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It’s compilation time again! What fun. I was thinking of doing a sort of 2000s indie rock primer. However, the term “indie” is somewhat vague. I know it means music on independent record labels, but I think some of the bands that started out indie have bagged major label contracts. So I’m calling this mixtape “Noughtpop”. It’s pop and/or rock from the decade that will soon be behind us (!). Even the term “pop” is vague. These artists haven’t made much of an impression on the Billboard charts (though they tend to do a little better in the UK). So Noughtpop is not pop. But it has what music journos like to call “pop sensibilities”. I guess that means it’s catchy, with the possibility of choruses and/or dance-y beats. And maybe, as icing on the cake, intelligent and/or strange lyrics.
In college I became a classic rock type. I liked some music from after 1979, but in general I assumed that rock had died before I was born. (Top 40 Pop died in the early 90s.) I liked Nirvana, but rarely chose to listen to them on my own. In 2003 I started listening to Radiohead, and realized that modern music could be challenging, intense, and different. (I love Oasis, but they’re not the most original songwriters in the world, are they?) Those days hardly anyone had a computer, and downloading music was a mystery. I asked our very own Kaustubh to procure Radiohead’s The Bends for me. He duly did so. On the CD he gave me there was another album called Elephant, by a band called the White Stripes. I fell in love with the album almost immediately. Insta-classic. There was no doubt about it — new music could kick ass. “Seven Nation Army” became an unofficial Yearbook Room anthem. Meanwhile I started to go to internet cafes to check out the new music scene. Hard to remember exactly when all this happened, or in what order. I know that I first saw the “Mr Brightside” video in a Satyam Infoway in Indra Vihar. The sound quality was bad, so it didn’t leave much of an impression. (Tommy mentioned it later… by 2005 I was a Killers fan.)
I discovered Franz Ferdinand the old-fashioned way: through MTV. Nikhil Chinnappa hosted a show that presented new music. He said “Take Me Out” was the next big thing. And it was. Wow. What a song. What a video. It took me ages to finally get a copy of the song. (I asked my cousin in Kottayam to download it. He used Kazaa or Limewire — does anyone use that sort of thing anymore?) MTV introduced me to the Vines too (the lead singer’s crazy performance style grabbed me before the songs did). Muse happened around then too (I got a friend in Australia to get Origin of Symmetry for me)…but I’ve left them out of this compilation. (They don’t sit well alongside other bands. Don’t you think?)
Soundcheck 42 played a Strokes song in 2002. Not sure which one. They really knew their music, but at the time I just wanted to hear CCR and the Rolling Stones. I heard “Last Nite” in 2004, and quickly became obsessed with it. I downloaded it at home on a crappy dial-up connection. It took two hours. At the time, I didn’t get their other songs. In 2006, near the end of my IIT stint, I got into their 3rd album First Impressions of Earth. The Strokes are now an all-time favourite band. To use a corny phrase, they helped me through a difficult (or at least hazy) period of my life.
IIT was where my musical landscape really exploded. In the first year I was blown away by their ftp networks, and filled in various blanks in my rock history chronology. (Got into the Sex Pistols and the Clash around then.) That’s when I came upon the Libertines. Someone happened to have the I Get Along EP on their server. Fantastic. “Don’t Look Back Into the Sun” is one of my favourite songs. Sadly, I discovered the band just as they were splitting up. The UK media were quite obsessed with the antics of Pete Doherty. I’m told Pete & Carl were inspired to start a band after seeing a Strokes gig. The explosion on indie bands in the UK is generally attributed to the impact of the Libertines.
In 2005 I got my own computer, and quickly discovered music blogs. I cobbled together Franz Ferdinand’s debut album from mp3s found here and there. There were so many great (and not-so-great) bands. Youtube happened and Arctic Monkeys happened. (Not sure which came first.) I got caught up in the Arctic Monkeys hype — I downloaded every single demo and live performance I could find, months before the album came out. It was fun.
By 2006 my music collection didn’t look like a classic rock type’s any more. I didn’t even have the Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin discographies (gasp!). And then I moved to Boston. A few days after arriving, I picked up a free alt weekly and found out that the Strokes were playing in a few weeks. I immediately bought a ticket. I went alone (I didn’t know anyone yet) but it was awesome. Great way to enter the world of live contemporary music. (So much better than watching old fogeys fleece baby boomers.)
As it turned out, my music taste wasn’t so off-beat after all. Several of my new friends had similar tastes. So I had company for all subsequent concerts. Arctic Monkeys! Klaxons! Late of the Pier! CSS! I even had the pleasure of getting my American friends into new bands, notably MGMT and Yeasayer (both of whom I’ve seen live twice). When it comes to music I have the zeal of a missionary. I love it when someone comes back to me and says they really liked one of my recommendations.
And to think that I once worried that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy music as intensely as I had in college! If anything, my love of music has widened and deepened since then.
Eight years ago I could probably name all the albums I had heard completely. It’s been quite a decade.
So here’s the mix. You’ll find that the term “indie” or “noughtpop” doesn’t really convey any essential stylistic elements. It may just be an attitude. I’ve arranged the tracks chronologically (even though my discoveries occurred out of order). If you look at the progression through time, you might detect a move from the minimalism of the early ’00s New Garage Revival (the Strokes, the White Stripes, the Vines) through the mid ’00s rediscovery of synths, and into the free-for-all psychedelic kitch of the decade’s end. I’ve tried to pick the best or most iconic song by each act. I know I’ve left out a few, and we could argue over which songs/artists should have been included/excluded. This collection is predictable if you already like this sort of music. But the aim is to provide some context for people who have not yet dived in. (A few people have specifically asked for something like this.) So if you’re wondering where to start with noughties music, here are my suggestions:
The Strokes — Last Night
The Vines — Get Free
Interpol — NYC
The Libertines — Don’t Look Back Into the Sun
Yeah Yeah Yeahs — Maps
The White Stripes — Seven Nation Army
The Fiery Furnaces — We Got Back the Plague
The Killers — Mr Brightsde
The Arcade Fire — Rebellion (Lies)
Franz Ferdinand — Take Me Out
Regina Spektor — Us
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — Ain’t No Easy Way
Arctic Monkeys — Fake Tales of San Francisco
Animal Collective — Grass
Tapes ‘n’ Tapes — Insistor
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! — The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth
Wolf Parade — This Hearts On Fire
CSS — Let’s Make Love (And Listen to Death From Above)
Hot Chip — Over & Over
Beirut — Scenic World
Klaxons — From Atlantis to Interzone
MGMT — Time to Pretend
Yeasayer — Wait for the Summer
Vampire Weekend — Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Late of the Pier — The Bears Are Coming