Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Best of 04: Before all the "Best of" lists start popping up, here's one of my own. Since I am forever at least ten years behind musically, I can't do a "Best Albums" list of stuff from the past year, but I will give you a list of the ten discs I've been playing most frequently in the past 12 months (give or take). They wouldn't have necessarily made anyone's Top Ten in any year, but each has it's own appeal.

So, in no particular order...

Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez: Let's Leave This Town One (of several herein) that were recos from Eno, this collection of duets by two relative unknowns reafirms my belief that country music isn't all Nashville Pop. Only all country music that makes money. I can't list my favorites off this album, since that would be pretty much all of it, but "You Are Danger" is probably the standout to me.

Coldplay: A Rush of Blood... Yeah, i told you I'm always behind. This made everyone's list last year, but it didn't make it to my collection till this year. Suffice that the heavy praise it received upon release was well deserved.

Joe Jackson: Volume 4 Eno reviewed it earlier this year, and I promised him my take after listening, which I never composed for posterity. A little late for that, but Jackson fans can be comforted that he can still put together a band that jams like it did on Look Sharp, Night and Day, and Beat Crazy. That is to say, that old band can still play. Save the snoozer "Blue Flame" and the good idea/bad execution "Dirty Martini" this album swings and rocks, showing the band's talent for making a studio album feel live and Jackson's sense of humor and ability to mock himself and the rest of us at the same time. Much fun.

Matthew Sweet: Girlfriend An impulse buy for $7 pays off with much good listening. The eponymous single brings back high school memories, but songs like "Evangeline" and "Nothing Lasts" give it some depth of enjoyment that I wasn't expecting. You might be surprised.

The Sundays: Reading, Writing... I recently popped in their second album, Blind, and immediately began scrambling through the closet for the first. Harriet Wheeler was to me what Natalie Merchant was to others: the woman who made me realize how much sexier a beautiful woman is when she can sing too. And she was English, too, which was much cooler. They folded after three albums, and the first was the best. Glad I rediscovered it.

Tears For Fears: Greatest Hits '82-'92 The inclusion of "Head Over Heels" and "Mad World" on the soundtrack for the movie Donnie Darko prompted me to pick this up and I'm glad I did. 'Cause those are two great songs. The rest of it bites (except maybe "Laid So Low"), but sometimes you takes what you gets.

Lyle Lovett: I Love Everbody Still my favorite Lyle and if you're not a fan already this is probably the best intro. It's a little bit of everything.

Reel Big Fish: Turn The Radio Off Remember when ska was cool for 5 minutes in 1998? Me neither, but I can't get rid of this disc. Mostly it lives in my portable, as I love running to ska music. And you will too, if you'll only try. Or maybe cooking to ska music, considering your cardio habits, Eno.

The Beatles: White Album One of those "Why don't I own this yet" albums, until I made Eno make me a copy. When you've gotten burned out on Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road it's just the thing to make you like the Fab Four again.

Various Artists: The Bottle Let Me Down (Songs For Bumpy Wagon Rides) Not what you're thinking. A friend bought this out of the $1 bin, thinking it might be good drinking songs. Not unless your drink of choice is milk or Kool-Aid. It turned out to be a collection of 26 children's songs. Some are well known, like "On top of Spaghetti," "It's Not Easy Being Green," and "Rubber Duckie" (sung in a way that makes you wish the female singer was giving you a bath), while others were previously unknown to me. My favorites are "Godfrey," a diddy about the "sickly, unemployed, amateur, children's magician" that brings back childhood gross out contests at recess and "Sad And Dreamy (The Big 1-0)." Think it's all a breeze turning ten years old? Fat chance. "Candy just don't taste as good anymore." If you've got kids, or if you are a kid, or if you want to pretend you are for a while, this compiliation will be a blast. If nothing else, one song will lay out a plausible scenario by which you could become your own grandfather, and that's the kind of information that amazes people at cocktail parties.

Well, that's a sampling of what's been spinning here this year. Happy listening.


Razor said...

I'm afraid I don't buy albums anymore. I've gone totally digital, and with my Christmas iPod on the way, there will be no turning back. All I do is download individual songs that I want to hear.

My sources are soundtracks,, and then playing six degrees of separation as I go on say and find people who listen to what I do, and then try out some of their recommendations.

That said, Flyer makes a good point with The White Album. Why don't I own it (well, back when I bought albums)? I have three of their earlier bits (Meet the Beatles, Please Please Me, Hard Days Night) and then a few of the later (Rubber Soul, Revolver, Abbey Road). The Whit Album is indeed missing. Hmm, I sense a download!

enobarbus said...

In re: Harriet Wheeler, her take on "Wild Horses" (from Blind) is one of the great sexy recordings of all time, ranking up there with Dusty Springfield's "Just a Little Lovin'" and Joan Armatrading's "Love and Affection."

As for you, Razor, aren't you just la-di-da with those mad digital skillz (or whatever). Never really listened to an iPod, I must admit. Isn't the sampling rate low enough that you actually hear pauses between the samples?

Razor said...

The "Wild Horses" recording is indeed one of the best. Their single "Here's Where the Story Ends" is also great. Harriet Wheeler's voice can be heard today in some other groups (well, not actually hers, but ones that could fool most) such as Flunk (nordic band that does a great quasi-acoustic cover of New Order's "Blue Monday", and remember that group The Cardigans? Same great ethereal voice.

Of course I have downloaded all of the above-mentioned songs...and except for the second-long pauses between syllables, they sound great.