Welcome to another installation of the Twenty Years On series, in which I revisit some albums, singles, compilations and soundtracks that got some serious play in the Belfry while I wrote the Bridgetown Trilogy!
This time it’s 2003, a transitional year for me personally and creatively. I was just about wrapping up Book 2 in the trilogy, The Persistence of Memories, which I’d managed to write in exactly one year — a first for me, as my previous novels usually took me a year and a half to two. I was extremely proud of that book; I still am, and consider it my favorite of the three. I’d soon start off on The Balance of Light, which…well, more on that later!
So let’s begin, shall we?
Rainer Maria, Long Knives Drawn, released 21 January 2003. One of many bands I’d heard of (thanks to HMV) but never got around to following until some years later. This is a great album full of driving tunes and “Ears Ring” made it to my year-end mixtape and favorites list.
Laika, Lost in Space, Vol 1 (1993-2002), released 21 January 2003. This too was a band I discovered later on, and this is a curious compilation of singles and rarities I found myself enjoying during my writing sessions. Not quite electronica, not quite trip hop, not quite alt rock, but something somewhere in between.
Calla, Televise, released 28 January 2003. I believe I found this one through a review in CMJ — I’d often read the reviews while at Newbury Comics and then pick up what appealed to me — and this jumped out as an interesting find. Arty and angular indie rock that fit the soundtrack of my trilogy perfectly.
Clearlake, Cedars, released 3 February 2003. I believe I’d first heard “Almost the Same” on LaunchCast and thought hey, this is like ‘what if Robert Smith sang for an emo punk band? and picked it up right away.
Johnny Marr & the Healers, Boomslang, released 4 February 2003. Marr’s first official solo album after several post-Smiths years of session work and he hit it straight out of the park from the beginning. You can kind of tell he’s still feeling the waters a bit and he’s not nearly as adventurous as he’d be ten years later with his album The Messenger, but there’s no mistaking his wonderful songwriting style.
Massive Attack, 100th Window, released 10 February 2003. Their long-awaited follow up to their brilliant Mezzanine may not have been as flawless, but it’s an interesting album nonetheless. Essentially recorded by main member Robert Del Naja on his own (the two other members, Mushroom and Grant Marshall, chose not to work on this one), it’s somewhat strangely upbeat compared to previous albums. The Sinead O’Connor-sung “What Your Soul Sings” ended up on many mixtapes, but also ended up as a key phrase in the Bridgetown Trilogy as well.
Stars, Heart, released 11 February 2003. Another ‘heard of but never heard‘ band I finally started to follow. I loved their curious mix of pretty balladry and oddball indie pop, and this one also got a lot of Belfry play.
The Postal Service, Give Up, released 18 February 2003. A side project between Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and DJ/producer Dntel, this was essentially what if Death Cab was an electropop band but “Such Great Heights” was so huge (and still gets played on the radio!) it’s considered a classic album.
Mixtape, Re:Defined 01, created 24 February 2003. The first mixtape of the year, and the first where I decided not to use the Walk in Silence/Listen in Silence/Untitled/etc theme, instead going for a streamlined mix of Songs I Love at the time. This first one is understandably a mix of songs from the new year and tunes from late 2002, but I found myself listening to this one a lot during my commutes to and from work. This boded well, and I’d keep the Re:Defined theme into 2005. I’d even make CD versions for Belfry play!
The Notwist, Neon Golden, released (US) 25 February 2003. This German indie rock band had a small but considerable following in the States but this album broke them and helped kickstart the indietronica movement. “Pick Up the Phone” is one of my favorite songs of this particular year.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Nocturama, released 25 February 2003. Nick Cave is someone I always enjoyed but never quite got around to collecting his albums. I was fascinated by this album, however, as it sounded so different from their previous records, as it sounds so much more vibrant (and dare I say, even a bit less funereal?) than them.
Stay tuned for more!