Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The Hump Day Shuffle: 2003
1. Sun Kil Moon - Carry Me Ohio - Ghosts of the Great Highway
For whatever reason, this is the only Mark Kozelek project I've ever really gotten into, but I absolutely love the album. Overall, it's sort of a Neil Young meets Jesus & Mary Chain vibe... sorta. There's a mysterious beauty to the whole album, but perhaps no moreso than on this song - a slow and careful burner, with fleeting images of youth woven in with an unrequited love.
2. OutKast - The Way You Move - Speakerboxxx
The slightly less huge of two monster hits from this groundbreaking double album, "The Way You Move" has a Motown chorus, live Stax horns and one hell of a soulful groove. The way OutKast chopped, diced and reconceptualized hip-hop will guarantee that this album - slightly bloated though it may be - will live on for decades.
3. Rainer Maria - Mystery and Misery - Long Knives Drawn
A 2003 album I just found a few months ago, this is loud, uplifting alternative rock in the mold of the Breeders. The elements are all there: great fuzzy guitar, relentless driving beat and Caithlin de Marrais up front with one hell of a head-swinging, catchy chorus.
4. Jesse Malin - Wendy - The Fine Art of Self-Destruction
This is a perfect follow-up to the Rainer Maria, high-energy rock n' roll. This solo debut from the former D Generation singer was produced by Ryan Adams. Plus, The Boss is a fan, which never hurts as far as I'm concerned. You get what you expect - leather jacket attitude and all - but it's just so well done. I put "Wendy" on one of my mixes about four years back, and I still love this song.
5. Air - Alone in Kyoto - Lost In Translation Soundtrack
This is easily among the best and most appropriately tied to its film of any soundtrack I've ever heard. French electro-pop perfectly parallels the story of Americans wandering aimlessly through Tokyo. It's no coincidence that the song is titled "Alone" and the film is "Lost." This is a terrific pairing.
6. Emmylou Harris - I Will Dream - Stumble Into Grace
I've listened to the two Emmylou albums that proceeded this one - Wrecking Ball and Red Dirt Girl - a ton, but hardly at all for this one. But the formula and personnel (with Malcolm Burn producing, as he did on Red Dirt Girl) seem to follow suit, so I'm probably just slow to catch up. Emmylou Harris is easily one of the best singers ever, and after Rolling Stone rated singers last fall, I sat down to make my own list, and she came in second behind just Van Morrison. Where that leaves me, though, with a song like this one I barely know, is how to approach the song on its own merits, apart from the singer. Because even the best singers certainly have better songs just as they have lesser ones. We'll see...
7. Ryan Adams - This Is It - Rock N Roll
I can distinctly remember not giving a damn that Ryan Adams decided to turn his guitars loud and mean on this album. Sure it wasn't outstanding, but this album got shredded by critics. I like it, and not just as a curveball from a prolific songwriter. It it hadn't been Ryan Adams' name on the album, I think it would've been hailed as this great rock record that started peeling away the laters of 1980s alternative. Rock N Roll is easily as good as the Killers, or Kings of Leon, or the Strokes or whatever else was getting praise in those days. "This Is It" charges right at you, sharp and loud, but polished, part arena, part dirty nightclub, like a lot of what came before, but served up as good as just about anybody. For me, Ryan Adams peaked with Whiskeytown's Strangers' Almanac,and I was surprised he could turn in such a good rock album.
8. Crooked Fingers - Don't Say A Word - Red Devil Dawn
I bought this album when I first saw the Crooked Fingers play, in December 2003 at Solar Culture, and the band has been steadily rising among my favorites since then. Eric Bachmann is one of the best songwriters working today, and I don't say that lightly. "Don't Say A Word" is violin, finger-picked guitar, and a snare drum, but hardly delicate. Bachmann's rough voice brings all of his songs plenty of character. I've turned back to this album - and this song - an awful lot in the last five plus years. And it's not even Crooked Fingers' best work.
9. Steve Earle - I Remember You - Just An American Boy
This double live album very very closely resembled the first Steve Earle show I saw - half a year earlier, in support of the Jerusalem album, less than two months before the United States launched its illegal invasion of Iraq. The writing was on the wall then, for sure, and Steve didn't let it pass. But in his shows and on his albums, he still wrote and performed what I call his "Fearless Heart" songs, sorrowful and aching and the type of things that bore into you. Emmylou sang the female part on Jerusalem, but Garrison Starr filled in well live and on American Boy.
10. The Decemberists - Red Right Ankle - Her Majesty The Decemberists
I was knocked pretty hard by this Decemberists album - the first I heard and still my favorite, by a long shot. Despite the whimsy, there's a simplicity here, and that's a greater accomplishment than the more elaborate stuff they'd turn to later. If the Decemberists conjure in your mind folks outfitted in full-bore steampunk style, this is those same folks when they still wore T-shirts and torn jeans.
Decemberists - Red Right Ankle
Rainer Maria - Ears Ring