|45|| KINDRED THE FAMILY SOUL |
Surrender to Love (Hidden Beach)
Did he really say “tired of not getting no ass / Unless the baby’s sleep / But even them seems like we tryin’ to creep”? (“Far Away”) Damn, must have been in my head and when you get pop or R&B that even remotely represents the daily, daily of the “not nearly rich, never gonna be famous, but still happy to put in the time” it needs to be recognized. Kindred, a husband and wife duo from South Jersey got the deal right, giving grown folks, in between day care pickups, out-of-town business trips, soccer camp, another McFood dinner and yes another night (or month) of not getting “some,” music to “respirate” to (you know, “breathe in, breathe out”). Folks might be steppin’ hard to that Chi-town Piper, but seems like South Jersey/Philly got their own little stepper-classic with “Far Away” and life don’t get no sweeter than hearing Aja coo to Fatin, “we’ve come so far / Stars look up to you/my heart belongs / Right here next to you” as she does on the lovely “Stars”.
Mark Anthony Neal :. original PopMatters review
|44|| THE NOTWIST |
Neon Golden (Domino)
If you knew of the Notwist prior to 2003 (or 2002 if you’re overseas) and you saw this one coming, raise your hand. Liar. Known mostly for a harder-edged rock sound, the Notwist weren’t your most likely candidates for Radiohead-type evolution. Yet, one of the most talked about but never heard records of 2002 got its proper U.S. release in 2003 and folks started taking note of this peculiar transformation. A mix of beats and blips and beeps with thoughtfully crafted lyrics and pop jams, Neon Golden should put to rest any thought that using a laptop to create music cheapens the product. There’s banjo, plucking strings and guitars, and straight-ahead electric rock mixed in with the less organic sounds; the result is a haunting new type of electro/pop/folk that is sure to inspire other bands to make the plunge into electronic music.
Mitch Pugh :. original PopMatters review
|43|| THE RAPTURE |
Delays, label changes, and turmoil with their producers all hinted at a collapse of what the Rapture have grown to do best: making great dance-digi-funk-synth-art-post-punk-with-a-squealin’-saxophone tunes. But Echoes is anything but a failure—even more than that, it captures the Rapture reinventing their dancefloor-ready formula to include riffs Ziggy Stardust could only dream and ballads that could make Cure aficionados weep. But how can an album that’s part Ziggy Stardust, part teary balladry, and two parts dance-punk equal a cohesive album, let alone a great one? I don’t know, but in the case of the Rapture’s Echoes, hearing is believing.
Ryan Potts :. original PopMatters review
|42|| THE WEAKERTHANS |
Reconstruction Site (Epitaph)
More Canadians with a social conscience. Boasting (or burdened by, if you prefer) genuine politico-punk ancestry (Propagandhi), John K. Samson’s waving wheat kings the Weakerthans concoct an unheralded, virtually unsung, veritable unholy mess of pop, country, folk and punk rock. However, turns out it’s not really a mess at all. Reinserting the “lit” in “politics”, they reference Amis (Jr) and Agee as well as Pomo stalwarts Derrida and Foucault, among others. Heady stuff, for sure, but the whole project is rescued from the overly cerebral by warm, piquant songwriting and a sharp sense of the resonant pop hook (and glowingly heartfelt lyrical embers) amid tumbling, cascading wordplay pyrotechnics. The prairies finally get their own Tragically Hip? Nah, it’s better than that.
David Antrobus :. original PopMatters review
|41|| BELLE AND SEBASTIAN |
Dear Catastrophe Waitress (Rough Trade)
Yet another album I was skeptical of. After Fold Your Hands Child I, like many others feared that Belle and Sebastian had finally lost the plot. Although I actually liked Fold Your Hands Child (many did not) the band was clearly lost. The lively but uneven soundtrack to Todd Solondz’s Storytelling didn’t offer much more hope. But Belle and Sebastian came through in spades with a dazzlingly polished pop record filled to the brim with gorgeous melodies, spellbindingly intelligent lyrics, and off-kilter kookiness. So, back to business as usual then.
Michael Beaumont :. original PopMatters review