Friday, November 15

Best albums of 1996 found inspiration from every corner.


Thursday, December 5, 1996

REVIEW:

’70s retro cool and return of pop, British and otherwise, pace
yearIt’s been quite a year for the music business. With the
hundreds of albums released, it’s hard to narrow the pack to a
precious few. Some CDs made better coasters or ashtrays than
albums, and some were utterly forgettable. Some, however, made it
into that coveted category: "If you were stranded at the North Pole
with Santa, who only listens to Abba, which discs would you want
with you?" Here is what some of our writers came up with.

Kristin Fiore

1. Beck, "Odelay" (DGC)

Corny ’50s intros, Motown classica, redneck riffs and
break-dance beats. Most artists couldn’t fit all of that into one
career, let alone one album. But Beck manages to scotch-tape and
slam together the most eclectic and eccentric combinations of music
and make it sound easy ­ as though even a slacker from
Silverlake could do it. But despite the fact that the guy has a
random sense of humor that is the backbone of his sound and style,
Beck is anything but the slacker so many of his songs portray.
Thousands who wouldn’t be caught dead listening to country or folk,
let alone anything from before 1969, are suckered in by Beck’s
music. How many other artists can create an entirely new sound and
effect by throwing together samples of classic songs, bizarre or
just plain cheesy sound effects and live instruments? How many
artists can take their music, but not themselves, seriously? Beck’s
music crosses every genre and breaks every rule. Yet his samples
never sound retro, his layering never sounds cluttered, and his
diverse albums never sound schizophrenic or fragmented. Though he
raps about the no-class life, Beck is in a class by himself.

2. The Cardigans, "First Band on the Moon" (Mercury)

3. The Sugarplastic, "Bang, The Earth is Round" (DGC)

4. R.E.M. "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" (Warner Bros.)

5. Meat Beat Manifesto "Subliminal Sandwich" (Interscope)

Brian Remick

1. Frank Black, "The Cult of Ray" (American)

From the opening chords of raw guitar on "The Marsist" to the
gentle, suspicious tones of "The Last Stand of Shazeb Andleeb,"
Frank Black’s "The Cult of Ray" stands as some of the best
songwriting of the year. With a combination of edgy punk and
melodic pop songs like "I Don’t Want To Hurt You (Not Every Single
Time)," the ex-Pixie’s third solo release is virtually impossible
to overplay. Following the arduously long "Teenager of the Year,"
which took practically the entire year get acquainted with (given
its 22 tracks), "The Cult of Ray" is much more approachable. Songs
like "Men in Black" and "Kicked in the Taco" instantly pull you in
to Frank’s world of disguised insanity. If you have any doubt, just
try to dismantle the title track, based on author Ray Bradbury
­ "Melting rock into metal …" And if you’ve never seem Frank
Black live ­ you’ve never seen him.

2. Electronic, "Raise the Pressure" (Warner Bros.)

3. The Cure, "Wild Mood Swings" (Elektra)

4. Pet Shop Boys, "Bilingual" (Atlantic)

5. They Might Be Giants, "Factory Showroom" (Elektra)

Michael Nazarinia

1. Pearl Jam "No Code" (Epic)

For a band that has been as much maligned as these fellows, it’s
amazing they’re still together. Not just together, but boldly
tearing down all preconceptions anyone has ever had of them. "No
Code" represents a band who has no such code to conduct business
by, a band who has never seen themselves as having to answer to
anyone but themselves. With a new set of influences combining with
the distinct Pearl Jam sound and compelling them to be who they
are, there’s no reason to expect that they will ever compromise to
the commercial expectations that have long surrounded them. Nor
should they have to, after selling 30 million records worldwide in
the span of five years. This is definitely an album that grows on
you after repeated listenings, not the sort of sell-out garbage you
come to expect from a band who has had as much success as Pearl
Jam. If you like anything about them, or nothing at all, you’ll be
surprised at what "No Code" has to offer.

2. Sublime, "Sublime" (MCA)

3. Catherine Wheel, "Like Cats & Dogs" (Mercury)

4. Social Distortion, "White Light, White Heat, White Trash"
(Epic)

5. Satchel, "The Family" (Epic)

Nelson Saldua

1. De La Soul, "Stakes Is High" (Tommy Boy)

On their fourth album, the Long Island trio shows they still
have that uncanny knack for setting themselves apart from the norm
in rap music. The first single "Stakes Is High" is good, but the
B-side "The Bizness" is the gem of the entire album. Mase and Dove
are joined by Common on "The Bizness," and these three super MCs
get loose over a simple drum loop. As for radio-friendly tracks,
it’s still a mystery why "$ More," featuring Zhane, was never
released as a single. It could have gotten heavy rotation on the
radio and in the clubs. One of the album’s best singles,
"itzsoweezee," contains the following assessment of what’s wrong
with most rappers: "You niggas pray to hot rods not God/ While
Versace plays you bitches like Yahtzee." De La Soul does not rap
about expensive cars, guns, violence, sex or designer clothing
labels. Nor do they sample continuously from the same tired
records. It’s too bad that this attempt to make unconventional rap
music is often slept on by hip-hop heads.

2. The Roots "illadelph halflife" (Geffen)

3. Ras Kass "Soul On Ice" (Priority)

4. Ghostface Killah "Ironman" (Razor Sharp/ Epic)

5. Fugees "The Score" (Ruffhouse/ Columbia)

Mike Prevatt

1. Kula Shaker, "K" (Columbia)

Just surpassing the melodic perfection of R.E.M. and the
infectious glam-pop of Pulp is the debut album "K" by new British
sensation Kula Shaker. With "K," Kula Shaker takes us beyond
conventional pop with their complex but tuneful hybrid of ’60s
psychedelic and ’90s Brit-pop. Kula Shaker also intertwines Indian
mysticism with Sanskrit lyrics, giving such creative tracks as
"Govinda" and the current alterna-hit "Tattva." Led by the talented
singer/songwriter/guitarist Crispian Mills, this band’s enchanting
yet unconforming sound takes us on a trip back to the ’60s while
sneaking us a glimpse of the future of alternative pop/rock.

2. R.E.M., "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" (Warner Bros.)

3. Pulp, "Different Class" (Island)

4.Various Artists, "Trainspotting" (EMI)

5. Pearl Jam, "No Code" (Epic)

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