Monday, December 22, 2003

I created this blog space to accommodate my random musings about mostly baseball and music, including one of my favorite pastimes, top ten lists. Some of these may seem to come out of left field, hence the name.

I've decided to start this off by counting down my top ten albums of each day starting today right up until New Year's Eve, when my #1 will be revealed.

Before I present #10, I will say that for the second year in a row, Ryan Adams failed to make the list. This may not necessarily seem like such a surprise, except for the fact that Whiskeytown's Strangers Almanac ranked #1 on my 1997 list; Ryan's solo debut, Heartbreaker, was #1 in 2000; and Whiskeytown's Pneumonia and Ryan's Gold both made the top ten in 2001.

Despite the fact that everybody's favorite former alt-country poser/heartthrob released two EPs (Love is Hell, Parts 1 and 2) and one full-length (ROCK N ROLL or LLOR N KCOR, whatever the fuck it's called), none were top ten worthy, at least in my estimation. However, I think that if Ryan had focused on creating one great album rather than trying to be "prolific", he might have come up with something truly special, because there are some memorable moments on all three releases, particularly the more depressing, and less rocking, Love is Hell EPs.

Sorry, David Ryan. You ain't no Robert Zimmerman. Anyway, on to the list...

#10: Clem Snide - Soft Spot

This one definitely took a little time to grow on me. I appreciated it right from the start, but it took repeated listens for the quirky "art country" charisma of this band to really make an impact on me.

A major factor in selecting my top ten is, not necessarily is it really great in terms of what the critics will say, but how did it make me feel? Was it an album that drew me in, that had me wanting to listen to it every day, or even more than once per day? Did I have to resist these urges in order to not wear it out? While the albums that place in my top 5 most definitely fall into the category of those that I had to force myself not to listen to at times, Clem Snide certainly was one that spent its share of time on my regular "can't wait to listen to" list.

Like many of the bands I'm into these days, singer Eef Barzelay's somewhat nasal vocals fall into the category of potentially annoying to those who are easily annoyed, but they fit well with Clem Snide's songs of innocence, vulnerability and hope. Although most of the songs are slow, their sound is finely augmented by touches of violin, cello, organ, and various types of percussion.

Memorable moments include the summery optimism of “All Green” (“I’ll tie a string around my finger, so I don’t forget, not to get so tied up to the things that I regret”), the playful anticipation of “Action” (“You’re everything I want to do, ‘cause when there’s love, there’s action”), and the tongue in cheek humor of “Happy Birthday” (“half-Jewish boys make kick-ass drummers”). An additional highlight, “There is Nothing”, showcases the closest this album can come to despair (“Find love, then give it all away”).

The music may be slow, but the mood is bright.

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