By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
4. The Peechees, Do the Math (Kill Rock Stars) No matter how much cream you rub on it, the burn just won't go away. If you're under 30, this is what you'll give your kids to prove that shit rocked harder back in the day.
5. J Church, The Drama of Alienation (Honest Don's Hardly Used Recordings) S.F.'s boy wonders slap together an LP full of downers, but still kick more ass than any other "pop/punk" band in action.
(Industrial, Underground Dance)
1. Haujobb, Solutions for a Small Planet (Metropolis) A long-awaited marriage: Jungle (among other things) meets industrial. Sinister, guitarless, analog-synth industrial, that is. And, yes, you most definitely can (and should) dance to it.
2. Chemical Brothers, Live at the Social, Volume I (Heavenly) Chem Bros.' much-hyped 1995 album of original dance music, Exit Planet Dust, was awesome. But these guys are deejays, and they're at their best as they are here--tweaking, pumping up and seamlessly weaving together some of the phattest obscure house, funk and hip-hop tracks of the past few years. Your home dance party in a box.
3. Various artists, Macro Dub Infection, Volume 2 (Gyroscope/Caroline) Two thick, juicy slabs of subterranean dub beats, with all manner of funky samples and delicious noize on top. And--wake up, America--plenty of sizzling jungle. Includes everyone from drum/bass wizard Plug to trance master Mouse on Mars to hip-hop's Prince Paul. The bomb sex album.
4. Various artists, In Dust We Trust (Invisible) This compilation plays like one long, flowing collaboration, featuring the best tribal/grind industrial that Pigface's Martin Atkins had the genius to make, produce or hand-pick. Includes cuts by Psychic TV, Pigface, Evil Mothers, Sheep on Drugs and others.
5. Coil, Black Light District (World Serpent) Is it dark ambient? Old-school industrial? Trance/house? Neoclassical? Whatever, it's experimental, weird and dark. Sacrifice your soul on Coil's exotic pagan altar now, and try to figure out what it all means later.
Mr. P-Body (Hip-Hop, etc.)
1. The Fugees, The Score (Columbia/Ruffhouse) This seamless, transcendent record redefined the boundaries of hip-hop. Yeah, that Roberta Flack cover is killing me, too, but come on--this record was released early in the year. Take a step back and recognize it for what it is--the most eclectic, original hip-hop album to come out in years. A giant step forward for the form.
2. Nas, It Was Written (Columbia) A close second for record of the year. The word's out on Nas, but don't blame him for the MTV overkill--he deserves all the hype. His personification of a gun on "I Gave You Power" is worth the price of admission alone--a deep, poignant track from one of hip-hop's brightest rising stars.
3. OutKast, Elevators (La Face) "Sophomore slump" doesn't exist in OutKast's considerable glossary of terms. This act's 1994 debut was the sleeper of the year, and Elevators rises to the same stature. Fat tracks: "Wheels of Steel," "ATLiens."
4. De La Soul, The Stakes Is High (Tommy Boy) The CD A Tribe Called Quest should have made. Best effort since 3 Feet High and Rising. The Native Tongues return.
5. Various artists, Swingers soundtrack (Hollywood) I bought this with the money I didn't waste on disappointments like Tha Doggfather. An attractive, atmospheric collection that set the perfect mood for one of '96's best films, mixing classic big-band arrangements with new swing by up-and-comers like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
(Blues, Funk, Soul, R&B)
1. James Brown, Make It Funky (Polydor) Polydor got its act together this year with several excellently detailed Brown compilations. This one covers the years '71 to '75, a period where James was struggling to stay on the charts--and making music that still sounds modern.
2. The Persuasions, Sincerely (Bullseye/Rounder) Stalwart a cappella group releases one of the best albums of its long career; four middle-aged men who put all young harmony groups to shame.
3. Otis Clay, The Hi Records Years (The Right Stuff/EMI) In which a great soul singer finally gets out from under the shadow of his former labelmate, Al Green. A generous collection.
4. Robert Gordon and Danny Gatton, The Humbler (NRG) According to the liners, this live recording circulated in bootlegged form among awed guitarists for years (hence the name). It captures late axman Gatton with neorockabilly singer Gordon at a Berkeley, California, club in '78.
5. Various artists, Slow 'n' Moody Black & Bluesy (Pointblank/Virgin) Thrilling slices of deep soul music from the '60s and early '70s that were all but lost until this set, despite the wave of reissue projects. All that, plus a brilliant Little Richard side. But why are the Brits still giving us back our culture?
Paul Rubin (Jazz)
1. Joe Sample, Old Places, Old Faces (Warner Bros.) Veteran jazzster surprises with kick-ass excursion of simple, sweet tunes.
2. John Scofield, Quiet (Verve) Gil Evans-style horn arrangements and acoustic guitar equals welcome change of pace for this prolific axman.
3. Cassandra Wilson, New Moon Daughter (Blue Note) Spawned from Billie Holiday and Joni Mitchell, this woman is sparse, pure and original.
4. Sun Ra, The Singles (Evidence) Doo-wop, bebop, space-age hip-hop and no slop, this 48-song set from Mr. Ra and the Arkestra is a mind-blower.