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A Retrospective Top 15: Best Albums Of 2001

FensePost Best of 2001

The second installment of A Retrospective, in which I recap my favorite albums released from 2000 to 2008, this time: 2001. Wrought with turmoil and watching a life fall apart as so many others were having similar experiences but in a different manner; that was 2001 for you. The year I turned 21. A year that lives in infamy. Young or old, we all seemed to grow up that year. Music, too seemed to progress in ways unthought, even before that fateful day.

Again, the ideal is for this to be a friendly open dialog. Please feel free to chime in with some of your favorites from 2001 as well. Here’s my top 15 albums from that year:

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15. Stephen Malkmus by Stephen Malkmus

Stephen Malkmus has long been an influential character in music, a total nod to his Pavement days. This album, his self-titled debut, finally found Malkmus striking out on his own, and he did so with flare and agility. Stephen Malkmus was a perfect introduction to a man on his own without the confines of prior monikers. And yeah, in some ways it may have picked up where our beloved Pavement left off (quite quickly, in fact, as work on this project began almost immediately after the disbandment of Pavement). But whatever; it’s still a brilliant LP.

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14. Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever by Explosions In The Sky

I love the first explosion in “Greet Death”, the opening track to this Explosions In The Sky album; it has the ability to rock the nuts off anyone listening to it. What makes EITS such a great band is that they’re capable of creating such immense sound one moment, and in the next dropping it down to the most minimal. True to the genre, the album appears brief with a track-list numbering six, but it is anything but as no song is fewer than six minutes with most topping seven and a pair over ten. Despite their length EITS manages to maintain attention throughout; and that alone is a worthy feat.

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Built To Spill: Ancient Melodies Of The Future [Album Cover]

13. Ancient Melodies Of The Future by Built To Spill

I can remember the first time I heard “In Your Mind”, the third track off Built To Spill‘s Ancient Melodies Of The Future. I cannot remember where, or when this took place; but I can remember the emotions that rocked my mere existence. Many of the songs weren’t nearly as ‘rockin’ as found on some of the older albums, but it allowed Built To Spill to show off a different side, one a bit more delicate and personal.

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12. The Coast Is Never Clear by Beulah

Part of the Elephant 6 collective (the band, not the release), Beulah released The Coast Is Never Clear on September 11 of this year. What a day to release an album; but it was ultimately the antithesis to that cataclysmic day. Songs like “A Good Man Is Easy To Kill” and “Popular Mechanics For Lovers” just seemed so perfect. They had just the right amount of sadness, but were backed by such effortless upbeat psychedelic pop true to the E6 name.

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Jeff Mangum: Live at Jittery Joe's [Album Cover]

11. Live At Jittery Joe’s by Jeff Mangum

For anyone lamenting the demise of Neutral Milk Hotel, ex-front-man Jeff Mangum‘s Live At Jittery Joe’s was a brief relapse into the obsession. Out of twelve songs, the album features ten from prior studio albums and two others: a cover of Phil Spector’s “I Love How You Love Me” and “I Will Bury You In Time”, a rare NMH track only found previously on bootlegs. Sure, it’s a completest’s album, but that’s what I am.

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10. Owls by Owls

Not to be confused with Minneapolis’s The Owls, Owls were a short-lived art-rock group from Chicago. The band channeled elements of free jazz and post-punk in their lone self-titled album. Birthed out of two groups fronted by Tim Kinsella, 90s group Cap’n Jazz and Joan Of Arc, Owls brief imprint with Owls crops up with artists that mix a similar math-y free jazz and post-punk sounds today.

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The Anniversary: Your Majesty [Album Cover]

9. Your Majesty by The Anniversary

The Anniversary‘s follow-up to Designing A Nervous Breakdown, Your Majesty didn’t quite capture its predecessor’s pop strength but was a more than worthy album. It didn’t rock as much and instead delved a little more into sunny yet trippy psychedelic pop. Songs like “The Death Of The King” and “The Siren Sings” were, in effect, mesmerizing. With those massive distorted chords and warbled synth lines, fronted again by harmony male/female vocals – the songs just fit with the time. And yet in revisiting them, they’re just as great as the day I first heard them.

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Death Cab For Cutie: Photo Album [Cover]

8. The Photo Album by Death Cab For Cutie

Another treasure from the Death Cab For Cutie vault, and another timeless record from Barsuk. From the subtle opening “Steadier Footing” to the tear-jerker “Styrofoam Plates”, The Photo Album was an album that worked it in every way possible. And if you were lucky enough to snag this baby on vinyl (as I was), it made the experience of listening to this record all the more perfect.

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Microphones: The Glow Pt. 2 [Album Cover]

7. The Glow Pt. 2 by Microphones

How to describe and album that set forth a generation, backed by a man that had lived the definition for some time, and a sound that even today seems both timeless and ahead of the times. That’s The Glow Pt. 2 by Microphones for you; again finding Elverum expanding worlds by giving us a glimpse at his. Truly a stand-out, 2001 or otherwise.

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Electrelane: Rock It To The Moon [Album Cover]

6. Rock It To The Moon by Electrelane

Rock It To The Moon was Electrelane‘s first LP and it technically debuted in 2001 (UK), though it wasn’t released stateside until 2002. It took what so many of us wanted from post-rock groups like EITS and experimented a bit more with sound and melody rather than just loud and soft. Prime example is the second track, “Long Dark”, which opened with a two minute avant-garde piece before dropping in the Pink Panther bass-line and expanding into a swirling synths and punchy percussion, all of which gave the track an experimental cohesion. They had yet to fully integrate vocals, which made their follow-up albums all the better, but Rock It To The Moon was still a more than viable debut.

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Camera Obscura: Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi [Album Cover]

5. Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi by Camera Obscura

After banding together in 1996, Camera Obscura didn’t release their debut full-length until November of 2001; that being Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi. Soft and lovable indie pop with light hints of orchestration, the album remains a collection of some of their greatest songs, even today after three additional releases. “Happy New Year” and “Eighties Fan” are mainstays in my playlist and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Originally released in 2001 on Andmoresound Records and in 2002 on Elefant Records, Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi was reissued by Merge in 2004.

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Club 8: Self-Titled Cover Art

4. Club 8 by Club 8

To this day, “Love In December”, the opening track of Club 8’s self-titled LP, remains my favorite song by the Swedish duo. Johan Angergård pops up in virtually every year’s list and it’s easy to see why: his work extends from Club 8 to include the indie-pop collective that is Acid House Kings, as well as the always refreshing group The Legends. In Club 8, Angergård is joined by Karolina Komstedt. Much softer than their earlier stuff, Club 8 is an album that is entirely dreamy in its relaxed nature with Komstedt at the vocal helm. A rarity, Angergård joined Komstedt for backup vocals on the near trip-hop track “Falling From Grace”.

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The Shins: Oh, Inverted World [Album Cover]

3. Oh, Inverted World by The Shins

Oh, Inverted World remains The Shins strongest work thus far, though Chutes Too Narrow came pretty damn close. While most will give “New Slang” or “Caring Is Creepy” the nod for best song on the album, I choose “Girl On The Wing”. Elitists might discount this album for its association with the wildly popular Garden State soundtrack, but as a whole the album is a striking collection of great tunes The Shins have yet to truly match in overall strength.

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Kings Of Convenience: Quiet Is The New Loud [Album Cover]

2. Quiet Is The New Loud by Kings Of Convenience

Kings Of Convenience has, in my opinion, always been considered the epitome of folk-pop. With romantically-tinged guitars and non-stop harmony vocals, Quiet Is The New Loud found Kings Of Convenience creating one hit after another. Perfection comes in many forms, and when it comes to albums, Quiet Is The New Loud can be considered truly perfect.

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Carissa's Wierd: You Should Be At Home Here [Album Cover]

1. You Should Be At Home Here by Carissa’s Wierd

I have long been obsessed with Carissa’s Wierd, of which many members have gone on to form successful follow-up groups like Band Of Horses, Sera Cahoone, S, and Grand Archives. You Should Be At Home Here, while not my introduction to the band (that came with Ugly But Honest), has been the favorite thanks to beautifully orchestrated slowcore tracks like “Brooke Daniels’ Tiny Broken Fingers” and “All Apologies & Smiles, Yours Truly, Ugly Valentine”. In fact, at the release of Grand Archives’ self-titled debut last year, Mat Brooke took the stage with S’s Jenn Ghetto (his female counterpart in Carissa’s Wierd) for a duet of “All Apologies” that brought tears to my eyes the moment they started playing it. Having never seen Carissa’s Wierd before their demise, it was a dream come true.

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2 thoughts on “A Retrospective Top 15: Best Albums Of 2001”

  1. I’m jealous you got to see Mat and Jenn play that together.

    I saw them a couple times back in the day, including a Valentine’s Day show. Absolutely amazing.

    Glad to know there are other Carissa’s Wierd obsessives out there.

  2. I, for one, am forever lamenting the demise of Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s nice to see Jeff Mangum made your list. About half of the albums on here are unfamiliar to me–I guess I need to do some studying!

    I made a list of “Soon To Be Iconic” album covers on my site that I’m sure you would find interesting. I hadn’t seen any other lists like it so I decided to create one!

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