Friday, January 03, 2003
OK, picking up where we left off...
posted by SMc at 7:01 AM
..it's year-end lists a-gogo! The good folks over at LostAtSea serve up almost the identikit cool indie Top20 for 2002. Pushing the envelope a wee bit more, UK zine Diskant's list offers some 'skewed mentalist shouty jerkpop' amongst others which may have unaccountably slipped your attention. If having Josh Rouse in it's top 3 is encouraging, check the personal (and Canadian) MusicEmissions list. And if you've got about half-an-hour to spare, Popmatters lets all their writers have a list each; if not, just cut to Jeremy's...
And now here's why they're all - for the most part - completely WRONG!
Of course, it's quite possible that the most reallyrather-friendly disc of '02 is one which for whatever reason (ignorance, prejudice, sloth or finances being most likely) this blog has failed to hear. The albums by Aroah, Gloria Record, Lucero and the Doleful Lions, for example, all sound like they'll be worth investigating but then so did those by Tangelo and Shearwater and Parker&Lily which sadly, by and large, weren't. So, cutting to the quick, what are the reallyrather records of the year? Mustering some kind of dubious ranking, they are these:
1. Rilo Kiley / The execution of all things
Apparently, Jenny Lewis does this thing where she think's she's real sick, but she won't go to the doctor's to find out about it. I know this because she's told me at least 50 times already but I'm still not tired of hearing about it nor any of the other hang-ups, fears, etc which she unloads over the course of the band's belting 2nd album. Sounding often like therapy sessions set to music - regression therapy in the case of 2 or 3 brief interludes - the fascinating lyrics are just one part of a totally winning package. That Blake's guitar breaks are often little more than great fat statements of the obvious renders them no less thrilling. With empathetic assistance from producer Mike Mogis, Rilo Kiley deftly tweek & mould their melodic sound which is by turns joyous, pensive and rocking. Just about as loveable as indie rock gets. [Reviewed Nov 5]
2. Tracker / Polk
Overlooked by virtually everyone since it's release, reallyrather found the songs and soundscapes through which the listener travels over the course of this record distinctly compelling. The effect of mainman John Askew's grainy lilt is maximized by tremendous production instincts which also draw out some great atmospheric electric guitar and other sounds to overlay the quietly twisted folk-pop. Scratchy and parched, it's a roadtrip in your headphones. [Reviewed Nov 11]
3. Nina Nastasia / The blackened air
Unlike the previous two this got a UK release (in April) but stunningly still failed to make either the Mojo or Uncut lists (or any others this blog has come across). Marvellously spacious naturalistic production allows the wind to whistle in & around the cello/accordian/guitar/drum ensemble as they carve out Nastasia's fabulously scabrous folk-pop. Sixteen tracks, no duds. Indellible stuff. [Reviewed Aug 3]
4. Denison Witmer / Philadelphia songs [Revd Oct 21]
Pedro the Lion / Control [Reviewed May 4]
Bright Eyes / Lifted, or... [Reviewed Aug 26]
What's this?! A new DW album and it's not even in the top 3? Shome mishtake, etc, etc? Hmm...Could be just that Witmer's a victim of his own consistently high standards really. The first three listed all packed an element of surprise whereas another virtually foot-perfect collection from Denison is exactly what we've come to expect. Getting, if anything, even better but changing very little, this blog may soon have an opportunity to apologise for this relegation when Witmer plays some debut UK dates (tbc) in Feb. Tied in equal fourth are the deadeye observations and thrillingly distilled indie rock of Pedro the Lion, and the over-stuffed but relentless wonder that is Bright Eyes' Lifted.. (If Eminem could get inspired by Dido's Angel, what'd he do if he ever got to hear Lover I don't have to love?)
5. Wilco / YankeeHF
Flaming Lips / Yoshimi..
Their qualities are self-evident - cracking sound, top-draw tunesmithery, palpable intelligence - but why hasn't reallyrather played them nearly as often as any of the above? Or any those below, for that matter..
6. Lovers / Star lit sunken ship
Early Day Miners / Let us garlands bring
The RockingHorseWinner / Horizon
The Vessels / The Vessels
Starlings TN / The leaper's fork
Jack Drag / The sun inside
The Hurricane Lamps / Tilting at windmills
Damien Rice / O (tracks 1-5 only)
reallyrather can't make any great artistic claims on behalf of most of the above but hasn't really stopped playing any of them since aquisition. Both ploughing shoegazey guitar 'n' strings territory, the Lovers & Early Day Miners discs are a complementary pairing, EDMs deeper, extended explorations (or "blues/gospel dronepop yeilding the proverbial opiated glow within the listener's synaptic passages," if you will) offsetting the Lovers' song-oriented, rather more wistful sounds. Don't buy that Sigur Ros thing, buy the Early Day Miners. The pysch-pop 'n' beats of Jack Drag doesn't have much below the surface, but who cares, frankly. This album does what so few others seem to bother with, ie plays around continually with the toys in the studio. The mix seems to alter about every four bars; great fun. (All the others on the list have been talked about earlier, dig around and you'll find.)
And so, with a final nod to a pair of fab EPs from Hem and Andrea Maxand, it's goodbye to 2002...
...and hello 2003.
A few rr stalwarts are out of the blocks early. On Feb 10 alone there's the Be Good Tanyas' 2nd album, Chinatown (check out their spanking new website), ditto Richard Hawley, and the Polyphonic Spree finally put out Light & day (aka track 9), hands-down the best track from their album, as a single. In March, watch for the new Mull Historical Society on the 3rd and Transfiguration Of Vincent from M.Ward on the 18th...