By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Nick Tosches and Homer Henderson,
Nick & Homer (Chaldea)
Absolute weirdness, though you'd expect nothing less from Tosches (the man who went looking for the devil in Jerry Lee Lewis and found only Jerry Lee) and Henderson (you mean Lee Harvey wasn't a friend of his?). And absolute genius too: ? and the Mysterians backing Jimmy Reed while the "Pizza Man" holds a gun to everyone's head, especially his own. An excellent companion to Henderson's best-of Greatest Flops and Golden Filler, also released at year's end. The very definition of local hero, which is a damned shame.
Transona Five, Duffel Bag (Sandwich Records)
Trading in subtly intricate songs in North Texas is bound to result in two things: apathy and Bedhead comparisons. With its delicately intertwining guitars and painstaking melodies, Transona Five's first long-player could have--should have--been dismissed as barely reheated leftovers from WhatFunLifeWas. But just when you think you have all of the band's pitches timed, they strike you out looking with pop curveballs (the "Porquoi Manges-Tu?"), acoustic changeups ("3 Way Glider"), and even the occasional fastball (the surprisingly rocking "Estrogen Blaster"). It's the sound of a great record collection becoming a good band.
Tripping Daisy, Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb (Island Records)
Just when these boys make a great album--accessible but not sell-out, Pop but not pop, catchy but not in a "I Got a Girl" kind of way--they sabotage its success by picking a radio-unfriendly single and a title only a Jew could love. What? They didn't want anyone to hear how, like, good they got? Guess not, and too bad, since Jesus gets better every time you listen to it: The guitars grow louder, the drums pop harder, Tim DeLaughter sounds more like a human and less like a Sid and Marty Kroft creation, and every now and then, the lyrics make a little more sense (well, maybe that's stretching it: "I was born a self-styled crusader in an amazing race of human elevators"). The cynic in me thinks the improvement stems from the new hires: ex-Bobgoblin guitarist Philip Karnats and wonderboy drummer Ben Curtis, who kept the beat on a leash during his tenure in UFOFU. But the true believer in me knows that sometimes, it just takes a while for a band to get its act together.
Down By Sound: KNON Hip-Hop Compilation (KNON)
More than anything, Down By Sound is proof that an active hip-hop scene can exist without the support of clubs or radio airplay. Compiled by KNON-FM's DJ EZ Eddie D, it features a grab bag of styles--from East Coast jazzmatazz (Poppi Lo's "First Down," Soule's "Maintain," Native Poet's "Going For Broke") to funkadelic West Coast grooves (Ghetto Fame-Us' "Bring It Live," Kinfolk's "All MC's," Mouth of Madness' "Make It Hot") to spooky hip-hoperas (Judas Cradle's "Lust, Love and Lechery," Gigsaw's "Linguistic Class #2"), and sometimes a little bit of everything (Shabazz 3's East-meets-West "Latitude/Longitude"). Dallas hip-hop may be more underground than a subway in Hell, but this album is a small step toward changing that. For that reason alone, it's the best local album of the year.
The Volares, The Night We Taught Ourselves to Sing (Rockadelic Records)
Only James "Big Bucks" Burnett could dedicate a song to The Faces' Ronnie Lane, thank Jimmy Page in the liner notes, and not have both gestures come off as wishful thinking. And only Burnett could make an album like this, a completely irony-free take on 1960s and '70s rock. The disc sounds like what you'd expect from the man who used to hawk eight-track tapes at his 14 Records shop on Greenville: Burnett never knew there was a present--or a future, for that matter--to escape to, so he recreates the past with a fetishist's fervor. With former Trio of One frontman Paul Averitt and Dare Mason along for the ride--as well as more guest stars than a Love Boat rerun--The Night We Taught Ourselves to Sing echoes with more ghosts than a haunted house. Even though Burnett knows his history, he's more than happy to repeat it.