yes, here it is. the soundtrack to this year in 20 records. none of which are by Nas, who released 3 albums in 10 months and who still is not 2pac despite bribing afeni shakur for the rights to one of his songs. i didn't realize until just now what an incredible year for music this was; mostly i've been focused on how disappointing the artists themselves have been at balancing personal/political obligations. but musically i've had to leave quite a bit out to distill it down to the essentials. a bunch of hip-hop is out on the curb next to some decent but not great drum n bass and instrumental records like Do Make Say Think, hit-or-miss No Knife fun and consistently cool bands like Low. J-Live, Tom Waits, Sonic Youth... it's worth pointing out tho that despite this wealth of inspired innovation the most striking thing about this list is the fact that Radiohead are sitting out. and no, i'm not being facetious, they're the best band in the world. onward.
20. Lauryn Hill- unplugged
alright so what happened, she denounces fame and performing and blows off mtv and thus everyone forgets that this album is entirely new material? that she taught herself to play guitar in a year and a half? that she still has thE sickest flow and has thrown god, guns and government high in the mix? my kind of emo.
19. Godspeed You! Black Emperor- yanqui u.x.o.
it's not 'lift yer skinny fists..' by any means, but it's still damned good. and if nothing else this letter earned them a spot, as did this interview, hitting on perhaps the most poignant theme of this year.
18. Dead Prez- turn off the radio
taking advice from a folksinger that the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house, they self-released this record and broke with Loud. after about ten listens i was dead tired of the last record, but it looks like m-1 and stic.man have found new production blood and a reason to spit fire like zdlr hasn't for years.
17. Hot Cross- a new set of lungs
alright, forgive me for being skeptical of new jersey hardcore bands, we all know what happened to Thursday. whatever, before and after labels these kids fucking bring it. it's not a coincidence that they share members with Orchid from a previous band.
16. Blood Brothers- march on electric children
i can't emphasize enough how little innovative or important screamo/fuckcore-whatever is out there right now. punk was supposed to boil your blood off your bones, that was its original use, and these kids are still trying to melt down the masses.
15. Cee-lo- cee-lo green and his perfect imperfections
this is what happens when your label makes you release the album in january or february, everyone forgets you exist. Cee-lo is the second-fastest mouth in the south behind big boi. beleef it for sheaz greasy. he knows how to funk/stank it up without delving into self-parody and has some decent pipes as well.
it's just not fair. one person strapped to an acoustic guitar should not be able to reinvent herself this often and so quickly. if the audio was better this would be higher.
13. Interpol- turn on the bright lights
guitars guitars guitars. lots of cool harmonies, these songs just tug at your skin. this will probably move higher soon enough.
12. Sleater-Kinney- one beat
so they were supposed to just release 'all hands on the bad one' pt 2 like any good aging washington state post-punk band. you know, like pearl jam does. so they reinvented themselves instead, and carrie brownstein still sounds great without a rickenbacker. who would've fucking guessed- an SG! why can't i get our SG to sound half this good?! and being explicitly anti-war is not a bad thing. say it with me now. there's nothing to fear except complete silence. inaudible opposition = invisible opposition.
11. Pearl Jam- riot act
what did you expect? it's sort of a creative retrenchment for them but eh, it's still an eddie vedder record. there is still no better rock songwriter, and this is the only major label record to have any kind of explicit anti-war/bush theme. creativity is nothing to courage, you see; when there isn't any of the latter the former means shit. calling yourselves out on your own guilt for something that wasn't actually your fault (roskilde tragedy) isn't bad either.
10. Pretty Girls Make Graves- good health
california knoWs how to party. Lookout! band or not, these kids rock the mic and the gibsons hard. awesome melodies and arrangements, and it doesn't hurt to have a song named after red emma.
09. Engine Down- demure
i don't understand why bands like Low or Sparta get so much press but guys like these get totally passed over. this is a fucking great record. you will like it whether or not you review records for a living. such tight grooves on every track, cornbread compton has really come to set the standard for the scene ..yes, especially live, seek em out.
08. Trail of Dead- source tags & codes
Pitchfork hit this one on the head: "it's not a groundbreaking record, it's not even an original record.. but god, what a fucking record." white kids will be going nuts for this for a long time.
07. Mr. Lif- i phantom
ok, where did this come from? now i'm a def jux head and all but their artists are usually bombastically underachieving; RJD2 and El-P just fell short of this list. Lif raises the iNdieYC gold standard to left coast proportions. some of these tracks are ridiculously creative; all are bangin to the bone and frankly political.
06. Kenna- sacred cow
no, this was not officially released, but fred durst has been sitting on it for a year and a half!! so fuck it, if y'all want a copy hit me up and i'll send it over. this is what happens when half of the neptunes tries to capture depeche mode. fuckin bangin off the walls, and with a unique emo sensibility no contemporary rhythm&bullshit crooner has been able to capture. for more on this man's humble eccentricities go here or here.
05. Hot Snakes- suicide invoice
on their new ep that Cave In guy repeats over and over "the reality check's in the mail." if that popcock crap is a reality check then this, as the title implies, is a death certificate. thiS shit came out of a garage, a very smelly one with an old marshall 4x12 cab in the back that somebody's been using as a urinal. and they name drop Mt Pleasant! what's not to love.
04. Enon- high society
i love these kids because they completely legitimize pop for everybody else. the only - oNly - flaw on this record is that almost all the songs are under 3 minutes long, and yet they're still so diverse and full of creative energy. i saw them open for D-Plan two years ago and was slain by john schmersal's Prince/Beck theatrics, and this is a great translation of that. thank y'all for saving nyc punk from itself.
03. Q and not U- different damage
i think i would literally do anything to have had this band record these songs two months after they did, and to keep ian mackaye away from the soundboard. still, it exists in all its stripped-down glory, and i fucking love it, but i wanted them to knife indierock right in its tired, stupid, pseudo-garage heart the way D-Plan did in 99 when they released 'emergency & i' and struck a huge nonviolent blow for d.c. all i can say, kids, is go see them live. and then one day they will come for your children.
02. The Mars Volta- tremulant
fuck you. i think that's the prevailing statement here, both from these 2 kids to the rest of the rock world and from me to you for thinking this doesn't count as a genuine release since it's only 3 songs. these three songs completely blew away everything else on this list and, yes, on your list too.
01. Orchid- s/t
my secret love of grindcore has festered for too long in the name of a boston ebullition band. it is only fitting that they break up before they break out of me and the east coast scene and explode onto everything else. this is their swan song. let it soar inside you. and if anyone asks you what the personal/political means in the context of punk music point them to this album's liner notes and efrim's interviews.
01. Ani Difranco- serpentine (live in DC 1/19/02)
02. The Mars Volta- eunuch provacateur
03. Pearl jam- love boat captain
04. Hot cross- putting the past right
05. Orchid- tigers
06. The Fire Show- the rabbit of my soul is the king of his ghost
07. Q and not U- black plastic bag
08. Sleater-Kinney- far away
09. Hot Snakes- i hate the kids
10. Pretty Girls Make Graves- more sweet soul
11. The Rise- sophisticated approach
12. Interpol- obstacle 1
13. Ani Difranco- welcome to:
14. Q and not U- so many animal calls
15. Engine down- songbird
16. The Notwist- pilot
17. Trail of Dead- how near, how far
18. No Knife- riot for romance!
19. Lauryn Hill- so much things to say
20. Hot Hot Heat- touch you touch you
(...yes, both of these are under 80mins long and do rock..)
01. Justin Timberlake- like i love you
02. The Roots- thought @ work
03. Justin Timberlake- cry me a river
04. Kenna- war in me
05. Dead Prez- we need a revolution
06. Nas- one mic
07. Cee-lo- under tha influence (follow me)
08. Mr. Lif- i phantom
09. Dead prez and The Coup- get up
10. Mr. Lif- return of the b-boy
11. Talib Kweli- get by
12. Missy Elliott- work it
13. Blackalicious- make you feel that way
14. Madonna- die another day
15. Thicke- when i get you alone
16. J-Live- satisfied
17. Cee-lo- bad mutha
18. The Roots- the seed (2.0)
EOTY (epic; defies categorization and mix cds)
1. !!!/Measles Mumps Rubella @ tiki hut, fall
2. The Roots @ 9:30, winter
3. Q and not U @ black cat twice and once each at SIS and casa del pueblo, spring-summer-fall
4. (t)inc/Milemarker/Hives @ black cat, winter
5. Ani Difranco @ marvin center, acoustic, benefit for the Feminist Majority, winter
6. Onlinedrawing @ orpheum, tampa, summer
well there were certainly a few letdowns. The Roots and Kweli decided to stink up mainstream hip-hop and give kids one more reason to buy Eminem and Ludacris. thanks guys. the only Outkast track out this year wasn't even worth b-side status.
No Knife decided not to follow up a good record with a better one. the Notwist wrote *one* great song and a few sorta-good ones. The Rise tried to be Refused and didn't quite get there.
Team Sleep was a great record to have on when you didn't necessarily want to draw a noise complaint from the neighbors but still wanted to let em know what's up. but someone borrowed it from me 2 months ago, and thus it's in limbo here.
so what does the future hold? well after a few listens of the new Cursive and Massive Attack records i can tell you it sounds promising. and the Mars Volta lp will be out soon, so we can all just set aside our quaint little dreams of making cool rocknroll music. Deftones record soon too. awright dirteh i think that's it for el cero-dos.
postscript: notice the number of gendered pronouns above? demographics too will have to change in the future. *or there's no way to step forward..*