Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Hump Day Shuffle: 1997

1. Wyclef Jean - Anything Can Happen - The Carnival
This album was huge with pretty much everybody I knew back in the day - I couldn't go to a party freshman year in college without hearing it. The Carnival was universal, and outstanding. "Anything Can Happen" should've been a single - it's one of the danciest tracks on the album.

2. Pavement - Stereo - Brighten The Corners
Another hot-hot-hot record from my early college days, this is Pavement at the height of the band's coolness. Like "Cut Your Hair," "Stereo" just about broke Pavement to a much larger mainstream audience, which in retrospect would've been monumentally weird. If the frat crowd would've grown tired of Dave Matthews and embraced Pavement it would've felt like the world was spinning out of control.

3. Bill Hicks - Bullies of the World - Arizona Bay
I'm one of countless people drawn into Bill Hicks through Tool's Ænima album, which dedicated the album to the late comedian, sampled Hicks' take on drugs and music and also used Arizona Bay as the basis for the title track. This rant about American is eerily prescient given the horrors of the Bush years. America as Jack Palance in Shane, a character which imdb calls the "archetypal Western villain."

4. Neko Case - High On Cruel - The Virginian
On this first record, Case is a drastically different singer and musician than on her excellent new album, Middle Cyclone. It's so twangy that it's a shock at first to listen again to this old stuff. This is roadhouse, barroom country, something that would be perfect in the soundtrack to the type of movie that would have Dwight Yoakam as a down-and-out, abusive husband. This would be early in the movie, a Friday night out in fresh Wranglers and cowboy hats, with the couple still in love, though the good times are fading away.

5. Bob Dylan - Dirt Road Blues - Time Out Of Mind
I don't think I could find a way to state the lasting significance this album has had in my life. The rennaissance that this was for Dylan is something that pushed me far deeper into his music. And the album itself is a bluesy and vivid masterpiece that is perhaps the one album, above all others I have, that transports me immediately out of the moment and into some sort of cinematic imaginative land, where the pictures and settings are always different, but the music of Time Out Of Mind always is always there, driving my thoughts. Oh, and this song would also fit very well into that "movie" I just mentioned on the Neko song.

6. Foo Fighters - Everlong (acoustic)
Years after the Unplugged craze, this stripped-down version of the Foos biggest hit nonetheless got huge. I can remember hearing it on the radio at least as often as the original single version. It's a great song to transition to the acoustic, with a melancholy that doesn't show up as well on the full band version.

7. The Refreshments - Buy American - The Bottle And Fresh Horses
One of the best bands ever pissed away by a record company, the Refreshments are country and rock in equal measure, and catchy as hell. This second album easily stands up to the best things Roger Clyne has done.

8. Bruce Springsteen - Who'll Stop The Rain - 85 - 75: The Outtakes
I picked up this bootleg double album at Disc Go Round in Madison a few years back, and it's up there with the Bob Dylan Witmark demos as the best bootleg I've ever heard. The sound quality is tremendous, pulled off the original soundboard master tapes and planned for the 1975-1985 box set. I can't believe they didn't use this CCR cover for the set. It's the full E Street glory given over wholesale, in proud homage, to a beautiful and profoundly important song.

9. Morphine - Empty Box - Like Swimming
Morphine had one of the best and most unique sounds of all time, let alone in alternative music. It's a low groove all the way, slow and smoky, with Mark Sandman's deep, deep croon and Dana Colley's baritone sax combining for a musical noir that sounds like a slow-dripping molasses. I was lucky to see them once, and saddened that Sandman died, barely two months before Morphone and Soul Coughing were set to play a double bill at Phoenix's Celebrity Theatre. I have no doubt that would've been one of the best shows of my life.

10. Yo La Tengo - Sugarcube - I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One
This is an all-time indie rock fuzzy classic. It's sweet and catchy, rock music boiled down to its most joyout elements. And the Mr. Show-ish video is priceless - one of the coolest things ever!

Foo Fighters - Everlong (acoustic)
Bruce Springsteen - Who'll Stop the Rain (live CCR cover)

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