Music

Best of 2001: Mark Desrosiers

Mark Desrosiers

Best Music of 2001 Lists


1. Butchies, 3 (Mr. Lady)
I'm just gonna come right out and say it: lesbian power trios have saved rock and roll. You know who I'm talking about: the Gossip, Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre, Butchies. All the pomo boys who think they're remaking rock by getting random, squalid, feckless, and lo-fi -- they'll get tossed out of the game at 50 miles per hour when the dyke punks roll into town. To my mind, the Butchies are the best band rocking across the states today, and their latest album -- a sublime hybrid of emo and power-pop as intertwined forces of recent musical history -- squashes the competition. They know what melody and solidarity and principle are really all about. And as far as power-pop goes, they have no peers. Lead singer Kaia Wilson (who made her mark on music history in Team Dresch) has a beautiful, slightly reedy, melodic voice that is in utter contrast to the subtle menace of her appearance. Just cue up tunes like "Anything Anthology," (which namechecks Traffic and Zeppelin) "Forget Your Calculus," (which every bored math student should hear on their walkman as the teacher chalks the parabola), and "I Hate.Com" (about hating the sun) -- these are exploding with unforgettable melodies and anger. I wish I could describe it to you: hell, just buy it. My favorite tune is called "Mandy (1985-2000)", a melodic, bitter, blurry, loud, angst-ridden track propelled by the amazing sticks of Melissa York (the best drummer of the century so far) , and Kaia's blistering riffs and vox. Step back and take a breath, 'cause maybe Hüsker Dü is among us again. The Butchies take the soap operas and tragedies of their lives, and make them compellingly political. Can popular music serve a nobler purpose in the 21st century?

2. Peaches, The Teaches of Peaches (Kitty-Yo)
A shuffling, bumping bullybag of kraut beats and musky lyrics, this willfully explicit robo-diva dares us to check her out. "Fuck the Pain Away", "Diddle My Skiddle", "Cum Undun" -- she's got sex on the brain, and it ain't a metaphor. Senile geronto-hipster critics like Robert Christgau wasted no time dissing her as emblematic of the web-porn age, showing once again that you should never trust a rock critic who sounds like your dad. Having attended too many pomo gigs where the horn-rim-glasses brigade stands motionless and stares, I eagerly embraced an autonomous, loud woman who gets the hipsters to start doing the boogaloo like Prince on the pipe. The album is even better than the show, and it has exterminated the dumb-ass fungal puritanism of the in-crowd pretty quickly.

3. Atom & His Package, Redefining Music (Hopeless)
Henny Youngman took the stage with a fiddle and a secret file of one-liners. Atom takes the stage with a tennis ball, a sequencer, and some really funny jokes. It's all part of the same tradition. Every song on this album is hilarious, hooky, and topical, so good you just keep on replaying it. His liner notes set up the plot, and the song itself is the punch line. For example, "If You Own the Washington Redskins, You're a Cock" is a blistering tune about naming sports teams after Native American stereotypes. And "Shopping Spree" is about a crappy band whose only good tune is called "Shopping Spree". And don't miss his cover of the Mountain Goats' "Seed Song" because it'll have you rending your garments in existential angst. It's no accident that he's on one of the best punk labels around, 'cause his kinetic tunes keep the beats-per-minute and words-per-minute at a fever pitch. Impressive, imaginative, unique, loud, and geeky.

4. Dropkick Murphys, Sing Loud, Sing Proud (Hellcat)
Hmmm, let's see: Irish jigs and reels. Oi! Working class Boston kids. Shane MacGowan cameo. Am I in heaven? A loud, gruff, anthemic album that comes barking off the turntable like a pack of righteous dogs, Sing Loud, Sing Proud will put you back into Trotsky-land no matter how moderate you think you are. Ace politics, fist-pumping tunes, and the best version of "Which Side Are You On?" you'll ever hear.

5. The Gossip, That's Not What I Heard (Kill Rock Stars)
A sweaty, loud, bracing power trio whose songs simultaneously evoke Wanda Jackson and the Troggs, the Gossip have conquered garage rock and claimed it for the underdogs. The lyrics are righteous declarations of dyke lust and femme revenge. The wild-eyed singing and playing will yank you out of your seat. Shake dat fat ass, baby!

6. Iffy, Biota Bondo (Foodchain)
Here's what happens when a buncha nifty punk-rock stoners put a glide in their stride, a dip in their hip, and step on to the mothership. Funky, ecstatic, and hilarious, this is the party album of the year.

7. Ike Reilly, Salesmen and Racists (Republic/Universal)
Bursting out of nowhere, ex-Drover and doorman Ike Reilly is equal parts Marshall Crenshaw, Nick Lowe, and Grandmaster Flash. He built his reputation on legendary live gigs, and the disc captures the magic. The hooks will pull you in by your lapels, but the lyrics will really repay your attention. The magical ditty "Put a Little Love In It", for example, features a gory self-immolation. Retro-irony and sexy selfishness for a post-ironic age.

8. Chitlin' Fooks, Chitlin' Fooks (Hidden Agenda)
No, I didn't know Belgium made honky-tonk angels either. But Carol van Dyk (ex-Bettie Serveert) steals this album from her putative equal partner Pascal Deweeze (ex-Sukilove etc.) with her gorgeous voice and astounding songwriting. This is one of the few great alt.country albums where the original tunes are better than the covers. Don't believe all that Gram-Emmylou claptrap you hear when the highbrows review this album: this is Kitty Wells and Dolly Parton territory. Two of the album's original compositions -- "How Many Times" and "Seen it All" -- should become country standards if all the country thrushes had a voice like Carol's. Alas they don't anymore.

9. Beulah, The Coast is Never Clear (Velocette)
Beulah is a strange, wispy band whose heritage includes the Beach Boys, Shoes, Woodentops, and Belle & Sebastian. Pure pop for impure people. Their newest album doesn't sound much different from their last, but somehow everyone in the world is catching on this time. And this is a good thing. The lyrics are pretty dull, so you're forced to sink yourself into sound. And what a sound they have! Their trademark is an infectious melodic tag like pollen buffeted by oxygen molecules. The horns are the best part: totally unfunky, devoid even of ska training, they sound like a high school marching band about to break into reveille. Yet they make every song sound like magic.

10. Shuggie Otis, Inspiration Information
For some reason the hipsters jumped all over this reissue of Shuggie's 1974 sleeper, while I still catch hell for the multiple Con Funk Shun and L.T.D. albums in my collection. Ah well. It is pretty great, though. Imagine waking up in the morning, saying hello to the garish sunbeam through your window, and seeing three little birds dipping rhythmically through the wind in the distance. That's what this album's like, really! This Shuggie really knew how to put together some nice mellow, optimistic, vaguely funky tunes, and the groove is druggy, understated and heartfelt. The way it all underscores a chilled-out time in U.S. history no doubt explains the reissue's adoption by techno-raver dj types as a hidden treasure. The liner notes compare Shuggie to Prince and Sly, though I think the comparisons are way off �cause Shuggie can't sing. He's obviously a folkie at heart. The best comparison is Bill Withers, who also had an understated voice, big heart, and some high-quality mush in his brain. As an added bonus, if you buy this album you can hear Shuggie's original version of "Strawberry Letter 23," which actually sounds far ahead of its time considering it was recorded in 1970. (Beware the thirteen-minute chillout-room vial of crystal sap called "Freedom Flight," though.)


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.