Ante Meridiem's Cherry Picks of 2001
Check out what we've been groovin' on all year...
By Scott Vezdos and Reginald Stively of WCBE's "Ante Meridiem"
1. Kirsty MacColl - Tropical Brainstorm (Instinct)
A slice of swinging London that uses the city's fascination with Latin music as a backdrop for Kirsty's irreverent explorations of love gone sour. A sunny and joyous bookend on a career cut tragically short.
2. Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information (Luaka Bop)
The long-awaited resurrection of musical visionary Shuggie Otis and his 1974 masterpiece. A smooth, trippy soul-funk opus revealing an expansive creativity that appeared unlimited.
3. Si Se - Si Se (Luaka Bop)
A bilingual septet specializing in the fusion of chilly electronic beats with a warm, pan-Latino sensibility.
4. Leroy - Leroy (Hollywood)
Electrified kitchen sink funk blending bluesy guitar grit, hot buttered soul and brown sugary melodies.
5. Karl Zero - Songs for Cabriolets... (Naive)
In case the Volkswagen commercials haven't provided you with enough music for your Cabriolet, you can turn to Karl Zero for more quirky and whimsical tunes to get you from here to there.
6. Various Artists - A Break from the Norm (Restless)
Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) takes you on a crate-digging exercise from hip-hop to classic rock with the original versions of the songs that inspired his dance-pop smashes.
7. Action Figure Party - Action Figure Party (Blue Thumb)
Keyboardist Greg Kurstin of Geggy Tah assembles a funked-up rock supergroup including Flea, Buckcherry’s Yogi, Miho Hitori of Cibo Matto, and Sean Lennon cuttin’ it up on turntables.
8. Afro Celt Sound System - Volume 3: Further in Time (Realworld)
Now a band of 20-some-odd players, the Afro Celts push forward with unbounded energy and focus, organically driven beats, and a thoroughly joyous fusion of West African and Irish traditional music enhanced with dissonant Eastern influence, psychedelic trip-hop groove, and a monster flood of sonic waves. Peter Gabriel and Robert Plant lend helping hands to this.
9. Gorillaz - Gorillaz (Virgin)
As the ultimate experiment in manufactured image, the Gorillaz are a virtual cartoon-character-based hip-hop band who bring together witty, silly lyrics and talented musicians. Infectious old-school hip-hop rhythms, rhymes, and effects courtesy of Kid Koala and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien are combined with Blur’s Damon Albarn's passion for chugging lo-fi and edgy melodies.
10. Various Artists - Bombay 2: Electric Vindaloo (Motel)
Hooray for Baliwood! A funky sampling of Indian movie soundtracks cut up and reworked by the likes of Kid Koala, Ursula 1000, Mix Master Mike and others.
11. James Taylor Quartet - Message from the Godfather (Ubiquity)
Organ-heavy funkified soul jazz that places the groove front and center and never lets up. This ain't no "Fire & Rain."
12. Fugu - Fugu 1 (Minty Fresh)
Fuggin’ weird pop gems laden with Lurch-like harpsichord and strings… 3-minute & under bursts of pop brilliance.
13. Air - 10,000 Hz Legend (Astralwerks)
French band Air really cooks up a weird one here, swelling with clunky electronic beats and robotic love letters. Special guest appearance by Beck.
14. The Beta Band - Hot Shots II (Astralwerks)
Folktronic hipsters return with layers of cracking vinyl, toy piano effects and the coolest version of Harry Nilsson’s "One" that we have ever heard.
15. Ennio Morricone - Morricone RMX (Reprise)
Legendary spaghetti-western composer remixed by an international slate of dubsters and electronica artists.
16. Bebel Gilberto - Tanto Tempo Remixes (6 Degrees)
King Britt, Da Lata and Rae & Christian re-work the warm-weather Brazilian tunes of Bebel.
17. Rufus Wainwright - Poses (Dreamworks)
A suite of songs marvelously varied in arrangement and texture but linked by Wainwright's characteristic theatrical panache.
18. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - No More Shall We Part (Warner)
Tormented love songs with dark but beautiful instrumentation. Reminds us that Nick Cave is the Frank Sinatra of ex-punks.
19. Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun (Fat Cat)
Hauntingly beautiful soundscapes from Reykjavik-based noise quartet complete with gibberish vocals sung in the falsetto cadence of angels. Iceland's biggest export since Bjork.
20. His Name is Alive - Someday My Blues Will Cover the Earth (4 AD)
Cocteau Twins-influenced art rockers return with a breathtaking collection of blues-influenced soul, jazz, and modern R&B. This beautifully crafted album is essentially a showcase for the sensuous and hypnotic vocals of gospel singer Lovetta Pippen, and the production work of Warn Defever.
21. David Byrne - Look into the Eyeball (Luaka Bop)
Ex-Talking Heads vocalist delivers his finest solo effort yet. World-beats, strings and cynical lyrics complete the package.
22. Bjork - Vespertine (Elektra)
A lush, gorgeous swell of midpace electronica, symphonic strings, and uniquely alien, spectral vocals from everyone’s favorite Icelandic princess.
23. Kings of Convenience - Versus (Astralwerks)
Arriving just in time to catch the breeze before the new acoustic movement’s bubble bursts, Versus is a collection of alternative versions and remixes of the Kings of Convenience’s delightful works. The beats are subtle, the newly integrated keyboards sympathetic, and their isn’t a dud on here.
24. Aterciopelados - Gozo Poderoso (BMG)
Colombian duo Aterciopelados (translating to “The Velvety Ones) blend bossa nova rhythms, electronica flourishes and alt-rock riffs in one of the sleeper hits of 2001.
25. DJ Logic - The Anomaly (Ropeadope)
Weaving a sonic spell that's more akin to the funk-jazz of the '70s than the acid jazz of the '90s, turntablist DJ Logic delivers infectious grooves and shimmering, heavily reverbed beatscapes while John Medeski (of Medeski, Martin & Wood) lets the funky Hammond B3 licks fly.
26. Red House Painters - Old Ramon (Sub Pop)
Recorded in '97, Old Ramon languished in the limbo of label fallout, finally to be rescued and released by Sub Pop in '01. The trademark features of a Red House Painters' joint are all here: the songs are long and meandering, the guitars seesaw languidly, the drums plod, dissonant harmonies moan, and Mark Kozelek's olive-oil voice seeps around everything.
27. Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros - Global A Go-Go (Hellcat)
Joe Strummer continues to be the only Clash principal member who remains active. Taking the world and folk influences of "Rock Art and the X-Ray Style" a step further, "Global A Go-Go" is a deep, mature piece of work by a reinvigorated artist who has more in common with Bob Dylan and Van Morrison than the Sex Pistols.
28. Nicola Conte - Bossa per Due (18th St. Lounge)
Brazilian bossa nova beats for the Lexus-driving generation. Hip and beautiful…kinda like Reg and Scott.
29. Various Artists - Ocean's Eleven [Soundtrack] (Warner)
A late entry for 2001, including classics from Perry Como, Quincy Jones, a funked-up Elvis Presley and hip groovy originals from David Holmes on this Rat Pack remake.
30. Suzanne Vega - Songs in Red and Gray (A&M)
Emerging from the trauma of her divorce, Suzanne Vega has penned an album of renewal teeming with whispered, elliptical narratives and plenty of treated acoustic guitars.
31. Nathaniel Merriweather - Loveage: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By (75 Ark)
Just when you thought he was riding the mainstream wagon of success with the Gorillaz, Dan the Automator delivers yet another solid album. Dan (under the guise of Nathaniel Merriweather) provides more helpful advice than "The Ladies Man" on mood music, afrodisiacs, and body hygiene.
32. Various Artists - Traveler '01 (6 Degrees)
In the latest installment of the acclaimed Traveler series, Six Degrees takes you globe-hopping on a virtual visit to the planet's hottest music scenes. Spanning continents and styles, dZihan & Kamien, UFO, Euphoria, Fila Brazillia and State of Bengal are among the artists contributing new remixes and original tracks unique to this collection.
33. Toploader - Onka's Big Moka (Sony/Epic)
A flawless exercise in piano bashing and guitar pop including a fabulous remake of King Harvest's "Dancing in the Moonlight."
34. Nikka Costa - Everybody Got Their Something (Virgin)
Sweaty white girl funk with pop sensibilities.
35. Turin Brakes - The Optimist LP (Astralwerks)
Debut album from folktronic London duo who have already sparked a storm of praise in the British music press. Comprising five tracks from earlier EPs and seven new originals, "The Optimist LP" is rife with subtle, contemplative moments that often turn lyrically dark or get carried away by cresting rhythms.
36. Peter Murphy - aLive: Just for Love (Metropolis)
The godfather of goth reclaims his throne on this live concert release revisiting some of the finest moments in his amazing body of work.
37. Soulstance - Truth, Simplicity & Love (Shakti)
A pair of Italian brothers influenced by the easy-swinging dance music of Brazil and '70s groove soundtracks.
38. Garmarna - Hildegard von Bingen (Northside)
Nordic band rearranges the music of the 12th century nun with modern electronic backdrops. Subtitled Sister Act III… no, not really.
39. Hedwig & the Angry Inch - Hedwig & the Angry Inch [Soundtrack] (Sire)
John Cameron Mitchell reprises the lead role of Hedwig, the flamboyantly unlucky victim of a botched sex-change operation. This is as good as a rock musical gets.
40. Tenacious D - Tenacious D (Sony/Epic)
Sort of like a trashier, more casual and less musical Beck, vocalist-guitarist Jack Black and guitarist-vocalist Kyle Gass deliver oddball musings that will appeal mostly to fans of the talented Black, whose earned a following thanks to memorable, frenetic turns in the films "Hi Fidelity" and "Jesus' Son."
Reg Stively and Scott Vezdos host "Ante Meridiem" weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Scott also hosts "Saturday Evening Sounds", and is the webmaster of WCBE.