Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Wilco song, album news

I guess it's turning into an unofficial Wilco day here at Catfish Vegas presents... headquarters...

The band dropped a new Woody Guthrie-written song today, in exchange asking for a donation to the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives. I have to confess that I hit the link marked "Sorry, I'm unemployed / underemployed or otherwise broke. I'll download the track and I'll make it up to you later, I promise."

"Jolly Banker" - download here - is a pitch-perfect tune for this here worst economy of my lifetime. It's pure Woody Guthrie - the big banker taking all he can from the little guy, a smile on his face the whole time:

If you show me you need it, I'll let you have credit,
I'm a jolly banker, jolly banker am I.
Just bring me back two for the one I lend you,
Singin' I'm jolly banker, jolly banker am I.

Unlike the Mermaid Avenue songs, this is one that Woody recorded himself, in March of 1940 during some sessions with Alan Lomax that turned into the Library of Congress Recordings album.

Wilco stays faithful to the Woody tune, giving it a light bounce that sounds like it'd be right at home on Sky Blue Sky moreso than on the more country-sounding Mermaid Avenue discs.

Next up, the Rialto Theatre is hosting tonight a big-screen celebration of Wilco's new concert film, Ashes of American Flags. It's just $2, which kicks major ass, and I hope that this is the start of a regular rock 'n' roll film series down at the Rialto.

And the band just announced the release date and title for the new record - Wilco (The Album) will be out June 30, and hopefully the band will keep up their tradition of streaming it well in advance, so I can get fully aquainted with it before the June 18 show at Tucson's Centennial Hall.

Here's the track list:
Wilco (the song)
Deeper Down
One Wing
Bull Black Nova
You And I (with Feist)
You Never Know
Country Disappeared
I'll Fight
Sonny Feeling
Everlasting Everything

Wilco - Ingrid Bergman (live)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Unwigged - Recap

The horrid grammar of my last post was intentional, I promise, but without context it really fails to land. Well, I was playing off the Folksmen tune "Never Did No Wanderin'" because I was on my way a-wanderin'... It still kinda falls flat. Oh well...

I got a call this afternoon from a friend with an extra ticket to the Unwigged & Unplugged tour in Phoenix, and I had about 20 minutes before departure. So, quick shower and quicker blog post and I was off.

For the 25th anniversary of the release of the classic This Is Spinal Tap, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer put together an acoustic tour, celebrating the music of their quasi-fictional metal band in a setting that oddly enough allowed both the humor and their musicianship to quickly rise to the top.

I've only seen This Is Spinal Tap a couple times, and not in years, but I'm a huge fan of A Mighty Wind (and I own the soundtrack!), so I was thrilled that plenty of the Folksmen songs were mixed in.

Phoenix's Dodge Theater is a decent venue - nice but utterly soulless, with the vibe of a sports arena (the Colangelo touch, I suppose) and the "charm" to match Phoenix's endless suburban sprawl. I'll concede the fact that there are few options in the 5,000-seat range, but I much prefer the renovated Vaudeville (and older) theaters that draw similar acts. And it's a shame, but the Guest, McKean and Shearer show only filled about half the joint. What's with a $9.40 "ticket fee" and a $2.25 "venue fee" anyway? I think my last few years of seeing live music almost exclusively in small clubs and bars, or at most a small historic theater, have significantly altered my concert expecations to the point that a theater like the Dodge will never again feel remotely comfortable.

As for the show, it was fantastic. The three of them could gab for two hours on a stage and it'd be worth going.

What I love most about the trio's songs is how subtely the humor laces itself into the music. Whether it's Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge" or the Folksmen doing "Old Joe's Place," the humor comes from just how closely the parodies hew to the conventions of their genres. The fascination with druidic rituals is primally metal, but also a skewed take on metal. Similarly, the praise for such a rustic everyday place as "Old Joe's Place" is pure folk, but dig down into the details and there's something that just doesn't add up quite right. And that's where they draw all the humor. It's something you have know to look for, and something you have to actually understand when you find it, but Guest, McKean and Shearer excell at humor via the poking and prodding of a careful satire or parody.

And they can flat out play. With Shearer on bass (alternating electric and stand-up throughout the night), McKean on guitar and piano/keyboard and Guest on guitar, including occasional leads, and mandolin, they're a real band in every sense. And they obviously understand singing harmony together.

The show definitely heated up toward the end. I was surprised to hear "Big Bottom" and "Old Joe's Place" back-to-back even before the end of the set. McKean's wife Annette O'Toole came out to sing a couple numbers, including the Oscar-nominated "A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow" (memorably performed in-character by Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara at the show) which they co-wrote.

The show wrapped up with "Sex Farm," which Shearer joked was ruled unacceptable by NBC network honchos when they wanted to play it on SNL in 1984, again declared unacceptable by NBC honchos for a pre-tour Tonight Show appearance, and even declared unacceptable for an NPR guest spot this year. So, Shearer said, "There's a river of filth coming your way," and McKean quickly followed "Please accept it."

Also notable: the calypso-tinged "Loco Man," "Bitch School" and "Hell Hole" - both stripped of their metal aggression but not their humor - a bluegrass cover of the Stones "Start Me Up," and the encore of "Gimme Some Money" and "A Mighty Wind," an anthem that's pretty much good enough in its own right to rise above the parody realm.

I remember hearing the Unwigged tour announcement... and didn't think I'd end up going. But damn, I'm glad I did.

The Folksmen (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer) - Start Me Up (live Rolling Stones Cover)
Unwigged sneak preview
Spinal Tap - Saucy Jack

Monday, April 27, 2009


I'm ain't gonna do no wanderin' up to Phoenix tonight to see Unwigged:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dylan playing AZ in August!

In the immediate future, Bob Dylan will: 1. Release his 33rd studio album, Together For Life; 2. Turn 68 years old; 3. Embark on another summer tour of minor league baseball stadia, and for the first time on such a tour play in Arizona.

That's right friends, on Aug. 11, you can find me at someplace called Camelback Ranch in Glendale. Oh, and Dylan is bringing along a couple friends - Willie Nelson and John Cougar Mellencamp (Do you think the Coug knew that 30 years after adopting the nickname that it'd see common use as slang for a sexy older woman on the prowl? I doubt it.)

Barring any unforeseen hitches, this will be my 11th Dylan show, the first in two years. It's a shame he's not playing in Tucson, given that our very own minor league ballpark is completely empty for the entire summer (screw you Reno!). And Glendale's new park is technically a spring training facility, not a minor league one, but it's essentially the same. I'm betting this is the first concert for Camelback Ranch (stupid name), which stole the White Sox from Tucson this year.

I'm curious and excited to hear this new album, and also how Dylan brings some of the new songs to the stage. Will Dylan and Willie play together? These minor league ballpark tours started in 2004 and each year I looked at the schedule just wishing one would come out West. I think the closest one of those shows to Tucson in the past was Kansas City. And this trio will be together sharing one stage for the first time since Farm Aid in 1985. Not too bad, not too bad.

Bob Dylan - All Along The Watchtower (2006-04-08 Sun City)
Bob Dylan & Willie Nelson - Pancho & Lefty (live)
John Cougar Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett - Pink Houses (live)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Hump Day Shuffle: 2001

1. The Shins - Pressed In A Book - Oh, Inverted World
The Shins hit fast and furious among my crew. It seemed that everybody was talking up this album and the kind of effortlessly catchy indie pop that sounded so fresh at the time. It still does, but the shine has worn off the album a bit for me by now. And for what it's worth, I never had a clue what this song is about, and I never cared. I just listened to it endlessly anyway.

2. Bob Dylan - I Can't Get You Off My Mind - Timeless: Hank Williams Tribute
For my money, this is probably the best tribute album ever released. Probably the smallest name on the list is Ryan Adams, and his take on "Lovesick Blues" is amazing. But the best of the bunch here is Dylan, who practically croons, and adds an accordion to the perfect country shuffle of Larry Campbell on guitar. This is a careful and reverent cover, but one performed with joy.

3. Whiskeytown - The Ballad of Carol Lynn - Pneumonia
An album recorded before the band split, but then released after Ryan Adams' solo debut, Pneumonia is unlike anything Whiskeytown did before. Gone are both the country heartache and the raw, hard-charging rock tunes as the band took a more classic pop sound. I used to think that this record and Wilco's Summerteeth were spiritual cousins, but I've kinda backed off that as it seems to point the way more for Ryan Adams solo work. This album opener is an absolute beaut, though.

4. Dan Bern - New American Language - New American Language
The title track from Dan Bern's best album, this minor key ballad is as heartbreaking as it is captivating. I especially love the opening lines:
She said love, love, love is everything
I said ok, I guess, whatever
She said what does that mean
I said nothing, it's just good to have a backup plan
5. Jay Farrar - Feed Kill Chain - Sebastapol
Despite how much I liked about half the songs on this first solo album from Jay Farrar, it's really also the point that I began to lose track of him. I was a huge Son Volt fan, and I got to catch them live touring for the band's third album - which was the last one with that version of the band. With his solo work, Farrar just seems sort of ornery, but he still hits it out of the park sometimes. This song, along with "Voodoo Candle" and "Feel Free" are right up there with his best work.

6. Weezer - Photograph - Weezer
This was one of the last albums I stood in line to buy at midnight (Dylan's Love & Theft just may have been the last). After the band's first two albums - the uber popular blue self-titled and the critical smash Pinkterton - I didn't think they could do much wrong. And I listened to this endlessly for that summer. The album came out right when I moved back from Phoenix and picked up a serving job that was quite a drive. So this album, Billy Bragg's Workers Playtime and the promo copy I had of Jimmy Eat World's then-titled Bleed American were my driving music for almost three solid months.

7. Iron & Wine - A History of Lovers - Home Recordings
I heard the bright, horn-filled version of this song from Iron & Wine's collaboration with Calexico long before I heard this home demo version, and it shocking how somber the song started out.

8. Greyhound Soul - Nothin' - Alma de Galgo
One of Tucson's best bands for close to 15 years, Greyhound Soul is one of the more immediately recognizable bands there is, thanks to Joey Peña's rough desert drawl. I called their sound "peyote blues" at one point back in the day, around the time of this second album, which had the band taking a bluesy turn, with a double keyboard sound. This is a band whose audience has never swelled large enough to be on par with the quality of the music.

9. Wilco - Venus Stop The Train - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos
A fantastic song that's only turned up on a Jay Farrar solo album, Venus Stop The Train is one of the chief reasons that all Wilco fans need to have the YHF demos as well as the regular album. The band was on such fire that they could have put it out as a double album with repeats of the songs and still landed on as many year-end lists as there were.

10. Old 97s - Question - Satellite Rides
This is a sweet little ditty from yet another album that I listened to incessantly in 2001. It's a love song both simple and clever, and Rhett Miller delivers it with just and amazing level of honesty.

The Shins - Pressed In A Book (live KXCI)
Dan Bern - New American Language (live)
Iron & Wine - A History of Lovers
Wilco - Venus Stop The Train
Rhett Miller - Question (live)


More information on this as the date approaches, but for now I just wanted to put up the poster for SwedeFest. This is gonna be one hell of a night!

Honeysocks - Dingoes Ate My Band
The Swim - Piles On The Floor
Chango Malo - A Change Is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke cover)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sunburst Melodies

I've got my latest mix all set to go for everybody. I'm calling this one "Sunburst Melodies."
I stretched things out this time around, and abandoned the time constraints of a burned CD. These 27 songs stretch almost 1 hour 45 minutes, but it all flows perfectly well together. Trust me.
Download the mix here.

Open the zip file and drag the folder into your iTunes. Then to add this mix as a playlist:
Select "File" --> "Library" --> "Import Playlist"
Then select the .xml file in this folder. And Boo-ya.

1. Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Doomsday
2. James McMurtry - Ruins Of The Realm
3. The Helio Sequence - Hallelujah
4. Garboski - Post Sober Night
5. Heartless Bastards - Searching for the Ghost
6. Crooked Fingers - Your Control
7. Neko Case - I'm An Animal
8. The Strand - Her Love's In Vain
9. Golden Boots - Matters Of The Heart (live)
10. Silver Jews - Strange Victory, Strange Defeat
11. The Capstan Shafts - Sleepcure Theory Advancer
12. The Seychelles - The Octopus Love Song
13. Wilco - James Alley Blues (live)
14. Fourkiller Flats - Go Get Gone
15. The New Drakes - Boo
16. The Tallest Man On Earth - The Gardener
17. SumKid - Naked With a Cape On
18. The Roots - Ital (The Universal Side)
19. Ozomatli - O Le Le
20. Calexico - Victor Jara's Hands (live)
21. Brothers & Sisters - The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)
22. Bob Dylan - The Man In Me (live)
23. Mazzy Star - Halah
24. The Sundays - Can't Be Sure
25. TV On The Radio - Family Tree (live)
26. The Sun Boat - This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
27. Mose Allison - Ever Since the World Ended


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Record Store Day

What a great Record Store Day.

I got to see the Black Lips down at Zia Records, and I picked up plenty of great stuff: a Black Lips 7" with an unreleased song, an Elvis Perkins 7" with an unreleased song, an Iron & Wine live CD, several CD and vinyl samplers, Wilco's Ashes of American Flags DVD and Radiohead's Fake Plastic Trees single on vinyl (with How Can You Be Sure, my favorite Radiohead song).

Too bad I missed out on Dylan, Springsteen & Tom Waits 7" singles. Next year, I'm actually gonna show up early and snag the really good shit...

And now it's off to see M. Ward at Club Crawl...

Black Lips - Short Fuse
Iron & Wine - The Trapeze Singer

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Hump Day Shuffle: 2000

1. Mark Knopfler - Silvertown Blues - Sailing to Philadelphia
I liked this album quite a lot when it came out, but since I've hardly listened to it at all, save "What It Is," one of Knopfler's all-time best songs. Knopfler's fascination with American lore takes his songwriting to some dull places sometimes. But the songs always sound great.

2. The Whites - Keep On The Sunny Side - O Brother, Where Art Thou?
This is a fantastic soundtrack album - one of the most cohesive and consistently excellent ones of all time. This fresh take on the Carter Family classic is a mellow bluegrass shuffle, a perfect afternoon song.

3. Dynamite Hack - Boyz In The Hood - Superfast
The most fratty of the white dudes in acoustic guitars covering rap songs mini-trend, this was a mild sensation for its audacity if nothing else. Even stupid shit can be somewhat cool if its never really been done before. These Weezer wannabes are ultimately very harmless, and nearly a decade later, I have almost as much nostalgia for this short-lived gimmicky hit as I do for the original, which I heard second-hand to begin with. Regardless, The Gourds' version of "Gin and Juice" is way, way better.

4. Neko Case - Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis - New Coat of Paint: Songs of Tom Waits
This is a perfect incongruous song for Neko Case to cover. For one, her light touch makes this as stunning as the original. For another, re-inverting the gender mix-up somehow makes the song even stranger. Case's sweet vocals contrast with the thought of Waits' primal growl moreso than Waits' growl contrasts with the songs female narrator. If you ever hear one cover of a Tom Waits song, this one just might be it.

5. Calexico - Ritual Road Map - Hot Rail
This is one of those short instrumentals that acts as pitch-perfect glue for a Calexico album. Cinematic and drony, it's a disquieting little interlude, and one of those early Calexico artifacts that simply couldn't ever be out of place for them, nor could it ever have come from another band.

6. Pearl Jam - Light Years - Binaural
Binaural was the newest CD I had when I bought my car, so naturally it was what I mainly listened to driving around those first few weeks of greatly expanded freedom. And not really at all since. This song made it onto a mix (my first one originally made on a burned CD instead of a tape, which means my first CD burner and first car were purchased within about a month of each other. Nifty). I wish I had more to say, but this was the first Pearl Jam album that failed to really interest me. And with that new CD burner, I got so much new music I had little use for an uninspiring Pearl Jam album.

7. Ryan Adams - Oh My Sweet Carolina - Heartbreaker
This is a gorgeous, gorgeous song - perhaps the best one Ryan Adams has ever written. With just the perfect backing vocal from Emmylou Harris, this song is the heartbreaker the title is refering to.

8. Steely Dan - Gaslighting Abbie - Two Against Nature
I am in the distint (and immediately dismissed) minority that says this Steely Dan comeback album was worthy of the Grammy it won over Radiohead's Kid A (and Midnight Vultures and Marshal Mathers). Two Against Nature is simply a better album. The songs are so smart and sarcastic, the tunes so perfectly funky, the Becker and the Fagan so unapologetic in the pursuit of their long-out-of-style muse. Pitchfork gave this a 1.6, and couldn't have been more wrong. Have any of the complainers actually listened to the record?

9. Billy Bragg - Against The Law - 'Til We Outnumber 'Em
This Woody Guthrie tribute features Billy Bragg singing the fresh "Against the Law," which he dug out of the archives and turned into a bluesy romp, before handing vocals off to bluesman Corey Harris. I like Bragg's version just as well.

10. Steve Earle - The Boy Who Never Cried - Transcendental Blues
This album is gonna end up as one of this decade's best as far as I'm concerned. Earle's masterpiece, it's his most musically varied album and the songs just kill. These lyrics are some of the best Earle has ever written, telling the story of a boy who never cried, until his very last day, when he "shed a single precious tear, for a boy who never cried." Damn.

Billy Bragg - Against the Law (live)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Gary Louris & Mark Olson @ Congress tonight!

Jayhawks founders Gary Louris and Mark Olson are two of the most compatible singers to ever harmonize together, and it's a shame that the reunion between the two longtime bandmates didn't warrant some sort of Central Park festival.

With a new album from New West Records, Ready For The Flood, the duo is back, and playing Tucson tonight. The record is vintage Jayhawks for anyone interested, and the opening song, "The Rose Society," is one of this year's better songs. Regardless, it sure doesn't sound like they haven't recorded together in 14 years.

Reviews of recent shows have been good - and note that a few Jayhawks classics are thrown into the mix along with songs from the new record.

Check out this in-studio set from Minnesota Public Radio.

Gary Louris & Mark Olson - Live on KEXP, 2006 (27 minutes, 37mb)

Outside Lands lineup announced

The lineup doesn't strike me quite as much as last year's Radiohead/Tom Petty/Wilco-led one did, but I'm definitely going to be there.

Pearl Jam - Wish List (live on David Letterman, 1998)

Saturday, April 11, 2009


I couldn't imagine having woken up to better news this morning - Wilco is coming to Tucson for a June 18 show at the UA's Centennial Hall. Hell yeah!

America's best band will make its first appearance here since a 1996 show at The Rock. Though it wasn't my biggest heart break of 2004, the band canceling its April 29 scheduled show that year at the Rialto was close.

This only makes me more jazzed up about the "Ashes of American Flags" concert DVD, which is out next Saturday at independent record stores as part of Record Store Day.

Despite have a far looser tendency to rank favorite bands these days, I've pretty much cemented in forever this top three: Dylan, Springsteen, Wilco. Like Dylan and Springsteen, Wilco has never stood still, never stopped seeing their music as the shifting and swirling world of possibility that it is.

Thanks to Adam Becker's tape of Anodyne, Uncle Tupelo was one of the first out-of-the-mainstream bands I ever got into, and at the time, I looked on the subequent Wilco-Son Volt split as simply two more good records instead of just one. And, just before graduating high school (about my fourth concert experience) Adam and I drove down to Phoenix to see Wilco on the Being There tour, at the long-defunct Electric Ballroom. I couldn't have been more hooked.

I grabbed every successive album immediately, and the feeling never went away. From country to pop to folk to experimental noise rock, there wasn't a thing Wilco didn't do well - at least as well as anybody else out there.

But after that 1997 show, it would be a long seven and a half years before I'd see the band again - and I'd have to fly to Denver to make it happen. Well worth it, in every way.

Then two weeks later after the Wilco show in Tempe, I got to meet Jeff Tweedy backstage. He was the anti-rock star, polite, relaxed, and more interested in talking politics with his sister than anything else.

I saw the band next in Flagstaff, rescheduled about a year after the original date was canceled (though no show was rescheduled for Tucson). Since that six-month stretch of the Ghost is Born tour, I've caught Wilco and Jeff Tweedy solo, both in Golden Gate Park.

And this time around, Wilco will have a fresh new album for the tour (the band has announced a June release, but hasn't set an actual date or announced an album title). I've written plenty about the band's last two records - Sky Blue Sky and A Ghost Is Born - and I gotta say, my anticipation for this one is probably even higher. The Nels Cline-era has been Wilco's best musicially, and Tweedy's songwriting approach is that of a constant searcher, never stagnating on any approach or subject. What I've heard of the songs that are to be on the record has also been promising.

And because all music is personal, here's another reason I'm excited about this band's new record and their coming show:

In a year after my best friend proposed at a Wilco show, and my wedding dee-jaying promintently featured Wilco, the world will welcome a new Wilco album, and the couple will welcome their first child. That's how I see symmetry.

Wilco - Instrumental 1 (YHF demo)
Wilco - The Wilco Song (live on Colbert)
Jeff Tweedy - I'm The Man Who Loves You (live)

My Wilco shows:
1997-05-14 Tempe
2004-11-06 Denver
2004-11-20 Tempe
2005-04-27 Flagstaff
2007-10-05 San Francisco (Tweedy solo)
2008-08-24 San Francisco

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Vetiver @ Plush Friday

Ugh - I'm laid up with the flu today, but there's music to blog, so blog I must.

Check out my feature on Vetiver in the Tucson Weekly, and make sure to go see them tomorrow night. (I hope I'll feel up to the show, but who knows). And pick up Tight Knit, an excellent album that'll find its way onto many year-end lists. The SF Weekly has a review of Vetiver's show last night at the Great American Music Hall.

Vetiver - Everyday

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Twitter marvel of the day:

Ted Leo and Mike Doughty swapping information about good guitar repair guys in NYC.

And by the way, follow me as well on the magical Twitter: @catfishvegas.

Ted Leo - Me and Mia (live)
Mike Doughty - Madeline and Nine (live)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Runaway Five CD release show Saturday @ Plush

With their hilariously titled Raygunomics, Tucson's The Runaway Five have put together a tight, catchy EP of alternative rock, with a sci-fi emphasis I wouldn't have thought was possible before giving it a listen.

More punk than prog (which the sci-fi emphasis might otherwise indicate), The Runaway Five bring their rock via loud guitars and just enough new wave synth. It's an energetic and fun blend of music, at turns creative and conventional, but pretty much always in the right places.

The band says they play "the kind of music someone in an 80s movie might have imagined people would listen to in the future" and I suppose that's as apt a description as there is.

Read an interview with the band in the Daily Wildcat, and a review of Raygunomics in the Tucson Weekly.

Check 'em out on MySpace, or get the whole EP for free from the band's Web site.

The show kicks off about 9 p.m. Saturday at Plush, with fellow locals Verdant - who are also releasing an EP - and The Otterssey also on the bill.

And if you miss The Runaway Five on Saturday, they're playing Club Crawl and have several more dates booked at Plush over the next few months.

The Runaway Five - Grey Matter

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Clem Snide @ Plush on Monday

Nashville's Clem Snide rolls into Tucson on Monday, touring for the new Hungry Bird album, the band's sixth. Read my review of the album in the Tucson Weekly.

I caught Eef Barzelay, the band's singer and songwriter, on his solo tour last summer, also playing at Plush, and it was outstanding.

Head on down for what will no doubt be another outstanding show as Eef has reassembled Clem Snide. I, unfortunately, will have to miss the show, because I'll be in Tempe listening to Stephen Hawking talk about black holes, extra dimensions and the origin of the universe. And it was actually a pretty tough choice.

Clem Snide - Me No

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Hump Day Shuffle: 1999

1. Flaming Lips - Suddenly Everything Has Changed - The Soft Bulletin
It's actually very weird to come across a song from this album on shuffle, alone out there among the scattered masses. Aside from "Waiting For A Superman" and "Do You Realize?" I don't think I've heard anything from this album, except for in its entirety. A left-field triumph. (And you gotta love the subtitle of this one: "Death Anxiety Caused by Moments of Boredom")

2. Mike Ness - Cheating At Solitaire - Cheating At Solitaire
I had a great of weeks rediscovering this album last summer when I saw Mike Ness at an unbelievably packed Club Congress. This album was in such heavy rotation that year that it's probably still one of my most played albums ever. This is a slow and hot bluesy burner of a song, full of pain and regret and just one of the best songs Ness has ever written.

3. Blink 182 - What's My Age Again - Enema of the State
Those dudes beat me to 23, but I knew enough skate punks around that time who were on the verge of burning out or making major changes that it was a song that rang with just enough truth. And even those same skate punks still held on to just a little bit of love for the now-MTV-saturated Blink 182, for their years-earlier show in Prescott, and the to-this-day-pretty-good Cheshire Cat album.

4. Modest Mouse - Other People's Lives - Building Something Out Of Nothing
A hodgepodge compilation album just before I got into Modest Mouse, this one is still a bit of a curiosity for me. When I first heard this album, I had a hard time connecting the dots between it, Modest Mouse's earlier stuff and The Moon And Antarctica, which is still my favorite of theirs. And all that really says is that I didn't have much of an excuse not to be listening to Modest Mouse in 1999. Damn.

5. Clem Snide - African Friend - Your Favorite Music
This is another one I hit a couple years late, but man, Clem Snide blew me away with Your Favorite Music. This was a band I felt like I'd been missing. "African Friend" is a perfect example of Clem Snide - a bit sad, a bit weird, with a passionate country shuffle, a great chorus ("Come lay on the couch, with me. 'Cause nature's too wild and free. Come lay on the couch. We don't have to work on our tans") all working together to make for a memorable song time and time again.

6. Pavement - Anna Don't Cry - Terror Twilight
It must be due to the lack of an intimately close connection with the first Pavement albums as they came out, but I've held Terror Twilight as my favorite since I heard it. The good Dr. Chung was hugely into this album and played it all the time in our old 8th Street house. And "Anna Don't Cry" is the best on the record.

7. Jimmy Eat World - 12.23.95 - Clarity
The Clarity 10th anniversary tour was too short, too far away and too sold out for me to catch a show, but I would've loved to have seen Jim Adkins & Co. tearing through this album anew. This shimmering song has the simplest lyrics of the whole album: "I didn't mean to leave you hanging on. I didn't mean to leave you all alone. I didn't know what to say. Merry Christmas, baby."

8. Bueno - Errands - Finding Humor In The Tragedy
I've been making mental demands on myself to sit down and write a good and long post on this band, hometown friends of mine and one of the best punk bands of all time. I will. Until then, just a quick bit of this song, a quick burst of demanding energy that I'll forever use to help myself find inner peace. That's not remotely a common reaction to a punk song (especially one with the outgoing chorus of "failure is my religion") but this song and album will always be an important part of me. R.I.P. Brian.

9. The Magnetic Fields - Grand Canyon - 69 Love Songs (vol. 2)
Until my friend Doug sang "Book of Love" at Cory & Shannon's wedding in November, I'd have told you that "Grand Canyon" is the best song on this wonderful concept triple-album. It's quick and beautiful: "If I was the Grand Canyon, I'd echo everything you say, but I'm just me, I'm
only me and you used to love me that way. So you know how to love me that way."

10. Old 97s - Lonely Holiday - Fight Songs
If I were blogging in 1999, this album probably would've been at the top of my year-end list (fighting out with Beck's Midnight Vultures and Wilco's Summerteeth for the No. 1 slot). The Old 97s did nothing special, but everything they did was perfect. The country-pop combination, the harmonies, the lyrics and every note from every guy just right.

I was at this game:

Mike Ness - Cheating At Solitaire (live)
Pavement - Anna Don't Cry (live)
Bueno - Errands