J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Playlists, podcasts and music from WQFS Greensboro's J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

25 – Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet/ Mclusky – Do Dallas : Rarely nowadays does rock sound so concurrently vicious and celebratory. I Get Wet is definitely a love it/hate it record, but for me it explodes in big, goofy fun. Humor is always in short supply in ‘serious’ music. As for Mclusky, the Pixies influence is obvious. What’s also obvious is that behind the sneer, these guys are having one hell of a time. And it shows. Vibrant is a good word for how this album will leap out of your stereo and grab you by the throat. Sing it.

24 – Denison Witmer – Philadelphia Songs : Talk about a man coming into himself. Denison really shines on this breakout set with the Six Parts Seven as his backing band. His stories are sharp and real and his music is everyday contemplation/desolation at its most self-effacing.

23 – Radio 4 – Gotham : In theory these guys are easily a critics band but after seeing them live they left no doubt that the dancefloor is where they truly belong. Pounding rhythms and some pretty hefty socio-political ideas and you’ve got 2002’s best sleeper record.

22 - Nicolai Dunger – Soul Rush : First thoughts about Nicolai Dunger: ‘God this guy sounds exactly like Van Morrison.’ Latest thoughts: ‘God this guy sounds exactly like Van Morrison.’ Yet, between the obvious (and I mean obvious) comparisons lays an amazingly well crafted pop record. One that’ll eventually get as under your skin as Astral Weeks or Moondance did.

21 - Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots : I’ll get trashed for putting this so low on my list, but as really good as this record is it seems like a bit of a falter after The Soft Bulletin. Nit picking I know, considering the worst song on the record puts to shame anything that accompanied these guys on that MTV Buzz Bin cd from so long ago. Any band on that compilation that put out an album even close to the brilliance of this one (let alone the rest of the Lips’ oeuvre) raise your hand. I didn’t think so.

20 - Drive-by Truckers – Southern Rock Opera : I really haven’t heard such an eloquent and rocking epistle about what it means to be Southern in a long time. If “Let There Be Rock” doesn’t move you in some bizarre way, you don’t have a soul, my friend.

19 - Aimee Mann – Lost in Space : At this point there is very little I can say about Aimee Mann’s amazing songwriting. She is in a class all her own. Interestingly enough, about the only touchstone I can begin to name is her husband, Michael Penn, who spends his time putting out similarly well crafted albums that refuse to bend in any direction. Should we be so lucky as to have one album like this per year.

18 - Neil Finn – One All : I love Crowded House. I love Neil Finn. This record is quite possibly the best thing Finn has done, either as himself or in Crowded House. It is classic Finn. That’s all you need.

17 - Jurassic 5 – Power in Numbers : A subtle step forward. It’s not quite the genius sophomore record we were all secretly hoping for. You know, the one that would single-handedly save hip-hop from its current crisis. It may not be quite the bombshell that Quality Control was upon its release, which is why it came in this low, but it’s still a great record from one of the best groups in the game.

16 - Bruce Springsteen – The Rising : Yes, Virginia, it really is as good as Rolling Stone said it was. And besides. Who else could properly take on September 11th in song form better than the Boss? No one. Between “Lonesome Day,” the title track and “My City of Ruins,” this album is flawless.

15 - Josh Ritter – Golden Age of Radio : The best record you didn’t hear in 2002. A quantum leap forward in production and songwriting (and even performance) from his self-titled first album, Josh Ritter has all the markings of the next best thing to erupt from folk/alt-country music’s corridors. While you’re waiting for him to explode, pick up this album and start the countdown. Ryan Adams, eat your fucking heart out.

14 - Sixteen Horsepower – Folklore : These guys are relentless. There is no one that sounds like them. No one would dare. On “Flutter,” especially they sound absolutely haunted. The sound of your great-grandfather’s old Packard grinding to a halt on a back country road in the dead of night. You’ll be spellbound, too.

13 - Pulp – We Love Life : I loved the dark masterpiece that was This Is Hardcore. So this absolutely triumphant return (and yet, step forward) to their less desperate surroundings is like a huge victory fought and won. “The Trees” is about as brilliant as Pulp gets and “Bad Cover Version” just reeks of the biting Jarvis of old. There is no finer band in British pop.

12 - The Roots – Phrenology : I know this just came out, but it’s already solidified itself in my collection. It took one listen for me to realize that the Roots took their sweet-ass time on this follow-up to their masterpiece, Things Fall Apart, for good reason. It shows in every track, every note, every second. These guys are heading somewhere huge. I can’t wait to watch them get there.

11 - Tom Waits – Blood Money/Alice : I love ‘The Tom’ (as we call him around my apartment) and these two albums showcased him in fine, fine form. I thought about listing them separately but realized how hard a time I would have ranking one over the other. So, since they were released the same day, I figured they should be treated the same. Fairly similar in tone and instrumentation, they are just a continuing testament to the unquestionable genius of Tom Waits.

10 - The Streets – Original Pirate Material : Like someone’s idea of a really weird practical joke, The Streets showcases what you probably never even thought you’d hear in your life: a Cockney accent rapping. But once you get past the seemingly awkward flows and mild trouble understanding phrases and what they mean, what you have is a storytelling record. Simultaneously touching, hilarious, braggadocio and social journal, Original Pirate Material is one of the most consistently enjoyable records of 2002.

9 - Sonic Youth – Murray Street : The critics lauded it as their best record since Daydream Nation and while I think they’ve done some mighty fine work on part with this since then (A thousand leaves, Washing Machine) it’s really not a bad analysis. It’s the most coherent and focused Sonic Youth has seemed in a long time and they’re finally letting go of that noise a bit and revealing...gasp!...some really great songs.

8 - Division of Laura Lee – Black City : The best thing released by a Swedish band this year. These guys seem to be the real deal. Their songs aren’t just garage-redux and their ferocity is only matched by their flexibility. They rock and they rock hard. If they can only deliver on the promise of this album, we’re in for something big.

7 - Pretty Girls Make Graves – Good Health : Duh. This album rocks like a steamroller loose in a bubble wrap factory. You can’t get enough of how damn good every lick on this album is. Admit it. Admit it! “Speakers Push the Air” would be my National Anthem.

6 - Wire – Read and Burn 01 – I’m not even going to waste my breath talking about why Wire coming out with a new EP that matches the vim and vigor of their earliest records makes me the giddiest person alive. The fact remains (or at least, the fact seems): the boys are back in town. And oh my god do they sound like they never left.

5 - Q and Not U – Different Damage : A hulking piece of post-punk that deserves all the accolades it receives. Q and Not U turned losing a bass player into an album better than I could’ve ever believed them capable. A step forward not only for the band, not only for Dischord records, but for the very genre of Punk itself.

4 - Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot : Controversy might ensue over this one since it was available since long back into 2001, but I’m going by official release date. By now you’ve heard this record, you know why it’s on this list and I really don’t need to tell you anything more. Well, one thing. Yeah. They really are that good.

3 - Josh Rouse – Under Cold Blue Stars : The album that crept up on me. Now when I listen to it, all I hear is easily one of America’s best songwriters honing his craft in a way that was only strongly hinted at in his first two albums. “Nothing Gives Me Pleasure,” “Feeling No Pain,” “Women and Men.” Josh Rouse is superb. Over and over again.

2 – Sleater-Kinney – One Beat : When Time dubbed Sleater-Kinney the best rock band in America, most Time readers probably just shrugged and wondered who they were. Now Pearl Jam is courting them as an opening act for their upcoming U.S. tour and they’ve released this stunning piece of work. Yes, I firmly believe this is Sleater-Kinney’s best album. No, I don’t think they’ve hit their stride. Yes, I think their next record is going to answer all questions as to their legitimacy. To me, they are the new Clash. Vital, raw, emotional and constantly shifting. Except they’ve managed to hold it together. And that could be what puts them over the top. Here’s hoping.

1 – Paul Westerberg – Stereo/Mono : I bought the advanced copy of Mono that came out quietly in February, mostly because I was tipped off about it by a friend in the know. It rocked in a way I hadn’t heard Paul Westerberg rock in quite some time. It was refreshing and exhilarating to hear him sound that renewed as an artist. Then Stereo came out and everything that used to be was back. Not only does Stereo prove that Suicaine Gratification was the jumping off point for something much, much brighter, but it shows that the writer everyone thought Westerberg could be was right under our noses the entire time. To me, Stereo is the culmination of what started with the songs “Good Day,” “Angels Walk” and “Time Flies Tomorrow” from Eventually. Call it bias. Call it whatever. But I truly believe that in 2002 there is no one better than Paul Westerberg. And that’s the truth.


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