The first three-quarters of 2001 would be the most prosperous I would experience. The last quarter of 2001 was the polar opposite.
Most folks would set the turning point at 9/11. Mine was 8/31, the day I lost my job. Till then, I was burning my cash on Japanese CDs with a sense the other shoe was about ready to drop at any time.
File sharing was starting to put a chink in the irrationally exuberant sales of recordings, and my own exploration of Japanese music would signify a larger change in music consumption on the whole. Listeners sought what they wanted to hear, whether it be Japanese pop, Italian film soundtracks, indie rock from the UK or old Roberta Flack hits. Strong-arming a song onto a radio playlist was no guarantee for success.
The Internet allowed me to ignore the domestic market that year. That wasn’t possible before.
Musicwhore.org Favorite Edition 2001
fra-foa, Chuu no Fuchi
Honestly, I have two favorite albums from 2001: fra-foa’s Chuu no Fuchi and AJICO’s Fukamidori. Both albums are vastly different — Fukamidori being the introspective foil to the menace of Chuu no Fuchi — but both are driven by incredible songwriting and charismatic singers. fra-foa’s Mikami Chisako delivers an intense performance, while UA masterfully slips on the rock singer role as effortless as she does with other styles of music.
Quruli, Team Rock
The whimsy and eclecticism of Quruli would be honed on its third album, a mix of electronic beats and indie rock guitars. "Wandervogel", "Bara no Hana" and "LV30" would be instant classics.
eX-Girl, Back to the Mono Kero
The trio’s formal US debut on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label found eX-Girl at the height of their creative powers. It would also be the last time drummer Fuzuki and guitarist Chihiro would embark on a mission from Planet Kero, as the band’s back story so colorfully states. The chemistry of the original trio, which also featured the leadership of bassist Kirilola, allowed them to navigate the twists and turns in the music masterfully. Also, the live show kicked much posterior.
Material is the first album ACO I would encounter, although my favorite would be absolute ego. A cover of Kate Bush’s "This Woman’s Work" — plus a b-side of Radiohead’s "Creep" — would reveal the post-punk influences entirely neglected on her first three albums. Material is dark, brooding and atmospheric. It would be hard to believe she would actually get weirder.
the brilliant green, Los Angeles
the brilliant green delivered an incredibly sunny sound on its first two albums, but with its third, Los Angeles, the band toughened up and went dark. It’s a hard album so stark, it sounds like a completely different band.
Cocco announced her retirement before the release of Sangrose, and it’s an album where the stormy weather of her previous work would start to show some hints of sunlight. In reality, Cocco took a break from music to have a child, a fact long rumored but only confirmed in 2007.
Res, How I Do
There was a lot of ink about woman R&B artists incorporating more rock influences into their music. Erykah Badu and India.Arie didn’t present themselves like the usual pop tarts, and so too did Res attempt to expand what R&B was capable of.
Utada Hikaru, Distance
Utada pretty much released half of this album in the form of singles, but it’s still a strong collection of songs. She would not yet nail down her own sound, instead opting to display a chameleon-like versatility.
Onitsuka Chihiro, Insomnia
Onitsuka pretty much co-opted Carole King’s modus operandi, but her rustic voice gave her piano balladry an edge that slicker singers would needlessly wring out. Insomnia can sound too earnest at times, but Onitsuka’s performances win out.
And the rest of the year …
- Hajime Chitose, Kotonoha A hint of what would come.
- mono, Under the Pipal Tree This band can make the ground shake.
- bloodthirsty butchers, Yamane A laid-back return for one of Japan’s seasoned punk bands.
- Kicell, Yume Luxuriously lethargic.
- Shea Seger, The May Street Project Singer-songwriter material wedded with hip-hop beats. Even Pharrell from the Neptunes shows up.
- The Shins, Oh, Inverted World! I like this album, but I don’t think I necessarily like the Shins.
- Rufus Wainwright, Poses Wainwright says his intention with this album was to sell out. Thank goodness.
- soulsberry, The end of vacation If every band has one good album in them, this would be soulsberry’s.
- Sigur Rós, Agætis Byrjun In contrasting this album with Takk …, a friend of mine told me to visualize a large icy expanse.
- Guided By Voices, Isolation Drills I resisted Robert Pollard’s slicker albums till this one.