2000s Graveyard: Part 1

2000s Graveyard

I’m not sure of the exact reason, but I’ve had a bit of nostalgia for the mid-2000s lately. Perhaps it’s the fact that my daughter — born in 2005 — has recently left for college. Perhaps it’s the wave of albums reappearing in 20th anniversary reissues. Perhaps it’s Jon Stewart returning to The Daily Show. Whatever the reason, this era that shouldn’t feel so long ago — but really feels like a long time ago — has been on my mind a lot over the past few months.

And while I could attempt to satiate this wave of nostalgia by listening to the best music from those years, in reality, albums like Illinois, The Woods, or The Sunset Tree are only gonna do so much, as they’ve never really left my rotation long enough to be solely tied to their moment of arrival. Those albums remind me of moving to Oregon in 2012, taking road trips with my teenaged kids in 2017, or doing dishes last week, just as much they remind me of the summer of 2005. To really scratch that nostalgic itch, I need to return to the albums that soundtracked those days, and only those days.

In actuality, I initially conceived of this project well before my current wave of 2000s fever. I erased all of my album ratings on RateYourMusic about eighteen months ago, largely in an attempt to force myself to reevaluate my collection with as fresh of ears as possible. Naturally, the first batch of records that I revisited were a mix of long-time favorites and of-the-moment cravings. Then, I spent the entirety of 2023 focusing on debut albums. For the past couple of months, it’s been a mix of compilations and full catalogs.

But all the while, there’s been a particular grouping of albums looming ominously in the background. More than any time previously, or since, the 2000s were an intense era of music acquisition. RYM tells me that I have over 1400 albums from that decade alone in my collection of LPs, CDs, and mp3s; and I can confirm, having at one point created annual rankings for each year of the 2000s, all of which went beyond 100 titles. And while I definitely bought way more music than my then-meager income should’ve allowed, many of those 1400 albums found their way to me by way of CD-Rs, flash drives, and new music purchased via trading in CDs that I had already ripped to my meticulously organized iTunes library.

Many of these albums became favorites. Of the aforementioned 2005 trio, two were originally acquired from friends via CD-R, and I subsequently bought both on vinyl; the other was purchased on release day, with its original Superman artwork. I’ve seen those three artists a combined seven times in concert, and have bought merch at pretty much every one of those shows. While industry pundits spent most of the decade grousing about file sharing, my friends and I provided at least some evidence that widespread music trading could actually increase revenues for artists and labels — at least if done right.

But while plenty of these records entered (and stayed) in my heavy rotation, there were plenty that didn’t. These are the ones that, as I deleted my RYM ratings, I wondered if I would ever actually get around to revisiting. And by now, you probably know where this is heading:

Several months ago, I scoured my collection, looking for albums that fit into what I called the “2000s Graveyard.” For artists to qualify, none of their albums (not just the ones in my collection) could have 500 or more ratings. The intent was to not just highlight albums that were obscure, but artists who neither attained or retained enough of a following to be well-known by the general public. For the most part, these are also artists that had little staying power for me. My total list tallied over 100 albums. And then it just sat there for months. My attitude towards actually listening to these mostly-forgotten albums largely amounted to, “why would I listen to __________, when I can listen to __________ instead?”

But fate works in mysterious ways. Coinciding with the aforementioned nostalgia wave, I’ve spent my evenings over the past two weeks largely holed up in my bedroom, while a remodeling project is underway on the main floor of my house. My records and turntables are all packed up. My CDs — most of which had already been packed away to the garage — are inaccessible. But those 100-plus “Graveyard” albums are available; and so, I’ve decided to begin chipping away at the list.

I opted to use a random number generator to decide which fifteen albums to tackle for this piece. For each of these albums, I’ve included the following: how I acquired it; its RYM score (and number of ratings); its Pitchfork rating (since Pitchfork was the indie rock tastemaker of the day); a brief review; my own present-day rating; and one song for a Spotify playlist that intends to salvage the best that these neglected records have to offer. Despite my initial hesitance, I’ve actually enjoyed this trip down memory lane — even if I haven’t always enjoyed the albums in question. Expect a sequel at some point, but for now, enjoy!


Everyone Down Here


HOW DID I GET IT: I distinctly remember getting this one from a bassist that I played in a band (two, actually) with for about a year.

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 3.40 (155 ratings)


This is a pleasant listen: nothing groundbreaking, but warmly recorded, and housing some nice melodies throughout. Apparently Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle had a hand in producing some of this, and there is more than a superficial connection here. Much of this record sounds pretty damn similar to Grandaddy’s first few albums, almost as if that Modesto group were a/the prime influence on this Los Angeles band. Some later tracks bear a discernible resemblance to Elliott Smith — namely “Lazy Feet 23” and “Big Ol’ Black” — both in their hushed vocals and mid-fi production. The Pitchfork review is probably a bit too complimentary — the word ‘great’ is used a few too many times — but this is a pretty solid listen.


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: The mid-album rocker “Burning the Cow” was the track that I remembered best from Everyone Down Here, but in these last couple of listens I’m most partial to the early highlight, “We Drink on the Job.” Alas, this is the one album on this list that is not presently available on Spotify.


Strength in Numbers


HOW DID I GET IT: I have three Calla albums, and I’m reasonably certain that all of them came from my brother, who acquired an eMusic account not long after I did.

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 2.99 (184 ratings)


Full disclosure: I’m not even that into the best of what slowcore has to offer, so a post-peak record from a second-tier act in the genre probably isn’t gonna change my mind. And really, this one was a bit of a chore for me to make it through. The languid tempos and sad-sack vocals would be a tough sell under optimal circumstances, but fifty-two minutes of it is a lot to take. In all fairness, there are some points in which the guitar work is nice, but they’re frustratingly fleeting, and/or overshadowed by the lackluster vocals. From the goth-y NIN-isms of the opening slog “Sanctity,” this one is not really my thing. However, with a couple more qualifying albums, Calla will have another shot at winning me over in a future installment.


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: Even though it’s tied for the longest song here, I’ll go with “Sleep in Splendor” — which manages to create the most intriguing atmosphere on Strength in Numbers.

The Capstan Shafts

Euridice Proudhon


HOW DID I GET IT: I picked this one up on my own through eMusic — probably after reading the positive Pitchfork review, and seeing the magical words ‘Guided by Voices.’

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 3.40 (50 ratings)


The obvious comparison here is peak-era GBV, and while that’s certainly what would’ve drawn me to this one in 2006-2007, today I can hear some pretty clear influence of other lo-fi greats like The Clean, Television Personalities, and Cleaners from Venus. Though I haven’t returned to it in several years, Euridice Proudhon holds up pretty well. Not to harp on the GBV comparisons too much, but imagine if Robert Pollard was merely a good songwriter, rather than a great one, and that’s more or less what you get here. This is never as sublime, surreal, or stupid (a compliment, by the way) as GBV could get in their classic era, but it’s plenty enjoyable nonetheless.


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: Perhaps it’s because it feels like the most fleshed-out song here, but “Sleepcure Theory Advancer” seems like the pretty clear standout. 

Oxford Collapse

Some Wilderness


HOW DID I GET IT: From one of my SCM colleagues, after we saw the band perform in a parking lot at the 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival.

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 3.18 (33 ratings)


Seeing these guys live, I remember thinking that they gave off a bit of early-ish Meat Puppets energy. But listening now, I don’t really hear it on this record — except perhaps in some of the janglier parts. Some Wilderness is enjoyably upbeat, and the first half of it is pretty solid. But whether it’s fatigue or a general decline in quality, I don’t think the second half matches the first, and ultimately I remember very little about it when it’s not playing.


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: Not only do I really like the passive-aggressive nature of the title, but “The Money You Have is Maybe Too Little” is probably the strongest thing here.

Joe Henry



HOW DID I GET IT: I’m pretty sure that I picked this one up on eMusic — on the recommendation of an SCM contributor — moments before leaving on a road trip to Colorado for my mother-in-law’s wedding.

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 3.63 (251 ratings)


With four qualifying albums in my collection, Joe Henry could probably be the patron saint of the “2000s Graveyard” project; but despite his lack of ratings on RYM, Henry is a respected songwriter with a decent amount of critical acclaim. In all honesty though, Civilians isn’t Henry’s most memorable batch of songs. The biggest gripe is the fact that the album spends virtually its entire run-time in the same low-key, downtempo mood, without providing enough in the way of varied arrangements. I personally prefer its predecessor — 2003’s Tiny Voices — but that one will have to wait for another entry. Regardless, Civilians is always pleasant, and occasionally impressive; I just don’t think it’s Henry’s best work.


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: Using Willie Mays as a framing device for the mid-album centerpiece “Our Song” is an affecting hook that demonstrates the songwriting tact that Civilians is comparatively short on.

Phantom Planet

The Guest


HOW DID I GET IT: It was purchased for me on CD in early 2002 as a gift from an SCM contributor. We were definitely into the idea of hearing Max Fischer’s band.

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 3.13 (483 ratings)


Sure, it’s lightweight, but I have way too many pleasant memories of The Guest to ever dismiss it outright. And sure, nostalgia can be a hell of a drug, but I think there’s a little more merit to this one than just fond recollections. But as for those recollections, The Guest essentially soundtracked the road trip that my wife and I took through California to the Pacific Northwest (and back to Arizona), that served as a reconnaissance mission for our subsequent (first) move to Portland, after I graduated from college in 2002. But the thing is, we wouldn’t have listened to it much if the songs weren’t solid. With that said, there are still a handful of clunkers here (I’ve always low-key hated “Anthem”) and overall, Phantom Planet does little in the way of establishing much of an identity. Pleasant? Sure. Substantive? Only intermittently.


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: “California” actually attained a longer shelf life than the band itself, but it’s probably a bit too well-known for our purposes here. I’ll go with the chipper “Always on My Mind.” It was always a favorite of my wife’s, and — given our shared experience with the album — that makes it plenty endearing for me.

French Kicks

One Time Bells


HOW DID I GET IT: Someone in my circle — either a friend or brother — must’ve picked it up via eMusic.

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 3.06 (185 ratings)


Did 2002-era Pitchfork consider a 6.6 a bad rating? The review for One Time Bells describes it as derivative, and the French Kicks as lacking an identity — in fact, the author explicitly wonders aloud if they actually like the album. I’m inclined to agree with their general criticisms, as French Kicks seem like one of those bands whose biggest influences were its contemporaries. With Spoon, The Strokes, or The Walkmen, I can hear shades of totemic groups like The Velvet Underground, Joy Division, Wire, and Pixies; but these influences were mixed with enough personality and ingenuity to create something distinctive and worthwhile. With French Kicks, I just hear a mix of Spoon, The Strokes, and The Walkmen. And why do these vocals remind me so much of the Phantom Planet album that I just listened to? Anyway, everything here is competent — and nothing is really bad — but it still manages to feel like less than the sum of its parts.


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: The piano-led, tempo shifting “Down Now” is solid enough for inclusion here. I certainly won’t mind hearing it every once in a while.

The Cloud Room

The Cloud Room


HOW DID I GET IT: Another one that I can’t remember if it came from a friend’s or a brother’s eMusic account.

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 2.92 (131 ratings)


Something-something-Strokes; something-something-Franz Ferdinand; something-something-were French Kicks significant enough to be considered an “influence” by 2005? Seriously, a lot of this sounds like a cross between Julian Casablancas and a young Bono, fronting a hybrid of the aforementioned bands, with a little bit of Bono’s group thrown in for good measure; and not earlier U2, but the circa-2004 version. So yeah, another band that sounds a little too much like their contemporaries, and — with one exception — didn’t have good enough songs to be all that distinguishable from the rest of the pack.


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: This is a perfect album for this exercise, because although I don’t think I’m gonna need to listen to the whole thing again, the opening “Hey Now Now” is a legitimately solid fusion of The Cloud Room’s influences. Then again, the closing “We Sleep in the Ocean” — where the band finally loosens up a bit — is nice as well.

Clem Snide

End of Love


HOW DID I GET IT: From an SCM contributor, on a CD-R.

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 3.44 (205 ratings)


The first thing to know here: there is nobody in this band named Clem Snide. It’s a William S. Burroughs reference, and it’s a terrible band name. Trust me, I’ve been there. I understand the hubris of a new band, confident in its ability to sound like actual music, and utterly convinced that a name based on an inside joke, an obscure reference, or a bad pun won’t hold back worthwhile material. Luckily, I’ve never committed too egregious of a sin in this department, but one merely needs to take a look through a handful of show flyers or Craigslist postings to find some truly serious offenses; no, your punk/funk band named X-Zack-Toe Knife isn’t gonna “take over the local scene.” That’s obviously a hideous name. But so too is Clem Snide.

The thing is, this is a good album — the best that I’ve encountered yet in this exercise. Based around the songwriting and distinctive vocals of Ifar “Eef” Barzelay — okay, maybe names just aren’t this guy’s thing — Clem Snide are a legitimately worthwhile alt-country group. And as a bonus, End of Love manages to avoid a lot of the conventionality that could make aughts-era alt-country albums a bit of a chore. There’s humor here, along with intelligently nuanced storytelling, and some nice musical variety: witness the noise solo of “Collapse,” the vibraphone featured on “Tiny European Cars,” and the genuine loveliness of “God Answers Back.” While it’s not chamber-ish on the same level of say Lambchop, there’s some instrumental depth behind these songs.

But ultimately, as is the case with any folk-derived album, End of Love works because its songs are generally strong. While they weren’t flashy enough to push Clem Snide through to a wider audience — and really, that name couldn’t have helped — this is a damn solid record.


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: While the popular favorite here seems to be “Made for TV Movie,” I’m going with the aforementioned “God Answers Back.” The mix of vibraphone and tremolo guitar — with enough space to let both breathe adequately — is nearly sublime, as is the melody. It’s a real keeper.

White Rabbits

It’s Frightening


HOW DID I GET IT: Another eMusic swap session.

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 3.14 (314 ratings)


Apparently White Rabbits’ 2007 debut garnered so many comparisons to Spoon — I’ve not heard it — that the band doubled-down on its follow-up by enlisting Britt Daniel for production duties. And yeah, at times the resemblance is uncanny, as White Rabbits forge a similarly rhythmic minimalism to that displayed on Spoon’s star-making run of 2000s LPs. And while previous (and undoubtedly future) entries in this project feature bands that draw way too heavily from their contemporaries, there’s a real charm to much of It’s Frightening — and perhaps a level of ‘authenticity,’ in that it actually bears the Spoon frontman’s co-signature. It’s not a truly great record — and the band never really capitalized on their association with one of the era’s most notable indie rock acts — but It’s Frightening is at least worth a listen.


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: The signature track here is the opening “Percussion Gun.” It’s the piece that clearly makes the best use of the band’s two-drummer lineup, and it builds an impressive amount of tension in its tug-and-pull between the melodic and rhythmic elements.

Fionn Regan

The End of History


HOW DID I GET IT: A burned copy from an asshole that I played in a band with for a few years.

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 3.48 (394 ratings)


Band breakups are kinda gross. I’m not good at them, and I suppose that I’m guilty of ghosting a few short-term prospects that didn’t pan out. But every meaningful collaboration that I’ve participated in has ultimately turned into a genuine friendship; and when these have run their course, I’d like to think that I handled the inevitably awkward splits with the care and tact that they deserve.

I got this album from someone who didn’t exactly share that value; and while I’m not hung up on that (really), when an album fails to leave a particularly lasting impression on you, you’re left thinking more about the circumstances of its acquisition than its actual content. For example, I’m pretty sure that I got Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround from the same person, but since that album is fucking great, I really had to rack my brain to remember that factoid. 

But I won’t let The End of History’s origin spoil an otherwise decent record. Like some other entries in this feature, I think Fionn Regan struggles to define his own sound here — in all fairness, this is a debut — but the songwriting is generally pretty strong, and the minimal instrumental flourishes are tastefully done. 


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: Maybe it’s just Fionn Regan’s voice on the song, but “Put a Penny in the Slot” sounds a bit like The Microphones at their most direct. It’s the centerpiece, and highlight, of the album.


Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers


HOW DID I GET IT: This one came from an SCM colleague, and surprisingly, the one with arguably the best recommendation success rate.

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 3.47 (182 ratings)


My favorite fact about Lucero is that in Breaking Bad, Walter Jr. has one of the band’s posters hanging on his wall. And, to be brutally honest, that’s about the only thing that I like about Lucero after revisiting this one. Perhaps it’s only because I followed up my Saturday night old-fashioned with a couple of tall-ish beers, but I found Rebels to be particularly tough to get through.

I don’t remember being so bored by this one back in 2006, but then again, I don’t remember much about it at all. As I mentioned earlier, the alt-country records of this era could be a bit of a slog, and the songwriting here is just not good enough to overcome the comparative lack of musical intrigue. Lucero has two general modes: uptempo songs about drinking/girls; and downtempo songs about drinking/girls. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m into both of those things, but there’s very little depth to these songs. For comparison, at one point in “The Mountain,” I was vaguely reminded of The Tragically Hip’s “Twist My Arm.” While that track is about as close as the Hip could get to standard, blues-based, bar rock, it’s made worthwhile by the fact that Gordon Downie was a compelling frontman who actually wrote interesting lyrics. 

But Ben Nichols is no Gord Downie; and Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers is no Fully Completely.


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: If I work at it, I can actually remember the chorus of “I Can Get Us Out of Here” when I’m not listening to it, so I’ll go with that one.


Shutdown the Sun


HOW DID I GET IT: I thought that I got this one from the same bassist bandmate that gave me the aforementioned Earlimart album, but looking at the writing on the CD-R, I think it might’ve come from an SCM colleague.

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 3.42 (52 ratings)


Don’t let the lack of RYM ratings fool you; this is one of the better albums that I’ve encountered so far in this project. Think of the poppier end of the Elephant 6 spectrum (The Apples in Stereo, The Minders) and you’ve got a pretty decent idea of what to expect from the third album by San Francisco’s Oranger. Sixties pop affectations abound (inviting melodies, group harmonies, warm production), and they’re supported with generally solid songwriting. Apparently there’s a bonus disc, From the Ashes of Electric Elves, that came with early copies of Shutdown the Sun — and includes a whopping thirty-four tracks. These guys are apparently still around — or recently reformed — having just released a fifth album last year, and based on the quality of this one, I’m inclined to give it a shot. 


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: The only song that I really remembered from my earlier encounters with Shutdown the Sun was “Bluest Glass Eye Sea.” It has the album’s most immediately hooky chorus, and gives a decent idea as to what one can expect from the rest of the album.

The Broken West

I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On


HOW DID I GET IT: Pretty sure I got this one on my own, via eMusic.

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 2.91 (119 ratings)


Power pop seemed to have a real moment in the 2000s, as best evidenced by The New Pornographers — as well as a veritable fuck-ton of bands that incorporated super sweet melodies into other indie rock variants. Los Angeles’ The Broken West went for a straight-up power pop sound on their debut, I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On, and the results are fine, if unremarkable. After all, power pop lives and dies on the strength of its hooks, and while these songs are catchy, they don’t really burrow themselves into your brain in the way that the best power pop can. Still, there are a handful of songs here that would make for great mixtape/playlist material.


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: Boasting a legitimately anthemic chorus, “Down in the Valley” is the best — and most memorable — thing here.

Jason Anderson

The Hopeful and the Unafraid


HOW DID I GET IT: Another one picked up on my own via eMusic. 

RYM SCORE/RATINGS: 3.16 (37 ratings)


Just like power pop, Heartland Rock seemed to have a moment of its own during the 2000s. So what is it? Essentially, it’s indie rock that bears a pretty heavy Bruce Springsteen influence, a la The Hold Steady or The Gaslight Anthem. The Hopeful and the Unafraid came out at around the time of those group’s breakouts, but judging by those thirty-seven ratings, it didn’t exactly benefit from any kind of outside momentum. Things start off strong here, but even at less than forty minutes, the album starts to drag a bit during its second half. There’s some good stuff here though, and it’s recommended for anyone who’s predisposed to liking the style. 


ONE FOR THE PLAYLIST: The semi-epic travelogue “El Paso” gets things off to a rollicking start. It’s a winding track that outpaces the more compact ones that follow.

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