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The Millennial Years – 15 Pop Albums Part 1

October 31st, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments
Millennial Years - Music

15 Pop Albums - Part 1

Music is arguably the most subjectively perceived pop-cultural medium. In no other media is the range of styles as versatile and the preference of tones as controversially discussed. We present you a selection of fifteen remarkable pop albums, which you may or may not like, naturally biased by this author’s personal taste, but nonetheless a hopefully sufficient representation of the decade.

This list is composed of three parts à 5 albums, the latter of which will be released in the next two weeks. As with all articles in this series, they are presented in the fashion of a list that could inadvertently be mistaken for a ranking.

15. Daft Punk – Discovery (2001)

Daft Punk - Discovery (2001)

It just had to happen. If for nothing else, releasing an album called Discovery in the year of 2001 made Daft Punk deserve a place on this list. Fortunately, its name is by far not the only positive aspect of this album.

Could there be a greater redemption from the abomination of Eurotrash electronics haunting dance floors throughout the 90s than this euphony of synthpop loop samples and auto-tuned vocals? Considering its ingredients, Discovery shouldn’t work. It should be yet another pointless dancefloor album, that only a mother could love. But strangely enough, it ain’t. Instead of repeating worn-out genre conventions yet one more time, Discovery manages to create something harder, better, faster, stronger. Its heritage is omnipresent these days. The excessive and excessively creative use of electronic elements in pop music in recent years clearly shows the influence of those few good electronic albums placed in the dark period where synthie sounds were the opposite of en vogue. Discovery stands out in particular because despite its pioneer status it does not succumb to the avant-garde. At the end of the day, Daft Punk still remain first and foremost a highly listenable band, which is proven by their unbroken popularity to date.

Special credit must be given to the visual reinterpretation of the album that was created in collaboration with anime artist Leiji Matsumoto. Interstella 5555 expands the animated music videos from the album’s singles into a feature-length musical picture.

Track Picks:

One More Time

Aerodynamic

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

14. White Stripes – De Stijl (2000)

The White Stripes - De Stijl

Garage Rock. If there is a single genre that rigorously dominated the early 00s it’s probably the rough and dingy sound of unpolished garage rock. One of their pioneers was this peculiar duo from Detroit, known as The White Stripes. Before that one single from Elephant became popular in football stadiums around the world, before their breakthrough album White Blood Cells shattered the foundations of what was known as rock music at the time, they released this piece that is considered by many as their purest: De Stijl holds the very essence of garage rock. As minimalistic as it gets, yet still unsuspectedly rich and highly musical. Self-recorded for a ridiculous 500$, this album has been an inspiration for countless aspiring rock bands following their lead. And despite its lacks in finesse compared to later works of the Stripes, it is also a fantastic piece of music.

All the key elements making up the stijl of the Stripes are already there. The instrumentation is dominated by guitars (in all variations), drums and the ever so melancholic voice of Jack White. Supported by the occassional piano, blues harp and a violin in I’m Bound to Pack It Up, this minimalistic setup is all the Whites need to offer a colourful buffet of acoustic treats. Be it Blues, Punk or Classic Rock, the mere variety of musical influences will make you keep listening over and over again. Even this many years after its initial release, after Jack White has long been ascended to the rock olympus, this album has not lost the slightest of its quality or power. If there is any album on this list that deservers to be considered a true classic, it is probably De Stijl.

Track Picks:

Hello Operator

I’m Bound To Pack It Up

Let’s Build A Home

13. Wir sind Helden – Die Reklamation (2003)

Wir sind Helden - Die Reklamation

Who would’ve thought that all it took to revive German-speaking pop music after over a decade of almost complete apathy, was but two words: Guten Tag. When the Helden released their first EP in 2002, it hit the nation like a furious storm after a long, torrid period of drought. By breaking with countless conventions restricting musicians at the time and establishing a previously unheard creativity, paired with the pure joy of creating new sounds, they paved the way for a whole new generation of German musicians. Although international acclaims were not as euphoric as the record would have deserved, Die Reklamation without a doubt ranks among the best German pop albums ever.

Be it the wild, untamed energy of their debut single, or the wonderfully sad songs residing at the end of the album, there is next to nothing which is not to love on this seminal record. Paired with some of the shrewdest lyrics you will ever encounter, the Helden found the perfect formula for enjoyable, non-shallow pop. Almost immediately following the success of Die Reklamation, countless follow-ups emerged in the charts, causing a popular interest in German-speaking pop music unseen since the days of the Neue Deutsche Welle in the 1980s. In the end though, none of those ever managed to reach the standards set by this initial spark.

Track Picks:

Guten Tag

Müssen nur wollen

Außer Dir

12. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2005)

Arcade Fire - Funeral

Every once in a while, there is a record that manages to transcend the bounds of mere music, creating something so touching and ethereal, it comes close to the brink of magic. If there was a single record in the last ten years that managed to approach this border, it must have been Funeral by Canadian band Arcade Fire.

It is hard to describe the uniquely enchanting melange of unexpected instrumentation, prominent vocals and weird stylistic cross breedings stuffed into the 50 minutes of their debut, that so vigorously rejects classification into any musical genre. If nothing else, it remains a piece of such intense and pure beauty, you will never get tired listening to it. A record that leaves you dreaming and wondering until, eventually, it makes you want to cry fervent tears of joy.

Track Picks:

Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

Neighborhood #2 (Laika)

Rebellion (Lies)

11. Chicks on Speed – 99 Cents (2003)

Chicks on Speed - 99cents

Three years after their surprise success Kaltes Klares Wasser established their fame on the better dance floors around the world, Munich-based electroclash grrl group Chicks on Speed released 99 Cents, an arty, subversive musical commentary on modern life. Featuring an impressive roundup of collaborating artists, ranging from German singer Inga Humpe (2raumwohnung) and french DJ/musician Miss Kittin to Canadian enfant-terrible Peaches, 99 Cents offers a wild ride through musical landscapes, deliberately disrespecting any conventions or expectations encountered along the way.

The result is an incredebly dense album, offering a lot more than you might have ever asked for. While it could seem cumbersome at times to unsuspecting ears, the album will make it worth your while, should you decide to grapple with it. Unless you’re scared by intellectually challenging, meta-critical experimental music, paired with subversive cynicism, there is really nothing that can stop you from liking this record, once you invested the time it requires to sink in.

Track Picks:

We Don’t Play Guitars

Culture Vulture

Fashion Rules!

Stay tuned…

As we continue the Millennial Years Retrospective next week with the second part of our pop music series.

Categories: The Bizarre
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