Peter Schmidt, Legendary Crystal Chandelier: Most of the records that I've bought this year have been reissues of stuff that I was too dumb or arrogant to pay attention to the first time. I don't think that there is actually any less good music coming out now than there ever was, but it is harder than ever to care about stuff just because it's new. Though I bought a smaller percentage of new stuff, I buy a lot of CDs, so I still bought quite a bit of new stuff. I guess my favorites had to be the ones I played the most, and the ones I played the most were the ones that made me forget where I was. Two that did this were Lost Souls by Doves and Nourallah Brothers by the Nourallah Brothers. Both CDs brought me back to the time before I listened to music only while doing something else. I actually stopped puttering around on my computer and just sat back and listened. Great stuff. I usually let sound and melody talk to me more than lyrics; I love the sound of Lost Souls, and the melodies on Nourallah Brothers just kill.
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."