Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go Again
WXPN asked, the listeners voted, and we are duty-bound to comment. While we’re certain that we won’t have heard all of XPN’s top 50 albums, let the record show that we are unafraid to voice highly uninformed opinions on records with which we are only fleetingly familiar.
50. Rhett Miller, The Believer
Trip: Rhett Miller may be the most melodically gifted songwriter working these days… so how come I didn’t love The Believer? Just not enough top quality songs. But…the duet with Rachel Yamagata (“Fireflies”) is gorgeous and “Help Me Suzanne” got inside my head early and never left… great song.
Michael: The McDreamiest alt-country-pop-rocker around returns with an album that failed to dent my consciousness. Sounds good on the laptop, though.
49. Alejandro Escovedo, The Boxing Mirror
Trip: No one brings as much gravitas to his material as Alejandro and I really wanted to love this record (considering his ordeal the last few years)… but I just didn’t. This is a record I’ll appreciate but I know when I want my Alejandro fix I’ll be going back to Thirteen Years, Gravity or the True Believers.
Michael: Whoah, a bad sign of things to come with this fine recording checking in so low. Escovedo, a true godfather of the alt.country movement, found himself surprised and delighted to be alive in 2006, and I’m pretty delighted about it, too.
48. Joan Osborne, Pretty Little Stranger
Trip: Never gave Joan Osborne much thought past Relish (loved “One of Us”, hated “Right Hand Man”) and with her Grateful Dead association I assumed she was creatively bankrupt. Which makes Pretty Little Stranger a nice surprise…a little alt-country gem filled with restrained, sweetly sung Americana. A minor pleasure.
Michael: I wasn’t around the radio to hear it, so I have no idea how good a record it is (though “Who Divided” is a nice enough listen), but she has always possessed an impressive set of pipes and a good sense of how to use them.
47. M. Ward, Post-War
Trip: I just got this record and now I’m sorry I didn’t include it in my top 10. M Ward is an indie rock Woody Guthrie, creating a slacker mythology perfect for right now and yesterday. He has a knack for sounding half asleep and utterly alive at the same time… My favorite vibe record since… well, since Transistor Radio.
Michael: This is a dark, lovely and moody disc full of quiet, first-rate songs. Ward deserves a bigger audience.
46. Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, The River in Reverse
Trip: Today was the first time I heard this record and I was pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately I only seemed to hear one song on the radio (“Tears, Tears and More Tears) which felt more like an R&B retread than the solemn yet joyous celebration that makes up the rest of the record. An angry and hopeful tribute to pre and post-Katrina New Orleans, this collaboration further cements the sterling reputation of its two stars.
Michael: Both of these guys are completely brilliant, but I haven’t heard this effort, which probably says something about me. I’m sure it’s great.
45. Neil Young, Living With War
Trip: Kudos to Neil for getting this anti-Iraq broadside recorded and released in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, like most topical songs (or albums), it’s just not very good.
Michael: Ain’t exactly “Ohio,” is it?
44. Pearl Jam, Pearl Jam
Trip: I love Eddie Vedder’s voice and Christ is this guy a rock star. There are individual Pearl Jam songs that have gotten through the morass (“Jeremy”, “Daughter”, “Better Man” and “World Wide Suicide”) but mostly (like this album) these guys just seem to bludgeon songs to death. But Eddie Vedder is the genuine article.
Michael: I have this album, and I feel about it the way I feel about most of PJ’s work. I like the idea of it, but in the end, I’m kind of bored. (attention, Pearl Jam fan club members: I know I’m an idiot; you don’t have to fill the comments telling me so).