By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Clark Vogeler, The Toadies: Bright Eyes, Fevers and Mirrors: Bright Eyes is essentially a 20-year-old kid with a bizarre, quivering voice, a truckload of admitted mental problems, and a fairly grim disposition. He's released several albums (with this band and his previous bands), but he really hits something special on this record. He's often compared to a Goth Elliott Smith, but he's really so much more than that. The album's filled with overwrought drama, disarming lyrics, shaky vocals, beautiful melodies, and most affectingly, a disconcerting intimacy. I've always been a sucker for sad songs, but played like this, you can't help but feel for the kid and hope that he's getting some sort of catharsis by putting what he does into his songs. My sincerest apologies for briefly just now sounding like one of those--ahem--rock critics.
Glen Reynolds, Chomsky: I would have to give the blue ribbon to At the Drive-In for their Relationship of Command album. It's the best "hard rock" album I've heard in years. Has anyone else noticed how corny hard rock has become? ATDI keep it heavy and fun with inventive and humorous stream-of-consciousness-style lyrics and the ever-present "librarian's hammer of Thor"-style riffing, keeping one foot on the battlefield and the other in their thesaurus. Violence has never seemed so cute.
Matt Barnhart, Quality Park Records/Little Grizzly: Best local release: Yeti, Things to Come (Two Ohm Hop): Doug Ferguson is the nicest madman I've ever met. Yeti's music is awe-inspiring, funny, beautiful, painful, and evil, all at once, and it's all tied together by the nicest guy on Wonder Drive, Fort Worth, and his armada of creepy keyboards. If I had a million dollars, I would give Doug half, spend half on distributing copies of Things to Come to kids, and the other half on killing people who bought a Barenaked Ladies LP instead of this.
Josh Baish, Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios: I've really been enjoying Hot Snakes' Automatic Midnight (Sympathy for the Record Industry)--great driving album. The return of J Mascis on More Light (Ultimatum Music) has been a welcome surprise. And although it was released in '97, I caught up with Karate's In Place of Real Insight (Southern Records) this year, and have enjoyed that very much.
Josh Venable, The Adventure Club, KDGE-FM (102.1): These are five of my favorite songs of the year: Placebo, "Slave to the Wage": Placebo keep getting better. "A lot of guts, a little vision."Fred Savage Fanclub, "Sleep It Off": Sara of Lucy Loves Schroeder is better than That Dog as Fred Savage Fanclub. "I've been drinking way, way too much." Bright Eyes, "The Calendar Hung Itself": The Bright Eyes record can make me cry. "Well I drug your ghost across the country and we plotted out my death/In every city, memories would whisper, 'Here is where you rest.'" JJ72, "October Swimmer": JJ72 gives my girlfriend goosebumps. "I want to be a happy boy." The Rocket Summer, "Teenage Love Rock": The Rocket Summer EP makes you remember how painful high school was. "I feel so unloved without you next to me/When I'm with you, it feels like electricity."
Chris Penn, Good Records: Grandaddy, The Sophtware Slump: I have listened to this album more than anything else in 2000. Why? It is truly breathtaking at times. Simply listen to the song "Jed's Other Poem (Beautiful Ground)," and I think you will agree. At first listen this album makes you sad, until you realize they are talking about a fictional robot, Jeddy 3, and then you are still sad because the songs and the sounds are so good. I think one journalist wrote they were a cross between Radiohead and Jesus Christ. He who shall remain nameless wasn't too far off the mark.
Russell Lyday, The Show That Fell to Earth, KNTU-FM (88.1): Favorite Record of the Year (that no one owns but me): Idlewild, 100 Broken Windows (Food UK): Four-piece from Glasgow that make me tingle in all the right places. Amazing power-pop tunes that will stand the test of time. Proving that harmonies and energy are not mutually exclusive.
Kris Youmans, Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios: I'm going to have to say that my favorite record of the year is probably the pAper chAse CD [Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know, Beatville Records]. It's fucking amazing, Congleton is God as a producer--it's just as simple as that. I know that they're local, but nothing else has really struck me as good in the last year. So that's my pick. Wait...I want to add the new Faraquet. Check out this record; it's great.
Doug McGrath, Curtain Club: Sunny Day Real Estate, The Rising Tide (Time Bomb Recordings) and Marilyn Manson, Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) (Nothing/Interscope): Holy Wood and The Rising Tide could not be more different (unless they were in different languages). Yet they are both near-perfect musical expressions, and both use supernatural imagery (SDRE: a WWI memorial statue of an angel and a soldier, MM: the crucified Manson) to convince you to make the purchase. If I were asked to bring two CDs to a party, these would be the two. Why? Because I could have fun convincing fans of heavy music that they have a reason to like Sunny Day (great guitars and a drummer good enough for the Foo Fighters). And I bet if I played the right tracks, I could convince some emo fans that there are things they should like and/or respect about heavier music like Manson's.
Bryce Avary, The Rocket Summer: Well, I was driving in my car on a Saturday morning listening to 88.7 The Choice when I heard the song "Yellow" by Coldplay. When it was over, I turned it to The Edge just to hear the exact same song being played at just about the exact same time. I remember thinking how great it was that a band could write a song so good that it would be "cool" enough for both college and mainstream radio. That song is totally sweet, and to me, that's one of the best songs of the year.
Melissa Kirkendall, Ridglea Theater: Boss Hog, Whiteout: Why? Well, first of all, I borrowed it from Tom Urquhart of KTCU's Good Show about nine months ago and simply refused to return it because I liked it so damn much! Seriously, I did borrow it from Tom, and I liked it so much he let me keep it, and I actually do play it on a regular basis up at the Ridglea. There is nothing like getting to hear a favorite song/album over a massive sound system. It is very Jon Spencer-ish, but I really dig him too, so I don't care. It's a fun, upbeat pop CD I truly enjoy.
Don Cento, Shibboleth/Chomsky/The Browsers: Best album of tha year: U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind: Call me a nostalgic sucker for the big-label music game, but this record really got me. It's U2, for crying out loud! Regardless of all the hullabaloo about the "return to classic form," the album stands up. It's a collection of great songs, performed with an almost casual passion that is rather hard to come by these days. And the video for "Beautiful Day"--who thought rocking at the end of a runway would look so cool and safe?
Tony Edwards, One Ton Records/Sub-Tronic Theatre: Pop Unknown, If Arsenic Fails, Try Algebra (Deep Elm Records): If you you're looking for the best release of 2000, then you don't have to look farther than Austin. When members of Mineral and Feed Lucy regrouped to form Pop Unknown, they took the best parts of their souls to scream out whatever it is "emo" is supposed to stand for. Pop Unknown's latest release on Deep Elm Records, If Arsenic Fails, Try Algebra, delivers an emotional ride through driving power-chord rhythms and surreal melodies to produce beautifully constructed pop incarnations. Reminiscent of Jimmy Eat World and The Get Up Kids with a strange, comforting hint of The Cure, this is the perfect album for any state of mind. "Half of Ninety" employs some of the most kick-ass harmonies I've ever heard, along with heartfelt guitar progressions that continue to build until the last note, while "An Offering" uses layers of ethereal and chiming guitars to deliver just one small lyric: "Trip to find an offering/You're all I know/Some familiar faces/Some familiar faces." And that's just the beginning.
David Wilson, [DARYL]: the pAper chAse, Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know (Beatville Records): Reasons: Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know is, to me, a lot like a film directed by Alexandro Jodorowsky. In both, you find a lot of familiar references, some similarities to other works. In the pAper chAse album, there are a few parts that are reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails, particularly the last track on the album. Some of the bleeps and machine noises found throughout sound like they could be on a Mocket or Octant album, and there are many parts where the album just flat-out rocks. But overall, just as with a Jodorowsky film, one can't help feeling that there is a lot to this album that most listeners just won't get. Like an inside joke we're not privy to, no one could possibly understand everything as it's presented in the album. What is apparent, though, is the raw emotion of the songs. Capturing a lot of the energy of a live performance (nothing can top seeing this band live), the album flows from one song to the next better than any album I've heard in a long, long time. It's almost impossible to throw on this album and listen to just one song without being drawn into the next, and the next, till the album is over. It's also refreshing to know that we don't have to look any farther than our own back yards to find a release this good. While there's been a lot of hype surrounding the release of this album, not all of it is unjustified. Having said that, there are those who believe it's on a par with a second coming of Christ; I submit that it's just a really good album.