BY Matthew Lawrence
Now that the 00’s are wrapping up, people are writing Best Albums Of The Decade lists like crazy, and I almost added my own top albums list to that lengthy pile. But then I thought there was no point explaining the greatness of MIA or Radiohead or Antony and the Johnsons or The Knife, when anyone who might even remotely care probably has strong opinions about them all already, anyway.
I decided instead to base my list around a bunch of albums that probably very few of you love. Maybe because you’ve never heard of them, or because you’ve heard terrible things about them, because they were part of a now-neglected trend, or because they were overshadowed by other things that the artists did either before or after. The list is a top 30, because I listed all the albums I thought would qualify and came up with 31. I rounded down. (Sorry, Handsome Furs!)
I’m presenting this list in three installments, because it’s kind of long. As always, I’d like to make my disclaimer that this list reflects what I myself listen to; I’m sure that someone else could–and should–make lists of neglected metal, gospel, or country records. But this list is pretty pop-oriented. That’s just how it is.
20. Black Box Recorder, Passionoia (2003)
The third and final album by icy trio Black Box Recorder was significantly poppier than its two predecessors, though electro-ish synths didn’t do much to cover up their wonderfully fatalistic lyrics. Highlights include a song about a wealthy young Wham enthusiast who loves to dance “to the beat of electronic drums” and a song about wanting to be the new Princess Diana.
19. Brand New, Daisy (2009)
Commercialism for commercialism’s sake is fine (see: Beyonce) but commercialism in the guise of outsider angst generally stinks. That’s why it’s always surprising when good music comes out of the market-tested pain factories of the Hot Topic scene. Great mall rock is actually pretty common; My Chemical Romance’s Teenagers and Fall Out Boy’s This Ain’t A Scene It’s An Arms Race are two of my favorite songs of this decade. But it’s hard to get over the fact that this music was made for scrawny girls in black t-shirts who sit in the back of math class writing poetry on their hands. The average Brand New fan is probably fourteen and sulky, but to casually dismiss their screamy Daisy album is to miss out on one of the 00’s great surprises.
18. Fannypack, See You Next Tuesday (2005)
When Fannypack unleashed the catchy Camel Toe on an unsuspecting public in 2003, it was easy to assume that they were just a one-trick jokepony. So it’s probably not surprising that their second album went largely unnoticed. It’s a shame, though, because See You Next Tuesday features hilarious rhymes and top-notch production. They venture into dancehall and booty ballads, and even beat Gwen Stefani to the whole high school marching band thing by a good six months.
17. Juana Molina, Son (2006)
I debated whether or not to include the third album by Argentine television comedian-turned-singer/songwriter on this list, because it got almost universally positive reviews when it was released. But still, there’s not a huge market for quiet Spanish-language electro-folk, so I decided it belonged here anyway.
16. Elastica, The Menace (2000)
In 1995, Elastica became one of the only Britpop groups to have any commercial success in America. Anna Sui was designing jumpsuits for their flashy Spike Jonze-directed videos. Everything was awesome. Flash forward five long years, and suddenly there’s a second album featuring Mark E. Smith and a rewrite of Trio’s Da Da Da. The public had lost interest, but the group’s swansong–featuring artwork designed by MIA–is still a strange and wonderful listening experience.
15. Nelly Furtado, Loose (2006)
Okay, so this sold two million copies and spawned two number one singles. Why, then, will nobody admit to liking Nelly Furtado? Is it because she’s too poppy? Because her voice is kind of thin and crazy? Because she makes horrible faces? Whatever the reason, people owe her more respoect. Say It Right is one of the greatest singles ever, and other tracks like the clubby No Hay Igual and the Chris Martin ballad All Good Things (Come To An End) show her extensive range.
14. Emily Sparks, What Could Not Be Buried (2002)
I was at the CD release party for this, the debut album by the former Rhode Islander who’s actually named Bridget Mullen. I was about three feet away from her, and I could barely hear her. She is a quiet lady. A very, very quiet lady. Luckily, Wheat’s Dave Auchenbach produced the record, buoying delicate folk songs like Downtown Cafe and Nothing I Can Say with subtle (but necessary) electronic flourishes.
13. Franz Ferdinand, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (2009)
When Franz Ferdinand first appeared in early 2004, they were all arty and edgy; half a decade later, arty and edgy people wanted nothing to do with them as they started experimenting with disco. Their first album had some great singles and a lot of filler; their second was much better overall, though it lacked any real standout tracks. With this album, they finally figured it out, pairing strong singles (Ulysses, No You Girls) with equally great album tracks like Live Alone, What She Came For, and the eight-minute disco freakout Lucid Dreams.
12. Women and Children, Paralyzed Dance, Tonight (2006)
Both tenor Kevin Lasting and gloomy chanteuse June Serwa sing on the second and presumably last album by Women And Children (who are not to be confused with Men, Women & Children, a completely different group that also appeared in 2006.) Falling somewhere between French chanson and lo-fi folk, the songs on Paralyzed Dance, Tonight are warmed by chimes, cellos and fuzzy reverb. I knew it was good when I first heard it in 2006, but I never would have predicted how many dozens of times I’d go back to it in the three years since.
11. Alkaline Trio, Good Mourning (2003)
Much like Brand New, the Chicago punks in the Alkaline Trio walk a fine and not entirely respectable line that garners them praise from disaffected teenaged girls and approximately no one else. They’re a little too edgy to have mainstream success, but they’re a little too commercial to be appreciated by the underground. Whatever. They’ve made some very good records over the years, none better than the somber Good Mourning, a surprisingly fun album about people dying.