Granite and Tumble: volume 7

Subtitled: 2003 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 2001.......

2001 was another great year year for music, there were many great albums that are left out my top 10.    Honorable mentions include the Silver Jews' Bright Flight, Stephen Malkmus self titled debut, Sonna's We Sing Loud, Sing Soft Tonight (recorded by Steve Albini), Beachwood Sparks' Once We Were Trees, Red House Painters' Old Ramon, Moviola's Rumors of the Faithful, Calexico's Even My Sure Things Fall Through, and Modest Mouse's Everywhere and His Nasty Parlor Tricks.  

Top albums were from some new bands:  Owls and the New Year.     Other new albums that were quite good, but not top ten:   Havergal's Lungs for the Race.   There were a lot of good solo projects released this year, Geoff Farina (Karate), Jeff Magnum (Neutral Milk Hotel), Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt), Jon Mueller (Pele), and Stephen Malkmus (Pavement).  Dave Pajo took a chance at singing in 2001.   The Silver Jews returned from a long hiatus to release a new album.   I had many great releases to pick from.   Here is the list of 53 albums (released in 2001) that I bought.

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 loverís album collection, they are necessary additions.   Fortunately, they can be bought at Insound, the premier online music store.

  Buy it at Insound!  


1    Mountain Goat's The Coroner's Gambit (Absolutely Kosher) - After opening with brief old-timey radio segment, John  immediately begins his intimate tales with feverous abandon .    The album not only sounds like it was recorded on a boom box, it actually was.   Production quality aside, this album is a must own for any indie rock fan (particularly fans of lo-fi). 
2 American Analog Set's Know By Heart (Tiger Style) - While the Coroner's Gambit hits you with its raw power, Know by Heart hits you with its awesome melodies.   AAS layers sweet sounds on top of its hypnotic guitars to create a very slick melodic album.  
3 Beulah's The Coast is Never Clear (Velocette) -  Beulah introduces a new sound with each album that at first can leave you a little disappointed.  However, after a few more listens the latest quickly becomes a favorite.   This album is no exception.   Cool horns and other instruments with great lyrics. 
4 The New Year's Newness Ends (Touch and Go) -  Another Albini engineered album in my top ten.   Formed out of the ashes of Bedhead, The New Year added the uber talented Chris Brokaw and then enlisted Albini to record this album.   So, naturally it is top five material.
5 Owls' Owls (Jade Tree) -  Back to back Albini albums in the top ten.   This time Albini is recording the original cast from Chicago's legendary Cap'n Jazz, in their new band the Owls.   Tim Kinsella's vocals are certainly similar to his other projects, but the music is different.   The shifty guitar blends well with Kinsella's off kilter vocals.   This is a great album.
6 Owen' Owen (Polyvinyl) -  Back to back Kinsella projects.   Mike Kinsella who plays drums in the Owls, plays everything in Owen.   Which is impressive in its own right, but he also recorded and produced the album on all of his own equipment.   However, what makes all of this most impressive is that the album is still very good.
7 Clem Snide's The Ghost of Fashion (Spin Art) -  Sure the album gained notoriety by having "Moment in the Sun" as the theme song for the television show Ed.   I am sure that did more harm then benefit for the folks reading this list.   However, the album is still very good.   Plus Ed had a penchant for picking good music (other bands played on the show were Neutral Milk Hotel and Loose Fur)
8 Jim O'Rourke's Insignificance (Drag City) -  Jim recruits a talented cast to back him on another one of his forays into pop music.   The cast includes Wilco members Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche and Chicago Jazz stalwarts Ken Vandermark and Rob Mazurek.     The results are outstanding.
9 Papa M's Whatever Mortal (Drag City) -  Dave Pajo decided to stray from his ultra cool instrumental days and add vocals to simpler guitar progressions.  The results are outstanding.   Dave went from a top notch guitarist to a premier folkster/singer songwriter.
10 Rainer Maria's A Better Version of Me (Polyvinyl) - One of the rare albums in my top ten with lead female vocals.   Although one of my favorite tracks, "The Contents of Lincoln's Pockets" is sung by Kyle.  Make no mistake about it, Caithlin is an awesome lead vocalist.


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 (2003).    



Gibbard & Kennyís 
(Post Parlo)

Clem Snideís 
Soft Spot
 (Spin Art)

Sun Kil Moonís
Ghosts of the Great Highway

Bonnie Prince Billieís 
Master and Everyone
(Drag City)

Postal Serviceís  
Give Up
(Sub Pop)

Songs: Ohia's
Magnolia Electric Company
(Secretly Canadian)

Mates of Stateís
Team Boo

Live Music

A very solid year for live shows.    The first time since 1999 that Dianogah did not crack the top ten (although admittedly I did not see them).   An awesome set by Andrew Bird did not make the top ten.   He plucked and bowed his violin using delay pedals to create elaborate soundscapes, a great show.     I saw Matt Pond PA four times this year (which is really a lot considering they are not from Chicago).   During a Clem Snide set at Schubas, they asked the audience if anyone wanted  to join them in a song, the sound guy took them up on the offer and sung lead vocals on a Neil Young cover.    A solo Ted Leo show, which he said was going to be a covers show.   He played four, my favorite was his cover of the Replacements' "I Can't Wait."    A great show from Ben Barnett, of Kind Of Like Spitting.   Ben played the entire show from the floor at the Bottom of the Hill.   The people actually surrounded him.   He played a number of new songs, and few awesome covers including "Boxcar" by Jawbreaker and "Hit" by Smog.

Speaking of Smog, a great show by Smog where Bill Calahan entertained the audience by playing all requests in his encore.   There were a couple of solid Iron and Wine shows.      The Sea and Cake put a show where they played a number of their old hits, including "Jacking the Ball."   There was some guy at the Moviola, Orso, and Califone show that passed out three times.   The third time they carried him out.   Steven Malkmus had to stop in the middle of his set to take a piss.  I had never seen that one before.

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 42 concerts at 17 different venues in 2003. The most commonly hit venue was the Go Studios Room 4 (7 times).  

1. The Millions, Bitter Bitter Weeks, Lefty's Deceiver, Matt Pond PA
    at the Subterranean (Chicago)

A new venue in the top ten.   Lets be honest this show was number one because Matt Pond PA was simply awesome.   The other acts were along for the ride.     MPPA had a tight set with lush strings and great melodies.
2. That One Guy, Drums and Tuba
     at Go Studios Room 4 (Chapel Hill)

That One Guy was a unique set with a home made instrument consisting of delay pedals and tubing. At one point he played a cowboy boot with a pickup, a saw, a saw with a bow. i kept picturing him and lonesome organist doing a show.   Drums Tuba also liked the delay pedal and played a rocking set.    The fact that Matt Pond PA ranked ahead of this solid double bill shows how hard they rocked.
3. Scott Tuma, Bonnie Prince Billie, Dirty Three
    at The Metro (Chicago)  

Tuma played the violin, average quiet sounds. Will kicked ass. He played equal parts from the Will Oldham, Prince Billie, and Palace monikers.   He opened with some song about how singing allows him to touch people, and then right into New Partner.   It was truly an awesome opening, he recieved a big ovation when he finished.   Dirty Three were also very solid.   Warren Ellis, a classically trained violinist, would rant about the strange originations and meaning of their songs prior to starting each song.
4. Static Films, The Impossible Shapes, Songs: Ohia
    at the Schubas (Chicago) 

An amazing show on Oscar Night, touring on the new album Magnolia Electric Company.    I was expecting to hear many songs from that album, however, they only played one off that album and the rest were all brand new.   Jason and crew voted on no encore tonight, but it was still a great show.
5. Army of Me, Matt Pond PA, Elliot
    at the Fireside Bowl (Chicago)  

Matt Pond PA played a great show, with the string instruments in full chorus.   The crowd was was really into it.    Matt performed the entire show while sitting in a chair on stage. 
6. Owen, The Reputation, Mates of State, Rainer Maria
    at the Metro (Chicago)

Owen cut a few of his songs short, but he still put on a very good set.   He ended with a cover of Wilco's "I'm always in love".   Mates of Stat also put a good show, they concluded with These Days.   No not a 10,000 Maniac cover, but a great song that Jason sings with understated keyboards.   Rainer Maria also put on a good set.  They ended with a great nearly acapella song.
7. John Vanderslice, Beulah
    at the Abbey (Chicago)  

Vanderslice put on above average show, but Beulah rocked.    For their encore they invited lots of people up on stage to play tambourines and other percussion instruments.   One jackass picked up a guitar and played air music with it.   There were literally 20 people on stage for the encore.  
8. Brightblack, Eve Miller & matt Pond, Rachels
     at the Cafe du Nord (San Francisco)  

Certainly this must seem like the year of Matt Pond, with three mentions in the top ten.   However, the stage was clearly owned by the Rachels tonight.   Eve Miller played with Rachels as well.    Most of the crowd was their for the Rachels.    Matt got pissed at the audience talking during his set, and threatened to kick some ass if there was talking during the Rachels.  While the joke was funny people went on talking.
9.  Joyful Sorrow, Blake Zweig, Owen
    at The Schubas (Chicago)

This show makes the top ten because Owen put on a great show.   He opened with a cover Elvis Costello's Allison, then played a solid set with a few new tunes.
10. Rhett Miller 
      at The Park West (Chicago)  

Rhett performed a great solo show.   He performed many songs off the highly anticipated new Old 97s album.   He played new and old Old 97s, he also played some of his solo stuff.  A very entertaining show.



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


Your self-proclaimed music critic  

  W. C. HUB

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