Artful Dodger UK-"Re/rewind" cd5 (Universal)
Boards of Canada-"In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country" cd5 (Warp)
John Coltrane-OLE (Rhino '62)
Miles Davis-MORE LIVE EVIL (bootleg '73)
Erykah Badu-MAMA'S GUN (Universal)
New Order-SUBSTANCE (Qwest '81-'87)
Phil Ochs-TAPE FROM CALIFORNIA (A&M/Collectors Choice '68)
Roni Size/Reprazent-IN THE MODE (Island)
Various Artists-UK GARAGE: THE ALBUM (Ministry of Sound/Relentless)
Caetano Veloso-s/t (Polygram '67)
At The Drive-In-RELATIONSHIP OF COMMAND (Grand Royal)
Ornette Coleman-THE COMPLETE SCIENCE FICTION SESSIONS (Legacy/Columbia '71-'72)
Dalek-NEGRO NECRO NEKROS (Gern Blandsten '98)
Deltron 3030-s/t (75 Ark)
Fall-THE UNUTTERABLE (Eagle)
Fennesz/Rosy Parlane-LIVE 3" (Synaesthesia)
PJ Harvey-SONGS FROM THE CITY, STORIES FROM THE SEA (Island)
Kid 606-P.S. I LOVE YOU (Mille Plateaux)/DOWN WITH THE SCENE (Ipecac)
Les McCann-INVITATION TO OPENNESS (Label M '72)
Ennio Morricone-GLI OCCHI FREDDI DELLA PAURA (Dagored '70)
New Order-BBC RADIO 1 LIVE IN CONCERT (Fuel 2000 '87)
Sun Ra-THE GREAT LOST SUN RA ALBUMS: CYMBALS & CRYSTAL SPEARS (Evidence '73)
Wu-Tang Clan-"Gravel Pit"/"Protect Ya Neck (The Jump-Off)" cd5 (Loud)
Iannis Xenakis-PERSEPOLIS (Fractal '71)
David Bowie-BOWIE AT THE BEEB (BBC/Virgin '68-'72)
Most of the first disc in this 3-CD live-in-the-studio set is interesting lagely for documenting Bowie's re-invention of himself, from (bad) Carnaby Street pop to (mediocre) hippie singer/songwriter to the birth of glam. It's the second disc that's the real revelation, offering mosty of HUNKY DORY & ZIGGY STARDUST (as wel as 2 excellent Velvet Underground covers) in much rawer versions, completely stripped of the production sheen and string sections of his studio albums.
Jacques Brel-s/t (Barclay '66)
The album cover , showing Brel sitting in a cafe smoking, may be the most quintessentially French one I've ever seen. The musioc, which includes a number of songs later covered by Scott Walker, matches it, beautifully melodramatic.
Diodes-TIRED OF WAKING UP TIRED (Epic '77-'79)
Godspeed You Black Emperor-LIFT YOUR SKINNY FISTS TO HEAVEN (Kranky)
Luomo-VOCALCITY (Force Tracks)/Uusitalo-VAAPA
MUURARI LIVE (Force Inc. Music Works)
A project by Finnish electronica procuer Vladislav Delay, Luomo takes on house music, adopting vocals and 4/4 beats but subtly playing around with the form through unusual textures and dub effects. The album released under hisrellst name, Uusitalo, is similar, but tones downs the beats, finding a middle ground between glitch and house.
David Mancuso-PRESENTS THE LOFT VOL. 2 (Nuphonic '70-'94)
Possibly the most electic DJ mix compilation I've ever seen. Who else would throw together Nuyorican Soul, reggae producer Joe Gibbs, Steve Miller and the Orb on one CD? However, this collects plenty of worthwhile obscurities - after the first 5 minutes of vocals end, the Miller track is quite good - and hangs together quite well.
Mystikal-LET'S GET READY (Jive)
My guilty pleasure of the year, album division. In its juxtaposition of Mystikal's unusually varied flow and raspy vocal s against electronica-tinged beats, this is almost as adventurous pop as Radiohead, and "Shake Ya Ass" does a great job of evoking early 70s James Brown . Unfortunately, it sounds best the less intelligible his lyrics (which may set a new record for the use of the word "bitch," even in hip-hop) are.
Quasimoto-THE UNSEEN (Stones Throw)
Radiohead-KID A (Capitol)
I have little to add to the kudos for this suprisingly popular album, except that it's refreshing not to feel like a total elitist all the time.
Sigur Ros-AGAETIS BYRJUN (Fat
The musical equivalent of LES AMANTS DU PONT-NEUF or MAGNOLIA: self-indulgent, sentimental, melodramatic and utterly beautiful. Blending guitars, keyboards and strings into each other, this Icelandic band (whose androgynous-sounding singer sings in his native language) recalls Godspeed You Black Emperor at 16 rpm. Refraining from conventional verse/chorus/verse structure, Sigur Ros instead bases their songs on swooping crescendoes. My favorite album of the year so far.
Sun Ra-PATHWAYS TO UNKNOWN WORLDS/FRIENDLY LOVE (Evidence '73)
PATHWAYS, originally released on Impulse in 1975, is a decent free jazz album, but the previously unreleased FIENDLY LOVE is the real revelation, creating a really unusual texture by using low-toned horns (many of them custom designed by the Arkestra), no bass or drum kit and very low-fi production.
Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek-REFLECTION ETERNAL (Rawkus)
What Common's LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE might have been without the filler and lapses into bad faith: the debut by one half of Black Star has thoughtful lyrics, varied production and holds together quite as well as an whole, unlike many bloated hip-hop albums. Only the celebrity testimonials are a real annoyance, albeit a minor one.
Louis Armstrong-THE COMPLETE HOT FIVE AND HOT SEVEN RECORDINGS 4-cd
box set (Legacy/Columbia '25-'29)
A beautifully packaged and well-mastered collection; although much of this material has been out before, it's never been put in one place with such sterling sound quality.
Baxendale-YOU WILL GET
YOUR REVENGE (Le Grand Magistery)
Militantly fey synth-pop group (check the anti-rockist anthems "Music For Girls" and "I Love The Sound Of Dance Music") sounds like a cross between Pulp and the Pet Shop Boys, and it took me about six listens to decide if they're really clever or really annoying. I finally settled on the former.
Dead C.-s/t (Language Recordings)
Four years in the making, this 108-minute epic, makes noise sound incredibly soothing.
Various Artists-DOOB DOOB O'RAMA 2 (Normal)
Largely a novelty album, but the variety of styles mixed and matched on this compilation of Bollywood soundtrack music is breahtaking, and some of the singers are surprisingly soulful. The liner notes don't list recording dates, although they do mention what films these songs are from.
Various Artists-ETHIOPIQUES 8: SWINGING ADDIS (Buda '69-'74)
B. Fleischmann-A CHOIR OF EMPTY BEDS (Fuzzy Box)
Austrian electronica producer with a variety of styles, but a fairly warm, melodic feel even when he delves into glitch and drum'n'bass. At best, this comes closer to the spirit to Eno's ANOTHER GREEN WORLD than anything I've heard in years.
Go-Betweens-THE FRIENDS OF RACHEL WORTH (Jetset)
As a rule, reunion albums really suck, yet this one is actually an improvement over the last two albums released by the Go-Betweens' original incarnation.
Emmylou Harris-RED DIRT GIRL (Nonesuch)
Judging from the sampling of Harris solo albums I've heard, I've concluded that she works best in collaboration with other singers. However, this is the best album I've heard by her, combining a set of gorgeous songs with a swampy, slightly murky production - including breakbeat loops! -that lends them a haunting, Southern Gothic quality. A couple of songs feel a bit New Agey, and choosing Dave Matthews as a duet partner was a big mistake, but overall, this is excellent.
Antonio Carlos Jobim-JOBIM (Verve '73)
A really beautiful album by the Brazilian singer/songwriter, recorded in New York with mellow-yet-unsettling orchestration by Eumir Deodato. It makes me wish that Jobim had collaborated with Scott Walker or Jacques Brel.
Mr. Lif-"Farmhand" 12" (Grand Royal)
Creatively produced (including banjo) conscious rap from a Boston MC on the Beastie Boys' label.
People Under The Stairs-QUESTION IN THE FORM OF AN ANSWER (OM)
This underground L.A. hip-hop group resembles a more macho Dilated Peoples. Unlike Dilated Peoples, they're capable of writing lyrics with actual subject matter, ranging from the thuggish (shoot-outs with cops, nightclub fights) to the geeky (their ode to thrift-store vinyl shopping, "43 Labels I Like," would certainly get them hired at Championship Vinyl.) The endless, belligerent battle rhymes get tiresome, but they're skillful producers, with a real knack for booming drum breaks. I guess the thrifting paid off, although none of the samples are credited.
Sensational-"Party Jumpin' " 12" (Matador)/HEAVYWEIGHTER (Wordsound)
It's taken me a while to warm up to the former Jungle Brother's mush-mouthed, low-fi style - despite his many references to weed, it sounds like novocaine is his real drug of choice - but this single is pretty approachable. The album is a bit less slick, except for one song where he sprung for a real studio, but a great deal better than his last one. (The fact that it's 45 minutes long, rather than 75, may have something to do with it.) His odes to sex, drugs and money don't break any new ground - in fact, I have to wonder if the materialism is intended as a parody, since rapping about "expensive things" over a very cheap drum machine recorded on a 4-track is rather contradictory - but his voice pushes generic rhymes towards psychedelia.
6ths-HYACINTHS AND THISTLES
In the wake of the Magnetic Fields' 69 LOVE SONGS, the second album by Stephin Merritt's guest-vocalist project can't help feeling like a footnote. Avoiding the Casio sounds and cluttered production of the first 6ths album, it strays towards the cabaret and away from new wave. Not bad, but one of the weakest albums Merritt has ever released. Closing with 30 minutes of 2-chord synth drone doesn't help.
At first, this struck me as the mellowest Sun Ra album I've ever heard, apart from some of his very early work. (Its proto-acid jazz/trip-hop buzz led me to expect a non-stop breakbeat frenzy.) But further listens have revealed far more layers of tonal and rhythmic complexity. I've been waiting years for this to come out on CD, and I'm excited to see that Evidence has also reissued 4 more Sun Ra albums.
Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek-"Move Somethin' " cd5 (Rawkus)
Undisputed Truth-THE COSMIC TRUTH (Motown '75)
Aaliyah-"Try Again" cd5 (Virgin)
Analog Brothers-PIMP TO EAT (Pimprex/Ground Control)
Beach Boys-LOVE YOU (Capitol '77)
Chicks On Speed-WILL SAVE US ALL (Chicks On Speed)
Common-LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE (MCA)
Miles Davis-BIG FUN (Legacy/Columbia '74)
Shelby Lynne-I AM SHELBY LYNNE (Mercury)
Pauline Oliveros-PRIMORDIAL LIFT (Table of the Elements)
Santana-ABRAXAS (Legacy/Columbia '70)
Jimmy Smith-ROOT DOWN (Verve '72)
Steely Dan-AJA (MCA '77)
Cale/Conrad/MacLise/Young/Zazee-INSIDE THE DREAM SYNDICATE (Table of the Elements '65)
DJ Cam-LOA PROJECT (VOLUME II) (Six Degrees)
Largely instrumental hip-hop with lots of jazz samples. It doesn't have a whole lot of individual personality, but it's quite pleasant and certainly demonstrates the breadth of this French DJ's production skills, which also touch on reggae ("Ganja Man") and Timbaland-style R&B ("You Do Something To Me," the only song featuring full-fledged vocals.)
Miles Davis-GET UP WITH IT (Legacy/Columbia '74)
Although this has been available as an import for about a decade, Sony has only now gotten around to releasing it domestically. The final studio album before Miles' 1976-1981 "retirement," it showcases the entire range of his 70s work, from the half-hour ambient "He Loved Him Madly" to the abrasive, proto-drum & bass "Rated X."
An offshoot of Montreal collective Godspeed You Black Emperor, Exahust have come up with a really original sound, mixing breakbeats, clarinet and murky spoken-word tapes.
Future Bible Heroes-"I'm Lonely (And I Love It)" cd5 (Merge)
A 5-song EP from one of Stephin Merritt's many side projects, this recalls the synth-pop orientation of early Magnetic Fields, conjuring up memories of Gary Numan and Soft Cell, with Merritt's typical witty lyrics. If released in 1981, MTV would have been all over it.
Jay-Z featuring UGK-"Big Pimpin' " cd5 (Def Jam)
My guilty pleasure single of the year so far. Despite the lyrics' crass sexism and materialism, Timbaland's Arabic backing track rocks, and the cd5 graciously includes an instrumental.
Matrix-VARIOUS FILMS (Chain Reaction)
Minimalist electronica that makes great background music, but I've found it practically impossible to pay attention to for more than a 5-minute stretch.
Modest Mouse-THE MOON & ANTARTICA (Epic)
Willie Nelson-RED-HEADED STRANGER (Legacy/Columbia '75)
Raspberries-POWER POP VOLUME TWO (RPM '73-'74)
A collection of the Raspberries' final two albums, much of this is pretty amazing power pop (that never forgets the power), the equal of Badfinger and early 70s Todd Rundgren and almost within reach of Big Star.
Belle & Sebastian-"Legal Man" cd5/FOLD YOUR HANDS CHILD, YOU WALK
LIKE A PEASANT (Matador)
Widely lauded, FOLD YOUR HANDS strikes me as OK but pretty underwhelming, but THE BOY WITH THE ARAB STRAP took a long time to sink in and proved to have real staying power once it did, so I haven't made up my mind yet. "Legal Man" is gimmicky as hell, but quite catchy.
Herbie Hancock-FLOOD (Sony '75)
A very eclectic live album, kicking off in a traditional jazz vein and getting weirder and funkier from there. One long passage sounds like the organ part from "Sister Ray" over breakbeats. If only the motherfuckers at Sony's jazz department would get their act together and put this out domestically,along with the Weather Report's LIVE IN TOKYO.
Jurassic 5-QUALITY CONTROL (Interscope)
The long-awaited debut for this neo-old school hip-hop group doesn't disappoint, and Cut Chemist's adventurous production and choice of samples keep them from sounding like the rap equivalent of the Black Crowes. It's too bad the positive vibe gets marred by a dis of "bitch-ass queers" on one song.
Krokodil-AN INVISIBLE WORLD REVEALED (Second Battle '71)
Despite my love for Krautrock, I've never explored the more mainstream byways of early 70s German rock until now. Although not particularly innovative, this album is as good as the best Anglo-American hard rock of the period: an interesting mix of psychedelia, blues and heavy metal. (One song alternates between sounding like "Iron Man" and "Strawberry Fields Forever.")
Mike Ladd-WELCOME TO THE AFTERFUTURE (Ozone)
A friend of the Anti-Pop Consortium and Saul Williams (and collaborator with Company Flow here), Ladd's album strays even further from hip-hop orthodoxy than TRAGIC EPILOGUE: full of dystopian sci-fi imagery, adventurous backing tracks and the only reference to the Fall I've ever heard in a rap song.
Herbie Mann-STONE FLUTE (Wounded Bird '70)
Despite Mann's long career of schlock, this album (which features Roy Ayers, Sonny Sharrock, Ron Carter and a string section) is an ambient masterwork, one of the most successful extensions of the ethos of Miles Davis' IN A SILENT WAY I've ever heard. Douglas Watson aptly suggested that it should have been called STONED FLUTE.
A victim of the CD age's demand for longer running times. Alternating between excellence (esp. the first 5 tracks) and New Age twaddle (unfortunately, most of the instrumentals are closer to Windham Hill than Eno or good Phillip Glass), it might actually have deserved its ranking on all those 1999 Top 10 lists if it were 15 minutes shorter.
Pole has slowly evolved from the dub mixes of static of their first album, with the dub gradually rising to the foreground, creating something that sounds like a very scratched reggae album on a mono AM radio. That may not sound like a compliment, but it's pretty haunting if you're in the right mood.
Royal Trux-POUND FOR POUND (Drag City)
When Royal Trux abandoned the weirdness of their early albums for an early 70s Stones/Santana-influenced sound upon signing to Virgin, I tuned out, but they've stuck with the style and gotten better at it. It's rare these days to hear such a good, relatively straightforward rock band; in a better world, they'd be tearing up the ariwaves, not Creed.
Ornette Coleman-SKIES OF AMERICA (Columbia '72)
Dilated Peoples-THE PLATFORM (Capitol)
Funkstorung-APPETITE FOR DISCSTRUCTION (Studio K7)
Green Velvet-s/t (F-111)
Aimee Mann-BACHELOR NO. 2, OR THE LAST REMAINS OF THE DODO (Superego)
Primal Scream-XTRMNTR (Astralweks)
Promise Ring-"Electric Pink" cd5 (Jade Tree)
Siouxise & the Banshees-THE SCREAM (Geffen '78)
Sleater-Kinney-ALL HANDS ON THE BAD ONE (Kill Rock Stars)
Specials-THE SINGLES COLLECTION (Chrysalis '79-'84)
Amin Tobin-SUPERMODIFIED (Ninja Tune)
Travis-THE MAN WHO (Epic)
David Axelrod-SONGS OF INNOCENCE (Ascension '68)
Various Artists-THE BIG PLAYBACK (Rawkus)
Buzzcocks-TIME'S UP (Mute '76)
Flying Burrito Brothers-HOT BURRITOS! ANTHOLOGY 1969-1972 (A&M)
Robbie Fulks-LET'S KILL SATURDAY NIGHT (Geffen '98)
Fela Kuti-COFFIN FOR HEAD OF STATE/UNKNOWN SOLDIER (MCA '79-'80)
<<rinoçérose>>-INSTALLATION SONIQUE (V2)
Elliott Smith-FIGURE 8 (Dreamworks)
Le Tigre-s/t (Mr. Lady)
Toots & the Maytals-REGGAE GREATS (Island '68-'84)
Cat Power-THE COVERS RECORD (Matador)
Various Artists-CLICKS + CUTS (Mille Plateaux)
Console-ROCKET IN THE POCKET (Matador)
Dilated Peoples-"The Platform" cd5 (Capitol)
Various Artists-JAZZACTUEL (Charly '68-'71)
Kid Koala-CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME (Ninja Tune)
Fela Kuti-EXPENSIVE SHIT/HE MISS ROAD (MCA '75)
Various Artists-MIXED UP IN THE HAUGE (Panama)
Mekons-JOURNEY TO THE END OF NIGHT (Quarterstick)
Sonny Sharrock-BLACK WOMAN (Vortex/Atlantic '69)
Anti-Pop Consortium-TRAGIC EPILOGUE (75 Ark)
MC Paul Barman-IT'S VERY STIMULATING (Wordsound)
Buzzcocks-SPIRAL SCRATCH (Mute '77)
Led Zeppelin-HOUSES OF THE HOLY (Atlantic '73)
Aimee Mann-WHATEVER (DGC '93)
Misfits-BEWARE AND THE REST (bootleg)
Peace Orchestra-s/t (G-Stone)
Siamese Temple Ball-s/t (no label)
Elliott Smith-"Happiness" cd5 (Dreamworks)
Luke Vibert/B.J. Cole-STOP THE PANIC (Astralwerks)
Yo La Tengo-AND THEN NOTHING TURNED ITSELF INSIDE-OUT (Matador)
Warren Zevon-LIFE'LL KILL YA (Artemis)
Chappaquidick Skyline-s/t (Sub Pop)
Various Artists-EARLY MODULATIONS: VINTAGE VOLTS (Caipirinha)
Barbara Manning & the Go-Luckys-HOMELESS WHERE THE HEART IS (Naiv)
Soundtrack-MAGNOLIA (Reprise) Minus the Supertramp songs, of course.
New Kingdom-PARADISE DON'T COME CHEAP (Gee Street '96)
Will Oldham-ODE MUSIC (Drag City)
Longineu Parsons-SPACED (Ubiquity '80-'99)
Suicide-s/t (Mute '78)
Yo La Tengo-"Saturday" cd5 (Matador)