If you follow this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I have pretty eclectic tastes. Nowhere is that eclecticism more evident than here at the dawn of the twenty-first century. I have my favorites, of course, but I try to keep myself open to all genres, from country to Scandinavian black metal to Balkan folk music to WGWAGs (White Guys With Acoustic Guitars). Because, as much as I love to write about and debate and criticize music, there are actually few things that drive me crazier than musical elitism. Good music for me is good music, whoever’s making it and whatever form it takes. So let’s see what forms it took in Y2K.
5. FOLLOW THE REAPER (Children of Bodom)
Wait, Finnish melodic death metal? Where did this come from? Once you get over the vocals/lyrics, however, you can focus on Alexi Laiho’s truly virtuosic guitar (no mere shredder is he) on these neo-Romantic metal symphonies. Sure, the riffs are pummeling, but they’re also incredibly catchy, buoyed by pervasive keyboards, frequent key and texture shifts, and melodic sensibilities as relentless as the band’s tempos.
4. V (Spock’s Beard)
Much attention is given in prog circles to V‘s opening and closing epics, and that’s fair enough: “At the End of the Day” in particular is sixteen-and-a-half minutes of sheer bliss, my pick for the Ultimate Spock’s Beard Song. But some of V‘s best music is buried in the seemingly interstitial songs in the middle: “Thoughts, Pt. II” and “On a Sunday” in particular are concentrated bursts of progressive brilliance.
3. TWO AGAINST NATURE (Steely Dan)
Steely Dan’s first studio album in two decades (although, to be fair, Donald Fagen’s solo albums are pretty much indistinguishable from the Dan) sounds exactly what you would expect Aja to sound like if it had been recorded in 2000 instead of 1977. The lyrics are as cryptic, the grooves as tight, the horn arrangements as precise, the production as meticulous, the attitude as sardonic as ever. I’ll defend its Album of the Year win against Kid A any day.
2. SAILING TO PHILADELPHIA (Mark Knopfler)
Once you get past the positively thrilling opener “What It Is,” Sailing to Philadelphia is, in large part, a subtle concept album about America. Whether he’s following an African American family through the Jim Crow South, capturing a romance-by-post in a turn-of-the-century prairie town, or revving his engines on the”Speedway at Nazareth”, Knopfler’s keen eye for detail–and his understated, heart-wrenching guitar–transform the mundane into the epic and evoke the American experience as well as any Geordie boy can.
1. FORTRESS (Sister Hazel)
Great music leaves an indelible imprint on a person’s consciousness. For instance, I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard “Change Your Mind.” I was sitting on the floor of a family friend’s duplex in Cheyenne, WY, where my mother had taken us kids for a weekend in the midst of her and my father’s divorce. We had just finished watching the Brendan Fraser vehicle Bedazzled, in which the song plays over the ending credits. It connected instantly. Since then, I’ve had many, many moments of confusion and self-doubt in which “Change Your Mind”–and the rest of Fortress, with its simultaneous emotional honesty and clear-eyed optimism–has been a light in the darkness.
- Sister Hazel – Majestic Theater, June 14th – Post Show (auralretentive.wordpress.com)
- Mark Knopfler: Sailing to Philadelphia (davidjmarkowitzmusic.wordpress.com)
- Album 0369: Spock’s Beard – V (gazingogazongo.wordpress.com)
- Spock’s Beard’s Eleventh Album One of Its Best (philspicks.wordpress.com)
- CHILDREN OF BODOM – Reaper Madness: Bleed & Feed (www.carlbegai.com)
- Live Music: Steely Dan Live At The Nokia Theater (irom.wordpress.com)