Top 100 Albums of the Decade 2000-2009 (part 3)

Sloan—Pretty Together
Murderecords, 2001

Maybe it’s the fact that they are Canadian and American audiences just can’t stomach them, maybe their songwriting is just too saccharine for most American tastes—who knows. Whatever the reason, Sloan will never get what they deserve from America. The press will never acknowledge them (although their 2006 album Never Hear The End Of It did chart on CMJ’s Heatseekers list), the radio won’t play them, and their audience here will always be limited to whoever has the brains to listen to a college radio station every once in awhile. In truth, that’s okay for two reasons: One, it doesn’t make Sloan any less awesome; two, they are HUGE in their home country, so America can just go bugger off, already. Hasn’t everyone already figured out that Canada is a way cooler country than America anyway? They get free health care, their Jagermeister has opiates in it, and one of the best power pop bands of all time is commercially successful there. Seriously, America, take a hint! About the album, though…Pretty Together is one of Sloan’s best, and features all four of the group’s songwriters in top form. Unlike most Sloan records, this one finds the other members giving bassist Chris Murphy a dash for his songwriting cash. Drummer Andrew Scott’s “In the Movies” and “The Great Wall” just might be the two best tunes in his repertoire, and guitarist Patrick Pentland’s “If It Feels Good Do It” has become one of rock’s great morally ambiguous anthems. But most noticeably, guitarist Jay Ferguson really comes into his own on Pretty Together, offering up what is easily one its biggest standouts, the knockout power ballad “Dreaming of You”. Sloan may have reached their plateau with 1999’s Between the Bridges, but Pretty Together was created while they were still hanging around up there.

Super Furry Animals—Rings Around the World
Epic, 2001

This album really scared a lot of rock purists when it came out. When those of us who lived by the 90’s rock credo heard “Sidewalk Serfer Girl” for the first time, it became pretty apparent that everything was about to change. Actually, everything already had changed by that point; we were all just too stubborn to accept it. Rings Around the World helped us to accept it. After the initial scoffing and guffawing wore off, it was impossible to ignore how great this album was—not just how great it was, but how hard to dislike it was. Like a few of the records on this list, it is virtually perfect, though the varied styles of the album make that pretty arguable. One thing is for sure—Rings won’t really sink in until it is viewed on DVD, a rock and roll experience as close to phenomenal as one is likely to get. At the time, it was so phenomenal that SFA decided it had been a little too much, and toned it down halfway to nil for their next release. But, think of it hypothetically—your band makes an album that is revered as a potential “top 5 of the decade” type of record, and in a couple years, you have to follow it up with another? You try it.

Elliott Smith—From a Basement on the Hill
Anti-, 2004

To be straightforward, if ANY other Elliott Smith album had come out between the years of 2000 and 2009, it would have been on the list in place of this one. But, Basement should still be recognized and adored as an imperfect gem that, while unfinished, still retains the feeling of a true entry in the Elliott Smith progression. During sessions for the album, Smith was supposedly teaching himself how to record on the computer, the only recording medium he had yet to master. Aside from the album being compiled posthumously by Smith’s producer and his ex-girlfriend, it’s this wonder-boy-amateur approach that gives Basement its dusty, pastiche-like feel. The acoustic songs are classic nods to Smith’s early years, but the big rock numbers are something else entirely—specifically “Shooting Star”, which teams proggy guitar licks with a gigantic chorus of stumbling drums. Seriously, there have to be at least three drum sets going on at once in there (listen closely). This feeling of extreme density permeates the louder songs, most successfully on the totally junked out “Strung Out Again” and “King’s Crossing”, a wrenching ode to desperation. It might be somewhere behind Brian Wilson’s SMiLE on the aforementioned, forthcoming list of Could-Have-Beens, but Basement is still Elliott Smith, and Elliott Smith still rules.

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5 Responses to “Top 100 Albums of the Decade 2000-2009 (part 3)”

  1. Rich Yarges Says:

    I don’t know my friend about “Pretty Together” on this list? For my money “Never Hear The End of It” is a far superior record. I was disappointed with “Pretty Together” upon it’s release. I guess maybe I was expecting another “Between The Bridges.” By the way, Canucks suck except for Sloan and Neil Young!

  2. Record Geek Says:

    Fair enough, Yangs–I can understand where you are coming from. I just go from the fact that, when I listen to “Pretty Together” I hit the skip button a lot less than when I listen to “Never”. That’s what happens when you put 32 songs on your record!

  3. Rich Yarges Says:

    Wow, hitting the skip button on a Sloan record! Dude! There is not a bad song on “Never Hear The End Of It.” To be fair maybe I should give “Pretty Together” another try but I don’t think my opinion will change. Probably splitting hairs like comparing “Bee Thousand” vs. “Alien Lanes.”

  4. Rich Yarges Says:

    Hmmmm, I like that one.

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