It's not too late: 10 gems you might've missed this decade
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
2010 is speeding around the corner, and with it comes the irresistible urge to want to throw away everything that came before it in the past 10 years with a shrug and a loud, “Next!” And while musical trends don’t really change right on that first zero year of the decade (they typically wait a year or so, or start early), well, that hasn’t stopped anyone from writing about the 2000s in the past tense, has it?
In that spirit, this article will take a slightly different tact and highlight a few albums you might’ve missed from the Aughts. Note, that you might have missed them. I’m certainly not arrogant enough to sit here and proclaim my own musical superiority, lording these gems over you as if you've had no chance to discover them, your utter lack of coolness not allowing you access to these recordings. There’s a good chance you’ve heard some, if not all, of these. But, there’s a chance you haven’t, either.
Regardless, these albums are all winners, and didn’t get a ton of press at the time of their release. So sit down, grab a cup of tea, and follow along, won't you?
Beachwood Sparks - Beachwood Sparks
In the spirit of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, this California band crafted an incredible debut, full of slide guitars and references to Brian Wilson’s hey day. The ballads were gentle and weeping, and the rockers were full of pep and spark. Another album and EP followed in the next two years, respectively, but the band soon faded away. Still, this record gets heavy rotation with me, and I see no reason why that should stop.
Favorite track: “Canyon Ride,” though this alternate version is actually superior to the proper studio cut.
Stone Gossard - Bayleaf
Pearl Jam’s guitarist and riff-maker extraordinaire side-stepped into his first proper solo album, and it was a shocker. Gossard had introduced fans to his quirky voice and style briefly with the song “Mankind” from the band’s 1996 No Code, but that didn’t quite prepare listeners for the depth and subtlety he was capable of creating on his own. The songs here are varied and rich, and loaded with charging Neil Young-esque guitar playing that you’ll never hear on a Pearl Jam record.
Favorite track: “Bayleaf,” with its slow-burning opening riff and oddly affecting vocals.
Goldrush - Don’t Bring Me Down
This British band came to my attention when they opened for, and backed up, former Ride frontman Mark Gardener, which led to a friend acquiring a CD, and in turn, handing a copy to me. Goldrush stands out from their British peers in that they’re one of the few bands from across the pond to re-adopt that tradition of taking American music and spinning out a unique take on it. Here, they’re taking sweet sorrow of mournful Lou Reed, adding a pinch of Gram Parsons, and giving it a little modern flavor, all while keeping the sound fresh and memorable.
Favorite track: “Let You Down,” which might be one of the 10 saddest songs I’ve ever heard.
Johnny Marr & the Healers - Boomslang
Johnny Marr has had an active decade, running from Neil Finn’s 7 Worlds Collide to Modest Mouse and, recently, the Cribs. But the former Smiths guitarist let his inner vision shine through on his first (and so far, only) proper solo recording, Boomslang, featuring Alonza Bevan (Kula Shaker) on bass and the mighty Zak Starkey (son of a Beatle, the Who, Oasis, really, whoever’s lucky enough to have him) on drums. The guitars are tight, swirling, and, well, booming, but it’s Marr’s songs, a blend of the sincere and the booming, that brings the project together. For what it’s worth, in the summer of 2003, this album never left my car, and I annoyed friends for months with it.
Favorite track: “Down on the Corner,” a mix-tape favorite if I've ever had one.
Nathaniel Mayer - I Just Want to be Held
Nathaniel Mayer is a soul man who reclaimed his career in the 2000s after nearly 30 years away from the record business, and though his voice is totally shot, it just served to highlight his charisma and swagger all the better. He’s eternally cool, forever dirty, and clearly living in the moment.
Favorite track: “You Gotta Work,” which could probably serve as Mayer’s mission statement
Constantines - Tournament of Hearts
This Ontario band is getting much more attention Stateside these days, but all the same, Tournament of Hearts is a fantastic album that’s mostly flown under the radar. With a penchant for Crazy Horse-esque guitar battles, but paired with a frantic energy, most of Constantines’ songs take on a grand, sweeping air, but they manage to keep their tough, edgy frame in place.
Favorite track: “Hotline Operator,” a perfect example of how they blend the subtle and the sludge with the epic.
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Ballad of the Broken Seas
The pairing of the darling voice of Belle & Sebastian and the forever horrifying baritone of Mark Lanegan confused me to no end when I first discovered it. But it works. Taking a set of dark, brooding and mostly acoustic numbers, the two blend their voices in such a way that, even after just one listen, the feeling burns itself inside of the listener. Really, they should’ve taken the Monsters of Folk moniker while they had the chance.
Favorite track: “The False Husband," a blend of doomy guitar and strings that pairs the two voices beautifully.
Grinderman - Grinderman
Nick Cave and select members of his backing band the Bad Seeds turned out this garage rock tribute to all things sleaze pretty quickly, and was immediately the raunchiest entry in Cave’s storied catalog. Full of blazing guitars and highlighted the natural echo of a dusty rehearsal space, Grinderman is abrasive, demeaning and absolutely worth a spin or two.
Favorite track: “No Pussy Blues,” which is exactly what you think it’s about.
The Dedringers - Sweetheart of the Neighborhood
Just barely old enough to play the clubs when this was released, this Austin band takes the swing of the Rolling Stones and the honkey tonk of Hank Williams and blends it into a cool, retro rock that sends listeners back to the most countrified moments of the Stones’ Sticky Fingers. And, like their heros, they’re wise beyond their years.
Favorite track: “Sideman Blues,” a slow, groovy number full of all the bitterness and contempt you’d feel it should have.
Beck’s Record Club - The Velvet Underground and Nico
The debut entry of Beck’s latest project, the man himself went into the studio with some friends (including producer Nigel Goodrich and the guys from MGMT), and, unrehearsed, cranked out this quirky track-for-track remake of the Velvet’s introductory album. Also check out the Record Club’s take on Skip Spence’s Oar, with Wilco and Feist in tow.
Favorite track: “I’m Waiting For the Man,” a loving, rag-tag reading of Lou Reed’s mission statement.
E-mail Nick Tavares at email@example.com
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