Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Audiobiography Part 3

We begin at the beginning, in many ways. The first third of my life was largely textured by the music my parents listened to. The next third was essentially defined against my parents: a lot of rock and hip hop. The final third is more interesting in some ways. I began to develop a greater appreciation for everything my parents listened to, and what they didn't, and I went back to fill in some of the blanks. In the second half of the 90s, there were interesting things in music, and while I enjoyed grunge, hip hop and some of the pop, in other ways, I was not listening to much popular music. This narrows my choices in some ways, but also focuses the discussion.

1997-Urban Hymns by The Verve is supposed to be one of those albums that changed everything, but it really didn't. It's a good example of the pundit phenomenon, indicating that they aren't restricted to politics. Our Lady Peace changes Canadian rock with Clumsy. I don't own it, but I wish I did. Natalie Imbruglia's Left of the Middle is an astonishingly good pop album, considering she's an Australian soap star. There is, however, at least one precedent, with Kylie Minogue, And Pat Boone reiterated his irrelevancy by actively becoming a joke with In A Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy. In the process, he alienates the Religious right and has spent the last decade kissing their ass. This year would net a tie, if one album weren't essentially a greatest hits album: Zoot Suit Riot by The Cherry Poppin' Daddies. Great album, part of the ill-fated and much missed swing revival (though it has carried on in many ways, and I am grateful). But the winner for the year has to be So Much for the Afterglow by Everclear. I know it's like their third album, but I don't care. It's probably my favourite, and this is my blog.

1998-A mixed bag this year. Prozzak's Hot Show gets an honourable mention for two reasons. One, they're two bits of one of the best jazz bands out there: the Philosopher Kings. Two, the songs are viral, and they get in your head and stay there. Fastball's All the Pain that Money Can Buy is a mature and intelligent pop album that disappeared far too quickly. And Kid Rock released Devil Without A Cause, and then very quickly became irrelevant, and is now kind of a running gag. That whole Skynyrd thing annoys me, but the Zevon thing coupled with it makes me want to howl. Pardon the pun. But the album for me was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Another solid, powerful soul/hip hop album from Wyclef, a masterful producer.

1999-A storied year, but not for its music. Britney busts out (pun once again intended) and get pedophiles salivating with ...Baby One More Time. I don't know whether or not I'm ashamed to admit that I own this album, but I do know that I ought to be. Jimmie's Chicken Shack released Bring Your Own Stereo, and while I owned it, it was stolen, and for some reason I can't remember it at all. I remember that I loved it. Whatever. Swollen Members, another good Canadian hip hop band, released Balance this year. But honours go to Eminem for The Slim Shady LP. This guy, for good or ill, rescued rap from obscurity.

2000-The year the US lost their fucking mind, and then blamed Ralph Nader for electing an idiot. Only three albums get mentioned this year: Riding with the King by B.B. King and Eric Clapton, probably two of the four greatest living blues guitarists. Songbook, Texas' greatest hits album was constantly on my discman (remember those?), and I'm sorry I discovered this poppy, bluesy, Scottish rock band so late. But the winner is Whoa, Nelly! by Nelly Furtado. Smart world-music, blues and folk-infused pop. Produced by Gerald Eaton of the Philosopher Kings.

2001-The year the horrible mistake of the US electorate became hideously apparent. Weezer released Weezer (green), one of my favourites of the last decade or so. The Strokes came out with Is This It, channeling the Ramones, or something like them, and gaining critical and popular acclaim. Ladytron snuck in under the radar with 604, a premonition of the synth-pop revival. But for me, Gorillaz are the winner with Gorillaz. I got the album and didn't stop listening to it except to put in some classics or Nelly Furtado. It kept me sane on the tube in the other London. Clint Eastwood may have changed my life. We'll never know.

2002-A little thin this year. I somehow ended up with a copy of Let Go by Avril Lavigne, and I liked it. A lot. I know I should be ashamed of this one, too. Maladroit followed up Weezer and somehow stays in rotation even today, though it's not one of my Weezer favourites. Songs About Jane takes it this year, the debut of Maroon 5. Don't ask me to explain it. They sound like the Commodores. I mean that in a good way.

2003-Apparently I started paying attention to popular music again this year. Michael Bublé debuted this year with his self-titled record, and don't you dare make fun of me. I like the crooners. Probably because I like sex, and crooners get men laid. Joss Stone tripped the pederast in me, but it was her voice first. Honest. The Soul Sessions were astounding. I couldn't believe that this was a 16-year-old British white kid. Nelly Furtado followed up her debut with Folklore, an album that grows on you as you listen. Fergie entered the collective unconscious as the Black Eyed Peas released Elefunk. Where is the Love? is a great song. Don't let anyone tell you different. Jet carries us back to the 70s with Get Born, and then we all get sick of that song because of Eurotrip, which we strangely don't get sick of. Two winners this year. Fountains of Wayne's Welcome Interstate Managers is a fantastically diverse album ranging from pop to classic rock to chicken-fried country. Stacy's Mom is only the beginning. Old World Underground, Where Are You? by Metric is brilliant: timely, sage, cynical, post-post-modern pop/new wave indie rock. This music is so complicated and diverse, Emily Haines became a Canadian icon almost immediately. Check it out. You will NOT be disappointed.

2004-A lot of brilliance this year, and some surprisingly smart pop. Kelly Clarkson is the latter. Breakaway is another album I'm almost ashamed to admit I own, but not quite. William Shatner's Has Been is the former. It's cool on so many levels: ironic, self-deprecating, smart, actually musical, with some great guest musicians. It's meta-pop. Arcade Fire came out of nowhere with Funeral. I just got this album last week (I loved Neon Bible and am going backwards). I haven't even had time to listen to it all, but it's amazing. They did Wake Up with David Bowie and blew the doors off. Find the video on Youtube. Scissor Sisters are a disco revival band, and they released their debut self-titled record this year. It's cool. Trust me. Franz Ferdinand almost gets it this year. Almost. This album is great. Simply great. Critically respected and widely loved. K-os released Joyful Rebellion, and that nearly gets the nod, because Crabbucket will stick in your head forever. And Sounding a Mosaic by Bedouin Soundclash had the same attribute: When the Night Feels My Song is one of my favourite songs ever. Ever. But the winner is Hot Fuss by The Killers. I love every song on that album, and Sam's Town is almost as good. Furthermore, they are awesome live. That is all.

2005-Another lull, sort of. Franz Ferdinand's You Could Have It So Much Better was a damn fine album, and solidified their reputation as a solid poppy rock band. Jack Johnson sneaked into my consciousness with In Between Dreams, and while I like it, it's not enough to make the cut. Black Eyed Peas released Monkey Business, which was a commercial success, and while I like the album, it's just not good enough. TO be honest, Elephunk was a little better, and they get mentioned simply because they were so fucking big. Hot Hot Heat released Elevator this year. The album is smart and fun, and the lead singer is just about the cutest guy you've ever seen. You want to pinch his cheeks. Seriously. He's Little Lord Fauntleroy on the left, there.

But the winner has to be a band you've never heard of: The Detroit Cobras. Their album Baby is garage rock at it's finest: hard, angry cover tunes (with a few originals thrown in), and Tied & True is an amazing follow up. Indie bands are awesome.

2006-Big things this year. The Fratellis gave us Costello Music, with Flathead, which almost single-handedly justifies Apple's use of music in its ads. Apple boosted Feist, too, you'll remember. Prince released 3121, a great funk album, and Black Sweat is maybe the sexiest thing ever. Probably not, but that's the kind of bold statements that get you noticed. Gnarls Barkley came out of nowhere with St. Elsewhere, and while Crazy had promise, the other tracks are a bit disappointing, though still solid. Sam's Town is a great follow up to Hot Fuss, but it's not quite good enough to make the cut. I'm gonna choose two albums for this year: Back To Black by Amy Winehouse, an amazing follow up to Frank, and Long Way Around by the Dixie Chicks. It was a great big fuck you to rednecks everywhere. And as a bigger fuck you, it expanded their audience exponentially. They are brave, intelligent women, and they put up with a lot of shit. Watch "Shut up and Sing". It's awesome, and makes the album that much better. On a personal note, fiddler Emily Robison is getting divorced, which is a drag (call me if you read this!).

2007-The White Stripes redeem themselves with Icky Thump, and that almost gets the gold. Cuff the Duke catches my eye with Sightlines of the City. Cool alt-country. And Bedouin Soundclash defy the odds by being a very good reggae band (though pretty ska-infused), despite the fact that they're 2/3 white and from Montreal. But it was a breakout year for female Canadians, and so they get it. Feist kicked everyone's ass with The Reminder, and that gets a nod. And Tegan and Sarah aren't far behind internationally with The Con. So Jealous is a great album, and The Con follows it up beautifully, that one takes the year. I have a crush on Tegan and Sarah. And yes, I know they're gay. Independent of that, it's a beautiful record. Check it out.

2008-Bonus Time! So far, it's a tossup. Foxboro Hot Tubs are in reality Green Day, but playing some fun garage rock. Stop Drop & Roll!!! is great. And Adele is another wicked soul singer from Britain. Check out 19.

There you go. It nearly killed me, but it was worth it. I hope you found it interesting. If not, tough. My blog. I'll rip into the jeebnuts a little later tonight.

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