Tag: 2003

Stellastarr – Stellastarr

ARTIST: Stellastarr          Stellastarr_Stellastarr

TITLE: Stellastarr

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Somewhere Across Forever, Jenny, My Coco

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Shawn Christensen, Amanda Tannen, Michael Jurin, Arthur Kremer

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: NYC based band meshes a lot of influences into something that’s not quite original, but enjoyable.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Some good riffs, backing vocals by a female bassist, and a frontman that has a quirky shouty singing voice. It may be a little Column A and Column B, but it’s still enjoyable.

Shawn Christensen’s voice can be overbearing at times (he’s not subtle, but not outrageous), and he and Michael Jurin do a good job in making guitar sounds. They bounce from the 80’s to the 90’s in style, so they’re not breaking new ground here. And even if you don’t quite remember “Jenny”, you definitely recognize the motif. “My Coco” even has a little bit of Low in it at the beginning before it moves to an 80’s alt-rock style.

Some of their songwriting here is just average, and they don’t really slow down well. Still, it was a decent debut and one to re-visit if you missed it the first time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Christensen, Tannen and Kremer met at Pratt Institute and had a band that dissolved upon graduation, but later added Jurin and formed Stellastar.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B+: Pleasantly cromulent 80’s and 90’s alt rock nostalgia.

Brother Ali – Shadows on the Sun

ARTIST: Brother Ali            220px-Shadows_on_the_Sun

TITLE:  Shadows on the Sun

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Room with a View, Champion

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really

LINEUP: Brother Ali, Ant

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First wide-ish release by Twin Cities alternative rapper that gave notice that he was a force to be reckoned with in the underground community.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Brother Ali, an albino Muslim rapper from Minneapolis, is one of the most steadfast and focused of the alternative / underground hip hop community. This, his second album (and first that was really distributed), landed and created a buzz that continues to this day.

His rhymes and flow compel you to listen, and the beats and production by Ant are also compelling – there are hooks, great samples, and a tremendous blend of voice and beats. The content by Ali is about family, religion, injustice, and the power imbalance between the Government and the people in his community. It’s definitely a potent, powerful mix.

Ali also rhymes about privilege, male privilege especially. He’s angry, but hopeful. It’s a national debut that to this day is vital.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He had a previous release, on cassette only, with very limited circulation.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: A+: I can’t get enough of this.

Blitzen Trapper – Blitzen Trapper

ARTIST: Blitzen Trapper           Blitzen_Trapper_(album)

TITLE:  Blitzen Trapper

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Eric Earley, Brian Adrian Koch, Michael Van Pelt, Drew Laughery, Marty Marquis.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After a name change, Portland folkie-indie rocker amalgamation releases its first actual record you could find in stores.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting out as Garmonbozia, the Portland quintet led by Eric Earley sold music at their shows until 2003, when they set up their own record company, changed their name, and released this debut record.

The songs here are a bit shambolic, ranging from harmonic pop rock songs, to a dirty sounding folk, and everything in between. Earley’s lyrics and song titles (the song titles!) are kind of all over the map, but somehow they blend in well with the overall song.

Blitzen Trapper’s secret weapon is Marty Marquis, a multi-instrumentalist who can contribute anything needed to fill in the sound and keep the listener on their toes. It’s not perfect, as it’s a bit ragged and doesn’t always flow well, but it’s a decent enough introduction to the band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The name of the band was based on Earley’s junior high girlfriend, who had a favorite reindeer (Blitzen) and kept a Trapper Keeper with her drawings of Santa and reindeer on it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, for record store day 

GRADE: B: Not always cohesive, but there’s some really good pieces and parts here.

Ryan Adams – Rock n Roll

ARTIST: Ryan Adams            220px-Ryan_Adams_Rock_N_Roll

TITLE:  Rock N Roll

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: #33 US, #41 UK

SINGLES: This Is It, So Alive (#21 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Shallow, Wish You Were Here

LINEUP: Ryan Adams, Jonathan Flaugher, Paul Garisto, Johnny McNab, Johnny Pisano, Tony Shanahan, Johnny T. Yerington with help from Billie Joe Armstrong, Melissa Auf der Mar, and Parker Posey.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After his record company held the release of Love Is Hell, Adams slammed this rock album out quickly, and it’s a darn good rock record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: For a quick fix substitute record, this is darn good. Adams luckily had a pretty large backlog of songs, so he was able to pull these out and record them in a short amount of time in two studios.

It’s imperfect (like most of Adams’ records, since he’s prolific he tends to throw everything against a wall), but when it works the hooks, melody, and sonic palette all combine for a nice rock-and-roll sound with enough variation so you don’t get bored.

From stem-to-stern, it’s decent enough to keep you listening. Adams did an admirable job in this pinch hit of a record.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Love Is Hell was released as two EPs, and then a combined album. It’s a much different animal than this one, or anything else Adams had done.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A bonus track for Europe and one for Japan 

GRADE: B+: By no means a masterpiece, it’s got enough good songs that make it worth having..

 

Metric – Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?

ARTIST: Metric                                 220px-Old_World_Underground,_Where_Are_You_Now-_Cover

TITLE: Old World Underground, Where Are You Know?

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Combat Baby, Dead Disco

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Were you in Canada in 2003? No. Well, no then.

LINEUP: Emily Haines, James Shaw, Joshua Winstead, Joules Scott-Key

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album release by Canadian new-ish wave (a throwback, kinda) rock band mixes electronics, indie rock, and a new wave sensibility.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: At times, this release could fit in nicely in 1981 or so with the new wave era of synths and guitars, but there’s a modern twist and polish to Metric. Led by Emily Haines’ vocals and keyboards and James Shaw’s guitar work, Metric is definitely both old school and part of the 2000’s indie scene.

It’s an enjoyable romp through both old and new. Haines’ vocals, at times semi-spoken, are the forefront, and the music and arrangements complement her stylings. The synths played by Haines add some unique coloring to a few songs, and Shaw’s guitar hooks and riffs make the tracks very radio friendly while not being generic.

Metric’s gotten a lot of praise for their later work, but this is just as strong and should be on the list for any fan of the band, and of any new wave fan who wants something to remind them of the old days.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Their US record company delayed their 2001 debut album until it was really too late, and it was finally released in 2007 (and that’s where I’ll cover it).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A-: A pleasant retro-but-not-really indie rock record that deserves more attention.

Beyonce – Dangerously in Love

ARTIST: Beyonce                                                  220px-Dangerously_In_Love_Album(2003)

TITLE:  Dangerously in Love

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Crazy in Love (#1 US, #1 UK), Baby Boy (#1 US, #2 UK), Me, Myself and I (#4 US, #11 UK), Naughty Girl (#3 US, #10 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Closer I Get to You

LINEUP: Beyonce, guest artists Jay-Z, Sean Paul, Big Boi, Missy Elliott, Sleepy Brown, Luther Vandross, and a whole lot of producers and session musicians.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut from Beyonce isn’t that far off from the last Destiny’s Child record, except Beyonce does most of the vocals (layered over-dubbed).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Beyonce’s inevitable solo career started with a world-wide smash. The hits didn’t sound that far off from Destiny’s Child, to be honest. It’s hard to disguise that voice, really.

The deeper cuts show more of an R&B style, and there are more soul-type ballads on this effort. Those suffer a bit much, since the hits are full of energy and pep, including “Naughty Girl” which is a long way from some of the more wholesome fare from the beginning of her career.

It was inevitable that this would be a big hit, and set a blueprint for her career going forward. But her later albums have outshone this except for the debut single “Crazy in Love”

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Signs” was about the signs of the Zodiac. Jay-Z is a Sagittarius and Beyonce said she was in love with a Sagittarius. Hmmm…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, several editions for various countries.

GRADE: B-:  Decent debut, but her ballads drag this down a bit.

Gossip – Movement

ARTIST: Gossip                              220px-thegossip-movement

TITLE:  Movement

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe not

LINEUP: Beth Ditto, Brace Paine, Kathy Mendonca

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second full length album sands off the rough edges and makes for a more powerful record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s not that rough edges aren’t great in rock-and-roll – they are for sure. However, Gossip’s move away from full-on raggedness to a more polished sound is great as it highlights Beth Ditto’s voice even more.

The songwriting here is more varied as well, from the powerful “Nite” to the up-and-at-em “Jason’s Basement” and “Don’t Make Waves”, this record smokes at just the right time. “Yesterdays News” goes from slow meditation to perfect stomper.

There are a couple of misses, especially the final cut which wears out its welcome in no time. Still, a fine record to own – simple rock with a powerful voice.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had an EP between full-length album one and two, which I’ll review later.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: Thoroughly enjoyable on 10 of 11 tracks.

The Thermals – More Parts per Million

ARTIST: The Thermals                220px-more_parts_per_million

TITLE:  More Parts per Million

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not outside of KEXP, probably

LINEUP: Hutch Harris.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Basically a solo album for Hutch Harris, who did everything himself. Kathy Foster, his former folkie duo partner, would soon join as he put together a real band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s a cheap album, all done by Hutch Harris, and costing less than $100 to record. It is a bit rough around the edges, but it does sound like the Thermals.

Harris changed directions from his old band with Kathy Foster, who soon joined Harris on stage with Jordan Hudson, writing in a alternative / punk rock style with some earnest vocals.

This is another record where the songs whir and blur together, and it’s hard to pick out a standout cut. It’s all OK, and Harris and company would improve as they matured as a band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The folk due was Hutch & Kathy – which sounds like an SNL skit.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+:  I can’t say it’s great, but it’s decent enough in parts. It just all is kind of the same, really.

Kelly Clarkson – Thankful

ARTIST: Kelly Clarkson                       220px-thankful_album

TITLE:  Thankful

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #41 UK

SINGLES: Before Your Love (#1 US), Miss Independent (#9 US, #6 UK), Low (#58 US, #35 UK), The Trouble with Love Is (#101 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A Moment Like This

LINEUP: Kelly Clarkson and multiple session musicians.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album from first American Idol winner is safe and unexceptional.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Goopy ballads, songs that let the diva in her go, and very safe pop records, this debut album from Clarkson doesn’t signal anything except product that they could sell to her fans on American Idol.

It’s very obvious that Clarkson can sing, and sing well. American Idol dodged a bullet by her victory in Season One, since she was obviously the most talented and pop ready of the contestants. What this album lacks, though, is true inspiration except on a couple of cuts.

“Miss Independent” really saves the album from a total collection of ready made pop schlock. That song is funky, and has a unique production and doesn’t sound like it came from the synthesizer of a song doctor. That songs a winner, and really about the only thing truly memorable about this record.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Miss Independent” was originally slated for a Christina Aguilera album, and she gets co-writing credit on it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The usual Japanese bonus track.

GRADE: C: Pop schlock same as it ever was. I exiled most all of this.

The Avett Brothers – Carolina Jubilee

ARTIST: The Avett Brothers         220px-carolinajubilee

TITLE:  A Carolina Jubilee

YEAR RELEASED: 2003

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Pretty Girl from Raleigh, Me and God

LINEUP: Seth Avett. Scptt Avett. Bob Crawford, Joe Kwon

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The brothers go down-home, crossing old time music with intriguing lyrical ideas and some rock motifs (but not really a rock sound).

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It could be said that this is the first real, honest Avett Brothers album that didn’t have any connection to their previous incarnation in the rock / punk vein.

But the spirit is still there, as they’re freewheeling with keeping the lyrics away from strictly old-time tropes as the banjos and double bass play along. They do sound like they’re having a good time, which is most of the battle in this genre.

The songwriting lacks in a few places, though, and sometimes they draw from the same well too often. Also, the last cut may have been great for the brothers to add, but a recording from their kitchen when they were in grade school isn’t something you want to listen to, really.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There are three “Pretty Girl From” songs on here.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Early copies of the CD had two extra songs..

GRADE: B:  Good, not tremendous, but it’s interesting to see when they really turned the corner into full time old time.