E’s discontinued interest was the kind of momentary lull or shift that any listener is bound to experience later in life for many and complicated reasons (need, passion, attention, and also time, money), but I was perhaps a bit self-conscious about suddenly being the one responding to what the somewhat changed S-K had to give. Shouting my love for this album would’ve been tacky, even disrespectful, but I was glad to be of age at last.

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