Description: Records of the Year(s)
Publication Date: 29 December 2003
And so ends the republication of my most prolific year of blogging. I'll have a few comments on the list at the bottom.
That list I offered last week will provide the matter for several entries in the coming weeks. However, I want to take a brief pause to talk not about my stable favorites, but new ones. Last week, I mentioned the factors which slowed my orderly progress through my CDs: new albums and temporary obsessions. The end of the year provides an occasion for compiling a list of those which compound the second and first of these factors. However, having neither the time nor the money to compile anything like an authoritative list, I have to rely on other critics' year end recommendations to budget my X-mas money. I won't have much of an idea of the year in music until next year is underway. But this is nothing new; I'm forever finding out about the new and cool belatedly. Therefore, I offer a list of "new" music from the past two years that I listened to last year.
- Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man: Out of Season. Go buy this beautiful record now. The singer from Portishead and the mastermind of Talk Talk team up to make a great record mixing sources of cabaret, melodrama soundtracks, and the tragic jazz chanteuses.
- Sleater-Kinney: One Beat. I don't suppose they want me calling them 'my home-grrls,' but I have driven past the Sleater-Kinney exit from I-5 lots of times.That's not relevant, but "Far Away," the only sincere response to 9/11 I've heard, certainly is.
- White Stripes: Elephant. It repeats the formula, but what a formula: stadium rock swagger, a similarly allusive guitar vocabulary, and a DIY sensibility. (Oh, why did I have to say "DIY sensibility"?)
- Songs:Ohia: Magnolia Electric Company. The mysterious band finally coalesced with this album. Similar sources to the Whites, but moody and more elusive goals. "Farewell Transmission" is my nomination for rock epic of the year.
- Tori Amos: Scarlett's Walk. I came to Tori late in the game. The confessional lyrics of the early massively popular records didn't draw me in, but the musical complexity of the middle albums (including her baroque vocal style) did. The first six songs of this album are great, and most of it very good. The music is less progressive but just as accomplished, and the singing as good as ever.
- Stratford 4: Love and Distortion. British invasion via Marin county. Check out the "Telephone"/"Tonight Would Be All Right" one-two punch of diffident communication, the first an honest, friendly talk with Mom. That's so punk rock.
- Cast Recording: Once More With Feeling. If you have to ask "what cast," I couldn't convince you anyway. Not as great as the episode of course, but these are some finally crafted and moving songs.
- Papa M: Songs of Mac, Papa M Sings, Whatever Mortal Wifey tracked down this group via their Will Oldham connection. The first thing of theirs she found is a two song ep: dark, moody, long. "So Warped" for moody post folk-rock epic of 2002!
- Missy Elliott: Under Construction. There are a half-dozen kick-ass songs ("exclusives") here, but the last half just drops off the table. Still, the hooks and beats of the first half still work.
- Bonnie Prince Billy: Master and Everyone. Most-used words describing the former Palace mastermind: Appalachia, ghosts, loss.
- Camper Van Beethoven: Tusk.Actually recorded in the mid-eighties. It's a song-for-song cover of the Fleetwood Mac album. (How could I not?)
- Beck: Sea Change. Beck. What is there to say about Beck that hasn't already been said? He's our Prince, Neil Young, and Leonard Cohen rolled up in one.
- Marianne Faithful: Kissin' Time. This is a pretty high ranking when you consider the album makes me a little nauseated every time I play it. Nobody sings with Marianne Faithful's authority.
- Future Bible Heroes: Eternal Youth. One of Stephin Merritt's side projects. Not the Magnetic Fields, but witty and enjoyable just the same. The "I'd rather" structure of "Losing Your Affection" is wonderful.
- Bill Ricchini: Ordinary Time. I have a friend who likes a particular kind of music: introspective lyrics over lush, pop-orchestral arrangements. He gave me this.
- Solomon Burke: Don't Give Up On Me. Comeback for the forgotten soul master.
- Low: Things We Lost In the Fire. Slow and sparkling, like a glacier.
- Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I'm starting to think they're a little overrated, but I loved this album for a while. Being There is better though.
- The Streets: Original Pirate Material. Raps some skinny British kid made in his bedroom. A brilliant, parallel-universe version of gangsta rap.
- Richard Thompson: 1000 Years of Popular Music. Conceived as a lark, it's nevertheless illuminating to hear the songs Thompson values, along with a medieval version of "Oops I did it again."
Anyway, that's how I sees it now. I'll be back next week, explaining myself as usual.
Books: Great Expectations, Oracle Night (Paul Auster), The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Banquet Years (Shattuck), Fray (Wheedon)
Flickeries: One, Two, Three (Billy Wilder), Buffy 5
Music: Listen Up 1 and 2 (homemade mixes-- see Ricchini above), "Milkshake," "Crazy in Love" (iTunes purchases--about 100 times each!)
okay, so I think the ranking is still about right. Around #10 begins records I don't and/or don't want to listen to anymore (though "Losing Your Affection" is still the most played song on my computer.) A quick look at the ol' metadata suggest some candidates I came to later: The Yeah Yeah Yeah's (maybe top 20), Sufijan's Michigan album (maybe top 10), Outkast (top 10), The Kills (top 10 if not 5), Fiery Furnaces (10), Decemberists (10), Alasdair Roberts (10), Spoon's Kill the Moonlight (20), and Iron & Wine (20). A revised top 10, sans gnomic thumbnails might be something like
- Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man: Out of Season.
- Sleater-Kinney: One Beat.
- Outkast: Speakerboxx/The Love Below.
- The Kills: Keep on Your Mean Side
- Fiery Furnaces: Gallowsbird Bark
- Tori Amos: Scarlett's Walk.
- White Stripes: Elephant.
- Songs:Ohia: Magnolia Electric Company. Plus the previous year's Didn't It Rain
- Papa M: Songs of Mac, Papa M Sings, Whatever Mortal
- Missy Elliott: Under Construction.