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Showing posts from November, 2004

64. Shawn Colvin - Polaroids: A Greatest Hits Collection (2004)

Shawn Colvin is easy to dismiss. The fluke Lilith Fair success of 1996's Sunny Came Home has given her the aura of a mainstream artist, which in truth she really isn't. She's a wordy, guitar-playing folkie who looks like a prettier version of my college American Romanticism professor. There's a whole sub-genre of artists like this, people like Lucy Kaplansky, Claudia Schmidt, Carrie Newcomer. Who? Exactly. These are artists with a small devoted following, who sell enough records to make a living but will never enter the collective consciousness.

Sunny Came Home falls right about at the two-thirds mark of Colvin's newly released Polaroids: A Greatest Hits Collection and some might be surprised to find that it's not a stand-out track. It's simply another in a flow of great songs, not the song you wait through the others to hear.

Just for that simple fact, Polaroids should set the record straight on Colvin, for those who stumble across it. For me, it cem…

63. Collective Soul - Youth (2004)

What if Collective Soul singer Ed Roland had a nasal, whiny voice instead of a booming baritone? Besides making his long hair seem silly, it would turn Collective Soul into a top-notch power pop unit. Afterall, their songwriting almost exclusively focuses on the high H's of power pop: Hooks and Harmony. Fortunately for them, Roland's manly voice has allowed them to masquarade as a hard rock band.

Forget that. Youth, their sixth album (and first since 2000), is pure pop. It begins with Better Now, as an effective "we're back" song as you could ask for. Roland tells us he's "newly calibrated" and "happy as Christmas" over a bed of praiseful vocals and saxophone (!). It sets the tone for an album that hasn't met a catchy chorus it didn't like.

Highlights include rockers Home, Feels Like (It Feels Alright), and Perfect To Stay. There are a couple of ballads, the best of which is the romantic Under Heaven's Skies. All are immacula…

62. Gwen Stefani - Love Angel Music Baby (2004)

Here's why I love Gwen Stefani: It's not because she's sexy, cute and stylish (though that doesn't hurt), it's because she's so goofy and neurotic. Her lyrics have always been as transparent as a freshly-washed window. There has never seemed to be a filter or front between her thoughts and her words. Through her songs we've been made a party to her hopes, dreams, confessions and fears. No Doubt's first huge hit, Don't Speak, was cool because it was written about how pissed she was at the band's bassist. Return Of Saturn was full of songs about her desires to have a functional relationship and get married and have a baby. Even the party record Rock Steady was full of specific personal statements like Making Out and Underneath It All.

Usually when an artist goes solo, she uses the occasion to get personal, to write about things she couldn't in the confines of the band. I guess Gwen felt she had no choice but to go the opposite direction…

61. Eminem - Encore (2004)

What does a person expect when he or she buys an Eminem album? I think the answer to that has changed since 2001's The Eminem Show. After that album's ubiquitous success and then the even more ubiquitous success of 8 Mile and its accompanying theme Lose Yourself it was okay for your mom to sing an Eminem song. In a couple of fell strokes, Eminem went from a reviled fringe figure to someone who was widely embraced by the mainstream. In other words, he earned artistic capital. Now how has he spent it?

Well, if you judge from the first five songs on Encore. Evil Deeds is his typical family issues song, a sort of Cleaning Out My Closet sequel. Sign of maturity? Em says he's thankful for his talent. Never Enough features the ever-reliable Nate Dogg and a uncharacteristically tight verse from 50 Cent. Yellow Brick Road details Em's past and focuses specifically on the recently-discovered tape wherein he used the n-word. And get this: He actually apologizes! Like Toy Sol…

Wrong choice, America

Here Comes President Kill Again
Written by Andy Partridge
Performed by XTC

Here comes President Kill again
Surrounded by all of his killing men
Telling us who, why, where and when
President Kill wants killing again

Hooray, ring out the bells
King Conscience is dead!
Hooray, now back in your cells
We've President Kill instead

Here comes President Kill again
Broadcasting from his killing den
Dressed in pounds and dollars and yen
President Kill wants killing again

Hooray, hang out the flags
Queen Caring is dead!
Hooray, we'll stack body bags
For President Kill instead

Ain't democracy wonderful?
Them (terrorists) can't win!
Ain't democracy wonderful?
Let's us vote someone like that in

Here comes President Kill again
From pure white house to number 10
Taking lives with a smoking pen
President Kill wants killing again

Hooray, everything's great
Now President Kill is dead
Hooray, I bet you can't wait
To vote for President Kill instead