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 This song made it onto a mix (my first one originally made on a burned CD instead of a tape, which means my first CD burner and first car were purchased within about a month of each other.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)