The Top 19 Albums That Almost Made it Onto My Top 10 List
…And I didn’t even get to include Sorry About Dresden.
This list seems a little bizarre even for me. Why, you may ask — especially if you’re Julio Diaz, who did ask — would anyone want to do a list like this? Well, quite frankly, I am submitting my Top 10 list to at least three other Web sites, and I wanted to give Ink 19 something a little different… nah, that’s not it. (Although I did get in that little plug for myself, there. What a guy.) No, I just wanted to give some time to albums that I really seriously considered for my list. These are all records that were good enough to qualify but just didn’t make it in, somehow. Here goes, in rough order of regret.
1) Brave Captain, Nothing Lasts Long, He Sang, Only the Earth and the Mountains (Thirsty Ear)
Martin Carr, main man in the amazing Britpop band The Boo Radleys, launched this solo record to absolutely no acclaim in the spring. Amazing songs, shocking in their level of personal detail — turns out Martin’s still great even when drugs are out of the picture. And hey, all British music press: his voice does NOT suck. This should have been on my list, probably, and I feel bad about bouncing it. Ah well.
2) Caetano Veloso, Noites do Norte (Elektra/Asylum)
When this first came out I claimed that it was on a par with Caetano’s Livro, which I consider one of the greatest records ever made anywhere. And it might be. But Noites do Norte managed to slip off my list anyway, because I just don’t listen to it very much. It’s lovely and smart, but I wanted him to kick out the jams a little more.
3) Mystic, Cuts for Luck and Scars for Freedom (JCOR)
Mystic’s debut album is splendid West Coast hip-hop on the indie/poetic tip. She’s a great singer, a nimble rapper with an authentic voice, and an accomplished wordsmith. I would have put this on my list if the beats had been a little more slammin’… but she’s on the “watch this one” list for sure.
4) Jay Farrar, Sebastapol (Artemis)
I don’t exactly swoon at the idea of alt.country, but this album ain’t really that — it’s a collection of superb songs by a smart guy with a cool-ass voice. I haven’t heard anything that combined electronica with c&w stylings like this before, but it’s more about the whole ruined-yet-hopeful-Americana vibe.
5) Squarepusher, Go Plastic (Warp)
This freak should be in jail for beat abuse. This is the very definition of what IDM should be: a complete mind-screw for listeners in which you think “maybe I should try to dance to this” only to discover that there’s no way any human could. Plus, “My Red-Hot Car” is my single of the year.
6) The Cult, Beyond Good and Evil (Atlantic)
I’m so glad they’re back that I’m glad they left in the first place. All super-rock outfits should break up and get back together if this is what happens: an album that both kicks sonic ass and actually seems deeper than everything that came before… although, granted, we’re talking about the group that actually sang about a “lobster telephone” in a serious voice.
7) Aterciopelados, Gozo Poderoso (RCA)
Very smooth rock en Español from Colombia’s alternative duo. They are no longer the kind of punky band they started out as; Andrea Echevarria still has all her tattoos, but her songs are poppier now and more all-embracing. This went on and off my Top 10 list about fifty times.
8) The Hermit, Flying Out of Solitude (Nettwerk)
Unassuming electronica from Canada. He obviously has a big collection of Brian Eno and DJ Shadow, but he actually has — gasp! — melodies and stuff. Low concept, low profile, high talent. Love The Hermit.
9) Tenacious D, Tenacious D (Sony/Epic)
The funniest album you will hear all year, and probably the hardest-rocking record of the year, too. This probably suffered in my list because I had heard all the songs before on their HBO shorts, but it’s still a hilarious record that manages to out-Dio Dio himself. Plus, you can learn about “inward singing,” sure to be the latest trend.
10) Hobart Smith, Blue Ridge Legacy (Rounder)
Wow. Smith was a country/folk multi-instrumentalist (banjo, fiddle, guitar, piano) and singer who could really cook and had a fine way with a murder ballad. This stuff was all recorded a long time ago but I count it anyway because most of it was unreleased until now. Goes hand in hand with…
11) Texas Gladden, Ballad Legacy (Rounder)
…this record. Texas Gladden was Hobart Smith’s sister. This record captures her rough Appalachian voice in a variety of settings, mostly a capella — no one captures gloom and hope like Texas did. And her murder ballads are even more chilling than her brother’s.
12) The Poets of Rhythm, Discern/Define (Quannum)
The funk record of the year. They might be the tightest band in the world right now; the way they crank it out is truly inspirational. You’d think they were from L.A. or Chicago or something — shockingly, they’re all native Germans.
13) Trembling Blue Stars, Alive to Every Smile (Sub Pop)
Wow. Why don’t we call it “emo” when it’s from England? No one really knows. But this album lays bare the soul of only real band member Robert Wratten, and makes it swing. I love it I love it I love it… but it’s all about him. Hmmm.
14) Autechre, Confield (Warp)
My robot says: [This music kicks ass RESET Nobody understands the soul of us robots like Booth and Brown RESET I can understand why humans are afraid of Autechre RESET But when the revolution happens they’re the only ones we’re not lining up against the wall RESET] Thanks, robot.
15) The Mad Capsule Markets, OSC-DIS (Oscillator in Distortion) (Palm Pictures)
Wild men from Japan blow away all preconceived notions of how to combine hard filthy electronic/guitar sounds with actual real live melodies. Cool shit from the way future, this is what Rutger Hauer listens to on his Walkman in Blade Runner.
16) Jaguares, Cuando la Sangre Galopa (BMG)
This is one of Mexico’s favorite bands, and I know why: it’s all about singer/songwriter/band leader/guitarist Saul Hernandez. Sounds kind of like a Spanish-language Pearl Jam, sometimes… but watch out for Alfonso André, clearly the best drummer in the world.
17) Frank Black and the Catholics, Dog in the Sand (What Are?)
Frank is exactly where he always wanted to be: obscure and proud of it. These songs deserved to be heard all over the damn place, but everyone’s all hung up on the Pixies mystique. Have you actually heard this record? No? Then I hate you.
18) Moreno Veloso + 2, Music Typewriter (Palm Pictures)
This is the debut record from Caetano Veloso’s son, who has a Ph.D. in physics and will never have to use it. He does bossa nova, he does afro-beat, he does samba, he does everything he wants to and pulls it off. His father better watch his back — Moreno’s got a guitar, and he knows how to use it.
19) Nortec Collective, Tijuana Sessions, Vol. 1 (Palm Pictures)
This is the warmest, happiest, coolest dance album of the year: techno tracks using mariachi samples. You’ve never shaken your ass to a tuba loop, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Okay, okay, you’ve been good and read this all the way: here’s my real Top 10, this time in order: 1) Circulatory System, Circulatory System (Cloud Recordings); 2) Bersuit Vergarabat, Hijos del Culo (Surco/Universal Music Argentina); 3) Cannibal Ox, The Cold Vein (Def Jux); 4) The White Stripes, White Blood Cells (Sympathy for the Record Industry); 5) Karsh Kale, Realize (Six Degrees); 6) Missy Elliott, Miss E… So Addictive (The Gold Mind, Inc./Elektra); 7) Dubchek, Down Memory Gap Lane (Unitone); 8) Jill Scott, Experience: Jill Scott 826+ (Hidden Beach); 9) Susheela Raman, Salt Rain (Narada); 10) Love As Laughter, Sea to Shining Sea (Sub Pop).
Okay, shutting up now. Thanks.