Friday, December 31, 2004

TERRELL'S TUNEUP: BEST OF 2004

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Dec. 31, 2004


The music industry is as corrupt and pathetic as ever. But despite predictions of gloom and horror, despite phony baloney, who-gives-a-flying-darn scandals like Janet's breast and Ashlee's lip-synching, somehow the record biz didn't completely crumble or sink into the ocean.

And despite the commercial predominance of bad pop, lite jazz and hot new country on the radio, despite the record companies suing hundreds of music fans for downloading songs, despite the fact that many people like American Idol - (for the music!), despite the fact that Ray Charles died and Dick Clark lives, despite the fact that Elton John - and not Tom Waits - was a Kennedy Center honoree, somehow lots of people managed to make good, sometimes even great music.

Here's my favorites of the year, with links back to my original reviews:

Steve Terrell's Top 10 Albums of the Year



1 The Dirty South by The Drive By Truckers. "... their third straight masterpiece of insightful -- and strong rocking - observations of Southern life, Southern mythology, Southern pride, Southern shame and Southern horror. ... It's hard to find rock 'n' roll this tough, this serious any more."


2 Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus by Nick Cave "... an exhilarating double blast of joy, rage, dour Aussie blues, back-alley philosophy, dark-end-of-the-street religious revelation, death-row humor, profound profanity -- and even a touch of sweet sentimentality. In other words, it's everything that those of us who love Nick Cave love about Nick Cave.


3 Smile by Brian Wilson. " ... an eccentric, often-emotional trip through American history as seen through the drug-addled eyes of youth in the late '60s. There are stretches of intense melancholy, moments of sheer silliness, tears, smiles, banjos, theremins, French horns, Beach Boys-style harmonies, barnyard noises, fake Hawaiian music, orchestral flourishes, crow cries uncovering the cornfields, columnated ruins dominoing, fresh, crispy vegetables ..."


4 The Van Lear Rose by Loretta Lynn. "I can see why some country purists might get upset ... Some of the tracks have about 10 times the drum sound as any previous Loretta effort. And (Jack) White's slide guitar sure can scream. ... But as a long-time Loretta fan, I give my heartiest squeal of approval. ... The lady sounds inspired here. And if, at the age of 68 or 70 or whatever she is, she wants to rock out with a bunch of young punks, more power to her."


5 Snakebite by Stan Ridgway. " a jaw dropper from start to finish. ... the real trick Ridgway pulls off is combining these diverse elements without it feeling forced. He makes it sound like slide guitar and bamboo flute and spook-house keyboards were meant to be played together."


6 All the Fame of Lofty Deeds by Jon Langford. "... Langford tackles one of his favorite themes, both in his music and his paintings - the travails and temptations of country singers in post-war America. ... a distillation of everything that makes America attractive and everything that makes it repulsive."



7 Dummy by NRBQ. "... NRBQ, one of the most versatile and longest lasting bands in the history of rock 'n' roll, still is cranking out amazing albums full of songs that are sometimes challenging, frequently taking strange turns and almost always catchy. ... NRBQ records like Dummy are like those of The Firesign Theatre. Each new listen reveals something new you didn't notice before."


8 Blood of the Ram by The Gourds. "You're not always sure just what Kev Russell or Jimmy Smith, the main Gourd vocalists are singing about. Their lyrics are a jumble of picaresque tales, mystery oracles and half-formed dirty jokes. ... But with the irresistible musical backdrops, colored by Claude Bernard on accordion and Max Johnston ... on fiddle and banjo, it all makes sense.


9 South Dakota Hairdo by Joe West. "The more I listen ... the more I'm convinced that there's a world-class songwriter-performer walking among us here in Santa Fe. ... a collection of fascinating songs, weird enough to keep things fun but real enough to pack a punch. Many, maybe most, of his songs display a sardonic sense of humor, sometimes poking fun at life in Santa Fe. (People not from here might actually think Tofu Ridge is a real geographical location if they know the City Different only from Joe's songs.)

10 Music From the Motion Picture Ocean's 12 by David Holmes and various other artists. This one was just released, so I haven't had a chance to give it a full-blown review in Terrell's Tune-up. I loved the Ocean's 11 soundtrack, also compiled by Holmes, a Belfast club D.J. But the new one's even better. It's basically high-tech, hip-hop influenced crime jazz by David Holmes, but with some Italian pop and French psychedelia thrown in. I haven't seen the movie yet, but if it's nearly as exciting as the soundtrack, it'll deserve an Oscar.

Honorable Mention

The Graceful Ghost
by Grey DeLisle
Dial W for Watkins by Geraint Watkins
Songs for Patriots
by American Music Club
Uh Huh Her by P.J. Harvey
I Just Want to Be Held by Nathaniel Mayer
Real Gone by Tom Waits
Universal United House of Prayer by Buddy Miller
Lafayette Marquis by C.C. Adcock
She Loves You by The Twilight Singers
Musicology by Prince


Best Reissues/Retrospectives


One From the Heart by Tom Waits & Crystal Gayle
Living With the Animals and Make a Joyful Noise by Mother Earth
The Name of This Band is Talking Heads
Juarez by Terry Allen
Live it Up by The Isley Brothers



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