Of all of Conor Oberst’s many albums, this may be his best. Originally released in tandem with the dark electronic opus Digital Ash In A Digital Urn, the young singer-songwriter made history by hitting the top two slots in the billboard charts with songs released on different albums. Whereas Digital Ash provided the gloomy tales of death, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning was an album about rebirth. It’s like he pressed the button labelled ‘widescreen’ on his musical arsenal, and his usual confessional lyrics and weedy voice are backed by expansive instrumentation and epic hooks.
This was also the first overtly political album in Oberst’s career.After he moved to New York, all the songs here become outlined by the shadow of the Bush administration and the fallout of 9/11. This is the sound of a young man coming to terms with a society that has failed him and his generation, and he is pretty fed up with it. But as with all albums under the Bright Eyes moniker, there are always a few heartbreaking/warming love songs. Lead single Lua is a fragile thing, gently fucked up in it’s own beautiful way. First Day Of My Life has lyrics Coldplay wish they could write. And Poison Oak is just crushing when you discover it’s a true story.
If you have any interest in Bright Eyes, I’m sure you have heard this album already. If not, then see what you think.
My Formative Albums Of The 00’s: No 7: Biffy Clyro – Vertigo Of Bliss No.8: Idlewild – The Remote Part
Since I’m a lazy arsehole and this list is taking too long, i’m gonna lump some albums together in single posts from now on. And yes, it’s my blog, I can do what I frakkin’ please. The only reason for throwing these two long-players in together was the simple fact that they are both releases by Scottish bands. Being Scottish myself (no, not italian) they hold an extra special place in my heart. I was ahuge fan of both albums in my youth, and have seen both bands play live numerous times and these two albums represent the heyday of both groups.
Ignoring the fact they have now turned into a sort of Foo Fighters on acid (I still love them though), Vertigo Of Bliss represents the most confident and accomplished the band ever got. This was before frontman Simon Neil’s mothers death and the band were headstrong and unheeded. Reportedly recorded in just one day (leaving the band to fuck about on Playstation the rest of the time) VOB proved to be a huge step up from their wet-behind-the-ears debut Blackened Sky. The bands songwriting was much more adventurous this time around, with songs going through four and sometimes five or more musical suites, without the extended silences/mad noises that prog rock used for years to separate them.
In fact, the band transformed so drastically from their debut that it was sometimes difficult to paint them as the same guys. Blackened Sky was a Nirvana-aping pop-rock gem, full of dark melodies and loud choruses. Bliss is where they realised they didn’t want to be like their favourite bands, they wanted to be their favourite band. It’s a headtrip of a listen, but worth it. And it sounds almost nothing like Puzzle or Only Revolutions. Check the video for Eradicate The Doubt and relive the good times.
Many would argue that 100 Broken Windows is the better album, and they would perhaps be right. But my personal favourite Idlewild album has to be The Remote Part. The main memory of the record is Roddy telling a story that they wrote the songs in a farmhouse in the Highlands somewhere, and my listening to it over and over in my house during winter, when the wind and snow and rain pelted outside. It warms my wee heart to remember that time. Here is the video for A Modern Way Of Letting Go. I like to think the house in the video is the one they wrote the songs in.
Fuck yeah! Now we are hitting some good shit. What to say about Glassjaw’s epic Worship and Tribute? It’s a phenomenal album, and although it isn’t the record that introduced me to hardcore (that was their even more intense debut Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence) but it was the one that showed me that the sub-genre had post-hardcore a clear leader.
Daryl Palumbo’s soaring vocals, guitarist Beck’s inventive tones and arrangements and a great production job gave this album a beautiful sheen as the band moved from Roadrunner Records to Warners. The only thing that I must mention about this album is the fact that the band were refused to let one of their songs be placed on it – the beautiful Convectuoso. Because they had recorded a version of it as a b-side at RR, the label didn’t let them put it on their Warners record. Fuck them in their stupid asses, it would have been a great coda to what is already a phenomenal album.
Also of note is the other songs the band recorded for the W+T sessions, notably Grasper, Tewt and Midwestern Stylings. These songs are insanely catchy and inventive, and are both cursed with Daryl’s demo singing (aka lots of singing, not enough screaming) yet all show proof that they could have held down a place on the album. But that’s just my personal gripe. If you buy any albums over Christmas, buy Worship And Tribute. You shan’t be dissapointed!
It was fun to grow up in the 00’s garage rock explosion.
For too long I had sat in my room and plied my ears with earnest indie and metal or loud, brash punk and hardcore. And then came a rush of sexy, revelatory albums that allowed a generation of indie kids a chance to do something they had been denied for years: dance.
A group of albums were released within the same block of a few years that really united youths across the UK, and seemed like a proper musical movement for a while. In particular, The White Stripes’ White Blood Cells, The Vines Highly Evolved, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Fever To Tell and later Kings Of Leon’s Holy Roller Novocaine EP all featured heavily in pushing danceable guitar based rock back into the mainstream once and for all, and in the process destroying the concept of ‘indie’ bands as the majors scrambled to sign any scruffy axe-wielding Strokes-wannabes they could find.
But of all the records released at that time, Is This It stands as the greatest front to back album of them all. Eleven tracks of unskippable funky blues rock, with added grainy vocals and searing solos. I won’t babble on for too long about this one, as there can’t be many music blog readers that haven’t listened to it at least once. I myself was totally obsessed with it for about a year, and the band are still trying to top it two albums later.
This record is the sound of young 20-somethings having fun and getting drunk: the epitome of rock’s great inspirations.
I told you they wouldn’t all be critical darlings.
Green Day, on their sixth album had grown tired of the three chord pop-punk routine that they had mastered (on Dookie) and done to death (on Nimrod) and were ready to, cliché alert, grow up. Warning earns its place in this countdown because the band, and this album, paralleled each other in their journeys. Around the time Warning came out, I myself was spreading my taste-wings and searching out different styles of music, just as Green Day were doing the same themselves. And I connected with this album a great deal.
And this record stands up as one of their most consistent and satisfying albums from their ‘second period’ (the one after the 39/Smooth/Kerplunk era and before the American Idiot term). This is where Billie-Joe Armstrong really embraced his calling as a classic pop songwriter. Following on from his acoustic ballad Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) on Nimrod, Warning is packed with Elvis Costello-esque melodies and huge pop hooks.
The band clearly got sick of being poster boys for a dying resurgence in punk, and just decided to write tunes for the fun of it. It stands up as their most fearless and inventive recording, and really gave them the freedom they craved as songwriters to become what they always were: a great pop band.
Fugazi were just hitting their stride when they recorded (possibly)their last album. The record hit the shops four weeks after 9/11 and proved to be a definite statement by the mercurial band.
This record manages more than any of their others to blend all aspects of the band together seamlessly: the rage of 13 Songs and In On The Kill Taker and the experimentation and melody of End Hits and Red Medicine. Ian MacKaye and Guy Piccotto’s guitar duelling had been lauded in the past, but here they took a different approach with MacKaye laying down steady rhythm and Piccotto expressive leads over the top. They also employed slinky piano to tracks like the anthemic Strangelight and double drums to the piledriving Ex-Spectator. Bassist Joe Lally and drummer Brendan Canty provided one of the greatest rhythm sections in punk rock history, and they are responsible for basically the entire post punk boom of the early noughties in my opinion. Here they excel, especially in the bookends to the record opener Cashout and the incredible The Argument.
Anyone who knows Fugazi were always extremely anti-capitalism and abhorred the machinations of the record industry. I am of the full belief that if the band had bitten the bullet and played the game, they would have become one of the biggest bands in America. If not immediately, then definitely in a Pixies-esque elder statesman fashion.
I can say that Fugazi had a huge impact on the way I treated punk rock and politics; and I only wish I could have caught them live. I remember having only just picked up 13 Songs when they rolled through Glasgow on the last European tour they committed to. Even though each record they put out broke barriers for the stale genre that was punk rock in the 90’s, they really came alive infront of an audience. For proof, pick up their documentary Instrument, and it will give you a glimpse of what made this group of individuals so special.
I still hold hope that Fugazi will re-unite, even though I know there ain’t much chance of it happening. At least there will always be The Argument.
It’s hard to talk about Kid A without mentioning OK Computer. Radiohead ploughed a completely different road in the 90’s to that of their britpop peers, and their experimental leanings came to a head with their 1997 masterpiece of social decay and alienation. Then they decided to get really fucking intense and depressing. If OK Computer was about pre-Y2K paranoia, then Kid A is about rebirth and death all at once.
Around the year 200, like any right minded individual I was a Radiohead fanatic. I listened to their back catalogue intensely, and was safe in the knowledge they could do no wrong. But nothing could prepare me for the utter single-mindnesses that was Kid A. The band famously couldn’t be arsed doing press for the album whatsoever, and naturally, it lent them an air of mystique that just made fans ache for new material even more.
And you know the rest. Game changing, electronic reinvention…..blah blah blah. I find it quite ironic that a band whose songs at this time seemed to be centred on the argument that technology will take over our lives and we will become irrelevant in the computer age (that’s an interesting point) were the ones who were lauded as embracing the future with their ‘pay what you will’ approach to the release of In Rainbows.
And what about the songs? What can I say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before by more learned individuals than myself? Of all the albums by a band I consider to be the greatest in the world, this is the album I go back to the most. That’s possibly the highest compliment I can pay it. I’m gonna post two of the greatest songs ever written and two of my favourites of all time. Just listen and enjoy: