I can’t really believe that I’ve been doing this for almost ten years now (and neither can my ever-patient wife Nat) … and somehow I still seem to suffer from the same old symptoms of deviation and procrastination. Oh well, at least I know that I’m not alone in my sickness. As usual, trying to fashion a formula for my fancy has left me scratching my head, with a pile of CD’s in my car, and a slight case oftinnitis. Well, I could just listen to these sounds and voices in my head for …ever, so I should just take my medicine and get to it………
Tops o* the Pops
1 : Streetcore ~Joe Strummer :
While I do truly love this album, and it’s definitely in my top five, it might rank #1 for sentimental reasons. It’s still hard to imagine the music world without the Old Boyo. At least we have his recorded works to memorialize his huge talent, and this album is a perfectly fitting swan song. With all the dements that made Joe so special, this album rocks, rolls, folks, and dubs and makes everything all right again.
2 : Her Majesty ~ the Decemberists :
Sea shanties, soldiering songs, Victorian curiosities, & an ode to Los Angeles make this one of the most interesting lyrical collections of the year. With a sound that might equal the combination of Neutral Milk Hold, Belle & Sebastian, and a dash of the Pogues, it’s also a delicate, beautiful mess
3 : The Old Kit Bag ~ Richard Thompson:
It’s the same old story; RT releases an incredible album of exquisitely written songs, performed with an unfaltering perfection of taste, and mainstream, music fans react with … nothing. Oh well, true genius, I suppose, is its own reward, and those in the know are bathed in the light. Continuing in the recent “less is more” production style of Mock Tudor, Kit Bag is fit and lean, with nothing wasted. And to still be writing songs like “A Love You Can’t Survive”, “I’ve Got No Right to Have It All”, and “Outside of the Inside” is a testament to the man’s talent, intelligence, and passion. Plus) the addition ofJudith
Owen on vocals was inspired.
4: Chutes Too Narrow ~ the Shins :
While it took a few listens for this album to sink in, once it did, it stuck. Even better than Oh, Inverted World, with a more diverse and mature approach to song writing and sound.
5 : Hearts of Oak ~ Ted Leo & the Pharmacists :
A vivacious throwback to the early 80’s mod punk scene, Hearts of Oak is perhaps the best “rock” record of the year. Teddy Leo’s keen, loquacious, and reverent look back in anger is the perfect mash up for a music industry that has become soft with excess.
6 : Aided & Abetted ~ Ben Davis :
I’m always happy to throw in an unknown little surprise to the mix. This year it’s Ben Davis. Aided & Abetted is a moody mix of sounds, combining bits of the Green Panamas,
Radiohead, and oddly, the Smashing Pumpkins. In other words, a depressing, somber little rock record. BD supposedly has some sort of history in the emo scene with bands like Sleepytime Trio and Milemarker. Search me.
7 : Phantom Power ~ Super Furry Animals :
Phantom Power is a move toward a more mature sound for the consistently unpredictable Furries. Bypassing the wildly careening stylistic shifts of previous efforts, Phantom Power displays a sensibility, and consistency, that may finally break them in the States. Think of a combination of the Byrds, the Beatles, and the Beach Boys, on hypersteroids, delivered in the 21st century. Greeaaat.
8 : Dear Catastrophe Waitress ~ Belle & Sebastian :
A welcome return to form for B & S. After having given up on them after two seriously soft albums, they seem to have gotten their mojo back. Fun, freewheeling, and even a little retro-experimental. Groovy.
9 : Soul Journey ~ Gillian Welch :
A very satisfying, warm & fuzzy album. Much more loose and upbeat than her previous work, which suits her quite well, in my opinion.
10 : Tiny Voices ~ Joe Henry :
A quite dense and complex album, that mixes elements of moody cinema, neo soul, skronk jazz, and American popular music. There’s really nothing else out there that sounds like this album, and that’s probably a good thing, as it can be quite heavy. Still) a work of genius, in a continuing run of brilliant albums that is marking JH as a real American artist.
Other Notable News (and Olds)
John Vanderslice ~JV is some quirky little indy rock guy (and studio geek) who writes some of the most interesting (and intelligent) music around. I just discovered him in ’03) and quickly developed an unhealthy obsession with his music. I somehow connect with his strange, paranoid, and semi-delusional universe. Check out www.johnvanderslice.com for mp3s and his new album. Cellar Door (jan. 20 on Barsuk), which I am listening to right now in amazement, and will definitely be on POOP ’04. Brilliant.
Elvis Costello re-issues ~ Two of my favorite EG albums re-issued this year. Get Happy! and Trust, with tons of bonus tracks. Makes me Get Happy!
Want One ~ Rufus Wainright : More shining shimmering show tunes from the stage of Rufus.
Sky Above, Mud Below ~ Tail Dwarfs : I don’t really know when this was released) but it was new to me this year, and since I’m still a sucker for die skewed sensibilities of these twisted twins, I’m happy.
The Future is Always Perfect ~ the Minders : Another short, sharp, shock of 60’s psych-pop.
Earthquake Glue ~ Guided By Voices : Somehow, 20 years into this thing, Bob Pollard has managed to make the strongest, most consistent pop album of his career.
Antenna ~ Cave In : A little sympathy for the new prog-metal fan in me.
Electric Version ~ the New Pornographers : Starts off like a building on fire, but unfortunately loses oxygen about halfway through the blaze.
Dangerous Magical Noise ~ the Dirtbombs : Detroit Rock City.
Midnight at the Black Nail Polish Factory ~ the Deathray Davies : Doesn’t the tide say it all? No? Actually, more 60’s influenced neo-psychedelic experimental pop. OK?
Farewell Sorrow ~ Alisdair Roberts : More songs of strangeness and sorrow irom this Scottish balladeer. New folk like the old folk.
Chinatown ~ Be Good Tanyas : Folky country, bluegrassy melancholy from a trio of Canadian lassies.
Give Up ~ Postal Service : Incredibly catchy neo-new wave. Like if the Pet Shop Boys were from Portland, OR.
Delhi 9 ~ Tosca : Another batch of mellow grooves from Richard Dorimeister and Robert Huber. Beatalicious.
Echo & the Bunnymen re-issues ~ Got the import version of Ocean Rain, which is a revelation (in comparison to the awful original CD pressing). Some nice bonus tracks too. Apparently, to be issued domestically very soon, so 111 be able to get the full catalog and spew on about them in next year’s issue as well. Whooppee!!!
Well, I suppose that’s all she wrote.