New Order – Get Ready
Yeah yeah, i know, I know… “New Order are a great singles band, but name one full CD masterpiece…” Hell, I dunno. all I know is that this CD feels like a real return to form. The typical bass lines, the sometimes idiot/ironic lyrics, the tentative (to put it charitably) singing, etc. etc. Despite all that, I sang along to it, I enjoyed the noises it made and i’m sure that there at least 3 great songs on it which will only show themselves to best effect when “Substance 3” comes out in 3 years.
Stereolab – Sound-Dust
Seems that on the twelfth full length CD they compressed the instrumentation tighter than ever before. Of course, that still makes it a fairly woolly affair compared to, say, Timbaland. The more important result is that their melodies, always there before but more often than not buried, get to shine forth. But maybe I don’t get it and they are still too clever for me.
Varnaline – Songs in a Northern Key
Especially “Song”, which is one of the great songs about great songs.
Kekele – Rumba Congo
My favourite African listening this year. A classic-sounding contemporary supergroup., steering clear of the often wonderful but sometimes tiring contemporary soukous sound. Real rumba.
Bjork – Vespertine
Just what does go on in her head? She’ll never tell, but she’ll let you know.
Basement Jaxx – Rooty
Not as immediate as the last, but just as bangin’ in the long run.
Solex – Low Kick and Hard Bop
Beware the record shop owner who listens to everything.
Nick Cave – No More Shall We Part
Overwrought and scary in equal doses. This is what married life does to you?
Baba Maal – Mi Yeewnii-Missing You
Back to the acoustic sound, with voice as pure as ever.
Cachaito Lopez – Cachaito
Not the usual Buena Vista stuff. Sure, he’s played on all those records, but this CD broadens the view. Away from the potted history of son and into pan-carribean territory. At least one iffy attempt at reggae, but we’ll let that pass.
Manu Chao – Proxima Estacion…Esperanza
The conceit is a radio being tuned between tracks. (Some of the inserts are real stations) On paper it might sound too cute, but the music in between pays off. It’s fusion without all the dodgy implications of other “blends”. It’s Europe, Jamaica and South America (at least) at the same time. Also gets nostalgia points from me as I grew up listening to AM radio late at night.
Sparklehorse – It’s A Wonderful Life
(with PJ Harvey and Nina from Cardigans, no less!) When I wanted a dirge this year, here is where i turned…
Los Super Seven – Canto
Susana Baca and Caetano Veloso as guests put up a red flag for me outta the gate. I liked the rawness and cheap-sounding debut from this ad-hoc “latino super group” (including David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas) three years ago and was wondering if they would adhere to that formula this time. Well they did not. This time around they go for a more “pan latin” sound. And they pretty much pull it off. Another red flag went up when I read the tracklist, starting with that old Lecuona warhorse “Siboney”. But Raul Malo (of the Mavericks) gives it a fine, gruff and soulful rendition. Alberto Salas brings hard-hitting piano to the affair.
Nick Lowe – The Convincer
So you’ve been writing fine rock n roll for yourself and other for god knows how many years. the rebellious attitude don’t cut it any more (if it was ever your thing to begin with) and you got lucky because you had a song on “The Bodyguard” soundtrack which will pay your bills to the grave…. waddya do? How about you write a bunch of witty and literate and sometimes irreverent songs about getting to a certain age and about being the sort of person who’s gotten to a certain age and still cares about pop music. then sing them like the soulful guy you always were, but often disguised, and release them on a tiny label which won’t get in your way.
White Stripes – White Blood Cells
Simple, sorta brutal. Try to hear the session they did for John Peel in his house. Remarkable.
Black Box Recorder – The Facts of Life
I love the contradiction of writing a rock n roll road song about the “english motorway system”. In England you’re never more than 70 miles from the sea (true!), so where’s the road trip in that? Well the answer, of course, is in your heart and, perhaps, in your brain.
ALSO SPENT TIME WITH:
Gillian Welch / Dave Rawlings – Time (the Revelator)
Taraf de Haidjouks – Band of Gypsies
Aterciopelados – Gozo Poderoso
Various Artists – Nuggets 2
Mama Sissoko – Soleil de Minuit
REM – Reveal
Faudel – Baida
GREAT VALUE FOR MONEY:
Rough Guide series (90% of them) and the Music Club series (75% of them)
IT WAS A GOOD YEAR FOR THE UNDERGROUND (& a pretty bad one for the mainstream):
Deltron 3030 (Dan the Automator with Del tha Funkee Homosapien) – Deltron 3030
Dilated Peoples – Expansion Team
Aceyalone – Accepted Eclectic
Cannibal Ox – Cold Vein
De La Soul – Bionix (part 2 of the AOI trilogy, part 1 was prety darned good too)
Techno Animal – Brotherhood of the Bomb
The Arsoninsts – As The World Burns
What they all had in common: No bling bling, little gangsta, no puff daddy, no Timbaland, no Neptunes. (dunno about no videos, never saw any, but MTV only plays 5 videos a week anyway) Just amazing flow and tasty beats. That’s all.
Howard Tate@Village Underground – A true deep soul survivor with a NY pick-up band. Great singing and a glimpse of soul/gospel showmanship that barely exists any more
Timo Maas@Twilo – A bit of a slow start, he really only peaked us when he dropped Azzido Da Bass’ “Dooms Night” , but still a great night.
Daft Punk – Discovery
Langley Schools Music Project – Innocence and Despair
Coldplay – Parachutes
(this section ripped off from “The Onion”):
“FINALLY RELEASED THIS YEAR TO DEAFENING INDIFFERENCE AWARDS”:
Lance Armstrong looking back at Jan Ullrich at the base of L’Alpe d’Huez (in the Tour de France) as if to say “I’m going, are you coming?” – and then taking off up the hill. Amazing!