So Not the Best of the ’00s

 Oh, the list of Best of 00s TV I could write!
What a decade, huh? This one's notable as having been spent entirely in NYC, and entirely of the digital age which changed the way everybody listened to music. (Maybe not my parents but everyone else.) We had more access to everything, and less to to spend with it. That said, there was no shortage of good music, though I don't think anything hit me quite as hard as the previous decade — partly due to age, party due to aforementioned information overload. There's nothing from this year, as I feel it's too close to really tell how a record is gonna hold up over time, and only a couple from the last four years. (Though in 1999 I knew The Soft Bulletin and Mos Def's Black on Both Sides were among the decade's best and that's not changed. Different Times.) There's also way more from 2000 than I woulda thought before I spent the last month trying to figure out this list. 

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a Best of the '00s, because lists like that have to include Important Albums, Influential Albums and the like. I listened to Radiohead, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, Arcade Fire, The Knife, The Strokes, Phoenix and whoever like everyone else. (I also listened to Louis XIV and Hot Hot Heat.) But, for the most part, these are a little more buried treasure-ish. I think the records that didn't get played to death in public are the ones you come back to the most. These are mine, in chronological order.
 

Sfa Super Furry Animals - Mwng (Placid Casual, May 2000)
Radiohead Schmadiohead. From 1995 to 2005, no band expanded the boundaries of guitar rock while remaining what you could call "commercially viable" than Super Furry Animals. Released in early 2000, less than a year after their last album (1999's Guerrilla) and the height of their creative peak, Mwng might be my all-time favorite SFA album, a relatively stripped-down affair — not much in the way of electronics, but some of their catchiest songs ever. And it's sung entirely in Welsh. Initial pressings came with a second CD's worth of songs (also all in Welsh) that was nearly as good.

MP3Ymaelodi Â'r Ymylon
MP3Dacw Hi

AislerssetThe Aislers SetThe Last Match (Slumberland, June 2000)
With Henry's Dress and, later, The Aislers Set, Amy Linton was the sound of Slumberland Records in the '90s and early '00s, and has proved highly influential on the label's new crop of bands. Listen to "The Way to Market Station" and you can building blocks of Crystal Stilts sound.  There's a timeless quality it, and I have little doubt it will still sound awesome in 2020.

MP3:The Way to Market Station
MP3: Been Hiding


 
GobetweensThe Go-Betweens
The Friends of Rachel Worth (JetSet, Sept 2000)
Nearly all reunions are worthless, just "we're in it for the money" affairs with new albums merely made to give excuses to tour and play the hits to an aging fan-base. But there was a chemistry between Grant McLennan and Robert Forster, even though they wrote separately, that could never be replicated with solo material. So this understated album, recorded 13 years after their last album — with Sleater Kinney as their backing band — it's doesn't just not suck, it was the best they ever made.

MP3: Surfing Magazines
MP3: Going Blind

Cinerama CineramaDisco Volante (Scopitones, Sept 2000)
David Gedge formed Cinerama as a side project with his then-girlfriend as perhaps wrist relief from The Wedding Present. It wasn't until the band's second album that Cinerama found it's sound: indie rock meets Ennio Morricone. (Lyrically, Gedge only does one thing — endless variations of romantic entanglements.) Disco Volante ties TWP's Seamonsters (both recorded with Steve Albini) as the best record he ever made.

MP3: Your Charms
MP3: Superman
 

Tfc Teenage FanclubHowdy! (Sony UK, Oct 2000)
Scotland's Teenage Fanclub have never broken any ground, musically, but they are remarkably consistent songwriters. I'm not sure that this album is that different than the one before or since but this is the one I tend to come back to a lot. Stick-in-your-head melodies, great harmonies, and really nice arrangements this time. They've mellowed out by this point and it fits them like a favorite sweater. This one barely got released in America.

MP3: I Need Direction
MP3:
Accidental Life

 

Oranger Oranger The Quiet Vibrationland (Amazing Grease, December 2000)
Underrated band from San Francisco, not unlike Teenage Fanclub in that they're clearly enamored with '60s sunshine pop. But Oranger will always a little louder, a little more raucous with a drummer who loved to go apeshit Keith Moon-style. (And appropriately, the album's title comes from Tommy.) Hands down their best record, The Quiet Vibrationland still sounds swell ten years later. Apparently they're still together, though somewhat dormant now.

MP3: Suddenly Upside Down
MP3:
 
Stoney Curtis in Reverse

Tsool The Soundtrack of Our Lives Behind the Music (Telegram, Feb 2001)
There's a lot of '60s psych inspired bands on my list, and TSOOL were like a greatest hits of the era all rolled into one nonstop Swedish Rock Machine and one of the decade's most amazing live bands. 2001's Behind the Music was their third record, the first to get recognition in the States, though it wouldn't get released till mid-2002. Sure, you can dissect the songs into its borrowed elements but why spoil the fun when tracks like "Sister Surround," "21st Century Ripoff," "Keep the Line Movin'," and "Nevermore" sound so great cranked all the way up. 

MP3: Sister Surround
MP3:
 
Independent Luxury

Spoon Spoon Girls Can Tell (Merge, Feb 2001)
You could make a pretty good case for Spoon being Artist of the Decade, a band who made great records all through the '00s. Pretty amazing for a band whose first album is so unremarkable. Maybe like Radiohead, it just took Spoon a bit to figure out what they wanted to be. By Girls Can Tell, they'd figured out that almost minimalist sound, where you hear every instrument clearly. I know a lot of people prefer 2003's Kill the Moonlight, but it's this one that proved A Series of Sneaks was no fluke and grabbed me the most… and still does.

MP3: Anything You Want
MP3: Fitted Shirt
 

Pernice Pernice BrothersThe World Won't End (Ashmont, June 2001)
This is clearly the work of someone raised on '70s AM radio pop before having their worldview (and sense of humor) informed by gloomy '80s Brit haircut music. Meet The Pernice brothers, a band who have t-shirts that say "I Hate My Life." The World Won't End (pretty sure the album's title is not meant to be a good thing.) is a gorgeous mix of those two worlds, with Joe Pernice's honeyed, weary vocals (and the swooning string arrangements) the icing on the cake. All the Pernice Brothers albums are good, but The World Won't End is the classic.

MP3: Working Girls (Sunlight Shines)
MP3:
 Let That Show

Amanset American Analog SetKnow By Heart (Tigerstyle, Sept 2001)
Warm yet chilly, lovely yet sinister, American Analog set on Know By Heart made music that seems to have come from that space between waking and sleep. Like the Austin neighbors Spoon, this is spare music, but methodically put together… and will haunt you like a half-remembered dream. AmAnSet never bettered Know By Heart.

MP3: Punk as Fuck
MP3: The Kindness of Strangers

Notwist The Notwist Neon Golden (City Slang, Feb 2002)
Incorporating the glitchy sound of of the then-current laptop scene, long-running German band The Notwist finally got America to take notice with Neon Golden. Rightly so. Digital manipulation is as evident here as it is on Cher's "Believe" but the Notwist make it sound as organic as blood coursing through veins. It hasn't dated one bit.

MP3: Pilot
MP3: One with the Freaks

Edwyn Edwyn CollinsDoctor Syntax (Setanta, April, 2002)
Before being sidelined by a stroke in 1995, Edwyn Collins was an in-demand producer when not working on solo material. 2002's Doctor Syntax (unreleased in America) might be his best album, slinky funk with a wicked mean streak, mostly aimed at the record industry. The production is brilliant. You could imagine couple of the songs here — "Johnny Teardrop" and "20 Years Too Late" —  reworked to be hits for Beyonce or Girls Aloud. 

MP3: 20 Years Too Late
MP3: It's a Funny Thing 

Bss Broken Social SceneYou Forgot it In People (Paper Bag, Oct 2002)
The start of the new Canadian Invasion, though Toronto never developed into an actual scene the way Montreal did. Seeing Broken Social Scene at Mercury Lounge summer of 2003 was kind of a revelation. Most American bands didn't try this hard, or have this many members. It helped that they were touring for an album as great as this, that echoed the '80s and '90s but fresh and new.

MP3: Cause = Time
MP3Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl
 

Dears The DearsNo Cities Left (MapleMusic, April 2003)
Let's set this straight. Dears frontman Murray Lightburn does NOT sound like Morrissey. Damon Albarn, I can hear that, but not really the Moz. And Lightburn has bigger aspirations, anyway, on No Cities Left, an epic album in every way that might collapse under all the bombast and melodrama if the songs weren't so damn good. And their shows around the time, they were one of the best live bands in North America. One thing Lightburn and Moz do have in common: not getting any enough credit for their sense of humor. 

MP3: Lost in the Plot
MP3: 22: the Death of All the Romance

Radiodept Radio Dept. Lesser Matters (Labrador/Shelflife, March 2003)
Here's a record that I still can't quite put my finger on why it's so good. It was like the sum of everything I loved in the late '80s and early '90s, as played and recorded on shitty equipment. The enigmatic nature of the band helped too, and you could be convinced that the tapes for this album were discovered by accident while cleaning out someone's basement. 

MP3: Why Won't You Talk About It?
MP3: Ewan
 

Newporno New PornographersThe Electric Version (Merge, May 2003)
Canadian Invasion, West Coast Division. I know the tastemakers say their debut, Mass Romantic, is the end-all be-all. But for my dollar, The Electric Version does it better and catchier. Carl Newman and Dan Bejar' songwriting had grown even more confident… and the hooks are undeniable. 

MP3: From Blown Speakers
MP3: Chump Change
 

 

Ulrich Ulrich SchnaussA Strangely Isolated Place (Domino, May 2003)
Laptop shoegaze, beautiful and hypnotic like Slowdive and Cocteau Twins, which are the obvious and admitted influences here. Perhaps my favorite sleeping album of all time, it's also good for walking around the city, road trips and doing the dishes. Dancing, not so much.

MP3: On My Own
MP3: Monday
 

Komeda

Komeda Kokomemedada (Sonet/Minty Fresh June 2003)
Like Stereolab's zany Swedish cousins, Komeda always swung a little too kitsch/novelty for my tastes on their first album so I checked out until hearing Kokomemedada, and my opinion changed immediately. Komeda stayed playful but became more sophisticated about the songwriting, sort of Krautrock with a personality and sense of humor. Also, ridiculously catchy stuff. 1998's What Makes it Go? is pretty great too.


MP3: Blossom
MP3: Victory Lane

Darkness The DarknessPermission to Land (WEA, July 2003)
No, I'm not kidding. At the time, debates raged — RAGED — about whether The Darkness was serious or not. Well, clearly you don't wear spandex cat suits, sing in a Tiny Tim falsetto and write a love song to a genital wart ("Growing On Me") and not understand irony, but it was clear singer/guitarist/songwriter Justin Hawkins loves this stuff. Part Thin Lizzy riff rock boogie, part Queen flamboyance, Permission to Land is all hits, start to finish. (If you can get past Justin Hawkins' falsetto.) And some of the most inspired, melodically-driven guitar solos (some songs have three) on any album of the last 20 years. Plus "Friday Night" which could almost be a Pulp song. And hilariously insane videos (especially "Growing on Me".) It all went up Hawkins' nose on the overblown second album, but Permission to Land is brilliant.

MP3: Growing on Me
MP3
Friday Night

Bs Belle & SebastianDear Catastrophe Waitress (Rough Trade, Oct 2003)
Who'd have thought having Trevor Horn, producer of some of the most bombastic records of the last 30 years, work with twee royalty Belle & Sebastian would be a good idea, let alone a brilliant one. Instead of turning them into Seal (or taTu) he focused the band back to their stong suit: Stuart Murdoch. Where B&S's three previous records had been democratic to a giant fault, letting everyone in the band contribute songs, Dear Catastrophe Waitress was almost entirely written by Murdoch who was up to the task, branching out from his VU safety zone into glam and new wave territory. Their best record since If You're Feeling Sinister and a terrific return to form, that would continue through the rest of the '00s. (Also seek out the 2004 b-side "Your Cover's Blown," one of their best, most ambitious songs ever.)

MP3: I'm a Cuckoo
MP3: Stay Loose
 

LomaxLomax A Symbol of Modern Living (93 Records, Nov 2003)
Of all the bands aping Gang of Four's postpunk in the early '00s (and there were tons of them) Lomax came the closest to feeling like the real thing — the anger, the aggression, the politics. And almost nobody heard this record, which is strange in some ways Lomax's frontman was Paul Epworth, who ended up producing some of the most hyped bands doing nearly the same thing (Rapture, Futureheads, Bloc Party…). Maybe because this record was never shoved down my throat is why I still listen to it.

MP3: Brought to Rights
MP3: Modern Life
 

MoonbabiesMoonbabies The Orange Billboard (Hidden Agenda, Jan 2004)
Sparkling pop music with lovely boy-girl harmonies, chiming guitars and a twinkle of electronics. It's just a lovely lovely record that got almost no attention at all at the time, though that changed somewhat when Moonbabies ended up on one of the Grey's Anatomy soundtracks. This is the musical equivalent to what I imagine Sweden to be like in the Springtime. Defintely one of the '00s unheard gems.

MP3: Sun A.M.
MP3: Forever Changes Everything Now

ThefallThe FallReal New Fall LP (aka Country on the Click) (Action/Narnack, March 2004)
Though 2000's The Unutterable contains perhaps my favorite Fall song of this decade ("Dr. Buck's Letter") I have to give the edge Real New Fall LP for overall quality. Coming off of one of The Fall's worst album's ever (Are You Missing Winner), Mark E. Smith rallied with a tight new band, a focused outlook and generally seeming fairly with it. This was the last great Fall album, though I have no doubt M.E.S. will deliver another to us soon. An album on Domino (a good sign) is due in January 2010.

MP3: Green Eyed Loco Man
MP3: Mountain Energi

Scissorsisters The Scissor SistersS/T (Universal, July 2004)
Originally part of the shortlived electroclash scene, Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears envisioned that extended further than Grand Street in Williamsburg. Their debut album (reportedly recorded in Shears' apartment) is the best bits of 1976 that weren't punk: glam, glitter, and disco. An ode to the fading flame that was the NYC nightlife scene, Scissor Sisters debut has a staggering number of phenomenal songs. Like the Darkness album, it's almost all hits. "Take Your Mama Out" and their Gibb-i-fied take on "Comfortably Numb" may have been the showpieces, it's ballads "Mary" and the stunning "Return to Oz" are the showstoppers.

MP3: Mary

Rakes The RakesCapture/Release (V2, Aug 2005)
In a sea of similar bands to pop up in Franz Ferdinand's wake, The Rakes were the best because they had personality and a point of view thanks to spazzy singer Alan Donahoe. They actually sang about something. "Everything's temporary these days/Might as well go out for the fifth night in a row" — still relevant! Capture/Release's tales of urban 20-something ennui still hold up. Donahoe's a Jarvis Cocker in the waiting, hopefully he won't give up music following The Rakes recent split. 

MP3: Retreat 
MP3:
 22 Grand Job

Elbow ElbowLeaders of the Free World (V2, Sept 2005)
My top album of 2005. Gorgeous melodies, inventive arrangements and musicianship, and some of the most heartfelt (without treacle) lyrics around. And Guy Garvey's amazing voice on top of it all. Elbow finally got some well deserved recognition (and the Mercury Prize) for 2008's Seldom Seen Kid, but this album is better.

MP3: Mexican Standoff

Hotchip Hot ChipThe Warning (DFA, June 2006)
My top album of 2006 and they have yet to better it. (That could change when One Life Stand comes out, we'll see.) "Over and Over" has been played to death, but you know it still sounds great, as does the rest of this album. It’s the sound of real live people playing – not programming – synthesizers, and that human element shines through.

MP3: No Fit State
MP3: Look After Me

SloanSloan Never Hear the End of It (MurderRecords, Sept 2006)
One of my favorite bands of the last 20 years, Sloan had a rough start to the decade trying to grab the brass ring. (The Canadian brass ring at least.) For Never Hear the End of It, they went back to doing what they do best – being themselves. The result was their best album in years; a sprawling, beautiful mess of 30 interwoven songs that never gets boring.

MP3: Fading into Obscurity
MP3: Blackout

 

Electrelane Electrelane No Shouts, No Calls (Too Pure, March 2007)
There is nothing you could call new or groundbreaking about Electrelane's final album. It's a sound echoing of the Velvets, the Pastels, and many other indie touchstones. But they just do it so well, with lyrics so sad and romantic this time, and for whatever reason No Shouts, No Calls really stuck with me. It's kind of perfect. I wish they'd change their mind and get back together.

MP3: To the East
MP3: Saturday

 

MetronomyMetronomyNights Out (Because Music, Sept 2008)
My top album of '08 and it still holds up a year later. Metronomy have a distinct sound that is instantly recognizable whether it's their own tracks or the remixes they do for other artists. It's manic, with a water-damaged quality to it that sounds like what it feels to be up for 36 hours straight, buzzing on espressos (or whatever) but dead tired. In a good way, obviously. It still sounds like nothing else. Metronomy are now a four piece, with a drummer and new bassist, so who knows what 2010 will bring for them, but I can't wait to find out.

MP3: A Thing for Me
MP3: Heartbreaker
 

The Soundtrack of Our Lives | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 3.11.2009

Tsool2
Tsool1

Tsool3

Epic. A nearly two-hour show of guitar windmills, endless stick twirls, karate kicks, ponderous, psychedelic lyrics and massive riffs. You could watch The Soundtrack of Our Lives and spend the whole time picking apart the references: The Who, Stones, Pink Floyd, Love, Spirit, Faces, Beatles, etc. But to do so is to miss the point of TSOOL, who distill everything that is great about rock's classic late '60s / early '70s era into one incredible band. And an even better live show. Seriously, these guys knock it out of the park every time. 

The band are supporting their fifth album, the 24-track Communion, and most of the show is from that, which is fine as it rivals Behind the Music as their best album. I wish we'd gotten the pastoral "Pictures of Youth" but it's hard to complain with the nice selection from all five TSOOL albums. We got "Thrill Me," "RA 88," "Flipside," the building "Second Life Replay" and their incredible, genius cover of Nick Drake's "Fly" from the new record, plus "Big Time," "Nevermore," "Firmament Vacation" and more… so many songs I can't remember them all.

The encore was nearly as long as the main set, and began with "Sister Surround," the closest TSOOL have come to a hit in America and, no matter how many times I've seen them do it, never ever ever gets old. Much like the rock moves that are their bread and butter. In other hands it'd be cheesy, but it's like they invented them, though guitarist Mattias Bärjed's red satin Who jacket (probably an original) reminds you of the past.

MP3: The Soundtrack of Our Lives – Fly

MP3The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Firmament Vacation

TSOOL play Bowery Ballroom tonight. Tickets are still available. Seriously, go see them. And they've got some other dates around the US too:

Mar 12 Bowery Ballroom New York

Mar 13 Double door Chicago

Mar 15 The Independent San Fransisco

Mar 16 Trubadour Los Angeles

Communion got a good review in Pitchfork today, even if it reads at least a point higher than its 6.2 rating.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives Take Communion… Twice!

Tsool3

I saw The Soundtrack of Our Lives at this year’s SXSW — twice — where their sets were almost entirely new material. After the second, I talked to lanky guitarist Mattias Bärjed and said if they’re playing all these new tracks they must have an album ready. He told me it was going to be a double. I said, aren’t they all doubles? (TSOOL’s first three albums were all technically double-LPs though they fit on one CD.) Bärjed clarified — it would be a double-CD.

Tsool_communion
He did not lie. TSOOL’s new record, Communion, is a whopping 24 songs, clocking in at 93 minutes of blissed-out, riff-heavy rock. While they have yet to equal 2001’s awesome Behind the Music, Communion is pretty consistently great across its two dozen tracks, from the propulsive “RA 88” and “Thrill Me” to the more Love-esque wistful numbers like “Second Life Replay” and the string-drenched “Songs of the Ocean.” It also features their first-ever cover — a swell reinvention of Nick Drake’s “Fly.”  The cover art, however, is way creepy with a couple blue-eyed 50-somethings holding giant glasses of what appears to be Mylanta.

Out now in Sweden, Communion hits the States on CD and vinyl via all-around nice guys Yep Roc on March 3, but you’ll be able to get it as a digital download as of January 6. If you have to have it now, Swede-loving Parasol records (who originally put out Behind the Music on their Hidden Agenda label) will sell you the import for $28. Here are a couple early tastes:

MP3The Soundtrack of Our Lives – Flipside

MP3The Soundtrack of Our Lives – Fly

New record also means new tour, and if you’ve never seen them before, TSOOL are one of the most awesome live bands on the planet. The last full show I saw was a two-and-a-half hour marathon at Mercury Lounge in 2007 that was one of the best shows of that year. (There is no shortage of TSOOL live footage on YouTube.) How awesome would it be if they played the ski-lodge-esque Bell House? Skippy, get on that.

Meanwhile over at TSOOL.net the boys are in the yuletide spirit with a Christmas Advent Calendar, with every day revealing a new downloadable surprise: live tracks, b-sides, ringtones, etc. I’m hoping that some of their holiday web singles will pop up as we get closer to the big day, but if not here’s a farfisa-rocking stocking stuffer:

MP3The Soundtrack of Our Lives – Jingle Hell (Stuck in a Chimney)

Upptillkamp
While we’re on the subject, I finally got around to picking up Mattias Bärjed‘s soundtrack to Swedish miniseries Upp Til Kamp, about growing up in Göteborg from 1966-76. Music plays a big part, from what I can gather from online translators , and you can tell from the soundtrack too which includes a bunch of cool, faux period-sounding songs as well as incidental music. (May have to spring for the Region 2 DVD.) It’s a double CD. Do you sense a theme here?

MP3:Mattias Bärjed – Set Us Free (buy it at Parasol)

And also, former TSOOL (and Union Carbide Productions before that) guitarist Björn Olsson has been putting out a series of Morricone-influenced albums since leaving the group in 2001. Fans of whistling will particularly enjoy this: 
MP3Bjorn Olsson – Tjorn

And lastly, here’s the video for “Sister Surround”:
 

SxSW 2008 Diary: Saturday, March 15

Tsool_luckySaturday: aka the day Bill met The Wall.

Things started off okay, rolling out of bed around 10am and I made it downtown by 11:30 and after grabbing some breakfast tacos, headed over to the French Legation Museum for a Garden Party day show. Emmy_2
Specifically, I was there to see Emmy the Great who is effortlessly charming even though most of her songs seem to deal with fairly depressing subject matter. I’d seen her in New York the night before I left for Austin but this was a better show I thought, the relatively pastoral setting fit the material. It wasn’t such a good show for Emmy, though, as she was performing right before Noah and the Whale, the bulk of whom used to be her backing band and their defection was acrimonious to say the least. (There may have been some romantic entanglements involved too, I can’t remember the details.) Later that night I ran into Emmy and she confessed that it had been torturous to be on the same bill as them. The punchline: the show was organized by her US publicity company. I knew about all this watching her performance, but you’d never know she’d been upset. Flanked by two Euans (one on guitar [aka Young Husband] and the other on violin), Emmy’s songs are the star, along with her quick wit and clear voice. It goes without saying she’s also very cute.

MP3: Emmy the Great – 24

Despite my allegiances to Emmy, I stuck around to watch Noah and the Whale who’s schtick includes dressing exclusively in various shades of unmatching blue. They looked like a big bunch of hipster dufuses, but musically I must admit they weren’t bad. I didn’t care for the singer’s baritone which kind of made them sound like the Crash Test Dummies, but he was a funny guy: “We played a show yesterday in someone’s yard and there were a bunch of four year-olds dancing around up front. I think we found our audience. They get us.”
Noah_whale

Though it seemed a bit inconsiderate, it made sense in other ways. The early part of the day was dedicated to the current neo-folk scene in London, and also included Laura Marling (who might be best know for singing on Mystery Jets’ current great single “Young Love”) and Lightspeed Champion on whose record Emmy sings backup.

Bigsleep
I really wished I’d stuck around, but I wanted to see Switches at the Filter party, so I hoofed it over there… only to find that they’d canceled due to illness. Filling in was The Big Sleep, which broke my vow of not seeing any Brooklyn bands during SXSW. (I would break it again later that night…twice.)  Odd seeing them in Broad Daylight. I stuck around for a few songs and headed to the Fader Fort, home of neverending free booze.

Lykke_fader
There I ran into Austin bloggers Colin from Cubik Musik and Lawrence of Covert Curiosity, who both seemed to be there for the same reason as me. (Glug, glug.) They were also there for David Banner, who didn’t play, but stuck around for Lykke Li in what was a much better show than the Brooklyn Vegan one I’d seen two days earlier. Her megaphone was working and she seemed in good spirits, and the crowd was into it. I actually think she’s better live than on record, especially “Breaking it Up” which came off like a lost Madonna song from the Like a Virgin sessions. (The studio version is underwhelming.) In one of those weird SXSW moments, I ran into an old coworker of mine from my Sidewalk.com days who I hadn’t seen since 1999. (Hi, Kerry!) Nice, unexpected moment.

It was around this time, midafternoon, that my regimen of no sleep, junky food and too much beer began to catch up with me. Colin told me “it’s just a wall, keep going” but my wall seemed particularly thick. Yet I soldiered on. I hit the Lucky Lounge for the After the Jump party, where I caught Manchester’s The Answering Machine who are really, really good for such a young band. I stuck around for the rest of it, as Blog Fresh Radio was sponsoring it and many of the ATJers are friends of mine. Not to mention it was a good lineup, with Cloud Cult, Morning State and Lovelikefire. Jinners took this picture of me, Ian of Indie Outlaw and the Music Slut‘s Jen Kellas. I actually look coherent here (though not smiling), which is not how I felt:

Bill_ian_jen_2MP3: The Answering Machine – Lightbulbs

Also also: the other half of the Lucky Lounge was home to a different day party where The Soundtrack of Our Lives happened to be playing. The room was *tiny,* and I was so close I could’ve detuned their guitars without reaching. Definitely a thrill. Back at the ATJ side of the party, I ran into onetime Pell Mell-er Steve Fisk who indulged me in talk of The Wedding Present‘s 1993 album, Watusi, which he produced. (He also did 2005’s Take Fountain.) Also there was onetime N’Sync member Chris Kirkpatrick… that’s what I was told at least. Only at SXSW.

Jin convinced us we should all go over and watch Kate Nash at the Filter bash and we did though I only stuck around for a song or two. (I foolishly skipped out on Billy Bragg’s set too, which included Ms. Nash singing on “A New England”) No cookies were baked from what I could see. A nap, however, was calling my name as was my Austin friend Steve who met me there and we went for a burger at some place with sawdust on the floor. I was too tired to speak at this point, and went to the hotel to crash for a while.

And a while turned into about three hours. I slept through a bunch of bands I wanted to see, including Jim Noir, Spiral Beach, Duffy, and others. And felt better for it. I was determined to see Neon Neon (Gryff Rhys and Boom Bip’s colaboration) but a SNAFU in the published schedule had them going on an hour later than they actually did. Annoyed at bit, but I met up with the River to River crew again and we all decided we’d check out Tiger City at the After the Jump official SXSW showcase.

We got there early enough to catch a little of Parisian band Neimo who I don’t remember anything about now. It’s also where I ran into Emmy and Young Husband again, and both were in much better spirits (mentally and liquidly) than when I saw them earlier that day. We chatted for a bit until they realized that the band they were there to see, WHY?, was actually at the upstairs of the place (Lamberts) and not the outdoor patio.

Tigercity
It was my first time seeing Tigercity, despite them gigging every other week here in NYC and me liking their EP a lot. If you like Hall & Oates and classic-era Prince, you’ll probably like Tigercity too. One caveat. Main man Bill Gillim is a decent frontman but, at least this night, his falsetto didn’t quite hold up live and he was entirely eclipsed by bassist Joel Ford, who possesses a honey-sweet voice that sounds uncannily like Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside, and a repertoire of genuinely (white boy) funky dance moves. I’m not sure how the songwriting plays out in the bad, but Gillim might do well to put his ego aside and move the spotlight to his bandmate. But that’s just me.

It was at this point, with only two hours of SXSW to spare, that Steve (from NY not Austin) decided that we were going to see everything we possible could to finish out the fest, sort of like that last night of the Fair (with the grease in the hair) where you cram it all in One Last Time. Anything anyone in our group wanted to see, we were going to do it. So, we dashed off (missing Project Jenny, Project Jan who played after Tigercity) on a mad quest.

First stop: Bourbon Rocks to see The Slits who were way better than I expected and I thought “Typical Girls” sounded particularly good. No “Grapevine,” though, and Ari Up is clearly more eccentric now than ever. And full of herself. She spent a couple minutes between songs reminding us how the Slits were one of “primary” bands in the post-punk movement. Which is true and all, but shouldn’t she let someone who’s not in the band be telling us that?

Next we hit Latitudes to see The Answering Machine who were quite good. Probably the best UK band I saw all week. This time, I got video of their song “Your Father’s Books”:

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Sweden’s The Tough Alliance was next and their “performance” was easily the biggest pile of horseshit I saw all week. I can’t locate the link right now, dammit, but I swear I read on the Village Voice somewhere that the Tough Alliance’s performance “redefined the live show.” Which I guess is true if that means just playing the CD, pretending to sing for about 20 seconds and then just jumping around and running in circles and not actually “performing” anything is redefining. I would call it the biggest case of Emperor’s New Clothes I’d ever seen. (Maybe from a Andy Kaufman perspective it makes sense, but from a “hey we paid to see a band” one, no way.) We left in search of something better, but not before one of our group threw a drink at the band. I only wish it had been me.

British Sea Power was to be next, but the line to get in was enormous so we decided to end our Austin experience drinking whiskey and playing foosball and Buck Hunter at Buffalo Billiards. The next morning, my Austin friend Steve (as opposed to New York Steve) picked me up at the hotel and took me out for the one thing I really wanted all week — Migas con Queso with fresh tortillas.
Migas

A fitting end, I thought, to a fun exhausting week.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives | Mercury Lounge | 4.4.2007

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It's too late (plus, I'm leaving for Mexico tomorrow morning) to write up a full report of this epic show, but suffice to say Sweden's The Soundtrack of Our Lives never ever fail to deliver the goods. In this case, they delivered for two and half hours(!!!), playing just about every song you could ever want to hear. An hour of sit-down acoustic (including a fantastic cover of Love's "Signed, DC") then a 15 minute break, followed by the full-on electric mayhem they're known for.

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The only song I kinda wanted to hear but didn't was Behind the Music's "I'm Still Aging," but we got lots from Welcome to the Infant Freebase and Extended Revelation for the Psychic Weaklings of Western Civilization which were both pretty much absent from setlists over the last four years. Burly frontman Ebbot Lundberg was in fine burly form but, for me, it's drummer Fredrik Sandsten (master of fills and stick-twirls) and guitarist
Mattias Bärjed (equally skilled in Rock Moves) who make their show so compelling. But really, you could solely watch any of the six members and be entertained. And it's hard to take a bad picture of TSOOL, though I came pretty close.

Setlist, thanks to the TSOOL.net forums…

Acoustic set: Not Kinda Worried | Mega Society | Believe I've Found | Lone Summer Dream | Signed DC (Love cover) | Century Child | The New Messiah | To Somewhere Else | Endless Song | Pass Through Fear | Just A Brother | Black Star | Broken Imaginary Time

Electric set: Fly (Nick Drake cover) | 21st Century Rip Off | Still Get Around | James Last Experience | Mind The Gap | Big Time | Age of No Reply | Galaxy Grammophone | Sick of You (Stooges cover) | Instant Repeater '99 | Sister Surround | Mantra Slider | Jehovah Sunrise 

MP3: The Soundtrack of Our Lives – Sister Surround (Buy TSOOL CDs)

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