Granite and Tumble: volume 6

Subtitled: 2002 a review of music


Recorded Music  

Prior to commenting on my favorite releases of this year, I must discuss my philosophy on album reviews.   I firmly believe favorite album compilations should lag by two years for two primary time constraining reasons:  to address the staying power of the album and to acquire a suitable number of fine albums.  Finally, I must also add in order to be considered for top album awards, I must own the album. 

Now with the philosophy behind us, let's go back to 2000.......

2000 was a spectacular year for music.  The process was particularly difficult, even paring my list down to my top twenty albums proved difficult. I debated for some time whether to expand the list to my favorite twenty albums of the year, as this year there were at least 25 really good albums.   I guess when you purchase 49 albums in a year, there is bound to be a lot of good ones.  I ultimately decided to briefly mention the other fine albums that warranted several additional listens prior to be moved to the top twenty instead of top ten:   The Sea and Cake's Oui (Thrill Jockey), The Handsome Family's In the Air (Carrot Top), The Letter E's Number 5ive Longplayer (Tiger Style), Smog's Dongs of Sevotion (Drag City), Mates of State's My Solo Project (Omnibus), the Old 97's Early Tracks (Bloodshot), Kind of Like Spitting's Nothing Makes Sense Without It (New American), Pedro the Lion's Winners Never Quit (Jade Tree), Clem Snide's Your Favorite Music (Sire), Elf Power's The Winter is Coming (Sugar Free), the Olivia Tremor Control's Singles and Beyond (Emperor Norton), and Orso's Long Time By (Perishable).      With the albums that did make this list, I tried to focus on ordering as well as I could, but in this list like other lists I feel inclusion is just as important as order (any of the top five albums could have easily been my favorite album of the year).     

Drag City Records proved to be the top label of the year.   I purchased six releases from Drag City, three made the top ten, and one received an honorable mention.  It also worth pointing out that seven of the eight albums that I predicted would be great albums in 2000, are still in fact great albums.   The only exception is the Letter E's Number 5ive Longplayer, which I still think is a great album.  It barely missed inclusion and is still a great pickup for anyone who enjoys melodic instrumental rock.

With that said, the albums included in the favorite ten are nothing short of brilliant.   All of these albums are not simply excellent additions to any music lover’s album collection, they are necessary additions.   Fortunately, they can be bought at Insound, the premier online music store.

  Buy it at Insound!  


1    Modest Mouse's The Moon and Antarctica (Epic) - You always worry when a band you like leaves their independent home to record with a major label.   Modest's major debut proves it is possible to still make great music with commercial backing.  Sure we hear them on Miller Beer adds now, but this album still rocks.
2 David Grubb's The Spectrum Between (Drag City) - Grub's spectacular album, that was dedicated to the late Phil Bonnet, is a splendid acoustic  guitar with flashes of electric guitar, organ, trumpet, and saxophone.  The cast of musicians that accompany Grubbs on this album are all outstanding.
3 Songs: Ohia's The Lioness (Secretly Canadian) -  The Black Crow sets the tone for this somber trip filled with lost love or the pains with existing love.  The album is at its strongest when displaying the powers of love via a savage animal analogy:  Tigress and Lioness.   Cox  Jason Molina is accompanied by members of Arab Strap and Appendix Out on this magnificent album.
4 Dianogah's Battle Champions (Southern Records) -  One of Chicago's greatest live acts hit the studio with Steve Albini and the results were as  spectacular as you would expect. 
5 Modest Mouse's Building Nothing Our of Something (Up) -  As Modest leaves their independent home goodbye, Up Records decided to release a collection of b-sides, 7 inches, other rare songs.   The result was outstanding.
6 Jim O'Rourke's Halfway to a Threeway (Drag City) -   I always struggle putting a four song EP in my favorite albums of the year, but these four songs are all so great, it simply could not be overlooked.   Delicate guitar with Jim's understated vocals and an excellent cast of accompanying musicians, make this a great listen.
7 Rian Murphy & Will Oldham's All Most Heaven (Drag City) - The onslaught of EPs continues with this four song gem.    With Rian Murphy's juice at Drag City this album turned into an all star cast including Jim O'Rourke, Archer Prewitt, Bill Callahan, Steve Albini, David Grubbs, Edith Frost and many others.
8 Pele's The Nudes (Polyvinyl) -  The Nudes is an instrumental gem.  It is sometimes difficult for outstanding live bands to translate their energy to a pressed recording, but Pele succeeded with the Nudes.
9 Kind of Like Spitting's Old Moon In the Arms of a New (Hush) -  Ben is back to his crooning ways, singing about loss, grief and the like.   However, he does though in a few peppy numbers, that helps give the album its proper balance.   
10 Karate's Unsolved (Southern) - Slow core music with Geoff Farina's distinct voice make this jazz infused album a great listen.   


Despite my earlier comments about music needing age to properly evaluate, I will still offer my best guess at my favorite releases from the current year (2002).    

No Good for No One Now


Kyle Fischer’s 
Open Ground

Iron and Wine’s 
The Creek Drank the Cradle
 (Sub Pop)

Ugly Casanova’s
Sharpen Your Teeth
(Sub Pop)

Songs: Ohia’s 
Didn't It Rain
(Secretly Canadian)  

Matt Pond PA’s  
The Nature of Maps

Doug Martsch's
Now You Know

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Live Music

The first year post Lounge Ax was not as bad as Chicago may have feared.   The Abbey has consistently started to pick up some of the Lounge Ax old shows.  Dan the Doorman and others have even begun working at the Lounge Ax north.   The Abbey is no longer just a place to watch Soccer or Irish music, but now a indie rock haven as well.

In other random rock news of the year, I saw the loudest acoustic show imaginable.   J Mascis at the empty bottle (yet another show that Pinebender opened).  J was so loud he even blew a speaker at the empty bottle, fairly impressive on an acoustic show.  Why he feels he needs to play that loud is still a mystery to me, he must be loosing his hearing as he get older, because every show is louder than the last.    

In an Uncle Tupelo update, Jay Farrar disbanded Son Volt, and started Sebastopol.  I saw him perform at the Park West to packed house.   This could prove to be an interesting beginning.  Meanwhile, Wilco was dropped from their major label, but still mustered out a tour for their album in limbo, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.   The show was at the San Francisco major studio venue, The Fillmore.  It also was sold out, so I got a free poster for the show.  As Farrar and Tweedy, stumble down, Columbia has decided to release a Uncle Tupelo greatest hits due out early 2002.

Another memorable moment, when Doug Martsch was coming out for encore at Slims; the crowd was screaming for Cowboy Dan.   A surprised and surely annoyed Martsch, quietly but into the microphone explained, "Sorry folks but that is a Modest Mouse song."   I heard a similar request at the Modest Mouse show at the House of Blues, only it was for "The Plan" and voiced by fan not quite as loud.

All in all another great year, filled with countless other great memories.  New bands are emerging, old ones are leaving; but the music continues.   Anyway, enough of this folderol, to the top concerts of the year.   I saw 38 concerts at 18 different venues in 2001.    The most commonly hit venue was the Schubas (7 times).  


1. Janet Bean and the Concertina Wine, Pullman
    at the Hideout (Chicago)

The original show was scheduled on September 13, 2001 but was rescheduled as many were still grieving.    Thankfully they did reschedule as live settings for the all star cast of Pullman can be counted on one hand.   The show was a Sunday night and I had a 6 AM flight the next morning, and still could not leave until the musicians were packing up the instruments.   This show was simply outstanding.
2. The Natural History, Pilot to Gunner, Jets to Brazil
     at the Empty Bottle (Chicago)

Typically these pre-album tours as the band works the kinks out of their new tunes can be a bit of a disappointment.  This show was clearly the exception.   Despite the fact that nearly every other song was from their upcoming album, Perfecting Loneliness, this show still rocked.  There were some minor technical difficulties and the bad refused to do a encore, but this show still rocked with the best of them.  Now as it turns out, this was the last tour with the original JTB lineup as drummer Chris Daley has the left the band. 
3. Baptist Generals, John Vanderslice, the Mountain Goats 
    at The Empty Bottle (Chicago)  

John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats is an outstanding live performer.   With only an single acoustic guitar, the Mountain Goats are still able to rock hard live, and this show proved no exception.   Opening act John Vanderslice touring in support of their The Life and Death of an American Fourtracker; also put on an entertaining show.
4. Sterling, Ten Grand, Lustre King, Sweep the Leg Johnny 
    at the Empty Bottle (Chicago) 

Chicago legends, Lustre King, returned to the bottle and more than adequately set the stage for Sweep The Leg Johnny.     SWLJ also put on a great show in this Chicago reunion night at the Empty Bottle.
5. The Reputation, Owen, Rainer Maria
    at the Abbey (Chicago)  

Owen played a solo acoustic set.   I thought the set was very good, but it was tough to hear over all the talking.  Elizabeth Elmore, the lead singer of the Reputation, lost her halter top during a rocking encore.   However, she quickly turned her back to stage, so only the drummer got the flash. Rainer Maria rocked hard with Kyle literally laying on the ground at one point.
6. Kind of Like Spitting, Persephone Bees, John Vanderslice, The Court and Spark
    at the Bottom of the Hill (San Francisco)

Unfortunately, Ben Barnett, of Kind of Like Spitting,  only played a 20 min set.   It was still a great set he played about 5 songs including a Billy Brag cover of "I'm A Dick".    Ben also played guitar with John Vanderslice.  The Persephone Bees had won a whammy (a people's choice award for SF stuff).   However, I found them a little dull, which especially surprising considering they were a group of scantily clad attractive females.   The Court and Spark were solid, but the best set of the night was the 20 minutes to open the night. 
7. Owen, Kyle Fischer, Oneline Drawing
    at the Bottom of the Hill (San Francisco)  

Kyle played drums while Mike Kinsella performed as Owen, and the two traded places for Kyle's set.   Mike was sick as hell, but the show still rocked. Both of the sets were very good.
8. Will Johnson, Dolly Varden (Acoustic)
     at the Schubas (Chicago)  

This was a very fun show that featured quality music.   During the Dolly Varden's encore Diane asked for a jam session, jay bennet joined will johnson, and others for an encore. However, highlight was a random guy from the audience joining on stage for the drums. Dolly varden also played a song imitating client eastwood doing bob dylan.
9.  Tasking Pictures, Dianogah
    at The Hideout (Chicago)

It was a Taking Pictures cd release party.   However, they played way too loud.   The music might have been pretty good, but it would be tough to tell because it was damn loud.    Dianogah stole the show, putting yet another of the awesome live performances.
10. Her Space Holliday, American Analog Set 
      at the Schubas (Chicago)  

Her Space Holliday put on a pretty good set, including a cover of AAS' Aaron and Maria during their set. American Analog Set returned the favor covering a Her Space Holiday song during their set.   AAS was outstanding then ended with some rock and roll truth.   Andrew Kenny concluded their show with the following words of wisdom, "We are the people's band. We play weddings, we play barmitsas, we play parties, but we don't play encores thanks for coming. Playing 3/4 of set then making you wait for 15 minutes to play the last 1/4 is just silly.  Thanks again for coming." 



Music combined with love will surely pave the road to paradise.


Your self-proclaimed music critic  

  W. C. HUB

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