I spent New Year’s Eve with someone I’d never met, in a place I’d never been.
If you live in Sturgis, Michigan, I’m sorry. I’m apologizing in the same way that I would apologize to a casual acquaintance that I happened to see at his or her worst – vomiting his or her guts out, let’s say, or shaking his or her booty to Prince songs well past his or her bedtime. Well, I caught you doing the Prince thing, Sturgis, and perhaps the vomiting thing, though I didn’t actually see it, but might have if I looked hard enough. Point is, I’d bet I’ve seen you at your most embarrassing worst, Sturgis, Michigan, and for that, I’m sorry.
The whole night was surreal, in the best way, actually. If you’ve ever shouted theology back and forth with a stranger in a crowded bowling alley-slash-bar on New Year’s Eve, then you know what I mean. You’ve been there. It was one of those end-of-the-year things that leads people to believe that the coming 12 months are just full of possibility, and that anything can happen.
Three or so hours after midnight, it did. I sideswiped Bambi with my car.
There were three of them, all right, and I missed the first two (full-grown adult deer) and couldn’t avoid the last one (a smaller, more frightened baby deer). Happily, the little guy got up and hobbled away seconds after I struck it, but my car remains a frightful mess. So there I am, at three in the morning, by the side of the road, thinking all sorts of thoughts about karmic retribution, and entertaining the notion that for this to have happened three hours into the new year isn’t exactly a sunny omen for 2002. And suddenly, this big, wide grin appears on my face and I laugh myself sick at the absurdity of the whole thing.
So far, it’s been that kinda year.
But enough with the looking back. Onward, I say.
Last year, the tone-setters for the year’s musical quality were set early. This column’s choice for number one, in fact, Duncan Sheik’s Phantom Moon, came out in February, preceded by Jonatha Brooke’s top 10 entry Steady Pull. By mid-March, I just knew it was going to be a good year.
If 2002 follows the same path, then the relative excellence or suckiness of January and February’s releases should give us some idea if subtle art will reign, or if Eminem has a shot at the top spot again. The slate isn’t too full, but it isn’t too bad, either. Here’s what I’m looking forward to:
First out of the gate this year is Michael Roe, the 77s guitarist, who’s releasing an instrumental disc called Orbis on January 10 or so. I say “or so” because it’s only available through his website (www.77s.com) and they’re sometimes fast and loose with release dates over there. Regardless, this is the second installment in Roe’s ambient series, begun years ago with the just-re-released Daydream. Should be interesting to hear him play guitar in an unfamiliar musical setting.
By the way, the 77s Christmas EP, Happy Chrimbo, was wonderful. Probably the best rendition of “Blue Christmas” I’ve ever heard.
On January 22, Bad Religion storms back with an album called The Process of Belief. It had better be better than their last one, The New America, which was all but ruined by an ill-fitting collaboration with producer Todd Rundgren. This one’s been getting some nice notices, but I’ll reserve judgment until it hits stores.
Also on the 22nd is a double CD from New England’s best and most original band, Cerberus Shoal. Before their legendary six-man lineup split in 2000, the group made a trilogy of spooky, lush and mostly instrumental albums. The first two (Homb and Crash My Moon Yacht) are all but indescribable, floating on waves of ornate instrumentation and surprising melodies. With the band having completely restructured itself, I had given up hope of ever hearing the two-disc finale, Mr. Boy Dog, but lo and behold, North East Indie Records is finally releasing it. If it’s anything like the first two installments, it will be bizarre and beautiful.
The following week, January 29, sees another double-disc record, this time from Dream Theater. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence features a 43-minute title track that takes up all of disc two. Undoubtedly, the album will be chock full of more physically exhausting music that no other band on the planet can play, just like the rest of their catalog. Reportedly, it’s more melodic than they’ve been in the past, too.
The Chemical Brothers also return on the 29th with Come With Us, an unpromising title for what promises to be another evolution in this electronic rock duo’s sound. The Brothers have never stood still, and no two of their discs sound the same. Looking forward to this one.
February 12 sees a new one from Chris Isaak, which is sadly not titled As Seen On TV, like I was hoping, but Always Got Tonight. VH-1 has just started re-broadcasting The Chris Isaak Show, minus the nudity and swearing, of course. If you don’t get Showtime, though, it’s at least an opportunity to see this thing. Hopefully this album will revive Isaak’s flagging music career, but if not, he’s always got his day job.
Me’Shell Ndegeocello has titled her fourth album Cookie: The Antropological Mix Tape. Apparently, it brings the funk, something some people thought was missing from her last one, Bitter. I wasn’t one of those people, so we’ll see if Cookie leaves me cold on February 12.
Believe it or not, Neil Finn, formerly of Crowded House fame, has had a successful solo career across the pond, especially in his native New Zealand. He’s released two solo discs (one of which, Try Whistling This, barely made a dent over here) and a live record to much acclaim. Well, Nettwerk Records has stepped up and is releasing both the live album (called Seven Worlds Collide) and the second solo disc (called One Nil) in the States. Seven Worlds hits on February 26, and One Nil comes your way in April. This guy is a vastly underappreciated songwriter, and it would be nice, however unlikely, if he got his due in America.
Finally, the singer we love to hate to love, Alanis Morissette, returns on February 26 with album number three, Under Rug Swept. The big twist this time? No Glen Ballard. Morissette went out on her own, and we’ll see next month what she came up with.
I’ve got some catching up to do (still haven’t heard that Wu-Tang album), so the next two weeks should be filled with 2001 releases I just didn’t get around to. Thanks to everyone who wrote me regarding the Top 10 List. I’m still interested in your thoughts on the year that was, so send ‘em on in.
Year two – here we go.
See you in line Tuesday morning.