27. Lounge Lizards, Voice of Chunk. All right, I've got a confession to make: I screwed up. I miscalculated the number of albums I would need for my Top 50 list. Don't ask me how it happened: just accept that it did, and move on. I already have.
So, today's trio are all selections I probably would've put somewhere between #'s 40 and 50, if I could do it all over again. (And there will be a corrected recap of my Top 50 once I'm done, if anyone was wondering.) Not to dismiss these great albums - I mean, they're in my Top 50! Geezus! - but I already feel bad about putting King Crimson way back there, and these all would've come behind King Crimson if I'd finalized my list before I started. But that would've been too easy. I never do things the easy way ...
But back to the music: the Lounge Lizards. Heard of them? If not, you have nothing to lose by checking them out. From what I understand, they're pretty much inactive now, but put out some great nouveau jazz (my term) back in the 90's and early 90's. I haven't heard all their albums, but I'm confident Voice of Chunk belongs here. Featuring the great John Lurie (star of Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger than Paradise") on saxophone, his brother Evan on piano, and the really great Marc Ribot on guitar, Chunk seamlessly goes from warm soft instrumentals to anguished sax wailings without missing a beat, no pun intended. I learned about the Lounge Lizards from Brook, one of my earliest Seattle housemates, who also fostered my appreciation for Public Enemy (foreshadowing: more on them later) and some other great groups.
Brook, where are you now??? Thanks for sharing your CD's, dude.
(And FYI, don't get this group confused with the Austin Lounge Lizards. These are the plain old Lounge Lizards.)
26. Andrew Bird, The Mysterious Production of Eggs. A tip of the hat to my friend Cindy for introducing me to Andrew Bird indirectly through her husband, my friend B-Phat. I didn't quite know what to make of this album the first few times I listened to it, because Andrew Bird really does have a unique sound and writes unique songs. And also, he's pretty much the best whistler going. But before he gets pigeon-holed as a whistler, by those not familiar with him, let me say that he's also an oustanding violin player, a glockenspielist, and a deceptively good singer. In fact, I would dare to call him the enfant formidable of modern American music. There aren't too many others who can match his musical range and creativity, and Production of Eggs is a fine representation of his abilities. Haven't heard the new CD, Noble Beast, but I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't also a humdinger.
25. Neko Case, Furnace Room Lullaby. To my mind, there's something perverse about Neko Case's ascendancy: she's becoming more and more popular even as her music has become less enticing to me. Her greatest strength, of course, is that rich, magnificent, alt-country voice of hers, which has always reminded me of Patsy Cline more than anyone else. And I don't think it's displayed better anywhere than Furnace Room Lullaby, where it aches and soars across a range of great songs culminating in the memorable title track. Except for maybe "Deep Red Bells," which is on a different CD - I think that's Neko's best song ever. (Did you know "Deep Red Bells" is about the Green River Killer? It's true. I guess the whole Green River Killer thing made a strong impression on her when she was growing up in Tacoma.)
Anyhow, I know there's a lot of people out there who really dug Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, and there's probably a bunch more who are into her new CD. But let me ask you this: when did you hop on the Neko bandwagon? Because if it was after Furnace Room Lullaby, you need to backtrack a little, whoever you are. But with that being said, it's still gratifying that more and more people are enjoying her music. It's hard to believe that Neko can look as cute as a button, and have that unreal voice, and still be a terrific person. But from everything I've read about her, it's true.