Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Tallest Man on Earth: Shallow Grave (2008)

(Mexican Summer)


25 year-old Kristian Matsson was still recording in relative anonymity at the time of his enigmatic debut album, not a full-time musician and hesitant to reveal information about himself to the press. Over time he would become more personable and available -- sometimes almost uncomfortably so -- but in the magic and extremely valuable moment of Shallow Grave, we are permitted to hear what sounds uncannily like an archival recording of one man laid against the world: a romantic, a folksinger, a poet. Despite hailing from Sweden, Matsson delves with intensity into the lexicon of early 20th century rural America to craft songs that sonically are raw enough to be demos (which is to the record's advantage) and emotionally, lyrically, melodically come across with a timelessness to match, in the sense that they sound so impossibly well-worn, old, familiar that they feel like they already existed and Matsson simply found them lying, scrawled on walls in a tomb somewhere.

Crucially, however, Shallow Grave never sounds like pastiche or affectation. Matsson's love for classic folk is obvious, and his kindred connection to Bob Dylan -- in his obsession with outdated terminology and forgotten history as well as his ragged voice and spiritual purity -- may be mostly aesthetic but is still striking; and yet the brilliance of these songs is that they are new, singular and brashly individualist. At the time of the album's release, indie rock was at the tail end of a huge swell in popularity of revitalized folk-rock and alt-country, yet the Tallest Man on Earth's music stood sharply out as a "real" piece of Americana. You didn't even have to bother calling it sincere because it manifestly was everything it wanted to evoke. Rather than trading on distant recollections of beloved songcraft, it starts at square one, reintroduces us to a sound that has no sound, to an essence of communication that has no history or standards. The best folk albums from any period are those that are most difficult to date precisely; among the influx in the 2000s, I would argue that only Great Lake Swimmers' debut (recorded in an abandoned grain silo) and Iron & Wine's Our Endless Numbered Days sounded anywhere close to this ghostly, and its mystical permanence is more profound yet. A decade later, it has retained its freshness and urgency -- recorded in a manner that suggests Matsson had something to prove but only to himself -- and is one of the few records of the era whose moment does not seem to have passed, with new audiences constantly and reliably stumbling upon its ethereal beauty and experiencing the flood of unknown memories that quickly render it a part of their lives.

Matsson's lyrics vary in their focus and eloquence, an understandable stumbling block at times given that English is not his first language; his cleaner, more minimal words are superior to his Dylanesque bouts of word salad ("Pistol Dreams," "The Wind," the particularly intricate "The Sparrow and the Medicine") but those songs are no less lovely thanks to his invariably commanding melodies (a strength of his that Dylan couldn't ever really claim) and the way his unique accent and tone make sense of words that barely fit. The rest of the time, however, the clarity of his attack upon the songs and the tape as a performer (unheard elsewhere in his discography) is well matched by forcefulness as a writer. He plays the songs unaccompanied, with overdubbing only evident sporadically (the banjo-guitar interplay on "Honey Won't You Let Me In"); his vocals can be sweet and lilting, furiously engaged or, most often and effectively for these songs of escape and wandering, wounded and pensive. The literate but almost disembodied "I Won't Be Found" introduces him well, his voice full of frayed hope and his picking on one of his many odd guitar tunings truly gorgeous. He slows down the same riff later on the starkest and most goosebump-inducing of these songs, "Into the Stream," and there he completes the portrait, wailing over those chords now like a lost, broken man singing from the perspective of a vengeful or disappointed God but really only articulating his disappointment in himself, which is elemental and shakes the core of the ground opening in front of him as he stares out at it, strumming away.

For all their intimacy, these songs almost uniformly suggest a wide-openness of space and possibility, but already Matsson is positioning that minimally engineered sonic mood as counterpoint to words that are often oppressively bleak: the banjo-only title song is a suicide narrative on which Matsson's voice sounds distant, as if he's already too far away to be helped, but there's still a sense of the continuing world that goes on in perpetuity around his body. He sounds much more desperate and pleading on "Where Do My Bluebird Fly?", seemingly a story of a fraying partnership that also boasts some of his most strongly felt guitar work; there is the sense of so much history unstated, as though it's a personal communique. And the most "classic" of these songs, "The Blizzard's Never Seen the Desert Sands," a soaring journeyman anthem delivered also strictly on the banjo, is almost unsettling in its sense of total abandon ("the frightened little choirs they will sing"), though there is also of course the sense of classic unmoored freedom that comes from the idea of burning one's house and setting off.

In folk tradition, though, freedom is often code for lawlessness -- and we're forced to wonder if there was anyone else in that burning house, especially upon being confronted with the finest of these songs and the only competitor with "Love Is All" as Matsson's greatest work to date, "The Gardener," which boasts his most eloquent, confident lyric as well as the one most richly indebted to folk tradition, which it pointedly subverts. The troubling, magnetic tradition of the murder ballad so prominent and alluring in the annals of folk predates its American incarnation and is traceable to 17th century Europe; who knows whether that's one reason Matsson's cunning appropriation of the form is so convincing. What's fascinating, however, is his unique spin on the scenario -- he kills his competitor for his love and buries him in the garden, but in doing so he simply asserts the romantic pressure on everyone to clean themselves up to an almost illogical extent in the pursuit of prolonged partnership, the determination to be the best, tallest, most flawless for one's lover. More remarkable yet is the perfect structuring of the lyric with its keenly repeated motifs (the runner, the spy, the leak), brilliantly understated narrative and emotional crescendo, all of which Matsson captures viciously in his phenomenally dedicated vocal take and the hardest guitar playing on the entire record. The song is much more than merely an impressive exercise; it gets under your skin, into your bones and lives there, and the winking subversion comes from the strange joy with which Matsson delivers this wild story, which he clearly knows is especially startling as it seems to be the source of his pseudonym.

Since 2008, Matsson has steadily become more popular and his first three records exist as a kind of single piece; all seemed equally strong at the time, and all are terrific, but in retrospect Shallow Grave seems to be the one that manages to deliver a feeling and challenge specific to this artist alone. The others would be recorded more elaborately or professionally, and eventually with the fourth record a full band would be added, and it would be clear then that even as Matsson continued growing as a writer, his instincts as an arranger and performer were beginning to betray him. But a record like Shallow Grave puts an artist like Matsson in an unenviable position -- it is as close to the capturing of lightning in a bottle as you can really get in recorded music, and there is simply no way to decide to return to this well of inspiration, to record it in this specific manner, and the most major part of all, to find a way to express oneself without compromise while also striking up such universal catharsis in people that it's like some brand of sorcery. There's nothing I can say is "missing" in the subsequent Tallest Man on Earth records, which all contain striking melodies and songs so good you feel as if you've known them for years after the first time; but maybe that mystery that Matsson so painstakingly cultivated early on left him free in a way that is now impossible. Certainly Shallow Grave sounds like the work of somebody with nothing to lose, sometimes literally as on "Blizzard," but it also sounds like someone who feels protected enough to spin the knife back around on us. There's a threat, an unease, within this half-hour that's unlikely to return, but it doesn't need to. With barely a false note, it's a record that can be replayed endlessly, its thorniness and capacity to enchant, tease and warn totally undiminished by that nearly irresistible compulsion.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Tallest Man on Earth: The Wild Hunt (2010)

(Dead Oceans)


It was an unforgettable experience to witness something this unexpected happening in real time. Kristian Matsson, performing since 2005 as the Tallest Man on Earth, released a good EP and an excellent debut album that Amber discovered through a sample torrent of recent indie releases. The songs on that first album totally consumed many a car ride for a very long period early in our relationship. It was so much a private experience. He seemed mysterious, his music drifting in from nowhere. And in early 2010 we found out he was playing near us, at UNC Chapel Hill; between us getting tickets and the album being released, suddenly he blew up and this second record was everywhere, heralded as one of the best albums of the new decade. By the time we made it to the show, we were surrounded by others. The venue, an old church not normally used for rock gigs of even this modest variety, was too small for the show. The tickets, which were $5 ($1 if you were a student), were those little rolls of red stubs you can get at Dollar Tree. We were early and managed to station ourselves at the front, sitting in metal folding chairs crudely set in rows. Matsson was able to make it the most intimate experience with a name performer that either of us is ever likely to have. Several years later we were extremely close to and made an equal amount of eye contact with Kate Tempest, but in Matsson's case it was just him, his guitar, the alcohol on his breath, and us. He approached from somewhere within the crowd, with no backstage available at the venue. A kid near us quietly mouthed every word to every song. The whole world had crowded in behind us, but it felt as if we were there alone. (Here is a photo Amber took, now emblazoned delightfully with the Photobucket logo.)

Even if we'd never been lucky enough to have that experience, Matsson's music directly encourages that kind of close connection, and while that hardly puts him alone in the realm of folk-rock or even in the 2000s European revival of Americana-derived country and folk music (encompassing artists as disparate as Cowboys on Dope, Homesick Hank and Thomas Dybdahl), he alone was possessed both the miracle-level chops as a guitarist, the unique yet familiar singing voice and especially the talent and eclecicism as a songwriter to almost forcefully craft that relationship with his listeners, and The Wild Hunt is really his bid to conquer as much of the world as he can within his niche. It's a rousing success: music that does not become "of the moment" for all its primitive production and small traces of yearning nostalgia, but simply harnesses that same moment and renders its specific caracteristics irrelevant.

Given that all but one track here is an acoustic guitar solo performance, the performances and songs are remarkably diverse, an achievement that requires a rare sort of unfaked talent. One reason The Wild Hunt probably made a larger impression on the world than its predecessor or its looser, sweeter sequel is that it explores so many varying dimensions of Matsson's voice and playing, without ever violating the minimalism of the analogue-taped sound or the arrangements. The variance is enhanced by the record's nearly perfect pacing, which allows for a casual entrance, a building of confidence on the first half, a reflection and grace on the second, and a strange, incongruous cloud of dust to lead us out.

Matsson was confronted repeatedly with Bob Dylan comparisons after Shallow Grave and didn't totally overcome them here, and in fact courts and mocks them on the soaring "King of Spain," as close as he's gotten to releasing an iconic song. Any worthwhile analysis should concern itself not with Matsson's superficial similarities to Dylan but with both artists' ability to hypnotize us with a bare minimum of enhancement; "Drying of the Lawns" makes the other strong claim here to a Dylan lineage in its sheer verbosity, but what's invigorating about it is its incredibly dynamic sound, shifting back and forth from quiet to loud with so little at its disposal. And obviously, Matsson isn't touched with the kind of infallible, tireless genius Dylan exhibited in the '60s; unlikely that he'd let a song slip out, lovely though it may be, that was kept as uneven as the title cut, on which the chorus is totally overwhelmed by the powerful verses despite the haunting hook "I plan to be forgotten when I'm gone."

But "inferior to Bob Dylan" is not a meaningful criticism, not when such touchstones are of so little concern to the artist playing before us; at its best, The Wild Hunt doesn't strive for the past, it rather strives for the openness, the lack of post-modern savvy that might have led a large cross-section of humanity to embrace the most elemental music we hear in the first place. It wants us to reboot ourselves as an audience. Free yourself of irony and detachment and just hear these songs that could've risen up from the dirt. "Burden of Tomorrow" is his most ancient-sounding effort, and he's perfectly aware of this, displaying confidence in the modulation and power of his voice greater than on any of his previous work. The character in his voice covers a much less predictable range of emotions here: "You're Going Back" allows for anger, vocally and in its wall-of-sound produced by a single acoustic guitar; and "Lion's Heart" offers a knowing love ballad with sinister caveats -- the unnatural stretchings of supposed destiny -- and he gives it a knowing chide, even if it's only himself he's challenging.

My own preference in this evolved phase of Matsson's career is for the songs on which he seems to be singing straight to us all, and no verbal or musical conceit distracts the way it does on the piano-driven "Kids on the Run." The best compositions on Shallow Grave were the ones that were most beholden to old song forms, like the ingenious murder ballad "The Gardener." On The Wild Hunt, Matsson seems to discover himself when he strips every external distraction away the same way he wants his listeners to; "Troubles Will Be Gone" might be a little obvious in its sentiments, but it's also lovely, timeless and, at the right moment, honestly reassuring, reinforced by his gentle vocal. He explores the same parts of his voice on "Thousand Ways," knowingly sung with a spirit of great folk traditionalism from the perspective of a bitter moon but beautiful and sweet in its sense of clockwork inevitability. I still remember Matsson looking straight at us when he sang "If I don't get you in the morning, by the evening I sure will," the moon coming out for even just us.

It isn't a rebuke to the rest of these songs that they are all basically overshadowed by "Love Is All," it's simply that "Love Is All" is one of the finest songs anyone has written and released in the last decade. Emotionally overwhelming, cathartic and curiously private in its meaning and the hidden source of Matsson's range of expression from observant calm to frayed and wounded, it's a brilliant piece of writing and stunningly eloquent in lyrical and melodic terms. But mostly it just tears you up, with nothing barring us from its universal evocation of unredeemed heartbreak but also no clue to the specific engimas that prompted it; in that sense it's as harrowing a depiction of a dying relationship as "I'm Looking Through You" by the Beatles. But as a Beatles diehard, I don't know if I'd be prepared to put any of Paul's lyrics in that song up against "the future was our skin and now we don't dream anymore."

All these rational explications of how a song like that works give you nothing of how it feels -- and how it's enhanced by the album's long lead-up and aftermath to its climactic explosion of feeling. Matsson proves himself a divine singer and writer here, yes, but what really matters is how the heart soars at every sound he makes, at even the fraying of the tape at one point. The subject matter of The Wild Hunt had specific narrative meaning for its composer, a chronicle of the two years since Shallow Grave, and it takes courage and showmanship to make that viable as something for the world to hear and embrace. The stories he tells here, apart from the hopeful heralding of better times on "The Wild Hunt" and "Troubles Will Be Gone," weren't really directly applicable to anything happening in my life in 2010 or since, but I could readily plug those emotions back into my past and feel myself drifting into the utter power of being understood. There is a reason "Love Is All" is the song I've listened to most in the last nine years, to the point that hearing it is as routine as crying once was: "here come the tears / but like always, I let them go / just let them go-oh-oh." Those lines, the way they're sung, the way we saw him sing them that night at Gerrard Hall, what we decide they mean, are an act of open empathy, and that's why for me they define this artist and these times that he had no interest in defining.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl (1964-65)

(Parlophone/Capitol 1977)


This, along with its 2016 variant, is the only "official" Beatles live album ever released as of 2018. Professionally recorded by Capitol Records straight to three-track during the band's three Hollywood Bowl performances (one in 1964, two in 1965) and cleaned up for release by George Martin in 1977, this truly is a snapshot of Beatlemania at its absolute height. What that means is that your ears are pretty much bombarded by the sound of teenage screams for the duration, but that shouldn't detract from your enjoyment of the record, particularly given that the hysteria in response to the band is a big part of the story you're signing up to be told here.

The Beatles' own performances are tight and boisterous, even surrounded by chaos and with the absence of decent sound equipment. (Monitors wouldn't become standard for several more years.) The concentration of course is on the early rock & roll material, which is all the better for this as a document of the group as ragged performers of frenzied, relentless pop music. The weak point is the vocals, but even they don't often falter from respectability (John probably puts in the worst of the lot, on "Help!", but that can't possibly have been an easy song to put across live). The 1964 performances tend to be the standout delights, including an impressively complex presentation of the sophisticated "Things We Said Today," plus winning renditions of "She Loves You," "Long Tall Sally," "Roll Over Beethoven" and -- in what may, improbably enough, be the highlight of the album -- "Boys" (starring Ringo). George Harrison and John Lennon's guitars run appealing, adroit circles around each other and are soulfully played with the same sort of economy and precision as on the studio records, without coming off as a stilted duplication. Only "All My Loving" among the 1964 tracks is slightly underwhelming, mostly because the band seems to be rushing through it. (Virtually all of the songs are faster than their Abbey Road counterparts.)

1965's entries, taken from two shows on consecutive nights despite an error on the sleeve claiming otherwise, are only marginally worse for wear. The weariness slips in most obviously on the inane between-song banter, which at one point has John waxing with hilariously evident apathy on the fact that the band had made two films, one in color and one in black & white, and the song they're about to sing is from the black & white one. It desperately needs pointing out, though, that both '65 shows at the Bowl are unmistakably superior to any Beatles live material that's slipped out from the year that followed, and indeed that even in the case of the 1964 concert, while stronger performances exist from that year, none are quite so sonically appealing. (Capitol had declined to release the proposed live album at the time due to fears that buyers wouldn't tolerate the incessant screaming, though this didn't stop them from putting out the only slightly quieter and far more annoying Beach Boys Concert that same year, and netting a #1 record in the process.) I would even argue that both "She's a Woman" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy," both bluesier, fresher and more powerful here, are superior to their studio counterparts; "Can't Buy Me Love" has a pretty strong case as well, attaining a spontaneity and rawness absent from the single. This really is the audio presentation of the Beatlemania-era stage show at its best.

If it wasn't strange enough that the Beatles never had a live record on the marketplace in the '60s, once this one finally saw release near the end of the following decade (rushed along by Lingasong's gray-market emission of Live! At the Star Club), it proved highly popular, hitting #2 in Billboard and achieving Platinum status... then failed to make the transition to compact disc and was off the market for three decades, even as the Beatles' popularity remained consistently strong. Perhaps it slipped through the cracks because Capitol and not Apple, nor the disbanded and moving on Beatles, had initiated the project. Either way it was inexplicably difficult to hear except via used bins and in unauthorized digital formats for the majority of the CD era before it was finally reissued in tandem with Ron Howard's Eight Days a Week film; that newly remixed version of the record is reviewed elsewhere in this discography. The original 1977 vinyl struggles with a mildly insubstantial nature (33 minutes, which admittedly is pretty much in line with the length of a usual Beatles LP or a usual Beatles concert), competently expanded over the years by bootleg versions; but it stands as a splendid souvenir of a singular period of enthusiasm and insanity in rock & roll history -- and it's a lot more attractive, aesthetically, than the 2016 rereleased version. All live Beatles material is at an automatic disadvantage because of the volume and behavior of their fans, and because of the obstacles the band encountered to putting on a proper performance as their popularity grew, but their story isn't complete without a good aural examination of what happened -- to them, and to the world -- whenever they stepped on a stage in the mid-1960s.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Beatles: Purple Chick deluxe- Let It Be (1969)

(bootleg [6CD])

The sessions for the Beatles' Let It Be (originally Get Back) album are the most extensively mined by bootleggers over the decades. Nearly everything the Beatles rehearsed and recorded (and even a great many of their conversations) in the hellish, ill-advised early morning sessions at Twickenham and Apple throughout January 1969 is out in the world for us to hear, which in many cases -- especially if you're otherwise a completist for their work -- might not be such a blessing. To experience these dejected, disappointing sessions that culminated in one gloriously spirited moment (the rooftop concert on January 30th) the Beatles fan of whatever degree of obsession has several options. There are the obviously inadequate official releases of Let It Be ("reproduced" by Phil Spector) and Let It Be Naked and the slightly more redeeming Anthology 3. For the slightly less casual and more curious sort there are the numerous versions of Get Back that exist in the world. Those who are willing to listen to the Beatles play just about anything and are curious about the musical depths of the '69 tapes might be interested in the sixteen-disc reel of highlights from the sessions entitled Thirty Days; there are a few sublime moments scattered around that collection, and most of what's been gathered there is at least slightly interesting. Only true scholars and those with ridiculously dedicated archival impulses will want to proceed to the next step, the 83CD complete collection of the Get Back tapes labeled A/B Road (for convoluted reasons we'll explain later) by Purple Chick. That's the nuclear option for those who've completely run dry of Beatles amusement and still need more, more, more; very few people in the world will ever want to struggle through it.

Somewhere between the two extremes thereby outlined is the PC "deluxe" collection for Let It Be, which is in some ways as conceptually flawed as the album it documents and serves a purpose that occasionally seems arbitrary, as if it's just meant to fill out the empty slot for the Beatles' last album in the PC archives even though the music is more properly examined elsewhere. That said, it's an engaging and listenable collection provided you take it a disc at a time, which is more than can be said for A/B Road and even a lot of Thirty Days; and talking of archival impulses, this set does offer sort of a fascinating sociological history of bootlegging. Instead of delving into the recording process of the album, the point here seems to be to explore the ways in which Let It Be's music has variously escaped into the world, and the ways its release and construction was variously considered before the final, unsatisfying product was arrived at. It is made clear in the process, though, that there was enough good music completed within the sessions to make a better album than the one we got, an argument more subtly made prior to this by Anthology 3. Still, if you're enough of an enthusiast to want this collection -- which, taken together, is unnecessarily repetitive, ironic given the 83 discs worth of material that exist to work from -- then you may as well spring for (seek out, rather) one of the longer compilations, which will tell you a lot more about how the Beatles actually worked during this debacle as opposed to the ways in which the band and others considered collating and releasing the results. (Don't forget that the original Glyn Johns mixes of Get Back constitute arguably the second most essential Beatles boot of all behind the full set of BBC sessions; it was in third place before the Esher demos were officially released in 2018.)

We start in the usual straightforward manner. With the A/B Road take numbers (prompted by Doug Sulpy's book about the sessions) helpfully amended, we start with the "masters" for the canonical album as chosen and embellished by Phil Spector in 1970 and follow this with the single versions of "Let It Be" and "Get Back," both vastly different mixes of the LP performances with additional or different material included -- the former lacks Spector's bombastic touches and has a different, quieter, more ornate guitar solo on the 7", while the "Get Back" single includes a bawdy coda from Paul cut on the LP and lacks the dialogue before the intro. Both singles had non-album b-sides, "Don't Let Me Down" inexplicably so as it's the finest song from the sessions; and "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" actually a vintage novelty recording mostly created during the aimless summer of 1967 shortly after Sgt. Pepper was completed -- one participant in the session, Brian Jones, had died between recording and release -- though John and Paul put some finishing touches on it in April 1969. The 45 variation of "Let It Be" was only mixed to stereo, while "You Know My Name" never saw release in stereo until an extended version on Anthology 2 almost thirty years later. "Get Back"/"Don't Let Me Down" was mixed in both mono and stereo, for the UK and U.S. respectively. All versions find a home on the first two discs here. Disc one is rounded out with a series of alternate mixes from various video and DVD releases, including the Imagine version of the rooftop "Don't Let Me Down" (different from the single, recorded two days earlier) and a couple of good, unadorned performances of "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" from the Anthology DVD set, both dating from the very last day of the sessions.

Let It Be, the album, was only released in stereo, but there are semi-official mono mixes of most of its songs from the Let It Be film, which are offered on the second PC disc, though there are a couple of caveats: "For You Blue" comes from different performances, on different days, than the released version. And because neither "Across the Universe" (recorded nearly two years earlier) nor "I Me Mine" (recorded in 1970 without John, though it was played in the Get Back sessions and appears in the film) are actually from the Get Back recording process, we get weird substitutions: a speed-corrected stereo version of "Universe," not a bad idea, and a vague "alternate mix" of "I Me Mine." Just what we need, more confusing variants of these songs. Lastly, the mono single mix of "Get Back" is slotted in rather than the film performance -- which is actually far superior, but more on that later. A few further extracts from the Let It Be film follow, namely a couple of oldies medleys, which come off kind of a drag in the film but do have some enjoyable moments (I love listening to John and Paul gradually remembering the lyrics to Little Richard's "Miss Ann" and starting to groove on it, though anytime their 1969 selves tackle a song from the "early days" like "Kansas City" the results sound forlorn, sometimes endearingly but usually not).

Discs three and four delve into the convoluted history of Glyn Johns' Get Back acetates, which were the sources for some of the earliest Beatles vinyl bootlegs, the first of which -- Kum Back -- surfaced before the band had even broken up. You can read all the gory details of these various compilations here but the essence is that we start off with one that was pretty much just an assembly reel for the Beatles to listen to and evaluate. Again, these performances made up the famous Get Back bootlegs that got considerable press in the later parts of 1969 and were at least partially to blame for Paul's infamous remark that Let It Be was an "old" album by the time it was released. Very few of the performances Johns mixed in late January and gathered here are the same as those on the eventual LP: the exceptions are "The Long and Winding Road," portions of "For You Blue" and one of the two included versions of "Get Back"; the other "Get Back" and the "Let It Be" we get here are actually unique to this acetate. The reel also incorporates a few goofy extracts of this and that and the most contempible and bizarrely ubiquitous song from these sessions, "Teddy Boy," which brings us to one of the biggest obstacles to listening to this set in complete form.

There is so much "Teddy Boy" spread across these discs, folks, and like a lot of what made the cut of McCartney's early solo efforts, it's the writer and performer at his smarmiest and cutesiest -- a fake folk song that's not even a shadow on the already slightly condescending "Rocky Raccoon" -- and on top of there being multiple versions of (nearly without exception) the same performance of the song, that performance runs well over five intolerably trite, repetitive minutes. It's easy to not mind the song when it's treated as a trifle, but when they jam on it for that length of time, never taking it anywhere, it's enough to make you wonder what you're doing here. Conversely, the surplus of variations on the nine "canon" Get Back-era songs does point up the virtues of those that do work, like "The Long and Winding Road," "I've Got a Feeling," "Let It Be" itself, "Two of Us" and "Don't Let Me Down," because they never seem to really wear out their welcome the way "Dig a Pony" and "Teddy Boy" do; really pretty impressive for a band that had issued thirty new tracks a month and a half before all this started.

We'll discuss this in the future, but the great fact of the Twickenham sessions was a whole hell of a lot of the Beatles fumbling around trying to figure out what exactly it was they were doing. Ostensibly the film -- initially intended as a TV special -- was to be a documentary about the Beatles recording a new album just like always, only because it was transferred to a movie studio due to unwieldy equipment and staff, it really couldn't be the fly-on-the-wall experience the Beatles and director Michael Lindsay-Hogg envisioned. The subsequent move to their new Apple studio -- after George Harrison's blowup and temporary departure, a depressing and telling situation exacerbated by the constant presence of outsiders -- improved the situation a little but only further confused the project, which had been meant to culminate with the first live Beatles show in three years, an idea half-heartedly tossed aside in favor of the spontaneous, impossibly iconic rooftop concert on January 30th. TV show became film. Album was shelved. Raw "unfiltered" Beatles came to be overdubbed with strings by the father of the Wall of Sound. The notion of spontaneity and unapologetic rock & roll couldn't be captured by force of will, which this band of all bands should have known. But one way in which they tried to force it was in the unpolished, haphazard recording of "oldies" throughout the sessions during various lengthy jams that came out during the excruciatingly long setup process for the film crew or in general downtime. With an eye apparently toward putting some of these on the Get Back album -- which was always apparently intended to include false starts, tossed-off "dialogue" and jokes and such, some of which was awkwardly interpolated on the Spector LP -- the Beatles had Johns prepare mixes of a few of them and prepare an acetate of said mixes at some point, resulting in the Apple disc cryptically labeled Beatles Sunday. That record is included in full on disc two.

It's not just oldies, as it does start with a version of "I've Got a Feeling" and the full eight-minute "Dig It," a four-way composition that runs its very unengaging groove into the ground at great length and is the only Beatles performance to feature any of their children: Paul's stepdaughter Heather on droning background vocals. But after that we get four examples of the session jams of the group wistfully revisiting items they'd have known intimately in the Hamburg days or even earlier. There's not really a feeling, as Anthology tries to posit, of coming full circle -- more of the cruelty of time passing and the attendant aging process, as the Beatles here are sufficiently unhappy that they end up sounding like old men (none of whom had yet cracked thirty). You probably know their versions of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and "Blue Suede Shoes" from the '90s official release, but if you've never heard 1969 Beatles attempt to reconnect with the magic 1963 Beatles had wrought on Smokey Robinson's "You Really Got a Hold on Me," brother, consider yourself lucky; labored, drunk-sounding and obnoxiously flaccid, it's among the worst things they ever put on tape, and makes you grateful for the breakup.

The fourth disc moves on to material we will cover with more devotion elsewhere in this discography, namely the three versions of Get Back that Glyn Johns actually prepared for release, all of which were rejected by the Beatles over the course of the year past the recording sessions, during which time the band recorded and released Abbey Road and unofficially disbanded (John Lennon quietly left the band in September 1969, preceding Paul's official announcement of the breakup by seven months). Johns' second collection of the material (third if you count the initial early 1969 acetate on the prior disc) is the one that was actually on Apple's schedule and came closest to release, and is the source of the vast majority of bootleg editions over the decades, so it understandably leads off this disc, with the slight variants on "Get Back" and "Dig It" from the prior acetate (turned down by the band in the spring) dutifully inserted afterward. This is followed by the additions and alterations for the final Johns mix, which was scrapped in favor of Let It Be sometime in early 1970. This version uses the same performances as the more familiar acetate but adds a few mix and dialogue variations, all preserved here, plus a new 1970 lead vocal on "For You Blue" as well as the addition of "I Me Mine" and "Across the Universe," which would end up making the final cut with some trademark Spector enhancements.

Get Back is obviously a better album than Let It Be, rejected strictly because of the largely fragmented nature of the Beatles in 1969 and their dispirit over the way the January recording sessions had turned out, or perhaps even more than that, the general negative vibe of those sessions. But their apprehension is understandable when hearing any collection of these performances. The problem is the affectation aspect. Returning to the unaugmented rock & roll of their youth is a nice idea in theory, but they're just not great or convincing at this kind of music by this point in their lives -- the blues revival-based "hard rock" that was coming into vogue doesn't really become them, even though a handful of the songs they wrote for this project are incredible, and so are some of the performances. One of the major advantages Johns' theory of the record has over Spector's is the presence of the best of all these, John's astonishingly soulful "Don't Let Me Down," admittedly a record that would not survive the exclusion of a third party, Billy Preston. Still, every time John sings the song on these discs, you can hear how much it means to him -- at last, a break through the sarcasm and goofing off that seems to almost overwhelm the rest of his contributions to the band in this era. Paul too has moments of undeniable passion, which may be less of a shock since he seems the most gung ho (and therefore bossy) about the film project, on "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road," while the two have a couple of shared moments of real harmony on "Two of Us" and "I've Got a Feeling," the latter being one of the few really effective hard rock performances to make the final record. "One After 909," another youthful apparition come back to life, manages to escape the dregs of the oldies medleys, though it doesn't quite have the charm of the long-unreleased 1963 versions of one of the earliest compositions in their repertoire. As for the would-be title track and actually-was hit single, "Get Back," initially written as a satire of Enoch Powell's anti-immigration rhetoric that was politically neutered out of fear of being misunderstood (though props to Paul for using Sweet Loretta's preferred pronouns), never was there a more alarming example of a song not just upstaged but completely trounced into kingdom come by its b-side, "Don't Let Me Down."

There is one outstanding performance of "Get Back" in the archives, the one that finally allowed me to "get" the song after a whole lifetime of not particularly being moved by anything except Preston's brilliant piano solo, but it comes from the rooftop performance of January 30th. One huge mark against both Spector and Johns' interpretations of these sessions is how little they used from this day. Spector employs rooftop versions of "Dig a Pony," "I've Got a Feeling" and "One After 909" for the canon album; Johns only goes for "909." But I would be shocked if anyone hears the version of "Get Back" from the roof in the Let It Be film, preserved here in a few different mixes, and fails to find that ferocious performance by the band to be unquestionably superior to the one included on the album and single. There's simply no contest. That's not quite as true for "Don't Let Me Down," but the wonderfully brutal rooftop version of that song is a gift as well, as good a demonstration that exists of what a tight and emotive live band the Beatles were capable of being at their best -- it's like Hamburg come back to life for just a moment, with a whole different perspective brought along. And the entire rooftop sequence is a remarkable moment of redemption, visually and musically. Suddenly all of the negativity seems to wash away. Songs that were being slavishly worked and reworked on the floor days earlier come out to breathe. Some repeat, and it doesn't even matter. John is relaxed and vicious and full of spark and life, Paul grooves like he's forgotten he's confined to his own body, and George and Ringo play like they know tomorrow will never arrive. It makes the rest of Let It Be, ballads aside, sound like a jokey afterthought.

The last two discs of PC's set are slightly redundant, mostly collecting performances that are readily available elsewhere or alternate mixes of same (the entire sixth disc is comprised exclusively of alternate mixes and is basically useless, in part because half of it is mono mixes that PC admits may just be fold-downs). But I quite enjoy disc five simply because it's a good single disc compilation of some of the best discarded Get Back stuff all in one place, including the two rooftop extracts praised just now. Essentially the premise is that PC is pretending here that the A/B Road session tapes and the many extensive compilations built from those Nagra reels don't exist, and that this was just like any other Beatles LP. So we get the major outtakes and alternates that have slipped out into the world over the years, many officially and many not. Most of it is better explained in other contexts, but it is a highly listenable approach at least, and among the things you might not have heard before, the highlights are an unusually well-performed oldies medley that peaks with a noisy version of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" and an interesting, lengthy instrumental jam. The nearly infinite base of material from which to work here, however, precludes any sense of completeness; most fans will object to the absence of legendary Get Back jam outtakes like "Watching Rainbows," and there are other quibbles that PC set themselves up for just by including this largely superfluous disc.

Of course, the central problem with all this material is that the most exhaustively complete set of Beatles session tapes we have is dedicated perhaps the least desirable collection of music they laid down in their whole career. Some thrive on exploration of this chapter in their history, but even for those who do enjoy it, there's so much confusion with the numerous takes, rehearsals, performances and proper takes of this material, it can be a nightmare to keep it all straight, or if you're less charitable, to go hunting for diamonds in the mine. Add to all this the band's obviously listless mood; yes, we've been told that they always ran material into the ground while they were rehearsing it, hence the indelible precision inherent to the appeal of their records, but you can't mistake how much timing and setting took a toll on them in this case. All the same, when you want that lonely sad feeling of hearing something in the process of breaking apart -- and sometimes, oddly enough, you do -- or when you do want to share in the fantasy of a latter-day Beatles record as raw and unkempt as their earliest work without the sprawling experimentation of the White Album (which already, in the context of January 1969, sounds like a totally different band), this is a good set to dive into for your Sunday morning sulk. And its matter-of-fact comparisons of the two engineer-mixer-producers' differing approaches does make one surprising point to put in the official Let It Be album's column.

Johns' Get Back pretends that everything is fine, that the big back-to-roots experiment was a success; hell, it's right there in the title and on the cover. It furthers the illusion of the Beatles as an ivory-tower bubble among rock bands. Let It Be deconstructs that illusion, acknowledges the bleakness of the band's collective state of mind, and recommissions this abortive attempt at reconnection as a funeral march. This sober stock-taking is to the album's benefit, to the benefit of its legacy, and maybe even to the benefit of the Beatles' punctured legend. After all, the breakup itself and the images of disarray and discontent captured in Lindsay-Hogg's film are now the stuff of rock & roll mythology just as much as the moptops of A Hard Day's Night were. The ending is baked into the story; they might have wanted "The End" to be the final word, but this portrait of disintegration and ugliness was the finale they couldn't prevent from slipping out. Whatever Let It Be's flaws, the Beatles' narrative and mythos would be diminished by its absence; Get Back was the better album, but Let It Be was the necessary one.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The List of Lists 2018

Archival lists: This is last year in which I'll be working with the master lists I put together in '09, so to empty out the archive and all its attendant data I'm making this an extra long post, containing everything I haven't already posted from that batch of stuff in the previous ten years at this blog. Needless to say, I already find a number of elements of these lists wrong and inadequate, but broadly -- they're basically me, what can I say? No further comments at this time. I'm well into sweeping revisions of all of this stuff, which you'll start to see on the next cycle through them all soon enough.

New lists: the bootleg list, explained further under the header; and favorite 1958 songs and 1968 songs, the results of much plundering and scrounging and remembering. I had a blast as always. Happy new year, everybody.

Because of the next-to-nonsensical way in which boots are put out in the world, especially in the internet-age, this list doesn't necessarily correspond to my ratings per se; for example, until this year the list would have included the Beatles' Esher demos near the top, but I don't have any disc in my collection (and thus rated) that strictly consists of those recordings. As a result, this is a bit of a grab bag but hopefully coherent. As you know, I only go as far as bootlegs for a very small number of bands and artists; and in many cases, like the Beatles and Beach Boys, I'm an avid collector and completist but I can't really hold any particular full discs up as particularly great for casual listening. That said, if you let me put together a compilation of my favorite unreleased tracks by either, they'd surely both score top five spots on this. That's probably true of studio outtakes in general -- there are bits and pieces I treasure all over the place, including from some of these same artists, but larger collections tend inevitably to be hit-and-miss. Also, I'm sure there's some Dylan stuff that belongs here, but I've seen fit to just wait for Columbia to release everything themselves, and so far I've gotten plenty to work with! I've also chosen a representative YLT show but there are so many that I love, especially Freewheelin' shows whose dates I don't have time to look up at the moment -- I'll more carefully rate those in the future and probably tell you more than you ever wanted to know about them. (This also goes for Neutral Milk Hotel; almost all of the shows that circulate from the late '90s are remarkable in one way or another.)

With my favorite R.E.M. shows I run into the same trouble I have with the Beatles' live material that I appreciate: I think they're fun for me because I love the band; without that existing relationship I don't know how much value the recordings would have. That isn't true at all for the Prince and Television shows listed here.

1. Prince: Small Club [live 1988-08-19 Paard Van Troje, The Netherlands]
2. Talking Heads: Stardust Room, Las Vegas [live 1979-09-26]
3. The Clash: Going to the Disco [live 1976-09-05, The Roundhouse, London]
4. Television: Live @ the Whisky A Go Go [live 1977-04-05/14, Los Angeles]
5. Stevie Wonder: Live in NYC 1975 [live 1974-12-06 Madison Square Garden, NYC]
6. Prince: City Lights [live 1985-01-04 The Omni, Atlanta]
7. The Velvet Underground: Live at End Cole Ave. [live Oct. 1969, Dallas]
8. Television: Piccadilly Inn [live 1975-07-25, Cleveland]
9. Prince: The Work, Vol. 1 [boxed set of studio outtakes]
10. The Beatles: Get Back [Glyn Johns' third assembly] / The Beatles: The Complete Rooftop Concert [live 1969-01-30 Apple Studios, London]
11. The Clash: Agora 1979 [live 1979-02-13, Cleveland]
11. Talking Heads: Sharp Objects [live 1977-12-03, Old Waldorf, San Francisco]
12. Yo La Tengo: Hanukkah with Andrew Bird [live 2012-12-14, Maxwell's, Hoboken]

1958 SONGS
A new list, heaps of good times; probably 40 A+ tunes here. In addition to what I already knew and loved, I queued up hundreds of songs I couldn't recall or didn't know on Youtube, found several that really stood out and tried to rank them as best as I could; though the standard caveat applies with material that's new to me, meaning that this list will probably look very different in another year or two. Rockabilly got sexy in '58. Anyway, as with 1956 and '57, one of the best years ever for American singles; the Everlys' masterpiece "Problems" being as low as #12 says a great deal, I think. Favorite new discoveries this round: "Jennie Lee" by the Dominoes, and the Musical Linn Twins' "Rockin' Out the Blues," one of the most rapturously primitive records I've ever heard. The vocals sound like fucking Alan Vega! (Special note also to "Lover Boy" by the Cleftones for taking up what may be permanent residence in my head.)

1. Chuck Berry "Sweet Little Sixteen" (Chess)
2. Little Richard "Good Golly Miss Molly" (Specialty)
3. Johnny Cash "I Still Miss Someone" (Columbia)
4. The '5' Royales "Don't Let It Be in Vain" (King)
5. Screamin' Jay Hawkins "Alligator Wine" (OKeh)
6. Chuck Berry "Johnny B. Goode" (Chess)
7. Chuck Berry "Reelin' and Rockin'" (Chess)
8. The '5' Royales "The Slummer the Slum" (King)
9. The Staple Singers "I Had a Dream" (Vee Jay)
10. Little Richard "Ooh! My Soul" (Specialty)
11. Jerry Lee Lewis "High School Confidential" (Sun)
12. The Everly Brothers "Problems" (Cadence)
13. Link Wray "Rumble" (Cadence)
14. Screamin' Jay Hawkins "There's Something Wrong with You" (OKeh)
15. Eddie Cochran "Summertime Blues" (Liberty)
16. Buddy Holly "It's So Easy" (Brunswick)
17. Jackie Wilson "Lonely Teardrops" (Brunswick)
18. Chuck Berry "Around and Around" (Chess)
19. The Everly Brothers "All I Have to Do Is Dream" (Cadence)
20. Buddy Holly "Think It Over" (Brunswick)
21. The Teddy Bears "To Know Him Is to Love Him" (Dore)
22. Buddy Holly "Early in the Morning" (Coral)
23. Elizabeth Cotten "Freight Train" (Folkways)
24. The Everly Brothers "Devoted to You" (Cadence)
25. Peggy Lee "Fever" (Capitol)
26. Buddy Holly "Rave On" (Coral)
27. Lloyd Price "Stagger Lee" (ABC-Paramount)
28. Johnny Cash "Guess Things Happen That Way" (Sun)
29. The Coasters "Yakety Yak" (Atco)
30. Connie Francis "Stupid Cupid" (MGM)
31. Carl Perkins "Lend Me Your Comb" (Sun)
32. Cannonball Adderley "Dancing in the Dark" (Blue Note LP: Somethin' Else)
33. Duane Eddy "Rebel Rouser" (Jamie)
34. Chuck Berry "It Don't Take But a Few Minutes" (Chess LP: One Dozen Berrys)
35. Howlin' Wolf "Poor Boy" (Chess)
36. The Everly Brothers "Down in the Willow Garden" (Cadence LP: Songs Our Daddy Taught Us)
37. Carl Perkins "Glad All Over" (Sun)
38. Buddy Holly "Look at Me" (Coral LP: Buddy Holly)
39. Brenda Lee "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" (Decca)
40. Chuck Berry "Carol" (Chess)
41. Dion & the Belmonts "I Wonder Why" (Laurie)
42. James Brown "Try Me" (Federal)
43. Hank Mizell "Jungle Rock" (Eko)
44. The Everly Brothers "Claudette" (Cadence)
45. Kip Tyler & the Flips "She's My Witch" (Ebb)
46. The Big Bopper "Little Red Riding Hood" (Mercury)
47. Huey 'Piano' Smith & the Clowns "Don't You Just Know It" (Ace)
48. Billy Ward & the Dominoes "Jennie Lee" (Liberty)
49. Buddy Holly "Maybe Baby" (Brunswick)
50. Chuck Berry "Beautiful Delilah" (Chess)
51. Duane Eddy "Ramrod" (Jamie)
52. The Silhouettes "Get a Job" (Junior)
53. The Musical Linn Twins "Rockin' Out the Blues" (Blue Feather)
54. Bobby Day "Rock-in' Robin" (Class)
55. Tarheel Slim "Number 9 Train" (Fury)
56. Clyde McPhatter "A Lover's Question" (Atlantic)
57. The Champs "Tequila" (Challenge)
58. Curley Jim & the Billey Rocks "Rock & Roll Itch" (Metro)
59. The Collins Kids "Whistle Bait" (Columbia)
60. Esquerita "Rockin' the Joint" (Capitol)
61. Muddy Waters "Close to You" (Chess)
62. Howlin' Wolf "Moanin' for My Baby" (Chess)
63. Jerry Butler & the Impressions "For Your Precious Love" (Falcon)
64. The Staple Singers "Low Is the Way" (Vee Jay)
65. Big Danny Oliver "Sapphire" (Trend)
66. Ritchie Valens "Come On, Let's Go" (Del-Fi)
67. Little Willie John "Talk to Me, Talk to Me" (King)
68. The Platters "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (Mercury)
69. Jerry Lee Lewis "Down the Line" (Sun)
70. Little Richard "Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!" (Specialty)
71. Buddy Holly "I'm Gonna Love You Too" (Coral)
72. Dale Hawkins "Tornado" (Checker)
73. Cadillacs "Oh Oh Lolita" (Josie)
74. Al Casey "I Got the Teen-Age Blues" (Highland)
75. Johnny Otis "Willie and the Hand Jive" (Capitol)
76. Dee Clark "Nobody But You" (Abner)
77. Sam Cooke "Win Your Love for Me" (Keen)
78. Buddy Holly "Well... All Right" (Coral)
79. Howlin' Wolf "Change My Way" (Chess)
80. Ray Charles "Talkin' 'Bout You" (Atlantic)
81. Jody Reynolds "Endless Sleep" (Demon)
82. Magic Sam "Easy Baby" (Cobra)
83. Larry Williams "Slow Down" (Specialty)
84. John Lee Hooker "I Love You Honey" (Vee Jay)
85. The Big Bopper "Chantilly Lace" (Mercury)
86. Huey 'Piano' Smith & the Clowns "Don't You Know Yockomo" (Ace)
87. Jimmy Lloyd "I Got a Rocket in My Pocket" (Roulette)
88. Ritchie Valens "La Bamba" (Del-Fi)
89. The Bobbettes "Zoomy" (Atlantic)
90. The Olympics "Western Movies" (Demon)
91. Duane Eddy "Cannonball" (Jamie)
92. Bo Diddley "Dearest Darling" (Checker)
93. Howlin' Wolf "Sitting on Top of the World" (Chess)
94. The Monotones "Zombi" (Argo)
95. Jerry Lee Lewis "Breathless" (Sun)
96. Ray Charles "Rockhouse" (Atlantic)
97. Jimmy McCracklin "The Walk" (Checker)
98. The Coasters "Sorry But I'm Gonna Have to Pass" (Atco)
99. Duane Eddy "Movin' N Groovin'" (Jamie)
100. Kip Tyler & the Flips "Jungle Hop" (Challenge)
101. The Diamonds "The Stroll" (Mercury)
102. The Cleftones "Lover Boy" (Gee)
103. Jerry Byrne "Lights Out" (Specialty)
104. The Cadillacs "Peek-a-Boo" (Josie)
105. Cliff Richard "Move It" (Columbia)
106. Chanters "My, My Darling" (DeLuxe)
107. Ronnie Self "Bop-a-Lena" (Columbia)
108. The Chordettes "Lollipop" (Cadence)
109. The Fiestas "So Fine" (Old Town)
110. Bobby Hendricks "Itchy Twitchy Feeling" (Sue)
111. The Magnificents "Don't Leave Me" (Vee Jay)
112. The Big Bopper "Old Maid" (Mercury)
113. Sam Cooke "Lonely Island" (Keen)
114. Buddy Holly "Heartbeat" (Coral)
115. Bill Allen & the Back Beats "Please Give Me Something" (Imperial)
116. The Everly Brothers "Bird Dog" (Cadence)
117. Roy Hamilton "Don't Let Go" (Epic)
118. Noble 'Thin Man' Watts & His Rhythm Sparks "Hard Times (The Slop)" (Baton)
119. Fats Domino "Coquette" (Imperial)
120. Eddie Fontaine "Nothin' Shakin' (But the Leaves on the Trees)" (Sunbeam)
121. The Silhouettes "Headin' for the Poorhouse" (Ember)
122. Ruth Brown "This Little Girl's Gone Rockin'" (Atlantic)
123. Sonny Boy Williamson "Your Funeral & My Trial" (Checker)
124. Ritchie Valens "Framed" (Del-Fi)
125. Mamie Bradley "I Feel Like a Million" (Chess)
126. Wanda Jackson "Mean Mean Man" (Capitol)
127. The Quin-Tones "Down the Aisle of Love" (Red Top)
128. The Monotones "Tom Foolery" (Argo)
129. Billy Smith "Tell Me Baby" (Red Hed)
130. Chuck Willis "What Am I Living For" (Atlantic)
131. Lattie Moore "Why Did You Lie to Me" (Starday)
132. Jackie Wilson "To Be Loved" (Brunswick)
133. Allen Page "She's the One That's Got It" (Moon)
134. Lazy Lester "I'm a Lover, Not a Fighter" (Excello)
135. Dion & the Belmonts "Teen Angel" (Laurie)
136. Ruth Brown "Why Me" (Atlantic)
137. Sonny Boy Williamson "Born Blind" (Checker)
138. Johnny Cash "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" (Sun)
139. Tarheel Slim "Wildcat Tamer" (Fury)
140. Kip Tyler & the Flips "Rumble Rock" (Ebb)
141. B.B. King "That Ain't the Way to Do It" (Crown)
142. Rosco Gordon "Sally Jo" (Sun)
143. Larry Williams "Dizzy, Miss Lizzy" (Specialty)
144. The Cleftones "My Angel Lover" (Classic)
145. Conway Twitty "It's Only Make Believe" (MGM)
146. Jody Reynolds "Fire of Love" (Demon)
147. Chuck Berry "Run Rudolph Run" (Chess)
148. The Deltones "Early Morning Rock" (Vee Jay)
149. Steve Carl "Curfew" (Meteor)
150. The Edsels "Rama Lama Ding Dong" (Dub)
151. Bobby Freeman "Do You Want to Dance" (Josie)
152. Elvis Presley "I Got Stung" (RCA)
153. Buddy Holly "Fool's Paradise" (Brunswick)
154. The Olympics "(I Wanna) Dance with the Teacher" (Demon)
155. Ricky Nelson "Believe What You Say" (Imperial)
156. Sam Cooke "You Were Made for Me" (Keen)
157. Janis & Her Boyfriends "Bang Bang" (RCA)
158. The Students "I'm So Young" (Note/Checker)
159. Jack Scott "Goodbye Baby" (Carlton)
160. Duane Eddy "Stalkin'" (Jamie)
161. Lucille Star & Bob Regan "Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe" (Ditto)
162. The Solitaires "Embraceable You" (Old Town)
163. Wanda Jackson "Honey Bop" (Capitol)
164. Chuck Berry "Sweet Little Rock and Roller" (Chess)
165. The Shirelles "I Met Him on a Sunday" (Decca)
166. Gene Vincent "Baby Blue" (Capitol)
167. The Spotlighters "Please Be My Girl Friend" (Aladdin)
168. Patsy Cline "Stop the World (And Let Me Off)" (Decca)
169. The Musical Linn Twins "Indian Rock" (Blue Feather)
170. Priscilla Bowman "A Rockin' Good Way" (Abner)
171. The Videos "Trickle, Trickle" (Casino)
172. Ray Smith "So Young" (Sun)
173. Elvis Presley "Don't" (RCA)
174. Luther Dixon "Feeling of Love" (Chess)
175. Don Gibson "Oh Lonesome Me" (RCA)
Kip Tyler & the Flips "Ooh Yeah Baby" (Challenge)
Otis Rush "Double Trouble" (Cobra)
Scotty Moore "Have Guitar, Will Travel" (Fernwood)
LaVern Baker "I Cried a Tear" (Atlantic)
The Danleers "One Summer Night" (Mercury)
Tyrone Schmidling "Honey Don't" (Andex)
Ersel Hickey "Bluebirds Over the Mountain" (Epic)
The Kodaks "Oh Gee, Oh Gosh" (Fury)
Danny & the Juniors "Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay" (ABC)
Cozy Cole "Topsy" (Love)
Bobby Darin "Splish Splash" (Atco)
The Turbans "I Promise You Love" (Red Top)
The Champs "El Rancho Rock" (Challenge)
Hank Locklin "Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On" (RCA)
The Platters "Twilight Time" (Mercury)
Chick Floyd & His Orchestra "Hana Maui" (Liberty)
Chanters "Angel Darling" (DeLuxe)
Dion & the Belmonts "No One Knows" (Laurie)
Chuck Berry "Merry Christmas Baby" (Chess)
The Five Blobs "The Blob" (Columbia)
Oscar McLollie & Jeanette Baker "Hey Girl - Hey Boy" (Class)

1. The Beatles (Apple) A+
2. The Kinks: The Village Green Preservation Society (Reprise) A+
3. The Byrds: Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Columbia) A+
4. The Velvet Underground: White Light/White Heat (Verve) A+
5. The Zombies: Odessey and Oracle (Date) A+
6. Van Morrison: Astral Weeks (Warner Bros.) A+
7. The Beach Boys: Friends (Capitol) A+
8. The Byrds: The Notorious Byrd Brothers (Columbia) A+
9. The Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet (London) A
10. Sly & the Family Stone: Life (Epic) A
11. The Immortal Otis Redding (Atco) A-
12. The Everly Brothers: Roots (Warner Bros.) A-
13. The Guess Who: Wheatfield Soul (RCA) A-
14. Sly & the Family Stone: Dance to the Music (Epic) A-
15. Simon & Garfunkel: Bookends (Columbia) A-
Tammy Wynette: D-I-V-O-R-C-E (Epic) A-
George Harrison: Wonderwall Music (Apple) A-

1968 SONGS
Another new list, and I'm blown away by a lot of the psychedelia and soul I listened to in order to make it; I also revisited a lot of "classics" that remain a total drag, but where has the Shocking Blue's "Send Me a Postcard" been all my life? Also, the incredibly risky and fragmented "Whirlybird" by Silver Apples is just as weird and wild as the Musical Linn Twins song noted above. Also, quick reiteration of the rules for these past-year lists: only one song per album but with a loophole whereby any song that was released as a single is eligible. That's why only one White Album cut but nearly every track from White Light/White Heat is here.

1. Marvin Gaye "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (Tamla)
2. The Beatles "Dear Prudence" (Apple LP: The Beatles)
3. Archie Bell & the Drells "Tighten Up" (Atlantic)
4. James Brown "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud" (King)
5. Aretha Franklin "The House That Jack Built" (Atlantic)
6. The Beatles "Hey Jude" (Apple)
7. Dusty Springfield "Son of a Preacher Man" (Atlantic)
8. The Byrds "Hickory Wind" (Columbia LP: Sweetheart of the Rodeo)
9. The Rolling Stones "Sympathy for the Devil" (London LP: Beggars Banquet)
10. Otis Redding "Hard to Handle" (Atco)
11. Desmond Dekker & the Aces "Israelites" (Uni)
12. The Kinks "Days" (Reprise)
13. The Band "The Weight" (Capitol)
14. Tommy James & the Shondells "Crimson and Clover" (Roulette)
15. The Zombies "A Rose for Emily" (Date LP: Odessey and Oracle)
16. Van Morrison "Sweet Thing" (Warner Bros. LP)
17. Dusty Springfield "Take Another Little Piece of My Heart" (Philips LP: Dusty... Definitely)
18. Aretha Franklin "(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone" (Atlantic)
19. James Brown "Give It Up or Turnit A Loose" (King)
20. The Zombies "Care of Cell 44" (Date)
21. The Byrds "Wasn't Born to Follow" (Columbia)
22. The Box Tops "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (Mala LP: Cry Like a Baby)
23. Archie Bell & the Drells "(There's Gonna Be A) Showdown" (Atlantic)
24. The Velvet Underground "Sister Ray" (Verve LP: White Light/White Heat)
25. The Kinks "Village Green" (Reprise LP: The Village Green Preservation Society)
26. Big Mama Thornton "Ball and Chain" (Arhoolie)
27. The Rolling Stones "No Expectations" (London)
28. Simon & Garfunkel "April, Come She Will" (Columbia)
29. Otis Redding "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" (Volt)
30. Stevie Wonder "For Once in My Life" (Tamla)
31. The Zombies "Time of the Season" (Date)
32. Gram Parsons/the Byrds "You Don't Miss Your Water" (Columbia, unreleased until 1990)
33. Aretha Franklin "See Saw" (Atlantic)
34. Sly & the Family Stone "Sing a Simple Song" (Epic)
35. Simon & Garfunkel "Mrs. Robinson" (Columbia)
36. The Beach Boys "Busy Doin' Nothin'" (Capitol LP)
37. The Temptations "Cloud Nine" (Gordy)
38. Gram Parsons/the Byrds "The Christian Life" (Columbia, unreleased until 1990)
39. The Velvet Underground "I Heard Her Call My Name" (Verve)
40. Shocking Blue "Send Me a Postcard" (Olga)
41. James Brown "Licking Stick-Licking Stick" (King)
42. The Byrds "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (Columbia)
43. Tammy Wynette "Stand by Your Man" (Epic)
44. The Kinks "Starstruck" (Reprise)
45. Love "Your Mind and We Belong Together" (Elektra)
46. Simon & Garfunkel "America" (Columbia LP: Bookends)
47. The International Submarine Band "Blue Eyes" (LHI)
48. The Turtles "Elenore" (White Whale)
49. The Supremes & the Temptations "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (Motown)
50. The Byrds "Dolphin's Smile" (Columbia LP: The Notorious Byrd Brothers)
51. Dave Davies & the Kinks "There Is No Life Without Love" (Pye)
52. The Byrds "I Am a Pilgrim" (Columbia)
53. Brenda Lee "Kansas City" (Decca)
54. Aretha Franklin "Think" (Atlantic)
55. Sam & Dave "I Thank You" (Stax)
56. The Rolling Stones "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (London)
57. The Impressions "Fool for You" (Curtom)
58. Donovan "Hurdy Gurdy Man" (Epic)
59. Tommy James & the Shondells "Mony Mony" (Roulette)
60. Barbara Acklin "Love Makes a Woman" (Brunswick)
61. The Box Tops "Cry Like a Baby" (Mala)
62. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell "You're All I Need to Get By" (Tamla)
63. The Kinks "Wonderboy" (Reprise)
64. Aretha Franklin "Ain't No Way" (Atlantic)
65. The Love Affair "Everlasting Love" (CBS)
66. The Foundations "Build Me Up Buttercup" (Uni)
67. The Delfonics "La-La Means I Love You" (Philly Groove)
68. Dionne Warwick "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" (Scepter)
69. Toots and the Maytals "Do the Reggay" (Pyramid)
70. Wilson Pickett "Hey Jude" (Atlantic)
71. The Beatles "Lady Madonna" (Parlophone/Capitol)
72. The Supremes "Love Child" (Motown)
73. Sly & the Family Stone "Everyday People" (Epic)
74. Silver Apples "Whirlybird" (Kapp)
75. The Beatles "Revolution" (Apple)
76. The Staple Singers "Long Walk to D.C." (Stax)
77. The Temptations "I Wish It Would Rain" (Gordy)
78. Gladys Knight & the Pips "I Wish It Would Rain" (Soul)
79. Glen Campbell "Wichita Lineman" (Capitol)
80. Clarence Carter "Slip Away" (Atlantic)
81. The Ventures "Hawaii Five-O" (Liberty)
82. The Impressions "We're Rolling On" (ABC)
83. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" (Tamla)
84. Sly & the Family Stone "Into My Own Thing" (Epic LP: Life)
85. The Box Tops "I Met Her in Church" (Mala)
86. Eddie Floyd "Big Bird" (Stax)
87. The Rascals "A Beautiful Morning" (Atlantic)
88. Loretta Lynn "Fist City" (Decca)
89. The Meters "Sophisticated Cissy" (Josie)
90. MC5 "Looking at You" (Atlantic)
91. Johnnie Taylor "Who's Making Love" (Stax)
92. Jackie Lomax "Sour Milk Sea" (Apple)
93. The Turtles "You Showed Me" (White Whale)
94. Dusty Springfield "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten" (Atlantic)
95. The Byrds "It Happens Each Day" (Columbia, unreleased until 1990)
96. The Beach Boys "Wake the World" (Capitol)
97. Etta James "Security" (Cadet)
98. Martha & the Vandellas "I Can't Dance to That Music You're Playing" (Gordy)
99. Sly & the Family Stone "Higher" (Epic LP: Dance to the Music)
100. The Beach Boys "Little Bird" (Capitol)
101. Percy Sledge "Take Time to Know Her" (Atlantic)
102. The Byrds "Pretty Boy Floyd" (Columbia)
103. The Zombies "Maybe After He's Gone" (Date)
104. The Velvet Underground "White Light/White Heat" (Verve)
105. The Sweet Inspirations "Sweet Inspiration" (Atlantic)
106. Bobby 'Blue' Bland "Driftin' Blues" (Duke)
107. The Kinks "Picture Book" (Reprise)
108. Otis Redding "Amen" (Atco)
109. Archie Bell & the Drells "Love Will Rain on You" (Atlantic)
110. James Brown "I Got the Feelin'" (King)
111. The Monkees "Porpoise Song" (Colgems)
112. The Beach Boys "Friends" (Capitol)
113. Nazz "Open My Eyes" (SGC)
114. Booker T. & the MG's "Soul Limbo" (Stax)
115. The Isley Brothers "Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)" (Tamla)
116. 1910 Fruitgum Co. "1-2-3, Red Light" (Buddah)
117. The Velvet Underground "Here She Comes Now" (Verve)
118. The Pretty Things "Talkin' About the Good Times" (Columbia)
119. Ray Charles "Eleanor Rigby" (ABC)
120. The Staple Singers "The Ghetto" (Stax)
121. Elvis Presley "A Little Less Conversation" (RCA)
122. Tammy Wynette "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" (Epic)
123. Archie Bell & the Drells "I Can't Stop Dancing" (Atlantic)
124. Tim Buckley "Once I Was" (Elektra)
125. Love "Laughing Stock" (Elektra)
126. Jeanne C. Riley "Harper Valley PTA" (Plantation)
127. The Creation "Bony Moronie" (Hit-ton)
128. The Rolling Stones "Street Fighting Man" (London)
129. Clarence Carter "Too Weak to Fight" (Atlantic)
130. Johnny Cash "Daddy Sang Bass" (Columbia)
131. Nina Simone "Ain't Got No, I Got Life" (RCA)
132. Dusty Springfield "The Windmills of Your Mind" (Atlantic)
133. The Monkees "Valleri" (Colgems)
134. The Flirtations "Nothing But a Heartache" (Deram)
135. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles "Yester Love" (Tamla)
136. Otis Redding "The Happy Song (Dum-Dum-De-De-De-Dum-Dum)" (Atco)
137. The Temptations "I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)" (Gordy)
138. Jackie Wilson "I Get the Sweetest Feeling" (Brunswick)
139. The Turtles "Surfer Dan" (White Whale)
140. The Beach Boys "Do It Again" (Capitol)
141. The Creation "How Does It Feel to Feel" (Planet)
142. Jerry Butler "Never Give You Up" (Mercury)
143. The Classics IV "Stormy" (Imperial)
144. The Everly Brothers "Empty Boxes" (Warner Bros.)
145. The Byrds "Lazy Days" (Columbia, unreleased until 1990)
146. Aretha Franklin "Groovin'" (Atlantic LP: Lady Soul)
147. Herb Alpert "This Guy's in Love with You" (A&M)
148. Arthur Conley "Funky Street" (Atco)
149. The International Submarine Band "Luxury Liner" (LHI)
150. Stevie Wonder "Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day" (Tamla)
Simon & Garfunkel "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" (Columbia)
Johnny Cash "Folsom Prison Blues" [live] (Columbia)
The Kinks "Polly" (Reprise)
Aretha Franklin "My Song" (Atlantic)
Booker T. & the MG's "Hang 'Em High" (Stax)
1910 Fruitgum Co. "Sticky Sticky" (Buddah)
The Creation "The Girls Are Naked" (Polydor)
The Byrds "Reputation" (Columbia)
The Beatles "Child of Nature" (Apple, unreleased until 2018)
Gram Parsons/the Byrds "One Hundred Years from Now" (Columbia, unreleased until 1990)
The Doors "Touch Me" (Elektra)
The Byrds "Pretty Polly" (Columbia, unreleased until 1990)
The Seeds "900 Million People Daily All Making Love" (GNP)

1. The Velvet Underground (MGM) A+
2. Sly & the Family Stone: Stand! (Epic) A+
3. The Kinks: Arthur (Reprise) A+
4. The Beatles: Abbey Road (Apple) A+
5. The Flying Burrito Brothers: The Gilded Palace of Sin (A&M) A+
6. Miles Davis: In a Silent Way (Columbia) A+
7. Dusty Springfield: Dusty in Memphis (Atlantic) A+
8. Bob Dylan: Nashville Skyline (Columbia) A+
9. The Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed (London) A
10. The Beach Boys: 20/20 (Capitol) A
11. Neil Young: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Reprise) A
12. Nick Drake: Five Leaves Left (Island) A
13. The Guess Who: Canned Wheat (RCA) A-
14. The Meters (Josie) A-
15. Leonard Cohen: Songs from a Room (Columbia) A-
Alexander 'Skip' Spence: Oar (Columbia) A-
George Harrison: Electronic Sound (Zapple) A-
Elvis Presley: From Elvis in Memphis (RCA) A-
David Bowie: Space Oddity (Mercury) A-

1. Big Star: Third/Sister Lovers (PVC) A+
2. Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings and Food (Sire) A+
3. Marvin Gaye: Here, My Dear (Tamla) A+
4. Wire: Chairs Missing (Harvest) A+
5. The Jam: All Mod Cons (Polydor) A+
6. Blondie: Parallel Lines (Chrysalis) A+
7. Pere Ubu: The Modern Dance (Blank) A
8. Funkadelic: One Nation Under a Groove (Warner Bros.) A
9. Brian Eno: Music for Airports (PVC) A
10. Television: Adventure (Elektra) A
11. Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo (Warner Bros.) A
12. The Only Ones (Epic) A
13. Brian Eno: Music for Films (Antilles) A
14. X-Ray Spex: Germ-Free Adolescents (EMI) A
15. Blondie: Plastic Letters (Chrysalis) A
16. The Cars (Elektra) A
17. Flamin' Groovies Now! (Sire) A
18. The Rolling Stones: Some Girls (Atlantic) A-
19. The Stranglers: Black and White (United Artists) A-
20. The Ramones: Road to Ruin (Sire) A-
21. Lou Reed: Street Hassle (Arista) A-
22. Patti Smith: Wave (Arista) A-
23. Neil Young: Comes a Time (Reprise) A-
24. Pere Ubu: Dub Housing (Chrysalis) A-
25. The Clash: Give 'Em Enough Rope (Epic) A-
Tubeway Army (Beggars Banquet)

1. The Clash: London Calling (Epic) A+
2. Michael Jackson: Off the Wall (Epic) A+
3. David Bowie: Lodger (RCA) A+
4. Gang of Four: Entertainment! (Warner Bros.) A+
5. Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures (Factory) A+
6. Talking Heads: Fear of Music (Sire) A+
7. Fleetwood Mac: Tusk (Warner Bros.) A+
8. Wire: 154 (Warner Bros.) A
9. The B-52's (Warner Bros.) A
10. Neil Young: Rust Never Sleeps (Reprise) A
11. The Jam: Setting Sons (Polydor) A
12. Pere Ubu: New Picnic Time (Chrysalis) A-
13. The Records: Shades in Bed (Virgin) A-
14. The Only Ones: Special View (Epic) A-
15. Blondie: Eat to the Beat (Chrysalis) A-
16. The Searchers (Sire) A-
17. Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle (Atco) A-
18. XTC: Drums and Wires (Virgin) A-
19. Leonard Cohen: Recent Songs (Columbia) A-
20. The Only Ones: Even Serpents Shine (Epic) A-
The Stranglers: The Raven (A&M) A-
Lou Reed: The Bells (Arista) A-
The Police: Reggatta de Blanc (A&M) A-
Van Morrison: Into the Music (Warner Bros.) A-
Tubeway Army: Replicas (Atco) A-

1. Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (Columbia) A+
2. The Go-Betweens: 16 Lovers Lane (Capitol) A+
3. Pixies: Surfer Rosa (4AD) A
4. Pet Shop Boys: Introspective (EMI Manhattan) A
5. Galaxie 500: Today (Rough Trade) A
6. Ultramagnetic MCs: Critical Beatdown (Next Plateau) A-
7. The Smithereens: Green Thoughts (Capitol) A-
8. Pere Ubu: The Tenement Year (Enigma) A-
9. The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (Def Jam) A-
10. My Bloody Valentine: Isn't Anything (Sire) A-
11. Prince: Lovesexy (Warner Bros.) A-
12. R.E.M.: Green (Warner Bros.) A-
13. Boogie Down Productions: By All Means Necessary (Jive) A-
14. Erasure: The Innocents (Sire) A-
15. Living Colour: Vivid (Epic) A-
Information Society (Tommy Boy) A-
Run-DMC: Tougher Than Leather (Profile) A-

1. De La Soul: 3 Feet High and Rising (Tommy Boy) A+
2. Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique (Capitol) A
3. Galaxie 500: On Fire (Rough Trade) A
4. Pixies: Doolittle (4AD) A-
5. Fine Young Cannibals: The Raw and the Cooked (I.R.S.) A-
6. President Yo La Tengo (Coyote) A-
7. Lou Reed: New York (Sire) A-
8. XTC: Oranges & Lemons (Virgin) A-
9. Pere Ubu: Cloudland (Fontana) A-
10. Tears for Fears: The Seeds of Love (Fontana) A-
11. Madonna: Like a Prayer (Sire) A-
12. Boogie Down Productions: Ghetto Music (Jive) A-
13. Lou Reed & John Cale: Songs for Drella (Sire) A-
14. Erasure: Wild! (Sire) A-
15. John Cale: Words for the Dying (Warner Bros.) A-
16. New Order: Technique (Qwest) A-
17. The Smithereens: 11 (Capitol) A-
18. Paul McCartney: Flowers in the Dirt (Capitol) A-
19. The Jesus & Mary Chain: Automatic (Warner Bros.) A-
20. Janet Jackson: Rhythm Nation 1814 (A&M) A-

1. Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (Merge) A+
2. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Columbia) A
3. Outkast: Aquemini (Arista) A
4. Elliott Smith: XO (DreamWorks) A
5. The Smashing Pumpkins: Adore (Virgin) A
6. Air: Moon Safari (Caroline) A-
7. eels: Electro-Shock Blues (DreamWorks) A-
8. Jay-Z: Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life (Def Jam) A-
9. The Cardigans: Gran Turismo (Mercury) A-
10. Mono: Formica Blues (Mercury) A-
Madonna: Ray of Light (Maverick) A-
Cat Power: Moon Pix (Matador) A-

1. The Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs (Merge) A+
2. Ben Folds Five: The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner (550 Music) A+
3. The Flaming Lips: The Soft Bulletin (Warner Bros.) A
4. Moby: Play (V2) A
5. The Roots: Things Fall Apart (MCA) A
6. Old 97's: Fight Songs (Elektra) A
7. Built to Spill: Keep It Like a Secret (Warner Bros.) A
8. Blur: 13 (Virgin) A-
9. Wilco: Summerteeth (Reprise) A-
10. Pavement: Terror Twilight (Matador) A-
11. Jay-Z: Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter (Def Jam) A-
12. Olivia Tremor Control: Black Foliage (Flydaddy) A-
13. The Chemical Brothers: Surrender (astralwerks) A-
14. Beulah: When Your Heartstrings Break (Sugar Free) A-
15. Everything But the Girl: Temperamental (Atlantic) A-
16. XTC: Apple Venus Vol. 1 (Cooking Vinyl) A-
17. Asylum Street Spankers: Hot Lunch (Spanks-A-Lot) A-
18. Luna: The Days of Our Nights (Jericho) A-
19. Missy Elliott: Da Real World (Elektra) A-
20. Loudon Wainwright III: Social Studies (Hannibal) A-
Gus Gus: This Is Normal (4AD) A-
Matthew Sweet: In Reverse (Volcano) A-
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Californication (Warner Bros.) A-
Muse: Showbiz (Maverick) A-

1. The Tallest Man on Earth: Shallow Grave (Mexican Summer) A
2. The Walkmen: You & Me (Gigantic) A
3. Hot Chip: Made in the Dark (astralwerks) A
4. TV on the Radio: Dear Science (Interscope) A
5. The Magnetic Fields: Distortion (Nonesuch) A
6. Kanye West: 808s & Heartbreak (Def Jam) A
7. Love Is All: A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night (What's Your Rupture?) A
8. Kaki King: Dreaming of Revenge (Velour) A-
9. Crystal Castles (Last Gang) A-
10. Chatham County Line: IV (Yep Roc) A-
11. Mates of State: Re-Arrange Us (Barsuk) A-
12. The Bird and the Bee: Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future (Blue Note) A-
13. Teddy Thompson: A Piece of What You Need (Verve) A-
14. The Mountain Goats: Heretic Pride (4AD) A-
15. Old Crow Medicine Show: Tennessee Pusher (Nettwerk) A-

1. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It's Blitz (Interscope) A
2. The Avett Brothers: I and Love and You (Columbia) A
3. Gossip: Music for Men (Columbia) A
4. Condo Fucks: Fuckbook (Matador) A
5. The Flaming Lips: Embryonic (Warner Bros.) A-
6. tUnE-yArDs: BiRd-BrAiNs (Marriage/4AD) A-
7. The Good Feeling Music of Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele (Paw Tracks) A-
8. Yo La Tengo: Popular Songs (Matador) A-
9. The Mountain Goats: The Life of the World to Come (4AD) A-
10. Pet Shop Boys: Yes (astralwerks) A-
11. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone: Vs. Children (Tomlab) A-
12. Andrew Bird: Noble Beast (Fat Possum) A-
13. Yoko Ono: Between My Head and the Sky (Chimera) A-
14. Wilco (The Album) (Nonesuch) A-
15. M. Ward: Hold Time (Merge) A-
Pink Martini: Splendor in the Grass (Heinz) A-


Back this weekend with more Beatles nonsense. Regular reviews of new records resume at the beginning of March!