Mixtape: Untitled XII

Early 2002 was definitely a time for personal change. Considering we ended the previous year with a terrorist attack and the reactive political wargasms that inevitably followed, I’d started unplugging a bit and refocusing on what was important to me. Part of that was writing A Division of Souls and beginning The Persistence of Memories. I was reading a hell of a lot more, continuing my comic and cd run, and writing new songs on my guitar. Trying to live life a bit more positively.

Nearly all the songs from Untitled XII come from Newbury Comics runs. A lot of deep cuts with some radio songs sprinkled in between. So where did I hear about them? From CMJ sampler CDs and music magazines, mostly. I’d read the reviews and pick out the ones that sounded like they’d be in my wheelhouse. It worked out great 80-90% of the time, too! It’s also a return to form with my mixtapes, as I’d kind of run out of inspiration from around late 1999 onwards. There are a few good but not great mixes from that time. I’m sure it was partly due to my leaving HMV, partly a change in musical tastes, and other non-musical things (personal and otherwise) affecting me in one way or another. But I remember starting 2002 with the determination that I’d be in a much better place emotionally and mentally, and immersing myself in more great music definitely helped.

Side notes:
–I was introduced to Mistle Thrush by my former HMV manager Tom, who’d become a Newbury Comics manager. The singer was a good friend of his and, as it happens, part of NC’s upper management!
–Cornelius gets three tracks as Point was getting very heavy play in the Belfry. He’s been in the Olympics news lately for acting like an arse some years ago, but I still love this record.
–The Massive Attack song is a bit out of place being four years older than every other track here. Some cosmetics commercial used it as a backing track at the time and got me back into listening to Mezzanine during my writing sessions.

Untitled XII, created 14 February 2002

Side A:
1. Cornelius, “Point of View Point”
2. Massive Attack, “Inertia Creeps”
3. Mistle Thrush, “Enginehead”
4. Pulp, “The Night That Minnie Timperley Died”
5. Rufus Wainwright, “Across the Universe”
6. POD, “Youth of the Nation”
7. Stephin Merritt, “This Little Ukulele”
8. Elbow, “Little Beast”
9. Starsailor, “Tie Up My Hands”
10. Foo Fighters, “The One”
11. Bis, “Two Million”

Side B:
1. Sigur Ros, “Svefn-g-Englar”
2. Turin Brakes, “The Door”
3. Cornelius, “Smoke”
4. Ben and Jason, “The Wild Things”
5. The Strokes, “Last Nite”
6. Puddle of Mudd, “Blurry”
7. The Church, “Radiance”
8. Mistle Thrush, “3 Girls Walking”
9. Cornelius, “Brazil”
10. Stephin Merritt, “Tiny Flying Player Pianos”

Twenty Years On: 2001, Part V

It took a bit of time for life to get back to some semblance of normalcy after September, and for me it was getting back into the groove of writing and continuing my comic and music purchases. I shied away from most of the political commentary and conversation that floated around at the time. If anything, it made me even more determined to keep up with what had long been my true career as a writer.

Starsailor, Love Is Here, released 8 October 2001. Named after a Tim Buckley album (they even borrowed the same font for their logo!), Starsailor is similar to Elbow in that they have their own unique sound and mood that might not stand out upon first listen, but their songs definitely stay in your head.

Lamb, What Sound, released 8 October 2001. Where 1999’s Fear of Fours was an exercise in odd time signatures and emotional tension, its follow-up was a lovely, calm respite filled with some of my favorite Lamb tracks ever. This was on heavy rotation in the Belfry as it served as a perfect soundtrack for what I wanted to achieve with A Division of Souls.

Death Cab for Cutie, The Photo Album, released 8 October 2001. This Seattle band had been around for a good number of years and hiding in plain sight, but this was the album that gained them the most national attention at the time. Their popularity would only grow exponentially with each release.

Sloan, Pretty Together, released 16 October 2001. Canada’s Other Great Band doesn’t always get the love it so justly deserves, but those (like me) who love them have been fans for a LONG time. This is probably one of my favorite mid-career albums from them.

Pulp, We Love Life, released 22 October 2001. This band’s last album comes almost twenty (!!) years after they started, but they went out on a supreme high note. Every track on here rocks, and contains some of Jarvis Cocker’s best lyric work. Bonus points for the video for single “Bad Cover Version” which is a hilarious watch!

Lovage, Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By, released 6 November 2001. One of Dan the Automator’s weirder side projects (as if 1999’s Handsome Boy Modeling School wasn’t weird enough) featuring Faith No More’s Mike Patton and Elysian Fields’ Jennifer Charles on vocals. It’s trip-hop meets film noir meets b-movie drama and it’s a hell of a fun listen.

Andrew WK, I Get Wet, released 13 November 2001. It all started here, with one hell of an attention-grabbing album cover (the iconic AWK with a bloody nose) and songs that rock your ass off so hard that you’re not quite sure if he’s being serious or taking the piss. And he’s still partying hard twenty years later!

Various Artists, Not Another Teen Movie soundtrack, released 14 December 2001. The late 90s/early 00s wave of teen movies covered everything from sex comedies (American Pie) to bro-filled sports films (Varsity Blues) to weekend parties (Can’t Hardly Wait) to horror movie pastiches (the Scream series). A lot of them were terrible, but that didn’t always mean they weren’t fun to watch. Most of the time, however, the soundtracks were often the best part. This particular one is filled with then-current bands covering 80s songs you’d have found in John Hughes films.

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I went into 2002 determined to make it as positive as I could. Not so much because of then current events, but because for the first time in years I was in a good place and could pull it off. I dedicated all my free time to writing, to the point where I was writing every single day, including weekends, on a major project I had a lot of faith in. I had good friends and the ability to keep in constant touch with them. And 2002 was indeed a stellar year personally as well as with the music that I loved.

Twenty Years On: 2001, Part IV

It’s hard to talk about 2001 without bringing up the events of that second Tuesday of September, but even then I wasn’t about to let that disrupt my life. I would still head down to my writing nook and nail that word count. I would still do my weekly comic and cd run. There was a lot to process, and life in the US would definitely shift in a direction I felt wasn’t the smartest or safest one, but I kept going. And as always, music helped me get through that.

System of a Down, Toxicity, released 4 September 2001. Another summer record, all the local alt-rock stations played “Chop Suey!” “Toxicity” and “Aerials” heavily. SoaD could be badass but they could also be hysterically funny, sometimes within the span of a single song.

They Might Be Giants, Mink Car, released 11 September 2001. TMBG has long been a favorite of mine, but their 90s output after Apollo 18 always felt a little lackluster to me. Fun, but not quite up to the level I’d hoped. This record, on the other hand, was a great shift in their sound — they felt a hell of a lot more self-confident and freewheeling here and sounded like they were having fun again.

Ben Folds, Rockin’ the Suburbs, released 11 September 2001. Folds’ first official solo record (not including 1998’s Fear of Pop) finds him continuing down the road of smart and funny pop songs and beautifully heartfelt ballads…plus the title song which would become my Live Journal title a few years later. Folds is still the only musician I know who has ever played with the San Francisco Symphony and managed to get the entire hall audience to scream “fuuuuuuck!” multiple times.

P.O.D., Satellite, released 11 September 2001. I’d known about this band for a few years from my HMV job, but this was the record that broke them into the mainstream. It’s a widescreen-sounding album which works to their benefit — “Alive” and “Youth of the Nation” sound spacious yet so full of life and power. It’s a solid hard rock album and still one of my favorites of that year.

Curve, Gift, released 18 September 2001. Curve didn’t release too many albums, but each one was brilliant with its sonic abrasiveness, dreamlike melodies and Toni Halliday’s amazing vocal delivery. They were like Garbage’s older, often-ignored sibling that had a much cooler music collection and less inclination to hold back on their creative endeavors. This was another Belfry soundtrack with heavy airplay.

Bis, Return to Central, released 18 September 2001. This Glaswegian trio had formerly been known for its punk-twee ‘teen-c power’ cuteness (and the closing credits theme for The Powerpuff Girls) but eventually morphed into a dance-ready groove machine, and the evolution worked shockingly well. I absolutely loved this record — it’s one of those with a handful of great singles and deep cuts, and “What You’re Afraid Of”, “Protection”, and “Two Million” sound great as standalone tracks — but it also sounds wonderful as a whole. Highly recommended.

Days of the New, Days of the New III, released 25 September 2001. Travis Meeks was pretty much the sole member of this band by then (the original lineup having quit in frustration and formed Tantric), and while this isn’t nearly as grungy as the first album or expansive as the second, it’s just as melodic and fascinating.

Sense Field, Tonight and Forever, released 25 September 2001. I got into this band quite late but their records have always been fun to listen to. Not quite emo, not quite alternative rock, but full of great songwriting and memorable tunes. Another Belfry soundtrack!

The Verve Pipe, Underneath, released 25 September 2001. Two records on from their ridiculously popular Villains and Brian Vander Ark was still writing amazing records, even if the band’s labels didn’t give a shit. This is a wonderful record full of some of BVA’s best love songs.

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More to come!

Twenty Years On: 2001, Part III

Summer 2001 stretches on, with hot days and cool evenings. I’d started picking up a guitar again after ignoring it for far too long — I hadn’t written any new music in years, and it felt right to get back into that. Went to my first science fiction convention, Readercon 13, getting the feel of cons and what they offered for fans and writers. Saw a lot of movies as well. Really leaning hard on finding new inspirations and influences for my creativity.

The Chameleons UK, released 2 July 2001. Like Love Tractor, this British rock band resurfaced out of nowhere with a stellar comeback featuring their signature dreamlike post-rock sound. This one got a lot of play during the cool summer evenings down in the Belfry.

Tricky, Blowback, released 2 July 2001. This isn’t everyone’s favorite Tricky record — Tricky himself isn’t the biggest fan, having recorded it “for the money ’cause I was broke” — and it’s not nearly as experimental or weird as his usual records, but despite that it contains a lot of great tunes. “Evolution Revolution Love” is definitely an earworm and features Live’s Ed Kowalczyk (he would return the favor by popping up on their V album a few months later on “Simple Creed”).

L’arc~en~Ciel, “Spirit Dreams Inside” from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within soundtrack, released 3 July 2001. I actually loved this movie, despite its flaws! (I’m still of the mindset that gamers familiar with the FF universe had much higher expectations than I did, which led to its panning.) This was also the first L’arc~en~Ciel song I’d ever heard, and instantly became a huge fan of the highly regarded Japanese rock band.

Ivy, Long Distance, released 10 July 2001. I loved the late 90s/early 00s chillwave movement! It wasn’t just about laid back electronica or lazy dance beats, it was also the sound of relaxing alt-rock grooves like this band. Just the perfect thing to listen to while staying up far too late at night on the weekend working on my novel.

Jimmy Eat World, Bleed American, released 24 July 2001. The happiest emo band ever, this was such a brilliant, fun and energetic album you couldn’t help but love all every track and blast them at top volume. You still hear “The Middle” and “Sweetness” on the radio to this day.

New Order, Get Ready, released 27 August 2001. Their first record in eight (!!) years following 1993’s Republic, this was definitely a welcome return. It felt like they’d finally shed a bit of their Ibiza hedonism from the last couple of records (and countless remix singles) and got back to the gritty four piece.

Explosions in the Sky, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever, released 27 August 2001. Alongside Godspeed You Black Emperor and Mogwai, I’d caught up with the post-rock movement and fell in love with its soundscape experimentalism — I mean, what better music to listen to while writing a science fiction trilogy? This was the one that started it for me, and I’ve been a fan of the style ever since.

Puddle of Mudd, Come Clean, released 28 August 2001. Say what you will about this band and its ties to Limp Bizkit (Fred Durst helped them secure a major label deal and rebuild the band), this was a surprisingly tight and extremely melodic record with some amazing songs on it! “Blurry” is still one of my favorite 2001 tracks.

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More to come!

Twenty Years On: 2001, Part II

Easing into Q2 of 2001 here, I had my Wednesday errand down to a science: log out of work at 3pm, head down Route 116 from Sunderland to Hadley to pick up my comics at Hampshire Mall, then drive into the center of Amherst, park at the central common, and walk over to Newbury Comics (which was across from the Town Hall at the time), where I’d buy that week’s new releases and maybe a box of Pocky and some blank tapes for mixtape purposes. It was my way of relaxing after a long day of moving boxes.

We had a relatively tight team at YC. A good portion of us were smokers at the time and would head out to the back picnic table near the rear truck drivers’ entrance — this was before all the smoking bans went into effect, so as long as we weren’t directly in front of the door, no one seemed to mind. Bruce and I used to hang out there chatting about music and other things while WHMP played over the loudspeaker above the door. The job itself was hard work, but at the time we all enjoyed it, especially since we were now in a HUGE shipping department three times the size of the one we’d been at previously.

Plunderphonics, 69 Plunderphonics 96, released 3 April 2001. I think this predated the mashup craze by a year or so, if I’m not mistaken. It initially intrigued me because it’s on Seeland, Negativland’s label, so it had to be weird and experimental in a really fun way. John Oswald’s aural experiments aren’t for everyone, but they’re often clever and sometimes hilarious. This particular track is twenty-four versions of Richard Strauss’ opening to “Also Sprach Zarathustra” played at once and turning into a slurry mess that, ironically, sounds like the Ligeti piece played during the headtrip light show near the end of 2001.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, BRMC, released 3 April 2001. Bluesy, shoegazey, and just amazing. I’d been intrigued considering the lead singer was the son of Michael Been (the lead singer of The Call, an 80s band I loved). It’s an album that should be played loud.

Skindive, Skindive, released 3 April 2001. I mentioned this band a few posts ago. It’s a pity they disappeared as quickly as they arrived, because they were fantastic! They captured the ferocity of Curve and the sexiness of Garbage, and even had a bit of the musical nerdiness of Failure. I still pull this one out and give it a spin now and again.

Stereophonics, Just Enough Education to Perform, released 17 April 2001. A band that has more of a following in the UK than here, this is a super moody but wonderful album that took them in a much darker and louder direction. “Mr. Writer” is such a great eff-you to their music critics that like the sound of their own voice more than the music they reviewed.

Elbow, Asleep in the Back, released 7 May 2001. An auspicious beginning for a band that would consistently release brilliant and beautiful music over the next two decades. Their debut is a quiet and meandering affair compared to later albums but no less amazing. They remain an “I will buy anything they release” band for me!

Tool, Lateralus, 15 May 2001. “Schism” was the bassline of the summer, felt like. I’d hear this on the hard rock stations, MTV, the alt.rock stations, and even on the college stations. I heard the song everywhere. They’re a band that tend to have a lifetime between releases, but this was well worth the wait.

Stabbing Westward, Stabbing Westward, released 22 May 2001. A 90s band I’d always enjoyed. They had that NIN blizzard of sound and anger to their music just like a lot of alt.metal bands, but they pulled it off with consistently amazing tracks. This album got a lot of play in the Belfry during my writing sessions! Also one of the loudest bands I’d ever seen live.

Radiohead, Amnesiac, released 4 June 2001. The second, moodier and creepier half of Radiohead’s strange foray into experimentalism, this one doesn’t quite stand up as well as Kid A does for me, but it does have its great moments.

The Cult, Beyond Good and Evil, released 22 June 2001. I’d always been a fan of this band but never quite got around to acquiring their albums for ages. I finally started with this one when it came out, and I was not let down. It’s HEAVY AF and loud as hell, and I love it. This one also made it through multiple plays during Belfry writing sessions!

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More to come!