Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Aftersquib to the Foregoing
(Apologies to Lawrence Weschler for the title.) One of those bits of life that’s completely inevitable is the part where somebody points me in the general direction of some really good music from the past year right after I’ve made my Top 10. It happened last weekend when a friend of mine hooked me up with Racoon’s Another Day and The New Rivals’ eponymous disc. I don’t have too much to say about The New Rivals, as I haven’t really listened to them yet. But they’re fun pop-punk outfit that has a bunch of short, quick songs that refuse to take themselves seriously. It’s worth a listen. Racoon apparently opened for The Lemonheads when they came through. They’re a band from the Netherlands that at first blush sounds a lot like what could best be called acoustic Tool.* They’re, um, they’re not that, though. The lead singer (whose name I know not, so I think I’ll call him Singer Q. Dutchman), just kind of has a voice that’s reminiscent of Maynard and there are a couple of songs that sound kind of like songs that Tool would do if tool were acoustic and Maynard had a stronger grasp of the English language (I presume that Singer Q. Dutchman’s first language is not English, a quality he shares with Maynard. Sadly, Maynard’s first language is gibberish). Anyway, you can’t take the Tool comparison too far, as the intro to “Laugh About It” sound to me like nothing so much as that song they were using in the Old Navy commercials where the overly cute Gen Nexters were sitting around in their fashionably comfortable pullover fleeces while exchanging presents and smiling at each other. Old Navy commercials, for the record, suck (although it’s because everyone in them is having fun and looking like they’re happy with each other while all I had to hold on to during the holidays was the Dutch guy from Racoon. Sniff. Okay, that’s fundamentally untrue. I didn’t learn about Racoon until after the holidays. So I didn’t even have that). Even though the previous two sentences probably make it sound like I hate Racoon, I actually don't. They're pretty cool. I just don't really know what to call the sort of music they make. Although that's the same problem I have with Blue October and The Alternate Routes, so I guess I tend to like uncategorizeable music. Anyway, this phenomenon of finding good music after writing the Top 10 got me thinking about the year 2004. My 2004 list was the sort of thing that elicited a, “I’ve made a huge mistake,” about two days later. I went back to look at it and decide if it was as bad as I remembered. Turns out it was worse. To wit: 10. Big & Rich, Horse of a Different Color 9. Keith Urban, Be Here 8. Los Lonely Boys, Los Lonely Boys 7. U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb 6. Rascal Flatts, Feels Like Today 5. Kepano Green, Valley Drive 4. Local H, Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles? 3. Collective Soul, Youth 2. Velvet Revolver, Contraband 1. Green Day, American Idiot I still listen to one of those albums (well, two, technically, but there’s only one I’ll intentionally listen to on a regular basis). I’ve given up on the entire genre in to which half of them fall. I’m embarrassed by two (three, maybe). So I decided, with the benefit of three years of hindsight, not to mention the new musical territory I’ve since covered, to remake my 2004 Top 10. Then I ran in to a minor snag. The year 2004 was a terrible year for music. Even with three years worth of hindsight I could only come up with eight albums I liked. So, without further ado, here’s the Top 8 of 2004, plus a couple more to round it out. 10. Rascal Flatts, Feels Like Today. It’s not objectionable. High praise, eh? 9. U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. “Love and Peace or Else” is still a good song. That’s the only nice thing I can say. 8. The Killers, Hot Fuss.^ I can totally listen to most of the songs and I actually like 2 of them. That’s kind of weak. But, hey, 2004 was kind of weak. 7. Collective Soul, Youth. It’s decent, but overall pretty meh. 6. Kate Rusby, Underneath the Stars.^ This is the album that introduced me to Rusby, like, last year. I think it’s got her best stuff of what I’ve heard. Also, being sixth isn’t exactly an insult, as the albums from here on out are all good and have had staying power. 5. Jimmy Eat World, Futures. I’m honestly not sure what happened here. I think I didn’t learn about Futures until later or something. I obviously didn’t think of it as a 2005 album, though, since it’s not on that list. 4. Bad Religion, The Empire Strikes First. This was the album I was introduced to a week after coming up with the original list. I almost re-did the list just to add it in, but decided not to because I didn’t want to make a hasty decision. 3. Flogging Molly, Within a Mile of Home.^ I didn’t give in to the Flog until some time last year. I’m still wondering what took me so long. 2. Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, Americano!^ The Refreshments broke up in ’98 or something. It apparently didn’t occur to me to find out if Roger Clyne was doing anything else interesting until late 2005 or maybe even ‘06. That oversight has since been rectified in a big way. In fact, we can just retroactively add Sonoran Hope and Madness to somewhere near the top of the 2002 list and Honky Tonk Union to a top spot on the 2000 list while we’re here. 1. Local H, Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles? Ahh. Better. I feel a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. P.J. Soles is The H's second best, behind Pack Up the Cats. PUtC is one of the all-time greatest albums, at least in my book. Just, y'know, in case you cared. The funny thing is that I knew that the 2004 list sucked pretty much immediately. It caused me to overhaul the way I did my Top 10 starting on ’05. That year was pretty weak, too, but the top 3 were: 3. Our Lady Peace, Healthy in Paranoid Times. 2. Idlewild, Warnings/Promises. 1. Audioslave, Out of Exile. I still listen to all of those CDs. The only real hindsight changes I’d make would be removing Casting Crowns (5) from the list entirely and moving Better than Ezra’s Before the Robots (8) up to the fourth slot. (I got the top 3 order reversed when I mentioned it in my 2007 Top 10 entry.) I’m still pretty happy with my 2006 list. The top 5: 5. Pearl Jam, Pearl Jam 4. Live, Songs from Black Mountain 3. Audioslave, Revelations 2. Roddy Woomble, My Secret is My Silence 1. Marty Casey & the Lovehammers, Marty Casey & the Lovehammers I’d probably move The Elms’ Chess Hotel from 9 to 6, and strongly consider moving Roddy in to first (I’d only recently gotten it when I wrote the list and didn’t want to overrate it based on that new album excitement). Oh, and I’d probably take the Keith Urban (7) away, although I’m not entirely sure what would replace it. Still, nothing’s embarrassing there. In fact, when I looked it up I thought, “Hey, I haven’t listened to Songs from Black Mountain for a while. I should do that.” Anyway, I’m sure there’s a point I can illustrate here. But there really wasn’t a purpose to this. I just like looking back to see how things have changed. That’s probably why I decided to do that whole history thing... Also, I remember 2000 as one of the worst years for music ever. Since then, however, I've learned of things like Idlewild's 100 Broken Windows, RCPM's Honky Tonk Union, and Blue October's Consent to Treatment. If I get really bored I might need to go back and come up with retroactive Top 10s (although there will probably be nothing to compare them to, as I'm pretty sure I don't have any saved from earlier than 2004). Actually, in 2000 RCPM released Honky Tonk Union while Idlewild released 100 Broken Windows. In 2002 RCPM released Sonoran Hope and Madness while Idlewild released The Remote Part. 2007 brought us No More Beautiful World and Make Another World. Maybe I need to set up some sort of cage match or something. Nah. That's stupid. ----- *In general, this would not be complimentary coming from me. I hate Tool and have no intention of changing that opinion. Maynard’s a blowhard, the lyrics are insipid and juvenile, the arrangements are sonically uninteresting, and the musicians are barely competent. If you want to listen to depressing metalish music with incomprehensible lyrics, go find some Soundgarden. Chris Cornell knows how to fill in an entire line of a song without having to resort to syncopated repetition that drags a one-syllable word out to a full sentence, Kim Thayil could wipe the floor with the Tool guitarist with both hands tied behind his back (listen to the opening of "Jesus Christ Pose." He was blowing on the strings), and Matt Cameron knows how to hit more than one part of the drum kit at a time. They are, in short, good. Basically, I have a Bottom 5 band list. Tool is a permanent member, along with System of a Down and The Mars Volta. Radiohead is an honorary member, but Pablo Honey and The Bends were actually good, so I can't say entirely bad things about them. ^Music not part of my collection until at least 6 months after the list was made.