Like most tenth graders, I was depressed and angsty, perhaps more so than other year of my life. For me, it was the year of Y2K; I watched the century change and turned sixteen a few weeks later. I wore my Catholic school uniform every day, along with 8-hole Docs with sparkly laces and a big cross a la Axl Rose. I got dressed to "November Rain" on cassette each morning (I always rewound and played it twice) and ate dry Lucky Charms. I toted around The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton, sold copies of my little magazine, Punky, for 50 cents, and listened to my walkman all throughout homeroom. I was pretty resistent to switching from cassettes to CDs, but when I started working at Sam Goody Music in April, I gradually began the change.
In many ways, I felt at odds with my "generation" and what was deemed popular. Why did people my age listen to Backstreet Boys, and wear platform sneakers and butterfly clips? Why did I miss out on getting to truly experience grunge in its prime? What was happening to MTV? I was baffled...but lucky for me, some truly interesting albums surfaced around 2000, and thus my tenth grade into eleventh grade experience came with a fascinating soundtrack. Many bands I already adored experimented with their sound and came out with a record completely worth my love and attention. In fact, many of the albums to emerge around this time continue to be my favorites. Let's take a little look at a few:
Kid A - Radiohead (October, 2000)
I'm pretty sure I first fell head-over-heals-in-love with Radiohead via this album, although I had the OK Computer cassette first. I walked around all day with these songs buzzing and blaring away in my ears. I don't think anyone else I knew was really listening to Radiohead at the time, but this album drew me in and refused to let me go. Hence my very own nickname, kid A! It remains my favorite Radiohead record.
I was already listening to The Downward Spiral, which I thought would always be the best Nine Inch Nails album...I mean, who knew they could do better? But enter this double-disc of a sonic masterpiece, and now Spiral had some serious competition. I used to listen to The Fragile in my car every morning when I could drive to school, switching off between "left" and "right," by the week. It's flawless.
When the Pawn... - Fiona Apple (November, 1999)
I had bonded with Tidal in a highly sentimental way, and I was really looking forward to Fiona's sophomore release, in my sophomore year. This was another one for the headphones, and I remember listening to her late at night (though I was also really into listening to Fear Factory's "Resurrection" to fall asleep...weird choice, I know). I wanted to be Fiona...but I settled for just listening.
What can I even say about this album? It's the ideal blend of rock-hard and soft, angry and sad, with serious punch-to-the-gut emotion...perfectly suited to teen angst (and hey, there's a song called "Teenager" and "Back to School")! Maynard crooned with Chino on "Passenger," and a girl screamed her head off on "Knife Party." Brutal and brilliant stuff, sans any pretension.
Mer de Noms - A Perfect Circle (May, 2000)
Ah, the very first Perfect Circle record; fortunately, I got to catch the band during this tour, after falling hard for this gorgeous album. Maynard challenges God, love, and redemption, proving that he could be more melodic and almost (gasp!) conventional, at least more so than Tool's longer, technical songs. This is a beautiful, torturous album that should always be recognized as one of Maynard's greatest achievements.