Since I've been writing up my favorite records of this year, I've decided to revisit some of the ones that I called my favorites of yesteryear.
Ryan Adams, Gold
The album of 2001 for me. A 16-track album with ups and downs in moods, but never drags. Even though it came out in the fall, I got more into it than any other record that I got that year. Interestingly, the album really made an impression on me after sitting in stop-n-go traffic on I-45 through Corsicana for 50 minutes. I had a lot of time to listen and I think that's the beauty of traffic: it's an opportunity to spend more time listening to music. I think I listened to the album 1.5 times and by the time I got out of the bottleneck, I knew what was going to top my year-end list.
Now, I don't listen to Gold as much as I do with later efforts like Love is Hell and Rock N Roll, but I still think very highly of Adams's overall work (even though I gave a cold shoulder to some of his new records that came out this year).
Bright Eyes, Lifted . . . or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground
A glowing, 4-star review in Rolling Stone made me very curious about this record in 2002. I had heard tidbits of Conor Oberst's stuff through EPs, but nothing more. Burning a CD-R copy of KTCU's copy, I was pretty amazed by what I heard right away. Combining marching band-like drumlines with strings, horns, gang vocals and keyboards was a great augment to Oberst's intimate folk leanings. The lyrics were especially great: hopeful, angry, frustrated (aka, feelings I was feeling back in 2002, my first year out of college).
Listening to the record now, I still really enjoy the vastness of the songs, but the lyrics sound stuck in the mindset of an early 20-something. That stuff was what Oberst was dealing with at the time, so I don't think he's at fault for writing such frank lyrics. With what all I've gone through since this record (and now approaching my late-20s), certain problems/anxieties I had in 2002 aren't as pronounced in 2005. So, listening to this record now sounds like a former worn-out version of my post-college angst.
Hey Mercedes, Loses Control
2003 was the last time I ever saw Hey Mercedes play. They played a number of songs from this album, but it was unreleased at the time. Given my prowling of peer-to-peer networks, I obtained an unmastered version of this record and played it a lot. By the time of the show, I knew almost all of the words and sang along. Of course I looked like a fool being the only one in the front singing along to them, but then again, I didn't care in that moment.
Listening now, I think the music and lyrics hold up. Bob always writes lyrics from an angle that knows no distinguishable age. So a line like, "quality time with the unkind/is better than being alone" still rings true for me. I still say the band's first album, Everynight Fireworks, is my favorite of their's but Loses Control is a very worthy follow-up.
Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News
This was a surprise in 2004. I had heard little tidbits of MM over the years but never really paid close attention to them. Based on general curiosity, I picked this up for $7.99 at Best Buy and was very happy with what I bought. An incredibly diverse record musically (banjos, horns, strings, light piano, along with standard guitar-bass-drums) with some very enlightened lyrics.
The most convincing side of this record is that it's hopeful but not a watered-down, preachy kind of hopeful. Isaac Brock comes across as a grouch in interviews, but he lays a lot of eggs of truth on Good News. Even though "Float On" has been played to the point of annoyance via a variety of places (especially the Kidz Bop version), a line like "Even if things get heavy/we'll all float on all right" still rings true for me today.