Introduction: As the decade comes to a close, I thought it would be cool to relive the past ten years and discuss my favorite selections from the years 2000 until this very year we are in right this second!
Now, to preface this, these are not my all-time favorite albums or what have you -- these are merely my top picks for "Album of the Year" from 2000 to now. Each week, I will post another year and another album, just to start up a little reminiscing and get some talk going around the water cooler... or Facebook or forums or wherever the hell you talk casually with friends. Or you can just read it and that's it.
First on the list...
2000: Alkaline Trio's Maybe I'll Catch Fire
Some people prefer early Alkaline Trio: dark, gritty, fast and unapologetic. Seriously -- listen to how pure and raw their sound is on those first three records. Not to mention how deeply disturbing and painful Matt Skiba's lyrics are. For what is technically their second release (count the self-titled compilation if you want), Maybe I'll Catch Fire is slowed down but still oozes with some of the best overall work the band has provided in their ten-plus years together.
Read like the best entries from a lost diary, every word Matt Skiba squeezes out articulates his own hostility and sadness, his own distress toward his own self-worth, and every phrase cuts like the dull side of a bloody knife (I'm not nearly as gifted with harsh wordplay, so bear with me). Some songs echo lost romance ("You've Got So Far To Go") and then wish it all away with distinct sentiments of a "go fuck yourself" variety ("Radio"). As a cohesive work, it's honestly one of the smarter punk releases of all-time.
How can you not sit with jaw wide open as you listen to Skiba nearly cry out when he says, "You won't catch me behind the wheel of a Chrysler ever again" on the eulogy "Fuck You Aurora." What's so wonderful about a track like this is it captures all the gut emotion of a tragedy and puts it all into words that are poetic because they don't sound concocted -- they sound instinctive, which is what creates a bare-knuckled approach to early Alkaline Trio material. "She Took Him to the Lake" is a horrific tale of insipid lust and what more can you say about "Radio," a track that literally stands on its own as an anthem of love, hate, murder and misogyny all in four minutes? Jesus, when Skiba rips his vocal chords on the chorus, you actually feel uncomfortable for who he is singing to ("I'VE GOT A BIG FAT FUCKING BONE TO PICK..."). Plus, is there any better opening line than, "Shaking like a dog shitting razorblades"? Deeeee-lish!
The band obviously moved on in a slightly more mainstream sound after their third release, but their obsession with so-called "gothic" themes and lyrics hasn't changed all that much -- it just isn't as grounded or off-the-cuff as it comes across on this record. In ten songs, it hits all the right notes of a darker-themed world than all the pop-punk, nu-metal or boy bands ever achieved when this was released. Edgy, sincere yet still very melodic, it was just different from everything else coming out at the time -- something we hadn't seen since perhaps the late-80's alternative boom.
In a year that saw fine releases from At the Drive-In, The Juliana Theory and (on a lighter note) New Found Glory, Alkaline Trio took all the ingredients of what made those records special, and blended them together for one of the more infinitely honest albums to come out this decade.
Next week: Year 2001! Will it be the high-school anthems of blink-182?! The breakthrough of Jimmy Eat World?! The humble beginnings of some band named Brand New?! The answer might actually surprise you...