Saturday, February 27, 2016

Best Albums of the Decades lists Part VI: The '00s

Busy season at work has been killing me, which is why I haven't posted in two weeks. I finally have a weekend where I didn't bring home too much work, so I can finish this thread up. In the interim, I've at long last finished with my Best of 2015 lists. (What was it that made me think I'd be done with them before the end of January? Somehow it never seems to work out that way.)

The beginning of the first decade of the new millennium seemed a little musically listless to me. By this time, I wasn't even enjoying what was being released as national indie rock anymore. Mainstream music was even worse -- it was all either hip-hop or American Idol dreck, or both. Most of what I was listening to was local Long Island music. Someday I'll write a whole post about the local music scene of the late '90s and early '00s, and what it meant to me.

There was one album released midway through the decade, though, that brought a huge smile to my face (and to Denise's), so I picked that for my Runner-up Best Album of the '00s.


Runner-up: Employment by The Kaiser Chiefs

I actually had a hard time with this pick. Truth be told, there are at least a dozen albums from the '70s that I would score higher than this, and if I really got into it, probably a few local albums from this time period also.

There were also some other bands who put out some good albums in this decade whose work I considered, notably The Killers, Metric and Bayside ( I gave some serious thought to Shudder).

In the end, what I really love about Employment is it's just a fun album. Even the darker songs have a sense of humanity to them.

The album also has a first-rate single in "I Predict a Riot", a song that gets you on your feet and keeps you there. I also love the casually sick view of mortality that "Time Honored Tradition" takes, and the sense of humor behind "Everyday I Love You Less and Less." And I have to admit that when I finally took that first trip to Europe at 50 years of age, the song that kept playing in my head was "Oh my God" ("Oh my God I can't believe it/I've never been this far away from home").

I've always been a little disappointed in The Kaiser Chiefs' output after this album. Employment was their first CD, and I thought they were going to become a really great band. But while they've definitely put out some good songs on subsequent albums, they've never really lived up to the promise I thought they showed. And clearly, this band isn't The Who. Then again, who is?

Taken for itself, though, Employment is fun and worthwhile, and in a somewhat flawed decade, it stands out among the best releases.

Best Album: Riot! by Paramore

I have to credit Paramore for reigniting my passion for music. By late in the decade, I was kind of burnt out musically. I had largely dropped out of the local music scene, except for the acoustic scene at the late, great Pisces Cafe in Babylon. Much of the excitement music-wise had started the drift from Long Island down to Brooklyn. And there wasn't much going on in the national scene that interested me at all.

That all changed with Riot! I wasn't even aware of the album, or of the band when it was first released, and consequently, it didn't make my "Best Of" list for 2007. And when I first did finally become aware of "Misery Business", I liked it enough to buy the CD, but it didn't really grab me right away.

I can't remember if it was when "Crushcrushcrush" started getting play as a single, or a few months later when Paramore's tracks on the soundtrack for the first Twilight movie started getting played, but at some point in 2008, I was inspired to go back to this album with fresh ears, and it blew me away.

It was a combination of 3 factors. The first was obviously Hayley Williams. Here was this little tiny girl with flaming orange hair with a voice that could knock down the walls. This is a girl whose voice scores high on both the power and beauty scales, who can hit you with a fast rock song like "Misery Business", or a ballad like "We Are Broken". But if you really want to hear the range of what she can do, listen to a song like "Hallelujah". That song still gives me chills down my spine.

The second factor is the quality of the songwriting. There were four songs released as singles from this CD, and of the remaining seven songs at least four more are very strong, and the other three are decent. When you combine songwriting like this with a charismatic and talented frontperson like Williams, you've got something special going on.

The third factor is the driving musicianship of the rest of the band. For two albums, Riot! and 2009's Brand New Eyes, this band was as perfect a rock music vehicle as you're ever going to find, in spite of the internal personality conflicts that were already eating at them. (And honestly, I could have easily named Brand New Eyes as my Runner-Up album of the decade). The band lost something when the Farro brothers left in 2010, and although the 2013 Paramore album was the band's first number one album sales-wise, the music and songwriting were both inferior to those of the previous two albums.

Sad as it is that the original Paramore lineup is no more, for me, Riot! will always stand frozen in time as an amazing achievement, an album every bit as good in its own way as those best albums of the '70s I love so much.

But enough of my nostalgic magic carpet ride through the decades of my younger years. In the next post, I'll (finally) bring things back to the (nearly) present.

Next Post: The Best of 2015 Part 1