Because I’m a big nerd, I’ve been making “best of the year” compilations for around 10 years now. I’m not sure if it’s a reflection of how busy my life’s gotten over the past few years, but I seem to complete the comps later and later every year. Maybe I’m becoming blasé about the whole process. No, wash your mouth out, Hughes. I become tumescent at the mere thought of the ritual—the piles of CDs, auditioning tracks, choosing the running order. I’m such a High Fidelity-type cliché I should be shot. I hate people like me.
I’ve just finished the 2001 compilation, and thanks to the eMac, it’s on CD for the first time. I know cassette fundamentalists like Shockk will be dismayed, but we’ve all got to move forward, you know.
My philosophy with these things is to capture a representative cross-section of the music I acquired over the year—as much music as will fit on my chosen medium. This year I’ve got 70 minutes worth of stuff.
I have a few rules:
1) Everything must come from an album released that year. For proof, the year must be printed somewhere on the CD.
2) Only new material qualifies—no greatest hits or live tracks (unless the album is one of those rare, precious entities—the live album with new material!)
3) All formats are fair game. Tracks can come from vinyl, CD, tape, anything. It pains me to report that I could only work with CDs this year, however.
4) I prefer short songs so I can fit as many artists on the compilation as I can. Considering my tastes tend towards the epic, this can be difficult. However much it pains me, I can’t include any 25-minute songs.
I actually listen to these yearly compilations on a regular basis. I might drive around for a weekend with, say, 1993’s tape in the deck. I especially like it when I can’t recognize a certain song for a minute or two—usually something by a forgotten entity like Rodan, Bailter Space or Truman’s Water. I have too many records.
So, here’s a rundown of 2001.
Solefald: “Hate Yourself” I like to start with a signature tune for the given year. This punk-riffed five minutes of insanity gave me more musical thrills than anything else in 2001. Nothing like some Norwegian philosophy student hollering “Hate yourself like Kate Moss!” for a fun time under the headphones.
Amorphis: “Forever More” After what I thought was a duff release in ’99, the Finns returned with Am Universam, a totally enjoyable, warm sort of record, with wah-wah pedals, groaning Hammond, and a bit of sax. And it’s metal.
Air: “The Vagabond” Beck steps in to save Air from their achilles’ heel—their vocales robotique. Never been a Beck fan, but he does good here.
Neurosis: “Crawl Back In” Didn’t like this album as much as Times of Grace, but it’s Neurosis…it’s quality. You know they shit blood putting this thing out, so respect is due.
Monster Magnet: “Heads Explode” The comedy portion of the 2001 compilation. I think Dave Wyndorf is using his super powers for evil rather than good. Listen to that ridiculously computer-enhanced production. It’s clear that Monster Magnet are now at home in both the boardroom and the dope room. Hilarity ensues.
Djam Karet: “No Man’s Land” These guys make a kind of inoffensive instrumental progrock, suitable for background music at the planetarium before Laser Floyd. Their aptitude for creating interesting guitar textures is very impressive, though.
Sigh: “Ecstatic Transformation” Wherein these strange Japs try their hand at boogie rock and end up sounding like Cathedral on Prozac. As usual, they attempt to derail the song with a Moody Blues-style interlude, but only make it even more wonderful.
Guided By Voices: “Skills Like This” I could have chosen any one of half a dozen songs off Isolation Drills. I went with this one, which recalls early Who, it rocks that hard.
Opeth: “Harvest” I always end up putting the ballad from an Opeth album on the compilation. Two reasons: the ballad is usually the shortest song on the album (see above), and the ballad is usually a damn fine tune. “Harvest” is their best yet. Is that a nod to Maiden’s “Prodigal Son” in the run up to the first verse?
Bjork: “It’s Not Up To You” As with GBV, I could have chosen any number of songs from Vespertine. The most beautiful, soothing album ever.
Katatonia: “Sweet Nurse” This band really does it for me. Katatonia and Amorphis are creating vital, accessible rock music entirely below mainstream radar, and I find it fascinating. This song, about a dying patient’s final plea, is typical of these suicidal Swedes.
Marillion: “Separated Out” This band and I go way back. We’ve had a torrid, on-and-off sort of affair. I gave in and bought their new one last year. There’s a couple widdly-widdly keyboard breaks in this song that made me smile, and some Tod Browning samples for added interest.
My Dying Bride: “Black Heart Romance” MDB do what they do year after year, and they do doom. I’m not sure if I’m going to be on board for much longer if they don’t start building on their sound again (they’ve regressed since 1998’s 34.788% Complete), but I can always use a good dooming.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: “Sweetheart Come” Just like 2001 itself, this record couldn’t have been any better. I fell in love with it, and I fell in love to it.
I’ve burned a few copies, so if you’d like one (and live in Vancouver or Sherwood Park, Alberta), drop me a line.