10. Death Cab For Cutie, The Photo Album
As anyone who’s spent quality time with my Friday posts is probably well aware, I have extremely strong associations between the college radio station and certain songs and albums from the era when I was a student. There was a whole range of music that seemingly belonged primarily to us. No matter how many other college stations (or commercial stations, for that matter) were playing the same thing, they surely didn’t love it the way that we did. I assume this is a natural side effect of being a college kid who’s sharing in the thrilling task of keeping a fully licensed broadcast entity on the air with quality programming. When I got back into the college radio field in 2001, it didn’t take long at all to discover that the sensation in question transcended time and place. I may not have been one of those college kids any longer, but there were still albums that were so ever-present on the airwaves I was helping preside over that they practically become our sole property. We were the guardians of everything that made that collection of songs special. The first record that achieved that status there was The Photo Album by Death Cab For Cutie. As one of the DJs alluded to in a comment written on the sticker affixed to the CD’s front cover, it never hurts to have a good song about a bad dad to capture the misfit hearts of those who tend to gravitate to the noncommercial side of the dial. Even setting aside that particular track, the whole album is first-rate, operating with a resounding emotional opennes that perfectly suits the melodic spareness of the music. It got played a lot at my new station (we didn’t keep track of such things, but I’d bravely wager it was the biggest album of the year for us), and it was clear that the DJs weren’t just enjoying it, they were relating to it in the deepest of ways. Remembering that feeling well, I was damn glad to see it was still happening.
9. Gorillaz, Gorillaz
While Death Cab for Cutie is a band I strongly associate with the place that became my new home in 2001, the debut album from Gorillaz is the demarcation between that new place and the dairyland I left. My first exposure to the cartoon band conceived by Blur’s Damon Albarn and Tank Girl artist Jamie Hewlett occurred as we were packing up our Wisconsin house for the big move south. Intending to multitask with a little research on what music might be big on the college radio scene, I put on MTV’s (well, actually MTV2’s at that point) 120 Minutes as we packed boxes. As I recall it, one of the very first videos they played that night was the spectacular “Clint Eastwood,” the first single from the self-titled debut attributed to Gorillaz. I found it amusing enough to consider the fictional histories of the animated quartet, all that would be mere gimmickry if the music wasn’t worthwhile. On that first album, it surely was. While they all had their peaks, subsequent releases weren’t as engaging, but the freshness of Gorillaz is still remarkable.
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
12 and 11: Low and Tortoise