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Hello, friends and Happy Holidays!! Welcome to the very last Music for the Masses of 2006. Boy, what a year, huh? I don’t know about you, but this time of year, in addition to celebrating (or, in my case, celebate-ing) the holidays with family and friends, I like to reflect on all of the things I’ve learned over the past year. For instance, I learned that you shouldn’t go hunting with Dick Cheney, that Mel Gibson is a bad drunk, that Matt Lauer is “glib,” Tom Cruise is a whacked-out dick, Rep. Foley doesn’t use a bookmark because he just prefers to bend the pages over, Rev. Haggard and Lance Bass both prefer to be “bottoms” and that Brittany apparently shaves her poonanny with a cheese grater. Oh, and I also learned that Pearl Jam fans have even less of a sense of humor than their favorite band. Hard to believe, I know. But, hey, you know the most important thing I learned this year? That’s right!! I learned that the music industry is still capable of offering up some kick-ass tunes and THAT, my friends, is what we are going to concentrate on today. Consider this an early Christmas present, or, if you prefer, a late Hanukah gift, from your old Uncle M.C.

EOY-XMAS

Now, mostly because I’m lazy, I assembled my original reviews for the best albums that I had the good fortune to hear this year. So, for you faithful readers, consider this a trip down mammary… I mean, memory lane. For the rest of you, consider this a peek at what you may have missed.

So, without further ado, I present to you some (note: there were a couple of discs that I think are brilliant that I didn’t review, namely Gomez’s How We Operate and OSI’s Free, that easily would have rated a perfect score) of my favorite discs from 2006… in no particular order…

EOY-SCIENCE Artist: We Are Scientists
Album: With Love and Squalor
Bastard Love Child of: XTC and Hot Hot Heat
Best for: Celebrating John Borwein by calculating pi to 100 billion decimal places.

EOY-DORKS

Wow! Look at these guys! It’s Napoleon Dynamite, Merlin Olson and Sy Sperling from Hair Club for Men. To borrow from one of my all-time favorite movies, “these guys [sic] couldn’t get laid in a morgue.” Okay, maybe the one dude… but the other two? Holy crap! These guys look like the teaching assistants at Math Camp. Now, I’m not throwing stones in my own glass house here, but there are ugly people all over the place doing more with what little they have then these boys. Case in point: Paris Hilton. Come on guys… loose the porn-star mustache and the birth-control glasses, the Amish beard, that God-awful sweater and comb-over and have a little respect for yourselves. Good lord.

At any rate… where was I? Oh yeah, the music. So I guess the question here is: what happens when these three guys channel their OBVIOUS sexual frustrations into their music? Well, I’ll tell you. You get the “weird and witty pop” aesthetics of a group like XTC combined with the basic, catchy indie-rock of bands like Hot Hot Heat and the Killers. Or, in other words, you get some damn fine music.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I am fan of the new, indie-rock movement (the Killers, The Strokes, these guys, etc.) and this was an easy sell for me. But regardless, this album is just plain packed with catchy, rocking songs. I personally like the first single, “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt,” and the single-ready tracks “It’s A Hit” and “The Great Escape.” If you are into this whole scene, it’s impossible to be disappointed with this disc. If your not, well… go check out Mariah’s latest. In fact, you can take all of her album covers, put them into sequential order and flip through them really fast like you would a cartoon book. I swear, as God as my witness, it’s like watching Eddie Murphy change into Professor Klump. I shit you not.

Rating: 5 out of 5

EOY-JENNYCOVER Artist: Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
Album: Rabbit Fur Coat
Bastard Love Child of: Cowboy Junkies and Patsy Cline.
Best for: Conjuring up images of all the nasty things you’d like to do to Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins.

You know, I’m not sure if it’s the fact that it is getting close to Valentine’s Day (Thank you, Hallmark!) or if it’s all of the Viagara I’ve been ingesting lately, but I feel compelled to tell you all that I’m in love. Her name is Jenny and she sings in a band. I know! I can’t believe it myself. I mean, I’ve liked her for awhile now, but we were mostly “just friends.” But then, I don’t know if it was planned or an accident or what, but suddenly… BAM!! She started singing to me with that voice of hers and then flashed me the twins!

EOY-JENNY2

Damn. Now, I will fully admit I am completely infatuated with the former child star, current Rilo Kiley front-hottie and future Mrs. M.C. Bell. You see, note only is she cute as hell (and yes, hell is very cute), but Jenny has a voice, equal parts sultry and sexy, that could turn the Brokeback cowboys straight. I mean really straight, not just “until we’re alone in the mountains” straight. And, as if that wasn’t enough, for this latest side-effort, Jenny went out and found these hot, Kentucky-born, harmonizing twins to sing back up. Good lord… I need a smoke.

EOY-JENNY

Now, I should also admit that I am a bit annoyed that Jenny had to go and ruin all the hot girl-on-girl action here by throwing some dudes into the mix. But considering that the dudes are artists like Connor “Bright Eyes” Oberst, Ben “Death Cab For Cutie” Gibbard and a couple of the swinging dicks from Maroon 5, I’ll forgive her. Also, she really only uses these guys for the Traveling Wilbury’s cover, Handle With Care, so I know they don’t really mean anything to her. She was probably just trying to make me jealous or something.

However, this album is mostly just Jenny and the twins putting a modern stamp on some old sounding music, or, as I like to call her style here, “alternative gospel.” And no, pagans, you shouldn’t fear because I don’t mean that in a religious sense but in the “blending of country, folk, bluegrass… all sprinkled with a hint of deep soul” sense. The songwriting here is strong and the tunes are all memorable, but my personal favorite has to be “Melt Your Heart.” And you know what, Jenny? You did. You did.

Rating: 5 out of 5

EOY-SUBWAYS Artist: The Subways
Album: Young for Eternity
Bastard Love Child of: White Stripes and Oasis.
Best for: Helping us all to forget that England also gave us the Spice Girls and Wham!

You can say two things about the British. One, they don’t know shit about dentistry and two, they know how to crank out great bands. Now, it’s no secret that there have been numerous, great English bands. In fact, file that statement under “Duh.” But that list is incomplete. It is incomplete because it is missing The Subways. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “C’mon, M.C. This band is “bubblegum rock” crap. Exhibit A: their appearance on “The OC – Mix 5” compilation.” And to that, I say “touché.” Hell, if that doesn’t shoot your credibility in the ass, I don’t know what does.

EOY-DENTIST
A British Dentist

However, I’m here to say that you have made a mistake. And, if you feel that way, you just missed one of the best discs that I, personally, have heard in quite some time.

The group, comprised of bass player/sometime vocalist Charlotte Cooper, guitarist/usual vocalist Billy Lunn and drummer, Josh Morgan, were initially discovered at an unsigned artist competition back in 2004. Snapped up shortly thereafter, the band hooked up with solid indie producer, Ian Broudie (Lightning Seed), and came away with this new gem, Young For Eternity.

EOY-SUBBAND

Ello, luv. ‘Ow’s about you jump on the good foot and do the bad thing?

The album itself veers between extremes as the band presents both solid rockers, like the first single “Rock and Roll Queen” and “Oh Yeah,” and more subtle, softer tunes such as “Lines of Light” and the VERY Oasis-sounding, “No Goodbyes.”

Arguably, the most impressive aspect of this disc, to me, is the variety of sounds presented here. As a result of this, the band is exceedingly hard to categorize. Are they rockers? Sure. Are they a shoe-gazing, emo band? Sure. Do they like the Sex Pistols? Sure. Did they kinda rip off Oasis? Again… sure. Regardless, every song on the album shines in its own right and this is easily one of the best discs I have heard in quite some time. And the best part? It doesn’t sound like another weak attempt to capture the fad du jour. Good Stuff.

Rating: 5 out of 5

EOY-HOTEL2 Artist: Hotel Lights
Album: Hotel Lights
Bastard Love Child of: Ben Folds and Travis.
Best for: Realizing that Dave Grohl wasn’t the only talented drummer over-shadowed by a talented front man.

EOY-HOTEL

How did Hotel Lights get in my mom’s basement?

Before we get started with this one, let me just say that yes, I know that this album came out in early March. I missed it. Jesus… get off my back already! So, why review it now? Simple. This album is absolutely AMAZING and I feel a burning need to tell you about it. Of course, that burning could also be the result of this weekend’s “bender,” where I woke up in an unknown motel room wearing nothing but pasties and a goatee that I didn’t grow.

If you are anything like me, and I’m sure you are, right about now, you are probably saying “Why would someone name a band ‘Hotel Lights?’” Good question, sparky. Here is a little quote I was able to dig up from founding member, Darren Jessee, former drummer for Ben Folds Five:

“…when you see hotel lights in the distance you feel like ‘yeah, I’m almost there’, but when you stand in the bathroom and turn on the hotel lights, they are fluorescent and you see every scar.” -Darren Jessee

Holy crap, Darren… sounds like Ben messed you up pretty good, eh? Seriously, Darren, tell me… do you have to cut yourself sometimes to let the darkness out?

EOY-BEN

Ben Folds… the bastard that broke Darren’s heart.

As I just mentioned, Hotel Lights is the creation of former Ben Fold’s drummer, Darren Jesse, who actually got his song writing start while playing for Ben. That’s right, friends, Darren is the man responsible for the mega-hit “Brick” and, my personal favorite, “Magic” from the Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner (Highly Recommended!). With this new band, Darren takes a more melancholy approach to song writing by over-laying his catchy melodies with heartfelt, angst riddled lyrics. Yes, you guessed it. NOT an album to play at your next rave. However, this IS the perfect album to have on in the car, or as background music for your next romantic encounter, or for when you feel the need to cut yourself to let the darkness out.

To round out the band and flush out his sound, Darren added former Archers of Loaf drummer Mark Price, producer/guitarist Al Weatherhead, Roger Gupton on bass and Chris Badger on keyboards. Together, these guys have managed to craft some low key, but incredibly impressive songs that I would argue hold up better than anything Ben Folds Five ever accomplished. This is a solid disc throughout, but the best song, and first single, “A.M. Slow Golden Hit,” is mesmerizing. I also really dig “Miles Behind Me,” “I Am A Train,” the Dylan-esque “Stumblin’ Home Winter Blues” and “What You Meant,” a song that blends acoustic guitar and synthesizer to great effect.

This is truly one of the best, albeit mellow, discs to come out this year, so far, hands down. Pick yourself up a copy.

Rating: 5 out of 5

EOY-BLUE Artist: Blue October
Album: Foiled
Bastard Love Child of: Peter Gabriel and Nickelback… that one’s for you, Ryall!
Best for: Helping you understand that some artists do their best work while totally and completely bat-shit, insane.

EOY-JUSTIN

I’m pretty sure they are yelling something about wearing eye shadow to the photo shoot.

Much like my friend, Justin, I’m sitting here in my dippity-do room at the hospital, typing on the old tuna. They tell me that I recently had some kind of psychotic break, triggered by repeated listenings of John Tesh’s new album “Tunes From A Giant Forhead.” But how can I argue? I love tacos. Talking to the doctor, the one who looks like Dick Cheney, I came to the realization that I can only, truly, find my happy Plah-doh© place if I’m listening to singers who dance like Peter Gabriel. Crazy, huh? Yep, peanut butter! Find me one of those floating in the sky and I’m going to be happier than Michael Jackson on a NAMBLA-sponsored camping trip. Ever hear John Cusack play his raincoat to Kate’s Bush, I mean, Kate Bush? Whatever, porkchop… I will not hurt the nice people. But Peter Gabriel’s music, to me, is about as good as talking envelopes get. Uh oh… here comes the orange nurse with sleep in her hand. What’s that hairy nurse? Time for my pills? But I’m talking to my friend’s right now and I don’ttttttttttttttttttttttttttt…

Okay… back now… for a bit. Now where was I? Oh yeah… Peter Gabriel. So, right about now you are probably saying to yourself, “Holy shit, that was weird” and “Hey, that’s great, but what exactly does Peter Gabriel have to do with the dude, up there in the picture, wearing the latest from Mabeline’s ‘Trashy Club Whore’ collection?”
Well, I’ll tell you. See, first, Justin Furstenfeld, that guy up there with a mild case of “gender confusion,” had a little problem with “reality” and was “committed” to an “insane” asylum… like me. Who knew they could commit you for putting too much male nudity up on the internet? Unlike me, he is the lead singer for a hot new group, Blue October, and the dude sounds EXACTLY like Peter Gabriel. And no, I’m not hallucinating again or throwing that comparison around lightly. And yes, I am lucid enough now to know that I’ve said that before, like with the group Elbow, but this time I mean it… kinda like when I tell the girls I date that I’m only going to put it in for a minute and then take it right back out (And, yes, they are having me work through those “lying” issues in therapy, too). I defy you to listen to this band for more than 30 seconds, any song, and tell me that Justin doesn’t sound like a Gabriel clone. And no, junior, I don’t mean that in a bad way.

EOY-SCREAM

This is Blue October’s new poster warning of the dangers of auto-erotic asphyxiation.

I mean it in an “Oh my God, that crazy SOB created an AMAZING disc” way. I’ve always said, when it comes to musicians, and on-line music reviewers, “the wackier the better.” And if this is the kind of material that you can come up with while swatting at imaginary bugs and watching Judge Judy between sponge baths, then I’m all for it. Hell, if this is the kind of output you can have when you’re nuts, I might extend my stay a bit. After all, I get three squares a day here, all the drugs I can take, a free drool-bib and a nice spot down by the duck pond for when I get “too excited.” I’ve even had time to create a list of singers and artists I feel should be committed, too. First up? Easy. Brittany “Baby, You Can Drive My Car” Spears.

EOY-BRITTANY

You want crazy? This chick is crazy.

Bat-shit insane, “cuckoo for Coco Puffs,” Looney as a Tune… whatever… Blue October (consisting of lead vocalist Justin, three or four random voices in his head, violinist/keyboardist Ryan Delahoussaye, drummer Jeremy Furstenfeld, guitarist CB Hudson and bassist Matt Novesky) has crafted a virtually perfect album. Pretty lofty statement, huh? No, I’m still not hallucinating… although I feel the pills wearing off and no, I’m not joking. This disc just surpassed Hotel Lights as my favorite to be released this year. Each and every song here is single-worthy, immediately recognizable, catchy, clever and most importantly, different in both tempo and mood. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m serious. It is truly phenomenal, with a little something for all the different voices in your head. I firmly believe that this is the album that will finally break this band… in a BIG way. You heard it hear first, pudding hand. Uh oh… fading fast… better wrap this up.
In addition to the first single, “Hate Me,” check out the pencil’s best songs, the melodic and moody “Into the Ocean” and the spank-tastic “X-Amount of Words.” You know, Timmy ate it, too, and he didn’t turn green so you should definitely know that it’s absolutely brilliant. Buy the whole disc and eat it on rye with a slice of pickle. That makes for one, delicious swimming pool!!!

Rating: 5 out 5

EOY-CHILI Artist: The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Album: Stadium Arcadium
Bastard Love Child of: Funkadelic and a tube sock.
Best for: Rocking the socks off of your… er, cock.

EOY-CHILI1

That’s odd. That one guy’s not wearing a hat.

Well, considering that most of you have already purchased this amazing, 28-song, double disc, or will soon enough, I thought that I would devote this review space to my new, Chili Pepper’s inspired children’s book, The Cock in the Sock. So, without further ado, move over Dr. Seuss… here comes M.C. Bell:

One Pepper,

Two Pepper,

Three Pepper,

Four

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have come back for more.

They each washed a sock,

And plopped it on their cock,

And crafted a some albums that totally ROCK!

Socks? On Cocks?

Why, how can that be?

What do they do if they have to pee?

And how are they attached?

With a bow or with glue?

If they accidentally sit on them,

Are they covered in poo?

And how do those socks

Fit in their pants?

And do they get tangled

When the boys dance?

And sex, yes sex, what about sex?

Do they take off these socks when they go to have sex?

Or do they leave them on,

Like a long, winter coat?

Do these socks leave lint

In the back of the throat?

Well, I’ll tell you what, kids.

If it were up to me,

I’d take the sock off

When it was time to pee.

And I would attach it

With a drop of glue.

And I’d be careful when I sat

To avoid the poo.

And I would carefully fold it

To fit in my pants.

And keep it that way,

Even when I dance.

And in regards to sex, kids,

It’s simple and clear.

So lean in close,

That you may hear.

“I’ll rip that sock off!”

You gasp “What for?”

“Why, that’s the way all your mommies like it,

Cuz they’re dirty, dirty whores.”

EOY-PUPPET

Spunky, the cock puppet

Pretty good, huh? Honestly, the kid’s are gonna eat this shit up. Oh, and in regards to Stadium Arcadium? It really is as good as advertised. The album does a phenomenal job of bridging the Pepper’s career from punk/funk rockers to emotional balladeers, with my personal favorites being “Tell Me Baby,” “Hard to Concentrate,” “Charlie,” “21st Century” and, of course, “Dani California.” In fact, there isn’t a crappy track on either disc. Good stuff, all the way around.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

EOY-MUSE Artist: Muse
Album: Black Holes and Revelations
Bastard Love Child of: Radiohead and Queen.
Best for: Discovering your own, personal muse. I found mine sitting at the end of a bar wearing a tube top, some acid-wash jeans and a “hicky.”
EOY-MUSE2

Black Holes and Revelations, huh? Here’s a revelation for ya’… before I picked up this album, completely at random, I had never heard of Muse. Not one song. Didn’t even know what type of music they played. Sure, I could have checked them out on any number of on-line music services, but where’s the excitement in that? I prefer to grab the bull by the balls… with my teeth, so to speak. But hey, that’s what I’m here for, people… to take bullets for you. Luckily, I didn’t have to on this album because it kicks ass. In fact, I have to say, I’m all over Muse like bad tattoos on Travis Barker.

Seriously, I dig the hell out of this disc. Each and every song stands out from the last and each is driven perfectly by the powerful voice of lead singer Matthew Bellamy. For instance, on the first single, the electronica-heavy “Supermassive Black Holes,” Bellamy hits notes that a pair of properly descended testicles just can’t produce. Then, just to prove that statement wrong, Bellamy drops into a throaty, Jeff Buckley impersonation on “Take a Bow.” Sneaky bastard.

The disc features a ton of electronic elements and quirky instrumention, all handled admirably by Bellamy, drummer Dominic Howard and bassist Chris Wolstenhome, but don’t get the wrong idea here. This is not an electronica album (see below). In fact, even though that first single reminds me of a shopping trip to Abercrombie & Fitch (the roomy shorts allow “the boys” a nice bit of breathing room, thank you very much), the album is largely guitar driven with that one track designed, with tongue firmly in check, to freak the shit out of long time fans. No other track on the disc is remotely like it.

If you are looking for an experimental, yet highly listenable and enjoyable album that will run the gamut from moody Depeche Mode (“Map of the Problematique”) to Bends-era Radiohead (“Soldiers Poem”) to classic Queen (“Knights of Cydonia”), check this one out. Top shelf, folks.

Rating: 5 out of 5

EOY-ROSECD Artist: Rose Hill Drive
Album: Rose Hill Drive
Bastard Love Child of: Led Zeppelin and Triumph (the band, not the insult comic dog).
Best for: Proving that the Denver music scene actually has something “meaty” to offer.

I’ll be the first to admit that Denver (et al) is hardly a “musical hot spot” here in the U.S., ESPECIALLY when you compare it to places like L.A., Chicago, New York, Nashville or, umm… Dubuque. I mean, sure, we gave the world The Foggy Mountain Fuckers, Lying Bitch and the Restraining Orders and, of course, The Fray, who single-handedly caused the automobile-related instances of dry-humping, crazed fingerings and awkward oral in the teenage population to sky-rocket, but otherwise, we haven’t had a whole lot to offer the world, musically speaking. Until now.

EOY-ROSE

Starting a few years back, there was a buzz around town centered on a hot, new power trio that was tearing up bars in and around their hometown of Boulder, Colorado. Named after the street where they grew up, Rose Hill Drive, featuring brothers Daniel (19) and Jake (21) Sproul on lead guitar and bass, respectively, and childhood bud, Nate Barnes (21), behind the kit, had quickly managed to become the “must-see” band in the Denver area. So see them I did. Twice. And let me tell you, friends… holy shit. I still get chills (and there multiplyin’… it’s electrifyin’!) thinking back to the first time I saw these boys play. Think: the intensity of live Zeppelin with the virtuoso performances of Rush… heady comparisons, I know, especially invoking the names of two of my all-time favorite bands, but I’m not joking. I hadn’t seen anything like it in quite some time.

Needless to say, I have been anxiously awaiting the release of this groups self-titled, debut album for some time now. And, after giving it a few, initial run-throughs, I gotta say… I’m a bit disappointed. Wait, wait… NOT in the way that you might think. This new disc is packed with an amazing array of songs that alternate between pure, driving, riff-laden rock anthems to bluesy, pure-toned ballads. Numerous songs on this disc, namely the album opener, “Showdown,” with it’s in-your-face guitar riff and the driving, “Raise Your Hands,” have an immediate and classic feel that will make you fully understand the Zeppelin reference above. On the contrary, this disc has shown a melodic sensibility and musical craftsmanship that I wouldn’t have expected from these “kids.”

EOY-ROSE2

And there in lies the rub. You see, as good as this disc is, (oh, and it IS good, nay, great) it does ZERO justice to the insane and blistering live shows that these guys put on. THAT is a crying shame. Sure, it’s hard to capture the type of energy that these guys put out on stage in a studio setting, but I’m betting that a more raw, less polished production would have served these guys better on this outing. Yes, I’m a nit-picky little bitch. Whatever. Luckily, with the recent resurgence of the classic rock sound and the success of bands like Wolfmother, Rose Hill Drive is destined for stardom and will undoubtedly have ample time to experiment with this notion next time out. Seriously, folks, I highly recommend this disc, but understand this… it pales in comparison to their live shows.

Rating: 5 out of 5

EOY-MAIDEN Artist: Iron Maiden
Album: A Matter Of Life And Death
Bastard Love Child of: Black Sabbath and King Crimson.
Best for: Pumping up your “street cred” at the local Hot Topic by cruising in there with an ACTUAL concert shirt.

EOY-TAP

No… this is not a scene from Spinal Tap II. But it easily could be.

I’m not ashamed to tell you that, much like pubic hair, I came into Iron Maiden late. Then again, having Iron Maiden in my life has never made a “clean wipe” a challenge, so maybe that’s a bad comparison. Whatever. I guess my point here is that I never gave Iron Maiden’s music a fair shake until well into my college years; always dismissing them as a “poor man’s Sabbath.” Hey, fuck off. I never said I was a smart man, Jenny.

EOY-GUMP

Needless to say, in the years since “my discovery,” I have actually become a big fan of the band, more so of the band WITH Dickinson, and have been anxiously awaiting the release of this, their 14th studio album, A Matter Of Life And Death. So, right about now, you are probably asking yourself “was it worth the wait?” Well, chuckle nuts, I’m glad you asked.

EOY-EDDIE

My girlfriend… PMS-ing.

Quite simply, this is the best Maiden disc in years. Hell, I’d gladly argue that it is the strongest album that Maiden has released since the ‘80’s and it is EASILY one of the best metal discs I’ve heard this year. I mean, sure, the band is getting a little long in the tooth, but it doesn’t show in the music. Not in the least. Dickinson’s voice is as strong as ever and the impressive, 3-guitar attack of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers delivers enough punch to make your sphincter tighten. I’m not sure what that really means… I just like the word “sphincter.”

The band has always had progressive leanings, but on this album, they lean a bit harder as they switch up tempos, keys and styles while galloping through the 10, epic songs on this 70+ minute disc. All of the songs are engaging with soaring melodies and catchier-than-usual choruses, but my personal favorites include the slow-burning The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg, the punishing Different World and the driving The Longest Day.

This album is a must-have for any fan of good, old-fashioned, ass-kicking metal.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

EOY-BECK Artist: Beck
Album: The Information
Bastard Love Child of: Beck’s Sea Change and Mellow Gold.
Best for: Seeing what else Beck can do with two turn-tables and a microphone.

For those of you out there who went “old school” and picked up the actual CD of Beck’s new album, The Information, you know that in addition to the cheesy, home-made videos included for all of the songs, the disc comes with a “blank” cover and a bunch of stickers so that you can customize it to your liking. See that cover up there? Sure, that’s somebody’s vision of what the cover SHOULD look like. But it’s not MY vision. Au contraire, mon frere. I used those stickers to make my disc cover look like this…

EOY-POOH

Umm… need a mint?

Now, this may come as a surprise to some of you out there, but Beck is a weird, fucking little monkey. But you know? It is precisely that weirdness, coupled with tongue-in-check unpredictability, that makes his music so damn cool and so damn different that I couldn’t help but become a huge fan (just thought I’d put this critique into context for you. You’re welcome.) I mean, where else can you hear pop, hip-hop, country, folk, funk, experimental jazz, arcade bleeps and lounge music all on the same album? Nowhere, that’s where. Okay, maybe on a Bjork disc… whatever, smart ass.

EOY-BECK2

As a fan of Beck Hanson, the one thing that I have come to expect from each, new album is something unexpected and, in that regard, this new disc actually disappoints a bit. However, in this case, that’s hardly a bad thing. Hearkening back to his Mellow Gold days, The Information revisits Beck’s more “eclectic” days, but wisely chooses to sprinkle in some of the melodic ballads found on more recent albums, most notably, Sea Change. The overall effect is mesmerizing. In fact, there are some tracks on this disc that represent some of the finest work Beck has ever done; a fact I attribute to the return of producer Niles Godrich (ever hear of a band called Radiohead?) and his spacey production style.

Highlights of the disc include the pop-synth perfection of “Soldier Jane”, the Primal Scream-invoking “Cellphone’s Dead” (check out “Loaded” from Screamadelica… good shit right there, my ecstasy-poppin’ little pals), “Strange Apparition” and my personal favorite, the trippy, moody “Dark Star.” There is a lot to like, nay, love, on this album, regardless of whether or not you’re a fan, but before you think I’m just jacking Beck off with long, slow strokes here, I gotta be honest with you. I absolutely LOATHE the song “1000bpm.” Okay, maybe I don’t loathe it, but I’m pretty sure that song, much like Mary Hart’s voice, gave me a seizure. Seriously. I remember hitting “play” on that track and then the next thing I know, I woke up on the floor with a sore tongue, foam in my mouth and shit in my pants. Of course, I suppose that might have been the Jaeger. But again, whatever.

eoy-potty

So… do you rub her nose in it and smack her with a rolled up newspaper for doing that to the couch?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

EOY-ENIGK Artist: Jeremy Enigk
Album: World Waits
Bastard Love Child of: Sunny Day Real Estate and and the sweet, angelic voice of a little baby Jesus.
Best for: Taking a contemplative moment to wonder, “Seriously… What WOULD Jesus do?”

EOY-JEREMY

The fact that Jeremy Enigk is NOT a household name is one of the great tragedies of our modern times. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it is one of the signs of the Apocalypse… right between the whole “raining frogs” thing and Paris Hilton’s popularity. Oh, by the way, speaking of Paris, I guess you can “hire” her for a $100,000 to host your New Year’s Eve party. Hmm… I wonder if a video tape of you and her having awkward, fumbling sex later that night is included? Either way, I recommend pocketing the cash and spending the evening with a 1X6 with a blonde wig stapled to the top. The conversation will be more lively, the night more fun and the sex… about the same… umm, from what I’ve seen. But I digress.

EOY-PARIS

Now, for the sake of those of you out there who have no frickin’, (yes, I just typed frickin’ in a vain attempt to “clean up my act”), clue as to who Jeremy Enigk is, let me briefly fill you in. He is the ethereal-voiced ex-lead singer of emo-core pioneers Sunny Day Real Estate (GREAT fucking band… yes, I just typed “fucking”… the attempt to clean up my act “didn’t take”), current lead singer of The Fire Theft (when he feels like it) and full-time, speakin’-in-tongues, rattlesnake-throwin’ Jesus freak. His favorite color is mauve, he has a Shitzu named Earl and he can break up a band faster than Yoko Ono. *Editor’s note: M.C. has no fucking clue what Jeremy’s favorite color is or if he even has a dog. He does, however, tend to break up his bands much like that evil harpy Yoko.*

EOY-TIDE

Jeremy also happens to possess one of the most uniquely impressive voices that I have ever heard and his last effort with Sunny Day Real Estate, The Rising Tide, with it’s swelling orchestration, impressive guitar work and, of course, Jeremy’s tremendous vocal range, is easily in my top 25 and, I would argue, a “must own” album. And many of those same elements, minus the meaty guitar work of phenom Dan Hoener , are present on this new solo album, World Waits. However, without Dan, the album never quite kicks out of the more mellow-melodic groove of Jeremy’s work with The Fire Theft. No, this is not a bad thing. In fact, as the tracks on this overly short disc progress, fans of Jeremy’s work and any of it’s various iterations will easily recognize elements from Sunny Day’s Rising Tide or Diary and The Fire Theft disc. And this really kicks ass. For you non-fans? Hmm… honestly, for the uninitiated, I could see Jeremy’s, whinny-at-times timbre irritating the holy hell out of you. I would recommend that you pick up The Rising Tide first to get acclimated to his sound (and because you should own it) and in a friendlier (read: more accessible) environment. However, if you’re feeling adventurous and want a superb disc from an under-appreciated artist, grab a copy of World Waits and let it grow on you like a cold sore on Albert Pujols lip (Thanks HDTV!!). You won’t be disappointed.
To check out the best songs on the disc, minus the spooky-as-hell “Damien Dreams,” hit Jeremy’s MySpace page… www.myspace.com/jeremyenigk.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (only because it’s too, damn short)

Well, folks, my fun meter is pegged so that’s going to do it for this time out and, actually, for the year. But stay tuned, friends, for we will be back after the first of the year with a new, streamlined, weekly column and an occasional podcast. It’s going to be a kick.

Until then, keep wearing it proud and playing it loud!!

Send cheese graters, review copies, presents and assorted hate mail to:
M.C. Bell
P.O. Box 1222
Arvada, CO 80001

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