College Countdown: CMJ Top 50 Albums of 2001, 46 and 45

46. Spoon, Girls Can Tell

There were certain albums I was especially excited to hear when I got to my new college radio job in 2001. While I was trying mightily to keep up with the music scene by reading about it, I was stubborn about actually buying stuff sound unheard, so I showed up with a little mental list of recent things I’d check for in the station’s admirably enormous music library. CDs, however, often don’t stick around in stations reliant on volunteers. They’re just so easy to slip into personal bags, you see. So Girls Can Tell by Spoon was nowhere to be found. Truthfully, this one was so clearly pitched at my tastes that I should have just shelled out the dough for it in the first place. Both the album title and the cover art practically tug on my sleeve, begging to be picked up. This was the Austin band’s first album on Merge Records after a stint with Elektra that is never described by anyone without using the word “disastrous.” It was only Spoon’s third album, but it was already viewed as a comeback. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s just a damn fine pop record with highly evocative songs, snaky come-ons and spiky rock that sounds retro and yet completely modern . I had to wait longer than expected before I finally heard it, but a delay is acceptable when the final result is so satisfying.

45. Black Box Recorder, The Facts of Life

Black Box Recorder’s sophomore effort, The Facts of Life, was first released in May 2000 on London’s Nude Records. It was reissued a year later on Jetset Records and that’s apparently when college radio really paid attention to it. A creative collaboration between Luke Haines of the Auteurs and Jesus and Mary Chain drummer John Moore, the band also provided a showcase for lead vocalist Sarah Nixey. They were known for merging vividly elegant pop with a fairly subversive, bleak worldview. This is what David Lynch might’ve come up with had he been reared on indie pop and could allow a little twee into his tar-pumping heart. The record undoubtedly appealed to a certain kind of lovely lass hovering around the age of twenty–those young women of the “little black cloud in a dress” variety–who has always had a home in the gloomy on-air studios providing output on the left end of the dial. Black Box Recorder never really seemed like the kind of act built for career longevity, but they were surely useful for those who needed them most. Sometimes the only medicine that works is rocking slowly in sad sweetness on a dance floor.

An Introduction
50 and 49: Creeper Lagoon and Ryan Adams
48 and 47: The (International) Noise Conspiracy and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

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