Tag: 2000

The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic

ARTIST: The New Pornographers             220px-Mass_romantic (1)

TITLE:  Mass Romantic

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Letter from an Occupant (#139 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mass Romantic

LINEUP: Dan Bejar, Neko Case, John Collins, Kurt Dahle, Carl Newman, Fisher Rose, Blaine Thurier

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Alternative pop / rock ‘supergroup’ of sorts coalesces together for a first album full of fun twists and turns.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Grafting together members from Zumpano, Destroyer, Limblifer, and the Eavporators, along with Neko Case and filmmaker Blaine Thurier, The New Pornographers were a definite power-pop / indie rock Canadian supergroup.

Unlike other supergroups, the band members didn’t just give the band leftovers. From the beginning they collaborated and constructed a unique sound that identifies them even if you’ve heard the voices on other records. Their guitars and synths, and intros and rhythms are fairly unique to the band.

AC “Carl” Newman is the ringleader of this bunch, and he organized the production of the record over three long years. But this is worth the wait – the New Pornographers’ debut established them as truly greater than the sum of their parts (even with Neko Case along!)

The album also sounds fun. Even if it took a while the band sounds like they’re enjoying themselves and love playing with each other. This kicked off their career and they’re now an important part of the indie rock landscape.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band knew each other from the Vancouver music scene.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A Japanese version with two extra songs.

 GRADE: A-: A witty power pop record that started the band and its members on their ride.

Kelly Hogan – Beneath the Country Underdog

ARTIST: Kelly Hogan                           R-1944615-1254127940.jpeg

TITLE:  Beneath the Country Underdog

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: She covers Whispering Pines

LINEUP: Kelly Hogan, Tom Ray, Steve Goulding, Andy Hopkins, John Forbes, Celine, Barcley McKay, Jon Langford, Neko Case, John Wesley Harding, and others

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Mostly known as one of Neko Case’s compatriots, Hogan’s first Bloodshot release interprets some country deep cuts in good form.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: She’s better known as Neko Case’s sidekick, a backing vocalist for the Decemberists, and a session singer, but Kelly Hogan has made a few records on her own. Her debut is long buried, but this was her first record for Bloodshot Records.

Using Jon Langford’s Pine Valley Cosmonauts as a backing band, Hogan rips through interpretations of deep cuts of some noted country writers, other alternative country artists, and a few originals. The backing is spot on and Hogan’s in good voice, and hits all of the right emotional notes as needed.

For those who like alternative country and Neko Case’s earlier work, this is a good record to have around. Hogan’s vocal ability deserves more than her backing vocalist stints (though that does pay the rent).

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Among the artists she covers are the Band, Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson, and Stephin Merritt from the Magnetic Fields.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B+: Perfectly fine alt-country.

 

Nicole Willis – Soul Makeover

ARTIST: Nicole Willis                 soulmakeover

TITLE: Soul Makeover

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: All the Time, Curiosity, Siesta

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Really, no

LINEUP: Nicole Willis, Jimi Tenor, Chris Dawkins, Severu Pyysalo, other studio pros in Spain and NY

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Long time backing vocalist (mainly in Europe, though she’s Brooklyn native) records a solo album with her producer husband (Tenor).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Nicole Willis spent scads of time as a backing vocalist and collaborator in the US and Europe, Willis, by now living in Helsinki, recorded this solo album that proved to be an European breakthrough.

Combining soul, jazz, and electronica, Willis and her producer husband created a wonderful eclectic album which showcases how versatile her voice is as it comfortably nestles in with odd electronic experiments along with more classic soul and jazz sounds.

This record, and the touring behind it (she’s always been a big draw in Europe) established her as more than just a voice on someone else’s records. The arrangements and experiments also help to prove that she’s more than just a voice.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She started her career in 1983, and by 1985 was a studio vocalist in London.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, remixes of a few tracks. 

GRADE: A-: I like the mix of old and new here. It’s definitely worth seeking out.

 

Phoenix – United

ARTIST: Phoenix               220px-phoenixunitedalbumcover

TITLE:  United

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Party Time, Too Young (#148 UK), If I Ever Feel Better (#65 UK).

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Whoa, no.

LINEUP: Laurent Brancowitz, Christian Mazzalai, Deck d’Arcy, Thomas Mars, Jr. Session players help out, especially on drums and percussion.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: French alt rock band releases a pretty confident and tuneful debut that not a lot of people heard outside of Western Europe.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Phoenix became an ‘overnight’ sensation about nine years after their debut, which did a pretty good job of establishing themselves and their sound.

A pleasant pop-friendly mix with keyboards and guitars (and some nice guitar flourishes that tend to get hidden on the radio), Phoenix did place “Too Young” on a couple of movie soundtracks, which helped their exposure a little bit.

The album breezes by except for a the three part “Funky Squaredance”. They tried to do too much there, and it doesn’t work for the most part. Fortunately it’s the second to last cut.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Thomas Mars (nee Thomas Croquet) is married to Sofia Coppola.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A remix of “Too Young” is on a newer release.

GRADE: B+: Nicely put together, except for a couple of stumbling blocks that end the momentum.

High of Fire – The Art of Self Defense

ARTIST: High on Fire                      220px-artofselfdefense

TITLE:  The Art of Self Defense

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Fans do.

LINEUP: Matt Pike, Des Kensel, George Rice

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Guitarist from Sleep forms his own band while Sleep is going through record company distress.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The genre ‘stoner’ metal encompassed many sludgy, distorted metal bands that took the Sabbath formula of detuned guitars and heavy production to the next level. High on Fire speeds it up a little bit, but it’s still detuned and still riff heavy. 220px-artofselfdefense2

 

Because Matt Pike cut his teeth already with Sleep, High on Fire came out of the chute pretty much formed in full. The songs aren’t as long as some of Sleep’s magnum opuses, but the six tracks are all 4:55 or longer. The riffs are heavy and menacing, and the band works well together.

It wouldn’t take long for High on Fire to get an audience amongst the stoner metal and doom metal crowd, with good reason. This is a fine debut that really gives notice that they were a band to reckon with.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Their label went bankrupt the year after this was released, but another company swooped in and re-released it with bonus tracks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: See above.

GRADE: A-: A fine heavy record, with mega riffs all over the place.

Laura Cantrell – Not the Tremblin’ Kind

ARTIST: Laura Cantrell     220px-not_the_tremblin_kind

TITLE:  Not the Tremblin’ Kind

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Fans do, no one else really. Maintream country radio stays away from her for some reason.

LINEUP: Laura Cantrell, Will Rigby, Jeremy Chatzky, Jon Graboff, Jay Sherman-Gofdrey, Robin Goldwasser, Mary Lee Kortes

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Full-length debut from country-esque singer-songwriter shows her talent and potential.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Cantrell is a fan of old-time country music, and her debut full-length album harkens back to older country music traditions while maintaining a contemporary sound in production and engineering.

Cantrell’s soprano is reminiscent of Lucinda Williams, and her backing band makes great use of traditional old-time instruments such as the mandolin and melodica. Harmonies by Goldwasser and Kortes blend perfectly with Cantrell, making a pleasant sound.

There are originals, and covers of other contemporary country songwriters. This is a fine debut for what then was a new voice in traditionalist country.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She recorded an EP with the help of John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-:  A great debut in a neo-traditionalist idiom, with strong songs and arrangements.

 

Eels – Daisies of the Galaxy

ARTIST: Eels                             220px-eels-daisies_of_the_galaxy

TITLE:  Daisies of the Galaxy

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: #8 UK

SINGLES: Mr. E’s Beautiful Blies (#11 UK), Flyswatter (#55 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not unless you’re a fan.

LINEUP: Mark Everett, Jonathan Norton, David Alvarez, Peter Buck, Grant-Lee Phillips

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Firmly established as a “cult artist” in the US, Mark Everett makes his own kinda record, varied, complex and fruitful.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Full of nuggets from all aspects of pop music, filled with eclectic instrumental stylings, and loaded with Mark Everett’s imagery, the third album by his Eels incarnation wasn’t going to be commercial, not in the US, but it was quite rewarding.

Everett didn’t create a song cycle this time, but he filled each song with personal reflections and imagery that still spoke to him and let his fans in on what he was thinking.

A lot of the songs are majestic and orchestral. Traditional pop, not pop-rock. It works.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues”, the UK hit, was originally a hidden track, and not listed.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A Japanese bonus track, of course

GRADE: A:  Another great record from Everett, who lets everyone in to his soul a bit.

Mary Timony – Mountains

ARTIST: Mary Timony             MI0001836135

TITLE:  Mountains

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you were college-radio savvy in 2000, maybe a stray cut or two.

LINEUP: Mary Timony, John McEntire, Ash Bowie

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Helium leader goes solo, and releases a quiet, spooky album that utilizes a lot of piano.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Helium itself was pretty spooky, but this first solo album by Mary Timony re-defines it. Almost every song is breathlessly lullabied to the listener, and many cuts use piano as the driving force with some other accompaniment. Not many guitar fireworks here.

That’s not to say there isn’t guitar, or that Timony is all quiet here. The prevailing theme and tone of the album is quiet – as you’re listening to this under drawn bed covers.

It’s not something to listen to constantly – even if you like Helium or Ex Hex or Timony in general. But it’s not useless at all.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The year before, she collaborated with Carrie Brownstein in an album called The Spells.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B: It’s a hushed record – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, too.

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – Treble in Trouble

ARTIST: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists 220px-Ted_Leo_and_the_Pharmacists_-_Treble_in_Trouble_cover

TITLE:  Treble in Trouble

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: This was a five-song EP

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Ted Leo, James Canty, Jodi VB, Amy Farina

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Five song EP is the beginning of the full-band releases for Ted Leo.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s a short five song EP, with two songs left over from Ted Leo’s band The Sin Eaters, and one cover song. But what these five songs established him and the Pharmacists as a dependable punk / indie entity.

The opening cut has an experimental tinge to it (“Abner Louima v. Gov. Pete Wilson”) but it’s a lot better than the experiments on his first solo album. This is a good palate setter for the rest of his output.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was recorded by Brendan Canty of Fugazi, who is James Canty’s brother.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B: It’s good, if not brief, starter for Ted Leo & the Pharmacists.

Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

ARTIST: Ryan Adams          220px-RyanAdamsHeartbreaker

TITLE:  Heartbreaker

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: #183 UK

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)

LINEUP: Ryan Adams, Ethan Johns, David Rawlings, Gillian Welch, Pat Sansone. Emmy Lou Harris, Kim Richey and Allison Pierce do backing vocals on one song each.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After Whiskeytown slowly imploded, Adams starts his solo career with a set that fits right in with what his band was doing at the end.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The slow, sad demise of Whiskeytown birthed Adams’ solo career, and realistically, the last Whiskeytown album was pert near a solo album anyway.

This is a pretty standard alt-country record, featuring Adams’ aching heart love songs or pleading heart love songs (and some other songs about being young, etc.). There’s a lot of great stuff here, like “My Winding Wheel”, “Oh My Sweet Carolina” (featuring Emmylou Harris) and “Come Pick Me Up” (featuring great vocals from Kim Richey). “Amy” is just gorgeous.

Adams, even then, was very prolific (just look at bonus cuts on a couple of Whiskeytown releases), and that’s to this album’s detriment. Amidst the great stuff, there’s some mediocre material that could have been left for B-sides. Trimming 10 to 12 minutes wouldn’t be that hard, and it’d be a better, more compact album.

Still, Adams was off to a great start on his solo career as the highlights of this album show.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The album starts with an argument on what album “Suedehead” by Morrissey was on. It’s on both Bona Drag and Viva Hate, BTW.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: In France (not Japan, believe it or not!)

GRADE: B+. When you look at the tracks left on the album after about 10 to 11, that’s a sign the record’s too long.