The 00s: Film (Fiction) – Intro & 20-16

Let’s face it, movies are getting worse all the time.  Louder, dumber, more willing to dispense technology or other fakery in place of humanity – and I don’t only mean Hollywood.  Amid the neverending glut of big-budget sequels, unnecessary remakes and too-smart-for-you indies, adequate images and the valuation of ideas are more desperately needed than ever.  I’ve begun to feel like the film industry is on an inexorable slide into perfectly clean banality, in which every film fits a predefined set of requirements and caters to a specifically identified market.

The 00s were beset with numerous travesties, many that aspired to greatness, some that were still widely praised despite their ineptitude or hollowness.  I fear the 10s will be decidedly worse, though the surprisingly enjoyable Avatar heralds the potential of a new dawn.  Come on, who doesn’t love an enormous, outrageously expensive movie about our need to have love for one another?  I’m serious.  I wish more directors afforded astronomical budgets would have the stones to make something with true heart.

Still, good directors always seem to find a way to make good films, and sometimes great ones.  I saw hundreds of films in the 00s; a good number stood out.  Here are the ones that affected me most.  Like the music list, I’m going by the one director – one movie rule, and I could mention several that I wish could occupy a place on the list.  They would include: Good Night, and Good Luck., Spirited Away, Brokeback Mountain, Donnie Darko, Amores Perros, Traffic, Children of Men, Once, High Fidelity, Syriana, Mulholland Dr. and 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days.  The 20 that follow managed to somehow reach a level slightly above these just mentioned and, to my mind, anything else released in the 00s.

20. In My Father’s Den (Brad McGann, 2004)

Like the music list, my top 20 begins with a New Zealand success.  Lest you think I’m showing undue favour to my homeland, In My Father’s Den could have come out of Nicaragua and it would still figure here.  With Matthew Macfadyen’s 00s-defining performance as a base, McGann – making what sadly proved to be his only feature – crafts an intricate, smart and powerful story which implies plenty about small towns not just in Nu Zild, but everywhere.  Up there in the pantheon of NZ’s best contributions to cinema.
Classic moment: “Is that why you push people away?”  Celia’s innocent question provokes an alarming response from Paul, until he factors in her naïveté.

19. My Summer of Love (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2004)

For some reason, Pawlikowski has not directed again since this meditative stunner, and more’s the pity.  My Summer of Love represented a firm expression of his accumulated filmmaking ideals over a decade of documentary production and his previous Last Resort.  What starts out as a dreamy, intimate portrait of holiday romance – crossing the class divide, naturally, but with the twist of being between two teenage girls – grows ever more claustrophobic and questioning of its characters’ often murky motivations.  Nathalie Press and (now mega-famous) Emily Blunt made for one of the best couples of the 00s, and Paddy Considine – the Best Actor of his Generation – is his usual brilliant self.  Pawlikowski remains the star, though, marrying a freeform visual aesthetic and a great soundtrack to a deeper-than-you-might-think story whose power lies in its realistic telling.
Classic moment: Phil (Considine), having given all he has to try and stay on God’s path, finally ‘goes dark’.

18. Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007)

In the staggering – yet somehow deserved – hype that surrounded WALL-E and Up towards the end of the 00s, Pixar’s most satisfying creation yet seems to have been forgotten somewhat.  That’s the curse of quality, though, with Pixar churning out classic after classic to become the exceptional production house of modern cinema.  Where do they get their ideas?  And how did they charm me with a story that sounds so stupid on paper?  Quite simply, through a love of film and a scarcely believable attention to detail.  I remember, on my first viewing of Ratatouille, forgetting that it was an animation and paying more attention to the marvellous composition of each shot.  Nothing less than a miracle, the only thing keeping it from marching up the list is its lack of lasting impact, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I ranked it higher and higher as each year passes.
Classic moment: With one bite, Anton Ego hurtles back in time to his mother’s dinner table and the tastes and memories of his childhood.

17. 24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002)

It all started with a sparsely attended Sex Pistols concert in ’76, heading on through a contract written in blood, on-stage faints, suicide to Stroszek, attempted murder, innumerable ego clashes and a £30,000 table… but how much of it is true?  The story of Tony Wilson and Factory Records as told in 24 Hour Party People is a postmodern treat and one of the funniest films I’ve seen, a monument at least to good storytelling, ensemble acting and taking measured directorial risks – if not a monument to transparent fact.  Still, as Coogan’s Wilson quotes in the film, “if it’s a choice between the truth and the legend, print the legend.”
Classic moment: The soon-to-be-important figures are introduced at the Sex Pistols gig, with a glorious slow-motion close-up of John the Postman, one of the lesser lights.

16. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)

If there’s one film of the 00s that I suspect will grow and grow in stature over the coming decades as it is reconsidered outside the context of its initial release, it’s this one.  Coming just in advance of two hotly anticipated, superficially similar films – the somewhat overrated No Country for Old Men and worthy There Will Be Blood – most folks weren’t prepared for a slow-burning, philosophical Western in which ideas took precedence over gunplay.  Jesse James never really stood a chance.  But what ideas!  It is a meditation on both celebrity and criminality, a sharp and serious criticism of American idol worship that shows it to be a far-from-modern phenomenon.  This dedication to thought and atmosphere will distinguish the film as a work of art and set it apart as time passes.  Indeed, had I myself seen it more than once, I wouldn’t have been all surprised to see it occupy a much higher place on this list.
Classic moment: Jesse James’ emotion gets the better of him as he attempts to confront his growing paranoia.

For #15-11, click here.

The 00s: Music – 1

Well, you knew it was coming.

1. RadioheadKid A (Parlophone/Capitol)

You can read reams upon reams elsewhere about the qualitative aspects of Kid A and what exactly makes it the best album of the 00s, not to mention one of the most widely acclaimed works of music history, so I’m going to cut all that out and just tell my own story about it.

When I was 15, I spent a week of my August school holidays staying with my brother Ed.  While he and girlfriend Rach were at work, I whiled away solitary hours on the couch watching the Sydney Olympics, playing Driver on PlayStation and listening to the former student, newly commercial radio station uFM.  (And, yes, getting up at 11 in the morning if I was lucky. If you can’t be a horrible layabout when you’re 15, when can you?)  uFM had gotten their hands on a promo copy of Kid A and played about five or six tracks from it each day of the week.   Now, I couldn’t say it was love at first listen, but I was intrigued.   I knew it was a new kind of music for me; there was something intrinsic about it that reached out to the listener, but through the limited scope of commercial radio, I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

A few months later I put Kid A at the top of my birthday list, not really expecting it to change my life, but definitely wanting to experience it again.  Naturally, Ed bought it for me.  For the following month the disc shuttled back and forth between my home CD player and my Discman, the sounds living in my head whenever I wasn’t listening to it.  ‘Idioteque’ stuck out as an early favourite, but the more ambient tracks – ‘Everything In Its Right Place’, ‘Treefingers, ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack’ – moved me in a way I still couldn’t articulate.  In any case, I swiftly decided as only a teenager can that this was the Best Album Of All Time and I would never, ever get sick of it.

Over the following couple of years, particularly after a wonderful New Year with my brothers and their spouses at Lake Ohakuri, I took it everywhere with me.   I’m not just saying that.  I really did.   I even made a point to listen to it on every car or bus journey leaving or returning to Auckland, where I lived, and every time it offered up some grand realisation or small detail that I hadn’t understood or noticed before.  Those ambient tracks now emerged and revealed themselves fully along with the rest of the album, and over time I felt like I could see, feel and accept ideas about our world that had never even remotely occurred to me before.

I left home, to go to university and then to work.  Kid A came with me in its now tattered case.  I discovered and embraced other Great Albums but always held Kid A above them all, the album that really got me into music, the album that I loved the most.  Every phase of doubt about it – ‘maybe it isn’t actually that amazing after all’ – was struck down as soon as I listened to it again.  With each passing year it became ever more a part of my soul and my being on this Earth, and so it remains today.

Radiohead have released other albums, and I have doubted them and been schooled each time.  But my teenage self turned out to be right: nothing will ever beat Kid A.   It is to me what I understand The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is to my dad – though he will surely expand on that – and Ziggy Stardust is to my mum: a unique relationship with a musical work that impacts you so strongly during your formative years that it never leaves you, or more accurately, you never leave it.  What’s yours?
Most representative track: ‘Optimistic’
My favourite: ‘Everything In Its Right Place’

The 00s: Music – 5-2

5. TV on the RadioReturn to Cookie Mountain (4AD/Interscope)

Indie as a genre ceased in the 00s to mean simply ‘independent’, and took on more of a ‘wet, hipster douches trying to sound plaintive and postmodern to mask the vapidity of their music’ connotation.  Thankfully, TV on the Radio were present to reclaim some of the ground lost by actually using their indieness to push the musical envelope as far as they could.  After one outstanding EP and one inspiring debut album, they delivered Return to Cookie Mountain, one of the more ambitious records ever released by a band that’s just about to make it.  It starts with ‘I Was A Lover’, a disorienting cluster of broken horn and guitar samples over a synth beat, and continues to challenge the listener’s expectations in basically every track on the album.  Through it all, twin frontmen Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone are electrifying, their distinctive and pushed-to-the-limit voices giving extra power to their deep and artful lyrics.  This was an album that was brilliant in ways I never expected it to be, seemingly designed to be hard to pick up.  I think the message TV on the Radio sent in the 00s, on this and their similarly essential other two albums, was that the music world needed a shake-up and that they were the ones who would do it.  Their attitude as thinkers/innovators who don’t mind the odd ‘fuck you’ to the establishment suggests that they might never make a weak album.  They shook me all right, quickly working their way into my thoughts and memories, and I’ll never be the same again.
Most representative track: ‘Wolf Like Me’
My favourite: ‘I Was A Lover’

4. Junior BoysSo This Is Goodbye (Domino)

I came to love So This Is Goodbye when I was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life.  It was the beginning of 2007, and I’d just secured a job in Japan and scored a goal from the halfway line in futsal.  The resulting elation and exhaustion brought on a 40°C fever, which rendered me stricken by hallucinations and unable to focus on a screen or page long enough to browse the net, watch movies or read a book.  Fortunately, I’d just discovered this emotional and precise Junior Boys album, downbeat enough to keep me grounded but with the requisite mechanics and care in arrangement to help maintain a pulse.  There wasn’t a single dud, so I could chuck it on repeat and let it run for the day, discovering new intricacies and rediscovering favourite moments from my stupor.  I suspect everyone who loves this album remembers in detail the time and circumstances during which they first experienced it, infused as it is with such wistfulness, nostalgia and clarity.  It’s a breakup album, so many of them will link it one of their own failed relationships; I can’t tell you about that, though I would love to hear from them.  From the subtle, hinting lyrics of ‘Double Shadow’ to the haunting sparseness of ‘FM’, this album is meticulously dealt and exceedingly tight despite its fragile appearance.
Most representative track: ‘The Equalizer’
My favourite: ‘FM’

3. Girl TalkFeed The Animals (Illegal Art)

Is Girl Talk the music of the 00s?  Night Ripper was the moment at which everyone stood up and took notice of mashups as a viable contender for becoming a consistent presence on the airwaves, but for me, Feed The Animals represented a refinement and deepening of Gregg Gillis’ aesthetic and the apex of his output thus far.  I read in an interview that people at his shows are no longer getting excited at hearing Lil Wayne rap ‘Lollipop’ over ‘Under the Bridge’, instead jumping higher and whooping louder for the fact that it’s one of ‘his’ songs – that is, the audience know his work and are more energised by it than the artists he samples.  I couldn’t imagine a clearer statement of acceptance.  What Gillis does is more than just playing around with sounds that connect in a cool-sounding way, though; a lot of the connections are inspired pieces of pop culture commentary, like opening with a link between The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’ and UGK’s ‘International Player’s Anthem’.  That’s getting pretty nerdy, though, and for me, after the balls-out wow factor of Night Ripper, the Girl Talk sound developed such a stronger emotional core with Feed The Animals, extracting every drop of feeling out of hundreds of songs that seem corny and passé when listened to on their own.  He’s said he won’t be doing any more album-length megamixes like this, instead focusing on creating discrete tracks, and as far as I’m concerned, he can do whatever he wants – I’ll still be first in line on release day.
Most representative track: ‘Shut the Club Down’
My favourite: ‘Give Me A Beat’

2. BurialUntrue (Hyperdub)

The moulded and beaten vocal samples of Burial’s music suggest a voice crying out from the darkness, leaving echoes of moments in time – maybe in the past, maybe in the future.  The words are usually imperceptible, but occasionally there’s a moment of clarity – such as during ‘Shell of Light’, on which “I wasn’t sure if we could be friends” loops over and over.  Your own optimistic or pessimistic nature may inform what you take from that, and what you hear in the fainter samples, but taken at face value these vocals sum up Burial’s uncertain aesthetic.  Even when cutting together an album as consistent and musically grounded as Untrue, he never quite seems at ease.  It’s like he’s constantly switching from looking over his shoulder to see what he’s left behind (or maybe what’s chasing him), and casting his eye as far in front of him as possible, willing something tangible out of the haze.  That said, if that’s the case, he acts as a powerful and skilled creator.  New elements seem plucked from the earth’s soil as he conjures each track and allowed to develop organically into something that just… works.  I mentioned texture(s) when writing about Dan Deacon and Four Tet earlier, and if that word is synonymous with the sounds produced by the most forward-thinking musicians of the day, Burial sits squarely at the top of the pile.  Untrue, only his second album, is his groundwork for a new generation of innovators.
Most representative track: ‘Archangel’
My favourite: ‘Raver’

For the big #1, click here.

The 00s: Music – 10-6

10. Kanye WestLate Registration (Roc-A-Fella, Island Def Jam)

When it comes to Kanye West’s second album, it’s really not worth keeping in mind that Kanye is an arrogant, hubristic, selfish egomaniac who crashes music video award shows and writes ludicrous blogs about his creativity.  Admittedly, Late Registration does look from every angle like a representation of its creator’s psyche: 21 tracks across 70 minutes encompassing overarching themes of the Black Man’s Struggle and selected pivotal events from his own life, all tied together with as much bombast and daring as he can cram in.  However, he wastes no time planting his foot down on ‘Heard ‘Em Say’ and setting off a musical odyssey that never feels bloated or wasteful.  The man will inevitably eat himself before he ever gets truly comfortable – indeed, he might only be comfortable when he is Lord and Master of the Universe, as well as Most Appreciated and Recognised Hip Hop Artiste – but Late Registration, along with two other very good albums, shows that he is at the forefront of popular music trends for a reason and cannot be ignored by anyone.  There is one fact that definitely is worth keeping in mind: this album is as much Jon Brion’s masterwork as it is Kanye’s, their partnership one of the more surprising and successful collaborations of the 00s.
Most representative track: ‘Heard ‘Em Say’
My favourite: ‘Gone’

9. Dan DeaconBromst (Carpark)

If some music is described as being a ‘wall of sound’, Dan Deacon brings to mind a hose of sound spraying with gleeful abandon. With Bromst he naturalised his sound from Spiderman of the Rings with real drums and guitars, but rather than just being an improvement in production values, this led to the hinted-at emotional core of his first major release being elucidated more clearly and openly. It takes a few listens to get past the shock value of having so many layers seemingly trying to out-do one another, but once you do, Bromst reveals several potential levels of appreciation: the story of a ghost wandering away from home, a collection of richly textured compositions, elements of shoegaze/techno/ambient, and some of the most pure enjoyment and fun you can have listening to a record. The chord progressions and song formulas may not be that variable, but the heady mixture of maths and chaos wins out. Not for everyone, but those who like it will love it.
Most representative track: ‘Woof Woof’… or maybe ‘Snookered’
My favourite: ‘Get Older’

8. The StreetsA Grand Don’t Come For Free (Vice/Atlantic)

In-between a glorious debut and a disappointing announcement of redundancy, Mike Skinner mined pure gold.  On those first two albums, I see him as the Ray Davies of the 00s: a quintessentially British-sounding recording artist who, in narrowing his lyrical scope to focus on exactly what he knows, spoke to the hearts of fans worldwide.  A Grand Don’t Come For Free isn’t as simple as a guy churning out a set of quality down-home rhymes, though.  The sharp focus of Original Pirate Material is refined further into a complete story spanning the album, a conceit that often feels beyond the range – or limited by the ego – of the musician in question, but Skinner stays true to his art and to the listener.  From those opening horns, you’re hooked.  Each song works perfectly well on its own and as part of the story, so you can dip in if you must (though it’s hard not to listen from start to finish).  And let’s not forget how vivid his lyrics are, wall-to-wall empty cans taking on a sort of timeless quality.  I lost interest after the grievous disappointment of The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living, but for this opus The Streets will always be a part of my life.
Most representative track: ‘It Was Supposed To Be So Easy’
My favourite: ‘Empty Cans’

7. GorillazDemon Days (Parlophone/Virgin)

This was my favourite of 2005, and nearly five years on, few other albums of the 00s are as versatile – you can throw it on for a dinner party, a party party, if you’re working or even if you’re having a ‘big talk’ with your significant other.  It’s comfortable but deep, danceable but mellow.  It gives you space but seethes with agitation.  It is of course the brainchild of Damon Albarn, his most successful and probably lasting creation, with help from producer genius Danger Mouse (The Grey Album, Gnarls Barkley).  I still remember how surprised I was on about the fourth of fifth listen after getting it, because Albarn’s debut of this ‘group’ four years earlier was interesting enough but hardly earth-shattering.  I liked this even less at first, too, then Albarn’s lyrics and Danger Mouse’s little touches in production started to worm their way into my brain, and I started listening to it several times in a row every day.  Though the music drifts along without ever pushing you to take notice of it (you will, eventually) Albarn seems incapable of making a record without Saying Something Important, and while having a gospel choir sing “These demon days are so cold inside, it’s so hard for a good soul to survive” might seem pretty hokey and cheesily earnest – ok, it totally is – it’s hard not to love the fact that Albarn desperately wants the listener just to stop coasting for a minute and think.  We cannot have too many artists taking life seriously in these uncertain times.
Most representative track: ‘Feel Good Inc.’
My favourite: ‘Demon Days’

6. M.I.A. – Kala (XL)

M.I.A.’s first album Arular took a couple of goes round for me to take to it, but with Kala, I felt like the kind of music I’d imagined for years in my head had finally synched up with music that actually existed.  It drives and pounds, all hips and fire, with her worldly and socially conscious lyrics scattered loosely over the top.  In fact, where a good number of the other albums on this list – particularly those I’ve put up here in the top end – are meticulously crafted with hardly a drumbeat out of place, Kala is freeform and sometimes barely seems to hold together.  I still remember when I saw her perform in Japan, where her haphazard button smashing on the DJ panel put about 50 extra gunshots in ‘Paper Planes’.  What does keep Kala from imploding under its own pressure, then?  Well, M.I.A. is such a committed artist that it’s the force of her personality as much as anything.  Read any interview: you’ll see that she puts up with absolutely no bullshit and has no problem badmouthing anyone she sees failing to keep it real, or anything that she perceives to be a danger to society (naturally, she’s on pretty much every flying alerts anti-terror list).  I in turn see her as a powerful force for global good, the spokesperson for the growing legions of folks who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.  A third album will drop in a few months, and the movement will continue.
Most representative track: ‘Paper Planes’ (please, PLEASE ignore the Slumdog connection)
My favourite: ‘Bamboo Banga’

For the next part, click here.

The 00s: Music – 15-11

15. Quinn WalkerLaughter’s An Asshole/Lion Land (Voodoo-Eros)

I’ve only heard 8 of the 29 tracks on Quinn Walker’s double-disc opus, but they’re so good I can’t imagine any album that features them failing to crack my top 20 for the 00s.  Walker is very much the wild card in this list, a prolific independent one-man band whose music embraces experimentation and humour, but never at the expense of depth.  The drum kit crashes, square synths wail and the guitars solos spin you right round, and above it all, Walker’s often falsetto voice weaves hilarious and unforgettable poetry.  All of these songs I know are to be savoured, but it’s ‘Save Your Love For Me’ that appears to be the quintessential Walker song – brilliantly unhinged, poetic and unforgettable.
Most representative track, and my favourite: ‘Save Your Love For Me’

14. The AvalanchesSince I Left You (Modular Recordings)

I’ll speak more about mashups later, but the great innovators in this field at the start of the 00s were Australian duo The Avalanches.  Since I Left You remains one of the most purely enjoyable records of the decade, one which just about anyone can throw on and enjoy however they wish – as a soundtrack for work, as a party or dancefloor staple, as a vehicle for reminiscing, whatever.  Chater once said the album was about “the idea of a guy following a girl around the world and always being one port behind”, and that wistfulness is tangible even amid the shining joy.
Most representative track: ‘Since I Left You’
My favourite: ‘Electricity’

13. Sufjan StevensIllinois (Asthmatic Kitty)

To appreciate Sufjan Stevens, you have to get over how much of a pompous ass he appears to be.  Consider the title of track 14, a 20-second ambient hum: ‘A Conjunction of Drones Simulating the Way in Which Sufjan Stevens Has an Existential Crisis in the Great Godfrey Maze’.  There are literally dozens of tracks on Illinois with titles like that (though that’s the worst); luckily, the man is an incredibly gifted musician and songwriter, and not even the most hopelessly puffed-up designation can obscure the talent evident in every one of Illinois’ 22 tracks.  I find myself wondering why he didn’t become super-mega-ultra famous, given that this album would fit pretty comfortably on commercial radio as well as in the dens of indie hipsters.  Maybe he did, but I missed it because I live in India; maybe he just burned out.  That seems more likely after such a feat as creating this record, whose scope extends well beyond the borders of the state in the title and into the hearts and stories of people all over the world.
Most representative track: ‘Chicago’
My favourite: ‘Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois’

12. Arcade FireFuneral (Merge/Rough Trade)

Coming on the scene in 2004/2005 with Funeral, Arcade Fire wound up defining the kind of sound that leads people to make YouTube comments like ‘If you don’t cry watching this, you are dead inside’.  I myself have made fun of their heart-on-sleeve approach, but damn it, they’re so sincere and such good performers that they stay just the right side of ridiculous, like Daniel Day-Lewis’ acting of the 00s.  I can’t fault them for seeing problems with the world and wanting to state, in no uncertain terms, how troubled they are by them; such emotional honesty should be celebrated.
Most representative track: ‘Wake Up’
My favourite: ‘Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)’

11. Four TetRounds (Domino)

There are great album openers, and then there is ‘Hands’, pulsing into life with a beating heart before layering in textures that slowly reveal themselves, surrounding you, the listener, and sweeping you along in a wave that almost seems to be physically raising you up.  Most of Kieran Hebden’s output is concerned more with texture than melody, with enough rhythm to keep your feet tapping, and Rounds is the apex of his career thus far (though There Is Love In You comes close and will surely be on the 10s list).  His other albums are frustratingly inconsistent, comprised generally of stunners and fillers only, but Rounds keeps its game up after an astonishing opening.  Indeed, the opening quartet of tracks seem to me so good that they might perhaps always have existed somewhere, an undercurrent of energy that Hebden harnessed and converted into a sonic form.  As much as any musician I know, he does things that make me stop dead in my tracks and say, “I could never do that.”
Most representative track: ‘My Angel Rocks Back And Forth’
My favourite: ‘Hands’

For the next part, click here.

Jdanspsa BACK ON-LINE!

Hello, you. ;)

After a heavy hiatus from regular blogging, I’m back with a new and (hopefully) improved Jdanspsa Wyksui.  The focus will remain largely on film, but with a good dose of society-and-culture-related posts and a smattering of music writing.  The majority of the content from the old site has been cleaned up and moved over here.  This isn’t just another new WordPress blog, I’ve been doing this for years!

What I’m really excited about, though, is the series I’m launching this site with: The 00s, a review of the music and movies of the past decade.  Starting with my top 20 albums of the 00s, I’ll be steadily rolling out content over the next couple of weeks.  The first post is below, an intro to the music list along with numbers 20-16.  Keep checking back to the 00s page listed above the Jdanspsa logo for the rest…

I’m getting back into the swing of things because I really miss writing and being in touch with people this way.  Bloggers in my family That’ll do, Slag, Helen Back and tonyh, have inspired me to pick up the slack when they’re all keeping up quality blogs.  And then there’s my music maestro bro Haszari storming the internet with his creations (he also created my awesome logo above).  Check the links in the sidebar under ‘My Family’ to check out what they’re doing.

I also want to develop something of a community on here, so your comments are very much appreciated, and if you know someone who you think might be interested, send ’em this way!

Have a look around and tell me what you think.  It’s early days so there are bound to be issues here and there.  And if you think I’ve sold out, don’t bother telling me – I already know that.

The 00s: Music – Intro & 20-16

I’ll level with you.  I’m no Pitchfork, Tiny Mix Tapes or whoever you actually read for your music tips.  I can’t compete with 200 albums of the decade, given that I have never listened to (or heard of) the vast majority of whatever is included on their lists.  I can honestly say, however, that I love music, and that there has been music during the 00s that I have particularly loved.  Some of it has been a soundtrack to certain times in my life; other albums have wormed their way into my consciousness to become an ongoing part of who I am.  This is that music.

I’ll have to limit myself to 20, but acknowledge that several of these artists would have occupied places on an expanded list if I weren’t keeping it to one album per artist.  Radiohead would have been on here at least twice (Hail to the Thief, in case you’re wondering).  I also had to omit quite a few albums that were hard to leave out, for example Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album and Battles’ Mirrored, but for whatever reason these were the 20 that made it.

I must also acknowledge, again, that I’m sure a lot of incredible stuff was released that I missed for whatever reason.  I’m only just getting to listen to Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest, and it is extremely good and might have been on here if I’d gotten to it a couple of months earlier…  but anyway, that’s what the comments are for – tell me how much of a philistine I am, and what I need to do to catch up.

As for trends, I think the list can speak for itself but am looking forward to things being noticed along the way as I post it.  We can address that in the comments too.  (In case you haven’t got it yet, I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS.)

Note that thanks to the miracle of YouTube, you can hear the music as you read about it by clicking the track links at the end of each album write-up – one for the track I feel is the most representative (i.e. the best introduction to the album), and one for my favourite track.  Here we go…

20. Breaks Co-OpThe Sound Inside (EMI/Astralwerks/Parlophone)

Kicking it off with some Kiwi sounds, the best ‘summer’ album of the 00s came from this skilled trio (though I’m told the live lineup of five adds plenty to the sound).  I of course bought it when it was bafflingly released in the middle of NZ’s winter and was promptly chewed out by my flatmate Nic, but it was such a great soundtrack to my student days that it stayed on high rotate through until the temperature started rising – and beyond.  Now I’m living in India where it’s always summer, and there’s a never a bad time to rediscover this record’s lazy, comfortable atmosphere lying with a beer in the hammock.
Most representative track, and my favourite, and the one everyone knows: ‘The Otherside’

19. David Bowie Heathen (ISO/Columbia)

Don’t get Heathen mixed up with the thrash metal band from California.  It is in fact Bowie’s emphatic return to form after a decade or two patching together albums out of patchy material.  Here, reunited with producer Tony Visconti, Bowie comes to terms as best he can with his own mortality; but as always, he’s never completely at ease.  Whether it’s the afterlife or the state of the world he expects – and perhaps wants – to leave behind, Bowie prefers to remain in the grey areas rather than committing to any one philosophy.  He doubts, questions, pleads and implores and it makes for a conflicted, thought-provoking masterpiece.
Most representative track: ‘Slow Burn’
My favourite: ‘I Would Be Your Slave’

18. Animal CollectiveMerriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)

The first three or four tracks of Merriweather Post Pavilion are un-be-lievable.  Opener ‘In the Flowers’ plants you firmly in an otherworldly trance with its slow but heady build, then explodes into life at the two-and-a-half-minute mark; ‘My Girls’ is the catchiest, prettiest bit of synth-pop in ages; ‘Also Frightened’ darkens the palette and opens up the record into more wide-reaching themes, while keeping the pace up; and ‘Summertime Clothes’ evokes a high-energy dash through the streets of your city with the one you love.  Pity the rest of the record couldn’t keep up to the same standard; though several of the subsequent tracks are very good (and one exceptional), they just feel underwhelming after the glory of those first 20 minutes.  Perhaps on another album, I’d love them all equally.  In any case, this is a heartfelt and singularly distinct work that heralds plenty more brilliance from Animal Collective to come.
Most representative track: ‘My Girls’
My favourite: ‘Lion in a Coma’

17. Daft PunkDiscovery (Virgin)

As a means of re-energizing and reclaiming the floundering dance music scene in 2001, Daft Punk, always concealed behind robot masks and suits, positioned themselves as interplanetary discoverers dredging our musical past for forgotten hooks and converting them into something they, and we, could embrace.  Even if it was a triumph of marketing and pop culture gimmicks over originality, Discovery was a sensation.  Its retro factor gives it a timelessness such that it continues, a decade later, to poke its head up on dancefloors and TV promos worldwide.
Most representative track: ‘One More Time’
My favourite: ‘Too Long’

16. The FieldFrom Here We Go Sublime (Kompakt)

For the most repetitive sounds of the 00s, look no further than The Field.  Some tracks contain only three or four alterations to the same looped sample.  Thankfully, the sound happens to as purely ecstatic as it is unvarying, and after enough listens, the patterns will be so etched in your mind that you’ll know exactly when the next loop is going to start and feel a kind of exhilarating release when it does.  The Pitchfork reviewer said that if From Here We Go Sublime ‘doesn’t hit at least some of your pleasure centers, well, forget your ears– your nerve endings might actually be dead’.  I concur, and it could endure for decades to come precisely because its aim is simple:  to make you feel good.
Most representative track: ‘Everday’
My favourite: ‘The Little Heart Beats So Fast’

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