where'd y'all go?
Only Survey That Matters
friends of friends, in mock pretentiousness, called it "The
Only Survey That Matters."
Every winter, through much of the '80s and '90s, they'd each send
their yearly list of musical highlights to one member, who'd collate,
copy and return. Then, sometime in spring and long after end-of-year
hype had died down, dozens of pages arrived by old-fashioned mail
in a big yellow envelope: the eclectic opinions of a disparate klatch
of music-loving miscreants from around the world. But two years
ago and for some reason unknown, it ended just when e-mail
and Internet could have made it impossibly easy, and the magic of
downloading would have made it immediate and real. Hey, where'd
y'all go? Anyway, if you're out there, here's mine:
a Cyn: nearing 50 at the top of her game.
1. Carey / Cyndi Lauper
Seek out this sultry 6-1/2-minute take on "Carey," from
a televised April tribute to Joni Mitchell, which embodies essence
of art: alluring voice, intriguing reinterpretation, mesmerizing
presence, powerful link between musicians, amazing song. Cyndi turns
Joni's folkie paean to free-spiritedness into an elegant mini-drama
of hypnotic dance, culminating with a finger-gesture that coaxes
the band into slightly upping the volume. Whatever happened to Cyndi
Lauper? A little singing, a little acting, an occasional album,
all at the top of her game. She's still so unusual.
2. Scar / Joe Henry
The eighth album by Madonna's brother-in-law is one of 2001's
best-kept secrets. Scar, song after song, has it all
poetry, melody, conviction, top-notch musicians (Ornette Coleman!)
and a charismatic factor of X. A clear and easy choice for favorite
album of the year and a cinch for repeated listening. Not to be
inch by inch.
3. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Here's a movie you may not have heard of, but surely haven't heard
the last of. John Cameron Mitchell's star turn as the soulful Eastern-bloc
recipient of a botched sex-change operation is a rollicking, hard-rocking
blast of fun with surprisingly satisfying depth. And, as a bonus,
the songs and the storyline are an organic match. It's out on video
and DVD, but see it on the big screen if you can because
Hedwig is larger
Built to Spill @ Crystal Ballroom
Built to Spill can come off a little flat on recordings. But
Doug Martsch's band is quite the opposite in the live setting: an
impassioned parade of sound and commotion that amalgamates Neil
Young, Pink Floyd and Radiohead and that's before the end
of the first song. This
October show, the appreciation party for McMenamins employees,
just plain rocked.
5. Iggy Pop Tribute @ Fez Ballroom
A tribute to the godfather of punk, a fundraiser for New
York firemen, an inspired collection of local acts and a beautiful
nightclub all rolled into one: an October brainchild of Portland's
DJ Gregarious, this was the right show at the right place and time.
pink: click for a trip to the Web
6. Pink Martini @ Aladdin Theater
Portland's finest export seems to get more tacit respect
around the globe than at home (Prince got the same blasé
treatment from early- and mid-'80s Minneapolis, the Statue of Liberty
still gets it from New Yorkers). I'm amazed at how many locals claim
to have never seen the band nor heard the 4-1/2-year-old CD. The
Dec. 30 Aladdin Theater show, invigorating, thoroughly enjoyable
and often thrilling, featured new songs, special guests and Thomas
Lauderdale a formerly reticent front-man far more
at ease in addressing the audience than at any of the half-dozen
previous times I've seen his band. The running joke may be that
the new CD has been "on the verge of completion" for years.
But reality says that Pink Martini is uniquely positioned to take
on the world. If the second album is even almost as good
as Sympathique, the band may launch into some kind of global
sales stratosphere and open the debut recording to a mostly
untapped domestic market (a large percentage of its half-million-and-counting
in sales have been logged in Europe).
Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane / Karrin Allyson
Allyson, a pure-of-voice but unheralded jazz singer, recreates
Coltrane's eight-song Ballads album and throws in three more
for good measure. Inclusion of a wordless vocal version of "Naima"
is the highlight, but the entire collection is a sterling display
of vocal beauty and instrumental bite.
Does anything beat a great new song or album from an old favorite?
Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, New Order, Prince, Suzanne Vega and even
Boz Scaggs pushed personal boundaries with challenging music that
advances the art. And they were far from alone (Music
must be the fountain of youth).
If anything beats a great new song or album from an old favorite
... it's a great new song or album from a new favorite. From
India.Arie, Peaches and Gorillaz to the Strokes, the White Stripes
and the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, last year was filled with tons
of compelling and fresh new music for anybody with time and desire.
WinMX, Audio Galaxy and more peer-to-peer music file-sharing
changes lives in deep and meaningful ways. There's no better way
to gauge the state of the 21st century than to take a look at this
phenomenon: the people want their planet back, and music downloading
is one clear way to eliminate a wicked middleman. Hey, I've spent
thousands of dollars on music for 30-some years, and I'd do it again
in a minute if somebody would harness the technology in a comprehensive
way instead of the watered-down ways the record companies have in
mind. Think it, download it, play it the companies could
have done it years ago and profited to boot; instead, they got lazy
with greed. No one knows what the future holds, but I've never
listened to more music than in 2001. Downloading's death has been
greatly exaggerated. Napster took the bullet, but long live the