Lately, I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic for the 2000’s and all the music I loved back then. I’m not talking about household names here, but the well-kept secrets and under-the-radar faves from the last decade that I still listen to nonstop. What happened to those artists? And why haven’t they blown? As it turns out, some are still putting out music. Others have drifted into obscurity, a few broke up, or just fell off the face of the earth. I’m still hoping for a few comebacks. But until then, here are five artists that defined the aughts for me and where they are now.
The Baby Namboos
This was Tricky’s cousin’s band, which probably explains how the group even made an album in the first place. Nepotisim aside, I still think they were one of the most underrated and overlooked trip-hop groups of their time. Ancoats2Zambia is still one of my all-time favorite albums. It was dark, dubby, and haunting – millennium tension at its finest. From the fractured vocals of “Hard Times” to the clattering go-go beats of “Get Your Head Down.” But after that one release, they were never heard from again. It’s like they vanished completely. Also MIA from my trip-hop and chill-out years? Terranova, Lamb, Soulstice, and Weekend Players.
Discovering Esthero was like a rite of passage for every alterna-sista who came of age in the late 90’s/early 2000’s (right next to Bjork and Portishead). It took the Toronto singer seven years to release a follow-up to her game-changing debut. But 2005’s Wikkid Lil’ Grrrls was worth the wait, showing off an updated sound that paired Esthero’s sultry vocals with jazz melodies, modern pop sensibilities, and soulful downtempo grooves. Since then, she’s been busy collaborating with everyone from house producers to Saul Williams to Kanye (she co-wrote “Love Lockdown”). Right now you can check her out on Timbaland’s new album Shock Value 2. You can also catch up with the OG Bitch on her blog here.
Bran Van 3000
“Drinking in LA” popped up on my iPod the other day and made me long for the days of kooky electronic collectives (see also: GusGus, Nortec). Bran Van brought together a rotating cast of Canadian artists, singers, DJ’s, and guest collaborators ranging from The Gravediggaz to Youssou N’Dour. The result was a funky mash-up of slacker-hop raps, gospel moans, scratchy guitars, and sampladelic breakbeats. The group scored a minor hit in the early 00’s with their disco-house track “Astounded,” which featured Curtis Mayfield in his last recording ever. But after that second album, the band called it quits . Turns out the group quietly reunited in 2007 and released the import Rosé. They’ve also allegedly started working on a new album to be released in 2010.
Call and Response
I discovered Call and Response by accident after finding their 2001 self-titled debut underneath a pile of dusty CD’s at my local thrift store. I was immediately smitten by the Bay Area band’s breezy indie-pop confections. The group’s warm keys, throwback harmonies, and songs about blowing bubbles and rollerskating put the album in constant rotation during my heady post-college years, transporting me to a world of sunny California beaches and twee goodness. They later put out a couple of EP’s, but their last full-length album was 2004’s Winds Take No Shape. No word on any future releases, but my fingers are crossed.
Van Hunt automatically got lumped in with neo-soulsters like Musiq and Anthony Hamilton, but he always had more in common with Prince and Sly Stone than your average “adult urban contemporary” R&B crooner. Van’s speciality was slicked-up soul, laid thick with funky wah-wah’s, raw emotion, and a trippy alt-rock edge. But I guess it was all too much for record companies to handle, because his last major-label album Popular Machine was shelved (if you haven’t already, please find a copy immediately). Despite all the label drama, Van’s still making music and planning to independently release a new album in 2010, as well as a collection of short stories. And yes ladies, he will still sing you out of ALL of your clothes.