K. Leander Williams
Brooklyn, New York
If Fever to Tell was my new girlfriend, Liz Phair was an ex I hadn't seen in awhile who's superficially so different from when I last saw her (she's totally tarted up and her new boyfriend looks like he's actually upwardly mobile and probably has nothing interesting to say, oh fuck you Liz I bet you're secretly miserable now that you've entered the real world) that it took me a long time to realize that she's happier and more confident then I've ever seen her before. Sure her cynicism and bluntness was a lot more attractive when, like, she was in love with me, but if I actually stop thinking about myself for a second, I have to admit that she's way too frikkin' cool for me to be so possessive. I always feel awkward saying that having cool ex-girlfriends is, fuck, for the lack of a better word, educational. But in all reality I'm just lucky to know someone this honest, funny and observant.
State College, Pennsylvania
Living Things, who recorded the year's best hard rock song, and whose very good album might never come out now since the advance says "DreamWorks" on it, are actually three young brothers from St. Louis whose '60s radical Dylan-and-Neil-Young-fan mom useta slide Malcolm X and Chomsky books down the chute to the basement ever since they were 11 years old, and she'd only let them have a band if all their songs had political messages. If they learned a cover tune, they'd have to change its words, even. In Metal Edge they said they read newspapers front to back every day, and are planning a national tour to let kids know why the Patriot Act is so dangerous. I hope they still get to do it.
Brooklyn, New York
This year I won't rant and rave about the destruction that is Dubya. We all know what we having to do on Election Day. I would like to point out, however, that Sweden's Katatonia made the best rock and roll album of the year and that all of you Wilco-loving motherfuckers who have never heard of them should be ashamed of yourselves. What are you afraid of? Does the heavy metal font of their band logo scare you? Are you afraid of sweet little Swedish boys? What are you, a big baby? What if I told you it sounded exactly like the Byrds? Then would you buy it? Well it does, yeah, and um, it sounds like the Band too! Just like the Band! You probably will buy it now, you unadventurous moron. Yeah, you! The one in the corner waiting for another friggin' Big Star reunion. Why don't you go write the gardening column, pal? Yer dead to me. No, but seriously, it's a great album.
I could have given 90 points to Erase Errata, because even though their album was not my most listened to of the year I feel like they are the only band in a long time that has galvanized the people, shook some shit up, and made us content with what we are all so afraid of, which as I see it is adventure and giving the consumerist impulse a mouthful of dirty snow. The consumerist impulse dictate that if we do not obey it, an icicle will penetrate our hearts and we will be doomed for all eternity to never get laid and will be forced to accept that we have flat/lumpu butts and are not friends with the Strokes.
Calexico: Feast of Wire. Visitors from places covered with trees and high buildings always surprise me with their awe of the desert. Invariably they frame their response in terms of beauty. How blue the sky! How grand the mountains! Having lived here most of my life I see through their struggles with the vocabulary. The desert? It's hideous, mishapen. It's awkward and gangly, its colors faded by the endless, cruel sun. The mountains don't sit for their postcard pictures, they loom, insolent, abiding until we leave this place. The desert will kill you in its broad, glaring spaces. And it is beautiful, beyond words.
Buck 65 felt like the record of the year from the first play. The beats seem so right. His one little sample jumps right out at you. And the wordsI never listen to words, but I find myself hanging on every line. Everyone I've played it for loves it. When my sister-in-law finally finished her college math requirement my nephew came back quoting Buck 65: "I don't ever have to cut my hair or do math again."
Kid Rock's latest displays a Dixie-fried dandy aesthete still at war with himself, tentative about his artistic moves due to an innate fear born of years of taunting by idiots and ingrates, and yet valiantly determined to be simultaneously true to the Africa and Dixiana he has loved all his life. Kid Rocksingle father, classic rock standard-bearer (like Aragorn, the ghost of a million Led Zeppelin song fragments), Coors-chugging badass redneck hip-hop son of the Motor Citydoes not believe in "separate but equal," personally or professionally, so bless his heart, as they say in the Southland.