Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bubbling Under #111. Before the Dawn Heals Us

111. Before the Dawn Heals Us, M83 (Mute, 2005)

French electro duo M83’s first two albums consisted primarily of cinematic, ambient instrumentals; ’03’s widely acclaimed Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts saw Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau sonically evolve leagues beyond the drifting mood pieces of their ’01 eponymous debut. Fromageau quit after touring Dead Cities; while Gonzalez did record four of that LP’s pieces by himself, it seemed unlikely that the next M83 work would be a stylistic leap making its precursors appear wan and primitive. Before the Dawn Heals Us, recorded primarily by Gonzalez (six songs tellingly co-written by his filmmaker brother Yann), bolsters the M83 sound with powerful, aggressive arrangements and a bold production style inspired by ’90s shoegaze. Guitar is used more than ever; Loic Maurin’s authoritative live drums are used on eight songs; and several songs have full-blown vocal tracks, a first for the band. This new approach aside, Gonzalez’s songs are still built as mood pieces; one can easily imagine any song here playing as a camera soars above a landscape like the album cover’s skyline. The quintessence of the form comes with instrumental “A Guitar and Heart,” with its layers of echoing, propulsive synths and guitars and Maurin’s booming drum fills marking each segment. Gonzalez is prone to earnest drama, including two spoken parts by actress Kate Moran that some will dismiss as histrionics. Most notorious is Car Chase Terror, whose lengthy dialogue will prove a dealbreaker for some listeners; one tolerates an uncomfortable sequence in a film, however, and Gonzalez challenges us to do the same with an album. Before the Dawn Heals Us documents one of the decade’s strongest evolutions in pop music.

Highlights: Don’t Save Us From the Flames, Teen Angst, Car Chase Terror

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Bubbling Under #112. Oh, My Girl

112. Oh, My Girl, Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter (Barsuk, 2004)

Seattle pair Jesse and Jim Sykes led Hominy, whose rootsy girl-n-guy harmonies recalling L.A. rockers X resulted in one ’98 LP. When their relationship ended she kept the surname, forming a new band with ex-Whiskeytown guitarist Phil Wandscher; in the new decade they would release three albums to increased exposure and success. Sykes’s own material operates on a different plain than titles of Hominy tunes like “Sunny Days and Raisinets” might suggest.  Her husky voice is the focus, despite its dynamic limitations; it conjures a hazy, quarter-speed world of gothic country that rarely swings but frequently allures, a beautiful gloom later earning her a guest slot with doom metal bands Sunn O))) and Boris. On her first solo LP, ’02’s Reckless Burning, the recipe is complete yet cloaked in a drabness absent from her next album and finest work of the decade, Oh, My Girl. Where Burning sometimes plods, Girl captures the zeitgeist perfectly. The songs call upon ghosts and departed lovers, the season is usually winter, and happiness has passed: “We used to be free,” opens Birds Over Water; “We fell through the cracks,” she sings in Grow a New Heart. This wistfulness remains even on the album’s liveliest cuts; the bright arrangements of songs like Tell the Boys and The Dreaming Dead foreshadow the pop-influenced explorations of her next album, ’07’s Like, Love, Lust, and the Open Halls of the Soul. Of her Aughts work, though, Girl best captures her haunting talents.

Highlights: Your Eyes Told; Oh, My Girl; Tell the Boys

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bubbling Under #113. Black Sheep

113. Black Sheep, Julian Cope (Head Heritage UK, 2008)

Since his days as an ’80s new-wave star to his ’90s period as an eccentric activist lost in the major-label system, Julian Cope took a breather from pop to reengineer his politics and public image without disowning his past. His last widely distributed work, ’96’s Interpreter, was followed by a series of self-released experimental and meditational music. His first song-based studio LP in seven years, ’03’s Rome Wasn’t Burned in a Day, was a taste test for a run of four double albums he’d release under his own name in the Aughts on his private label Head Heritage. The music recalls the forms of his ’90s work, yet is marked by an even more radical political intellectualism while still often aesthetically lovely. The fourth and strongest of these, Black Sheep (not to be confused with his band Black Sheep, whom themselves released two double albums in ’09), is an indictment of religion. Cope espouses a hardcore paganism whose philosophies overlap with those of the black metal scene; instead of burning churches, though, Cope writes history essays and lectures at the British Museum. It would be hard to enjoy Black Sheep without a patience for the protracted drama of anti-Christianity pieces like Psychedelic Odin or The Shipwreck of St. Paul, but even without the patience one may be stunned at how catchy a jangling sing-along can still be when it’s called “All the Blowing-Themselves-Up Motherfuckers (Will Realise the Minute They Die That They Were Suckers).” Cope’s post-Sheep Aughts work does lean uncomfortably toward anarchism for my taste; but, he remains a fascinating polymath. Newcomers begin elsewhere; old fans take caution.

Highlights: All the Blowing-Themselves-Up Motherfuckers, These Things I Know, Psychedelic Odin

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Bubbling Under #114. Imperial Wax Solvent

114. Imperial Wax Solvent, The Fall (Sanctuary UK, 2008)

Mark E. Smith has obstinately recorded under the Fall brand since the clattering punk days of ’76 and through two band-wide dissolutions, including an ’06 tour during which half of the band defected. Imperial Wax Solvent is his 28th studio LP as the Fall; the only people still listening are likely the longtime fans as stalwart as Smith himself. The follow-up to Aughts nadir Reformation Post-TLC (’07), Imperial is among the better half of their six Aughts full-lengths. Smith’s penchant for wankery disguised as musique concrete is at a minimum; his vocals sometimes appear extemporaneous, but the songs sound intentional compared to the one-offs cluttering Reformation. Wolf Kidult Man is a stomping rocker that recalls the Stooges; Strangetown is the album’s requisite cover (a ’70 cut by UK blues group the Groundhogs); the skewed pop of I’ve Been Duped is penned by Smith but sung by his keyboardist wife Eleni Poulou. The centerpiece is the hilarious, eleven-minute 50 Year Old Man, Smith’s rants therein including that he knows what comes out on CD, he’s not impotent, and he doesn’t like to reuse hotel towels. His tongue has dulled a bit; but, on this final album of the decade, Smith’s acerbic punditry and groove-heavy bandmates du jour make for the best Fall release in five years.

Highlights: Wolf Kidult Man, I’ve Been Duped, Senior Twilight Stock Replacer

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bubbling Under #115. Before the Poison

115. Before the Poison, Marianne Faithfull (Naive UK, 2004; Anti- US, 2005)

2004 marked Marianne Faithfull’s fourth decade in music. From her ’60s pop-folkie days and embroilment in the Rolling Stones coterie to the shattered disco majesty of ’79 comeback LP Broken English, her personal difficulties have lent her work a resolute gravitas. A writer when it suits her, Faithfull flourishes in collaboration; as with ’02’s Kissin Time, which placed her with Beck, Billy Corgan, Blur, and Pulp, her eighteenth LP Before the Poison aligns her with markedly younger alt-rockers, the bulk of it written by PJ Harvey and Nick Cave. Both trade in dark, emotional explorations and are natural pairings with Faithfull, resulting in a stronger record than its sometimes naff predecessor. No Child of Mine, which appears on Harvey’s contemporaneous LP Uh Huh Her as a one-minute acoustic snippet, is here a fully-fleshed number about the dissolution of family, Harvey’s harmonies wrapping ghostily around Faithfull’s coarse croon. My Friends Have, a mid-tempo rocker built on a dissonant Harvey riff, is an earnest ode to those who have “Always been there/To help me shape my crooked features . . . and pushed my enemies out of the picture.” The title track, lyrics by Faithfull, seems to describe the ruination by drugs and decadence of her ’60s teenage wonderment. Bacchanalian shouter and musical departure Desperanto finds Faithfull doing a sprechstimme rap about “the language of despair” to the rollicking chants and hoots of Cave and his Bad Seeds. Damon Albarn of Blur returns with one co-write, and the album closes with Jon Brion’s Weill-invoking City of Quartz, Faithfull’s vocals accompanied by a tinkling music box. It is a delicate comedown from the spectrum of loss and desire that composes Faithfull’s finest album of the Aughts and one of the finest works of any of her four decades.

Highlights: My Friends Have, Crazy Love, The Mystery of Love

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bubbling Under #116. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

116. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Neko Case (Anti-, 2006)

US singer-songwriter Neko Case got her start in toss-off punk bands, later crafting a singular writing style influenced by western honky-tonk but also encompassing soul, torch ballads, vocal jazz, and pop. The clarity and range of her remarkable voice (arguably reminiscent of Linda Ronstadt) makes her one of the era’s most compelling vocalists. After the juvenilia of Case’s punk work and ’97 cowpoke solo debut The Virginian, her talents have grown with every studio effort. Fox Confessor, her breakthrough fifth LP*, is the least country-oriented of her work thus far. The band features members of Giant Sand and Canadian group the Sadies, as well as the Band’s Garth Hudson and Flat Duo Jets guitarist Dexter Romweber. Case’s penchant for evoking animals’ tooth-and-claw nature is evident throughout, and the lyrics brim with alluring details—nightgowns sweep pavement, letters cascade down a staircase, eagles swoop down from semitrailers. A sense of reckoning and the opaque aspects of loss, disaster, and loneliness imbue the songs; when brighter times lie ahead it may be irrelevant, as with the narrator of That Teenage Feeling who “don’t care if forever never comes.” Case’s dynamic voice brings a sense of optimism and beauty to even the darkest moments. Fox Confessor is her first essential album, catapulting her beyond the alt-country ghetto and into songwriting’s big leagues.

*I include live '04 LP The Tigers Have Spoken in that count, as only one of its tracks has appeared on a Case studio album; the '01 Canadian Amp is an EP, not a full-length.

NOTE: Under no circumstances do I recommend the original gatefold vinyl pressing of this album on Lance Rock Records, and it receives a NOYOUCMON "do not buy" warning.  While I generally prefer vinyl to other formats, this first Lance Rock pressing of Fox Confessor is among the rare vinyl albums that I have found to be inferior to the compact disc version.  It sounds as if it were mastered from a digital source—if so, then it defeats the purpose of vinyl altogether—and has none of the warmth one expects from wax.  Additionally, my copy, purchased new, has numerous flaws that affect playback in ways that an untouched 180-gram vinyl pressing should not be affected.  Even casual vinyl listeners may be put off by the poor sound.  If you want to buy Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, please purchase it on compact disc or a legal download.  [UPDATE: Lance Rock has since issued another pressing, in a single-pocket jacket; I have not heard this version and thus cannot attest to its sound quality.]

Highlights: Margaret vs. Pauline; Hold On, Hold On; The Needle Has Landed

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Bubbling Under #117. At My Age

117. At My Age, Nick Lowe (Yep Roc, 2007)

Pub rocker and prolific producer Nick Lowe ended a five-year hiatus from solo work in ’95; At My Age is the fourth studio LP of his new era and twelfth overall. Over a decade after repositioning himself as a debonair roots crooner, some clamor for the frantic new-wave rockabilly soul man of yore; those familiar with the breadth of his catalog know that it’s his newer work that ages better. While his previous LP, ’01’s The Convincer, benefited from a lush, smoky aura, At My Age is a trim, sharp set of stately skiffle, western-flavored vocal jazz, and an early-’60s country-pop vibe conducted so expertly it suggests Lowe would’ve been at home forty-five years ago in Nashville. An inveterate interpreter, Lowe tackles a handful of country covers ranging from the ’59 Charlie Feathers tune The Man in Love to closing track Feel Again, popularized in ’76 by Faron Young. Lowe’s sprightly acoustic guitar provides a base for most of the tracks, but the most unique aspect of the At My Age band is the horn section appearing on the bulk of tracks. Understated and low in the mix, it nimbly accents the songs, at times adding a nearly mariachi flavor without overwhelming the tunes. Lowe originals The Club and Hope for Us All are the finest here in a run of lovelorn, jovially self-deprecating numbers; People Change features lovely backing vocals from Chrissie Hynde; and the record’s best-known song, I Trained Her to Love Me, is a tongue-in-cheek account of the damages incurred by poorly managed serial monogamy. At My Age may make your grandmother dance, but it’s for good reason. Few artists age as well, and Lowe’s ’00s output is eminently more enjoyable than that of the artists he got famous producing.

Highlights: People Change, The Club, Hope for Us All

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bubbling Under #118. Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop

118. Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop, Luke Haines (Degenerate Music UK, 2006)

Sardonic pop diarist Luke Haines fronted unwilling Britpop figures the Auteurs through the ’90s; Rocker is his second proper solo album. His notoriously self-aggrandizing habits are matched only by an erudite writing style that serves as a gazetteer of post-WWII English cultural history sending US listeners scurrying to Wikipedia for explanations. Rocker examines the England of Haines’s childhood through the pre-punk ’70s. This is done most densely on the mildly sarcastic Here’s to Old England, which catalogs British life’s mundane aspects in the shadow of troubling newspaper headlines. As is typical, grim signposts are plentiful: allusions to two different serial killers; an examination of the pedophilic downfall of Gary Glitter in Bad Reputation; The Walton Hop is named for a teen disco known as a preying ground for sex offenders. For every such topic, though, there is a reference to football clubs or variety shows. In The Heritage Rock Revolution, Haines savages musical groups’ opportunistic reunions (“It’s been 25 years since you’ve had an original thought in your head”), the choruses ending knowingly with a riff from Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded.” The title cut is a throbbing electro-disco track that mocks the pretension of art students; otherwise, the album is more guitar-heavy than the bulk of his solo work. More cohesive than its predecessor (’01’s The Oliver Twist Manifesto), Rocker is also Haines’s most light-hearted work to date--no small accomplishment.

Highlights: Going Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop, Here’s to Old England, Fighting in the City Tonight

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bubbling Under #119. Charlie Louvin

119. Charlie Louvin (Tompkins Square, 2007)

Charlie Louvin and brother Ira sang together for a decade prior to their ’56 debut LP; famed for their close harmony that mixed gospel and the secular, the duo split in ’63 but later influenced many rock artists. Charlie recorded actively into the mid-’70s; Ira died in a ’65 car wreck. Like many country singers, Louvin’s star faded in the ’80s. Austin roots label Watermelon tried to revive it in ’96 with new LP The Longest Train; in ’02, sloppy Tennessee label Country Discovery issued another, The Sound of Days to Come. In his 80th year Louvin received a proper new contract, from NYC’s Americana label Tompkins Square. Its eponymous first fruit boasts a band of new-Nashville pros and a stable of guests, both country vets (George Jones, Tom T. Hall, Marty Stuart, Bobby Bare) and rockers of varying pedigree including Elvis Costello, Will Oldham, and Jeff Tweedy. Four members of Nashville indie outfit Lambchop appear throughout, including Louvin’s co-producer Mark Nevers. Louvin’s writing heyday behind him, covers and rerecordings (including three Louvin Brothers songs) dominate.  The guest vocalists contribute harmonies or the occasional verse, and the music is straight traditional country.  The most notable song is the great Ira, an emotional tribute to his brother that appeared in different form on the ’02 LP. “Your voice is strong, though you are gone/’Cause I still hear your part,” sings Louvin, still devoted to his lost partner 45 years on. Charlie Louvin was a success and by decade’s end he had recorded three more LPs for his new label; the first is the finest, but more important is that after years of poor stewardship Louvin found a capable, supportive record company and a new audience to support him in his twilight years.

Highlights: Ira, The Christian Life, The Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bubbling Under #120. Seventh Tree

120. Seventh Tree, Goldfrapp (Mute, 2008)

Alison Goldfrapp worked in the mid-’90s as a session vocalist, singing with such electro-centric UK acts as Orbital, Dreadzone, and Tricky. In ’99 she formed a duo of her own in London with another session musician, Will Gregory, and gave it her name. Their 2000 debut, Felt Mountain, is a melange of atmospheric, electronic cabaret. Seventh Tree, their fourth LP, replaces the electroclash of ’03’s Black Cherry and the cold glam-dance crunch of the ’06 Supernature with gentle, warm performances whose muted electronic frameworks are draped with acoustic guitars and strings. The drumless opener Clowns is carried by a softly plucked guitar, and is the most atypical piece here; but, its tone resonates even through the album’s poppiest moments. Alison Goldfrapp’s dynamic soprano covers more stylistic ground here than ever, from the ponderous murmuring of Clowns to the soaring choruses of Little Bird and the assertive pop of Caravan Girl. The lyrics often counterbalance the pastoral moods: Clowns addresses a childish, shallow figure (“What’d ya wanna look like Barbie for?”); the bubbly Happiness mocks a cult’s cynical promises; A&E (the UK equivalent of a US emergency room) concerns a person who waited in vain for a lover’s call only to wake up in hospital, possibly after a pill overdose. Yet the album is no gloomy affair; the songs retain a hopeful glow that matches the late-summer sunlight of the cover art. Goldfrapp’s shape-shifting Aughts output contains many fine moments, but none of the decade’s four albums is as fulfilling and cohesive as Seventh Tree.

Highlights: Caravan Girl, Little Bird, A&E

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bubbling Under #121. Van Lear Rose

121. Van Lear Rose, Loretta Lynn (Interscope, 2004)

Country legend Loretta Lynn retired in 1993, having released nothing solely under her name since ’88. Only after her husband died in ’96 did she record the ’00 comeback album Still Country. Two years later, buzz band the White Stripes dedicated their White Blood Cells to Lynn. Intrigued, she reached out to the group, sparking a full-length collaboration released the week of Lynn’s 70th birthday to critical and popular acclaim. While White produced and organized the band (including two future members of White’s side band the Raconteurs), it is notably the first of Lynn’s 50-odd solo albums on which she wrote every song. The LP combines the Nashville country of Lynn’s heyday (Family Tree, This Old House) with heavier, rock-slanted numbers (Have Mercy, Mrs. Leroy Brown). Portland Oregon, a Lynn/White duet spiked with White’s blazing, Jimmy Page-inspired guitar breaks, depicts a romantic barroom encounter; the song’s dark eroticism is further charged by the singers’ 30-year age difference. Lynn is no stranger to controversial lyrics or the rougher side of life, and the album’s lyrics cover adultery and murder; more frequently here, though, they address topics like the simplicity of country life, God’s will, and the importance of home. In the autobiographical, spoken-word Little Red Shoes she tells an agonizing story about her childhood; in album closer The Story of My Life she gives a tongue-in-cheek overview of her life since marriage at 13. Van Lear Rose is a triumph, Lynn’s final record of the decade and one that makes its fans hope her comeback, like that of Johnny Cash’s, bears much more fruit.

Highlights: Portland Oregon, Van Lear Rose, Miss Being Mrs.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bubbling Under #122. Pocket Symphony

122. Pocket Symphony, Air (Astralwerks, 2007)

One could be forgiven if, while skimming their catalog, it was concluded that the French duo Air has recorded one very long album. Since their ’98 debut LP Moon Safari, Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin have become masters of minimal, unhurried electronic music that uses acoustic instruments (usually guitar and piano) and often eschews percussion. Placid, filmic mood music can easily lack personality, but Air has transcended its limitations, crafting an elegant signature sound often complemented by Dunckel’s whisper-thin vocals. Their fifth album, Pocket Symphony (counting the ’00 score to Sofia Coppola’s film The Virgin Suicides), is notable for its Japanese musical influences and for being their sparsest, most subdued work to that point. The mournful One Hell of a Party, sung by Jarvis Cocker, addresses the starkness of morning-after regret to a melody carried by the harp-like koto and guitar-like shamisen. The album’s other guest vocal, Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping, sung by Divine Comedy frontman Neil Hannon, is equally doleful. Several songs employ mantra-like lyrics, including the record’s most energetic piece, the propulsive Mer du Japon, whose sole lyric is a repetition (in French) of “I lost my mind/On the Sea of Japan.” Instrumentals Space Maker and Mayfair Song boast austere yet sublime Dunckel piano work. Air would take a successful turn toward livelier, rock-influenced forms on their next effort, ’09’s Love 2; the stark Pocket Symphony remains the most graceful in Air’s first decade of LPs.

Highlights: Mer du Japon, Napalm Love, Once Upon a Time

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bubbling Under #123. That Lucky Old Sun

123. That Lucky Old Sun, Brian Wilson (Capitol, 2008)

Brian Wilson’s solo output is overshadowed by the ’04 arrival of Smile, the legendary aborted follow-up to the 1965 Pet Sounds. His unfairly neglected next LP That Lucky Old Sun is a nostalgic love letter to his beloved hometown of Los Angeles. It opens with a cover of a 1949 Frankie Laine hit, giving the album its name and main musical theme. A blazing optimism buoys the songs, which address the city’s magical aura (Morning Beat, California Role) or deliver loving portraits of sun-kissed Angelenos (Good Kind of Love, Mexican Girl). Wilson does not ignore the present, but his L.A. is an often quaint postcard vision where Errol Flynn still exemplifies male fantasy. Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl is an explicit musical nod to the Beach Boys' heyday, an unavoidable subject that is elucidated lyrically in the closing tune Southern California. Most of the Smile band returns here (audibly freed from that mythical work’s pressure), and the bulk of tunes are co-writes with multi-instrumentalist Scott Bennett. Between songs, Wilson delivers narrations written by longtime collaborator Van Dyke Parks, dividing the record into five phases. The final phase is the most wisftul and introspective, addressing Wilson’s years lost to depression (e.g. Going Home’s oft-cited couplet “At 25 I turned out the light/’Cause I couldn’t handle the glare in my tired eyes”). While this is his second solo LP devoted to Golden State turf (see ’95’s also excellent Orange Crate Art), the boundless inspiration Wilson takes from the land he loves results in his most joyous music.

Highlights: Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl, Live Let Live, Midnight’s Another Day

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bubbling Under #124. Deep Cuts

124. Deep Cuts, The Knife (Rabid Sweden, 2003; Rabid UK, 2004)

Karin Dreijer Andersson fronted mid-’90s Swedish alternarockers Honey Is Cool, her singular vocals the most distinguishing feature (think the Cardigans fronted by Bjork). In ’99 she formed the electro duo Knife with her brother Olof Dreijer; her effects-laden voice would be its key instrument. Deep Cuts, their 2nd LP, employs digital noir, playful rhythms, and sultry darkwave disco grooves. Willfully obscurant though retaining a wry humor, the two refused interviews, wore masks in public, and avoided live gigs. The identity explorations continue on Deep Cuts as Andersson uses pitch-shifting software to create alternate personas: spooky falsettos, child-like harmonies, and husky baritones that can convince you her brother is singing; such software reliance is a risky proposition and the Knife successfully avoids misuse. Heartbeats and Pass This On both use Caribbean steel-drum accents, the former a gauzy roller jam cloaking a lyric about a lover who “knew the hand of a devil/and kept us awake with wolves’ teeth”; the latter, an unsettlingly sexy come-on (“I’m in love with your brother/what’s his name?”). Rock Classics evokes Kurt Weill’s 1920s cabaret slink. The inclusion of two comedic snippets (including the LP’s closing track) serves only to interrupt the sensuality. Deep Cuts is a real progression from the debut, yet lacks the thematic consistency they’d find when its more gothic aspects would dominate their next major work (not counting the soundtrack to Christina Olofson's '03 film Hannah med H), ’06’s Silent Shout.

Highlights: Pass This On, You Take My Breath Away, Heartbeats

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bubbling Under #125. Behind the Music

125. Behind the Music, The Soundtrack of Our Lives (Telegram Sweden, 2001; Republic/Universal US 2002)

Stout, bearded, kaftan-clad Ebbot Lundberg may cut an odd figure for a charismatic frontman, but his Swedish group produces charged tunes whose influences are rooted in classic rock without ignoring the present. The power-chording, tambourine-shaking, hand-clapping sound they create possesses the nuanced masculinity of The Who, the rustic pop tropes of middle-period Kinks, and a faithfulness to the psychedelic grunge of ’60s garage bands. On the group’s third album and the first to receive a US release (and, peculiarly, an ’03 Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Album), TSOOL continues their habit of double-length LPs supplied liberally with ambitious, skyward anthems most bands would save for an album’s closing song. If the sonic influences are basic, the lyrics are a more complicated affair. Conscious of the benefits of psychic and emotional progress, even if none is made (Mind the Gap, Infra Riot, Keep the Line Movin’), concerned with the metaphysical (In Someone Else’s Mind, Still Aging), and sprinkled with zen-informed aphorisms (Still Aging’s “I had to split into pieces to get by/To live I just had to die”), the sentiments are no mere optimistic psychology. Lundberg has no qualms with modern cynicism, best emblemized by 21st Century Ripoff and its admission that “I’ve been cheated by everyone/and everyone’s been cheated by me.” Out-of-touch boomers convinced that no good rock music was made after ’75 should hear TSOOL, ASAP.

Highlights: Infra Riot, Nevermore, Sister Surround

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Top 100 of the Aughts: Introduction

NOYOUCMON is a music blog with a specific purpose—to present and discuss the author’s one hundred favorite albums from the years 2000-2009.

NOYOUCMON stems from a personal project begun in 1999 by the author and his brother, in which each dared the other to devise a list of 100 favorite '90s albums with accompanying essays on each release. In a Web-based world where hundreds of sites present Top 10, Top 100, and even Top 1000 lists on a regular basis, this does not seem like much of a feat. While many sites’ lists appear to be produced in a week-long timeframe or thereabouts in order to meet an imminent end-of-year or end-of-decade deadline, NOYOUCMON’s methodology is more intensive. The decade-spanning lists created by the author are the results of months of regimented listening and exhaustive analysis. From the thousands of albums purchased by NOYOUCMON during the decade we shall herein call THE AUGHTS, a shortlist of approximately 250 albums was created and studied in chronological order for the entirety of 2009.  A new essay will appear on a regular basis counting down toward #1.  Once the Aughts list is complete, work will begin on a revised version of the Top 100 Albums of the '90s, originally written in 1999-2000.  From there, other decades will be tackled.

Again, this list consists of NOYOUCMON's favorite albums of the decade--not what is deemed to be the "best" by him or anybody.  That would be a different list, with a different methodology, with different results. 

The Top 100 of the Aughts will begin with a 25-album collection of recordings that didn’t quite make the list, but are significant enough to mention. This section, Bubbling Under, begins now…