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Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Jim Connelly's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Monday, January 15, 2007
Jesse Steichen's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Friday, January 12, 2007
Bill Bentley's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Tom Ridge's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Thursday, January 4, 2007
Lee Templeton's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Anthony Carew's 13 Fave Albums Of 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006
SXSW 2006: Finding Some Hope In Austin

Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Letter From New Orleans

Saturday, February 18, 2006
Jennifer Przybylski's Fave Albums of 2005

Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Music For Dwindling Days: Max Schaefer's Fave Recordings Of 2005

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Sean Fennessey's 'Best-Of' 2005

Thursday, January 12, 2006
Lori Miller Barrett's Fave Albums Of 2005

Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Lee Templeton's Favorite Recordings of 2005

Thursday, January 5, 2006
Michael Lach - Old Soul Songs For A New World Order

Wednesday, January 4, 2006
Found In Translation Emme Stone's Year In Music 2005

Tuesday, January 3, 2006
Dave Allen's 'Best-Of' 2005

Monday, January 2, 2006
Steve Gozdecki's Favorite Albums Of 2005

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Johnny Walker Black's Top 10 Of 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005
Neal Block's Favorite Recordings Of 2005

Thursday, December 15, 2005
Jenny Tatone's Year In Review

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Dave Renard's Fave Recordings Of 2005

Monday, December 12, 2005
Jennifer Kelly's Fave Recordings Of 2005

Thursday, December 8, 2005
Tom Ridge's Favorite Recordings Of 2005

Tuesday, December 6, 2005
Ben Gook's Beloved Albums Of 2005

Monday, December 5, 2005
Anthony Carew's Fave Albums Of 2005

Thursday, November 10, 2005
Prince, Spoon And The Magic Of The Dead Stop

Monday, September 12, 2005
The Truth About America

Monday, September 5, 2005
Tryin' To Wash Us Away

Monday, August 1, 2005
A Psyche-Folk Heat Wave In Western Massachusetts

Monday, July 18, 2005
Soggy But Happy At Glastonbury 2005

Monday, April 4, 2005
The SXSW Experience, Part 3: All Together Now

Friday, April 1, 2005
The SXSW Experience, Part 2: Dr. Dog's Happy Chords

Thursday, March 31, 2005
The SXSW Experience, Part 1: Waiting, Waiting And More Waiting

Friday, March 25, 2005
Final Day At SXSW's Charnel House

Monday, March 21, 2005
Day Three At SXSW

Saturday, March 19, 2005
Day Two In SXSW's Hall Of Mirrors

Thursday, March 17, 2005
Report #1: SXSW 2005 And Its Hall Of Mirrors

Monday, February 14, 2005
Matt Landry's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Wednesday, February 2, 2005
David Howie's 'Moments' From The Year 2004

Thursday, January 27, 2005
Lori Miller Barrett's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Thursday, January 20, 2005
Noah Bonaparte's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Kevin John's Fave Albums Of 2004

Friday, January 14, 2005
Music For Those Nights: Max Schaefer's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Thursday, January 13, 2005
Dave Renard's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Neal Block's Top Ten Of 2004

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Jenny Tatone's Fave Albums Of 2004

Monday, January 10, 2005
Wayne Robins' Top Ten Of 2004

Friday, January 7, 2005
Brian Orloff's Fave Albums Of 2004

Thursday, January 6, 2005
Johnny Walker (Black)'s Top 10 Of 2004

Wednesday, January 5, 2005
Jennifer Przybylski's Fave Albums (And Book) Of 2004

Tuesday, January 4, 2005
Mark Mordue's Fave Albums Of 2004

Monday, January 3, 2005
Lee Templeton's Fave Recordings Of 2004

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Johnny Walker Black's Top 10 Of 2005

Neumu's Michael Goldberg writes: What I've always loved about the writing of Johnny Walker Black (aside from the fact that he's got a real voice and has a great way with words), is that he's so damn anti-PC. Leave it JWB to loudly disagree with most rock-crit conventions of any given moment. His best-of list for 2005 is quite wonderful.

Neumu Contributing Editor Johnny Walker Black writes: In no particular order — depends on the day and the mood!

Marc Bolan and T. Rex, Born to Boogie (Sanctuary CD and DVD): Footage of the self-described "Dandy in the Underworld," Marc Bolan, at his absolute 1972 peak, is restored with painstaking care here, with two complete concerts from the premier glam-rocker (one previously thought lost forever), grinding out great, in-your-face versions of T. Rex classics like the punky "Cadillac" and the horny mega-hit "Get It On." If you're going to purchase just one format, go for the DVD, because watching the charismatic Bolan strut, pout, and tease his adoring fans is half the fun. The absolute antithesis of the self-effacing, anti-"rockist" indie types who litter the rock scene today, Bolan and his bandmates in T. Rex (and another thing this project makes clear is that ace drummer Bill Legend could do just as much or more with a small drum kit as good old Charlie Watts) were no doubt an inspiration for the next two bands on this list.

Louis XIV, The Best Little Secrets Are Kept (Pineapple/Atlantic): The first band who woke me up this year and made me realize that rock 'n' roll as I'd always liked it best — sexual, sly, strutting, decadent, nasty and, to quote Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, "loosely tight" — could still be a viable option in a market dominated by wannabe-grunge whiners and emo geeks. No doubt, the sexual lyrical excesses of this debut by Louis XIV left them teetering on the edge of being a novelty act, but the extreme stance worked by drawing media attention to the band, who then blew away any questions about their seriousness in concert, where it became clear that while this is a band that likes to have fun, it is also one that plays with discipline and intent, using T. Rex, the Rolling Stones, AC/DC and The Kinks (who are hailed in the show-closer "Ball of Twine") as inspirational points of reference.

Living Things, Ahead of the Lions (Jive/Zomba Label Group): Both Living Things and Louis XIV draw upon the grand gestures of classic rock bands like the Rolling Stones (Living Things slinky singer Lillian Berlin looks a lot like Mick Jagger did in the great 1970 film "Performance," where the latter played the rock singer "Turner" as the ultimate decadent rock aesthete — and the Living Things' promotional material intentionally blurs Berlin's visage onto that image), and both have a penchant for combining troublemaking attitudes and raunchy rock 'n' roll. Where Louis XIV focus on sex, however, Living Things are more heavily politicized. Known for burning pictures of George W. Bush onstage before urinating on the charred remains, the band (including brothers Eve Berlin on bass and Bosh Berlin on drums) keeps the message wrapped in an appealing musical package, as in their ironic single "Bom Bom Bom," which slyly ties the archetypal "kick-ass" American attitude found in things like, well, rock 'n' roll, for starters, to the nation's propensity for war. "I can't drink but can drive a tank at 19/ So I set off to join the U.S. Army" sings Berlin. "This is our birthright/ To be bought and sold, shipped off ready to die."

Antony & the Johnsons, I Am a Bird Now (Secretly Canadian): Lou Reed may have not had a hit record for a while, but he sure did come up with a winner when he plucked singer Antony Hegarty out of obscurity and pushed him into the limelight. Filled with the kind of soaring vocal melancholia also conjured up by Antony's teenage hero, Marc Almond, I Am a Bird Now has made the art of singing (as opposed to rapping, howling, bellowing, and so on) relevant again in rock music for the first time since the demise of the great Jeff Buckley, even winning the prestigious Mercury Award in the UK over a host of less talented but perhaps more faddishly "hip" competition like the Kaiser Chiefs. And live, not only do Antony and the Johnsons deliver the goods, but the singer himself proves to be a first-rate between-songs comedian, nicely balancing the dark gravitas of his own music (along with ace covers of gloomy types like Leonard Cohen and Nico) with oddball references and self-deprecating humor.

Depeche Mode, Playing the Angel (Sire/Reprise/Mute): After 2001's ironically named Exciter proved to be a bit of snooze, the boys (well, middle-aged men, actually) in everyone's fave British electro-goth band Depeche Mode took a few years, off, with cleaned-up singer Dave Gahan making a decent solo album (Paper Monsters) and in the process gaining enough confidence to bring his own songwriting voice to the previously Martin Gore-dominated Mode. The result is a renewed band vitality, with each main man upping the ante: songs like Gore's rocking revision of the old blues tune "John the Revelator" here vie with Gahan's own seductively dark vision on "Nothing's Impossible," the competition between the two men making this the best Mode release since their awesome early 1990s peak of Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion. An amazing return to form.

Nine Horses: Snow Borne Sorrow (Samadhisound): Long-term artists, a group of which ex-Japan vocalist and solo artist David Sylvian certainly now qualifies as a member, tend to fade in and out of view over the years, and it's been awhile since I've taken much notice of a Sylvian release. Which makes the sudden appearance of this new band project all the more of a revelation. Sylvian, basically working with brother (and ex-Japan drummer) Steve Jansen, has here fashioned a poetic, sleek and jazzy work that rivals anything he's ever done (including Brilliant Trees and Secrets of the Beehive). Here, seemingly using his recent divorce from singer Ingrid Chavez for emotional impetus à la Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, a classically melancholic Sylvian looks around and describes a dystopian world where "people fall down and abandon their dreams" ("Wonderful World"). Throughout, Sylvian plays the role of aesthete-dandy who refuses to be taken in by the false, empty world of the everyday, the society of commerce where one is forced to "put on a brave face / Straighten that tie / And speak like you mean it / Give truth to the lie" ("A History of Holes"). Overall, Snow Borne Sorrow is truly a career highlight for David Sylvian.

Skinny Puppy: The Greater Wrong of the Right Live (SPV DVD): Odd that all of a sudden Canadian rock bands are ever so hip (Broken Social Scene, the Arcade Fire, Hot Hot Heat), and, despite this moment that should be a Canuck rock critic's dream after years of the horrible likes of Bryan Adams and Avril Lavigne, I can't say that I really like any of them. For my money, the most innovative rock band that ever emanated from the Great White North is still the industrial proto-goths Skinny Puppy, who remained true to their extreme, dystopian vision as fans like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson took the Puppy sound in slightly more commercial directions and cleaned up, financially speaking. Yet today, ironically, it is the reformed, cleaned-up (chemically speaking), and ever more powerful Pups who tower over their weakened imitators. This double DVD is a theatrical thriller, with singer Ogre stumbling onstage in a demonic frenzy (during concerts filmed in Toronto and Montreal) wearing an outsized, blazing-red Anubis mask, basically delivering inspired mime-styled gothic performance art amplified by backing visuals which revive the surrealistically bleak vision of Alan Parker's 1982 movie version of Pink Floyd's The Wall. Meanwhile the band (cEvin KEY, synths, percussion; William Morrison, guitar; Justin Bennett, drums) delivers the updated, slightly more melodic take on the pounding trademark SP electronic sound found on their ace 2004 comeback album, from which this concert takes its name. It all adds up to a veteran group of long-underrated Canadian electro-rockers making the current new crop of media-hyped hipsters look rather staid and boring, and even making older imitators like The Prodigy (tell me "Firestarter" wasn't a Puppy cop!) sound a bit, errrr, limp. And hey: turns out that the Arcade Fire are really from friggin' Texas, anyway! Who needs 'em?

HIM, Dark Light (Sire): All hail the new Goth king. If one is to subscribe to the theory of the late Anton LaVey, leader of the Church of Satan, all those extreme metal bands with the singers who sound like they're desperately trying to cough up hair balls were never as "Satanic" as they so desperately wanted to be, because Satan, you see, is a seducer, and therefore, would always choose a melody over noise or tuneless repetitive rhythm. And charismatic singer Ville Vallo of Finnish band HIM (His Infernal Majesty) has tons of melodies, such as found here on "Behind the Crimson Door," the kind of melodies that stick in your head even if you try to resist them (heh, see how Satan works?). Already huge in Europe, HIM, with this album, at least equal their 2000 classic Razorblade Romance, both albums literally dripping with bloody dark passion and florid romanticism. With Marilyn Manson seemingly out of ideas, Type O Negative on a (permanent?) vacation, Moonspell still working on a release for 2006, and Trent Reznor looking more jock than goth, it's HIM, along with Skinny Puppy and Depeche Mode, who ruled the darker side of rock 'n' roll for 2005.

The Wedding Present, Take Fountain (Manifesto): The breakup of Weddoes' leader Dave Gedge's relationship with post-Wedding Present musical and romantic collaborator Sally Murrell leads Gedge back to where he started — or more accurately, back to somewhere around the Wedding Present's rip-roaring 1991 classic, Steve Albini-produced Seamonsters. Sure, some of the softer touches of Cinerama remain: the Ennio Morricone-styled coda to the album's (literally) driving single, "Interstate 5," for example. But overall, this is Gedge at his lovelorn best, often uncomfortably examining how we are so often willing to fool ourselves when it comes to matters of love and lust.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Howl (Red Ink): Certainly the best band I saw in concert in 2005 was the BRMC, whose musical makeover begun on this, their third album, took on its fullest dimensions when for nearly three glorious hours the band onstage sounded like some inspired combination of the best of Mercury Rev, the White Stripes, and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Those critics who pondered how the blues and folk elements of Howl might fit into the band's previously less rootsy oeuvre needn't have worried: a raw mix of rock, soul, country and blues never hurt the Rolling Stones, now did it? The highest praise I can give the BRMC was that at one quiet point during their awesome set at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, someone pleaded, "Can you please play here every week?" and the entire audience "howled" in agreement with that notion. Having gotten over that "difficult second album jinx," with Howl the BRMC have mined out some new sonic space for themselves, finding new musical territory that should keep them around for the long haul. And yes, they're coming back next March!

2005 Honorable Mentions
The Rolling Stones: A Bigger Bang (Virgin)
The Mars Volta Frances the Mute (Universal)
Elbow: Leaders of the Free World (V2)

RIP: Chris Whitley

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