by carl wilson

Comments: Discs 11-25

25. The Blow - The Concussive Caress
This record is difficult to follow if you haven't seen the one-woman rock opera it's based on, a story about lesbian crushes, summer camp and the secret voice of the moon

called Blue Sky v. Night Sky. But seeing Khaela Maricich sneak that show up on an unsuspecting Wavelength audience in Toronto was one of the best live experiences I had in 2003. So this is like having the 'original cast album' for me -- and the song that personifies gravity as an illicit lover, reaching its fingers up under shirts and skirts and pulling down, down, down, is just too brilliant to believe.

24. Aesop Rock - Bazooka Tooth
A dense rap jigsaw puzzle that sounds smarter and more appealing every time I listen to it. Can't claim to understand it, but in a year when a lot of hip-hop seemed just a little too easy to get, that's a pleasure in itself.

23. The Blue Series Continuum - Good and Evil Sessions
I haven't heard Matthew Shipp's collaboration with the Anti-Pop Consortium (hostile reviews scared me off a bit, I'm sorry to say) but this was the best jazz-hip-hop fusion I did hear in Shipp's Blue Series this year: Shipp on Korg synthesizer instead of his usual piano, with the ever-present William Parker on bass, Alex Lodico and Josh Roseman on trombones, and the excellent trumpeter Roy Campbell -- all "sliced and diced, fixed and mixed" by GoodandEvil, a production duo who've worked with Northern State, Felix Da Housecat and Roni Size. It's one of the better incorporations of electronics any of the Blue Series discs have managed, while preserving the integrity of the jazz. The whole series, in any case, is a landmark in jazz history, even if it does take another decade for its natural audience to come into existence.

22. VA - Livin' Lovin' Losin': Songs of the Louvin Brothers
The year's best country album turns out to be a tribute album -- the Louvins' sibling harmonies inspire brilliant duo performances from traditionalist and new-country stalwarts alike. Who could have guessed one of my favourite songs this year (How's the World Treatin' You?) would be a duet between Alison Krauss and James Taylor? I thought I hated them.

21. The Gossip - Movement
Gospel-punk belter Beth Ditto is going to be one of the most important singers of her generation. That hasn't happened yet on this disc, but you can feel her tugging at the line.

20. Neil Michael Hagerty - The Howling Hex
Like a 21-year-old Mick Jagger on a meth kick. Rawk with a "w." Another neglected gem.

19. Outkast - Speakerboxx/The Love Below
Ah, the endless debates: Yes, the Big Boi record is more consistently satisfying, but the Andre 3000 record is the more daring stretch - even if some of it is astonishingly bad, it's got "Hey Ya," so just shut yer mouth. The battle to make hip-hop safe for nerds again continues.

18. British Sea Power - The Decline of British Sea Power
An amazingly accomplished first record - yes, it sounds like loads of eighties guitar music, but no, it doesn't rest content with that. Whimsy raised to epic heights, and the best British record I heard this year, Dizzee Rascal notwithstanding.

17. Califone - Quicksand/Cradlesnakes
Another fusion, this time of experimental electronics and country blues. Of all this year's albums, this one is most like a world I would want to live inside - sparse, sparkling, and sad.

16. The Notwist - Neon Golden
One of this year's most convincing efforts at rockin' the laptop from this German former hardcore-punk group, now a lilting and cracked pop ensemble. Unlike some others who aim for this style, they don't think that just a little melody and emotion is enough to remake techno as an intimate form -- it takes a whole lot of poetry to seduce a robot.

15. The New Pornographers - Electric Version *
There's a settledness to this disc that prevents it from approaching the excitement of Mass Romantic but Carl Newman, Neko Case, Dan Bejar (when he makes his guest appearances) and company can still craft enigmatic pop masterpieces the way other people put butter on toast. If only I liked Newman's voice more, this would rank higher. Favourite tracks: "The Laws Have Changed," "All for Swinging You Around," "Chump Change" and "Testament to Youth in Verse."

14. PW Long - Remembered
The former Mule frontman doesn't stray far from the country-blues basics on this album, but he pushes every moment to the limit. Like watching a great performance by De Niro or Steve McQueen.

13. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
Initially I thought this was a better album than their debut, Oh Inverted World -- it's not, but I only came to appreciate that after the shinier hooks of this album prompted me to listen again to the first. In both cases, catchy, smart, sensitive but with a light emotional touch, super-literate, funny... this is exactly what indie rock is meant to be.

12. The Reigning Sound - Time Bomb High School
I'm surprised this album by Greg Oblivian's new band didn't get more attention - just basic roots-punk-rock, but nearly every song could stand with the best of the Replacements, Clash or Ramones The opening cover of "Stormy Weather" as a garage stomper is a coup.

11. Songs:Ohia - The Magnolia Electric Co.
Songs:Ohia man Jason Molina is aware enough himself of what a leap this record is that he's changed the name of the band to Magnolia Electric Co. Molina finally gets entirely out of the shadow of Will Oldham (Palace Bros.) and makes a country-rock disc that recalls Neil Young's highest peaks without seeming to mimic them. His usual fragility gets cast in bronze in these arrangements, so that it might endure the test of time.

Read More | On Record | Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 09 at 4:33 PM | Linking Posts

 

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Zoilus by Carl Wilson