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Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Jim Connelly's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Monday, January 15, 2007
Jesse Steichen's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Friday, January 12, 2007
Bill Bentley's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Tom Ridge's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Thursday, January 4, 2007
Lee Templeton's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Anthony Carew's 13 Fave Albums Of 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006
SXSW 2006: Finding Some Hope In Austin

Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Letter From New Orleans

Saturday, February 18, 2006
Jennifer Przybylski's Fave Albums of 2005

Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Music For Dwindling Days: Max Schaefer's Fave Recordings Of 2005

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Sean Fennessey's 'Best-Of' 2005

Thursday, January 12, 2006
Lori Miller Barrett's Fave Albums Of 2005

Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Lee Templeton's Favorite Recordings of 2005

Thursday, January 5, 2006
Michael Lach - Old Soul Songs For A New World Order

Wednesday, January 4, 2006
Found In Translation Emme Stone's Year In Music 2005

Tuesday, January 3, 2006
Dave Allen's 'Best-Of' 2005

Monday, January 2, 2006
Steve Gozdecki's Favorite Albums Of 2005

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Johnny Walker Black's Top 10 Of 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005
Neal Block's Favorite Recordings Of 2005

Thursday, December 15, 2005
Jenny Tatone's Year In Review

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Dave Renard's Fave Recordings Of 2005

Monday, December 12, 2005
Jennifer Kelly's Fave Recordings Of 2005

Thursday, December 8, 2005
Tom Ridge's Favorite Recordings Of 2005

Tuesday, December 6, 2005
Ben Gook's Beloved Albums Of 2005

Monday, December 5, 2005
Anthony Carew's Fave Albums Of 2005

Thursday, November 10, 2005
Prince, Spoon And The Magic Of The Dead Stop

Monday, September 12, 2005
The Truth About America

Monday, September 5, 2005
Tryin' To Wash Us Away

Monday, August 1, 2005
A Psyche-Folk Heat Wave In Western Massachusetts

Monday, July 18, 2005
Soggy But Happy At Glastonbury 2005

Monday, April 4, 2005
The SXSW Experience, Part 3: All Together Now

Friday, April 1, 2005
The SXSW Experience, Part 2: Dr. Dog's Happy Chords

Thursday, March 31, 2005
The SXSW Experience, Part 1: Waiting, Waiting And More Waiting

Friday, March 25, 2005
Final Day At SXSW's Charnel House

Monday, March 21, 2005
Day Three At SXSW

Saturday, March 19, 2005
Day Two In SXSW's Hall Of Mirrors

Thursday, March 17, 2005
Report #1: SXSW 2005 And Its Hall Of Mirrors

Monday, February 14, 2005
Matt Landry's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Wednesday, February 2, 2005
David Howie's 'Moments' From The Year 2004

Thursday, January 27, 2005
Lori Miller Barrett's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Thursday, January 20, 2005
Noah Bonaparte's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Kevin John's Fave Albums Of 2004

Friday, January 14, 2005
Music For Those Nights: Max Schaefer's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Thursday, January 13, 2005
Dave Renard's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Neal Block's Top Ten Of 2004

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Jenny Tatone's Fave Albums Of 2004

Monday, January 10, 2005
Wayne Robins' Top Ten Of 2004

Friday, January 7, 2005
Brian Orloff's Fave Albums Of 2004

Thursday, January 6, 2005
Johnny Walker (Black)'s Top 10 Of 2004

Wednesday, January 5, 2005
Jennifer Przybylski's Fave Albums (And Book) Of 2004

Tuesday, January 4, 2005
Mark Mordue's Fave Albums Of 2004

Monday, January 3, 2005
Lee Templeton's Fave Recordings Of 2004

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Kevin John's Fave Albums Of 2004

10. Various artists, DFA Compilation #2 (DFA): Not all of this three-disc hipster stocking stuffer is stellar. The Juan Maclean drops three sulfur bombs after securing a spot in disco heaven with his masterpiece "Give Me Every Little Thing" (judiciously included on the third disc mix CD). And Black Dice are the emotional equivalent of a police raid on your favorite club (i.e. pure bummer). But Tim Goldsworthy and James Murphy's label demonstrates better than anything what it's like to be dancing with quotes in your thighs. Summoned spirit guides Liquid Liquid offer a hilarious parody of Junior Vasquez-style tribal house (you know, the real stuff). J.O.Y.'s great grating grrrlpunk insures that things don't get too mighty real. And at 15 minutes, Black Leotard Front's "Casual Friday" is too long to be totally fake. Instead, it points towards new avenues in disco as an album (gasp!) music, recalling such classic coked-out, jet-lagged, Guccied-up side-long spectaculars as Tantra's "The Hills of Katmandu" and Quartz's "Quartz." Alec R. Costandinos, your time has come again.

9. The Soft Pink Truth, Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Soft Pink Truth? (Tigerbeat6): One thing we can always be certain of in most punk rock is the flesh-and-blood male body powering the music. Only the most firm-footed fella could brave those hardcore winds. Fresh from his microhouse name-that-tune fest, Do You Party?, Matmos' Drew Daniel asks if robotic vocals or even vocals stitched together from mini bits of other songs can pack as much protest as punk proper. And if those don't work, what about jerky rhythms that could warm a leatherette? On that level alone, Daniel's half-hour term paper would earn about an A-. But his choice of targets actually doubles as an alternative, queer history of punk. We get homosexuals (Nervous Gender), a Homosexual (L. Voag — see below), "Homo-sexual" (rescued from the speed freak unintelligibility of the Angry Samoans) and a homosexual icon (um, Carol Channing). A Roland TB-303-esque bass line licks Ian Mackaye's sweaty toes, showing him up for the cocktease he can be even (or especially) when yelping "I don't fuck!" And who the hell were Teddy & the Frat Girls? The best piece of music criticism I heard all year.

8. Todd Snider, East Nashville Skyline (Oh Boy): A sort of Gen-X John Prine, Snider is currently recovering from an OxyContin addiction. But beyond "it's later than you think," there is surprisingly no moralizing on this, his finest album. In fact, morals are a structured absence in his creepy, clipped narratives, especially on "The Ballad of the Kingsmen," which provided the most shocking musical moment of 2004. It's about the moral relativism that greets songs like "Louie Louie" once they're let loose in the culturesphere. And what does Snider follow it up with? An extremely peculiar soliloquy in the voice of a guy asking to borrow money from his friend, Mike Tyson.

7. Grandaddy, Artist's Choice: Below the Radio (Ultra): Mix CDs happen all the time in the dance world. But they should happen even more in the self-satisfied world of indie rock. Free from the imperatives of beat matching and keeping the party going 'til the break of dawn, it's amazing that they don't. So thank Grandaddy's Jason Lytle for this fantastic community service — an indie-rock mix tape for the masses. Appropriately, the dullest cut is by the most famous artist here and, also appropriately, it's the opener (Beck's "We Live Again"). But it's followed hard by the best, Beulah's "Burned by the Sun," a title that gets at the atmosphere Lytle generates. The focal point is the Meat Puppets at their most dazed and confused, and from Earlimart (who?) to Jackpot (who?) to Virgil Shaw (who?), the coulda-been-a-hits just keep on comin'. It's not only dance-floor maniacs who get blissed out.

6. Various artists, Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster (Emergent): As Ken Emerson makes clear in "Doo-Dah!," Stephen Foster's decision to make a living as a songwriter was no heroic gesture. It was Bartleby-like invitation to slack. The same cannot be said of the mostly genteel singer/songwriters entrusted with his legacy here. They epitomize rock as the careful, straight and narrow path it sometimes is. But that only deepens this tribute album's dramatic impact. It does nothing less than mine out the parameters of American democracy just as it's fading out under four more years of Bush bullying and making it difficult for more and more toilers to keep on the straight and narrow. That's why Michelle Shocked is on it. Recall that she chickened out of doing the cover of her 1992 major-label release Arkansas Traveler in blackface (to quote Christgau). But also recall that she was dropped from Mercury anyway.

5. Kanye West, The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella): Gospel music for the here-and-now consumer culture. Wonder what Tom Smucker makes of it.

4. Caetano Veloso, A Foreign Sound (Nonesuch): Brazil's cultural ambassador collapses the entirety of 20th century American popular music (well, who's ever gotten closer?) into the transcendently pleasant dinner music of the 21st. It ends where it has to, at the beginning or, rather, a beginning — Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" which Veloso has now stolen from the lips of Al Jolson where most of us first heard/saw it. And really, all that's missing is a cover of the culturally fraught "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?"

3. Rio Baile Funk, Favela Booty Beats (Essay): "Louie Louie" returns, this time in a snippet on "Pique Ta" from this in-yo-face compilation of funk carioca. From these shores, Richard Berry's paean to incomprehensibility provided an apt metaphor for the music's winning chaos. For transcendence, nothing beat it in 2004. I only hope it worked even better for the slum dwellers who shake to it in Brazil.

2. The Homosexuals, The Homosexuals' CD (Morphius): First time through Astral Glamour, Messthetics' three-disc oasis, I was depressed to discover that Guided by Voices had song-form-hating forefathers. But a trek through the liner notes revealed that these formerly phantomy DIYers were up to something deeper. More than any other band from Brit punk's first wave, The Homosexuals took the dub techniques of Jamaican studio magi to heart. In fact, they even applied it to their oeuvre itself, little of which was actually released under the name The Homosexuals. Everything about them was here one moment/faded-out the next, most perversely the guitars and vocals on the original (!) version of "Hearts in Exile," the A-side of their first single in 1978. Forcing various elements to enter and leave the room via the mixing-console-as-instrument, Bruno Wizard (né McQuillan), Anton Hayman and Jim Welton (AKA L. Voag) fashioned a vision of punk capable of infinite revisions rather than discrete sound punches. But for better or worse, discrete sound punches were their gift to history, and the best of them are so rich in sonic information that it's no wonder the Homos felt comfortable taking some of that info away and putting it back again. Impatient, constantly shifting classics like "Vociferous Slam," "Divorce Proceedings From Reality," and "Astral Glamour" remain songs, not collages (as per Chuck Eddy's dictum), in the end. That they all miraculously rocked out as well — perhaps propelled by the existential terror that any one ingredient could be gone with a simple lowering of levels — no doubt helped. You can figure all this out by listening to Morphius' superb one-disc reissue of the 1984 Recommended LP, larded with four tracks left off Astral Glamour, proving once again that indie concerns can be just as slimy as major labels (and tempting one to ignore the back cover plea: "Please support Messthetics by not copying, MP3-ing or renting [huh?] this recording."). There are only about five other tracks on Astral Glamour worth hearing. If the dribblings of Lee "Scratch" Perry, John Coltrane, and Jimi Hendrix (a spiritual forefather?) frequently yield diminishing returns, The Homosexuals' are somewhat paradoxically even worse, particularly the largely instrumental caterwaul of the awful George Harrasment/Masai Sleepwalking LP (included on Astral Glamour with versions featuring a newly recorded Bruno trying to remember lyrics over the original tracks). But even though the Morphius could still be winnowed down by a cut or two, it challenges Germ Free Adolescents as a marker of how much room there was to move around in punk, if not rock n' roll itself.

1. M.I.A./Diplo, Piracy Funds Terrorism Volume 1 (Hollertronix): Jumpstarting the mix CD with the debut album (or vice-versa), DJ Diplo extends the pain in Claudine Clark's "Party Lights" to an hour. But the fish, the twist and the mashed potatoes have been replaced by "Buddy Nuh Done," a mangled "Sanford & Son" sample, and more funk carioca. And mom has been replaced by a bank of faceless terrorists. Beginning with drum beats as sloppy, unromantic gunfire and ending with an unwelcome vacation in Egypt courtesy of "Big Pimpin'," the bad times always pour into the good. And what can the title mean in the light of the illicit methods needed to acquire this thing in the first place? An ugly, ugly album for ugly, ugly times.

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