December 02, 2002

Mental Notes

Oh my, I just realized I've gone three whole weeks without seeing any live music. But I suppose I was due for a break given the feverish concert-attendance pace I set for the previous two or three months. And there are a good number of shows coming up this month that will bring me back up to speed. Speaking of which... any NY-area, show-going readers of this site should feel free to come up and say "hi" if you see me at a concert. Hopefully I'll look a bit more chipper than in the pic I've currently got on my "about" page, and I'll even buy you a drink. How about that?

Now that the year is almost over, I've also been trying to get my hands on the last of the new (or not-so-new) 2002 albums so I can finalize my personal year-end best-of list. Still need to check out albums by Franklin Bruno, My Dad Is Dead, the Delgados, Doves and Statuesque. Also plan on giving Radio 4 another shot, after initially being underwhelmed by a lone song of theirs I'd downloaded off of Soulseek a few months back. What made me reconsider my first impression was their contribution to the Fenway Recordings comp In Our Lifetime Vol. 2. I'd bought that CD for the non-LP Consonant track (of course), but the songs by Radio 4 ("The Movies") and Anna Waronker ("Love Story") were the ones that stuck with me the most.

Mini-reviews of other new-ish albums I've been listening to frequently, recently:

The Mountain Goats - Tallahassee (4AD)

John Darnielle knows how to tell a story, using his expressive voice and unique turns of phrase to map out a couple's deteriorating relationship, the sole subject of this new Mountain Goats album. Given the lo-fi nature of previous Mountain Goats recordings, the crystal clarity of these recordings is at first startling, as are the vocal harmonies, piano, counterpoint bass and percussive flourishes (even full-out drums on a couple of tracks). Songs both funny and heartfelt, aching and wicked... little playlets acted out in three or four minutes' apiece.

Hot Hot Heat - Make Up the Breakdown (Sub Pop)

Paul at The Rub started it by posting a downloadable mp3 of "No, Not Now" on his site awhile back; Travelers Diagram further piqued my interest in this album by making available another mp3 shortly thereafter. And once I got my hands on the whole album a month or so ago, it immediately jumped to the top of my "new albums" playlist in my iPod, the first thing I'd put on before heading out each day. Partly it's pleasure at hearing a new record that so directly references a certain literate, angular 80s pop aesthetic (think: XTC, Elvis Costello, Squeeze, The Cars) of which I've always been fond. But mostly it's the energy and catchiness of the songs, which make me want to jump up and dance around and emulate the lead singer's rapid-fire, Andy Partridge-meets-Robert Smith vocal histrionics. (I've been poking a voodoo doll/That you do not know I've made/For you/Of you/Let's see what needles do) They must be an incredibly fun live band; here's to hoping they'll come back to the East Coast soon, since I missed my chance when they were in town a month ago for CMJ.

Amy Fairchild - Mr. Heart (So Fair Music)

This one was a bit of surprise, not the kind of thing I'd have ever investigated myself. But a friend lent this to me noting that it was his favorite album this year, and given that he'd turned me on to my favorite album of the year, I needed to give this one a spin. Or two. Or three. Actually, any sense of obligation vanished after one listen, as I found myself liking this album quite a bit, a lot more than I would have thought. Amy Fairchild is an Aimee Mann-style singer-songwriter, but more... straightforward? Sincere? Definitely more upbeat, more pop. It appeals to my Crowded House-bred pop sense, even as some parts veer into Joni Mitchell territory, but... um, I still like it.

What else? Beginning the long process of getting rid of items musical and otherwise on eBay, trying to think of intelligent responses to some excellent questions posed to me about record collecting (more on that later), listening to all those fab indiepop 12"es I bought last week (one of which I've been playing at least twice a day now: "Way Behind Me" by The Primitives! The not-so-big hit single follow-up but IMO, a better pop song than "Crash"), finally putting together that list of other music blogs for that lonely-looking spot in the sidebar, and creating/burning copies of my Christmas 2002 mix CD.

Posted by nstop at December 02, 2002 11:20 PM


I just got the Hot Hot Heat record and i absolutely love it, i really want to see these guys live, i'm hoping they'll come back to nyc soon... making my top albums of 2002 will be a torture this year, too many good ones.

Posted by: audrey on December 4, 2002 10:13 PM

I bought the Mountain Goats on the insistance of the bassist in my band. It is a lot of fun.

I would say the Doves album deserves year-end list consideration, for sure. It's epic.

Posted by: frank on December 6, 2002 12:04 PM

I just got a CD of the Primitives' first record at a thrift store, and I'm rediscovering just what a great record it is. I really wish there were more than 2 records.

Posted by: Timmy on December 6, 2002 03:10 PM

you are in luck Timmy... there are 3 records.

The third one's not nearly as good as the better-known 2, and it's pretty hard to find being an import and all. But it's called "Galore" if you want to put it on your radar.

Posted by: martin on December 6, 2002 10:59 PM

Make that four, if you include the Lazy Records compilation of the band's first four singles, a few songs from which were recorded for their debut album. Recommended, though I think likewise hard to find.

Posted by: nstop on December 6, 2002 11:29 PM

Thanks for the link! One will be up on NMWYH for you soon. As for Hot Hot Heat, I very much liked the most recent full-length, but I thought that their first Sub Pop EP was much better. I had pretty lofty expectations for the new LP and, although not quite fulfilled, the LP is a keeper.

Posted by: Sabo on December 9, 2002 02:26 PM

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