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10 Post-2000 Indie Albums You Forgot You Kinda Dig

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In 2001, after years of Korn and Britney tyranny, it suddenly became cool to make guitar music again. If you were in a band, you had your choice of two sounds: garage rock and dance-punk. That may be oversimplifying things a bit, but in the wake of the Strokes, the White Stripes, Interpol, and Franz Ferdinand, an awful lot of groups jumped on one of those bandwagons. A lot of them wore conductor hats, and most were pretty terrible. But some were actually decent, and their CDs — as in compact discs, as in you bought ’em at Best Buy for $9.99 — were the soundtrack to an era everyone seems to have forgotten. It’s time we dig out the following 10 albums and make ‘00s nostalgia a thing.

6twenty

The D4

The D4, 6twenty

During the post-Strokes/Stripes garage revival of the early ‘00s, Aussie outfits Jet and the Vines rose to global prominence, becoming the Men at Work and INXS of their day. Unfortunately, the market can only tolerate so many mega-selling rock bands from Down Under, and that might explain why New Zealand’s D4 never really caught on. It might also have been because people confused them with the Dillinger Four. Either way, 2001’s 6twenty is a solid disc of hooky, chunky throwback rock—the Hives’ Veni Vidi Vicious with a twist of kiwi.

Elan Vital

Pretty Girls Make Graves

Pretty Girls Make Graves, Elan Vital

Over the course of six years, this Seattle quintet recorded for indie stalwarts Dim Mak, Lookout!, and Matador and brought their pointy post-punk sound to stages around the world. They played Coachella in 2004, and two years later, they dropped their third, final, arguably finest LP, Elan Vital. It’s classic beauty-and-the-beast stuff—the feminine-yet-fierce vocals of frontwoman Andrea Zollo set against choppy guitars and drums—and nearly a decade later, it remains a bracing listen.

Fire

Electric Six

The Electric Six, Fire

The second-most memorable song of 2003, right after OutKast’s “Hey Ya!”, had to have been “Gay Bar” by the Electric Six. Even if you don’t remember where you were the first time you heard it, you surely recall the long-winded debates about irony in rock music that raged throughout the year, particularly after the Darkness hit with “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”. Were these Detroit glam-punkers being homophobic, or was “Gay Bar” an oafish show of tolerance? As with every Fire cut, it’s best not to ask such questions. The E6 didn’t come to talk politics—their mission was to burn down the disco and the Taco Bell next door, and this is a smoldering lump of polyester and cheddar.

Make Up the Breakdown

Hot Hot Heat

Hot Hot Heat, Make Up the Breakdown

Owing more to the Fixx and Kajagoogoo than to Joy Division or Gang of Four, Hot Hot Heat were odd men out on the post-punk revival circuit. They might have crossed over like ’03 tour mates OK Go, but singer Steve Bays was just a little too yelpy for mainstream tastes, and even HHH’s colossal choruses couldn’t save them from second-tier status. That said, Breakdown is a great record, and lead single “Bandages” is one of the era’s lost treasures.

Asleep at Heaven’s Gate

Rogue Wave

RogueWave-AsleepAtHeavensGate

Despite all of the Iggy and Ian Curtis biting going on in the ‘00s, the decade did produce at least one original strain of guitar music. The sound never really got a name, but it’s a kind of post-Coldplay club-scale arena rock. U.K. crossovers the Doves and Editors were among the bigger bands working this sub-genre, and with their third album, California’s Rogue Wave offered their American take, doing widescreen rock music without skidding into U2 territory. Heaven’s Gate is boring at worst but never bombastic, and hushed tunes like “Missed” prove mastermind Zach Rogue was interested in songs, not spectacle.

The Guest

Phantom Planet

Phantom Planet, The Guest

In the mid-‘00s, right after you played SXSW but before you got your own iPod commercial, you landed a song on The O.C.. The Fox teen drama was a right of passage for aspiring indie bands—in one episode, Rachel Bilson describes quintessential O.C. act Death Cab for Cutie as “one guitar and a whole lot of complaining”—and Phantom Planet benefited more than most. Their twinkling “California” was tapped as the theme song, and fans curious enough to pick up The Guest heard another 11 tunes just as good. This was classic Elvis Costello power-pop given a SoCal makeover, and the record should have made Phantom Planet huge. Unfortunately, drummer Jason Schwartzman had that little side gig in Hollywood, and midway through recording 2004’s self-titled follow-up, he left to make it his main gig. Whether that sank the band is open to debate, but either way, this California dream was over.

Wet from Birth

The Faint

The Faint, Wet From Birth

How ‘00s were The Faint? Conor Oberst played in an early incarnation—that’s how ‘00s. Also, they dressed in tight, black clothes and played disco-punk beats, and with their fourth album, they came as close as might be expected to breakout success. Their previous LP, 2001’s Danse Macabre, is the superior album, but the synth tones were a little off-putting—too rubbery, perhaps, for folks not into wearing rubber. Wet from Birth is just right for goth night at the local college bar, and if the DJ didn’t have a copy, it was just a Target run away.

Jennie Bomb

Sahara Hotnights

Sahara Hotnights, Jennie Bomb

On their sophomore album, these four foxy chicks go shooting at the walls of heartache, kicking Runaways-style proto-punk jams with the New Wave slickness of Patti Smyth and Scandal. The Hotnights were even more accessible than fellow Swedes the Hives, but they didn’t have the same cartoonish personality, and for as eminently listenable as Jennie Bomb is, none of the 11 tracks really stand out. Consistency is a beautiful thing—it just isn’t all that sexy. Still, there are worse ways to spend 40 minutes.

Black City

Division of Laura Lee

Division of Laura Lee, Black City

Like the Hives, Division of Laura Lee were a Swedish garage band briefly signed to Epitaph in the early ‘00s. Thing is, their songs were darker and artsier, and nowhere on Black City will you find a tune as MTV-friendly as “Hate to Say I Told You So”. Opener “Need to Get Some” isn’t actually about screwing, and that left-field pedal steel and simmering organ on “I Guess I’m Healed” weren’t going to land DoLL in any car commercials. “Number One” might have, if only Chevy had started selling tanks. It’s like U.K. rapper Mike Skinner, aka the Streets, said on another terrific ’02 album: “You won’t find us on Alta Vista / cult classic, not bestseller.”

The Futureheads

The Futureheads

the futureheads 10 Post 2000 Indie Albums You Forgot You Kinda Dig

Talk about tightly wound. On their self-titled debut, these nervy U.K. rockers strum like robots and harmonize like hopped-up choirboys. It’s jittery fun from top to bottom—a face-first, open-mouth ride down a waterslide coursing with iced cappuccino—and there’s even a cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love”. Spin “First Day” the next time you start a new job—just don’t hit anyone when you start doing jumping jacks in the elevator.

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