Thursday, August 7, 2014

Top 10 Tracks: 2001

It was just a couple months ago that I started this blog fully, which means that I've never had the chance to reflect back on bands, songs, and albums of old. My time with music itself has been pretty limited as well, since, in the grand scheme of the medium, I've only just gotten into it. So earlier years may be a little bare with diversity. I do sometimes write 'throwback' reviews, but I've never accumulated Top 10 lists for specific years. So, beginning today, I will be doing a top 10 tracks list for each year from 2000 to 2012, as I've already done my Top 50 of 2013, as you can find here. Without further ado, here are the top 10 tracks of 2001. Note: Clicking the picture will open a new tab and play the song on Youtube.

2000   |   2001   |   2002   |   2003   |   2004   |   2005   |   2006   |   2007   |   2008   |   2009   |   2010   |   2011   |   2012   |   2013  |  2014

Ulrich Schnauss - Nobody's Home
Far Away Trains Passing By

Off his debut album, Ulrich Schnauss' Nobody's Home accurately portrays in its spanning 7+ minutes what the enigmatic producer is all about; slowly building movements of instrumental masterpieces. Much like the mysterious duo Boards Of Canada, Schnauss thrives off the nostalgic feelings of warmth, relaxation, and enjoyment through his music. It reeks of soft sentiments and heart-warming segments of soothing drum loops. 

I've always been one to believe in instrumental music having more of an emotional-impact than lyrical tunes when done right, and Schnauss' Far Away Trains Passing By does that correctly. The simple, yet incessantly catchy drum loop laying the foundation throughout the work is met with dreamy synthesizers spanning the sound range, equating to an immersive song that's easy to get lost into. 

Cunninlynguists - Lynguistics
Will Rap For Food

Still, over a decade past and Lynguistics remains a pivotal director to Cunninlynguists storied career, spanning 5 albums and 5 mixtapes, and an integral part of the underground scene at the time, remaining as noticeable as the first day those strings were heard. The immortality the song currently holds in the underground scene is, in large parts, due to Kno's trademarked production, with violin's progressing the scene, created and taken by samples of live orchestration. 

Kno's production, dazzled with airy harps and echoey vibrations, only enhance the sound quality as the famed violin surfaces during the chorus, only festering itself within the verse to add depth. Yes, you read that right, verse, singular. Lynguistics is a paltry 2 1/2 minutes that chooses not to overstay its welcome, allowing Kno and Deacon to perform back-and-forth rhyming patterns denouncing those who sell out their musical integrity for cash. The sample at the beginning, taken by Kashal-Tee, only heightens this attack further, as he exclaims that, "A brother gotta eat. Yeah? Why don't you rap for food then?"  

Basement Jaxx - Where's Your Head At?

At the climax of House music stood this monster; Basement Jaxx's Where's Your Head At? Mind-numbing music has never felt so alive, with a title to help etch into the brain through its repeated hollers that echo the same behavior the duo aimed at accomplishing; a loss of one's own inhibitions on the dance floor, raving their night away. What Basement Jaxx accomplished with their near chart-topping single was density in a genre defined by its simplicity. Sure, the song still follows a structured format reminiscent of late 90's House tunes, but the production, with its sampling of two Gary Numan songs and a large palate so smoldering that each repeated listen has you latching onto something else entirely catchy on its own merits. 

The classic music video only promoted the single to stardom even further, sporting monkeys being fed the brains of acclaimed musical artists in hopes of providing audiences a fresh, new medium to enjoy their music. Hidden beneath though is an all-knowing approach to Basement Jaxx's own music, entirely self-aware that the music they make is mind-numbing, monkey-like, and simply for the masses to consume without rational thought. The hypnotic spoken word breakdown in the middle of the track, followed by harmonious evening lullabies accompanying the metallic charring of the track's superior bassline, exploding into a ferocious release of primal hoots and hollers symbolizes best the emotive response engrained within the song itself. 

Gorillaz - 19-2000

Evolved from the mind of Blur’s Damon Albarn & Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz quickly became one of the biggest groups of the early millennium with their instant, mysterious allure & their hit single Clint Eastwood. However, many felt their self-titled debut album fell flat of the initial hype. Critics believed otherwise, with the unique vocals, alternative song styles, all thrown together with catchy hooks. The crowning king of such descriptions was 19-2000, the charming track littered with memorable moments. From Albarn’s cryptic, nearly pointless dribble acting as a connector between the chorus’, to the interludes of sorts with outlandish talk over, 19-2000 is by all accounts adorable.

It resembles not a wacked-out dream on acid, but more a child-like innocence, down to the bubbling synthesizers strutting their ways across the background and the children humming along whilst a prominent female voice, acting as sole girl member Noodle, spouting to “get the cool, get the cool shoeshine.” Beneath all this banal language however is a critique of the 21st century turn to the consumerist mind state we currently enforce, using shoes as a front for buying luxury items just for the sake of purchasing. 19-2000 doesn’t stop there however. One of its many remixes, featured as a bonus track, captures the same imagination, except this time thrown into a blender with dazzling production additions throughout.

Cannibal Ox - A B-Boy Alpha
The Cold Vein

Sporting one of the greatest opening lines in underground Hip-Hop history (“my mother said you sucked my pussy when you came out, don’t ever talk back, I handed you life, I’ll snatch it back”), Cannibal Ox’s A B-Boy Alpha is a menacing track filled with El-P’s quintessential early 2000’s style of production and Cannibal Ox’s harsh, yet intricate rhyming patterns. The Cold Vein, while not notarized through popular Hip-Hop culture is an essential listen, maintaining its legacy through the mysterious fact that the duo has failed to release anything since. At the very least, The Cold Vein’s sprawling 74 minutes is a time capsule into the past, a look at the New York underground scene right in its flourishing years.

A B-Boy Alpha stands as the best example taken from the record. Cold, ruthless, and grimy, Alpha portrays the most accurate sound of the winter streets since Wu-Tang grabbed audiences and reeled them in with their dark, arctic sound. Production from legendary beat maker El-P condenses the feeling of the five boroughs during the aftermath of Y2K. It’s alluring in all the wrong ways. DJ scratches maneuver their way throughout the record, in much the same vein as the computer glitches and alarming beeps. All coming together in a way that feels entirely distraught, as Vast Aire and Vordul Mega reflect on their youth that’s been ran through the sewers.

Daft Punk - One More Time

To some, it’s nauseating. To others, it’s the greatest song of the 2000’s. One thing is for sure, there’s no denying the influence Daft Punk’s One More Time had on not only the music scene of the new millennium, but also its popular culture in general. Released at a time when House music was dying and rooting its loose foundations in various genres across the spectrum, Daft Punk’s One More Time infused the repetition the genre was best known for, while throwing in obscure samples to add another layer to the happy-go-lucky motives behind their music. One More Time, the opener on their lauded sophomore album Discovery, was the pinnacle of that act.

The airy waves, the insistent bass hits, the immense buildup concluding the track, and the celebration occurring within the looped vocal sample, culminate to one of the biggest early smashes of the duo’s career. It was the start of the Dubstep scene, half a decade before Dubstep was even a word. Layered buildups with various mellowed grooves strewn throughout; concluding with a dropout only to explode through yet another bass smash was One More Time’s calling card. Ravers flocked to lose themselves in the music, forget the trials and tribulations of everyday life, and simply dance to the celebration of music.

Royksopp - Eple
Melody A.M.

This might be a homer pick, as this was one of the first electronic songs I’ve ever heard, but regardless, Royksopp’s Eple resonates in the hearts of those who listen. Taken off Melody A.M, aka the perfect description for this track, Eple feels glossy, vibrant, and filled with elation as the melodies carrying it act as a morning sunrise over the duo’s mountainous home of Norway. Much like is the case with Boards Of Canada’s music, this song in particular conjures up a sense of lost youth, parading around, frolicking in the poppy flowers that Dorothy got laced in on her trip down the Yellow Brick Road, all for the enjoyment of losing yourself in something out of your control.

Eple is nothing more than a simple riff thrown through a loop, with separate instances of electronic fidgeting to keep things interesting over its paltry 3 1/2 minutes. But it’s the mystery, the seemingly endlessness of the journey that lures listeners in, falling for the addiction, succumbing to its wishes to brainwash you in the most majestic way possible. I’ve had instances late at night where I’ve played this song, in the dead of the night, only to have another world inside my eyelids open up from within. The trippy nature of the track’s music video, picture-esque scenes of home life, fading within one another through endless windows, frames, and postcards, conveys the similar message, all told through an instrumental masterpiece.

Outkast - The Whole World
Big Boi & Dre Present...Outkast

Ladies and gentlemen, the single song that kicked off my entire music listening career. I remember where I first heard, nay, saw it. I was on summer vacation, watching MTV as they reamed off music video after music video, before my eyes landed me on this mesmerizing showcase of rapping talent, featuring an entire backing band to support, all whilst parading around a circus with a rapper named Killer Mike. I was in awe, and immediately bought the Big Boi & Dre Present…Outkast Greatest Hits album thinking, for longer than I’d like to admit, that it was an actual album of their (I was 10, cut me a break). It was that moment, then and there, that I shifted entirely to a new medium of Hip-Hop and began devouring everything I could about the genre. The Whole World was a jumping off point.

The Whole World is simple; three verses that I have entirely memorized, a chorus so catchy that I still find myself humming it along, and a concluding trumpet section that puts a cap on the carnival ride. However, and shockingly so, The World World, with its provocative discussions and boastful claims (mainly in Killer Mike’s verse) was just a front for a much deeper message on the events surrounding 9/11. The chorus entirely resembles what unfold when everything came crashing down, as ‘the whole world’ witnessed. It was in typical Outkast fashion to formulate such a catchy, uplifting sound for such a depressing topic, as they would later emphasize on Andre’s smash hit Hey Ya. From Killer Mike’s dominating 16 bars to Big Boi’s tongue-twisting closer, The Whole World is packed with top-notch quality material from a group at the peak of their performance.

Radiohead - Life In A Glass House

Increasingly eerie, pungently off-settling, Life In A Glass House really feels trapped. A leering, anxious drum loop permeates the sound-scape as Thom Yorke forcefully regurgitates his concerns over big brother watching. His pain and anguish over the looming forces only heightens when the chorus brings in a wistful flute and a jazz-influenced trumpet, both products of normally trivial origin, here thrown into the mess as another voice to agonize. Yorke’s chorus-concluding line “but someone’s listening in,” sparks a litany of talking points on the ever-insistent increase of privacy limitation by not only our government, but our own people in accordance to the stars, like Radiohead, that they adore.

Kid A, the album previous to Amnesiac, scatters across its fold feelings of exile, isolation, and grief over the unrelenting invasion of the public in matters pertaining to the daily lives of the worshipped. And while the sounds still relate slightly here on Kid A’s follow-up, only its closer captures the spirit in terms of lyrical content as well. Glass House is a terrifying rendition of a post-anarchistic dinner time-sit down in the form of a broken Shakespeare play. The emotions swirled up due to the barren sounds only further drives home the point Radiohead intended. Even the production itself feels limited, trapped. These sprawling instruments, able to reach far and wide the ears of the populace, is condensed down to a hollow, glass hall, with only a dinner table remaining in the middle, as Yorke ponders his meal with his guest. It’s gruesome story-telling told through its lingering aftermath.

Gorillaz - Clint Eastwood

The early 2000’s, more so than the obvious millennial switch, gave way to new, creative endeavors in the form of a quickly evaporating creativity outpour in music. Outkast, while at that point known for changing their style every album, made a strong departure to big beat, electronic Hip-Hop fusion with B.O.B., while Radiohead toyed with Trip-Hop as the genre itself was dying out. The anxiety of the 21st century, along with the inevitable realization that computers were soon to be our overlords, led to a more electronically-infused decade in music. Atop that pedestal stood a group of four, formulated entirely within this digital world, existing only in our own through holograms. The Gorillaz, along with Del The Funkee Homosapian, took the Hip-Hop world by storm with Clint Eastwood, one of the first underground crossovers to hit mainstream radio play.

With a simple, ominous beat that lasts the 5 ½ minute duration, Del rips through the spectrum of musical fidelity, rapping with such clarity, that the enjoyment derived from the song easily boils down to the listeners satisfaction in rapping along. Del’s finale “no squealing, remember, that it’s all in your head,” is still recognized as one of the coolest moments in a Hip-Hop verse. Clint Eastwood would be nothing however without Albarn’s contradictory chorus that has baffled audiences for years. Living without happiness, yet remaining glad, all while having sunshine in a bag is a brilliant take on more consumerist lingo brought on by Albarn’s then ‘side project.’ The desperate, repeated addition of “the future is coming on” only adds to the paranoia of the 21st century many, including leading artists, had in terms beyond just their musical integrity.

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