Music 2001 was a bountiful thing: another avalanche of records and shows, bringing numerous gems, loads of trash and several tons of hype on it all. Musicians and the critical corps did seem to agree that this year was good time to reassess music’s presumed essential values. I.e., it was an excellent time to think for ourselves, hence the disparity in our attitudes toward the year’s musical high- and lowlights.
― John Payne
Falling James’ Best of 2001
Manu Chao, Proxima Estacion Esperanza (Virgin). An utterly mesmerizing found-ghost-voice collage, underlying yearning (love) songs of freedom.
The Detroit Cobras, Life, Love and Leaving (Sympathy for the Record Industry). Meet the state of the art in explosive R&B girl-group reinterpretation: foul-mouthed fireball diva Rachael Nagy.
The Come Ons, Hip Check! (Sympathy for the Record Industry). Meanwhile, fellow Motor City chanteuse Deanne Iovan is calmer, cooler: the queen of serene.
The Clean, Getaway (Merge). More songs about celestial sunsets.
Backbiter/Elope, split CD (Man’s Ruin). More great classic (hard) rock you won’t hear on classic-rock radio.
Ex-Girl, Back to the Mono Kero! (Ipecac). For all their elaborate costumes, it’s the spooky a cappella harmonies that dazzle.
Vice Squad, Lo-Fi Life (Sudden Death). Turns out Beki Bondage was right about the war machine.
The Now Time Delegation, Watch for Today (In the Red). Another fireball diva, Riverside-meets-Austin chapter: the BellRays’ Lisa Kekaula, in a soul-satisfying side project with Poison 13 guitarist Tim Kerr.
The Beautys, Thing of Beauty (Cheetah’s). Bratty, Muffs-style punk rants contrasted by poignantly pretty surf instros.
The Dickies, All This and Puppet Stew (Fat Wreck Chords). It was only a matter of time before celebrity psychologist Leonard Graves Phillips focused his malicious attention on Courtney Love, abetted by Stan Lee’s insidiously catchy guitar figure.
Grandest Piano Rambles About Sitting on Sandwiches, World Peace and How There Once Was a Fuh King: Brute Force’s sublimely silly recital at Scramarama, November 3.
Biggest Don’t-Care-Who-Sees-Me-Crying-in-a-Nightclub Moment: When the reunited Tex & the Horseheads whipped out that exhilarating hush of maternal recrimination, “Oh Mother,” at the Blue Café.
Another Reason To Keep Breathing: Urinals (“Skygrifter”) and Cheap Trick (title unknown; the creepy ballad with the curiously plucked upstrokes) both debut in concert haunting new songs that rival their early best.
Worst Tragedy: The breakup of Tijuana No.
Best of the Newer New Wave Bands: Radio Vago, Von Steins.
Best Vacant-Seeming Lead Singer Fooling With His Bandmate’s Amp Settings Onstage During What Turned Out To Be a Thrilling If Atypically Punk Rocking Show: The Fall’s Mark E. Smith at the Knitting Factory, November 14.
Best Blondie Tribute CD: How Many Bands Does It Take To Screw Up a Blondie Tribute? Especially modish twists by The Space Surfers, The Kirby Grips, Trinket, The Come Ons, L’Alouette, The Short Fuses, The Excessories, Fur, The Kowalskis, Buck, Third Grade Teacher and Skrap.
Best Wild New Punk Combo Likely To Be Dead (Literally), Maimed or Hugely Famous by This Time Next Year: The Orphans.
Sad To See You Go: Joey Ramone, Bianca Butthole, George Harrison, Al’s Bar.
Glad To See You Come Back: Arthur Lee.
Guiltiest Pleasures: The Shakes’ Kinks-y version of “Oops, I Did It Again” and those cute Britney Spears stickers in the Ralphs vending machines.
Weirdest Pro Football Lyric in a Mini-Orchestral Love Ballad: “Sentimentally attached to the AFL rules, which do not come back but sporadically in April-time,” from W.A.C.O.’s A Game of Cards CD.
Alec Hanley Bemis: Shit Year. Good Music.
In 2001, I thought about music as much as I listened to it. Is it what we build our identities upon, a lure for sex, the sound of the cosmos, something we leave behind after death, or just aural trash that makes the hours pass? It’s all of these things. In no particular order, 10 examples:
Silence. After 9/11, Enya’s 10-month-old album A Day Without Rain experienced a surge in sales that pushed it into the upper reaches of the Billboard chart. I wish people looked elsewhere for respite. Memories are better than New Age pop. I recall with pleasure the clarity and quiet of the day after Tuesday morning. For a moment the distinctions between good and evil were clear. No planes. And, among my friends at least, lots of brief, heartfelt emails. No small talk.
Erick Sermon (featuring Marvin Gaye), “Music” (J Records). Gaye’s overlapped, sampled voice sounds as beautiful from beyond the grave as it did in life: “Musi-Mu-Mu-Mu-Music.” When that stops, he fronts like Plato: “Music is the soul of the man.”
The Strokes, “The Modern Age” maxi-single (Beggar’s Banquet). The Strokes are a Frankenstein of great N.Y. acts that never broke big as pop bands (Velvet Underground, Television, Ramones). To enliven its bodily fluids, this monster has shot up with adrenaline instead of the heroin that left their predecessors so languid. The full-length is a dinner of Pixie Sticks — it leaves me as exhausted as the band look in their video — but this EP is a catalog of the youthful ennui, spontaneous imperfections and roughshod intangibles that make pop great.
Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, “Get Ur Freak On” (Elektra). The unification of (poly)rhythm and melody; the combination of bouncy, swerving beats and staccato keyboards maintains a Hitchcockian aura of suspense.
U2, “Beautiful Day” (Interscope). I asked her to dance with me at the end of the night. Only if you play this song, she said. We danced for over an hour. Let’s retire to the bedroom, I said. Not unless you play that song again, she said. (It reminded her of an afternoon she spent on a beach in Egypt.) We put it on repeat and listened to it 20, 50, 100 times.
Björk, Vespertine (Elektra). Vespers are prayers offered at twilight, but this is a valentine gently pressed in the hand of the new century. It is sleek yet ethereal, heavily fabricated but full of warmth.
George Harrison, All Things Must Pass (Capitol/EMI reissue). Yes, even him.
Ryan Adams, “New York, New York” (Lost Highway). The heartland rock production casts him as Bryan Adams or John Mellencamp, rather than his real self (a troubadour of fragile hearts à la Elliott Smith, Nick Drake or Bob Dylan), but I don’t care. This is a great love song in which the city’s name is a stand-in for the name of a girl. “Hell, I still love you, New York,” Adams sings, “I’ll always love you, though, New York.” Written pre-9/11, it shows the flexibility and power of metaphor. A song which, before that date, was minor, personal, even pathetic, became something relevant to everyone, even the programmers at VH-1, who ate up the video with its backdrop of the Twin Towers viewed from the Brooklyn waterfront.
Mary J. Blige, “No More Drama” (MCA). A hilarious sample from The Young & the Restless kicks it off. It’s followed by an overwrought hip-hop/R&B song about getting over self-indulgent, self-imposed self-pity. “No more tears,” she sings. Good advice for all of us.
The best mixtape I ever made: I finally brought together on one cassette a perfect combination of storms, angst, laughter, affection, anger and self-indictment. Is it inadvisable to put Bob Dylan’s “Idiot Wind” on a mixtape to an ex-? I guess I’ll soon find out.
Greg Burk’s Surprises:
1. Ozzy Osbourne, Down to Earth (Epic). Who knew that Ozzy was the second coming of John Lennon? His Imagine-ative gut-spew about lonely dreamers, broken heroes and crippled-inside junkies also tags him as one miserable sonofabitch, trying to entertain us ’cause that’s the only thing that keeps him alive. Lucky he’s so good at it; though this is an album-by-committee, with Zakk Wylde shanghaied into indentured axitude, it rocks so hard, flows so naturally and sounds so sincere that it’s — um, one hates to say addictive . . .
2. Bob Dylan, “Love and Theft” (Columbia). Dylan was the miserable sonofabitch on 1997’s great Time Out of Mind. Now he’s feeling so good, and exploding with so many contradictory ideas, that he has to work double-time just to keep the grin off his face.
James Blood Ulmer
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3. James Blood Ulmer, Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions (Label M). Ulmer drags his dirty guitar back to his blues basement and, with Vernon Reid along as a foil, blasts out the truest possible tribute to the late John Lee Hooker. They pull a sound from the new Sun Studio that packs enough meat to feed Howlin’ Wolf (who recorded for Chess at the old one). Gnarly.
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4. Drunk Horse, Tanning Salon/Biblical Proportions (Man’s Ruin) and at Spaceland 4/19. It seemed unlikely that the twin guitars of the Bay Area’s Drunk Horse would bust as much sod and raise as much hair live as they do on record. But they did.
5. Motley Crue, Lewd, Crued & Tattooed (Beyond/Motley Records/House of Blues DVD) and The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band (ReganBooks/HarperCollins). The Crue seemed shipwrecked last year in the wake of drummer Tommy Lee’s departure and the weak New Tattoo, but their live DVD (featuring Hole’s slammin’ Samantha Maloney on skins) proves they’re still high and not yet dry. Their autobiography may also be the most disgusting and heartbreaking in a highly competitive field.
Destroy All Nels Cline
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Friends of Snowman
1. Destroy All Nels Cline (Atavistic). Nels Cline and his guitar army swarm through a hive of layered electricity, with the last five songs standing as one of the heaviest sequences you’ll ever hear. Play it loud.
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Dreams, Come Play With Me
2. Cuong Vu, Come Play With Me (Knitting Factory). With kilowatters like Cline, Vu and Nils Petter Molvær in the vanguard, electronic texture-jazz may soon conquer the world. Come Play With Me, a worthy follow-up to last year’s extraordinary Pure, will drag your fibers through the cosmic comb. Beautiful and surreal.
3. David S. Ware Quartet, Corridors & Parallels (Aum Fidelity). Matthew Shipp, who usually plays acoustic piano, brings his synthesizer to make sure the ever-exploratory tenor man Ware isn’t left outside the electronic circus. Along with William Parker (bass) and Guillermo E. Brown (drums), they drone and freak in a sci-fi playground where no man has gone before. And if you think C&P is a trip, wait’ll you hear Shipp plugged in and grooving with Parker and Brown on his own Nu Bop next month.
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4. Leon Parker, The Simple Life (Label M). Drummer Parker (no relation, except spiritually) offers 15 ways to spell perfection. Genius often coincides with simplicity: Parker makes jazz for all mankind.
5. Charles Lloyd, Hyperion With Higgins (ECM). Lloyd grabbed as many opportunities as he could to record with his old friend Billy Higgins when the drummer’s days on terra firma were growing short, and Higgins always transcended. Hyperion is full of gentle twists, the cast (including John Abercrombie, Brad Mehldau and Larry Grenadier) is stellar, and Lloyd’s tenor breathes through the universal lung.
Dan Epstein’s Year in Music 2001
Best Soul Record: The Isley Brothers, Eternal (DreamWorks).
Best Rock Record: The Tyde, Once (Orange Sky).
Best Punk Record: The Excessories, Pure Pop for Punk People (Sympathy for the Record Industry).
Best Punk Record, Aussie Division: The Living End, Roll On (Reprise).
Best Hard Rock Record: P.O.D., Satellite (Atlantic).
Best Old-School Hard Rock Record (tie): Electric Wizard, Dopethrone (The Music Cartel); Fireball Ministry, FMEP (Small Stone).
Retro-Futurists of the Year: Mellow, Another Mellow Spring (CyberOctave); Zero 7, Simple Things (Palm).
Best Reason To Still Have Faith in Guitar Pop: The Orange Peels, So Far (SpinART).
Best Chicago Blues Record of the Last Quarter Century: Buddy Guy, Sweet Tea (Silvertone).
Classiest Comeback: Ian Hunter, Rant (Fuel 2000).
Classiest Farewell: Baby Lemonade, The High Life Suite (Sympathy for the Record Industry).
Great Bands, Disappointing Records: Monster Magnet, God Says No (A&M); Spiritualized, Let It Come Down (Arista); Air, 10,000Hz Legend (Source).
Bands That Still Haven’t Cured Cancer or Achieved World Peace, Despite Copious Critical Hype to the Contrary: The White Stripes, The Strokes, Radiohead (again).
Most Compelling Musical Argument for the Overthrow of Capitalism: The (International) Noise Conspiracy, A New Morning, Changing Weather (Burning Heart).
Most Compelling Musical Argument for Forced Buggery: Rammstein, Mutter (Republic).
Best Box Sets: Nuggets II — Original Artyfacts From the British Empire and Beyond, 1964–1969 (Rhino); Buffalo Springfield, Box Set (Rhino); The Velvet Underground, Bootleg Series, Volume 1: The Quine Tapes (Polydor).
Most Welcome Reissues: The first four Ramones albums (Rhino); the first four Blondie albums (Chrysalis); The Soft Boys, Underwater Moonlight (Matador); Judas Priest, Unleashed in the East (Legacy); The Rutles — All You Need Is Cash on DVD (Rhino).
Most Unforgettable In-Concert Moment: Gary Puckett & the Union Gap’s “Tribute to Jimi Hendrix” medley at the Greek Theater on June 24, complete with Puckett pulling a two-handed “tapping” solo on a white Stratocaster.
Sleep Well, Sweet Friends: George Harrison, Joey Ramone.
Ernest Hardy’s Music 2001
Hype is the backbone of the modern music industry, and this year saw that spine contorted into ridiculous shapes, propping up the banal and cracking beneath the weight of true creativity. Somewhere Phyllis Hyman is screaming, “Alicia Fucking Keys?!?!” Sometimes, though, the backfire was a godsend: Craig David’s insipid teeny-bopper lyrics, monotonous two-step grooves and pretty-boy looks failed to make him the stateside sensation he’s been around the world. All praise to Allah. Talented but overrated were Bilal, Res and Wigga Costa. Pure hype with no payoff: Mystic, Sunshine Anderson, Lina and Musiq Soulchild. Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun (Motown) (officially a late-2000 release) not only held up throughout the year, but with each spin proved itself a too-deep hip-hop classic; it’ll be “got” at some later date. Hands in the air for Angie Stone, Blaze, Jill Scott, Kings of Tomorrow, Ursula Rucker and the still-underrated Ultra Nate. Keep them there for OutKast, De La Soul, Tricky, India.Arie, Sophie B. Hawkins, and the illest diva, Missy Elliott. Irrelevant, cockroach-resilient divas Janet Jackson and Madonna gave tours that were yawningly formulaic and numbingly pretentious, respectively; both were shown up by the transcendent musicality of Sade — the woman and the group — with the Lover’s Rock tour. And her “King of Sorrow” was the best music video of 2001. The year’s soundtrack was found in the past: Earth, Wind & Fire (“Happy Feeling,” “Be Ever Wonderful,” “Keep Your Head to the Sky,” “That’s the Way of the World”), Teddy Pendergrass (“Do Me,” “Somebody Told Me,” “Cold, Cold, World,” “It Don’t Hurt Now”) and the collected works of Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield, Eva Cassidy and embattled hero Gil Scott-Heron. Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat” was the sexiest radio track of the year, but it’s painful to watch the accompanying video. The “gay rapper” crouched out of hip-hop’s shadows but was upstaged by “straight” rappers with names like Nelly, Fabolous and Mr. Cheeks. Negroes across America should file a class-action suit versus BET and MTV for perpetuation of crimes against the race under the guise of multiculturalism. The suit should be expanded to include the movie studios that released hip-hop-cinema dreck: Bones, The Wash and How High. Hope for 2002: Me’Shell Ndegéocello’s Cookie: The Anthropological Mix Tape (Maverick) and Q-Tip’s Kamaal the Abstract (Arista).
Jonny Whiteside’s Top 10 2001
1. Knoxville Girls, In a Paper Suit (In the Red). Most NYC rock & roll hipsters simply make jerks out of themselves; this artful crew is the exception that proves the rule.
2. The Damned, Grave Disorder (Nitro). While this occasionally goth-goon pandering effort ain’t exactly perfect, it’s the best they’ve managed in years — inviting Scabies back would’ve made all the difference.
3. Andre Williams, Bait and Switch (Norton). Cult R&B hero finally nails a solid platter, with a little help from Ronnie Spector and Rudy Ray Moore.
4. Ike Turner, Here and Now (Ikon). Hard revelatory blues from this relentlessly maligned master, in his first new album for decades.
5. Shaver, The Earth Rolls On (New West). Billy Joe and son Eddy’s final collaborative set, and the tragic OD loss of the latter adds a ton of poignant weight to an outstanding album.
6. Bare Jr., Brainwasher (Virgin). Where John Carter Cash and Shooter Jennings misfire, Bobby Bare Jr. comes through — a high-brat rock & roller gnashing through tunes like “Why Do I Need a Job?” “God Doesn’t Know My Name.”
7. The Dirtbombs, Ultraglide in Black (In the Red). A slew of classic soul covers all messed up by the radical fuzz guitar treatment of Mick Collins, self-proclaimed “last black man in rock & roll” (although it is a bit difficult to get behind a brother who calls himself “Mick”).
8. Dexter Romweber, Chased by Martians (Manifesto). Plangent, furious, idiosyncratic; this former Flat Duo Jets leader always comes through.
9. Merle Haggard, Roots (Anti). Hag reintroduces MIA-for-44-years Lefty Frizzell guitarist Norm Stephens with this sublime dose of hardcore 1952 honky-tonk.
10. Red Simpson, Hey Bin Laden (Wagon Wheel). California’s other great country singer-songwriter nails the general mood with typically low-key aplomb.
Andrew Lentz’s Good, Bad & Noteworthy Releases 2001
“Ass and titties, ass and titties, ass and titties, ass and titties, ass?” . . . Annoying, isn’t it? That’s the crux of ghetto-tech honcho DJ Assault’s Jefferson Ave. (Intuit-Solar). Beavis and Butthead might find it titillating, though . . . Be wary of Brits who rely on gospel choirs and 65-piece orchestras to get their soul on. Still, Spiritualized’s Let It Come Down (Arista) swells without being turgid . . . Jargony lyrics and art-school theory clutter Le Tigre’s pop pastiche Feminist Sweepstakes (Mr. Lady), but these übergrrrls are so beguiling they’ll have date-raping frat boys reading Susan Faludi essays . . . Zero 7’s creamy Simple Things (Palm) swirls back-lit horns, balmy synths, oozing bass and diva songbirds so that — yes — time will momentarily stop . . . Composer Clint Mansell doesn’t need the visual aid of indie flick Requiem for a Dream to suffocate you, his film score sucks the air out of the room all by itself (Nonesuch) . . . Must have been the 20-hour darkness of the Icelandic winters that caused Minus to deliver such a frightening slab of guitar-fueled psychosis on Jesus Christ Bobby (Victory) — there’s hope for metal yet . . . Nickelback are the apotheosis of KROQ mediocrity, like a caricature of Creed, STP and Days of the New, but their single “How You Remind Me” (Roadrunner) will have you doing double-gainers off rooftops to get the tune outta yr head . . . Jersey rapper Chino XL is going to hell for all his hating on I Told You So (Metro Rap), but goddamn this Latin thug is funny . . . Spare, languid and impossibly abstract, Phoenicia’s Brown Out (Schematic) reveals the rock between the pixels . . . And for all you drill & bass-noise terrorist-tweakers, Teutonic badass Panacea (a.k.a. Mathias Mootz) proved with The Hardest Tour on Planet Earth (Position Chrome) that he’s still the only hardcore jock that matters.
Twelve F-ing Good 2001 Records According to Lina Lecaro
Fiercest: System of a Down, Toxicity (American); BRMC, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (Virgin).
Funkiest: Macy Gray, The Id (Epic); The Black Crowes, Lions (V2).
Foxiest: The Strokes, The Strokes (RCA); Betty Blowtorch, Are You Man Enough? (Foodchain).
Fastest: Slayer, God Hates Us All (American); Static-X, Machine (Warner Bros.).
Folkiest: Beachwood Sparks, Once We Were Trees (Sub Pop); The White Stripes, White Blood Cells (Sympathy for the Record Industry).
Flashiest: Gorillaz, Gorillaz (Virgin); Tricky, Blowback (Hollywood).
Derrick Mathis on the List
The Best of the Best: Petals: The Minnie Riperton Collection (The Right Stuff), the late great singer’s double-CD compilation of hits and unearthed jewels. “Lovin’ You,” “Perfect Angel,” Can You Feel What I’m Saying?” and “Memory Lane” — ahhh, now this shit is true honest-to-goodness music for grown folks. It was considered sacrilegious in old-school R&B circles when white Negro Quentin Tarantino used Riperton’s classic “Inside My Love” in one of his flicks. Simply put, it’s the most erotic tune of all time.
Best Album by a Legend: Herbie Hancock, Future 2 Future (Transparent Music).
Worst Album Released by a Legend: The O’Jays, For the Love (MCA).
Best Album by a Young Black Artist Who Makes Most Neo-Soul Musings Sound Like Self-Congratulatory Overproduced Poseur Bullshit: Michael Franti & Spearhead, Stay Human (Six Degrees).
Worst Album by a Young Black Artist To Cash in on Hype, Retro-Soul, Crossover Marketability and Shock Value All at the Same Time: Macy Gray, The Id (Epic).
Most Overhyped Albums: The Avalanches, Since I Left You (Modular); Alicia Keys, Songs in A Minor (J Records).
Most Underrated Albums: Juan Atkins, Legends: Volume One (Om); Attica Blues, Test, Don’t Test (Higher Ground); Mos Def, Black on Both Sides (Rawkus).
Single of the Year: Beatless, Life Mirrors (Ubiquity Records).
Dance Albums of the Year: Terence Toy, h2House (Water Music); Jerome Sydenham & Kerri Chandler, Saturday (Ibadan); DJ Deep, Respect to DJ Deep (Astralwerks); Ron Trent, Sessions Volume One (Giant Step Records).
Best Albums by a Hype-Free Local Electronic and DJ Artist Without a Residency: Worldship Music, L.A. Confidential Featuring the Teflon Dons (www.worldshipmusic.com or Aron’s Records); Joey Santa Cruz, Close Encounter (House Vibes) (www.pureacidmixtapes.com or Wax Records on Melrose).
Best Live Sets and Homemade Dance Music Compilations by a Hype-Free Local Electronic and DJ Artist Without a Residency: Brad Kent.
Alan Rich: Music Destroyed, at the Hands of . . .
1. The No-Brain Glams: Russell Watson, Charlotte Church, lots of notes, no music.
2. The Gravediggers: West Side Story exhumed and turned into a violin concerto.
3. The Inflators: 10 minutes of good blues blown up into two hours of Wynton Marsalis’ All Rise.
4. The Self-Destructors: The record industry eliminates its own relevance as a serious musical force.
5. The Pablum Producers: Carlisle Floyd’s new opera in San Diego, the latest but the same-old.
6. The Fabricators: Best-selling baroque fakery as Morimur, son of Pachelbel.
7. Prevaricators: Won’t-hurt-a-bit music-appreciation books, as in It’s Not As Bad As It Sounds et al.
Music Redeemed, With the Help of . . .
1. Standing United: The Stravinsky and Schoenberg celebrations, a community effort.
2. Honorable Restoration: The L.A. Opera’s enlightened Handeling of Giulio Cesare.
3. Reverence: Attention finally paid to Lou Harrison, and to Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron.
4. A Final Flicker: As it disbands, the Angeles String Quartet’s complete Haydn recording proclaims what we’ll miss.
5. Life at the Center: Mark Adamo’s Little Women at Opera Pacific, a quiet, beautifully fashioned masterwork.
6. The Spirit of Adventure: Long Beach Opera’s giddy Elektra, followed by its fabulously off-the-wall Powder Her Face.
7. Tellers of Truth: The latest revision of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, which has all the answers.
Paul Rogers’ Tops ‘n’ Flops
Destiny’s Child: The first half of their Survivor album was a romp of rampant, disjointed beats and functional, high-street feminism — then they torpedoed any hard-earned cred with the truly vomit-inducing 8 Days of Christmas holiday collection. Shameless cash-ins aside, main gal Beyoncé Knowles is here to stay — don’t fight it.
Weezer’s Green Album: Rivers Cuomo and his designer nerds raised the bar for pure pop with this ultra-lean, remorselessly hook-laden collection. Cuomo’s weakest song on his worst day would be the masterpiece of a lifetime for mortal musicians. Ultimate melodic geek chic.
Paul Weller at House of Blues, July 20–22: England’s Modfather finally returned for three nights of alarmingly poignant solo acoustic shows, earning endless ovations from diverse, sold-out crowds containing only smatterings of the expected drunk Brits yelling for Jam songs. Living, relevant nostalgia.
Radiohead: Having taken the “emperor’s new clothes” concept to minimalist extremes with their Kid A and Amnesiac albums, they then milked the experiment with a live disc of songs from these (all Capitol/EMI). The Great Rock & Roll Swindle, Part 2.
Slipknot’s audience at L.A. Forum, September 29: The music seemed almost irrelevant as Slipknot whipped the Forum’s crowd of 13,000 into one enormous, seething pit. Matters dissolved into a vision of orchestrated mob-rule, more disaster movie than rock concert. An unforgettable, surreal scene, transfixing and terrifying.
Depeche Mode and Poe at Staples Center, August 14–15: Poe’s Haunted (Atlantic) — the best album you never heard — became flesh and fun through her ambling live show. Depeche delivered melancholy classics and the cream of this year’s excellent Exciter disc (Reprise) with vigor, grace and a surprising amount of humor — not all of which appeared intentional. Two nights was too little of this priceless pairing.
Stacy Osbaum Goes to 11:
Aaron Carter, Oh Aaron (Jive), do our nation’s children really need to be hearing this?
The Strokes, Is This It (RCA). So rock was dead, and then the Strokes came along to make us remember why we used to listen to the Velvet Underground, The Jesus & Mary Chain, The White Stripes, etc. Entirely derivative but catchy nonetheless.
The Avalanches, Since I Left You (Modular). The year’s best electronic pastiche album, and it came from Australia? Samples never sounded better.
Bent, Programmed To Love (Ministry of Sound). Ditto above, but it came from England.
Radiohead, Amnesiac (Capitol/EMI). Overrated. How do they get away with this?
Felix Da Housecat, Kittenz and Thee Glitz (Emperor Norton). The top of the ’80s revival heap that swept dance music this year, even though Daft Punk made the Gap.
Spiritualized, Let It Come Down (Arista). Soaring, gospel-induced psychedelia. One of the year’s few worthwhile rock releases.
Squarepusher, Go Plastic (Warp). Some of the freakiest electronic sounds made all year (and still listenable), but then Aphex Twin turned us on to Drukqs (London/Sire) and dissolved any brain cells we had remaining.
Creed, Weathered (Wind-Up). Why, why, why? Is this what qualifies as grunge 10 years later?
Enya, A Day Without Rain (Warner Bros.). Her boost in popularity post–September 11 is a tragedy in itself.
Björk, Vespertine (Elektra). Forever following her own path, making it up as she goes along, Björk remains one of the most original artists in music today.
Jay Babcock: 10 Musical Pieces
12. Guilty Pleasures: Braindonor, Love Peace & Fuck (Impresario) (Stooges, Ash Ra Tempel, Groundhogs, Kiss); Spirit Caravan, Elusive Truth (Tolotta) (Sabbath, Blue Cheer); Actual Tigers, Gravelled & Green (Nettwerk America) (Paul Simon); The Strokes, Is This It? (RCA) (Wire, Velvets); BRMC, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (Virgin) (The Jesus and Mary Chain, glam); Charlatans UK, Wonderland (MCA) (Curtis Mayfield, Stones circa ’78); New Order, Get Ready (Reprise) (New Order); the Watt-Perkins-di Stefano Stooges cover band Hellride; Acid Mothers Temple (Grateful Dead, Hawkwind).
11. Gospel Brunch: Shellac serving Krispy Kreme donuts to the audience prior to its Sunday, January 28, 11 a.m. show at the Knitting Factory.
10. Songwriting of the First Order: Rufus Wainwright, Poses (DreamWorks); Eleni Mandell, Thrill (Space Baby); Pulp, We Love Life (Island) (note: produced by Scott Walker!); Black Box Recorder, The Facts of Life (Jet Set); Momus, Folktronic (Le Grand Magistery).
9. What the ?!?: The Centimeters, Lifetime Achievement Awards (Space Baby); Neil Hagerty, Neil Michael Hagerty (Drag City); The All-New Adventures of Rock ’N’ Roll’s Royal Trux comic book; Aphex Twin, Drukqs (London/Sire); Sparklehorse and Tom Waits’ “Dog Door” (Capitol/EMI); Björk, “Pagan Poetry” video; Thighpaulsandra, I, Thighpaulsandra (Eskaton UK); The Residents’ greatest-bizarrities revue at UCLA Royce Hall, May 25.
8. Jewish-Related Stuff: Random_Inc., Jerusalem (Ritornell); Mogwai, “My Father My King” (Matador); Perry Farrell, Song Yet To Be Sung aa(Virgin); Masada, Live at Tonic 2001 (Tzadik).
7. Beauty: Beachwood Sparks, Once We Were Trees (Sub Pop); Mercury Rev, All Is Dream (V2); Acetone, York Blvd. (Vapor); M. Gira/D. Matz, What We Did (Young God); John Zorn, In the Mirror of Maya Deren (Tzadik); Frank Bretschneider, Curve (Mille Plateaux); alva.noto, Transform (EFA); Richard Ashcroft live, alone, at the Knitting Factory, February 4.
6. Older People: Prince at the Palladium, May 4; John Paul Jones at the Universal Amphitheater, November 15, reclaiming Led Zeppelin songs (“When the Levee Breaks,” “Black Dog”) with some biting slide-guitar work; J Mascis & the Fog covering Stooges tunes with guitarist Ron Asheton at the Troubadour, April 26; Adrian Sherwood’s dub party at Spaceland, August 29; King Crimson laying waste to Tool at the Wiltern, August 14; Paul McCartney, Driving Rain — sweet, melodic comfort food for the ears.
5. Younger People: Starsailor (fey Tim Buckley folk-rock sung by a baby-faced 21-year-old with ridiculous pipes); bawdy rocker Peaches wowing the pansexual crowds at Spaceland (May 11) and at the Knitting Factory (August 11); Sigur Ros’ audacious U.S. live debut, midday next to the Rave Tent at Coachella, April 28; Mos Def’s Black Jack Jackson project (featuring Dr. Know and Bernie Worrell) live at Coachella; The Fire Show’s Above the Volcano of Flowers (Perishable); AWOL One and Daddy Kev, Souldoubt (Meanstreet).
4. Swedish people: The Hives, Veni Vedi Vicious (Burning Heart); The Soundtrack of Our Lives’ entire catalog (Hidden Agenda).
3. People We’ll Miss: Richie Lee, Pops Staples, Joey Ramone, Michael Karoli, George Harrison.
2. Albums That Should Survive the Test of Time: The White Stripes, White Blood Cells (Sympathy for the Record Industry); Boredoms, Vision Creation Newsun (WEA Japan); Dungeon Family, Even in Darkness (Arista).
1. Spiritualized at the Wiltern, November 13: an absolutely staggering two-and-a-half-hour set performed by the 13-piece band plus a six-person local gospel choir. Opened with a gigantic 20-minute version of “Cop Shoot Cop.” Everything arranged to post-Spector bombasm. Tasteful lights, expertly mixed sound and fantastic ensemble and individual playing; Doggen’s harmonica (gorgeous) and guitar work (subtle, ripping, arching) especially stood out. Covers of Spacemen 3 classics “Take Me to the Other Side” and “Walking With Jesus.” Etc. The most amazing, purely rapturous show I’ve ever been lucky enough to witness — any performer, anywhere, anytime.
John Payne’s 20 Superior Discs
Aphex Twin, Drukqs (London-Sire)
Björk, Vespertine (Elektra)
Brujeria, Mextremist Hits (Kool Arrow)
Holger Czukay, Linear City (www.dignose.com)
Dungeon Family, Even in Darkness (Arista)
Electric Company, Greatest Hits (Tigerbeat6)
M. Gira/D. Matz, What We Did (Young God)
Neil Hagerty, Neil Michael Hagerty (Drag City)
Khan, No Comprendo (Matador)
Doctor L., Tony Allen et al., Psyco on da Bus (Comet/Platform)
Ingram Marshall, Kingdom Come (Nonesuch)
Mouse on Mars, Idiology (Thrill Jockey)
Bill Neely, Texas Law & Justice (Arhoolie)
Phthalocyanine, Zacks (Phthalo)
Plaid, Double Figure (Warp)
Iggy Pop, Beat Em Up (Virgin)
Azalia Snail, Brazen Arrows (Dark Beloved Cloud)
Sun Ra & His Intergalactic Arkestra, It Is Forbidden (Total Energy)
June Tabor, Rosa Mundi (Green Linnett)
Toby Dammit, Top Dollar (Omplatten)
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