Some CDs from 2001 I like and a few reasons why I like each one
by Erin Hucke
(in no particular order)
The Beta Band, Hot Shots II (Astralwerks)
Oh my, how The Beta Band has grown. While their debut record was thought to be somewhat of a waste of plastic (by the industry, not me, silly) with its excessive use of sound effects and lack of real song structure, Hot Shots II couldn't stick it to the naysayers more. It's beautiful. The vocals are glorius (check "Quiet"), the lyrics funny but poignant at the same time ("Oh lord, there's a hole in my head. I used the bullets that come with the game you gave me," from "Alleged,") and the melodies more carefully constructed and layered (check "Eclipse"). They've tamed the sound effects and made them obey. (You, weird spacey blip, you go here. And you, hummer-thing, stay there and don't move.) Yes, my friends, The Beta Band has indeed proven the band's worth with this one.
Radiohead, Amnesiac (Capitol)
A new Radiohead album is almost a given in a year-end list for me. Not by default, but because the music is always good enough to knock down the competition. Amnesiac is a very disturbing album, full of strange lyrics about trap doors and cannibalism and ominous, echoing sounds. But its mystery and paranoia are alluring, beckoning you into the strange Radiohead dimension without promise of return.
Mark Mulcahy, SmileSunseT (Mezzotint)
There are many reasons to like Mark Mulcahy. His lyrics are fragile, yet powerful. His music varied and complex, but paradoxically simplistic. His talent measurable only by how much fans like me can rave on about him in our lifetimes. SmileSunseT is a shining example of Mark's immense creativity. He builds sometimes demented, sometimes childlike optimistic scenes with thick musical atmospheres and story-like lyrics. His music is super appealing, so what's your excuse for not having listened to him yet?
Spiritualized , Let It Come Down (Arista)
After Jason Pierce fired his entire band via form letter, I was afraid that Spiritualized would sound completely different for the worse. But Let It Come Down proves the man behind the music didn't give up on his signature space-rock mixed with gospel style. In fact, the gospel vocals are more frequent and prominent as on "On Fire" and "Lord Can You Hear Me." But you can expect more of the same with jammy guitars, spacey noises and lyrics filled with ideas about drug addiction and twelve-step programs from the Spaceman.
Sparklehorse, It's a Wonderful Life (Capitol)
This is one of the albums I picked up after I had created my original 2001 year-end list. But it's good enough to add post script. Mark Linkous has a great ability to write vivid, descriptive songs of dismal situations. But somehow, they all come out sounding hopeful, even if they do have creepy titles like "Sea of Teeth" and "King of Nails."
Kings of Convenience, Quiet is the New Loud (Astralwerks)
It's been said before, but sometimes a comparison is so accurate, it's worth stating again. Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience sound a lot like a neo-Simon and Garfunkel. With gentle acoustic guitar and soft harmonies, you can almost imagine Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe playing in your living room as you listen to the CD. This album didn't really get the coverage it deserves; even if Quiet is the New Loud, a high decible level still gets all the attention.