The turn of the 21st century saw a new industrial revolution within the music industry. The internet had changed the entire playing field, and gone were the days where record labels’ oligopolies had a stranglehold on industries, cheating bands and recording artists out of their money. The internet capabilities brought an oversaturation of the market, illegal file sharing, and new DIY mentalities. Everyone can now make and release music; the internet has, in some ways, created a democratic musical society.
As David Bowie said in 2002, “I don’t even know why I would want to be on a label in a few years, because I don’t think it’s going to work by labels and by distribution systems in the same way. The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it.”
With the prospects of the pros that the internet and new digital technology could offer, DIY artists came with a new sense of optimism that the information age truly took off on a good footing. Because of this sense of hopefulness came new attitudes within art and music to reflect these mood shifts. ‘Indie’, ‘nu’, ‘proto’, ‘emo’, ‘post-grunge’, and many more sub-genres began taking shape. Some of these were in direct conflict with the prospects of technology taking over an artistic pursuit such as music. In contrast, others embraced it and began using new recording technology in all music-making processes.
The year 2000, like all new decade or century beginnings, did not truly develop its own musical identity just yet. Some of the greatest albums that were released in 2000 still had a smack of the ‘90s. During the first decade of the new century, one distinct genre ought to revive a rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic: stripped-back instrumentation, four-piece loud guitar rock.
The Strokes were one of the leading figures of this movement; releasing Is This It in 2001. However, the previous year saw Ryan Adams (a rival of The Strokes, according to rock lore) release his debut alternative country-rock album, Heartbreaker. The Hives, another band considered part of the indie revival scene, released their debut Veni Vidi Vicious from Sweden. The British answer to this global movement was The Libertines and their 2002 debut, Up The Bracket. But at the very turn of the new millennium, things were a bit murkier.
We took a look at the top six best albums released in 2000. Some of these records are exemplary of this indie revival garage rock while others pulsate with a sense of originality fueled by a strong sense of individualism.
The six best albums of 2000:
P.J Harvey – Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea
The album is a nice introduction into the indie rock golden era; music was about to slip into. It proves that P.J Harvey was in ways ahead of the trends. In particular, on ‘Good Fortune’, her voice sounds like Harvey is the Patti Smith of the ‘90s and ‘00s. I wouldn’t be surprised if P.J Harvey really channelled Patti on this record; there are a lot of mentions of ‘Horses’.
Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea garnered her a lot of commercial attention; she was nominated for multiple awards: a Brit Award for a best female artist; she also received two Grammy nominations for ‘Best Rock Album’ and ‘Best Female Female Rock Performance’ for the track, ‘This Is Love’.
The record was co-produced by Rick Ellis, Mick Harvey and P.J Harvey. The record as a whole is often described as Harvey’s ode to New York City, as she was spending a lot of time there and had derived a lot of inspiration from it. In the same vein as David Bowie, P.J Harvey approaches her music and the art of performance in the realm of characters and truly inhabits the role of a character that lives inside her songs. Although unlike Bowie, her songs seem more personal — her characters are more like shards of her overall aesthetic. ‘This Mess We’re In’ features another cultural and musical icon of this time period, Thom Yorke.
Outkast – Stankonia
Outkast’s Stankonia did a lot in revolutionising hip-hop music, incorporating different genres into the prism of their overall rap framework while fusing more elaborate melodies into their songs — a feat that was not really common within the rap world at the time.
Stankonia featured catchy riffs and raps that left no stone unturned; they touched upon a wide range of subjects, from sexuality, politics, misogyny, African-American culture, parenthood, and while containing an introspective depth that many within the hip-hop world tend to exclude.
The wide range of genres that Stankonia explored include, funk, soul, psychedelia, rave music, gospel and rock. The album did really well commercially, debuting at number two on The Billboard Charts. While the record maintained an integral artistic sense of worth, it also made waves throughout the world; the album got Outkast two Grammies.
One of the most significant contributions Stankonia made to hip-hop was bringing attention to the south, and it’s bubbling scene. Having more southern rap and hip-hop played in the bigger cities, like New York City.
The Dandy Warhols – 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia
The third album from the west coast boys was their commercial breakthrough, thanks to their hit song, ‘Bohemian Like You’, one of the catchiest songs released in the last 50 years.
Thirteen Tales definitely encapsulates everything The Dandy Warhols are about; they truly created a unique brand of indie rock-pop, shoegaze, and psychedelia. Along with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, the two created an epicentre of a new music scene in Portland, Oregon and San Fransisco.
The songs on this record spin from one to the next, travelling through a pastiche of seemingly fantastical pictures of life in suburbia, yet tinged with a sense of the forbidden: genderless sexual exploration, band life, drug-taking, and bohemian life.
From pop hits to shoe-gaze paintings; from experimental noise to acoustic ballad-like numbers — Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia is exactly what it sounds like it might be. To not take away from the sincerity of this collection of songs; singer and leader of The Dandies, Courtney Taylor-Taylor once said, “I piss out hit songs.”
Elliot Smith – Figure 8
Recorded in London and Los Angeles, this would turn out to be Elliot Smith’s last studio album released while he was alive. Smith said of the album in an interview with The Boston Herald, “I liked the idea of a self-contained, endless pursuit of perfection. But I have a problem with perfection. I don’t think perfection is very artful. But there’s something I liked about the image of a skater going in this endless twisted circle that doesn’t have any real endpoint. So the object is not to stop or arrive anywhere; it’s just to make this thing as beautiful as they can.”
Elliot Smith seems to be equally inspired by The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Nick Drake, among many other influences. He was a master songwriter, and he pursued his creative vision within his sound as relentlessly as his looming shadow tormented him.
This very shadow of depression pushed Smith to write some of the best music ever written. It would also push him to tragically take his own life.
Eryka Badu – Mama’s Gun
Badu is very much considered one of the leading artists of the neo-soul movement; her voice has been compared to that of Billie Holiday’s and her music is equally informed by soul, funk, jazz and free-form hip-hop. While not as successful as her debut album, Mama’s Gun reached number two on the Billboard Charts and managed the first spot on R&B and Hip-hop US Billboard’s Top Albums.
The lyrical content of Mama’s Gun is of a confessional and cryptic nature like her first album, Baduizm.
Badu was part of the Soulquarians, an artist collective of like-minded musicians and writers, including Questlove. Badu should also be taken seriously as an introspective lyricist with an impeccable way with words in addition to her beautiful, simple yet deceivingly soulful arrangements. Her songs hit that sweet spot of the accessible, universal yet deeply personal.
Radiohead – Kid A
Radiohead’s Kid A is a perfect example of an album that embraced new technological developments within the industry. While many bands were actively protesting it by participating in the garage and guitar rock revival, Radiohead decided to diverge from the kind of rock music they experimented with in albums such as The Bends and Ok Computer.
Kid A saw Radiohead put down their guitars favouring electronica, sampling, modular synthesizers, instrument processors, and even a non-humanistic approach to lyric writing. In regards to the latter, Thom Yorke utilized the famous cut-up technique when writing the words.
Radiohead did not go about things conventionally with this record; they did very little to promote it, they didn’t do interviews, and they didn’t do any music videos. Despite this anti-industry attitude, Kid A did well commercially, becoming Radiohead’s first American number one album. During this time, Radiohead reigned supreme; as was the case with their previous album, Ok Computer, Kid A won a Grammy for the ‘best alternative album’.