Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TOMORROW ON OUTQ: GREAT, OVERLOOKED ALBUMS OF THE '00S

For those of you who are new to No Expiration, every Wednesday morning I go on the SIRIUS XM channel OutQ on the show The Morning Jolt With Larry Flick. Tomorrow I will be talking about some albums from the past decade that I really like, and that I feel are a bit overlooked.

Possibly my favorite album of the decade is one of the first ones to come out: Aimee Mann's unbelievable Bachelor No. 2 or the last remains of the dodo. Truthfully, the album started coming out in 1999, on the Magnolia soundtrack, which was released on December 7 (the film hit theaters on December 25). Here's the great story: Aimee had a history of battling record labels. She had to fight Epic to get off of that label after her band 'til tuesday broke up. She signed to the indie label Imago, and released her solo debut, 1993's classic Whatever. Imago folded, and after legal wrangling, she got her second album, the also classic I'm With Stupid released on Geffen. But eventually that label was folded into Interscope, and by the time she was ready with album number three, the label had totally changed to a durst/dre/eminem obsessed label, with little room for someone like Aimee. They didn't hear a single. Apparently, Aimee bought the album back at great cost and released it on her own, and she has been an independent artist ever since (although you rarely hear her described as "indie," although you do hear The Strokes - signed to RCA - as "indie." George Orwell spins in his grave!). Anyway, the great director Paul Thomas Anderson, who had worked with Mr. Mann - Michael Penn - on his then-latest movie, Boogie Nights, heard Aimee's "Deathly," and started writing Mangolia, using the line "Now that I've met you, would you object to never seeing each other again?" Aimee's songs sort of narrated the film, and the soundtrack featured mostly her songs, some of which were also on Bachelor. None of this would matter if the songs weren't so amazing, but, wow, they were. She is one of my favorite artists of all time, and this is her finest moment. This album never ceases to blow me away. She always gets critical props, but you never heard of her on "best of" lists. She is on my "VERY best of" list. And on a personal note, it was an interview with Aimee about her Smilers album that I met Larry Flick - I was interviewing her for the SIRIUS website, Larry for his show, and we became friends after that, leading to me being a weekly contributor to his show.

Conventional wisdom says that Elton John stopped making cool music long ago. And for the most part, that's true (I love some of his '80s and '90s stuff, like "Sad Songs (Say So Much)," "Empty Garden," "The One," "Sacrifice," "Believe" and "The Last Song" to name a few exceptions). I don't even feel bad saying it, Elton says it himself. His 2001 album Songs From The West Coast is one of his very best albums, and it came when people weren't even paying attention. It's too bad, it is an incredible album. What happened? My theory: lyricist Bernie Taupin went through a divorce (his third I think?)and wrote some very emotional lyrics. And Elton was rediscovering simply recorded music, notably that of Ryan Adams. In the liner notes, he writes, "Special thanks to Ryan Adams, who inspired me to do better." At the time he was really into Ryan's solo debut, Heartbreaker. If you like Elton, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Also in 2001, Stevie Nicks released Trouble In Shangri-La. I definitely do not think that anyone expected a decent album from her at that point. I know it took me by surprise. It may not have had a monster smash hit single like "Stand Back" or "Edge Of Seventeen," but I will say that it is her best solo album ever. Part of it is that the album was partly produced by Sheryl Crow, who I think was more motivated to make a great Stevie album, than (maybe) making her own album. Not that Sheryl didn't care about her own music, but she really wanted to do Stevie justice, and on the song "Sorcerer," she does. I think that helped the rest of the album, produced by John Shanks, to be really great. She was also coming off of the huge success of the Fleetwood Mac song "Silver Springs," which the band rejected from Rumours, and which became a humongous hit on their reunion album The Dance. I don't have a total theory for this one, Stevie just had "it" back.

Fiona Apple's 2005 Extraordinary Machine got tons of press at the time, but doesn't seem to be talked about much anymore. This one has a story also. She first worked on it with Jon Brion, with whom she had worked before (and who also produced Aimee Mann's Bachelor No. 2), but was delayed over and over by the label. The album leaked, there was a huge fan-driven campaign to get the album out, which the press picked up (and maybe blew out of proportion, but it made a good story) and then she re-recorded almost the entire album with Mike Elizondo, well known as a musician who worked for Dr. Dre. He didn't make it a hip-hop album, of course, but he did give it a snap that really worked.


Finally, Q-Tip's album from last year, The Renaissance. Tip never gets the props he deserves, and I guess that may be his lot in life because he is ambitious and never panders. That is sometimes the burden of an artist I guess, and Q-Tip is a true artist. Forget wayne and whoever else is getting all the press, listen to this album, it's great.

Of course, there are so many other unsung albums from the decade, I may get to some more in two or three weeks. If you have any suggestions, that's what the comments area is for!

5 comments:

Mel Beavers II said...

Hi Brian, I like your blog. I own the Fiona album and totally agree. I plan to purchase the Q-tip album. I really liked the song Larry played on OutQ. Some other suggestions, Cyndi Lauper's Bring you to the Brink. I thought it was a great sort of comeback/mainstreem record. Also, Roisin[forgive the mis-spelling] Murphy. I absolutely love this album. She is Lady Gaga * 3. She's a very artsy conceptual singer, love it!

Minority said...

Hi, Mel, thanks for listening, reading and posting! I like Cyndi of course, She's So Unusual is a classic. I had the privledge to write a bio for her website for her when she was doing her "At Last" album. What a cool lady. I am familiar with Bring Ya To The Brink, not my favorite but I'll revisit it. On Decmeber 30, I'm talking about more unsung '00s albums, so maybe I will choose that one thanks to your suggestion.

Donna said...

Great list. I totally agree about the Stevie Nicks album. It's terrific.

And, I definitely want to check out the Elton John CD. As for his recent work, I loved "The Captain and The Kid" album! It really showed how good he still is.

Thanks for the blog.

Mel Beavers II said...

No problem, glad I found your blog; I'm enjoying your posts. Checkout my blog if you get a chance. http://melvinspopworld.blogspot.com

Minority said...

Mel: i will definitely check out your blog. Donna: I liked "The Captain and The Kid," but I don't rate it with the best of his '70s work. I do rate Songs From The West Coast as one of his finest - that's just me of course.
I will probably be continuing this theme on Larry's show on December 30. But next week, I'm talking about last minute gifts.