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The University of Hartford

By Kevin O’Toole

Yeah, I know, it's not much of a title for a music column, but you probably picked this guide up for free anyway, so quit yer complainin'. Besides, it gives me a reason to start using a ratings system (for all those who, like me, prefer a user friendly precis option in their media reviews): ratings deferred for this best of list (after all it is a "best of" list). All set? Good. Now for this month's reviews.

It's 2002! Yay!
(Sound of tooting celebratory doo-hickey being blown)!
We had a quite year full of stuff, didn't we?
Oh! And don't forget those first eight months of 2001 as well!
Yuk. Yuk. Yuk.
A whole lot of music came out in all that time, so what do you say we take a brief look back at the year 2001, musically speaking, that is. Hey, look, here's one of 2001's favorites now!

Björk-Vespertine (Elektra)
Suffice it to say, this was another casual, little wonder from Ms. Gudmundsdottir. You should still be able to read last issue's review (brief as it was), if you click on the Program Guide Archive at wwuh.org. The album is wonderful and wintry. Hope you got it under your tree last year.

BS 2000-Simply Mortified (Grand Royal)
Amery Smith and Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz teamed to bring us a short collection of twenty profound anthems on such important world issues as why BS 2000 rocks the party and that time that Fabio caught a bird in the face by a bird while on a roller coaster.

Tori Amos-Strange Little Girls (Atlantic)
Tori picks eclectic covers of Tom Waits, Boomtown Rats and the Beatles to fill out a strange covers album, though none of these choices was as eerie as her choice to cover Eminem's "Bonnie & Clyde '97." What was originally pitch black comedic turns downright scary and creepy, and yet, still quite faithful to the original.

Jill Sobule-I Never Learned To Swim (Beyond)
Basically, I recommend getting this anthology by the author/singer of "I Kissed A Girl," knowing well that you will probably enjoy it so much you will have to pick up all her albums, thereby making this collection extraneous, and in turn, you will have to give this collection to friend, and they will have to buy all the Jill Sobule albums and so on and so on until everybody has every Jill Sobule album. Yes, it is a plot, and yes, you will submit to the twisted charms of "Mexican Wrestler" and the poppy dance-y tune "When My Ship Comes In." Join us. Join uuusssss…

Cuong Vu-Pure (Knitting Factory)
This jazz trio album, lead by trumpeter Vu, uses virtuosity, imagination and live electronic manipulations to make a thunderous and wonderful little album of what might be called "free jazz."

Ron Sexsmith-Blue Boy (Spin Art/Cooking Vinyl)
A Canadian singer/songwriter toiling in obscurity for years,
Sexsmith busts out all over with this great effort. It's choc-a-bloc with great pop-tunes of all kinds, like the Nick Lowe-ish rocker, "Keep It In Mind," the McCartney-esque "Just My Heart Talkin'," the Lyle Lovett-like "Cheap Motel," or the neo-Hoagy Carmichael tune "Foolproof."

Aphex Twin-Drukqs (Sire/Warp)
With its' gentle or gently grating techno-ambient vibes, I vote this the best sounding album of the year, with the least pronounceable song titles.

The Cornell Hurd Band-A Stagecoach Named Desire (Behemoth)
Neo-cowboy western music on the funny side. I believe it was Mel Brooks who I once heard opine that you get bigger laughs out of scene by playing to the serious emotions laying underneath it. This would help explain the copious guffaws I got from listening to the Freddy Fender-ish crooning of "The Genitalia of a Fool."

Pernice Brothers-The World Won't End (Ashmont)
From out of Northampton, MA, the brothers attack with dark pop about summer love and nowhere jobs. All tunes recommended, but especially "Working Girls (Sunlight Shines)," "7:30" and "Bryte Side."

Radiohead-Amnesiac (Capitol)
Radiohead has synthesized well the lessons of Brian Eno and U2, learning how to be hip and still sell copious amounts of records. Oh, all that, and they make it look easy and fun…AND angst ridden! Go figure!

Johnny Cash- American III: Solitary Man (American)
Despite ongoing illness, Johnny Cash just keeps on bringing the tunes, keeping his ears constantly ready to absorb great songs to make his own. He does so most successfully this time with U2's "One" and especially Nick Cave's melodramatically somber jailhouse confessional "The Mercy Seat."
And a special mention must be given here to…

The Langley Schools Music Project-Innocence and Despair (Bar-None)
Recorded by Canadian elementary school music ensembles in 1976 and 1977, and directed by their teacher, Hans Fenger, these children, who mostly did not read music, were recorded in a school gym. What was special here was the odd choice of music (pop tunes of the time, ranging from the more obscure Wings of "Venus & Mars/ Rock Show" to "Good Vibrations," to Bowie's "Space Oddity" and Klaatu's "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft") combined with the lo-fi arrangement. The gym was turned into a low-rent "Wall of Sound," with offbeat percussion (including gamelan-like xylophone), and off-tune voices and instruments adding to its' strangeness. This is like the Shaggs multiplied by ten! Viva Langley!
Hey! You might get to hear some of these during my 2001-in-review show, which I like to call "Moondog's Call It Thing Top 30 2001!" Why don't you join us on Friday night/ Saturday morning, January 4th from midnight to three A.M. It ought to be good, or, at least, interesting.
Happy New Year and keep your feet!

Copyright©WWUH: January/February Program Guide, 2002

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