The Age of the Expanding Man: 1999-2001

Reflections on some favorite music from the turn of the century. Reposted with permission from Stumbling Dice.

Some of the best moments in life occur when your world expands, exposing you to new people and new ideas, some of which become permanent fixtures in your life once your world inevitably contracts again.

For most people, the biggest period of expansion occurs during freshman year of college. I was no exception in 1999, when I traded the house I grew up in for a dorm room. Although music was already a huge part of my life, my first two years of college were characterized by hundreds of new musical discoveries. I probably spent more money on music and concerts in those two years than I did in the preceding 18 combined.

After this period of expansion, my tastes contracted, and some of the music that comprised the soundtrack of my college experience was shelved. But because that music is tied to such strong memories, all it takes is the first couple of notes of a particular song to transport me back to that road trip, that one party that got out of hand, or that one night when we listened to albums all night and then skipped our classes the next day.

What follows, then, is my attempt to list some of the albums during that period in my life that received significant play on my system. I know I’m leaving out some gems here, so please help me remember other albums that were popular in the college circuit during these years.

So without further ado, let’s get expanded, baby.


Beck, Midnight Vultures

Strange to think that the best New Year’s Eve I ever spent was with another dude in his car. But not like that. We were trying to find this New Year’s Eve party and listening to this album. We finally found the house and parked on the street, but stayed in the car even as the clock hit, and then passed, midnight. A year or so after that, some college friends of mine and I took one of those stereotypical college road trips to St. Louis to see Beck perform. I don’t follow Beck’s music these days, but I still think this album has great party music. “Mixed Bizness†still gets me dancing.

The Beta Band, The Three EPs

Black Star, Black Star

Built To Spill, Keep It Like A Secret

Spin magazine had a great “best of†1999 list, and this album—if memory serves—was on it, as were a bunch of other great albums, most of which I bought. Back in those days, I read the music magazine Magnet pretty religiously. Even then, I disliked Rolling Stone, but Spin still had a little bit of credibility left. For a couple of years, I really looked forward to the year-end lists in Spin. “Center of the Universe†is a good track to listen to if you want to get a feel for this one.

Dr. Dre, 2001

Eminem, The Slim Shady LP

The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin

Still my favorite Flaming Lips record. This one sounded like nothing I’d really heard before that point. Almost immediately, I went back and purchased this band’s entire back catalog. I followed them up through Yoshimi, and then sort of clocked out. “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton†exemplifies that whimsical, cinematic feel that this record exudes. Each song plays like a short film, and of course the entire album is fantastic.

The Folk Implosion, One Part Lullaby

One of my friends and I had this scam going with BMG music club. We’d continually sign each other up as new members, getting something like six free CDs for joining, and then another six or so for signing up somebody else. Then, we’d pick out the dozen CDs we wanted, each choosing six. I think we figured it out one day and realized that we were only paying two dollars or something per brand new CD. After the introductory promotion period ended, we’d cancel our membership, but not before signing each other up again under different names, and the scam would began anew. This album was one we selected from the BMG catalog. The song “Free To Go†is maybe a little cheesy, but it’s still a favorite song of mine from this record.

Handsome Boy Modeling School, So…How’s Your Girl?

Jim O’Rourke, Eureka

Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs

This three-CD collection was a mainstay in my system throughout college and even after. I remember very clearly buying this at Slip Disc, a little record store in Birmingham, Alabama, and then bringing it back to my freshmen year dorm room to open. One of the first things I did was compile a one-disc “best of†compilation that was a little bit easier to digest. “Sweet-Lovin’ Man†is my favorite song from this album (that, or “The Death of Ferdinand De Saussure,†which was a personal favorite in 2000 when I took a postmodern literature class). If you don’t have this album, you should really consider picking it up. I’d love to have it on vinyl, too.

Mogwai, Come On Die Young

This record and its presence in my life is one of the best examples of that “expansion†thing I was talking about earlier. Although even in high school I liked weird music (early Genesis, Angelo Badalamenti, Frank Zappa, etc.), in college I got really into Mogwai, Don Cabellero, and basically that whole Thrill Jockey/John McEntire scene. In fact, I even briefly hosted a radio show in college that was centered around bands like those on Tortoise and Chicago Underground Duo, etc. I got to see these guys at Bonnaroo this year, which was great.

Mr. Bungle, California

I remember in 1991 hanging out at a friend’s house (we were 11) and his older sister was listening to “The Girls of Porn†from this band’s self-titled debut, and we stole the cassette tape and listened to the whole album, and that’s partially where I learned a bunch of the weird shit I made reference to throughout my adolescence. Then, a friend of mine in junior high was really into Disco Volante (my favorite Mr. Bungle album). So Mr. Bungle and I go pretty far back. I bought California right when it came out and loved it. In probably 2000 or so we drove to Nashville, Tennessee, to see them play in what is still one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I listened to Mr. Bungle sparingly today, because my wife absolutely hates them, but this album and “Golem II†still have a soft spot in my weird heart.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Nigga Please

Pavement, Terror Twilight

Actually, this is a very underrated Pavement album. That being said, Pavement hasn’t aged well for me. I was really into them in college, but rarely—if ever—listen to them now. “You Are A Light†is a good one from this album. For the record, Wowee Zowee is my favorite Pavement album.

The Roots, Things Fall Apart

Wilco, Summer Teeth

I remember seeing Wilco perform a song from this album on, I think, Letterman shortly after this album came out. “Casino Queen†was a single when I was in junior high, and I remember hearing it—and liking it—when it came on the radio in carpool on the way to school. This is one band I could care less about right now, but through Yankee Hotel Foxtrot they were one of my favorite groups. I’ve seen them a couple of times, most notably in London, England, in 2002 for the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot tour. “Candy Floss†from this record has a great Elvis Costello feel to it.


Badly Drawn Boy, The Hour of Bewilderbeast

Chicago Underground Duo, Synaethesia

Clinic, Internal Wrangler

Crooked Fingers, Crooked Fingers

D’Angelo, Voodoo

This is one I got from my freshman year potluck roommate, who played this album a ton after it came out. He also exposed me to Brown Sugar, which had come out several years before. I still like D’Angelo to this day, and had the pleasure of seeing his first U.S. show in 12 years at Bonnaroo this year. Track to listen to? Try “Devil’s Pie.†After all, you’ve probably already heard “Untitled (How Does It Feel)†or at least seen the video. I’m excited for D’Angelo’s new album to be released this year.

Delgados, The Great Eastern

Deltron 3030, Deltron 3030

Don Caballero, American Don

Elliott Smith, Figure 8

Enon, Believo!

The Glands, The Glands

Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven

I loved this album when it came out, and still listen to the first track sometimes (“Stormâ€). Like Mogwai and some other bands I was into during this period, Godspeed did that thing where a song just builds and builds and builds and then breaks. Tension and release. I saw these guys in London in 2002 and it was a great show, although I kind of stopped following them after this record.

Grandaddy, The Sophtware Slump

Idlewild, 100 Broken Windows

Johnny Cash, American III: Solitary Man

Karate, Unsolved

King Biscuit Time, No Style EP

Modest Mouse, The Moon and Antarctica

Outkast, Stankonia

PJ Harvey, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

My favorite record of hers. “Big Exit†gets me amped up every time.

Queens of the Stone Age, Rated R

Radiohead, Kid A

Radiohead was my favorite band in college. They lost me beginning with Amnesiac, so basically this was their last album that really blew me away. And I still like it. A friend of mine scored a bootlegged version of the album months before it came out, from his friend who worked at Capital Records (or so he said). The album at that time didn’t have “Morning Bell†on it and I didn’t like it as much. The addition of that song really rounded out the album.

This is a very good headphone album. Also, Radiohead inspired another stereotypical college road trip: we drove to Colorado to see them at Red Rocks in 2001 for the Amnesiac Tour. That show still ranks as one of my favorites of all time. It was storming, so the clouds would roll down the mountain and then crash over the city in the distance as Radiohead played. The atmosphere was literally electric. Beta Band opened and sort of sucked.

Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker

This is the only album by this guy that I care anything about, probably because it features Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, two of my favorite musicians. “Come Pick Me Up†is the “hit†from this record, but “Oh My Sweet Carolina†is good too.

Shellac, 1000 Hurts

Go listen to “Prayer to God†right now. I admit I’ve (fleetingly) had thoughts like the ones described in this song before. I once played that song to a van filled with classmates on the way to go see Derrida speak in Nashville, and by the time the song ended I felt like I’d aurally raped everyone in the van. Poor song choice on my part. I saw Shellac in Birmingham in probably 2005 or so. They absolutely rocked.

Sigur Ros, Agaetis Byrjun

Beautiful record, and one I listened to a ton during study sessions in law school. I had this band’s entire catalog ready to go whenever I ventured into the library.

Talib Kweli & DJ Hi-Tek, Reflection Eternal

Trans Am, The Red Line

Yo La Tengo, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out


Beachwood Sparks, When We Were Trees

Beta Band, Hot Shots II

Bjork, Vespertine

Cannibal Ox, The Cold Vein

Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator)

Still one of my favorite albums of all time.

Guided By Voices, Isolation Drills

Jim O’Rourke, Insignificance

This one and Eureka are great. I loved this record, and got into it particularly hard in 2002 when I was living in London. These songs always make me think of London even though there is absolutely nothing British about the music. “Therefore I Am†is pure rock goodness (and features my favorite drum beat of all time).

Mercury Rev, All Is Dream

New Pornographers, Mass Romantic

Prefuse 73, Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives

Radiohead, Amnesiac

Spiritualized, Let it Come Down

Spoon, Girls Can Tell

This album did a funny thing. When I first heard it, I loved it more than anything. A friend got it for me for Christmas, I think, in 2001 (maybe it was my birthday). I thought this was gonna be my favorite band of all time. Then, I just got tired of the record a little bit (same thing happened with The Delgados). I think this album is front-loaded, and I still listen to the first couple of tracks sometimes. Spoon has had better albums, although I still like the lounge-rock feel of “Everything Hits At Once.â€

Stephen Malkmus, Stephen Malkmus

Go listen to “Jo Jo’s Jacket.â€

The Strokes, Is This It

This band was gonna change everything. I thought we were about to experience one of those sea changes in music, like when Nevermind came out, or the year punk broke, etc. I loved the Strokes’ second album—and actually their most recent as well—but they never really evolved much. I was hoping for a Zeppelin III type evolution, but that just never happened. The band’s star faded a little bit. I saw these guys in Birmingham shortly after this album came out, in a small venue. They were great and the energy in the venue was amazing. “Last Night†is anthemic.

Tomahawk, Tomahawk

Another Mike Patton group, also featuring members of The Jesus Lizard, Helmet, and The Melvins. I haven’t listened to this one in forever, but I was really into it in 2001. I saw them in London in 2002, and during the encore Mike Patton peed on the audience and then got arrested. Yes, you read that correctly. That has to be on my short-list for best—or at least most interesting—shows ever.

Tool, Lateralus

Unwound, Leaves Turn Inside You

Weezer, Weezer (Green Album)

Starting with this album, Weezer sucks.

Whiskeytown, Pneumonia

Music is adept at linking itself to emotionally trying periods in your life. I got into this album after my high school girlfriend and I broke up. I remember hanging out with some friends of mine who were trying to shake me out of my funk. We drank all night and then at three in the morning went to buy stuff to make hamburgers. We then cooked them and ate them as the sun rose, with this album playing. This record is mixed really well, and it still sounds great. Ryan Adams, though by all accounts a major douchebag, has the ability to convey so much real-sounding emotion when he sings. A rare talent. “Don’t Wanna Know Why†is a case in point.

White Stripes, White Blood Cells

I still think De Stijl is the best album Jack White ever did, and actually the only one I still sometimes listen to. Never really got the whole Jack White thing, I guess.