1. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under the Bridge
2. Pearl Jam - Jeremy
3. The Cure - A Letter to Elise
4. Nirvana - Come As You Are
5. U2 - One
6. Toad the Wet Sprocket - All I Want
7. Shakespear's Sister - Stay
8. Pearl Jam - Even Flow
9. Morrissey - Tomorrow
10. R.E.M. - Drive
11. James - Born of Frustration
12. Sugarcubes - Hit
13. The Cure - Friday I'm in Love
14. Temple of the Dog - Hunger Strike
15. L7 - Pretend that We're Dead
16. Peter Gabriel - Digging in the Dirt
17. The Charlatans - Weirdo
18. Cause & Effect - You Think You Know Her
19. Annie Lennox - Why
20. Alice in Chains - Would
1. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under the Bridge
In recently trying to fill in a friend on what I'd spent the last year or two listening to, I realized that my personal taste tends to gravitate towards some element of either Folk form (any hint of hill-folk finger-pickin' or Ozark/Appalachian melancholy and I'm in), Psychedelia or the tendency to extend a theme for a good long jam (a category in which I include a lot of the Jazz that I like), or just a great, funky groove.
With those qualifiers in place, the following is a year by year review of the last decade which somehow got past me with out noticing it. I mean, really?!! 2010?!!! I didn't see it coming:
2000: Album of the Year
Air's enjoyable and wacky Moon Safari had been on the decks for a couple years before they contracted for the soundtrack to Sofia Coppolla's Virgin Suicides. The resultant score is absolutely sublime and marked the French electronauts as contenders to watch.
For myself, it was the defining sound of the millennium's new year.
Shelby Lynne released a killer country-soul gem, I Am Shelby Lynne, that echoed early material from the likes of Bonnie Raitt. Thinking that it was a brilliant debut from a talented 32yo unknown, I was eventually shocked to find that it was her 6th album. I listened to it for months.
Christmas is so close that I can already feel it being over. Holidays go by so fast that they are always over before you know it. This whole year went by pretty quickly, but I guess it actually took the same amount of time as the year before. It just felt quicker is what I mean. But a lot did really happen this year, and if you thought there were not very many albums out this year you are simply wrong. You might've just had to look a little bit harder this year.
Since the year is quickly winding down, there's only a couple more street dates of releases. This week includes releases from two of my favorites. One of them is only avaialbe on vinyl and the other is just a new sort of collection, but they are still worth our time to talk about. Cat Power still remains one of my favorite singers and personalities. Some might have turned their back on her, while others are still discovering the genius that is the sad, sad voice of Chan Marshall. Chan Marshall is Cat Power, just in case you didn't know. I have had my ups and downs with her over the years, but I have always stood by her side and always been a fan. If you have not heard her albums yet, you should come on down to Amoeba and pick one up. It is never too late to become a Cat Power fan. Or if you already have her entire catalog, you will need to complete it with this album. There is no time like Christmas to listen to Cat Power. Might not seem like the obvious choice for Christmas music, and she doesn't actually have any Christmas albums, but I always like listening to her around the holidays for some reason. I guess for the same reason I like listening to The Carpenters' Christmas Album. I like mixing dark and intense music with such a festive and joyous time. I am actually one of those people that does love Christmas, but I like my Christmas a little darker than normal.
Tracker - Ames (Film Guerrero)
Tracker is, basically, a guy from Portland, OR named John Askew (not to be confused with the DJ of the same name) and whoever he collects around him when he’s ready to record and tour. This was the first album from 1999 and is almost completely played by Askew with some help from friends Adam Selzer (Norfolk & Western) and Erik Herzog (Buellton). I bought it solely on the strength of the album art and the weakness of the price tag. Thus, I was doubly rewarded.
In a number of ways there are similarities to the dynamics of Jason Molina’s Songs:Ohia/Magnolia Electric Company projects. Both are the aggregates of a single man’s songwriting and organizational vision. Both have an undeniably roots Americana base, but with a lot of layering, whether it’s voices, samples of classical music or electronic textures hazing around simple plucked banjo lines. Like Molina, Askew writes extremely strong melodies, and couples them with thoughtful and often mystifying lyrics.
The charm of Ames is due largely to its lack of self-seriousness. Askew lets a breath of ease into his writing and production. “Evan’s Getting It Together” is driven with some lazy and seemingly living-room recorded handclaps that work perfectly to prove that, as beautiful and lush as the songs here sometimes get, they are being played by some guys who are just trying to make some cool songs that get into your head. In fact, some of the song transitions (and there is a lot of ambient connective tissue) remind me of the great also-overlooked Purple Blue by Eric’s Trip, another group of dudes (and a dudette) who were just trying to make some cool songs.
The two self titled Red House Painters albums came out in 1993, a year after Down Colorful Hill came out in 1992. My first album by them that I bought was the "rollercoaster" cover self titled album. The cover was a brilliant sepia colored photo of an old broken down roller coaster. I absolutely love roller coasters and am a sucker for anything with a sepia filter on it. The album included "Grace Cathedral Park," "Mistress," and "Mother." The entire album is fantastic, and I guarantee you that this album will make you cry. It is really all about that fantastic voice that belongs to Mark Kozelek. The slow, dreamy, folky music fits in perfectly with his voice. Many of the songs on the six Red House Painters albums remain some of my favorites. I became obsessed with Red House Painters after this first album. I went back on bought the other two albums and patiently waited until 1995 for the release of Ocean Beach. This became one of those albums forever attached to a year in my life. I can't really think about 1995/1996 without thinking about this album. It was my last year in college and this was the perfect album to sort of help soundtrack my life that year. There was lots of Blur, Elastica, Gene, Suede, and Stereolab to get my through the year as well, but Red House Painters have been in my life ever since.