The lens year 2001 in music

 

 

 

Tori Amos, Strange Little Girls

Many of people probably took one look at the artwork for Tori Amos’ Strange Little Girls and dismissed her as flighty (The insert features Amos dressed up as characters from each song). But to her cult-like followers, Amos is an individual making a bold statement against male supremacy. On her sixth studio album, Amos covers 12 songs written by men that portray women. The result was one of the most creative and thoughtful albums of the year. By addressing feminism, sexuality and female angst, Amos took back the one-sided female images the songs once held, while remaining true to her personal music style. (Kari Petrie)

 

Alien Ant Farm, ANThology

I just heard a TV commercial claim that “we don’t make the things you buy, we make the things you buy better.” Sure, it was talking about some satellite dish, but the same statement could also apply to Alien Ant Farm. The band’s greatest musical contribution this year was a song that Michael Jackson brought us in the 80s. And while covers are often butchered (i.e. Britney Spears’ “Satisfaction), Alien Ant Farm nailed this one, improving upon the original. Furthermore, the ensuing video, which contained numerous Jackson references, proved to be the year’s most light-hearted and fun. Perhaps originality is overrated. (John Vomhof, Jr.)

 

Atom & his Package, Redefining Music

ATOM FOR PRESIDENT! So maybe the album’s title was a little bit of an overstatement, but 2001’s Redefining Music was another batch of ear-worthy entertainment by this smart-ass, one-man-band from Pennsylvania. Whether he’s tackling issues (“If You Own the Washington Redskins, You’re A Cock,” “Anarchy Means I Litter”) or just talking smack (“Atari Track and Field/New Controller Conspiracy,” “Trump”), Atom’s lyrical wit is sharper than thumbtacks. (Dan Haugen)

 

Beulah, The Coast is Never Clear

It is hard not to fall in love with a band that displays such undeniable enthusiasm for their craft. Beulah somehow continually manages to sound infectious and upbeat, even when their lyrics ponder such sour subjects as death and loneliness. Under considerably glum circumstances, Beulah’s third LP The Coast is Never Clear weathered the eclipse of songwriter Miles Kurosky’s dour subject matter. Bubbling over with rich orchestral work, Coast‘s irreverence and classic sound will stay fresh for years to come. (Kate Silver)

 

Bjork, Vespertine

With the awe-inducing wildness of her voice and the intricate simplicity of her music, Bjork continues to amaze. The intensity of her voice ranges from warbling whispers to exuberant hurricanes within the boundaries of one song. Contained in it is the innocence of a child and the wisdom of ancient spirits. Her distinctive combination of organic and electronic elements coupled with the undulations of her voice make for a domestic yet otherwordly effect. (Jahna Peloquin)

 

Mike Brady, Cold Night

Following the disbanding of local favorites Accident Clearinghouse, multitalented vocalist/artist/dry-wit Mike Brady released the soothing and downbeat Cold Night. The intriguing mix of pop hooks and piano-blues explores the modern 20-something’s psyche: from wistful musings on long-distance love to ironic meditations on mundane day jobs-in Brady’s case, landscaping. Originally envisioned as a “pop opera” entitled Sunlit Falls, Brady’s vision has since expanded to include a stable of musicians helping his irreverent creation to light. (K.S.)

 

Cinerama @ 400 Bar, June 2nd

David Gedge has a way with words. Maybe it’s his characteristic wink-and-nudge couplets (“You need a paramour/ Someone to pluck your eyebrows for”) that make the Cinerama songwriter so enchanting. Maybe it’s his British accent. Whatever. This year the former Wedding Present-frontman and indie-icon delivered his pop combo to Minneapolis, effortlessly slaying new fans with the same edgy charm, and even the engaging speed-guitar deliverance, of Weddoes classics like “Suck.” The added bonus of his playing my acoustic guitar (and leaving a pick) earlier in the day made the performance more than memorable. (K.S.)

 

Daft Punk, Discovery

Daft Punk’s raw, headbanging 1997 debut Homework gave new life to a dead-ended house music scene. Their highly anticipated follow-up Discovery finds the French duo shifting into reverse, dipping into ’70s disco decadence and ’80s retro futurism. What is undeniably the hottest single of the year, “One More Time” sounds like a past-its-prime Studio 54 haunted by the ghost of Cher-and refuses to let the party end. With the album’s breakdance-ready breakbeats, cheesy synth-pop and electric guitar solos, the self-proclaimed robots work it like there’s no tomorrow. (J.P.)

 

Destiny’s Child, Survivor

Destiny’s Child are the new Supremes, and they have all the star power, Motown soul and hit songs to back it up. This album is irresistible, and includes three of the best singles of the year: “Independent Woman Pt. 1,” “Bootylicious” and “Survivor.” Beyoncé Knowles is a diva of Diana Ross proportions, demanding her R-E-S-P-E-C-T and kicking out other members left and right. While fellow 20-year-old Britney is “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” Beyoncé is all woman-and an independent, bootylicious survivor at that. (J.P.)

 

Ani DiFranco, Revelling/Reckoning

“She’s 19 going on 30 or maybe she’s really 30 now, it’s hard to say,” observes indie rock’s funkiest folkstress on this year’s Revelling/Reckoning. With the verse, Ani DiFranco perfectly describes her career and the feeling encompassing the album as well. The double-disc set plays off a yin-yang concept that caters to old and new fans alike; two records-one funky, one somber-covering topics from the ups-and-downs of love to DiFranco’s political statements. It is all pulled off with her usual well-crafted sense of songwriting. This time the mix is solidified with well-placed horns arrangements and samples. This is a perfect album for anybody dealing with an overwhelming world. (Kevin Hurley)

 

Divorcee, Lovesick

Mix one part Oasis-style guitar noodling with two parts Semisonic studio gleam and the result is Divorcee’s Lovesick. Not to say that Lovesick sounds like a lost album from a derivative ’90’s alt-rock band; it is definitely its own animal. Big, booming drums and Ryan Seitz’s effortless vocals lead the listener through the album’s slick, moody tracks, while guitarist Chris Pavlich drops in some stellar fret work. The melody in the melancholy “Jennifer” is hands-down the most original (and most hummable) I heard all year. “Back Row” relies on its bouncy drum work and bright guitars to produce a memorable concoction, and one of the album’s few overtly joyous moments. This mix of moody and carefree make Lovesick stand out among the rest and solidify Divorcee as one of Minnesota’s most promising bands. (Paul Sand)

 

Faux Jean, Kiss Life On The Lips

With their debut album and a flurry of local shows, Faux Jean made a name for themselves in 2001. The Twin Cities sextet attains their sound through their sassy girl-guy vocals, bouncy moog keyboards, sugary-sweet pop tunes and confident ’70s guitar crunch. Songs like “Hey!” and “G-a-go-go” are endlessly enthusiastic, full of attitude and head-bobbing melodies. As a result of their sharp, coordinating outfits, dyed-black hair and alter ego nicknames, Faux Jean have been deemed by some as an “image band.” However, their tight, energetic live sets and brilliant songwriting prove that Faux Jean are the real thing. (J.P.)

 

Michael Franti & Spearhead, Stay Human

A few years ago, death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal wrote that “the aim of artists, activists and young people today should be to enrage, enlighten and inspire.” No other release in 2001 better embraced this credo than Michael Franti & Spearhead’s Stay Human. Franti’s lyrics curse the Constitution, critique the prison industrial complex and glorify resistance through 70 minutes of soul-infused hip-hop, dub and funk. (D.H.)

 

Fugazi, The Argument

I think discovering a Fugazi record could save any music fan questioning their faith, as it can tend to decline every now and then as any religion can. On The Argument, Fugazi’s blend of face-busting underground rock is once again in top form-as if it ever wasn’t. D.C.’s darlings put out an eerily melodic album this year. If you could hum to screams, you could hum to this. But it’s also charged with the same energy native to every Fugazi release. Some tracks explore their mellower side, but a bitterness you’d expect with lyrics like “I’m pissing on your modems.” (K.H.)

 

Good Charlotte @ Warped Tour, Floatrite Park, July 14

Standing in a mass of sweaty, dirty, sunburned guys, I new I was in for getting my ass kicked. I didn’t realize to what extent, though, until Good Charlotte took the stage at Warped Tour. It was that moment, with my ribs pressed up against the barricade and my body jumping because those around me were jumping, that I realized I was seeing one of the most electrifying and crowd-pleasing bands I have ever witnessed. The audience surged forward with the start of each song and the resulting pit was ferocious and stifling-but in a good way. At the end of the set, Joel, the lead singer, dived into the upraised hands that waited to catch him. Still unknown to most, the guys of this Maryland punk band managed to capture the crowd’s energy and play like their lives depended on it. And it worked. After the show, dozens walked away, commenting on how they had never heard of Good Charlotte until that day, but vowed to have been converted to hardcore fans. (K.P.)

 

Gorillaz, self-titled

It’s more than an album-it’s a multimedia event! Taking over MTV, Top 40 radio and the Internet, cartoon supergroup Gorillaz was the unexpected pop phenomenon of the year. The high-concept brainchild of Dan “The Automator” Nakamura, of Dr. Octagon fame, Damon Albarn of Blur, and Tank Girl animator Jamie Hewlett, the music was meant to serve as a backdrop for the misadventures of the psuedo-gorillas. But with its diverse venturings into the realms of hip-hop fusion, feel-good pop and space-rock, Gorillaz stands on its own, seemingly questioning the relevance of “real” bands. (J.P.)

 

Happy Apple @ the Artist’s Quarter, November 30

2001 was the year of Happy Apple. The dazzling, abstract local jazz trio played clubs, churches, and even parks. Nothing summed-up their remarkable year better than their November gig at the chilled-out new Artist’s Quarter jazz club. Happy Apple played two 90-minute sets, both full of Erik Fratzke’s soul-soaked, harmonic bass lines, Mike Lewis’ melodic and intense saxophone flutterings and King’s free-associated drum crashes and break beats. With a “Hey, if it sounds good, might as well use it” attitude, drummer Dave King took polyrhythms to a new level when he used plastic walkie-talkies and wrenches as drumsticks. Both sets blended a lavish mixture of old favorites like “That Isn’t Even Worth Selling” and newer tunes such as “Green Grass Stains on Wrangler Jeans” and “Salmon Jumpsuit.” (James DeLong)

 

Stephen Malkmus, self-titled

Fortunately, Pavement fans didn’t have long to wait after the band’s brilliant candle dimmed. Stephen Malkmus’ solo spark illuminated the indie rock world in 2001. The self-titled release showed Malkmus still has a magic touch when it comes to concocting clever lyrics, melodic guitar-riffs and energetic anthems about love, pirates and other weird shit, just like the good ol’ days. With newfound classics like “Jennifer and the Ess-Dog,” “The Hook,” and “Deado,” Malkmus made an album that charms listeners with a fresh new sound that keeps his future optimistic and much anticipated. (J.D.)

 

Mojave 3 @ 7th Street Entry, February 24

Mojave 3 made me cry, initially. During a solemn drive to Milwaukee, the tenderness of “Return to Sender” (found on the British folkies 2000 release Excuses for Travellers), heard on the radio, shifted my outlook. It was comforting to later share the Entry with a cozy crowd of fans as the group, guided by Neil Halstead’s affected hush-of-a-voice, breathed a little needed warmth into the late winter-chill. Launching into the sweet distortion of former group Slowdive caused my companion to whisper excitedly in my ear, “Shoe-gazer is back!” No tears, just quiet cheers. (K.S.)

 

Jamie Ness, Dodging the Landlord

The nervous, almost goofy grin that accompanied Jamie Ness on stage so often this year seemed to be a sign that the singer/songwriter was a little perplexed by, and perhaps even amused with, the small-scale local buzz that followed him in 2001. But anyone who spent some time with Ness’ debut Dodging the Landlord, released in April on Duluth’s Shaky Ray Records, should have no questions about the musician’s appeal. With a subtle sense of humor, the laid-back disc proves Ness’ talent as a mellow acoustic crooner and an articulate storyteller. (D.H.)

 

New Order, Get Ready

Get Ready is much like U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind, minus the grand, biggest-band-in-the-world declarations. New Order hadn’t released an album in eight years and a few had sneaking suspicions that, like U2, their best days were behind them. It’s a good thing, then, that less then a minute into the album’s opening track, “Crystal,” you know you’ve hit pay dirt. The drums and jangly guitar enter, followed by Peter Hook’s instantly recognizable bass: it feels like 1986 all over again. On the infectious chorus of “Someone Like You,” Bernard Sumner’s trademark detached vocals interweave with Gillian Gilbert’s to produce a hypnotic dance track. The plaintive “Run Wild” closes the album, capping off Get Ready‘s new-beginning feel-quite a feat for band formed 20 years ago. (P.S.)

 

Radiohead, Amnesiac

After getting the shaft from fans and critics alike for their previous effort, Kid A, Radiohead pressed forward in 2001, releasing the beautiful Amnesiac. Diving further into the experimental (and thereby turning-off some fans), Radiohead still found brilliant texture and beauty in songs like “Pyramid Song” and “You and Whose Army.” Amnesiac is a challenge by Radiohead for listeners’ tastes to evolve along with their sound. We could all sit and wait for another OK Computer, but why not follow the amazing road Radiohead is paving for rock music. (J.D.)

 

Rhyme Sayers Entertainment

“I wanna be the biggest thing to hit these little kids/Bigger than guns/bigger than cigarettes,” raps Slug on “Guns and Cigarettes” from Atmosphere’s 2001 release Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EPs. And after a year like Rhyme Sayers had, one can’t help but think it’s just a matter of time until they finally make it big. Lucy Ford was Atmosphere’s most polished release to date and showed Slug as the lyrical genius that he is.

Meanwhile, Eyedea was crowned the nation’s best freestyler as he took home top honors at this year’s Blaze Battle. Furthermore, he demonstrated that he can do more than just freestyle with his debut album First Born, co-starring DJ Abilities.

Rhyme Sayers also brought hip-hop to the Minnesota State Fair for the first time this summer with their nightly set on the teen stage, and actually outdrew some Grandstand performances. (J.V.)

 

Ike Reilly, Salesmen and Racists

Since last summer, Salesmen and Racists has sparked the most deserved hype of any album of 2001 (from me, anyway, plus a few local music journalists). Yet it remains the most underrated and underplayed album of the year (thanks to radio not taking a chance). Reilly’s debut packs one hell of a punch-some the most clever lyric cramming and phrasing I’ve ever heard (“Money undress me and money molest me/as the suburbs suck the punk off of my lap.”), funny and candid song subjects (“Commie Drives A Nova,” “Hip Hop Thighs”), along with pummeling guitar riffs and delicate piano. Reilly swaggers with defiance, yet remains vulnerable at times with themes of failure on “Last Time” (“Last time, I couldn’t make you come…last time a had dinner with a racist”) and the tragic true-story-song, “Put a Little Love in It,” about a friend’s suicide. Reilly’s lyrical brilliance and rock vigor come off completely unfeigned, sometimes raw and always authentic. Finally-someone who has the balls to save rock ‘n’ roll. (Brianna Riplinger)

 

Soul Jazz Records

Yes, Virginia, Bob Marley is not the only Jamaican musician. England’s Soul Jazz Records has done a wonderful service for all old Jamaican music collectors. They are the only label outside of Jamaica to gain rights to the archives of Studio One, Jamaica’s most celebrated label and recording studio. Over the last three years they have been releasing some of Jamaica’s legendary songs to a mass audience. This year they released 500% Dynamite, Studio One Rockers, and Studio One Soul. Studio One Rockers is the best compilation they have released yet, it features such classics as Dawn Penn’s “No, No, No,” Horace Andy’s “Skylarking” and Prince Jazzbo’s “Crabwalking.” Anything Soul Jazz releases is a must have for any fan of Jamaican music. (M.S.)

 

Stereolab, Sound-Dust

Stereolab has been churning out music for a while now. While Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night solidified its place as my favorite Stereolab album years ago, the August release of Sound-Dust sure tried to usurp that position. Sound-Dust volleys between the group’s notorious “space-lounge” and their richer, more involving songs, which invoke thoughts of a spy getaway, chilling at the milk bar, or a cosmic lullaby. Always a solid hour or more of music per album, Stereolab’s consistency in quality production can be bet upon. (Sean McGrath)

 

Tool @ Xcel Center, September 6

It’s been five years since the operatic Aenima. This year Tool graced us with the beautifully swelling, sexy progressive rock album Lateralus. Matching their outlandishly awesome record, I don’t think I’ve ever seen or felt anything as therapeutic as Tool’s performance September 6 at the Xcel. There’s an orgasmic element to Tool’s music that dwelled within Lateralus and blatantly emerges in their live show. A leather-clad Maynard James Keenan pivots, sways and thrusts as though the music were making sweet love to his mortal body. At the same time his angelic vocals respond in an explosive ecstasy, asking the audience to look inside and “Find beauty in the dissonance.” With Tool, the music is the star; Maynard stays in the shadows with the rest of the band and the drugged-out visuals. Tool proves the ability to heal through rage. (K.H.)

 

Rufus Wainwright, Poses

While listening to Rufus Wainwright’s new album, Poses, I keep picturing a mild mannered man sitting behind a keyboard at some hole in the wall bar, baring his soul to a captivated audience. When he opened for Tori Amos at the Orpheum last October, it seemed that my image of the singer was not too far off. With only a keyboard and an acoustic guitar, Wainwright managed to capture the moment and audience’s mood. Enchanting them with his dry wit and strong, striking vocals, Wainwright showcased his new material. Reflective and articulate Poses effectively captures the journey of living alone in a big city. (K.P.)

 

Weezer, The Green Album

In a year when the airwaves are ruled by bubble-gum-pop, the return of Weezer was especially welcomed in 2001. After a five-year layoff, the band bounced back strong with their self-titled “green album.” After Weezer’s 1996 release Pinkerton proved to be a major commercial disappointment, it is obvious that frontman Rivers Cuomo pulled in the reigns on The Green Album. It clearly lacked the deep, emotional lyrics of Pinkerton, instead reverting to a much more poppy sound, filled with ultra-catchy hooks. While The Green Album may have been a letdown for some long-time Weezer fans, it proved to be a great album in its own right. Most importantly, it returned Weezer to the forefront of an increasingly stale music scene. (J.V.)

 

The White Stripes, White Blood Cells

Jack and Meg. The White Stripes. Fucking A. The third album from the brother sister tandem, White Blood Cells lets no man claim that time dilutes potency. The White Stripes rock. They’ve rocked before. They’ll rock again. I can’t fully stress the use of the word ‘rock’ when describing the White Stripes’ sound. It’s everything you want out of a rock band. (S.M.)

 

Pete Yorn, musicforthemorningafter

Forget about the Springsteen comparisons that have dogged New Jersey native Pete Yorn in his steady rise to fame. Sure, Yorn has been known to cover bits and pieces of “Dancing in the Dark” in concert, but he usually follows it with a rousing version of the Smiths “Panic.” It’s this balance between conventional singer-songwriter fare and an underlying gloomy flair that peppers musicforthemorningafter‘s hook-laden tracks. Cliché as it may sound, nearly every song on the album could have been a single, from the heart-felt “Just Another” to the raucous “Murray.” The songs take a brief glimpse into Yorn’s life, without getting too personal. Musicforthemorningafter is Yorn simply telling universal stories backed by a pristine wall of guitar, bass and drums, not a bad for a debut. (P.S.)

 

Neil Young, “Imagine” on America: A Tribute to Heroes

Far from trite or distasteful (as it could’ve been), America: A Tribute to Heroes, a live two-hour, commercial-free collection of musicians and their songs, was exactly what most music fans were waiting for after Sept. 11th. The musicians simply played their instruments and sang. They didn’t give speeches or tell us to send money (that was left to the Hollywood crowd), but instead addressed in song all the sadness, shock and confusion people were feeling that week after the attacks. Personally, nothing was more powerful than Neil Young’s impassioned reading of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” In a quiet, understated yet explosively emotive manner that only Neil Young can pull off, he summed up all the pain and hope that most of us are capable of in those few minutes of performance. With Lennon’s words, “Imagine there’s no countries…nothing to kill or die for, no religion too,” Young was singing an urgent plea for peace many of us have never understood until now. Young’s wise, radiant, at times quivering delivery was both eerie and comforting. I couldn’t help but sob as he ended the song with, “And the world will live as one.” After the last word, he lifted his head-eyes closed with dignity and sorrow, took a breath and then opened his eyes for a final, haunting stare at his piano in front of him. (B.R.)