If you hate non-biodegradable Styrofoam packaging as much as I do, well, then today is like spring break, Christmas and your 21st birthday all rolled into one. It’s Earth Day, the annual celebration of environmentalism, ecological awareness and, uh, recycling (or something). But, of course, you probably knew that already.
Anyway, if you’re like me, you’re celebrating Earth Day by churning the compost heap, grilling up seitan patties and — most importantly — recycling some old albums.
And when I say “recycling,” I don’t mean “using them as coasters” or “trading them in to SecondSpin.com for a copy of ‘MLB ’09: The Show.’ ” No, I’m talking about rediscovering some gems that warrant a second chance — albums that, whether it was due to the fickle nature of the scene or your evil college girlfriend stealing them from you, never really got the shine they deserved.
And since this is the final Earth Day of the decade, I’ve decided to focus on albums from the 2000s. So here are 10 overlooked albums that should be recycled … and not just because music really is a renewable resource. Consider it as yet another way to think globally (and act locally), only, you know, you don’t really have to do anything at all. Every one you listen to will save roughly 10,000 trees and offset your entire family’s carbon footprint. Or something like that.
The Glands, S/T (2000): A swoony, spindle-legged indie album from Athens, Georgia, that plays like a tour through the town’s musical history (R.E.M.’s jangle, the B-52s’ bizarre party-pop, the entire Elephant 6 collective’s sun-dappled retro-ism). The brainchild of singer/guitarist/songwriter Ross Shapiro, the Glands’ self-titled second album laid the blueprint for the success of acts like the Shins with songs like “Mayflower” and “Livin’ Was Easy,” and the fact that the band has yet to release a follow-up only adds to its mystique.
[artist id="988"]Green Day[/artist], Warning (2000): After the prom anthem (“Good Riddance”) and before the rebirth (American Idiot), which is to say “at the exact time when no one cared about them.” Warning is the band’s worst-selling album, though it’s rather unjustly overlooked. Billie Joe Armstrong’s writing is super strong — he really begins his blue-collar period here — and tracks like “Minority” and “Warning” proved that GD could still be plenty snotty when they wanted to.
[artist id="503131"]Modest Mouse[/artist], The Moon And Antarctica (2000): The album where Modest Mouse got arty. Not as urgent as The Lonesome Crowded West or as uniting as Good News for People Who Love Bad News, the wandering Antarctica is a conceptual work of sorts, about loneliness and isolation (it’s reportedly about the soul-crushing time frontman Isaac Brock spent in seemingly disparate locales like Seattle and Gainesville, Florida). Not exactly listener-friendly — the middle section of the album consists of three songs spanning 17 downward-spiraling minutes — it’s where Brock began to mature as a lyricist (and a musician). Uneasy listening at its finest.
Q and Not U, No Kill No Beep Beep (2000): Jagged, art-damaged post-punk from impossibly skinny D.C. kids, this is probably the finest record Dischord released this decade. It’s also probably the most overlooked, for reasons I’m not exactly clear on. Songs like “Little Sparkee” and “Y Plus White Girl” bristle with spastic energy, the kind the band would forgo on following albums (2002′s Different Damage and ’04′s Power, both of which are plenty good too). They called it quits a few years back, which is a shame. They’ll be missed.
Mewithoutyou, Catch for Us the Foxes (2002): Ignore, if possible, the rather bizarre rantings of frontman Aaron Weiss (who is sort of like a Freegan preacher, if that makes any sense) and focus on the searing guitar work on tracks like “January 1979″ and “Paper Hanger,” or the slow burn of “The Soviet.” Actually, Weiss is really good here too, sounding very much like he’s on the verge of mental collapse … which he actually could be. Sorta Christian-core, kinda post-hardcore, Mewithoutyou have always been indefinable. And this is their most indefinable album. It’s also their finest.
Brand New, Deja Entendu (2003): Sure, kids in the scene (whatever that is) can claim this one, but can you? Probably not … though you probably should. Originally intended as a sort of commentary on the state of modern rock, Deja has become a landmark album of so-called “emo-punk” (even though it’s nothing of the sort), thanks to songs like “Sic Transit Gloria … Glory Fades” and “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light,” both of which sound like they could be part of a Fall Out Boy set list today. If you want to trace the evolution of punk from Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come to FOB’s From Under the Cork Tree, this is your middle stop.
The Fiery Furnaces, Blueberry Boat (2004): A highly conceptual, overlapping work of art-rock (and art-wonk), Boat confounded pretty much everyone who had buzzed about the Furnaces’ debut, Gallowsbird’s Bark, though it remains one of the decade’s greatest accomplishments. Featuring more than 20 instruments, songs that stretch to 10 minutes and lyrical mentions of Damascus and the 1917 World Series, it’s an album that deserves to be heard. And debated. And probably misunderstood.
… And You Will Know Us by the Trail Of Dead, Worlds Apart (2005): A total and complete disaster of an album, one that effectively destroyed all the good will Trail of Dead had built with 2002′s monumental Source Tags & Codes. The epic World’s Apart is a testament to ego and excess, full of chanting choirs, screaming eagles and violin workouts. It also happens to feature thunderous guitars and drums, not to mention one of the greatest album intros of the decade. TOD deserved better than the backlash they got for this.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, Some Loud Thunder (2007): Hey, speaking of backlash, this is maybe the most backlashiest album released this decade. From the self-release to the production to the shrillness of “Satan Said Dance,” CYHSY went for broke on Thunder, and, well, it broke them. Given a few years, I’ve grown to appreciate this one, if not for the sheer amount of risks the band took, but for the really great second half, highlighted by songs like “Yankee Go Home” and “Underwater (You and Me).”
[artist id="2008947"]Panic at the Disco[/artist], Pretty. Odd. (2008): I have a love/hate relationship with this band and this album (and I’ve written plenty about them/it that falls under either category), but I will just say two things: 1) A year after its release, I still listen to P.O. regularly; and 2) Give this one a decade … we could have another Pinkerton on our hands.
Questions? Concerns? Hit me up at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.