AS my wonderful girifriend likes to say, life exists in pairs of mutually dependent opposites, observed by the Japanese as ying vs. yang. You can’t have the concept of night without day, love without hate, happiness without sadness, or good without evil. In other words, opposites attract, well, I saw music along those lines this year. Not that every album had a ying to its yang, but I did feel like each record had a sister album, one that should be viewed right next to it’s big brother, so, for Mark’s accounting purposes, let’s say the first of each pair mentioned is the top ten, while the second album will comprise the second, or lesser, top ten. And while I hate to admit this, I have to thank WFUV (90.7 FM from Pordham university) for turning me onto a bunch of these records, i’m trapped in Yuppieville with no musical direction! So, here goes:
1. /11. Bob Dylan – Love & Theft / Lucinda Williams – Essence: —
I didn’t go out of my way at first to get this Dylan record, sure, the last few were decent, but nothing to blow me away. However, I was blown away by this one. Deeper and more soulful then anything since infidels, this solid record from start to finish is his most consistent in over a decade. Lucinda, who may end up being known as the female Bob Dylan of our generation, comes back with another gem. Also, consistent all the way through, It didn’t hit me at first, but really grew on me as time went on.
2. /12. Ryan Adams – Gold / Whiskeytown – Pneumonia: — Sure, the hype takes away from this to some degree, but it still rocks. Love the single “New York, New York”. Love his sour little attitude, too. l would have preferred to hear the original version of this Whiskeytown album aswell. I guess its a decent bow-out that will grow more on me in time.
3. /15. Rufus Wainwright – Poses / Loudon Wainwright III – Last Man On Earth: —
What a sweet sounding album. I guess l need to go back and check out his early CD now. l resisted at first, with all of my favorite singer/songwriters’ kids putting out mediocre records (see Teddy Thompson, see Jeff Buckley, etc.), so Rufus never got his due with me, until now. Loudon can’t do any wrong in my eyes. His voice alohe will hook me in each and every time.
4. /14. Jim O’Rourke – Insignificance / Wilco – Yankee Foxtrot Hotel: — Man, this O’Rourke album took me by surprise, I’m so used to hearing his ethereal production work, I didn’t realize the pop in him. Not only does it rock, but it swings too. Don’t get me started about the Wilco album, sure, it’s no Summer Teeth, but not much will ever be. I still think it’s one of the best albums to come out this year. Come on though, no “hit single”? Whatever.
5. /15. Raul Malo – Today / Kirsty Maccoll – Tropical Brainstorm: — What a great pair right here, huh? l didn’t know the guy from the Mavericks had this in him. Diverse enough to not get me bored. Latin enough to make me want to shake. And pop enough to make me want to listen to what he has to say. What an aptly named record in Tropical Brainstorm! it’s like a non-stop party in my, err, mind. Makes you want to get up and dance, too!
6. /16. Tortoise – Standards / Abandoned Pools – Humanistic: — Taking the electronic geek thing to a new level. They learned how to make tweaked sounds funky. And how to make funky sounds tweaked. The Pools might be my surprise pick of the year. Heavy, yet melodic all in one. Long live Ken Andrews!
7. /17. Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator) / Sam Phillips – Fan Dance: — It seems as if this might be the year of the female singer-songwriter. l didn’t think just a guitar and a few voices staring Ms. Welch could hold my attention, but it sure did. Great songs that keep you on the edge of you seat. To quote Ms. welch, “I wanted to make a rock-n-roll album without guitars and drums.” And MS. Phillips, quite an atmospheric sound was obtained throughout this release.
8./18. Jay Farrar – Sebastopol / Swag – Catchall: — I was definitely losing interest in alt-rock, more specifically, Son Volt, and the whole boringness of that sound, until these little records came along. I think this is Jay’s best work since Anodyne, from start to finish. A few good singles throughout, and enough tracks to pick from. Swag represents this genres version of a “super-group”, sometimes country-rock, sometimes pop rock, but plenty of nice ditties In-between.
9. /19. The Chamber Strings – Month Of Sundays / Pernice Brothers – World
Won´t End: — First off. I love the name of the Chamber’s album, and it is so appropriate. It’s one of those albums you want to sit in on a rainy Sunday, stare out the window and just listen. And Joe Pernice leads another wonderful combination of his many hats through some pop gems. But here’s a warning for all you fans; don’t see them live unless you have a seat.
l0./20. Tenacious D – Tenacious D / Weezer – Weezer: — Two quirky albums both coincidentally self-titled, well worthy of year-end lists. I loved the D on the HBO show. And on album, it’s just as funny, perhaps a Spinal Tap for the new millennium. Eitherway, hysterically rockin’. And this Weezer album seems a bit harder than their previous works, but it’s been so long i can’t remember. Hash Pipe might be a great song, but there are better.
Plenty of great reissues & soundtracks this year too, that also work better as companions:
1. George Harrison – All Things Must Pass & Wings – Wingspan: — Even without the sad loss of George Harrison, this tremendous album would have made the list. Everything from the packaging to the actual material made this one of the best
reissues of the year. And even Wings had a few good hits in their time, made easy for
listening in this nice comp.
2. Grateful Dead – The Golden Road 1965-1973 & Buffalo Springfield – Box
Set: — At first it was a guilty pleasure. But now, I stand firm on my listening choices… Beautiful packaging and tons of unreleased material just add to many of these great albums already. And if unreleased material in what you’re into, the Buffalo Springfield
box is a must. Plenty of demos and early versions.
3. Gram Parsons — Sacred Hearts and Fallen Angels & Emmylou Harris – Anthology: — Two tremendous comps from Rhino. The Gram parsons collection is the most complete anthology of this often-idolized artist; perhaps the true originator of the alt-country sound, and Emmylou, who continues to put out great albums, finds this compilation of the Warner/Reprise years a nice introduction.
4. Dream Syndicate – Days Of Wine + Roses & X – Los Angeles: — Another nice reissue job from Rhino digging into the vaults for some extras. The X album even finds material not included on the double anthology from last year, and the Dream
Syndicate has always been one of the most overlooked bands of our generation.
5. Elvis Costello – Various Reissues & Bob Marley – Various Reissues: — This may be Elvis’ zillionth reissue, but somehow they keep coming up with quality material, even though I can’t understand the logic behind the releases. And the Marley catalog, which had been in need of a major overall for quite some time, ended up with some awesome live and unreleased stuff, with great packaging too.
6. 0´ Brother Where Art Thou? & Ocean´s 11 Soundtracks — O´ Brother was not only a great movie, but has this killer soundtrack, well deserving of all the accolades. Ocean´s 11, on the other hand, is not a great movie, but is a great compilation.