College Countdown: CMJ Top 50 Albums of 2001, 12 and 11


12. Low, Things We Lost in the Fire

The first time I realized I may be falling out of step with the prevailing taste of college radio kids came fairly early in my post-collegiate years, when a breathless rave in the pages of CMJ New Music Monthly inspired me to go out and purchase The Biz, the third album by the Chicago band the Sea and the Cake. The jazz-inflected collection of languidly thoughtful songs was deemed smart, intricate and artistically challenging. It found it incredibly boring, maybe because I had inclinations towards neither bongs nor headphones. So it was a little rough for me when I officially rejoined the world of college radio a few years later to discover that similarly deliberate defiant anti-pop bands had made further inroads on the scene. For one, there was Low, a indie rock outfit from Minnesota (home to spectacular punky, garage rock clatter in my day) that had helped kick off 2001 by releasing their fifth album, Things We Lost in the Fire, in January. Even if there was a a touch of toughness to their music, the main goal seemed to be testing how fiercely slow they could make a song. This new sonic landscape was clearly going to take some getting used to…


11. Tortoise, Standards

…a point that was further illustrated to me by the success of Tortoise. Again hailing from the upper Midwest–this time Chicago, where they undoubtedly had some crosstown kinship with the previous mentioned the Sea and the Cake–the band pushed even harder against convention, reveling in thick, sluggish compositions that I had trouble wrapping my head around. Tortoise’s fourth album, Standards, was released only about a month after Low’s Things We Lost in the Fire, leading me to believe that college radio must have had the rough pace of chilled molasses spilled on a counter throughout the month of March. I’d love to report that I’ve warmed to these bands in the years since, but they continue to drone outside of my musical comfort zone, even as I’ve tried repeatedly to find the pleasures in their most acclaimed works. I’ll fully acknowledge that it’s me, not them. I may have wanted to dive right back into the pool in 2001, but there were clearly areas where I just wasn’t going to enjoy swimming. Of course, having a couple bands that I found utterly impenetrable was paradoxically part of the fun of being back there too. I missed college radio in part because I missed being challenged by the music I heard. It took no time at all to revive that part of the experience.

Previously…
An Introduction
50 and 49: Creeper Lagoon and Ryan Adams
48 and 47: The (International) Noise Conspiracy and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
46 and 45: Spoon and Black Box Recorder
44 and 43: Rival Schools and Aphex Twin
42 and 41: Ben Folds and Superchunk
40 and 39: The Faint and Modest Mouse
38 and 37: The Shins and R.E.M.
36 and 35: Old 97’s and Red House Painters
34 and 33: Mogwai and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
32 and 31: Death by Chocolate and PJ Harvey
30 and 29: Rocket From the Crypt and The Donnas
28 and 27: U2 and Cake
26 and 25: The Living End and Spiritualized
24 and 23: Ladytron and New Order
22 and 21: Air and Mercury Rev
20 and 19: Daft Punk and Idlewild
18 and 17: Travis and Tricky
16 and 15: Rainer Maria and Ani Difranco
14 and 13: The Beta Band and the Strokes

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