Original Soul

This time, it's personal: Our look back at an intimate year in music.

Matthew Dear and Ricardo Villalobos advance glitch-techno
Even if you thought The Matrix addendums were crap, the feeling that the software kept on winning remained. Even Ann Arbor resident Matthew Dear's Detroit techno is on a funky-soul glitch trip. How his Leave Luck to Heaven stays so warm around all these metallic timbres is a mystery. Whereas for Berliner Ricardo Villalobos, an associate of Dear's from the microhouse/techno (micro-techno?) crossroads, warmth isn't on the agenda. He generally sets a dark minor-chord spell on Alcachofa Mimalistas Agonistes, maxing the tension, like an ornery medicine man DJing a packed bomb shelter. -- Piotr Orlov

Madonna's humongous miscalculation
Coming off a sweep of the Razzies, a withdrawn music video and a showdown with Kazaa downloaders that played like a Revenge of the Nerds finale, Madonna had a terrible year. Critics savaged her for repeating herself and, worse, for speeding up her voice and dumbing down her lyrics to compete with Britney. Offered as Exhibit A and B: the self-explanatory "I'm So Stupid" and "Mother and Father," which contains the worst white rapping since Brian Wilson tried it on "Smart Girls." My prediction for Madonna 2004? Her move to England will make the gap in her teeth wide enough to run a vocoder through. -- S.D.

Paris Hilton gets caught on tape
So it's not really music-related, but she did date that putz from Sum 41, and this bootleg-quality, night-vision video (was this filmed in Iraq?) is really one of the best things to surface period in 2003. That Rick Solomon is quite a lucky fellow; here's hoping that his next cinematic endeavor features his current girlfriend (and ex-wife) Shannen Doherty. -- B.J.K.

Honk your horns for Johnny Cash.
Honk your horns for Johnny Cash.
He's not going to fudging take it!
He's not going to fudging take it!

Dizzy Rascal's Boy in Da Corner
Hip-hop needs hope, and the one who might teach it is a 19-year-old from the East London projects who has one foot in the crunk nation, another in the U.K. garage underground and a head in the old school. Dizzy Rascal's debut Boy in Da Corner was the most futuristic-sounding album of the year by a long shot; that it had commercial legs in Britain made it even weirder. The self-produced beats staggered, when they weren't getting shook by slabs of grime, rock guitar and PlayStation noises; and Dizzy's desperate squeak of a voice chattered on a message for Britannia like he was Sir Melle Mel with a 21st-century teenager's outlook. -- P.O.

Paul McCartney pooh-poohs Phil Spector's handiwork
Okay, so he had to outlive two other selections before becoming "the smart Beatle," but look at all the eye for an eye he's extracted in 2003. Forget about Phil Spector's allegedly murdering Lana Clarkson -- Macca's been trying to avenge Spector's senseless killing of "The Long and Winding Road" for the past 33 years. He finally got his wish when Let It Be . . . Naked was issued in December, stripped of any Spector involvement, and guaranteeing that no infusion of Apple cash would go to his legal dream team anytime soon. If only we could say the same for Michael Jackson. -- S.D.

Björk live
Live grandeur, in full effect -- between the five-CD Live Box featuring a decade of concerts (including '94's Unplugged session, which ranks as one of the MTV program's finest hours) and last summer's tour, with its stadium crowds, fireworks, Matmos' micro-crunch techno and a rocked-up string octet, no one else imagines live performance like Icelandic genius Björk, the finest future-folk poet in the land. Long may she reign. -- P.O.

The Internet meme of "Gay Bar"
An ironic mix of the worst disco and '80s music, the Electric Six's "Gay Bar" features the commanding main line "You! I wanna take you to a gay bar!" repeated over an equally repetitive Devo-style guitar. Much like last year's "The Ketchup Song" or "Cameltoe" earlier in 2003 by Fannypack, the song was rescued, with no involvement from the band, by surreal flash animation. Last spring, British animator Joel Veitch used the song as the soundtrack for his Flying Viking Kittens. The kittens, dressed as Vikings, shred flying V's and wield axes while flying around the clouds singing the song in thought bubbles. (See for yourself: www.rathergood.com/gaybar/) -- J.B.

RZA and Kill Bill mate
Most critics of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume 1 focused on the film's startling mix of cinematic styles. But the music makes the picture. Scenes acquire their rhythm from the interplay of sound and image. Musical motifs smooth the contrast between segments. Tarantino-picked tunes, like Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)," blossom in the sampling, remixing hands of Wu-Tang Clan maestro RZA. Sadly, choice snippets of zany flute riffs and reverberating spaghetti Western guitar were either left off the CD soundtrack or included in awkwardly long form. -- C.B.

Mötley Crüe conveniently forgets about Razzle
The Crüe rereleased their first four albums as a four-CD set called Music to Crash Your Car To, Volume One. Its title has already infuriated members of Hanoi Rocks, who lost their drummer Razzle thanks to Vince Neil driving drunk behind the wheel. If you can believe Nikki Sixx, he actually admits that he never made that connection. Perhaps the band can plan four more CDs for the spring: Music to Make Insincere Public Service Announcements and Continue to Drink and Drive To. -- S.D.

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