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December 22, 2009

THE GARY PIG GOLD REPORT, Vol. 21

GPG'S ALBUMS OF THE DECADE

Strictly alphabetically speaking, that is, here's what I listened to much of Jan. 1, 2000, through Dec. 15, 2009:

* Apartment -- Sparkle Bicycle (Waikiki, 2008).
Tatsuya Namai's radiant pop of the Daniel Johnston-meets-Shonen Knife variety.

* Alex Brennan -- The Last Smile of the Pied Piper (2004).
Hopefully Mr. Brennan will be duly hired to give The Beach Boys' catalog that Beatles Love treatment when the time inevitably arrives.

* Lindsey Buckingham -- Under the Skin (Reprise Records, 2006).
Once insane, always insane.

* Candypants -- Candypants (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 2000).
Ronnie Spector fronts Elvis Costello's Attractions -- and then some!

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* Casper & the Cookies -- The Optimist's Club (Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records, 2006).
What Jason NeSmith and Kay Stanton did on their holidays in New York City.

* Cheap Trick -- Rockford (Big3 Records, 2006).
Remarkably sounding better – and louder – than ever.

* Dennis Diken and Bell Sound -- Late Music (Cryptovision Records, 2009).
The album Brian Wilson has been trying to make since at least 1986.

* Johnny Dowd -- Wire Flowers: More Songs from the Wrong Side of Memphis (Munich Records, 2003).
A sonic sequel to one of the '90s undeniably greatest albums -- and artists.

* Bob Dylan -- Modern Times (Sony/BMG, 2006).
Edges out Christmas in the Heart by a mere Santa whisker.

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* Electric Prunes -- Feedback (PruneTwang, 2006).
Proving you can have your re-heated soufflé and eat it, too.

* Tom Jones -- Mr. Jones (V2 Music, 2003).
Wherein Atomic Jones meets Wyclef Jean -- by way of "Black Betty"!

* Bill Lloyd -- Back to Even (New Boss Sounds, 2004).
Fifteen more examples of most potently powerful pop, Nashville-style.

* Lolas -- Like the Sun (Jam Recordings, 2007).
Tim Boykin and his ever-bright l-o-l-a Lolas honestly do make the kind of records you still think Paul McCartney does.

* Jack Pedler -- Jack Pedler (Race Records, 2001).
This is the sound of the hardest-working drummer in Canada loading all six strings.

* The Playmates -- Sad Refrain (K.O.G.A. Records, 2002).
Forever more than happy to play The Rolling Stones against their countrywomen Puffy (AmiYumi)’s Beatles.

* Raquel’s Boys -- Music for the Girl You Love (Jam Recordings, 2004).
Just as if Bobby Fuller and those once Flamin' Groovies were never ever extinguished.

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* Jason Ringenberg -- A Day at the Farm with Farmer Jason (Yep Roc, 2003).
The definitive alternative to alternative country.

* Simply Saucer -- Cyborgs Revisited (Sonic Unyon Recording Company, 2003).
The nice, nice noise that simply continues to keep on giving.

Frank Lee Sprague -- Merseybeat (Wichita Falls Records, 2005).
Exactly as if Brian Epstein had never entered The Cavern.

* Tan Sleeve -- White Lie Castle (Cheft Worldwide, 2000).
Wherein George Harrison and even Frank Zappa receive the Burt Bacharach/Hal David by way of Todd Rundgren treatment.

* Teenage Head -- Teenage Head with Marky Ramone (Sonic Unyon Recording Company, 2008).
Canada's Ramones finally reunited with their very-long-lost brudder.

-- Musician/writer Gary Pig Gold is the co-founder of the To M'Lou Music label.

December 18, 2009

ROCK OF HOPE

Holiday compilation album benefits diabetes research

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When they were the backbone to Creedence Clearwater Revival, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford covered their share of early rock hits for the band's studio albums.

As the bassist and drummer, respectively, for Creedence Clearwater Revisited (above), Cook and Clifford continue that trend with the group's rendition of the Chuck Berry holiday favorite "Run Rudolph Run" that's featured on Hope for the Holidays: Rockin' Christmas for a Cure.

Proceeds from Hope for the Holidays will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

"Today, there is no cure for juvenile diabetes," Cook says, "but by purchasing Hope for the Holidays, you can help in the fight against this disease by funding research that will lead to one."

"One in three people born after the year 2000 will develop some form of diabetes," says Clifford, who adds that the album is "great music for a great cause."

In addition to the Creedence Clearwater Revisited version of "Run Rudolph Run," which can be heard by clicking here, Hope for the Holidays also includes recordings by Weezer, Collective Soul, The Beach Boys and others.

-- By Chris M. Junior

December 11, 2009

SINGLE-MINDED

Golden Bloom, Motion Sick team up for split effort

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Golden Bloom and The Motion Sick have taken a different approach to the split-single concept.

Instead of contributing one original song to the project, each band covered a tune from the other’s catalog.

Agreeing to the project was a no-brainer for The Motion Sick's Mike Epstein.

"All of us in The Motion Sick are big Golden Bloom fans," the singer/guitarist says. "We've always been excited when we have a chance to do shows together."

As for the decision to record Golden Bloom's "Doomsday Devices," Epstein says, "It's one of those songs that [makes me] think, 'Damn, I wish I had written that.' "

Golden Bloom leader Shawn Fogel (above) says that one of the reasons why he was attracted to the split-single cover project – his group recorded "30 Lives" -- was to hear the different sonic approaches.

"Writing-wise, either song would fit right in on a Golden Bloom or Motion Sick album," Fogel says, "but in the studio, we could take each others' music in really different directions. Hearing my own music played back through speakers is amazing enough; hearing my song shaped by someone else equally creative is a mind-melting experience."

The Golden Bloom/Motion Sick split single will be released digitally on Feb. 16, with physical copies only available at shows.

The bands are accepting cover art submissions through Dec. 15.

-- By Chris M. Junior

Photo of Shawn Fogel by Alicia J. Rose

Golden Bloom/The Motion Sick on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Dec. 12: Bar Matchless – Brooklyn

* Feb. 19: The Middle East -- Boston

Q&A: LANCE MERCER

Photographer reflects on his years with Pearl Jam

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As Pearl Jam made the rapid climb from rookie to superstar act, Seattle native Lance Mercer was there with his trusty camera as the band's designated photographer.

5x1: Pearl Jam Through the Eye of Lance Mercer features plenty of Mercer's images of the group, and on Dec. 12, he’ll sign copies of the book at Manhattan's Morrison Hotel Gallery, where some of Mercer's PJ pics will be on display.

Mercer recently talked about his working relationship with the band, shooting the cover for Ten and much more.

Medleyville.us: When and how did you first cross paths with Pearl Jam, and what was your first impression of the band musically and visually?
Lance Mercer: "I met Jeff [Ament] and Stone [Gossard] when they were in different bands in Seattle in the late '80s. Our bond grew when I photographed Mother Love Bone. We all stayed in touch after Andrew Wood passed away.

"When Pearl Jam was formed, they asked me to come photograph them for some promo shots -- that was 1990. The first show I photographed was Pearl Jam in 1990, when they did a short tour under the name of Mookie Blaylock. I thought they had a great sound and there was a lot to photograph. There look wasn’t as colorful as Mother Love Bone but was unique for the time. Eddie [Vedder] was extremely powerful without doing much, and it was amazing to catch that energy on film. I look back at that time as all of us just riding a rocket. It was fast, furious, fun and all of it continues to inform my work as a photographer."

Talk about the first time you photographed the band and what the band thought of those particular photos.
Mercer: "I photographed them in 1990 at their rehearsal space --very simple, Nikon F3, two lenses. I think they were more impressed with how quick and painless the process was; they liked a few of the shots. And a few of those shots will be included in the Morrison Hotel exhibit.

"We were all very young and just starting out, so everything was new. When things started to grow and change at the speed of light, I kept the lens on them but in a different way than at the beginning.

Who came up with the concept for the Ten album cover, and was there anything notable about that particular photo shoot?
Mercer: "That was a concept Jeff Ament had approached me about. We talked about it for a while, and I threw a few other ideas in. We went to the hardware store and got all the materials to make the letters. Ed, Jeff and I set up camp for a few days in the studio and had a great time being creative. They were all willing to do whatever it took to get it done.

"The most notable memory for me was how much the initial idea and image changed after the record company got involved and worked on it -- more of a big learning experience for me about artist vs. industry."

How did Pearl Jam's fame and success impact your approach to photographing the band?
Mercer: "Well, I had to slow down a bit and let them go through the process. I still documented what I could. I lowered my expectations on how much they would do when I asked, so I stopped asking as much and got a bigger lens -- the stage was growing every year. It was the right approach. I got much more from them just being part of the woodwork. There were so many people, fans, friends, new friends, and I think the early stuff really captures the growth during that time."

Who in the band liked having his picture taken, and who was the least enthusiastic about being photographed?
Mercer: "Mike [McCready] and I have always had a nice bond with him being not ashamed of being in my face and me in his, and Ed was a bit harder at first but he warmed up and had a nice sense of humor about the process. He also wound up having a lot of great creative ideas about what I was doing. … they always were just fine with me documenting what was going on."

Who have you worked with lately, and what projects do you have planned for 2010?
Mercer: “I’ve been focused on getting my archive in order, this big Morrison Hotel show as well as teaching 'Documenting Live Music' at a photography school in Seattle. I'm still shooting but refocused a bit more on editorial/fashion/studio stuff.

"My goal for 2010 is to expand and shoot more advertising, creative, fashion and other things. I love New York City, and it will be great to get back into that whirlwind.

"No matter what is happening, I will always be a photographer. For me, it’s a way of life. I can pretend to have a regular job, or pretend to be a painter or a musician, but it always comes around to being 14 again and discovering my dad's old 35mm camera and falling in love with everything about photography. I tend to see the world in that way, no matter what else I am doing."

-- Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

Photo of Pearl Jam in Seattle by Lance Mercer

December 08, 2009

SEASONAL INSIGHT

Alison Sudol breaks down her band’s holiday EP

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Making Oh Blue Christmas (Virgin) was a series of firsts for A Fine Frenzy leader Alison Sudol, and that's only natural considering the EP is the band's first holiday release.

Recorded in less than a week with very little prep time, the Oh Blue Christmas sessions marked the first time Sudol and the rest of her band recorded with everyone playing at once, the first time they worked with David Bianco and the first time Sudol formally held the producer role.

"It was terrifying at first," she recalls, "but once I got the hang of it, [producing] was so very rewarding and fun. It was quite an adventure."

Sudol recently sat down to give a little background on each song that's included on Oh Blue Christmas.

* "Blue Christmas"
Alison Sudol: "I've always adored Elvis Presley, and I think I've pretty much listened to this song every Christmas since I can remember. To me, this song is Christmas, a happy/sad mix of colors, cold weather, nostalgia and love, oftentimes of the not-so-happy kind, as things sometimes fall to bits around the holidays in that department. I love singing this song; we all loved playing it -- in fact, it came together so quickly it was almost baffling, and as a result, it sounds terribly cheerful despite being quite a sad song."

* "Winter Wonderland"
Sudol: "If I remember correctly, this one was Ryan's idea. He started playing a very strange and off-balanced guitar part, I started singing, everyone joined in, and then suddenly, there was our 'Winter Wonderland.' I think it sounds a little like a creepy lullaby, a slightly unbalanced version of an unarguably straightforward carol, something that the Big Bad Wolf might sing to Little Red Riding Hood to lure her into his big, bad jaws, but totally normal otherwise, of course! In the meadow we can build a snowman ..."

* "Redribbon Foxes"
Sudol: "I feel like I stepped into a story and all I could do was tell it to the best of my ability.Writing this song was magical. Recording it was magical. I think, at least mentally, we were all in the same place -- a little town in the mountains surrounded by pine trees, snow heavy on the ground, all the warmth and glow of Christmas just within reach and yet so very far away."

* "Winter White"
Sudol: "I suppose it's a strange thing to have one's first genuinely angry song also be a Christmas song, but then again, it is utterly maddening to be either fighting or breaking up around the holidays, possibly even more maddening than around other times -- excluding Valentine's Day -- because one feels, perhaps foolishly, but stubbornly all the same, that one really ought to be giddily happy at that time. ... all the holiday parties and the egg nog and happy jolly jolly tend to make one feel exponentially unmerry, and even occasionally tempted to side with the Grinch. I can't even say anything about New Year's. I think that one speaks for itself."

* "Wish You Well"
Sudol: "Yet another example of the red, green and golden glow of Christmas highlighting all that is lovely in the world and putting into much more start contrast the wrong, in this case, missing and worrying about a certain black sheep in a family. But is there a family full of white sheep? Even the Brady Bunch was a motley assortment of yellows and blues and purples and browns. And maybe someone isn't really a black sheep after all, perhaps they're just a very deep navy? I guess the little kid in me just wants us all to be together, and happy."

* "Christmas Time Is Here"
Sudol: "This song was much debated. All of us wanted to do it, but the original Charlie Brown version was so perfect that we didn't quite know how to approach it. I thought perhaps it could be very emotional and dreamlike, but didn't quite know how to get there. We did one version where we tried to do it with the original chords, which was quite drekky and disastrous. I sat down and started plunking the song out on the piano as if a child were playing it -- which is how I tend to approach my piano playing, for better or for worse) -- and then walked away. Stephen [LeBlanc] sat down after me and started playing the part, which became the version on the EP. It was so heartbreakingly beautiful and finally felt right."

-- Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

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December 05, 2009

A WONDERFUL RESULT

Carolyn Sills writes holiday tune based on a classic film

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Plenty of people have Christmas Eve traditions.

Growing up, Carolyn Sills would watch the James Stewart classic It’s a Wonderful Life with her father on the night before Christmas. By her estimation, she’s seen the movie in its entirety more than 20 times.

Those repeated viewings eventually resulted in Sills being inspired in the fall of 2007 to write a song named after Stewart’s character, George Bailey.

“My friend Dennis Pierce of Silent Stereo Records asked if I would be interested in recording a Christmas single with him,” the singer/bassist recalls. “We had worked together previously on a vinyl 45 for my Brooklyn-based trio Boss Tweed and had a great time working together. He has excellent vintage equipment and records on all analog gear, which I’m a big fan of.

“We were both into the Phil Spector Christmas catalog and wondered if it was possible to write a song in that style or the style of Brenda Lee’s famous Christmas hits. I started thinking of more generic ideas to write about at first – snow, gingerbread men – but as usual, it’s best to write about what you know. Once I got the idea in my head on the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn, I wrote the song that afternoon.”

Sills says that Wonderful Life was so ingrained in her mind that once she had the idea for the song, the lyrics for “George Bailey” came pretty easily.

“I wrote the bass line first, which lead to the melody, and we built the song from there,” she explains. “I recorded the backing vocals after everything else was done, and it was a new experience to do so many harmonies with myself.

“The biggest challenge was probably capturing the right vocal sound,” Sills adds. “We tried out a few mikes and setups to get a more 1950s sound. I really focused on my enunciation, especially within the harmonies, since the lyrics are so important."

Sills and company recorded the song in Jersey City, N.J., a few days after writing it. First available last December via her Web site, “George Bailey” was recently released digitally on Avatar Records and can be purchased via iTunes.

-- By Chris M. Junior

Carolyn Sills on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Dec. 10: Mesa Arts Center -- Mesa, Ariz.

* Dec. 16: Rodeo Bar -- New York

* Dec. 17: Empire City Casino -- Yonkers, N.Y.

December 01, 2009

MEDLEYVILLE'S ALBUMS OF THE DECADE

The '00s, the aughts – whatever you want to call this decade, it's coming to a close.

Musically speaking, it's been an interesting era, to say the least. Without further ado, here are the albums of the decade according to Medleyville staffers.

JOE BELOCK'S PICKS

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1. Dual Mono (2002, Telstar) -- The Greenhornes.
While these Cincinnati garage-rockers are probably best known for the roles in various Jack White projects (Loretta Lynn, Dead Weather, The Raconteurs), their third (and, sadly, to date, last) album finds them hitting their stride all on their own.

2. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2005, Capitol) -- Paul McCartney.
This album does not contain Sir Paul's best song of the decade (2007's "Only Mama Knows"), but producer Nigel Godrich pushes the legend the way no one has since John Lennon. Godrich fired Macca's touring band and rejected dozens of songs, leaving McCartney with an intimate, introspective and ultimately rewarding complete work.

3. Wheels in Motion (2007, Pravda) -- Glenn Mercer.
The one (and only) negative aspect of the 2008 Feelies reunion is that it derailed Mercer's belated solo career. There is only a little dose of the Feelies' perpetual nervousness to be found here, with most tracks leaning toward the layered acoustic sound of the band's classic 1986 album, The Good Earth.

4. Chrome Dreams II (2007, Reprise) -- Neil Young.
Only Mr. Young could make such a patchwork album into a seamless classic, blending the loud and soft, the short and long. Take an 18-minute track from 20 years ago, add in a new 18-minute track, re-record a few unreleased '80s songs and name it as a sequel to an unreleased, infamous bootleg.

5. Time Bomb High School (2002, In the Red) -- Reigning Sound.
After launching his new band with the subdued Break Up Break Down the previous year, Greg Cartwright (ex-Oblivians, Compulsive Gamblers) unleashes a loud and loose classic. From great originals like the Columbine-inspired title track to covers made their own (like The Gentrys' "Brown Paper Sack"), the band blends the varied influences of its Memphis, Tenn. hometown into an original mix.

6. Here Come the Miracles (2001, Innerstate) -- Steve Wynn.
Wynn kicks off a prolific decade with a sprawling 19-track double CD. Wynn turns up the distortion and intensity like never before, propelling him to christen an ace new backing band, The Miracle 3, reunite with Dan Stuart as Danny and Dusty and form The Baseball Project.

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7. De Stijl (2000, Sympathy for the Record Industry) -- White Stripes.
Naming an album after a Dutch artistic movement doesn't seem like the way to launch an American rock revival, but it worked for this Detroit duo, which pounds out the blues-rock as a lo-fi response to Led Zeppelin to set the stage for the band to earn its Stripes with a commercial breakthrough a year later, White Blood Cells.

8. Veni Vidi Vicious (2000, Burning Heart/Epitaph) -- The Hives.
Fagersta, Sweden, may be a long way from Detroit, but The Hives kick out the jams in fitting homage to the Motor City's Stooges and MC5.

9. Ultraglide in Black (2001, In the Red) -- The Dirtbombs.
After an uneven debut, Mick Collins (ex-Gories) gets his unconventional lineup (two drummers, two basses, one guitar) rolling with an album of covers (save for one song) that proves that 21st-century rock and ’60s soul classics (from Barry White, Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone and others) can coexist on one album.

10. Easy Listening (2003, Muscle Tone) -- Cobra Verde.
If there is such a thing as indie glam rock, this Cleveland outfit has invented and then perfected it.

HONORABLE MENTION:

1. Heels 'n' Wheels (2005, Get Hip) -- High School Sweethearts.

2. Ragged But Right (2003, Telstar) -- The Woggles.

3. Get Something Going (2000, Estrus) -- The Insomniacs.

4. New Seasons (2007, Yep Roc) -- The Sadies.

5. Tick, Tick, Tick (2006, Down There) -- Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3.

MICHAEL CORBY'S PICKS

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1. A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002, Capitol) -- Coldplay.
This is the album that made Chris Martin and the rest of Coldplay superstars. Unfortunately, it also made them huge with the soccer moms of the world, too. Coldplay had the perfect blend of Radiohead's sense of musical imagery and U2's pop-appealing lyrics. Even the harshest musical critic couldn't resist them.

2. The Rising (2002, Columbia Records) -- Bruce Springsteen.
This is the most important album Springsteen has ever made. It's easy to understand how significant Born to Run or Born in the USA was in his career, but the songs on The Rising were a genuine attempt to help a nation heal after a very dark time in its history.

3. musicforthemorningafter (2001, Sony Music) -- Pete Yorn.
A killer combination of gruff singer/songwriter voice blended with an '80s new wave musical landscape. They say it's hard to improve on your first, and three albums later, that holds true for Yorn.

4. Elephant (2003, Third Man Records) -- The White Stripes.
Here is the album that destroyed the potential novelty act tag placed on The White Stripes and propelled Jack White to his respected status in music. It's a shame that Jack and Meg White have yet to recapture the magic made on this album.

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5. Wolfmother (2006, Modular Recordings) -- Wolfmother.
Wolfmother is the result of the recent rebirth of riff rock sparked by the Guitar Hero/Rock Band video game hysteria -- amen. With Black Sabbath hooks and Led Zeppelin imagery, Wolfmother’s brand of retro somehow manages to be refreshing.

6. De Nova (2005, Capital Records) -- The Redwalls.
At first listen, you might think you stumbled across some lost tapes from the Fab Four. De Nova is loaded with John Lennon-type hooks, sounds and attitude.

7. In Your Honor (2005, Roswell Records) -- The Foo Fighters.
This two-disc release is a display of both sides of Dave Grohl and company's musical talents. Disc one contains the hard, fast-paced style that has made the band an FM rock staple for almost a decade. Disc two shows a lighter side, with Grohl reaching back to recapture the mood of Nirvana's MTV unplugged performance.

8. Final Straw (2004, Polydor) -- Snow Patrol.
These Scotts were a refreshing sound when this mid-tempo, David Bowie-ish album was released in 2004. Then their music became the backdrop for every melodramatic TV show. If there was a heart-wrenching breakup or life-changing surgery on the small screen, you can bet there was a Snow Patrol tune playing in the background.

9. Consolers of the Lonely (2008, Third Man Records) -- Raconteurs.
This might be the best supergroup/side project album to be released since the first Traveling Wilburys record.

10. In Between Dreams (2005, Brushfire Records) -- Jack Johnson.
Johnson is to surfing and peaceful rides as Jimmy Buffett is to beach drinking and silly hats. There is a surfboard in paradise, and Johnson is inviting you to take a ride on this musical trip through a surfer’s head.

HONORABLE MENTION:

1. Pearl Jam (2006, J Records) -- Pearl Jam.

2. Both Sides of the Gun (2006, Virgin Records) -- Ben Harper.

3. Plans (2005, Atlantic Recording) -- Death Cab for Cutie.

4. Unclassified (2003, Warner Bros. Records) -- Robert Randolph & The Family Band.

5. My Favorite Evolution (2005, Flagship Recordings) -- Eugene Edwards.

DONALD GAVRON'S PICKS:

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1. Kid A (2000, Capitol) -- Radiohead.
From the opening notes, the listener is dragged through the looking glass into an ethereal realm from which he may not return (nor may he/she want to). Thom Yorke's gift is in making angst seem palatable.

2. Heathen (2002, Sony) -- David Bowie.
Bowie's journey through the cosmos continues. The farther his reach, the stranger and more insightful he gets about life on this green orb. There is some muddled synchronicity concerning Uncle Floyd going on here, but it may only be Bowie finding the universal in the mundane.

3. Sea Change (2002, Interscope) -- Beck.
Beck's most linear collection of country-tinged music is an examination of despondency as we pass from one malaise-filled millennium into another. Questions abound. See change?

4. Everything Must Go (2003, Reprise) -- Steely Dan. Flying under the radar of immature rap feuds and hip-hop shallowness is this quiet masterpiece of busted relationships and ordinary people thwarted by fate but still managing to hang on by their fingernails.

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5. Illumination (2003, Yep Roc Records) -- Paul Weller. Here are soulful tales of alienation and a search for redemption in 16 tracks woven together by a master craftsman.

6. Hail to the Thief (2003, Capitol) -- Radiohead.
An edgy call to action by a band on the throes of the abyss looking down as the hourglass empties itself of sand.

7. Reality (2003, Columbia) -- David Bowie.
A maelstrom of fractured rock weirdness by the incomparable Bowie. This is on par with his best recordings as he walks a fine line between being pretentious and insightful.

8. On the Transmigration Of Souls (2004, Nonesuch) -- John Adams.
Adams's 25-minute meditation on the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, is nothing less than stunning, drawing comparisons to the experimental "Revolution 9" by The Beatles. This haunting composition won the Pulitzer Prize.

9. Ca Ira (There Is Hope) (2005, Sony) -- Roger Waters. Ambition is too weak a word for this opera in three acts adapted by ex-Pink Floyd bassist Waters. Though not a complete success, this tale of the French Revolution is meant to draw parallels to the current world situation and gets high marks for what it does achieve. Not for lightweights.

10. Prairie Wind (2005, Reprise Records) -- Neil Young. This is Young's best record in years and one of his most heartfelt. During the making of the album, Young was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, and the specter of mortality hangs over the production but never interferes with its lyric beauty.

HONORABLE MENTION:

1. The Information (2006, Interscope) -- Beck.

2. In Rainbows (2008, ATO Records/Red) -- Radiohead.

3. Global A Go-Go (2001, Hellcat Records) -- Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros.

4. The ConstruKction of Light (2000, Virgin Records) -- King Crimson.

5. A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002, Capitol) -- Coldplay.

GEORGE HENN'S PICKS:

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1. Kids in Philly (2000, Artemis/E-Squared) -- Marah.
Spotty material and an ever-revolving lineup would mark the rest of the decade for the Bielanko brothers, but at the turn of the millennium, their sophomore disc found the roots-rock outfit sounding much like that other young Philly upstart, Rocky Balboa (who is name-checked here): full of street-smart swagger and seemingly poised for a shot at the big prize. As such, it stands as a reminder that they coulda been contenders.

2. Satellite Rides (2001, Elektra) -- Old 97's.
Sure, the alt-country tag stuck with these guys for a reason -- the ease with which they deliver their George Jones-style aching, tear-in-your-beer ballads is scary -- but the Texas quartet's gift for melody tends to get overlooked. That's not possible here, as the 97's bare their pop sensibilities on an album that was so immediate and catchy that, naturally, it flopped and their major label dropped them.

3. In the Valley of Dying Stars (2000, Arena Rock Recording Co.) -- Superdrag.
"I can't concentrate on melody, waiting for some kinda tragedy," sings John Davis, but Superdrag's career says otherwise, and never more so than on their third full-length. Superdrag perfected the art of melding dark lyrical musings (a la The Pixies) with soaring harmonies, and this is their masterpiece.

4. Boys and Girls in America (2006, Vagrant) -- The Hold Steady.
One of the definitive albums of the decade sounds a lot like the years themselves -- chaotic, tension-filled, unsettling -- and the Brooklyn band accomplishes this not through ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling, but via powerfully rendered vignettes that center on America's youth getting wasted. Genius stuff.

5. My Favorite Revolution (2005, Flagship Recordings) -- Eugene Edwards.
Bursting with hooks and power pop smarts, this might as well be a lost album from Squeeze or Elvis Costello's prime. And if it were released three decades earlier, this disc might have gone down as a power-pop touchstone instead of one of the genre's hidden gems.

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6. People Gonna Talk (2006, Rounder Select) -- James Hunter.
Hunter so convincingly pulls off his retro-sounding brand of soul, you could be mistaken for thinking this is one of the top albums from the '60s, and not this decade.

7. Rainy Day Music (2003, Lost Highway) -- The Jayhawks.
If 1992's Hollywood Town Hall is the definitive Jayhawks record for many fans, this release -- 11 years and a few lineup changes later -- is the best showcase of Gary Louris and Co.'s knack for jangly harmonies.

8. Life'll Kill Ya (2000, Artemis) -- Warren Zevon.
One of rock's great defeatists was in rare form on this disc, which, as the title track indicates, found him touching on themes of mortality and fading health. A worthy album on its own merits, sadly it was also a case of morbid foreshadowing, as Zevon was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in 2002 and died the next year.

9. Stereo/Mono (2002, Vagrant) -- Paul Westerberg.
Following a couple of uninspired and little-noticed efforts, the legendary ex-Replacements frontman sounded recharged on this bare-bones double disc: the mellow, introspective Stereo and the one-man garage-band ruckus of Mono (released under Westerberg's alter ego, Grandpaboy).

10. The Minus Five (2006, Yep Roc) -- The Minus Five.
This is a kooky, compelling and catchy set that is passionately performed by Scott McCaughey and his cast of more-than-able friends that includes members of Wilco and R.E.M.

HONORABLE MENTION:

1. ...tick ...tick ...tick (2006, Down There) -- Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3.

2. From the End of Your Leash (2004, Bloodshot) -- Bobby Bare Jr.'s Criminal Starvation League.

3. Walking in a Straight Line (2002, Yep Roc) -- The Mayflies USA.

4. Love and Theft (2001, Columbia) -- Bob Dylan.

5. Fear Not the Obvious (2001, Bloodshot) -- The Yayhoos.

MIKE MADDEN'S PICKS:

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1. Slippage (2002, New West Records) -- Slobberbone.
The Denton, Texas, band's fourth offering was its best and final work. What makes this album the best of the decade is the blend of loud riffs, frenzied drums and bittersweet lyrics. Obviously, it’s not the most original concept, but it’s still relatable and incredibly passionate.

2. Kids in Philly (2000, Artemis/E-Squared) -- Marah.
This album is the sound of a roomful of talented people picking up every instrument and taking a genre walk. On this, the band’s best album, Marah was compared to a modern-day E Street Band. Bruce Springsteen and his troupe keep chugging along, but Kids in Philly is still a great comparison to them.

3. Separation Sunday (2005, Frenchkiss Records) -- The Hold Steady.
Here’s an album written from the perspective of a fidgety party-goer. Singer/songwriter Craig Finn meanders from story to story with vivid descriptions and surrounded by the muscular swagger of his band takes control of the very scene he seems to be unsure about.

4. Elephant (2003, V2 Records) -- The White Stripes.
The most evenly produced piece of the White Stripes musical puzzle. Elephant took the Detroit duo from buzzed about avant garde act to household name avant garde powerhouse.

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5. Evil Urges (2008, ATO Records) -- My Morning Jacket.
Tons of touring with a wide range of peers and legendary stories of all night jams earned My Morning Jacket an ever-growing fan base throughout the decade.Evil Urges is its thank you to those who shared the ride with the band. It took the best parts of their stellar previous albums It Still Moves and Z, rolled them together and passed it around.

6. Heartbreaker (2000, Bloodshot Records) -- Ryan Adams.
Say what you will about Adams' public persona or childish ways, this is one thought out album. It's an achievement in introspection that wasn't as forced as the emo revolution of mid decade. It's a CD-length sigh.

7. Fight Dirty (2002, Yep Roc Records) -- The Forty-Fives.
Soul, garage, blues and boogie are the main ingredients in this Southern stew. The musical frenzy almost makes you sweat while you listen to it.

8. What Doesn't Kill Us (2008, Barsuk Records) -- What Made Milwaukee Famous.
Indie rock became its own genre in the '00s, but that was just a clever code name for alternative rock anyway.What Doesn't Kill Us is the album 1996 forgot about. Quirky, clever and sincere, it fits nicely in the playlist world.

9. Cherry Marmalade (2002, Zoe-Rounder Records) -- Kay Hanley.
The former Letters to Cleo frontwoman and future Miley Cyrus backer produced a mighty fine set of power pop of her own. Lots of jangle and some leftover riot girl rage mark this surprisingly pleasant effort.

10. Ultragilde in Black (2001, In the Red Records) -- The Dirtbombs.
I have to admit: I'm a sucker for a good covers album, and although this isn't a complete set of covers, the reinterpretations are what sold me, as the album features thunderous and proud renditions of past nuggets by artists as diverse as Stevie Wonder to Thin Lizzy. It's all delivered in a sloppy, bottom-heavy groove that demands you to get up on your feet.

HONORABLE MENTION:

1. The War of Women (2003, Atlantic Records) -- Joe Firstman.

2. The Blueprint (2001, Def Jam Records) -- Jay-Z.

3. Red Letter Days (2002, Interscope Records) -- The Wallflowers.

4. Virginia Creeper (2004, Zoe-Rounder Records) -- Grant-Lee Phillips.

5. Southern Rock Opera (2001, Soul Dump Records) -- Drive-By Truckers.