349 to 300
349. A Tribe Called Quest
T: I’m no rap expert, but these guys deserve kudos for trying to create intelligent, socially conscious songs that were in strict defiance of the “thug life”. Start with The Low End Theory and see for yourself.
M: These guys hit me where I live, with funky flowin’ beats topped by ultra-clever raps. You do own The Low End Theory, don’t you?
348. Susan Tedeschi
T: Susan Tedeschi - The Melissa Ethridge of blues-rock lite.
M: Love her work with Martin & Wood.
347. Diana Ross & the Supremes
T: Their string of 17 Top 10 pop hits is unparalleled by any female artist. Time has actually undervalued this uber-smooth girl pop… the American Beatles.
M: The original divas, and maybe still the best. In this world, there are few things better than “Come See About Me,” and “Up the Ladder to the Roof” is one of them.
346. Fountains of Wayne
T: 3 albums in 10 years… that’s a lazy weekend for Ryan Adams. But these three records contain consistently bright, sunny, witty power pop… the kind that rewards repeat play. The American Beatles.
M: Scary good. Robbie Fulks pretty much nailed my image of them, four geniuses in lab coats concocting perfect songs and unleashing them on the world.
T: Supertramp ahead of the Supremes? Only alphabetically… Crime of the Century.
M: When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical. And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily, joyfully, playfully watching me. But then Supertramp came on the radio and ruined my childhood.
344. Snow Patrol
T: Amiable, earnest hard-working Irish lads… that I’m sure I couldn’t pick out of a lineup, but they’re somebody’s all-time favorite…so good on ya mates.
M: Their name reminds me of that scene in the second (or was it the third?) Star Wars movie where Luke slices open that big, stinky animal and crawls inside, which is pretty much what I want to do when these guys come on the radio. Oh, I kid. They’re all right.
343. Leo Kottke
T: Guitar virtuoso with about 200 albums… and I’ve never heard one of them.
M: I sort of stumbled into one of his shows years ago, and it was a damned good time. His storytelling is rivaled only by his mind-blowing acoustic guitar playing.
342. Judy Collins
T: Sweet Judy Blue Eyes.
M: I come from several generations of white people, and I’ve never met anybody as white as this. Pretty voice, though.
341. David Bromberg
T: He’s probably a great musician with tons of local fans, so I kinda hate saying this… every time one of his songs comes on the radio, I can’t turn it off fast enough.
M: I was introduced to him by a Philly ex-pat, and there’s no getting around his charm. Plus, he gets style points for providing the Beasties a sample.
340. Herbie Hancock
T: I totally dig that “Rockit” video… you want more, check in with the dude below.
M: Putting aside his work with Miles, Herbie’s elegant early solo turns would be enough to justify this spot, but when he went electric – Headhunters destroys me – he shot through the stratosphere.
T: I took my little brother to see Kansas, his favorite band at the time, perform at the Spectrum. Besides seeing pot for the first time, he also caught up on his sleep. Me… that was 2 hours I’ll never get back.
M: I know XPN program director Bruce Warren reads this blog, and now I think he’s just messing with us. I live three miles away from the state that gave this band its name, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t drive a Camaro who can stand this faux-prog dreck.
338. World Party
T: With a major Beatles jones, Karl Wallinger’s string of gorgeous pop vignettes have outstripped that of his former band the Waterboys. No small feat.
M: Karl Wallinger’s apprenticeship in the Waterboys served him well, as he scaled back some of that band’s early grand gestures to create a streamlined (but not slick) brand of modern rock that pays tribute to the music’s best traditions.
337. Gillian Welch
T: Well steeped in country music’s long and glorious history, Gillian Welch has carved out an almost under-the-commercial-radar existence with four superb records. This is the kind of music people complain doesn’t get made anymore.
M: More an admirer than a fan, I think Welch adopts America’s folk traditions with an authenticity few of her peers can match.
336. Judy Garland
T: “Over the Rainbow” never fails to give me chills… and I really think I need to check out more of her stuff. Recommendations?
M: I’m looking ahead two spots and not quite believing my eyes.
335. The Decemberists
T: A little early in their career to be this high. And I’ve only heard Picaresque and The Crane Wife… but Colin Meloy’s sharp, literate, sophisticated nerd-pop seems like it’ll be around for awhile.
M: Colin Meloy writes songs so you don’t have to read books, and he deserves a Pulitzer.
334. Eva Cassidy
T: I can’t help feeling that without the tragic backstory that Ms. Cassidy would not have appeared on this countdown. But I’m happy to occasionally hear her on the radio.
M: I’ll confess, I don’t quite get it. I know she had a lovely voice, but any given night in any number of bars across America, there are gifted songbirds with acoustic guitars giving impressive readings of “Over the Rainbow” and “Fields of Gold,” and I’m glad about it. I’ll just assume that she stands as a proxy for all the hard-working women who play for a cut of the door, and leave it at that.
333. Cowboy Junkies
T: I was surprised after all the acclaim how little I liked The Trinity Session. But I did go see them once because John Prine was opening. Prine was fab (as usual) but the Junkies had me snoozing 5 songs in. I wake up, grab my date, and head three rows back to see what’s up with my brother, also there with date. Dude is fast asleep… I love my brother.
M: At first it seemed inspired, but now it sounds like formula. Or maybe they’re just fatigued.
332. Neutral Milk Hotel
T: : Leading light in the Elephant 6 collective, NMH’s In The Aeroplane Over the Sea is a lo-fi mini-masterpiece. For all you wringing your hands over this selection… you deserve all the Mason Jennings, Jonah Smiths and Five For Fightings you get.
M: Probably the most prominent indie band that I have almost no sense of. I know I’m supposed to own the Aeroplane album, but I don’t.
331. My Bloody Valentine
T: Since Kansas, it seemed we moved over to critics darlings’ row. I bought Loveless and it totally left me cold. Hopefully Michael has distilled their essence as I come up painfully short.
M: I own the indispensable album and I’ve seen them live, but they don’t turn me on much. Some bands (see artist 309) use atmospherics to enhance songs; others allow the atmosphere to become the songs. For me, far too often, MBV falls into the latter category.
T: No. No. No. Not a guilty pleasure. Exuberant, sparkling performances from Sweden’s only trillion selling rock band are pure pop for all people. And is their a sexier name in rock then Agnetha Faltskog? Hubba Hubba.
M: Cast stones if you must, but these guys produced so many massive, lush melodies as to gain my unapologetic endorsement.
329. Stevie Nicks
T: The least of Fleetwood Mac, I can’t think of one of her solo singles that I’m happy to hear. Maybe “Stop Dragging My Heart Around”… but that’s prolly because of Petty. Gypsy mumbo jumbo.
M: When she’s singing with or about Lindsey Buckingham, she can be transcendent. When she’s not, she can be virtually translucent.
328. The Pretenders
T: This one’s a head scratcher. I know there are a million groups and we all have our little favorites. But this is the Pretenders! Ya know…. “Precious”, “Mystery Achievement”, “Message of Love”, “Brass In Pocket”… those Pretenders! Is Chrissie the greatest female rocker ever? My short list only has Chrissie, Patti and Joan on it. And ‘cause I can’t stop babbling… how about James Honeyman-Scott? Keee-rist!
M: Rather than kvetch about the fact that they’re about 250 places (at least) too low, let’s marvel at what this band was before Jimmy and Pete succumbed to the junk. Punk spirit, glam savvy, jazz chops, and songs for miles, with the sassiest, smartest, toughest woman in rock and roll out front. You think they care where they rank in some silly poll? Not them, baby, they’re too precious, so %@#$ off.
327. The Roots
T: Is it just because they’re local heroes that they seem to be hip-hop giants? I don’t think so. Special mention…?uestlove’s fro.
M: Finally a Philly act that rises above local hero status. ?uestlove is the reason I’m the only white guy in the KC suburbs who wears a pick in his hair. (ed. – maybe we really do share a brain)
326. Django Reinhardt
T: What Michael said.
M: Imagine, you’re hanging with Hemingway in Paris, circa A Moveable Feast, and the marquee says “Reinhardt and Grappelli, One Night Only,” and you slide into a smoky club, and you witness nothing less than the birth of the modern guitar.
T: If what I heard on the radio is indicative of their sound, they placed exactly 17,438 places too high.
M: Lukewarm Chili Peppers. Let’s pretend this is Fishbone instead.
T: One of the few hardcore concerts I ever saw… religious. Ian MacKaye lives it every day… from the shows, the records, Dischord. Maybe Tower Records should have hired him.
M: Hardcore, with its limitations and stridency, isn’t my favorite thing, but these guys are the top of the heap.
323. Rosanne Cash
T: Living in a giant shadow, Roseanne has consistently rewarded listeners with thoughtful, compelling, bittersweet slices of Americana.. No nepotism here.
M: I’ve had it bad for her since Interiors.
322. Son Volt
T: Yep… Trace. “Tear Stained Eye” and “Windfall” may be the two best songs to come our of post-Parsons alt country. For a brief spell I thought they might rise up to snatch the Bands’s Americana throne , but after Trace it’s a steep drop.
M: There was a time when I thought that this would be my favorite band for fifteen years. And though subsequent albums failed to live up to the initial promise, Trace remains at or near the pinnacle of alt.country recordings.
321. Bruce Hornsby
T: Loves hoops and once took Iverson one-on-one, but I hear mostly MOR AOR. Demerit for inspiring Marc Cohn.
M: I was on the phone last fall with a guy, trying to schedule my gutter cleaning. We settled on a date, and he said “that’s Bruce Hornsby’s birthday.” You don’t get that kind of dedication to Hornsby from just any gutter cleaner.
320. Chris Smither
T: Folk blues staple whose songs never fail to grab my attention on the radio… so how come I don’t know more? Shame on me.
M: Excelllllllent, Smither.
319. George Gershwin
T. An American icon. You know his songs – “Fascinating Rhythm”, “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”, Rhapsody in Blue”. Sublime stuff.
M: I like New York in June and a Gershwin tune, how about you?
T: I love their first record…. but what are they doing here? They slide outside 885 in five years.
M: The resounding apathy that greeted the band’s recent second release makes you wonder whether voters are suffering from the same problems as Tom Chaplin.
T: MMR Rocks dude! XPN djs stuff the ballot box and show their roots.
M: Strawg rock.
316. The String Cheese Incident
T: Weeps silently and pleads… no more jam bands with half baked songs. Please.
M: So I say to my wife, “What do I write about the Sting Cheese Incident?” “Is that a band?” she asks. “Unfortunately, yes,” I reply.
315. Dave Brubeck
T: Even a jazz novice like me knows greatness when he hears it. Bravo!
M: He’s an artist, a pioneer, we’ve got to have some music on the new frontier.
314. Echo & the Bunnymen
T: Erratic cult post-punk gloomy gusses with a handful of classic college rock staples – “The Cutter”, “Ocean Rain” and “The Killing Moon” tops among them.
M: Band of mope and dreams.
T: A friend made me buy Forever Changes about 15 years ago. Called it a baroque, psych-pop masterpiece or some other hoo-ha. He was right.
M: This was Arthur Lee’s band, so why can I only remember the song that Brian MacLean wrote?
312. Liz Phair
T: Lo-fi indie gutter mouth prom queen exploded onto the scene with the lavishly praised Exile in Guyville, an early 90’s landmark. Hasn’t come close since.
M: Momentarily brilliant, it’s been a steady decline since Exile in Guyville. Still, “Divorce Song” remains the best portrayal of the utter aloneness that two people can experience together.
T: It is my firm belief that the former Eithne Ni Bhraonan got one over on us.
M: Sure, it’s musical wallpaper, but the girls like it.
310. The Killers
T: Their new record answers the question “What if Jim Steinman had produced Billy Falcon?”
M: He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus, and try as he might, he doesn’t write a thing like Springsteen.
309. Yo La Tengo
T: Former critics turned critics’ darlings, I favor their airy, left of center pop nuggets that are sprinkled throughout their now 20 year career. The indie guitar skronk I could do without.
M: I’ve been a fan for a long time. Just when you think they’re going to float into space, Georgia Hubley cracks the snare and gravity kicks in.
308. Dan Fogelberg
T: If James Taylor rocks it a little too hard for you, cue up some Fogelberg.
M: Ban Fogelberg.
307. Arlo Guthrie
T: Able to escape his father’s legend, Arlo has forever enhanced Thanksgiving. “You can get anything you want, At Alice’s Restaurant… excepting Alice.
M: Everybody’s favorite hippie. I bet not a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask him to say “the New York State Throughway’s closed, man.”
306. The B-52’s
T: Party band of the millennium, they crossed 60’s girl pop with dancey new wave rhythms. Roam if you want to.
M: In their second act, they evolved into a palatable party band, but before, with the late Ricky Wilson scratching his guitar till it bled, they were a rhythmic powerhouse.
305. The Cars
T: Massively successful New England, New Wave band with more hits than Google. That Ric Ocasek is one lucky so and so.
M: On the three albums before they made their big mainstream move, this band cranked out songs that remain disarmingly good, with harmonies to die for. “Double Life” is a forgotten classic.
304. The O’Jays
T: Philly soul with a message… Gamble and Huff’s finest hour. Climb on the “Love Train” y’all.
303. Pete Yorn
M: Yorn not going to believe this, but Pete placed twenty-five spots ahead of the Pretenders.
302. Bon Jovi
T: “Shot through the heart, And you’re to blame, You give polls a bad name… bad name.”
M: Back in 1987, I had an indie rocker female acquaintance who swore to me that these guys were the new Cheap Trick. And if she meant they’d never record another memorable tune after their fourth album, I guess she was right.
301. Emmylou Harris
T: A harmony singer without peer, Emmylou has enjoyed a deserved late career renaissance starting with 1995’s Wrecking Ball. Those 70’s records are pretty fab too.
M: The voice that launched a thousand ships, and the sexiest head of gray hair I’ve ever seen. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like her.
300. Josh Ritter
T: Riding high on a career making Animal Years (one of 2006’s best), Josh Ritter stands poised for stardom. My favorite Josh on the countdown.
M: I’m not quite as sold on Ritter as my writing companion, but he’s clearly on an ascending path.