Yeah, I know, it's not much of a title for
a music column, but you probably picked this guide up for free anyway,
so quit yer complainin'. Besides, it gives me a reason to start
using a ratings system -- for all those who, like me, prefer a user
friendly precise option in their media reviews:
^^^^^ = Five chips - The salsa's
great and the chips are eternally refreshed. Dunk at will and repeatedly.
^^^^ = Four chips - The chips are a wee tad more stale than you
would prefer. Enjoy the salsa, though, 'cause it's mighty tasty.
You might want to own this.
^^^ = Three chips - Salsa's less than perfectly fresh and the chips
are still stale. It adequately mimics the peach salsa experience,
but that very special something is missing. Borrow this at least.
^^ = Two chips - It physically resembles chips and salsa, but it
ain't it. Don't feel bad if you miss hearing this.
^ = One chip - It seems to resemble a foodstuff, but who knows what
it is anymore? If you must, crane your neck briefly to take notice
of this, as you would a car wreck on the highway.
= No chips - Better you eat cow chips than this. Avoid this and
warn your friends to avoid this. Please. All set? Good. Now for
the new reviews…
SEVEN ALBUMS FROM 2005
Hey, you! You just tossed away a perfectly good year over
here! Come on! There's still some good stuff left on it! Let's look
at it again! Like, these albums for instance:
Eels- Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
Mark Oliver Everett frequently explores internal territory,
particularly the ruins left thereof after a bad bout with the psychic
pain of life. Here, his style has developed and matured yet again.
Lights has been Everett's focus for a number of years, even while
Eels recorded their last album for Dreamworks. It's a sprawling
two discs, but a fine example of the musical and lyrical wit we've
come to expect from Eels, in an album that well evokes Tom Waits
and Randy Newman. Listen for great tunes like "Trouble with Dreams,"
"Going Fetal," and "Ugly Love."
(Interscope/ March, 2005)
Beck Hansen can also be relied upon to deliver the goods.
Since Odelay, he's been alternating between pop personas, but has
made each one fit like a glove, whether it was the Latinesque arrangements
of Mutations, the neo-Nick Drake acoustics of Sea Change, or the
post-Teddy Pendergrass silly white soul of Midnite Vultures. On
Guero, he combined many of those personas and came up with memorable
bits of Beck-pop like "E-Pro," "Girl," and "Que 'Onda Guero."
Fiona Apple- Extraordinary Machine
(Epic/ Clean Slate/ October, 2005)
After years on hiatus, it's fair to call this latest
from Fiona Apple a "comeback attempt," even though she is reworking
material she had previously worked on just after her enormously
titled sophomore attempt (you know, the title that began with "When
the Pawn…"). After her record label tried to give notes on her new
work, she just bowed out of the scene and stayed home "watching
Columbo" reruns (as she explained in a recent interview. It's hard
to assess if this album is worth a six year wait, or if in fact
anything is, but I'm glad to say that her new work is a standout
job, with new producer Mike Elizondo. It's a good collection of
catchy tunes with complex lyrics and delicate musical structures,
and it makes me hope for a quicker sequel. Stand outs include the
title track, "Not About Love," and "Tymps (The Sick in the Head
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin- Broom
(Generic Equivalent / April, 2005)
In danger of being under-appreciated, this album was the
perfect thing to fill time between Wilco masterpieces (still waiting
for one since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but, hey, they can't all be
winners). This foursome from Springfield, MO specialize in that
kind of post-REM pop which will have you straining to hear the dense
lyrics. Wait! What was that? "Try to understand she's the goddess
of/ Someplace we just left?" Is that what he sang? I have to play
it again. "Travel Song," "I Am Warm & Powerful," and "Oregon Girl"
threaten to make this album a classic of guitar rock/pop. Be the
first on your block to know what I'm writing about… unless you live
on my block, I guess…
Lou Barlow- Emoh
(Merge/ January, 2005)
This same year that the reunion of Dinosaur, Jr. got so much
press, the prolific Lou Barlow (also of Sebadoh, Folk Implosion
(and "The New Folk implosion") came out with another affecting set
of songs full of longing and heartache, although more studio-crafted
than his previous Sentridoh solo projects. Barlow never overproduces
any of this album full of gems ("Holding Back the Year," "Home,"
and a cover of Ratt's "Round and Round" among them).
50 Foot Wave- Golden Ocean
(Throwing Music/ March, 2005)
Kristin Hersh returns, heading up this trio in one of the
loudest albums this year. Don't look here for anything much like
good old Tin Pan Alley tradition ABAA style songwriting; Kristin
Hersh was letting her free form poetry flow before Kurt Cobain made
such stuff reasonably fashionable for MTV. She's in full on howling
and rocking mode here, with a muscular and complex rhythm section
in Bernard Georges (bass, also formerly with Hersh in Throwing Muses)
and drummer Rob Ahlers (of Chalk FarM). I think I prefer this latest
project from Hersh to her last version of Throwing Muses, because
it's a purer, harder and louder musical animal. Rock out to "Long
Painting," "Clara Bow," and "El Dorado."
Porcupine Tree- Deadwing
(Lava/ April, 2005)
Steven Wilson has been crafting some beautiful music that has gone
largely unnoticed, and has remained a not-entirely well kept secret
among his cadre of fans. That this latest album from his band project
Porcupine Tree failed to strongly remedy that situation remains
a mystery of this year. Whatever one might have been looking for
from a modern rock band is well represented here, with a level of
imagination and craftsmanship that is truly scarce these days. Check
it out for "Lazarus," "Halo," "Open Car" and a consistenly wonderful
Worthy of honorable mention this year, were:
Sleater-Kinney for their most focused and ambitious
work, The Woods (Sub Pop); Wilco for a two-disc live
set Kicking Television: Live in Chicago (Nonesuch), which
wisely included brand new fully fleshed out live versions of their
songs from the classic album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, as well
as a great live version of a tune from their Billy Bragg collaboration,
the Woody Guthrie penned, "Airline to Heaven," which they can now
safely claim as a Wilco classic; Emiliana Torrini came back
with the fine folky set of songs that comprised Fisherman's Woman
(Rough Trade); And, in a delayed arrival from Chicago, The Scotland
Yard Gospel Choir came on like a great Midwestern Belle & Sebastian
with their first album, I Bet You Say That to All the Boys
Listen for new stuff in 2006 every Friday on the Friday Gothic Blimp
"Call It Thing" At Midnight after "Friday Accent on Jazz".
WWUH: January/February Program Guide 2006