The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Thursday, December 19, 2002
ABOUT A YEAR
Part Three

NO BAD THING(S)

Simon R said to me yesterday that he didn't feel like posting an "Unfaves 2002" section on Blissblog, and I tend to agree. I don't really see the point of gratuitous negativity; anything with which/whom I have taken issue or have cause to take issue has already been done, either here or elsewhere. Being annoyed with X/Y/Z is irrelevant and unhelpful in the light of the genuinely negative things with which I have had to deal these past 16 months; so no "Bad Things About 2002" here.

BLOGS

Blog of the year? Impossible for me to say. Stevie Nixed, Radio Free Narnia and Blissblog are all written by friends (in the case of S Nixed, my best friend) and I feel as though I am part of all of them. Of blogs written by people I don't know, Dan Emerson's Restate My Assumptions has impressed me most; well-argued and obviously heartfelt comments about films, music and life. What there is on Shazam! is frustratingly good - frustratingly, because I wish Mr H would post much more often. Really I check most of the blogs on the NYPLM sidebar more or less regularly, though the first three mentioned here are priority.

Of blogs which aren't listed on NYPLM, may I draw to your attention The Yes/No Interlude (www.nerichardson.co.uk); Tribulations Of A Soul Sister (http://soulfulspell.blogspot.com); and Oh Manchester, So Much To Answer For(http://submeat.blogspot.com). All excellent.

WHY NO SINGLES?

How can I beat Popjustice's Top 212 Singles (though I would quibble with the order)? Popjustice say that albums are for old people. As I am indeed an old person, I feel quite content to stick with albums. So, today and tomorrow, please settle down and digest:

TOP 50 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
Part 1: Numbers 50-26

50 DJ SHADOW The Private Press
Worth its placing for the nine minutes of "Death On The Motorway" alone - '80s bargain basement AOR recycled into a kaddish which trounces the collected works of Moby - but also for the opening and closing sequences with the tearful mother's letter spoken over Lionel Hampton's "Midnight Sun."

49 SCARFACE The Fix
The last Geto Boy with any kind of a career, there's way too much "bitch"ing here, but here because of the phenomenal Nas collaboration "In Between Us" (which practically turns into Air halfway through before turning back again) and the good humour/Charlie Brown piano licks of "On My Block."

48 THE FLAMING LIPS Yoshimi Versus The Pink Robots
The artful artlessness of Wayne Coyne's singing may make you yearn for Willard White after a while, and this album has "Alan Parsons Project" etched through it like a stick of rock, but the meditation on death which encompasses the closing four tracks is extremely moving and affecting.

47 BADLY DRAWN BOY Music From About A Boy
Have You Fed The Fish? is rank - Andrew Gold without any gold - but forget the Hornby/Grant factor and treat this as a kind of McCartney III, if you know what I mean. "Silent Sigh" is where Lennon consummates it with Prince.

46 HOLLY VALANCE Footprints
It doesn't all work, but this is a sexier and more adventurous pop album than anything either Minogue has done - and unlike either Minogue, there is doubt throughout, which does make a difference.

45 CORNERSHOP Handcream For A Generation
Yes, it's Jools Holland's idea of "eclectic," but, you know - here in commemoration of a nice and passionate springtime, to which this was the perfect accompaniment.

44 BUSTA RHYMES It Ain't Safe No More
There is precisely nothing original on this, Busta's sixth sublime pop-hip hop album, except for the Bustaness of Busta himself. And it's surprisingly playable. "Call The Ambulance" is one of the most skewed Neptunes productions to date; "Hop" does Eastern better than Timbaland; "We Goin' To Do It To Ya" is practically electroclash; "I Know What You Want" finds a good use for Mariah Carey; and "The Struggle Will Be Lost" even made me think of Heaven 17.

43 AKUFEN My Way
Regretful but always purposeful explorations of subdued techno via radio dial cut-ups. It's all about trying to find a reason. Works well as a kind of Low Countries equivalent of Horsepower Productions.

42 NAS God's Son
A sombre affair, this; yes, he still jibes at Izza, both directly ("Last Real Nigga Alive") and indirectly (the Eminem-produced "The Cross"), and there is one monster of an uptempo jam in "Made You Look" (check out the forthcoming remix with added Ludacris) but this record was largely written and recorded in the wake of his mother's death from cancer. He does indeed sound as though he is speaking from within a burned-out shell of a building. His dad Olu Dara adds some regretful and compassionate Milesian trumpet smears at the end of "Dance," and "Heaven" pays fitting tribute to his mother without falling into the trap of mawkishness.

41 MIS-TEEQ Lickin' On Both Sides (Special Edition)
...special insofar as you need the edition which includes the garage mixes of their hit singles, especially "B With Me." Alesha Dixon is a one-woman punctum. Her sudden eruption 2:16 into "B With Me" is perhaps the pop moment of the year. A mightily fine record.

40 THE LIARS They Threw Us AlI In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top
I regretfully admit that listening to contemporary guitar music (i.e. most of the NME's Top 50) is for me a bit like reading De Subjectivisten when you don't speak Dutch. If you try hard enough you can sort of get the gist of what they're saying, but you cannot connect with it directly. Why is this here? Because they reopened trails laid down by the Gang of Four, Pop Group and Swans which have thus far remained largely untrodden upon. There was something deeper going on here than the superficial calls for "revolution." A great uncertainty, which powers most of this year's best music

39 CURSOR MINER Explosive Piece Of Mind
The year's most sheerly enjoyable "electroclash" record; a sort of more upbeat and angular equivalent of Casino Versus Japan (see below/above). One of the finest records of 1981 - and that's meant as a compliment.

38 MURCOF Martes
A vast gulf of slowly undulating grooves and meditations from this Mexican Ambient operative. The coffin lid has already closed and locked upon you. What's left to think about? This might be the ideal soundtrack.

37 MS DYNAMITE A Little Deeper
Ponder more about why she is sitting in that bombed-out warehouse, and what she hopes to take from it. This album is better than you think.

36 AMON TOBIN Out From Out Where
Soundtrack samples, yes. But mischief and occasional grandeur, yes also. The best Ninja Tune release in God knows how many years.

35 JAY-Z Blueprint 2: The Gift And The Curse
Hang on, Carlin, you only gave this two stars in Uncut - yes, I know, but a double album was too much. Cipher out the Lenny Kravitz cameos and all the non-showbiz padding, reduce to a 40-minute single CD and the star rating would have doubled. Can't stop going back to tracks like "Hovi Baby," "Bitches & Sisters" and the MOP-assisted remix of "U Don't Know." Neptunes on top form here, on tracks like "Fuck All Nite" and "Nigga Please." If this chart were based on number of plays, this would be ranked considerably higher.

34 MR LIF I, Phantom
A complex and multilayered (so much so in fact that Mr Lif has provided a useful "game plan" in his sleevenotes) exploration of contemporary urban alienation, poverty, and the impossibility of love/life, this tails off somewhat towards the end but at its best ("Live From The Plantation," "Status") it seizes the baton from the Coup's Steal This Album and runs with it.

33 BRIGHT EYES Lifted, Or The Story Is In The Soil Keep Your Ear To The Ground
Conor Oberst's post-Mike Scott vocal stylings are not to everyone's taste, but this, his tenth album, was alternately sublime pop and honest, non-self pitying explorations of his own doubts. Lambchop with a spring in their step - the record's essential optimism is what makes it so good.

32 NELLY Nellyville
Much more than just "Hot In Herre" plus supporting acts, and yes it is essentially Country Grammar 2, but it is a better one.

31 TRUTH HURTS Truthfully Speaking
One of several moving extended soliloquies on love, life and impermanence to come out of the R&B scene this year. Executive produced Dr Dre mostly left the groundwork to others, but it's a fascinating and powerful exploration of, among many other things, truth. Comes to some surprising post-Althusser conclusions, too.

30 FOO FIGHTERS One By One
Since their eponymous 1995 debut I'd always thought of Grohl's crew as the Police with Stewart Copeland on lead vocals - but the Police analogy is relevant here. This is surprisingly powerful and disciplined rock music, aware of the present and also aware of the absolute necessity of understanding how rock dynamics work. Apart from the most restrained and unrecognisable playing by Brian May on record, the renewed vigour and freshness of this essentially trad rock record can only have been an offshoot of Grohl's participation in...

29 QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE Songs For The Deaf
As I said last week, every note on this record could have been played/sung in 1972. But Homme & Co. understand their Mountain, know their Blue Oyster Cult, even remember their '60s garage "Nuggets." It's an immensely playable record, and only sitting at #29 for the crass reason of linking it with the Foo Fighters record.

28 CASINO VERSUS JAPAN Whole Numbers Play The Basics
As recommended by Blissblog, Erik Kowalski produces the most tender and seductive electro/ambient/idyllitronica if you will record of the year. There are shades of Vangelis as well as Paradinas and the Aphex when they were worth listening to. Lovely and calming, in an agreeably spiky anti-Classical Chill Out Ever kind of way.

27 LL COOL J 10
The man's best album since BAD; the Neptunes and others all ease him into the 21st century with ease. Seductive and adventurous.

26 EMINEM The Eminem Show
Yes, this is Mathers' This Is Hardcore - he is rich and famous but still dissatisfied and pissed off with the world. One wonders how much longer he can plough this furrow before getting back to nature or turning into Joe Perry, but for now the avant-hoedown of "Square Dance" and the genuinely distressing vocal interventions by his daughter on "My Dad's Gone Crazy," among many other highlights, will suffice.


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