Best Music of 2001 Lists
This year provided an incredible bounty of great sounds. Without further ado, here are a dozen I think are worth your time:
Butterfly Jones, Napalm Springs (Vanguard)
Past flavors blend with the present to create an aural treat of fine pop from start to finish. Former Dada wunderkind Michael Gurley takes another step forward, honing his songwriting to the point of making believers out of those who thought the craft was dead. You get 14 fun songs that cover a wide stylistic spectrum and leave you humming.
The Orgone Box, The Orgone Box (Minus Zero)
With strong melodies backed by the sweet jangle of Rickenbacker guitars, this UK discovery (via Japan 1995) is a keeper. Rick Corcoran is the multi-talented creative force that propels this fine music into the echelons of better psychedelic-tinged pop. This one will grab you at first listen, grow on you with repeated listens, and will wind up a much-played favorite. And the favorable response has gotten Mr. Corcoran back writing new music: I can’t wait!
Hawksley Workman, (last night we were) The Delicious Wolves (Isadora)
Canada’s solution to the doldrums plaguing much of today’s music, the energetic eclectic Hawksley Workman furthers his talents on this otherwise sophomore effort. Charisma marks the impressive vocal and instrumental performances of Workman, who wrote, produced and performed here. With influences that extend from Brecht to Queen, The Delicious Wolves packs a musical bite to wake us out of our collective musical stupor with quirky infectious songs.
George Usher Group, Days of Plenty (Parasol)
George Usher is a veteran of the pop scene and his songwriting only gets better as he goes. Beneath the ringing guitars lie strong melodies and lyrics that reflect sensitivity and intelligence. This is a CD that requires patience: play it often and you will be rewarded with subtle hooks that ease their way into the subconscious. Days Of Plenty is a gentle winner guaranteed to become one of your favorites.
Ken Stringfellow, Touched (Manifesto)
Posies’ pop guru Ken Stringfellow steps into the solo spotlight, creating a CD of perfect pop moments running the lyrical gamut from hope to despair. With the magic touch of Mitch Easter, Stringfellow has done some of his best work yet, finding beauty in the wistful, translating it through an emotive voice and ultimately capturing it in song.
Scot Sax, Scot Sax (Not Lame)
Wanderlust and Bachelor Number One were proving grounds for the talented Scot Sax, who takes a successful leap into the solo realm, here. Sarcasm-tinged lyrics take wry wit through a variety of light and tuneful pop tempos, and Sax writes them catchy and sweet. This is a summery album for all seasons, pleasant and varied enough to stand the test of time.
Treble Charger, Wide Awake Bored (Nettwerk)
Another export from Canada, this is my choice for rocking, guitar-driven teenage angst. With this fourth album, the group has matured in their songwriting while preserving adolescence as a rich treasure trove of material. There’s ample opportunity for air-guitar play-along here, with pop hooks that stick like a porcupine’s quills. Good fun that’s easy to sing with and dance to, Treble Charger proves at heart I’m still a teenage boy.
Gary Myrick, Waltz of the Scarecrow King (Tangible Music)
A musical surprise of folk-acoustic grace, veteran guitarist Myrick offers up a quirky collection of poetic personal tales that haunt and delight. Myrick is at the height of his songwriting prowess, and the Tchad Blake production captures the quiet confidence of this intimacy in a way that offers up your very own personal command performance. Great storytelling will enchant you, but the spare beauty of the music will transform you.
Jason Falkner, Necessity: The Four-Track Years (spinART)
If you don’t know the multi-talented pop prodigy Jason Falkner, you should. This genius/studio whiz plays everything and makes it sound convincingly like a tight band. Here you get a lot of the original 4-track home recordings behind his Author Unknown CD (rougher versions of the finished product that still amaze in their complexity), along with the true treat of previously unreleased material (a 16-track “She’s the Enemy” and a great “His Train” among them). This is a must-have for Falkner fanatics, and a pleasant introduction for all those fanatics-to-be.
Ralph Towner, Anthem (ECM)
Guitar virtuoso Ralph Towner offers up a solo tour-de-force that plays like a soundtrack to your imagination. This is captivatingly beautiful music that carries you off to faraway places. In his 60th year, Towner pushes his mastery of the instrument in what may be one of the best CDs in his long and distinguished career.
The Tories, Upside of Down (02)
This second CD effort by this under-appreciated Los Angeles band includes some slower tempo explorations into smart pop (while also including their TV theme song “Time For You”). You get more great harmonies and accomplished songwriting, even a marching band intro as part of this extended solid collection. Sad how few people know The Tories. Here’s hoping this recommendation helps some.
The Rosenbergs, Mission: You (Discipline Global Recording)
David Fagin writes winning light pop that never takes itself too seriously and Evan Silverman plays a mean bass. While The Rosenbergs play hard, tour ferociously and market themselves with guerilla tactics worthy of a small nation defending itself, the real secret is the music. It’s modern pop culture synthesized through a filter of infectious insouciance. In short: hams on wry, and good enough for second helpings.
Two from 2000 Worthy of Late Mention:
Greg Johnson, Sea Breeze Motel (EMI): New Zealand native creates incredibly fine pop
DumDums, It Goes Without Saying (MCA): A UK Blink-182 and then some
A Baker’s Dozen 2001 Honorable Mentions:
Cliff Hillis, Be Seeing You(Not Lame)
Glenn Tilbrook, The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook (Quixotic)
Ron Sexsmith, Blue Boy(Cooking Vinyl)
Sam Phillips, Fan Dance (Nonesuch)
Jump, Little Children, Vertigo (EZ Chief)
They Might Be Giants, Mink Car (Restless)
Johnny A., Sometime Tuesday Morning (Favored Nations)
Electric Light Orchestra, Zoom (Epic)
The Lucksmiths, Why That Doesn’t Surprise Me(Drive-In)
Orange Alabaster Mushroom, Space & Time: A Compendium(Hidden Agenda)
The Rembrandts, Lost Together (J-Bird)
The Lilac Time, lilac6 (Cooking Vinyl)
The Knack, Normal As The Next Guy (Smile)