Thursday, December 31, 2009

Perspective is key.

Consider this a happy new year sort of post—

Although I am not a huge subscriber to the philosophy that new year is a time for new beginnings and a cleaning of the slate, I do think it is definitely a recognizable milestone nonetheless.

However, it should be noted...

It's good to take a step back and look at things in the bigger picture.

Life is a wheel. You may be at the bottom now, but, soon enough, you will rise to the top again... only to fall again...

...and rise again.

Keep that in mind.

Cheers and safety to all—


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Moonrise at dusk.

Such a bright contrast between hanging clouds and a near-full moon.

Picked up David Sylvian's Manafon this afternoon. Too early for any clear headed assessments, but I am fairly taken aback by it — even going in knowing it was basically the sequel to Blemish. Stark, spacious, bleak and strangely gorgeous. An involving listen for sure, but worth every second.

More year end wrap-ups forthcoming.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Book review: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

Caught the last half of the film adaptation of this book on cable years ago and have wanted to read it ever since. Well, finally got around to it...

The mood and atmosphere of Newfoundland that Proulx conjures up in her narrative is astounding. Very unsettling and simultaneously fascinating. A wonderful swirl of grey confusion that engulfs and envelopes the reader, fully immersing them into the story's setting: a rare feat fully accomplished.

However, everything else is a mess.

I also do kind of like that you never know the main character's first name -- only the somewhat cursed surname that he will forever be latched onto within a certain demographic.

But sheesh, the sentence fragments are jarring. Even the characters speak in sentence fragments, ferchrissakes! It seems a nice quirk at the outset, but by chapter 30, you'll still just be reading because you've made it this far and there's no use in not finishing it now.

I've no clue what the story is supposed to mean. Seems to me like some sort of modern day pseudo-existential tale of a late blooming man that is so pitiful he eventually becomes semi-likable just because we, as the reader, are in his head so much. This fact and this fact alone: not because he has endearing qualities that reveal themselves over time, not because he grows and becomes a new man, no; simply because we hear about what he's doing and his thoughts about the events constantly. Eventually, whether you like them or not, you start to care in a twisted sort of way.

And this is where the book becomes more of a soap opera than an actual well told tale.

The ending seems extremely forced and quick. After three hundred pages of dully narrated uneventful drudge, hey he falls in love again and the other guy comes back from the dead... within the last few paragraphs.

Uhhhmm, what?


If you like the mood and ambiance that Albert Camus and Henry James create through pages of meticulous, well-practiced and worthwhile perfected craft, you will find positive, redeeming aspects in the Shipping News. Otherwise, it's got aspects of that mood, but the actual story is negligible, if not completely forgettable.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Now the weather outside is just plain inordinate.

We rarely, if ever, see fog in Reno. Not to mention, fog this thick that sticks around for extended periods.

No, that's not just a fuzzy image; the fog is just that thick.

However, because of the higher elevation of Reno, this is freezing fog. To give an example of how thick it actually is, here's another shot taken from the same vantage point as the last one, except using a flash:

It was pretty much foggy all day. In my twenty two years as a Reno resident, I don't ever recall fog sticking around this long.

Strange times.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

The weather outside is frightful.

So I woke up Monday morning to this:

A huge sigh of relief when I heard that school was canceled for the day and I had the day off to shovel and shovel and shovel. We accumulated about five inches of snow over the course of Sunday night and the on/off showers throughout the day Monday. Well, it continued to go on and off all through the week until last night, when it dumped another several inches starting just as the sun was setting and lasting until well into the night.

After a few more hours shoveling this morning, I finally cleared the driveway to my satisfaction:

A quick measurement of the accumulation at the end of the driveway revealed this:

That sort of accumulation is expected up in the mountains and around Lake Tahoe, but we rarely ever see the snow fall heavily enough —and stick around— to accumulate that much.

While shoveling this morning, the sun came out and I snapped these bright shots looking south into the breaking clouds:

We're supposed to see more snow this evening.



Thursday, December 10, 2009

Albums of the past decade: 2001

Continuing in the series. Some important stuff was released in the good old ought-one. Again, alphabetic...

The Appleseed Cast – Low Level Owl Volumes One & Two

Erroneously referred to as a band picking up on the prog-rock thing or answering Radiohead's call with the experimentally swayed Kid A/Amnesiac combo, this was actually the Cast's big move into evolving from humble emo beginnings into a super serious guitar rock band obsessed with sound and mood. Volume one came out on September 11th and volume two about a month later. And such epic, melancholy and wide scoped music enhanced the downtrodden but hopeful sentiment of the day immensely. I have a hard time talking about this album in retrospect because it has become part of my life and I still play it fairly regularly. The band were hailed as the next generation of American rock music by a select few, but the hype was squandered away in the subsequent lineup changes and a couple missteps as follow-ups (which we'll get to). These two albums, though, stand as a major revelation for me as a music fan and they changed my perspective on quite a few things. A strange recollection associated with this album: 'View of a Burning City' seemed a little too relevant as a title because of a couple things 1) the obvious things going on on the East Coast at the time and 2) a vicious wildfire burning roughly ten miles west of Reno cast a thick layer smoke of across the horizon for days on end that made the air very brown and eerie. Probably one of my favorite albums ever recorded.

Beulah — The Coast is Never Clear

Few bands did straight honest pop as well as Beulah did. And, on this album, they did it so well, in fact, that it took me years to fully get it. Miles Kurosky is perhaps the modern day king of the longing melancholy pop song and this album illustrates that exceedingly well with hummable downers like "Night is the Day Turned Inside Out", "A Good Man is Easy to Kill", "I'll Be Your Lampshade" and "What Will You Do When Your Suntan Fades?" It literally took years for me to see the absolute sunshiney brilliance of tunes like "Gene Autry" and "Popular Mechanics For Lovers." The last album Beulah made in this vein, and while maybe not the complete onslaught of uber-pop wizardry that their previous album was, this one was a fantastically bittersweet farewell to the style. But, hey, we all gotta grow up, right?

Bjork – Vespertine

Just a snapshot of how great Bjork is: this album isn't her most creative or even her best work, and yet it's still one of the best albums of the decade, easily. It's Bjork's love album. So, appropriately, it's a warm and beautiful sounding piece of work that only grows in resonance with each listen. And it is one of those albums that doesn't sound completely right unless you play it front to back: the mark of a complete and resounding affair.

Buck65 — Man Overboard

Probably Buck's most personal work, with songs like the tribute to his then recently deceased mother and ultimate dirty laundry airing "Pants On Fire." I either heard or read someone calling Buck's style "sampler jamming" and it made complete sense if you think about it in the jam band sense. It literally sounds like a dude just completely vibing off the sounds in his sampler. And I mean that in the best possible way. Probably considered "nerd rap" by this point, but I think Buck would probably be happy with that tag. Maybe his best album.

Ron Carter — Stardust

Another strong one in Ron's new millennium stream of records. This one finds Ron in a different setting than his other Blue Notes of the time, as it's a completely different band and there's actually a horn (Benny Golson) and vibes (Joe Locke) present. Because of those additions, this is easily one of Ron's most approachable recent releases. It's much more in a standard mainstream mode and, while no great revelations occur, the versions of "Nearly" and "Bohemia After Dark" are a notch above satisfying, to say the least. It was the first Ron Carter record I picked up on its release date, so it holds a bit of sentimental value for me in that respect, but, in the long run, it's just a typically good-to-great session from one of my all time favorites.

The Chameleons – Why Call it Anything?

It seems silly to say this, especially when you consider their three landmark albums released in the 1980's, but I truly feel like this is the Chameleons' most well-rounded and satisfying album. It incorporates different and diverse sounds cherry picked from the band members' solo projects that were released in the band's thirteen year break. For example, a song like "Shades" may sound a little too muscular on a Chameleons album, but not when you think back to Mark Burgess' Invincible project. Likewise, the rastafied, lounging in the sun melodicism of "Miracles and Wonders" seems completely out of place initially, but go back and give the Reegs another listen and it may not sound that strange. But, in addition, there were vintage sounding atmospheric rockers like "Lufthansa", "Anyone Alive?" and "Dangerous Land." A shame that it wasn't recognized as more than just a reunion effort, because truly, something this revelatory and direction changing is noteworthy within any band's catalogue.

David Axelrod – David Axelrod

And now, the big one. If I were to say that this album changed my life, that may come off as corny and hyperbolic. So, to sidestep that issue, I'll just say that it permanently changed the way I listened to music. There are so many things about this album, so many little moments, so many technical nerd instances that I could carry on at great (incredibly boring) lengths about. But I won't. I think the most anybody can say about an album they hold in as high regard as I hold this one is that it literally changed the way I think about music. And it also happened to be one of the most challenging, most listened to and ultimately, most satisfying albums I've ever heard. Probably my pick for album of the decade.

Death Cab For Cutie – The Photo Album

And then there's albums like this: nothing all that revelatory, but so well-executed and and such a great extension of the artist's previous work that it's arguably their most enduring work. Death Cab certainly struck back quickly after the previous year's album and EP and it feels less like a band simply releasing something to keep their name out there and more like a band just continuing to record material because it's coming that plentiful and in that high of quality. Indeed, this material obviously has become to mean a lot for the band because they still play some of these songs on every tour. At the time, it just felt like an extension of Facts and Forbidden Love, but with little nuances all over the record and the follow up EP (which we'll get to), it subtly pointed the way towards what was next for the band. Songs like "We Laugh Indoors", "Coney Island" and "Debate Exposes Doubt" were all top flight tunes by anybody's watch, but they were all infused with a sense of movement and progression past this style. In a cool move, the vinyl version has an extra song and that song ("Gridlock Caravans") helps the transition from the more stark first half of the album move into the dreamier second half incredibly well. So, I guess, consider this mention for the vinyl version.

De La Soul — AOI: Bionix

Initially, I was all over this album because it wasn't the absolute letdown that Mosaic Thump was. Sure, it had a lot more replay value, but it was still spotty. However, spotty still means good at certain points. And, man. Those good points were excellent on this album: "Held Down" was Posdnous' completely relatable plea-copping for modern religion and "Trying People" is a poignant post-9/11 manifesto that still gives me chills. Spotty, sure. But, at the time, it felt like the true follow up to Stakes is High and I loved it. My feelings have waned slightly, but I still like it a lot more than Mosaic Thump.

The Durutti Column — Rebellion

And so begins one of the great prolific streaks of high quality output in modern times. "4 Sophia" swoops in and you know it's a Durutti album right off the bat. I'd say that the sort of super pretty, effects heavy solo electric guitar mini-epic that opens the album had become cliche for Vini by this point if someone else was doing it, but... they weren't (and still aren't, but I digress). "Longsight Romance" is the first of many things for Vini and the rest of the album nearly seems like a blueprint for what was to follow over the next several years. There's the two part "Mello", amongst a smattering of odd world music inspired Euro-raps, along with some vintage sampled vocal and solo guitar masterpieces. However, it's all rendered somewhat irrelevant by the amazing Elli Rudge feature (her last new recording with the band) "Falling." It seems every album recently, Vini finds this wonderful composition and puts these heavenly female vocals on top of it, as if to say, 'Hey world, here's some pure beauty for you.' And here's the scary part: this is kind of a second tier Durutti album from this era.

Five Deez — Koolmotor

Even for a hip hop album released at this point, Koolmotor stood out as something that was just different from everything else. And it was undeniably feel good without being corny. It did contain some tracks tackling the essence of the college attending twenty-somethings of the new millennium in the sense that it was surely unsure. It conveyed a vibe of profound irrelevance; the realization of existing as a human being roaming around planet Earth. Seems a little heavy-handed and overtly "deep man" but it was all executed with a sense of objectivity. Amidst features from Japanese rappers (yes, rapping in Japanese), soft house tracks, serendipitous "neo-soul" songs that sounded better than most of the people who were actually trying and dudes rapping sarcastically about how they "shoot sperm in shape of dollar signs" (a relevant joke at that point, considering all the willful selling out), the album was perhaps too dense for most. But, seriously, I've never played it for any self-respecting hip hop head that didn't love it. Truly, it rivals things like OutKast or Aceyalone in terms of really thinking man's music being passed off as pedestrian headphone listening. One of the sleeper hits of the hip hop decade for sure.

Jay-Z — The Blueprint

Although extremely overrated in its aftermath, this was a darn fine Jay-Z album. I feel like it has gotten a lot of unnecessary praise simply based on the fact that it was the first Jay-Z album since Reasonable Doubt that was less than 25% filler. At the time, it pointed the direction back towards samples in beats and an all around more soulful, earnest approach to hip hop in general. That of course didn't last and Jay-Z never made another album this strong again.

Kristin Hersh – Sunny Border Blue

Never has an album been this willingly poppy and simultaneously difficult. And, since it's Kristin Hersh, you know that these songs are autobiographic and as heartfelt as a set of songs can get. So, after those first few listens where everything needs to assert itself its own identity before you can properly assess it, it all comes flooding in at you. Every last song here (even her countrified cover of Cat Stevens' "Trouble")is an emotional rush. Sure, it may not all be completely coherent (I still don't fully grasp "White Suckers"), but the tonality of this music just emits personal revelation. A full-on confessional singer songwriter pop record from that weird little lady that tries occasionally to be not so weird.

Maxwell – Now

Speaking of confessional, this, like all of Maxwell's work, puts up the facade of speaking in a very specific way about something nondescript. But it's actually misleading in the sense that all of these songs (again, except the cover tune; Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" in this case) are autobiographic. Hiding behind the mask of simple R&B crooner, Max created an intensely personal breakup album that was not only his tightest and best work up until that point as an arranger, it set the stage in a very dramatic way for the silence that followed. I think, for an artist coming off of two albums containing such personally vivid subject matter silence was the only appropriate follow up. Still an underrated album in the bigger picture.

Natalie Merchant – Motherland

Had those terrible things not happened on that Tuesday morning in September, a lot of the music being discussed here may not have so instantaneously mirrored the times as well as it did and does. Motherland is another example of that. I was not hip to this album until fairly recently, but its somber mood and large scale scope has a lot in common with the sentiment of the day and its inherent consequences. T-Bone Burnett's predictably bluesy roots rock production lends itself well to Natalie's music, as it's stripped of its adult contempo smoothness and the rough edges are left to stick out and be completely conspicuous. I'm often reminded of Buffalo Springfield, Bob Dylan's mid-1970's output or perhaps early Band when I listen to this album. Throw Natalie's now rougher and grittier voice atop that warm, rootsy musical stew and you get an album that could be a musical meeting of the minds gone wrong, but instead has enough seemingly minute details considered to make it one of the most rewarding sidesteps by a contemporary musician.

New Order — Get Ready

While I certainly was not in love with it at first —and it's still not amongst my favorite New Order albums— it has really come into its own in the band's catalogue. It was certainly a little louder and definitely a lot more contemporary sounding than I had hoped for, but the songs were all there. "60 Miles An Hour" in particular was, to me, a classic New Order song that they had just been sitting on. Hooky was a little more in the background than I preferred, but he was still there in some capacity, so it was Ok. It really was an Ok album. Despite the Billy Corgan feature.

Radiohead — Amnesiac

My personal favorite Radiohead album. For all the accolades and hyperbole thrown at them this past decade, I have to say, for this album, they truly sounded important. A working musical unit that considered every move they made as if what they were doing would affect the entire world. This album tries to do everything and succeeds at all of it. Anthems ("Pyramid Song" and "I Might Be Wrong"), classic guitar rock ("Knives Out" and "Dollars & Cents"), weird electro experiments ("Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" and "Like Spinning Plates") and downright uncharacteristic songs that are clearly evidence of a band challenging itself ("Life In A Glass House"). Throw in one of the most thought out album sequences of the decade and there you have it: Radiohead's best album that is simultaneously their most diverse and their most listenable.

Yesterday's New Quintet — Angles Without Edges

Basically just hip hop producer Madlib sitting around in his home studio getting stoned out of his mind and tripping off some old albums on the CTI label. Nothing wrong with that. Sure, pedestrian as far as actual jazz chops went, but the vibes and moody beats he created with his array of drum sounds and plethora of keyboards was nothing if not downright fun. The best part was, he tried to say it was an actual working band of musicians at the time, but everybody knew it was Madlib just sitting around really figuring out how to actually play instruments. The demo tape quality was part of its charm.

That was a great year in music for me.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Albums of the past decade: 2000

Hi, so like a lot of other semi-music focused things, I am going to take some time out and reflect across the past decade as it was heard through my ears. There is a catch to everything I am presenting though: I will be including all the albums that made an impression on me on some way. Positive, negative, full length, EP, relevant and irreverent — it will all be here and it will all be fair game.

So, to start at the beginning, here are my picks for the year of 2000. For convenience, things are listed in alphabetic order.

The Appleseed Cast — Mare Vitalis

I likened it to a noisy sonic rendition of Albert Camus in my initial review and while I'm not quite sure what I was getting at back then, it has stood up incredibly and can now be recognized as the band's big leap forward. The longer song forms, the more complicated arpeggios and guitar layers, the shying away from screamo vocals... it's all there as a good foundation for the rest of the band's catalogue. They certainly got better, but for all intents and purposes, the Appleseed Cast, as they became to be known, starts here.

Erykah Badu — Mama's Gun

An outright beautiful album with a brilliantly realized epic scope, it was definitely one I did not see coming. I expected to like it and bought it on its release date, but I just did not see something this perfected and cohesive coming from Erykah Badu. It articulately touches on many themes of love and loss in a wholly unique way and that alone makes it one of the decade's best albums. But musically, it also represents a landmark as well: it was one of a few meetings of the production super group, the Soulquarians, masterminded by the Roots' Questlove and spearheaded by James Poyser and the late James "J Dilla" Yancey. Albums are rarely as complete as this.

Bjork — Selmasongs

I hated it the first few times I played it. To this day, it's probably my least favorite Bjork album, but it does have a couple really worthwhile songs that sound less like Bjork performing in character and more like Bjork the musician developing her sound. And, as such things go, those two or three tracks provide a wonderful preview for her following album. But as a proper Bjork album, it's probably her most challenging and overall, not that rewarding.

Blackalicious — Nia

This is the hip hop album that made me question whether or not I should continue to call the sonic backdrops in hip hop just 'beats.' Because, disregarding the absolutely strong lyrical performance by the Gift of Gab, Chief Xcel's production on this album made the term 'beats' seem wholly inadequate. Lush layers of chunky drums and melodic samples mingled with live instruments like nothing and it all blended together to make for a downright feel good affair.

Ron Carter — When Skies Are Grey...

One of a string of recent Ron Carter albums that finds him in perhaps the happiest mood of his entire career. It's almost like, with his more recent Blue Notes, he's saying, 'Yeah, I've changed the face of jazz in the past, now it's time to have fun.' And on this Latin-themed session, it's all about that. Latin jazz standards like 'Corcovado' and 'Cubano Chant' show up in outstanding, though far from revelatory, renditions that place enthusiasm over experience. Sure, this album, maybe even more than any of Carter's sessions with him, could be viewed as more of Stephen Scott feature than a proper Ron Carter album, but that's not the point. The point is that this is a fun album by a living legend.

The Chameleons — Strip

I too cried foul when the reunion was announced and the first album was basically an acoustic rehearsal tape. But the years, like all of the Chams' music, have been kind to this one. At the the time, I often skipped ahead to the two new songs at the end: the surprisingly Durutti Column-ish instrumental 'Road to San Remo' and the equally as eye-opening first, rootsy sun-baked run-through of 'Indian' (later to be resurrected as 'Indiana'; but we'll get to that). If I hadn't been so impatient, I'd have noticed somewhat revelatory revisions of old favorites like 'Less Than Human', 'Nathan's Phase', 'On the Beach' and especially 'Soul In Isolation.' A good table setter.

Coastal — self-titled

You know an album is worthwhile when you hear it for the first time roughly eight years after it was released and it still sounds fresh. Such is the case with Coastal's first album. It's that plodding slowcore sound, but in more a pop-oriented mode than say, Sigur Ros or Low. Pure slow, pretty, glacial brilliance. An album that I revisit frequently.

Coldplay — Parachutes

Sure, it's easy to look back at it in retrospect cynically now, but at the time? It truly displaced my life for a good few months. It was like Radiohead's poppiest moments mellowing out with the Cure's most resonating singles, all the while having that yearning quality of deep down just wanting to be noisy melodic rock band. The formula has been abused by this point, but suspend all that revisionism, go back and listen to "Shiver" or "Don't Panic" and try not to enjoy the hell out of it. It'll be one of the hardest things you ever fail at.

Common — Like Water for Chocolate

Wow. I can't fathom where to begin with this album. Fuck it, I won't even try. In it's original form with the original "Geto Heaven Part Two," it's one of my top ten personal favorites of all time. Just know that. Words don't do it justice.

Nicola Conte — Jet Sounds/Bossa Per Due

This one blew my wig off as well. It was like, 'Wait... you can make an entire composition out of pure samples and still make it sound like jazz?!' He's moved on to bigger and better things since, but this album is pure sample weaving, lounge jazzy magic.

The Cure — Bloodflowers

I've loved this album since the first time I heard it. It's Robert Smith not trying to delude himself into thinking he's an arena rocker and just falling back on his old tricks. Old tricks for him, however, are entirely unique and special when compared to everyone else. One of those most representative of all of the Cure's albums, it holds a special sentimental place because it was my first 'new' album they released after becoming a fan.

D'Angelo — Voodoo

And a third Soulquarians-related release. This one actually came first in the year chronologically. It hasn't aged as well as Like Water For Chocolate or Mama's Gun, but it's one of those albums that I often underrate until I pull it off the shelf and play it again. Then I hear songs like "The Root," "Send it On" and "Africa" and it all makes sense again.

Death Cab for Cutie — We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes

Difficult second album, indeed. Besides "405" (which can be deceiving) this album is a labyrinth of regrets, minor changes and an overall melancholy outlook. I absolutely didn't get it upon initial listens. But, I've found throughout the years, it's probably the DCFC album that I go back to the most. Maybe not their most well-rounded album, but it still mines a certain mood and executes it perfectly for fourty minutes. And it was recorded in analouge. How can you not love that?

Death Cab for Cutie — The Forbidden Love EP

A wonderful companion piece, it contains two sprightly songs (the perennial live favorite "Photo Booth" and one of the band's most perfect pop songs, "Song For Kelly Huckaby") that weren't on the full length and make the EP totally worthwhile. The rest of the affair is great as well. Program a playlist of Facts and this EP and you get sixty one minutes of focused greatness.

De La Soul — Mosaic Thump

Awesome for the first listen, disappointing ever since. Sure, some songs still stick out ("Foolin'" mostly), but it was their first album in four years and mostly was average. I played it to death regardless. Simply because it was a new record by one of my favorite groups.

Doves — Lost Souls

It took years for this one to really make sense. And to this day, I don't think anybody (myself included) has really fully grasped what Doves are doing. A noisy, distinctly Manchester-bred, blend of anthemic hooks and sporadic danciness presented itself here for the first time. It was like Portishead meets the Chameleons meets Oasis. And, when it's all said and done, Lost Souls may go down as probably their most unfocused album. But still, who had the balls —then or now— to be this uncaringly aloof that their musical stew shouldn't work? An appropriately dense first work from one of the decade's best (and most undervalued) bands.

Earthlings? — self-titled

Weird sci-fi desert rat cartoon stoner rock. Supposedly, Dave Grohl plays drums on a few songs. Who cares when the music is this good? I've heard other things by them and they were nowhere near as fun or as unique. Truly a sleeper or hidden gem.

PJ Harvey — Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea

Really heartfelt, heart-tugging stuff from PJ in her self-professed pop mode. I've always thought that this was like PJ's ode to the Cure, as she writes these absolutely wrenching and emotional songs that have these epic, instantaneously memorable hooks. It's probably lame of me to admit this, but this is probably my favorite PJ album, just because it's the one that really hooks people.

Ahmad Jamal — Olympia 2000

Fantastic guest feature from George Coleman on a few tracks, but also the album that pinpointed Ahmad's big creative renaissance of the 2000's. In the classic Jamal mode, it finds him exploring his way through predictable standards in an unpredictable way. Probably one of his more fun albums of the latter half of his career.

The Ocean Blue — Denmark EP

The title track was an 80's jangle pop update from the group's comeback indie album, while the three b-sides were then recently recorded strummers that were 100% satisfying for fans. Oed Ronne's "Sweetheart, You're Surrounded" has become one of my all time favorite songs by the band.

OutKast — Stankonia

I actually didn't like at all at first. It came out the same day as Mama's Gun and it got put on the shelf indefinitely after one play. Time has been no less kind to it though. I still hate the singles, except "So Fresh, So Clean," which is Ok. The album cuts have a lot to offer in retrospect: "Gasoline Dreams," "Humble Mumble," "Spaghetti Junction"... all great songs. I was happy to see them get a bigger and brighter spotlight on the back of "B.O.B." and "Ms. Jackson." The unevenness of the album still bugs me though. Too eccentric for its own good. I can appreciate it on its own merits by now. But truly, coming after Aquemini, it was disappointment supreme for me.

Archer Prewitt — Gerroa Songs

Probably the Archer album I've listened to the most over the years. I can't say why that is, because I love those big, 70's pop style arrangements he usually does — and this is by far his most stripped down affair. He just seems so happy to be singing such miserable songs on this album. Not to mention, they are probably his most consistently catchy tunes. Sure, these songs reward intent listeners, but on the surface, they still have whistleable hooks. And plus, I love the photos on the cover art. Somehow, from music to cover art, I imagine this is probably the purest representation of what Archer is like as a person.

Radiohead — Kid A

So, never before have I been so resistant to something but loved it so much at the same time. I was not into liking "popular" stuff when this album came out, but when I actually heard some bits and pieces over internet previews, I was shocked that something that had so little to do with hip hop had so much in common with it. Even to this day, I kind of don't like that I like it. How well-sequenced is this album, too? Seriously, the first three songs are EPIC and then "Idioteque" is one of the last three tracks and it's one of the decade's best songs. How stupid of them, putting it that late into the album. But, seriously, it's one of the most well-rounded and perfectly realized albums of the decade. And, just maybe, it's the most representative album —for music as a whole— of the decade as well. I inevitably arrive at the point that: any album that's still as talked-about as much as this one is, this long after its initial release, is worth the hype.

Reflection Eternal — Train of Thought

Maaaaan, if it weren't Like For Chocolate, this would've been my hip hop album of the year. Another one of those albums that I underrate until I really sit down with it again. It represented —and still, represents— that really small portion of hip hop that strives to be as artistically relevant as anything else. But it doesn't have that, "Look at me!" quality to it. On the contrary, it's just that high quality and that well-executed. It really contributed to my contemporary philosophy of how important an album's sequencing is approached and how that affects the overall feeling and impact of the material. They —not even Talib or Hi-Tek— just don't make 'em like this anymore.

Sade — Lovers Rock

Yeah, when you talk Sade, it's just presumed that you're talking about that next level of musical quality. It's almost like, if everyone else is in considered the professional league of their country's athletics, Sade is the Olympic calibre athlete of the music world. And, while this album was more streamlined and poppy than her previous classic Love Deluxe, it was not a misstep or disappointment in even their most abstract of definitions. I have a hard time listening to this album and not getting uncontrollably excited, even to this day.

The Sea and Cake — OUI

On some days, my favorite S&C album, it's certainly their most cohesive album. I mean, there have been times that I've sat through this album two or three times straight, front-to-back and not noticed at all. A perfect synthesis of the band's dancy, orchestrated trip-pop and their loungey, jazz-inflected uniqueness. Outstanding.

Sonic Youth — NYC Ghosts & Flowers

Far from my favorite Sonic Youth album, I still find it's one of their albums that I revisit the most. I guess I do so because it's so unlike anything of theirs that came before or after it. It's a really labyrinthine album whose beginning and ending are easy to lose track of during consecutive listens. Some of the band's most inventive later-day guitar work is to be found here. Certainly not their most approachable album, but for longtime fans, consider it a hidden treat.

Trembling Blue Stars — Broken By Whispers

It's easy to listen to this album once, hear "Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise" and subsequently write off the rest of the album. But, as the Stars go, it is an album that takes multiple listens, sometimes even years (quite literally), to mature and grow into to the point where each song develops its own identity. When that finally does happen, it reveals itself to be a standard TBS affair. That is to say, a uniformly excellent, refined effort that is presented on produced, but defiantly modest, terms.

Sorry this first one took so long. The others are on the way.