20 December 2009

Working Up To It: Twofer Also-Ran's of the Aughts

I've compiled a largely personal, largely random, and mostly just large list of the albums that I consider to be the best of the aughts. And this isn't it! Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of solid candidates that didn't quite make the final cut, so, by way of practice, I offer them up to you here, my five also-ran's of the last ten years, in loose chronological order.


Jack Johnson's "Brushfire Fairytales" & "On & On," released on January 29, 2002, and May 6, 2003, respectively, are a pair of lovely, ramshackle albums crafted from Mr. Johnson's presumably low-key, pre-fame life in Hawaii. They are thematically surfer/hippie, anti-progress, anti-consumerist. "Symbol in my Driveway" rivals Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz" for best snap! on those who live and die by status symbols, and "Flake" is an unqualified classic.

Flake - Jack Johnson - Brushfire Fairytales
Symbol in my Driveway - Jack Johnson - On & On


Released a scant two weeks after "Brushfire Fairytales," Rufus Wainwright's "Poses" is very nearly its antithesis. Overproduced, metropolitan and glorious, "Poses" is a fantastic rumination on the many facets of an eminently talented man. "Want One," which followed a year and a half later, pushes the theatre envelope even further. With tracks like "Oh What a World" and "My Phone's On Vibrate For You," "Want One" is self-referential and fun to the extreme.

The Consort - Rufus Wainwright - Poses
Oh What a World - Rufus Wainwright - Want One


Kathleen Edwards owned a little piece of my heart in the mid-Aughts. With "Failer," released in January of 2003, and "Back to Me," which followed in March of 2005, this alt-country Canadienne explored the timeless territory of love & loneliness, breakups and other-womanhood, with just the right amounts of strength and sadness mixed in.

One More Song the Radio Won't Like - Kathleen Edwards - Failer
Somewhere Else - Kathleen Edwards - Back to Me


Although I didn't discover them until the September 2007 release of "Reunion Tour," The Weakerthans had of course been in action for years before then. John K. Samson pushes all my buttons, male singer/songwriter wise, and, though I usually prefer the earlier works of any given artist, 2003's "Reconstruction Site" and 2007's "Reunion Tour" both contain enough gems to keep me convinced I'll never have to look backwards for this band's best work. "Civil Twilight," in particular, has become something of a personal anthem for me, and would definitely make my top tracks of the decade list, should I ever decide to make one.

One Great City! - The Weakerthans - Reconstruction Site
Civil Twilight - The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour


I can't quite figure out how Why? got bumped off my Best of the Aughts list. "Elephant Eyelash" and "Alopecia" are two of the strongest, most unique records I've heard this decade, but here we are just the same. We've twice trekked to see the brothers Wolf, and have yet to be disappointed by same, although "Alopecia" and the "Eskimo Snow" produced two very different shows. Yoni Wolf in particular is starting to look a bit like a first term president, as though the pressures of success are wearing on him. I'm just happy they're still producing.

Gemini (Birthday Song) - Why? - Elephant Eyelash
These Few Presidents - Why? - Alopecia

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