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my favorite records of 2002

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  • Carl Abraham Zimring
    There are a few discs left for release this year that I haven t heard yet; my most anticipated ones being the Roots _Phrenology_, Beth Gibbons s _Out of
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2002
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      There are a few discs left for release this year that I haven't heard yet;
      my most anticipated ones being the Roots' _Phrenology_, Beth Gibbons's _Out
      of Season_ and Common's _Electric Circus_. I won't have time to listen to
      them seriously until 2003, so here's my list for this year. Songs culled
      from these discs will comprise my final show of 2002, on Monday, December
      16 from 7-9pm ET on 88.3fm in Pittsburgh and <http://www.wrct.org> over the
      internet.

      1. Silkworm, _Italian Platinum_ (Touch & Go)
      A damn near perfect slab of rock, and the finest record the band's ever
      made. Adding Kelly Hogan's voice on several tracks and the odd touches of
      organ and piano to the perfect trio arrangements produced magnificent
      textures that get better with every listen. I can't decide if Andy Cohen's
      world-weary "The Old You" or Kelly Hogan's magnificent lead vocal on the
      stirring ballad "Young" is my favorite moment, but I do know I'll be
      enjoying this album for years.

      2. Kelly Kessler, _The Salt of Your Skin_ (Melungeon)
      Country music that's alternative in the sense that Kessler synthesizes a
      wide range of styles and performers (including Robbies Fulks -- on vocals
      -- and Hunsinger -- on oboe, uberbassist Kent Kessler and Lonesome Bob) and
      comes up with a record clearly stamped by her personality and mastery of
      roots music.

      3. Peter Jefferies, _Closed Circuit_ (Emperor Jones)
      This solo album by the New Zealand experimental legend came out in late
      2001, but since I didn't have a chance to really listen to it until
      January, I'm putting it on this year's list. Jefferies takes his piano,
      some percussion, electric guitar and synth and fashions some of the most
      accomplished and warm music of the year. John Cale would kill to write
      "Ghostwriting" -- its tense piano lines and gorgeous coda made it my
      favorite song of the year.

      4. The Mekons, _Out of Our Heads!_ (Quarterstick)
      The hardest rocking Mekons disc since _Retreat From Memphis_ featured
      timely lyrics somehow written before September 2001.

      5. Wire, _Read and Burn_ EP (pinkflag)
      The hardest rocking Wire recording since, well, maybe ever. Brutal and
      exciting, if brief.

      6. Lonesome Bob, _Things Change_ (Leap Recordings)
      Brutal in an entirely different fashion than Wire, Bob's best work focuses
      on the finite qualities of life better than anyone this side of Warren
      Zevon, and his record this year was more powerful than Zevon's (whose vital
      -- and I mean that literally -- _Life'll Kill Ya_ is a worthier comparison
      to _Things Change_ than this year's occasionally strong but inconsistent
      _My Ride's Here_) with its sprawling, cathartic songs.

      7. Linda Thompson, _Fashionably Late_ (Rounder)
      Almost two decades after her last solo record (providing her with the title
      of the year), one of the major voices of British folk rock returns with an
      album that's timely, timeless, and shows the bonds of family as her
      children and even ex-husband Richard contribute to one of the best records
      she's ever done.

      8. Sinister Luck Ensemble, _Anniversary_ (Perishable)
      Charles Kim, who contributed mightily to Pinetop Seven's first two discs,
      produces an instrumental album that borrows equally from the compositions
      of Astor Piazzolla and Ennio Morricone. I don't know if the film deserving
      this soundtrack is a western, a love story or a DeMille epic, but this
      music is strictly widescreen 70mm.

      9. Chuck Prophet, _No Other Love_ (New West)
      Nothing on this album approaches the brilliance of "Dyin' All Young", but
      Prophet still fuses twang and R&B beats into a wonderfully cohesive whole.

      10. Jenny Toomey, _Tempting_ (Misra)
      Franklin Bruno's literate, warm songs have him leading Stephin Merritt in
      the race to be indie-rock's answer to Noel Coward. Toomey uses a dozen of
      Bruno's best songs, Calexico and dashes of horns and strings to fashion one
      of the best "X sings Y" albums in years.

      Reissues:
      1. Savage Republic, _Trudge & Ceremonial_ (Mobilization)
      All of the SR reissues are great, with their beautiful Bruce Licher
      letterpressed packaging, but this one features some of the strongest guitar
      instrumentals in the history of rock (yes, I'm including Dick Dale).
      Licher's subsequent band Scenic has a new disc out in January.

      2. Camper Van Beethoven, _Cigarettes and Coffee: The Santa Cruz Years_
      (SpinArt)
      I didn't want to buy this box, being that I own all of the original records
      and the new live disc will supposedly be available separately next year.
      But then I read the liner notes, which detail coming of age in Santa Cruz
      in the 80s -- and Camper's role in that scene -- perfectly, and the notes
      spurred me to splurge on the $30 that also brings the rampaging eclecticism
      of Telephone Free Landslide Victory, II&III, the third album, the rarities
      of Camper Vaniquities and the live stuff from right before the breakup, all
      done with loving reproductions of the original albums' artwork.

      3. Elvis Costello, _Imperial Bedroom_ (Rhino)
      I've avoided getting yet another version of each of EC's discs, but this
      one comes with a bonus disc featuring demos of the songs that make it sound
      like the sequel to Trust rather than the lush final album. A fascinating
      look at the process of arranging an album.

      4. Drive By Truckers, _Southern Rock Opera_ (Lost Highway)
      A straight reissue of one of 2001's best albums, complete with some of the
      best CD packaging this side of the Savage Republic reissues.

      5. Paul Kelly, _...Nothing But a Dream + Roll On Summer_ (SpinArt)
      The domestic debut of one of 2001's best albums adds the Roll On Summer EP
      with the funny, sad romantic travelogue "Every Fucking City".

      Other good stuff:
      Chris Brokaw, _Red Cities_ (Atavistic)
      Neko Case, _Blacklisted_ (Bloodshot)
      The Soft Boys, _Nextdoorland_ (Matador)
      David Grubbs, _Rickets & Scurvy_ (Drag City)
      Pere Ubu, _St. Arkansas_ (SpinArt)
      Tom Waits, _Alice_ (Anti)
      Honky Tonk Confidential, _Your Trailer Or Mine?_ (Too Many Dogs)
      Richard Buckner, _Impasse_ (Overcoat)
      Sue Garner, _Shadyside_ (Thrill Jockey)
      Various Artists, _Red Hot + Riot_ (MCA)
      Jim Roll, _Inhabiting the Ball_ (The Telegraph Company)
      Tom Waits, _Blood Money_ (Anti)
      Camper Van Beethoven, _Tusk_ (Pitch-A-Tent)
      Consonant, _Consonant_ (Touch & Go)
      The Sovines, _Stupefyin' Jones_ (Oahu)
      Blackalicious, _Blazing Arrow_ (MCA)
      Taking Pictures, _Friends Are Ghosts_ (My Pal God)
      Kelly Willis, _Easy_ (Rykodisc)
      Various Artists, _Nothing Left to Lose_ (Incidental)
      Elvis Costello, _When I Was Cruel_ (Island)
      Alejandro Escovedo, _By the Hand of the Father_ (Texas Music Group)
      Treasure State, _Retain the Risk_ (Moneyshot)
      Warren Zevon, _My Ride's Here_ (Artemis)
      My Morning Jacket/Songs:Ohia, split CD (Jadetree)
      Boxstep, _By Now Even the Trees_ EP (self-released)
      The Sid Hillman Quartet, _Volume Two_ (Innerstate)
      Spaceways, Inc., _Version Soul_ (Atavistic)
      Nina Nastasia, _The Blackened Air_ (Touch & Go)
      Meshell Ndegeocello, _Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape_ (Maverick)
      Bobby Bare Jr., _Young Criminals Starvation League_ (Bloodshot)
      One Riot One Ranger, _Flat City Nights_ (Hayden's Ferry)
      Yo La Tengo, _Nuclear War_ EP (Matador)
      Thalia Zedek, _You're A Big Girl Now_ EP (Kimchee)
      Beck, _Sea Change_ (Geffen)
      Rhett Miller, _The Instigator_ (Elektra)
      Jack Logan & Bob Kimbell, _Woodshedding_ (Parasol)
      Robyn Hitchcock, _Robyn Sings_ (Editions PAF)
      James McMurtry, _Saint Mary of the Woods_ (Sugar Hill)
      The Waco Brothers, _New Deal_ (Bloodshot)
      Mark Eitzel, _Music for Courage and Confidence_ (New West)
      Cracker, _Forever_ (Virgin)
      Lucky Pierres, _Cloverleaf_ (self-released)
      DKV Trio, _Trigonometry_ (OkkaDisk)_
      Blasters, _Trouble Bound_ (Hightone)
      Dianogah, _Millions of Brazilians_ (Southern)
      Shelleydevoto, _Buzzkunst_ (SpinArt)
      Various Artists, _The Bottle Let Me Down_ (Bloodshot)

      Best concerts:
      Calvin Cooke at Twangfest
      Marshall Allen and the Sun Ra Arkestra at the Hazlett Theater
      Paul Kelly at Rosebud
      Alejandro Escovedo at Point State Park
      The Drive By Truckers at Club Café

      Carl Z.
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