Music

Best of 2001: Eden Miller

Eden Miller

Best Music of 2001 Lists



1. Björk, Vespertine (Elektra)
The complexities of domestic life are not generally subjects tackled in most rock music, but Bjork takes them on with her characteristic perspective. With sparsely delicate arrangements and fragile vocals, Vespertine is at times barely there, but always passionate. "This time, I'm going to keep it to myself" she sighs on "Pagan Poetry". You should be thankful that is not what she did with Vespertine.

2. Ben Folds, Rockin' the Suburbs (Epic)
Ben Folds remains one of the few musicians who continually gets away with turning a critical eye on his audience, as he's done in the past with Ben Folds Five on "Underground" and "Battle of Who Could Care Less". Although Rockin' the Suburbs' title track is a dead-on skewering of the empty rage of the rap-metal scene ("girl, give me something I can break" he sings sweetly, sarcastically alluding to Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff"), the album is a surprisingly sympathetic look into modern isolation. While his trademark style of piano playing may not have progressed much since the Ben Folds Five days, Folds proves he can hold his own as a musician and storyteller, creating music that is honest and heartfelt. When he sings, "it hurts to grow up" during "Still Fighting It", you know that Ben Folds understands you.

3. Garbage, BeautifulGarbage (Interscope)
Garbage has always made the strength of its technical ability in the studio work for it, crafting calculated music that never came across as cold. In this way, BeautifulGarbage is no different than previous albums. Still, the joyful genre hopping, covering everything from hip-hop to '60s girl groups to pure pop, pushes Garbage away from its post-grunge rock, and yet still manages to create an album that feels like the product of this familiar band. Far from the days of declaring, "I'm Only Happy When It Rains", the irrepressible Shirley Manson is now lamenting, "Free as a bird, wild as the wind, but somehow I could not let you in" as she does on "Nobody Loves You". Maybe Garbage has grown up.

4. Boa, Twilight (Pioneer)
Anyone who heard "Duvet", Boa's song that was attached to the anime series Serial Experiments Lain, couldn't forget it. After enough pressure (and enough legal ramblings), Pioneer released the British band's reworked version of the thier debut, The Race of a Thousand Camels as Twilight. While "Duvet" still may remain the standout, the fierceness in lead singer Jasmine Rodgers' voice, paired with Boa's slightly exotic arrangements and lyrics make, Twilight into an album of great strength and beauty.

5. Tori Amos, Strange Little Girls (Atlantic)
Cover albums are nothing new, but few are as bold as Tori Amos's Strange Little Girls. She takes on songs written by men and reworking them from a female perspective. The album has its share of weirdness (the artwork features Amos in various wigs and costumes, dressed as the "characters" that sing these songs). Unfortunately, Amos doesn't push the issues of why men write songs of violence, guns, and women. Strange Little Girls is still the most thought-provoking album of 2001, even if it isn't the most successful. And anyway, who else would dare to take on Eminem using his own words?

6. Tool, Lateralus (Tool Dissectional/Volcano)
Lateralus is huge, scary, and demanding, and Tool acts like it doesn't care if you like it. While the oppressive hypnosis and the inaccessibility may turn away listeners, that almost seems to be the point. Tool wants to be your personal band, speak directly to you, and make you feel like this is something only you understand, even if you do realize that you're one of millions that understands. Lateralus takes its own darkness and transcends it, and at the end of it all, Tool just makes a really good rock band — one that is obscure and strange enough to alienate some, but at the same time, embracing those who are willing to listen.

7. Duncan Sheik, Phantom Moon (Nonesuch)
When you're known for being a singer/songwriter, it is a strange choice to make the decision to sing someone else's songs. But for his third album, Duncan Sheik could not have made a better choice. While the melancholy lyrics of playwright Steven Sater are perfectly suited to Duncan Sheik's sleepy voice, it is Sheik's ability as a musician that stands out, creating introspectively complex melodies. Although Phantom Moon, with its restrained beauty, is easy to overlook, it shows a musician's growing talent. Don't be surprised if Sheik ends up as a legend.

8. Radiohead, Amnesiac (Capitol)
Radiohead keeps moving progressively farther and farther from its Pablo Honey days, slowly becoming what may be the weirdest band in rock today. Kid A was obscure, difficult, and Amnesiac may not provide the answers promised, but Radiohead's remarkable ability to keep listeners interested always shines through. For all that Radiohead can be faulted for, it still remains the most compelling band making music.

9. Eliza Carthy, Angels and Cigarettes (Warner Bros.)
Only in her twenties, Eliza Carthy is pushing the boundaries of folk music with her penchant for trip-hop arrangements and candid lyrics. While Angels and Cigarettes, her first full-length album, is a bit too bent towards radio-friendliness, Carthy's elegantly wounded voice always delights and surprises. Carthy may have yet to find her direction as a musician, but her complete confidence in her ability constantly shines through.

10. Bows, Cassidy (Too Pure)
Bows' uplifting trip-hop soars up and down like a feather, but don't let the seemingly airiness of Cassidy fool you. Bows has created a collection of songs that is powerful in its own exquisite ability to remove listeners from the reality they are in. Focusing more on the small joys of life than any sorrows, Bows is escapism of the best kind. Once in its world, you'll want to stay.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

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This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

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Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

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Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

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7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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