Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Countdown to 30: My Favorite Album From 2000


The year changed from 1999 to 2000 and our computers transitioned just fine and dandy. But music needed to get a little bit weird again. It had been too comfortable in the '90s. The greatest innovations surrounded dance music and the swept-under-the-rug use of autotune in Cher's "Believe." As Paul Simon says in "Boy in the Bubble," "every generation throws a hero in the pop charts." Streaming services and alternative ways to listen to and discover new music were about to teach my generation that the "pop charts" weren't so important anymore. But more on that in a few. 

Many of the big acts of the '00s had already released their first or even second album by 2000. One of my future favorites, Tegan and Sara, were among those...sort of. Tegan and Sara started making music together around 1998, and self-released an album in 1999. Their first release for a label (Vapor) came out in 2000, and was called This Business of Art, my runner up for the best album of 2000.

Art is the early sound of Tegan and Sara, much more aggressive, at times bordering on rap. Their sad and slow songs didn't really start until So Jealous (2004). The song titles are short and to the point, often just one word titles. Standout tracks include "Frozen," "Superstar," and "My Number." "My Number" is my favorite song on the album, the storytelling is great, the lyrics are clever, and there's an underlying emotion to the whole song that you just can't shake. It's a track I've listened to on repeat in an attempt to understand it better.

But like I said, my album of 2000 is about innovation. This album was released in Australia in 2000, but didn't even make it to the U.S. and U.K. until 2001. The genre of the album is "plunderphonics," because everything on the album is sampled, with no original material being used. I am speaking of course of Since I Left You by The Avalanches. 

The Avalanches managed to do what hadn't been done with Since I Left You. Other artists were doing mashups or remixes, but this was a full album composed of samples. Producers Robbie Chater and Darren Seltmann estimated the number of samples used to be around 3,500. Of course, this also provided a new challenge in attempting to get clearance for all of the samples used. Strange, given the fact that almost nothing in the album is recognizable by the time Avalanches are done with it.

Since I Left You was planned as a concept album about a man following a lover around the world, always just behind her. This was so as to use the many varied cultures of samples they had. They didn't want the concept to be too obvious though, and thus ended up abandoning it. The Avalanches also wanted the album to be much more subdued than the dance music prevalent in the era, and more like a Wall of Sound production. In a twist of fate, the album ended up at #10 on the U.S. dance/electronic charts.

Speaking of "Frontier Psychiatrist,"
oof. Forgot the depression set in
in 2000.
The album moves around like a dream. You can scarcely tell where one song ends and another begins. It can be playing for a good fifteen minutes without you realizing time has passed at all.

I was introduced to the Avalanches track "Frontier Psychiatrist" through another artist's twitter and was immediately hooked. It's so strange, so uncanny, and yet so perfect. The rest of the album initially went over my head back in 2010, but on more recent relistens, I'm not sure why I failed to see the quality in the rest of the album. 

Since I Left You represents not only an important cultural milestone, it is a good album no matter when it was made. The fact that it was 2000 makes it all the more impressive though. Even if you aren't a fan of electronic or dance music, give the album a listen. You might just find something you like in it.

Let's check out the shiny ten-year leaderboard!

Join me tomorrow for my favorite album of 2001.

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