Another year of music.
What follows is some general musings on what I listened to this year- a
good 75 percent of which Sujan brought home from work. I'm a lucky man and
I know it.
Crooked Fingers - Red Devil Dawn
Stephen Malkmus - Pig Lib
I'm not an objective reviewer of anything Eric Bachmann. For close to
ten years, I've been trumpeting him over Stephen Malkmus as the most talented
songwriter of the "indie rock" era. Okay, so "Slanted and
Enchanted" and "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain" are better than
any full lengths that the Archers ever put out. But, what has Malkmus done
since "Wowee Zowee"? Every release since has had a handful of
great songs, a handful of mediocre ones, and a number of utterly forgettable
Whereas "Red Devil Dawn" expands on the Bachmann themes of alienation,
debauchery, and loneliness with amazing melodies, "Pig Lib" expands
nothing more than Malkmus' apparently limitless ego. Some of the tracks
are really stupendous like "Us" but so much of his oeuvre over
the past six years seems so calculatingly half ass to me. Pleasant enough,
but don't we expect more after such a promising first few years?
On the other hand, "Red Devil Dawn" might just be the best thing
Bachmann has done since 1994's "Archers of Loaf vs. the Greatest of
all Time." He continues to challenge himself musically and lyrically.
I can only imagine how great and vital the music he will be producing ten
years from now will be. Can anyone say the same thing about Malkmus?
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Hearts of Oak
The man is the master of the politically aware five and a half minute
vocally damaging pop song. "Where Have all the Rude Boys Gone?"
is one of the best singles of the year and it made me nostalgic for
9th grade and my discovery of the Specials. For some reason, I think
of Ted Leo like my generations Nick Lowe. Obviously, they dont
have much in common other than their low profile over many years and
their unwavering attempts to keep putting out what they consider to
be pure pop for now people.
Calexico - Feast of Wire
The Band of Blacky Ranchette - Still Lookin' Good To Me
"Feast of Wire" is one of the year's best. Calexico puts
it all together on this gem. Calexico evokes dusty roads, 1970's AM
radio, free form jazz, and the avant garde all in the framework of one
seamless album. And their Love cover at Bowery Ballroom in March easily
beat out Belle and Sebastian's Love cover at Prospect Park in July.
Blacky Ranchette is Howe Gelb and a bunch of pals including Calexico, Neko
Case, Jason Lytle, M. Ward, and Chan Marshall. Still, the overriding theme
is Gelb's strangeness.
Cat Power - You Are Free
Perhaps the more insane you become, the better art you are capable
of producing. It worked for Van Gogh's paintings, Syd Barrett's music,
and Balgavy's DVR blog. And it
works for Chan Marshall. Maybe she isn't insane, but she sure likes
to pretend she is. But, holy shit, this album is great. Definitely her
most accessible, most melodic, most pleasing to the ear. This is the
Cat Power album that your mother will like. This is the Cat Power album
that can convince Chan Marshall haters like Hong and Chris Lawrence
to join hands and cry out in Cat Power glee.
White Stripes - Elephant
The Strokes - Room on Fire
Are the White Stripes wearing out their welcome? Not with me, they arent.
Are the Strokes wearing out their welcome? Um, yes. "Elephant"
was the first album Jack and Meg put out after hitting the mother load
and I think it delivers. Are there some weak moments? Yeah. "White
Blood Cells" did too. I never have been a huge favorite of Jack's
Led Zeppelin like histrionics and there are a couple here, but there
were also a couple on the last record. And some of the songs sound like
a direct rip-off of their previous songs. But, who the hell cares when
you have barnburners like "Ball and Biscuit" to ease our collective
I love Jack's bottleful of contradictions as he laments the "death
of the sweetheart" in the liner notes to "Elephant",
plays a sweet troubadour in "Cold Mountain" while at the same
time beating the living daylights out of the Von Bondies singer in December.
So how about those boarding school boys made good? Those boys who had
to overcome hardships and bad looks? The boys who led to a lot of soul
searching in 2002, but not so much in 2003. "Room on Fire"
is not more of the same like I have read in many sources. "Is This
It" was catchy and good, the new album is kinda catchy and kinda
good. Kinda forgettable too. I don't know, maybe I need Rishi to come
visit again and convince me of the brilliance of this band again, but
the time I saw them this year was paint by numbers boring. And I heard
their first EP recently (3 songs re-recorded for their debut LP) and
I realized that might have been their career peak. Where have you gone,
Outkast - Speakerboxxx / The Love Below
Um, I like it but it is damn long and um... I only listened to it
once all the way through. 2004 I will listen to it at least twice, I
promise. But, is "Hey Ya" the best pop song of the millennium
or what? And Sujan loves the song about roses smelling like boo boo
boo or some nonsense like that. A kid in my class recently wrote the
lyrics to "Hey Ya" in his writing journal for homework.
The Rapture - Echoes
Am I missing something or did they take all the energy and charm
from their two EPs and completely drain all the fun from their sound?
Pretty Girls Make Graves - The New Romance
If Mitten had made it big back in '95, this band would have been
Incubus compared to Mittens Nirvana. This album blows.
The Thrills - So Much For the City
Ohmigod. If Mayflies USA was the perfect band to listen to during
cookouts at Prospect Park in 2002, this band will be the one to listen
to in 2004. Every song is like sweet molasses dripping with pop perfection.
One of Stone Groove's favorites of the year.
The Thermals - More Parts Per Million
Sounds like it was recorded on a boombox. And a crappy one to boot.
But the sound of young kids singing it like they mean it can not be
contained. Over before you know it, but a memorable ride of anger, melody,
Four Tet - Rounds
Laptop music with a heart. A third grader in my class last year
loved it so much that I burned him a copy.
Yo La Tengo - Summer Sun
How did this band go from mattering so much to mattering so little?
Ok, they still sound pretty. And we cant expect them to rock too
much anymore. But two straight albums of same tempo songs does not make
me do jumping jacks. I know I like this album when I listen to it, but
for the life of me when I think about it, not much jumps out at me as
being memorable. The EP single they put out this year shows more life
and leaves me hopeful for future records.
Mogwai - Happy Songs For Happy People
Terrible title, good record. Not much else to say.
Super Furry Animals - Phantom Power
I feel old sometimes. I liked their last record a bit, but I found
some of it a bit too much for me. But hot damn, these Welsh lads put
together their most cohesive conventional album and I love it. "Piccolo
Snare" is one of my favorite songs of the year and the entire venture
pleases Raphael's ears.
Grandaddy - Sumday
I like it, but not nearly as much as "The Sophtware Slump."
The lyrics aren't as strong and there is one song that absolutely makes
me giggle with the silliness of the repetitive garage sale keyboard
Radiohead - Hail to the Thief
I'm late to the game. I resisted their charms until "Kid A."
That and "Amnesiac" remain my two favorite. I do like this
new one though, but it kind of creeps me out.
All Girl Summer Fun Band - 2
The Unicorns - Who Will Cut Our Hair When Were Done?
Jamie said the other night that All Girl Summer Fun Band was one
of those bands that is good for a theme song and two or three other
good tunes. The same can be said for the Unicorns. Man, both of these
bands are precocious. But only one of them is getting amazing press
and I cant figure out why people are flipping out about The Unicorns.
It seems like many critics I read these days can't get enough of shambling
"pop" bands who deconstruct and reconstruct indie pop for
today's 19 year olds a la the also overrated Microphones. The Unicorns
combine some of the more annoying aspects of Too Much Joy, Of Montreal,
and Tullycraft into one unappealing glop.
The New Pornographers - Electric Version
Leaps and bounds better than their debut. Infectious from beginning
to end. Youthlarges favorite of 2003. One of the more listened
to albums of the year for me if for no other reason, Sujan made me listen
to it every trip we took over the summer.
Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It In People
Listenable, completely confused by the accolades.
Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers
The Gods of Power Pop finally fulfilled Stone Grooves fantasies.
My sister complained that this album is all my dad played all summer.
Deerhoof - Apple O'
It is a band like this that proves to me Im not completely
ready for the Musical Nursing Home yet. I don't feel nearly as old and
stodgy when I still get excited hearing such strangeness. A poppier
Dog Faced Hermans fronted by a Japanese screecher. Their album makes
it safe to like pandas again. Thank you Deerhoof.
The Hidden Cameras - Smell of our Own
It took me a few weeks of owning this CD before I even noticed the
naked male butts on the cover. The soaring harmonies and amazing melodies
made me forget what I was actually singing to. The question remains,
"How much gayer can you get?" And the answer is "None,
none more gay."
The Minus 5 - Down With Wilco
Mojave 3 - Spoon and Rafter
The first time I heard this album, I thought, "Man this would
sound good on a Hummer ad."
American Analog Set - Promise of Love
I cant quite get a handle on this band. They try out all sorts
of indie genres on this record. Each one however sounds like American
Analog Set. What that means Im still not sure about though.
Decemberists - Her Majesty the Decemberists
2003 was the year of the Decemberists. I picked up their first record
(2002's "Castaways and Cutouts") earlier in the year and was
slightly disappointed at first. But the album slowly won me over. And
when I picked up their follow up, I was immediately thrilled.
They get a lot of comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel which I can kind
of see. However, the Decemberists lyrics are not nearly as obtuse and
the music not nearly as frenetic. Affected British vocals (and he's
not even British!) lead the charge of songs about topics such as writers,
American cities, 60s British films, World War I, and ankles.
The band seems to exist in a hyper reality melding of "Oliver Twist",
"McSweeney's", and Donovan. And the singer's name is perfect
for such a strange brew- Colin Meloy. This is one of the bands that
I'm most excited to see what they produce over the next few years.
The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
Beulah - Yoko
Last year I proclaimed that I was the only one I knew who thought
that Beulah was better than the Shins. I couldn't understand why people
thought "Oh, Inverted World" was better than the "The
Coast Is Never Clear." I stated that 2003 would prove that Beulah
was better than the Shins. Um, can I take that back?
It is never a good sign when you open up the booklet to a CD and a band
has expanded its packaging to page after page of the band members as
artistes and/ or cheeky artwork. It is clear that a band's pretentious
levels have risen when they put together packaging such as this. And
"Yoko" is guilty of this. Think about it, when did R.E.M.
first put together packaging that screamed pretentious? "Out of
Time" is the answer. And who puts together some of the most pretentious
packaging of CDs these days? Radiohead, my friends, Radiohead.
On Beulah's latest, the seriousness has kicked in. Time to make a statement.
Time to stretch songs past their logical ending point. Time to experiment
with odd vocal styles. I don't have a problem with any of this if it
fully worked. But, for me it doesn't fully jibe. There are some really
great songs here, but also some duds. I dont know- maybe this
album will hit me as being brilliant sometime in 2004, but for now I
find it a step back from their previous overall brilliance. Don't get
me wrong, I do like this record a lot, but I wanted it to kick the Shins'
asses and it didn't.
On "Chutes Too Narrow" there is no stretching of limits, no
pretentiousness. Just ten beautiful pop songs clocking in at just over
thirty three minutes. Hell, I like it more than "Oh, Inverted World".
I felt that record was way way muddy in a way that the songs didn't
need. The production on this album is clean, the lyrics are stupendous,
and the band has created a timeless gem of pop confections. If they
only would harmonize more, Stone Groove might even like them.
Matmos - The Civil War
After this last album of sounds culled from plastic surgery, the
boys are back with songs taken from and inspired by 19th century Americana
and medieval British folk songs. Insane like all their work and much
less scary than listening to liposuction with a beat.
Manitoba - Up In Flames
Who needs Kevin Shields when you've got laptop geeks who can take
Spiritualized - Amazing Grace
This album came and went for most Spiritualized fans. I'm slowly
warming to them. I have one of their lauded albums from a few years
back and other than the ethereal "Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are
Floating In Space" track I remain disappointed in that record.
I just started listening to another one of their earlier records "Pure
Phase" which is a Sujan favorite and it puts me in a trance. I
still haven't really listened to Spacemen 3, but I want to.
On "Amazing Grace", Spiritualized get all Stooges on my ass.
I suppose this album is too derivative for the masses, but there are
some really fine moments here including "Hold On", one of
the best songs of the year.
Death Cab For Cutie - Transatlanticism
The Postal Service - Give Up
I have 2000's "We Have the Facts and Were Voting Yes"
which I like quite a bit. I still have fond memories of Sam in 2000
freaking out at 5 am to it as he drove me to the airport in Seattle.
However over the past couple of years I lost interest in the band. For
some reason, I lumped them into the middling indie rock canon known
as "Boring indie bands that Jamie likes while eschewing Ray Charles,
Charles Mingus, The Zombies, etc. because he didn't personally discover
Anyway, the Death Cab album blew me away the first time I listened to
it. The lyrics are so damn sad they make "Yoko" seem like
an album about sunshine and lollipops. Longing, loneliness, desire...
this album hits them all. But it does it with memorable songs that leave
you feeling upbeat in the face of Ben Gibbard's misery. Isn't that what
the best pop is supposed to do?
The Postal Service are not good. Dated in a bad way the moment it came
out, there is no way this album will age well in anything other than
a nostalgic kind of way.
Belle and Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress
I do like this album. I like it a lot. But I have been perplexed
at why everyone is calling it a return to form when their last real
album was so good. Jeremy had the same thoughts and he has a lot to
say on the subject. This is from a recent e-mail.
what is the deal with the new belle and sebastian?
are they really making elevator music now?
i like the stuff you've given me and kevin gave me a tape with "i'm
a cuckoo" on it, a truly great song, but there's a sort of easy
listening sheen to it all, don't you think? then, THEN, i was flipping
around my digital music stations on teevee the other night and i swear
to christ i came across the most awful song on the adult contemporary
station. then i looked to see who it was and it was belle and sebastian.
what the fuck?!?! the song was "if she wants me" and it
was putrid, beyond anything in their past as far as badness goes.
chickfactor has nothing on that tune.
so i ask you...why the laudatory praise for this album? why does
critical mass shift so randomly but so uniformly? i have listened
again and again to fold your hands... and i truly think it is a great
album. where are the stinkers? it is superior to arab strap, no doubt.
people talk about the forced democracy and lazy songwriting but i
think pound for pound, arab strap is worse. bad other guy songs, a
not so good girl in the tiger hat song. that spoken word shite. i
remember reading a bad review of fold your hands commenting on how
their use of strings and horns was just showing off and not necessary.
what the fuck is that about? i find that to be evidence of thoughtful
arrangements and wonderful songwriting. that whole album has a lovely
melancholy feel to it, some of their best songs ever, and a wonderful
stretching out without any growing pains. yet the majority of critics
panned it and said the band had failed to cash in on their promise.
horrible, lazy journalism and bizarre how everyone ganged up on them
so now, they have returned, kicking out ms. precious and her tiger
hat, taking back the reigns and delivering a great album. now it may
be a great album, i haven't heard it all yet, but everyone must agree
that "if she wants me" sucks a fat egg and is kind of depressing
how easily it fit in amongst the dreck on adult contemporary digital
radio. so why the shift back into slavering over belle and sebastian?
i can't figure it out. who controls the winds of critical appeal?
why do bands like trail of dead get heaped with praise, and compared
to daydream nation!!!, when they really have nothing much to offer?
why does this bug me so much? no idea. just something i found a bit
curious and perplexing.
Rufus Wainwright - Want One
I like this album, but not as much as the first two. Plus, after seeing
him live in the fall, I can't get his awful sister out of my head. Someone
please tell Rufus to bag her. Wow, is she a wet blanket.
TV on the Radio - Young Liars
Nice little EP, but I'm a little perplexed by the hype. Ok, they do
an a capella version of "Mr. Grieves", the singer's voice is
interesting, and they have a fairly unique sound. Hmmm... maybe I do see
the hype. Still, I wonder why no one has pointed out yet that some of
their sound is clearly borrowed from the Phil Collins' opus "In the
The Wrens - Meadowlands
Pleasant enough, but I can't believe how much people love this record.
Are people so starved for 1996 these days? I wonder what percentage of
the people who are into this record are between the ages of 28-32 nostalgic
for their old college radio gig?
Pernice Brothers - Yours, Mine, and Ours
Is each one of Joe Pernice's records better than the previous one?
The Dirtbombs - Dangerous Magical Noise
My short lived fling with this band has slightly ebbed, but their
new record still kicks my butt.
My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves
When it is all said and done, this record might take the prize for
my favorite of the year. A long record that doesn't feel long, I can't
get enough of this languorous masterpiece. Strong songwriting mixed with
perfect production (the vocals seem far away and with a slight echo at
times- I can't get enough of it)- the whole album feels grimy and pretty
at the same damn time. Each time I listen to this album, I like it more.
Parsley Sound - Parsley Sounds
Sujan gives me grief for giving too much credit to the reviews
on Pitchfork. She always brings up this record as her proof and I
guess she has a good point. She brought home this CD earlier in the year.
I listened to it once and decided not to give it a second listen. I promptly
forgot about it. A month or so later, Pitchfork gave it a great review.
I'm intrigued and ask her if she's ever heard of them. She rolls her eyes
and explains that the CD is in my apartment. Oops. Um, so I listened to
it again and I really liked it. Not as poppy as Olivia Tremor Control
at its poppiest. Not as ambient as OTC at its most ambient. But this record
somehow incorporates each element into each moody poppy song of pleasure.
Guided By Voices - Earthquake Glue
I just don't care anymore. I'll wait until Jamie makes me another
best of in a couple of years with the three good songs from this record
on it. Thanks Jamie, I cant wait. Really.
The Books - The Lemon of Pink
Unfortunately for Chris Larry, this is not a porn starring his favorite
singer. Instead, it is laptop stuff mixed with real vocals and, of course,
interesting samples of many things as varied as banjos and a flight attendant
on a Japanese airline. The sound is lush and seamless.
Sondre Lerche - Dont Be Shallow
Dude, this guy is hot. Can write a nifty tune, too. Some live versions
of his record from last year as well as a demos and a cover. Good stuff.
Broadcast - HaHa Sound
This band was once deemed a pale imitation of Stereolab, but look
who has overtaken the master. Not that I really agreed that they sounded
quite like Stereolab anyway other than the dreamy female vocals. This
album is damn nice. Not really more energetic than their last record which
is definitely sleep inducing at times (not in a bad way), but somehow
this feels more lively. This band mines all the 60's influences it can
while feeling completely modern. I was listening to this the other day
and Sujan asked, "Did Phil Spector produce this?"
Sufjan Stevens - Greetings From Michigan
I recently picked this CD up and Im having a hard time fully
describing it yet. Pretty, definitely. A song cycle about Michigan where
they keep it real, at least in one city. This album makes it safe for
singer songwriters all over the indie landscape to be all 70's and sincere
Portastic - The Summer of the Shark
Chris Lawrence insisted I buy this. So I did. And I like it enough,
but the way he talked about it was this was one of the best albums he'd
heard in years. I don't know. Maybe since I just bought it, I haven't
listened to it enough, but it is not blowing me away. Mac with a full
band for the first time with this outfit I'm told. And it does sound nice.
I like the lyrics, all summer before 9/11 and all. I do like the feeling
that this is a true indie rock God growing up before our very eyes. Aw,
he's so cute and mature, ain't he?
The Rosebuds - Make Out
Hey kids, who do we have in our record collections? Put on the vinyl
and your cardigans. Hey kids, lets start a band! Dont forget
we need a lot of "Come Ons" and "Ba Ba Bas!" Okay,
each track should be easily connected to one of our faves! You ready?
Ted Leo - Check
Zumpano (come on fellas, his new band The New Pornagraphers are hott!)-
Imperial Teen- Check
Memorable songs - Check again
Indie pop by the numbers.
M. Ward - Transfiguration of Vincent
This record flew right under the radar for me until the very end of
the year. I really like it. The production is clean, the vibe is mellow,
the songs are great. It is odd that sometimes he can almost sound like
Tom Waits in his creepy "Shore Leave" mode on one song and then
Nick Drake on another.
Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic
Just mere months after the release of their debut album, three of
the four band members died when their van crashed while on tour. Arguments
with Shawn about why a band like this needs to exist since there isn't
much original about them drove me crazy over the summer. Without any context
of either band, Josh ripped the Nerves (70's) for sounding derivative
while in the next breath praised the Exploding Hearts. This proves my
point that it doesn't matter who was first. What matters is if the songs
hold up. And they do.
Stone Groove couldn't handle them (too loud) but the kids know this band
is where it was at in 2003. Ten brilliant songs, over and out, goodnight.
It is almost like they were here on earth just to record this amazing
record, they did it, and then they were gone. Sounds crazy, but the rock
gods must have had a plan to take this young rock band from us so soon.
If only we had an Eddie Cochran of our generation to write a eulogy for
The Year That Wasn't: Music Not From 2003
What the hell was
I thinking last year saying that Iron
and Wine was better than Neko Case? I take that back. I was in an
Iron and Wine induced inebriation. I think Marc's big bushy beard
that reminded me of Sam Beams threw me off. I do like Iron and
Wine. I liked his 2003 EP and I look forward to his new LP this year,
but no one beats out Neko.
I also raved about Smog last year and how 2003 might be the year of Smog
for me. Um, no. Not really. My obsession with Bill Callahan ended almost
as soon as I wrote about him. "Red Apple Falls" disappointed.
I suppose I might give him another spin in 2008. I did spend a lot of time
listening to his labelmates Jim O'Rourke and Papa M this year though. Two
white boys who used to hate melody and now cant get enough of it.
Sigur Ros - ()
Quite the backlash. Quite pretentious packaging of this album as well.
No album title, no song titles, no nothing except for an amazing record.
Who knows what the fuck they'll do next, but this album can tide me over
for quite awhile. And who cares about song titles anyway for instrumentals?
Reigning Sound - Time Bomb High School
Oh man, this record is good. They are so damn sincere and so damn real
and so not caring what seems cool that they fucking rule. "Stormy Weather"
and "Time Bomb High School" are instant classics and deserve to
be rediscovered by each successive generation. Put this cassette in the
car stereo and drive by your ex-girlfriend's suburban house. You know what
Im talking about. The ex who broke your poor old heart. This is the
music that heals the pain.
The Greenhornes - Dual Mono
This album contains my favorite cover I heard all year- "Gonna
Get Me Someone" with Holly Golightly. A cover of an obscure 60's band
that kicks the original to the curb. I'm still pissed at Paquette and Youthlarge
for not wanting to go see them in Kentucky on the baseball trip.
The Polyphonic Spree - The Beginning Stages Of...
Another band that I heard complaints that they were derivative thus
writing them off. I'm pointing fingers at you, Butterfly Train. But as Jeremy
wondered upon hearing the news, "Derivative? Of what? Pure joy?"
My goal for this year is to get the chorus teacher at my school to get a
whole chorus of third graders to sing one of the Polyphonic Spree's songs.
Culled From Sujan's Collection
I have no problem with
what it means to get married. Joint bank account? Sure, why not? Sujan in
control of the wedding registry? Perfect! Someone else in charge of decorating
the apartment? Lovely.
But the thing that Im having a hard time getting used to is the
melding of music collections. It is such a personal thing and it makes
me nervous to have to incorporate hundreds of CDs into my already teeming
collection. Hundreds of CDs that I either am going to have to listen
to and get to know or hundreds of CDs that Im going to have to
blow off and have to live with them in my collection. I mean, "our"
collection. The thought of weeding through even more CDs than I currently
do to make
a mix CD terrifies me.
Sujan, bless her heart for putting up with my shenanigans, instructed me
to start listening to some of her CDs now to ease my hardship later. What
a brilliant idea! So here are some of the CDs I picked up along the way
in the second half of 2003.
Built to Spill - Perfect From Now On
This might have been the album that made me dismiss this band in the
first place. A little too jam band for me at the time, I can deal with it
now. Does that mean I am ready for Phish or that I'm willing to cut Dougie
a little more slack on his guitar hero histrionics now that I like some
of his other records a lot more than this one?
Urge Overkill - Saturation
I was too indie to listen to this back in '93. Listening to it for the
first time in 2003 was like listening to a relic from another era and feeling
nostalgic for it without actually falling in love with the songs. In this
case, the message delivered is much more powerful than the messenger. Still,
kind of fun. The Queens of the Stone Age of their era. And I like that band
probably a little more than I should so it all evens out in the end.
Pulp - Different Class
Wow, talking about missing my window of opportunity as to when I should
have listened to this silliness.
Ray Charles - Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music
How did I never buy this myself? Oh, Brother Ray.
Soft Boys - Underwater Moonlight
I like this record, but I still don't see Hitchcock as a genius. He
has some amazing songs and also some fairly mediocre ones. Dont hassle
Silver Jews - American Water
I had a love affair with this band last summer. Just long enough
to burn one of their songs on a CD for Jeremy who basically said it
was one of the worst songs he's ever heard. I disagree and it includes
a line that is one of my favorites I heard all year. "Punk rock
died when the first kid said / Punks not dead, punk's not dead."
Up yours, Jeremy!
George Harrison - All Things Must Pass
The Chris Mars of his generation.
Modest Mouse - The Lonesome Crowded West
Unlike My Morning Jacket's album, this CD is a long one that feels damn
long. Some inspired moments though.
Odds and Ends
Nikki and the Corvettes
KO and the Knockouts
I bought all of these CDs because of a drive with the Plumleys last
January as we drove from Graceland Too to amateur Bootylicious wrestling
to amazing breakfast joints.
I can't believe I never had really heard the Runaways. In fact, I knew the
Bratmobile version of "Cherry Bomb" long before I had heard the
original. This record fits well into the 1976 landscape or at least what
I imagine it to have been- hot rod tramps with an attitude cruising America's
streets looking for trouble.
Nikki and the Corvettes would be the biggest band in Williamsburg if they
were around today. They sound exactly what you think they would sound like
with the name they have. Short songs by girls who heart boys, the Ramones,
and cars. 1981 lives forever.
K0 and the Knockouts can not be stopped. It is bands like this and the Exploding
Hearts that prove rock music will never wane. There is always something
new to be said. Or at least new to the person singing it and that is good
enough for me. Saw K0 in New Orleans and Brooklyn in October and both shows
were fantastic. Unfortunately, they had all their money ripped off between
dinner and the show at Southpaw. I'm still not sure why they were stupid
enough to be carrying all the money they had made on tour with them, but
I'm not a rock star so what the hell do I know?
Little Willie John
Plumley made a mix for Sujan with an Impressions song on it that blew
me away. I immediately ordered a two cd best of of Curtis with the Impressions
and Curtis solo. Smooth, sweet, politically conscious, funky, fodder for
Huey Lewis covers, this best of has it all.
While I was disappointed with Burke's 2002 heralded release, his best of
from the 60's does not disappoint. I did not know much about him and his
Rhino best of is a good start. I don't pretend to know nearly enough about
60's R and B, but I do know what I like. Burke's stuff strikes me as a nice
mixture of the more rougher edged Stax stuff of the time and the more slick
Motown sound. But to be honest, I really have no idea what I'm talking about.
I had never even heard of Howard Tate, but if you don't go buy some right
now, you have no idea what you are missing. Sujan came home with this from
work one day and I was immediately transfixed. Gospel without all that god
stuff getting in the way. Or maybe just sweet soul music from the 60's.
When Sujan asked Plumley if he was familiar with Tate, he was surprised
that we had never heard of him. So I wonder how many other amazing 60's
artists are waiting to be discovered by the ignorant Raphael and Hong.
A reference to an obscure film
follows. If this is going to bother you, please skip this section
and reread a previous section which was about more obscure indie music
that you might not have a problem with me mentioning since you know
about it, thus rendering it not obscure and indeed worth mentioning.
This past summer I went to see a movie at BAM called "I Hired a Contract
Killer" by Aki Kaurismaki, the director of "The Man Without a
Past." and "Leningrad Cowboys Go America." Jean-Pierre Leaud
stars as a man who hires a contract killer to kill him after a few attempts
to commit suicide dont work. But then he falls in love and wants to
call it off but can't. There were a number of incredible songs in the movie.
So I stuck around for the credits and found out that all of the songs were
by Little Willie John.
As soon as I got home, I did a little research about Little Willie. It turns
out that he put out a bunch of amazing music that people like James Brown
have credited as a major influence on their music. In his early 20's, John
was sent to prison for stabbing another man. John died in prison. His songs
were a perfect backdrop for the film I saw and his best of is highly recommended.
Meet the Searchers
Sugar and Spice
It's the Searchers
I didn't borrow much from Stone Groove in 2003, but who needs quantity
when you've got quality? This band is so amazingly good. The blueprint for
all later Stone Groove purchases. Buddy Holly melodies, soaring harmonies,
cheeky lyrics... this band had it all. While not quite on par with early
Beatles records like "Please Please Me" and "Meet the Beatles",
these albums aren't that far off. 40 years later, these exuberant records
have aged well.
An Open Letter to Huey Lewis
The year began with high hopes. It ended with dashed dreams. I need to take
2004 off from you. Two shows within a week of each other in August will
do that even to me. The Bowery show was a lot of fun to be so close to my
idol from my childhood. I knew that I shouldn't expect too much and when
you did most of your most recent album "Plan B", you lost me.
I'm sorry Huey, even though my dad once described that record as a "stone
groove", it is not very good. I respect that you are still playing
new songs in a club setting, but come on, not for an hour. We want the hits.
And when you finally delivered them, I was happy. The Wolf Trap show with
my family seemed particularly uninspired. So unless you plan on playing
my wedding, I need a break.
And what is up with no Chris Hayes, "The Kid", in the band anymore?
You can't just lose your guitar player like that and expect me not to care.
I mean, you already lost Mario "Bad Boy" Cipollina on bass a few
years ago. And why is Bill Gibson on drums not wearing those tighty white
shorts anymore as he pounds on the skins? Sean Hopper on keyboards is not
looking so hot these days, is he? At least, Johnny Colla on saxophone is
still super fine. Your name is Huey and you've just heard the news. Happy
A disappointed fan