Pete’s Favorite Albums of the 00’s

Quick Note: I didn’t want to bombard my Top 10 with Springsteen and Prince albums, so I chose my favorites of theirs from the 00’s. Did I spend more time with  M.I.A.’s Arular than with Bruce’s Magic or Prince’s Musicology?  No way.  Just so you know, I limited my picks to one album per artist.

And now, on to the completely subjective look at 10 of my favorite albums of the decade!

10. Prince – The Rainbow Children (2001)


Jazzy, funky, and dipping deeply into P’s then new-found life as a Jehovah’s Witness, this album connected with me more than any Prince album of the 00’s (and nope, no JW am I). As much as the 54 second “Wedding Feast” makes me cringe, the album makes up for it with great tracks like “Digital Garden”, “The Work, Pt. 1”, and “The Sensual Everafter”.

Favorite tune: “1+1+1 is 3” (mp3) – to me, easily the funkiest Prince song of the 00’s.

9. M.I.A. – Arular (2005)


I couldn’t leave the girls out! M.I.A. came out of nowhere halfway through the decade with her brand of world-influenced electronic hip-hop. I love her attitude, her style, her accent, and she ain’t so bad lookin’ either. I think this is one of those love it or hate it albums. My wife can’t stand it. But for me, songs like “Pull Up The People”, “Fire Fire”, and “Amazon” just, er, do it for me, okay?

Favorite tune: “Bucky Done Gun” – super sexy militant rappin’ time:

8. Steve Earle – Jerusalem (2002)


Steve had a lot to say about the state of our country after 9/11 and the ensuing conflicts overseas. Of course he was his controversial self with “John Walker’s Blues”. He was fierce as hell on “Ashes to Ashes” and “Amerika V. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do)”. And he looked for a world of peace in the gentle album closer, “Jerusalem”. A great album top to bottom.

Favorite tune: “What’s a Simple Man To Do?” (mp3) – an organ-driven barnburner of a tune about a Mexican drug smuggler’s letter to his madre.

7. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)


Sure, some people think this is the obligatory best of the decade album – even if they think it doesn’t merit it. But guess what, it’s completely subjective, and certain albums connect with certain people. YHF was on constant rotation early in the decade. Wilco’s creativity and originality were through the roof in the late 90’s to early 00’s. The changes in direction between Being There, Summerteeth, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and A Ghost is Born are startling.

Favorite tune: The “War on War” and “Jesus, Etc.” combo special.

6. Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump (2000)


The brainchild of Jason Lytle, this futuristic, tech-themed album – with its gorgeous, sweeping electronic-based melodies – blew me away. Who would’ve guess I’d have such strong feelings about songs like “”Broken Household Appliance National Forest” and “Miner at the Dial-a-View”?

Favorite tune: “The Crystal Lake” and the beautiful “So You’ll Aim Toward the Sky” (YouTube).

5. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)


Win Butler and his merry troupe of noisemakers got my attention with “Old Flame” from their self-titled EP. And when I heard this album, I was hooked.

Favorite tune: “Wake Up” (YouTube) – especially after seeing them live at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. A sea of people singing “Whoooa-ooooa Whoooa-oooo-oooo-ooo”.

4. Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006)


When Bruce takes a break from the E Street Band, you never know what you’re gonna get. And with the Sessions record, it was a return to the roots of American folk music, and he brought along about 15-20 of his friends for the ride. This album provided countless hours of joy around our house. And the tour stop through Phoenix was an absolute thrill for me and my wife. Hey Bruce, bring back the Sessions Band!!

Favorite tune: “Pay Me My Money Down”. A family favorite. The kids still sing it.

3. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (2008)


2. Band of Horses – Everything All the Time (2006)


Thank God these guys came along. Led by the gentle voice of Ben Bridwell, the first two Band of Horses albums are folk/indie masterpieces. There isn’t a bit of filler in either of these, and I look forward to following these guys for the rest of my lifetime.

Favorite tune: “Monsters” [mp3] (from EATT) and “Windows Blues” [mp3] (from CTB) – surprise, the slower tunes.

1. Marah – Kids in Philly (2000)


In 2000, when I was going through some “woe is me” / “whaddya mean I can’t get this girl back”-type stuff, this album picked me up, punched me in the nuts, and knocked me back over. I was living down by the new Tempe Town Lake, and I’d run around it a few nights a week – I’d start running as the opening banjo riff of “Faraway You” ignited the album, and I wouldn’t stop ’til the closing street harmonies of “This Town”. The album was super cathartic, and every time I listen to it, I think of that summer of 2000. August 2000 also included one of the best rock ‘n roll shows I’ve ever seen: Marah at Tempe’s now defunct Long Wong’s – a small, sweat-soaked bar. I’ll never forget the energy of Dave, Serge and the boys that night. The album and band encapsulate what stripped down rock ‘n roll is all about.

Favorite Tune: “Round Eye Blues” (mp3) – capturing the spirit of Motown and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, this is a vivid and beautiful song, sung in the perspective of a young man in Vietnam:

Fables tell of men who fell
With swords dangling from their chest
The old guys down at the taproom swear
The Japs could kill you best
But late at night I could still hear the cries
Of three black guys I seen take it in the face
I think about them sweet Motown girls they left behind
And the assholes that took their place

Goosebumps every time.

When all is said and done, this is the album that affected me most personally, and therefore must be crowned: Pete’s Album of the 00’s!

Jeff Tweedy at the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix

Seeing my favorite artists live in a full band setting is obviously one of life’s great thrills – Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Steve Earle & the Dukes, Los Lobos, Wilco… But just as thrilling for me is witnessing more intimate showcases: the solo acoustic show. To be able to sit down and study the architect of the songs you love, as they play for you in a small theater – just the artist, a guitar and a microphone – you’re able to get a deeper understanding of the artist and his work.

I’ve had the privilege to sit and watch my favorites in these intimate-type settings: Springsteen on the Tom Joad and Devils and Dust tours, Steve Earle on several occasions, David Hidalgo & Louis Perez at a small theater in Tucson – and last night, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy.

I’ve followed Jeff and his band since Mermaid Avenue bowled me over in 1998. From that point, I’ve devoured everything they’ve released. For me, it all comes back around to that one unique characteristic: the golden, sweet & raspy vocal chords of Jeff Tweedy.

Last night, in the ornate and acoustically divine Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix, the voice was in prime form, filling the small venue – from low whispers to tuneful wails. I don’t mean to get all dramatic and schmaltzy on you all, but it was such a special experience for me and the several hundred that filled the theater. Outside of a few entertaining exchanges between songs, the crowd was perfectly quiet – letting each song live and breathe – with only the sounds of Tweedy’s voice and acoustic guitar wafting perfectly in the air.

Tweedy’s set list dipped into the Wilco songbook (e.g. “Passenger Side”, “A Shot in the Arm”, “Sunken Treasure”, “How To Fight Loneliness”, “Hummingbird”, “Impossible Germany”, “You & I”), his own solo material (“Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard”), Uncle Tupelo (“”Acuff-Rose”), as well as his side project/”supergroup” Golden Smog (“Please Tell My Brother” was one of the most poignant moments).

One great spontaneous moment came when he veered from the set list for a cover of the Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine”, a dark Christmas tale of a broken relationship. I had never heard the original, and clearly I was missing out on some wonderful lyrics:  “Where the state highway starts I stopped my car / I got out and stared up at the stars / As meteors died and shot ‘cross the sky / I thought about your sad, shining eyes.”    Picture Tweedy singing this in a mournful country shuffle… it was magic.

Another special moment came with “Jesus, etc.”, as Jeff shared vocal duties with the crowd. It wasn’t the messy sing-a-long you’ve heard at some shows. Rather, it was a very clear and succinct, spot-on rendition, and it made the small venue feel even smaller and more intimate.

After wrapping up “I’m the Man Who Loves You” (dedicated to his wife Susie, who was in attendance with his family), Jeff  stepped away from the mic for the last couple of  songs, standing at the edge of the stage with no PA. “This is what it’ll be like when we lose power”, he joked, referring to a post-apocalyptic world.

This moment summed up the entire evening… here was one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of our generation, in a one-off performance – and it wasn’t about the glitz and glamor of a rock ‘n roll band. It wasn’t about effects. And hell, it wasn’t even about amplification.. It was a man and his guitar singing his songs, playing from the heart and soul, and connecting with each and every one of us lucky enough to be in attendance.

Photos: Photographer Holly Carlyle snapped some incredible photographs from the evening. Check them out here.

Set List (thanks to azcentral):

Sunken Treasure
Remember The Mountain Bed
Please Tell My Brother
Country Disappeared
The Ruling Class
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard
You and I
Muzzle of Bees
How To Fight Loneliness
Impossible Germany
In A Future Age
Passenger Side
So Much Wine
Spiders (Kidsmoke)
A Shot in the Arm


Heavy Metal Drummer
Jesus, Etc.
I’m the Man Who Loves You
Someone Else’s Song

The Friday Five: August 7, 2009

Friday Five : ˈfrī-(ˌ)dā,-dē ˈfīv : On the sixth day of every week I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes and share my five and drop a little knowledge and insight for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes we have guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

Jason Mraz – “Life Is Wonderful” (from Selections for Friends, 2006)

Originally from his largely (and criminally) ignored Mr. A-Z, “Life Is Wonderful” is a beautiful bit of alliteration.

Wilco – “It’s Just That Simple” (from A.M., 1995)

A fine country ballad from the bands debut.

Chet Atkins – “Steeplechase Lane” (mp3) (from Chet Atkins: Guitar Legend: The RCA Years, 2000)

Originally from the long out of print Chet Atkins Picks on Jerry Reed.

Estelle – “No Substitute Love” (mp3) (from Shine, 2008)

Complete with a tongue in cheek quote from George Michael‘s “Faith” this is pure pop bliss.

Bryan Adams – “Heaven” (from So Far So Good, 1993)

It’s not “All I Need” but it will have to do.

What’s up next on your shuffle?

Wilco w/ Feist on Letterman

Before I venture off to watch Paul McCartney on Letterman, I thought I’d post last night’s Letterman, in which Wilco and Feist took over the Ed Sullivan Theater for a nice version of “You and I”. The band is clearly completely in synch and enjoying their time together. The vibe is relaxed, loose, and just pretty damn nifty.

The Friday Five: July 10, 2009

Splash Shuffle All Over. Generate another slogan!

Friday Five : ˈfrī-(ˌ)dā,-dē ˈfīv : On the sixth day of every week I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes and share my five and drop a little knowledge and insight for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes we have guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

Foo Fighters – “My Hero” (from The Colour and the Shape, 1997)

One of, if not my absolute favorite Foo Fighters track.

Warrant – “Heaven” (mp3) (from The Best of Warrant, 1996)

We all have our musical skeletons, mine just happen to have lots of hair… 20 years (!!!) later I still love this tune.

Jason Mraz – “Butterfly” (from We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things., 2008)

Don’t let his sensitive singer-songwriter facade fool you, Mr. A-Z can write some downright dirty tunes. Our example today: a romantic ode to a lapdance…

Wilco – “I’ll Fight” (from Wilco (The Album), 2009)

I just got around to listening to this record yesterday and am looking forward to listening to it again.

Lazlo Bane – “Overkill” (mp3) (from 11 Transistor, 1997)

I vividly recall the first time I heard this… catching the video (when MTV still cared enough about the ‘M’ to do so) and being glued to the television. Opening on the familiar chord progression followed by Colin Hay in a bellboy outfit and giving to what, to this day, is one of my favorite covers ever. Mr. Hay even comes in after the bridge to lend his signature vocal to the final verse. Brilliant finish to today’s five!


Okay, I’ve shown you mine, now show me yours!

Ickmusic’s Friday Five: October 31, 2008

Tell me something, Billy. How come a cute little shuffle like this can turn into a thousand ugly monsters?

I thought it only appropriate to celebrate Halloween with a special playlist:

Match ANY of the following conditions

NAME contains Halloween
NAME contains Trick
NAME contains Treat
NAME contains Haunt
NAME contains Black

iTunes only came back with a measly 180 tunes, at least ¼ of which were “Black Sweat” or “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?”. I will readily admit to skipping each of these tracks at least once in the course of this shuffle. For those who have not joined in the Five, here’s how it works: … I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes and share my five with some words (and on occasion the song itself) for each track.

Then it’s your turn! You can play along with the themed playlist or just share the first five of your shuffle, either way the fun is in playing musical voyeur for the day.

Here are this week’s tracks:

1. AFI – Bleed Black (from Sing the Sorrow)

This is certainly a fitting start to the Halloween edition of the Friday Five. Creepiness abounds in the atmospheric info and acoustic breakdown mid-way through the tune. Off to a good start!

2. Billy Bragg & Wilco – Black Wind Blowing (from Mermaid Avenue Volume 2)

While I own both volumes of the Mermaid Avenue series they do not see the light of day very often. I’ll have to make a mental note to bring them out of hiding more often.

3. Dave Matthews BandHalloween (mp3) (from Before These Crowded Streets)

This song is definitely in my Top 10 DMB tracks. Live, there are not many other tunes that can touch the focused energy that goes into the performance. While it’s true that Dave usually mangles the lyrics and just sings nonsense save for specific lines (think of it as Dave’s “Yellow Ledbetter”) there is something to hearing him spew the venomous lyrics (“Tell us are you satisfied with f**king?”, Love is Hell, My Love is Hell“) written for the woman who turned down his proposal of marriage three times.

I’ve only heard the song live once on 12.21.2002 and it came as a the first encore after a blazing set featuring a 15 minute jam with James Brown on “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine”. Dave walked out wearing a Santa hat and the crowd expected “The Christmas Song” (it was even on the printed set list), he must have been possessed by the devil that night as he tossed the hat across the stage and the band kicked into a sick version of the track. And since it’s Halloween and you all deserve a treat, here is a recording of that very version.

4. Run-D.M.C. – It’s Tricky (from Can’t Hardly Wait)

Back in the day (or is it’s tha day) this was my jam! One of the first rhymes that I learned from start to finish and could flow unaccompanied, this is still one of my favorite hip hop jams.

5. AC/DC – Back in Black (from Back in Black)

Man, this shuffle kicked all sorts of ass. Short of “Hell’s Bells” or Type O Negative’s “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)” I can’t think of a better track to close this Halloween Friday Five.

So what’s keeping the lil ghosts and ghouls busy in your neck of the woods?

Happy Halloween!

Ickmix 2

ickmix 2

I used to really enjoy creating mixes for friends and – well – especially girlfriends. Inspiration would smack me like a freight train, and I’d dig into my collection and weave together tapestries of musical brilliance (at least I thought so!) and what I thought to be clever proclamations of affection. Well, the girlfriends are no more (my wife would kill me), but I have to get my mix fix in every now and then. So indulge me, my internet friends, and take in my new Ickmix.

It’s a fairly mellow mix. I’m a mellow fellow. I hope you enjoy. If you do, let me know. It may give me a kick in the pants to make more.

Ickmix 2 (mp3 – 63MB – 46:00)

Playlist after the jump:

Pete’s Year in (Ick)Music: 2007

I know you’re probably all sick of the obligatory year end list mania sweeping the interwebs, but indulge me, if you will, as I throw in a few favorites myself. I give you….

Pete’s Year in (Ick)Music: 2007

Songs of the Year:

1. “Intervention”, by Arcade Fire – Win Butler and his band of gypsy maniacs known as Arcade Fire rocked my soul with this song. I had the heard the song in earlier incarnations, specifically on one of AF’s Morning Becomes Eclectic appearances. But it was after Neon Bible was released, when I was on a run with the iPod, when this song raised the hairs on my arms, brought tears to my eyes, and zapped me with an extra dose of adrenaline. In my opinion, “Intervention” is an epic masterpiece, joining songs like “Purple Rain”, “Thunder Road”, “London’s Burning”, and Steve Earle’s “Goodbye” on my mantle of all time favorites. The church organ, the lamenting lyrics that spotlight the brave and innocent soldier stuck in a unnecessary war:

“I can taste the fear
Lift me up and take me out of here
Don’t wanna fight, don’t wanna die
Just wanna hear you cry.”

“Intervention”s lyrics are a bitter reminder of our current leadership here in the U.S – an administration that continues to take a giant dump on a lot of the ideals of our forefathers. As of this writing, there are 390 days left of this god-awful president and his gang of deceivers. The door’s over there, fellas – don’t let it hit you in the ass.

Cheers to Win Butler and Arcade Fire.

2. “F.U.N.K.”, by Prince – Who knew? He still has it in him. All it took was a little passion and anger to get a great song out of him. Too bad his ire is directed at his most passionate fans – those who have carried him through his career. Finally, we get inspired, funky, creative Prince. Whatever it takes, I guess! Prince - F.U.N.K. - Single

3. “City of Immigrants”, by Steve Earle

Though it’s still hard to adjust to the latest live incarnation of Mr. Earle (Steve, a guitar, two turntables and a DJ), he released a very solid album this year – Washington Square Serenade – and to me, this track stands out from the rest. NYC / Brazilian group Forro in the Dark back Steve up in this spirited homage to New York City’s immigrant roots. Steve’s delightfully upbeat mandolin playing, Forro’s Brazilian percussion, and the sweet backing vocals of Allison Moorer make this one of my favorites of the year.

It’s worth watching the Letterman performance of it too…

Albums of the Year:

1. Magic, by Bruce Springsteen

Refreshing. Like opening the windows on a cool, sunny morning. The man just has it, doesn’t he? His talent at songwriting and tunesmithing (not to mention performing) leaves me in awe. Bruce’s tip o’ the hat to Brian Wilson and sixties pop, “Girls in Their Summer Clothes”, leads the charge for me. But there is no shortage of excellent songs on this one: “Gypsy Biker”, “Long Walk Home”, and “Livin’ in the Future” to name a few. Now if only Bruce would book a date in Phoenix on his early 2008 tour. Still nothing, and it’s killin’ me!

2. Sky Blue Sky, by Wilco

This album reached out to the mellow, country-rock side of me, and wrapped its arms around me. I’ve enjoyed all of Wilco’s albums (particularly from 1999’s Summerteeth on) for their spontaneity and originality. You just never know where they’re going to head next. When I threw on Sky Blue Sky, it immediately connected, right from the opening notes of “Either Way”. It’s the opening salvo of songs 1 through 4 that move me the most: “Either Way”, “You Are My Face” (can there be a cooler song title?), “Impossible Germany”, and the title track. I could listen to Jeff Tweedy sing the phone book. His scratchy, smoke & whiskey-soaked voice makes jeff one of my favorite vocalists around.

Disappointment of the Year:

Planet Earth, by Prince

No one wants a great Prince album more than me. Every year I hope I’m going to hear it, but once again, Prince underwhelmed. Songs like “The One U Wanna C” and “Somewhere Here on Earth” were the highlights for me, and gave me some hope. But duds like “Mr. Goodnight”, “Lion of Judah”, “Resolution” and the title track pollute Planet Earth enough to make Al Gore pitch a huge hissy fit. And the song that had the highest funky Prince potential – “Chelsea Rogers” – is marred by Shelby J.’s mic-hogging, with Prince’s vocals just a footnote in the background.

The Throwing It All Away Award of the Year:

Amy Winehouse.

I discovered Amy’s music back in February when I heard the retro, soulful, yet still modern “Rehab” of hers. Then I picked up Back to Black. What a VOICE! Effortless and so rich with soul. Then it soon became apparent how troubled she was (and is). Her demons & addictions (and those ratty old ballerina slippers she insists on wearing) have been all over the tabloids and gossip web sites this year. Surrounding herself with folks like her hubby Blake Fielder Civil and chronic fuck-up Pete Doherty don’t bode well for her future. Of course Blake is locked up now for the foreseeable future, but it doesn’t look like she’s using it as an opportunity to straighten herself out.

Back to Black was recently nominated for six Grammy awards. We’ll see if she even turns up for the ceremony (by the way – Year 2 of Ickmusic Live Blogging the Grammy’s, comin’ up!). You can’t help but pull for her, though. So much talent. Get it together, Amy!

Underground Hip-Hop Double Blast of the Year:

Ahead of the Curve, by Lateef & Z-Trip

Rise Up, by Zeph & Azeem

These two joints were a breath of old school fresh air to my hip-hop starved lungs. If you’re looking for something – anything – to prove to you that real hip-hop is alive & well, pick up these two albums now.

Lateef & Z-Trip – “Get Down” (DJ Zeph Remix)

Zeph & Azeem – “That Type of Music”

Best Live Show of the Year: Arcade Fire at Austin City Limits Music Festival, September 15th. 90 minutes of adrenaline-filled bliss for me. They are one of a kind: inspiring, energetic, and grandiose. Like I’ve said before, there’s something powerful about Win Butler’s stage presence and charisma. The defining moment of this show was their encore finale, “Wake Up”… a sea of humanity singing along with the band, a collective of goosebump-filled arms raised in the air. To me, Arcade Fire are one of the defining bands of our generation. There’s something very special about these guys & gals.

Best New (to me) Artists

Music is all about discovery for me. Often times I don’t pick up on an artist until well into their career. Here are a few that I came across this year – some who have been around a while, others who haven’t.

Aceyalone – Acey has been a fixture on the LA underground hip-hop scene for years. I was finally brought into his world through his reggae/hip-hop album Lightning Strikes.

The Avett Brothers – These guys hail from Concord, North Carolina, and knocked me out with this year’s album, Emotionalism. Cool neo-bluegrass folksy sounds come out of this trio’s guitar, banjo and stand-up bass.

“Die Die Die”

Brett Dennen – Five words: “There Is So Much More”

British Sea Power – This powerful foursome from Brighton, England pushed me on a recent 10k race. I look forward to hearing a lot more, and seeing them when they come to town.

Cat Power – Thanks to an Austin City Limits TV performance, I have been turned on to Chan Marshall – aka Cat Power. Amazing singer, and completely and utterly unique. I’m loving this girl.

“Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” (from the soundtrack to I’m Not There)

Look out in early ’08 for her latest album of covers, called Jukebox (click the cover to find out more)…

Damien Rice – One song sucked me in: “The Blower’s Daughter”. It led me to his two great studio albums, O and 9. Irish singing / songwriting at its finest.

The Felice Brothers – I first heard these guys on Vin Scelsa’s Sirius radio show. 21st century Dylan/Springsteen hybrids from the Catskills.

Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts – Catchy hooks and melodies, a smoking hot bass player. What’s not to like?



So what will 2008 bring? No idea, but I look forward to finding out. Don’t be shy about sharing your favorites with me. I’m always interested in quality tunes, wherever and whenever they may come from.