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The Beta Band - Hot Shots II

The Beta Band, Hot Shots II

Here is a band I discovered when they were opening for Radiohead last summer in Montreal. At that time, I had no idea who they were and I was a bit confused by their very experimental sound. I really had to buy the album before the show. Their music is part of the category you have to "tame" and it takes several listens to finally get catched. In this sense, one might compare them to Björk. We can obviously make the connection with Radiohead, as every time something creative is coming from England, except that The Beta Band go much further. They certainly have a great influence of trip hop and more electronics. The arrangements are usually quite busy and the sounds are extremely rich. Some scratching comes up occasionally to add to the mix. Although their music is for an informed public and certainly not match the expectations of corporate radio stations, we can say that their target audience is quite broad and can go from brit pop to hip hop fans including trip hop, electronica, rock and even new jazz. This is an excellent album that I recommend strongly (it is even in my top 20 of 2001), but unfortunately I can’t compare it to their first record released in 1999 that I have never heard. A good advice: if you decide to buy it, do not put it away after one listen, because you might miss something very good. Patience will reward you well! (February 2002)

½

Vespertine

Björk, Vespertine

Björk is one of the few real artists who try to do what they really want regardless of the trends. From one album to the other, she managed to impress us with her musical depth. It must be said that already at the time of the Sugarcubes she was offering us thoughtful and poignant music, and she has improved since that time from album to album. Once again here, you'll get an album to listen to in one shot. You will not find instant radio hits and it is good like that. There may be a little less conventional elements as previously, because she comes back more to the electronic sound she always explored. But again, she gives us a wonderful background music with her haunting voice that has the advantage of being great to listen in several different circumstances. (December 2001)

½

Gorillaz [ECD] [Explicit Lyrics]

Gorillaz, Gorillaz

Gorillaz is a collective of several mainly British artists whose leader is Blur’s singer, Damon Albarn. The result is a great mix of different musical genres, including much brit pop and hip hop. Sampling is also part of the album. The result is an extremely solid album of the 2000s and it’s still very creative. It's an album with a great musical depth that will please any music fan, no matter what style they prefer. In addition, it contains almost no weaknesses, making it one of the greatest albums of 2001. I myself was very hesitant with the hit that I have often heard, “Clint Eastwood”, because of the large presence of hip hop, a genre I’m not a big fan of. Otherwise, listening to the whole album, I discovered a group that has successfully integrated the style without abusing it. One of the greatest albums of 2001, which has also a special place in my top 20 of 2001. (January 2002)

½

Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American

Jimmy Eat World, Bleed American

This is the third album by this band from Arizona. For the first time, they managed to get my attention and it seems I am not alone as seeing all the buzz in 2001 across North America. They offer us a very catchy and energetic enough pop rock sound about what is done in California. Otherwise, they have managed to create a style of their own following their experience of two albums. And they continue to keep the freshness of their debut, so they are probably at their prime right now. Even in the lyrics, they managed to push the thought a little further than Blink 182s of this world with their oaths and naked girls. But beware: it's still a soft easy to access pop rock band. Among all that appeared in the genre in 2001, Bleed American is certainly part of good albums. It will also very nearly ending up in my top 20 of the year. I much preferred it to the newest album by Blink 182 precisely. So if you like what you hear from them on the radio (“Bleed American” or “The Middle” likely) or if you like that kind of rock music in general, you can buy it in a heartbeat. (February 2002)

½

P.O.D. - Satellite

P.O.D., Satellite

Here is a metal band that fits perfectly into the wave that invaded the radios in recent years. In their case, they did it thanks to the excellent song “Alive” and although they are at their 2nd album, they finally got discovered, although the metal fans already knew them for the last 2 years. The main difference that has P.O.D. compared to other bands in the genre is in the lyrics. It’s that they are a Christian group and talk about love, peace, prayer, God, etc. It changes us quite a lot of the lyrics of death and destruction by other bands like Slipknot, or lyrics full of oaths from Limp Bizkit. Usually, Christian bands are cheesy and fall into clichés, but that's not the case here. It remains creative music and it is also interesting to listen to them more than other aggressive bands. A very good album! (December 2001)

Rival Schools - United By Fate

Rival Schools, United By Fate

Post-grunge band strongly influenced by Nirvana and Alice In Chains, Rival Schools surprises us with very creative music. From beginning to end, you find yourself hooked to their music that fits well into the new American alternative movement. The catchy songs enriched with an omnipresent guitar have everything to please any rock fan with an open mind. Why an open mind? Because despite the catchy melodies, there is no instant hit here. It is far from the little pop formula so often experienced. Rival Schools is a pretty solid rock band to be part of the scene for several years to come, provided they are given minimal attention. We should, because United By Fate is an excellent album. To discover! (June 2002)

½

The Strokes - Is This It

The Strokes, Is This It

Here is the new sensation of the underground scene in the US, the band that is the most talked about. They are introduced as the new punk band from New York City, obviously having influences from Talking Heads and Television. We can also guess a significant influence of The Cure and The Smiths. They chose to go with a sober production, which can be annoying at times, knowing that the album was made in 2001. With all the technology we have, it is possible to do better. But the result is still impressive. This is an excellent album, varied, creative and melodic, an album we must listen to from one end to the other (anyway, it only lasts 35 minutes). None of the songs will play on the radio, even if some have the potential for it, and it should not climb very high on the charts (question of giving way to flat rappers and silicone singers). But this is an excellent underground album! (December 2001)

½

System Of A Down - Toxicity

System Of A Down, Toxicity

After a first self-titled album in 1998 that was acclaimed by the critics, but didn’t move a lot of things outside of the underground (despite the fact it went gold), System Of A Down issued Toxicity 3 years later. Right at the beginning of "Prison Song", we had a doubt it was not a metal band similar to the others. The woozy beat changes were bringing us to all the range of emotions in one song only, something we never heard before! System Of A Down was formed in 1995 in southern California by Serj Tankian (voice and keyboards), Daron Malakian (guitars, voice), Shavo Odadjian (bass) and John Dolmayan (drums). Their music is influenced by the underground metal of the 80’s, hardcore punk and the alternative rock of the 90’s (in the real meaning of it). We also hear some elements of neo-gothic and elements from the middle-east, certainly inspired by their Iranian roots. Mix everything with many variations in all the compositions and you’ll have a good idea of the SOAD style. At the first listening of Toxicity, at its release, I remember having been impressed because it was so different from the metal that I knew (and I heard a lot!). This is an album on which the tracks fit perfectly together, without weaknesses, and with classics like "Chop Suey", the title-song and "Aerials" closing beautifully the album of 44 minutes. After having heard the 2 albums of 2005, Mezmerize and Hypnotize, which are in fact the end of the trilogy, I almost had the feeling they were better than Toxicity. But, by listening to the album again, I realize Toxicity is certainly the best album of their entire career, an album without any mistake. They did the right thing by taking a break after this album, because it would have been impossible for them to release another album quickly without causing disappointment. If SOAD became the metal band of the 2000’s, it’s because of Toxicity which started it all. This is definitely a fundamental album! (April 2006) (see also Historical Albums)

The White Stripes - White Blood Cells

The White Stripes, White Blood Cells

The White Stripes are a Detroit duo offering minimalist alternative music. Sometimes garage and sometimes blues, sometimes hardcore and sometimes ambient, music moves from one atmosphere to another excellently. They fit perfectly into the new US trend and they can indeed be compared very often to The Strokes (as on the hit “Fell In Love With a Girl”). From “Hotel Yorba” to “I Can’t Wait” via “I Think I Smell a Rat”, the White Stripes managed to catch you literally, like a high quality drug. Your sound system will ask for more. This is a must for any fan of good alternative music that is not too perfect. I have also no choice but to add it to my top 20 of 2001, although it was issued towards the end of the year. (May 2002)

Pete Yorn - Musicforthemorningafter

Pete Yorn, Musicforthemorningafter

The new US sensation of alternative music, he is compared to the greatest ones. For me, the best comparison remains Jeff Buckley, although I prefer Yorn to Buckley thanks largely to his more rock 'n' roll orientation. He offers simple but creative music, quiet but rhythmic. Like Buckley, he uses profusely the acoustic guitar. But in songs such as the hit “For Nancy”, we can recognize a more rock influence, closer to the punk scene of the 1970s in New York City. I think though that with The Strokes, Yorn represents a new alternative scene which is being to grow in the US and that's good. Rock music really needs it. For now, it remains somewhat underground, but let’s hope that the movement will grow. The album is in my top 20 of 2001. (January 2002)

 

 

 

       

 

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