Whether stated by an insightful Bay Area punk rocker or some majestic fanciful entourage of rock’s greatest excesses, music indeed is a driving force for change. We often hear of music’s great ability to affect the masses; to shape and evolve a community for the better. It is however, on a personal and individual level that music has seen its greatest influence. This year Sound the Sirens Magazine will pay tribute on a more personal scope, as our writers will each share their own list of records they feel have best influenced them in 2003.
Along the way we’ll revisit some of the year’s more memorable interviews and columns while saying swift farewell to some of the many that left us this year. This is our bridge from an exciting year of music to the next, our toast to the merry merrymakers of 2003.
– Billy Ho, Editor
1969 – 2003
Steven Paul (Elliott) Smith was born on August 6th, 1969 and even though his life ended on October 21st, 2003 he will live on within the hearts of all those who loved him for what he was: a man, a stranger, a friend, a poet, and an artist. His career gave birth to five stellar solo albums (Roman Candle, Elliott Smith, Either/Or, XO, and Figure 8) and a number of albums with his former band Heatmiser. He garnered a following that was very dedicated and connected to the singer.
From the first time I heard his self titled album I knew that he was different. I’m not sure what it was but when I heard him sing my heart began to collapse. I became completely enamored with someone I knew nothing about. His music, his voice, everything was perfect. From that day on I was hooked and I wasn’t about to let go. His work can be described with two words: Beautifully Depressing. His music held such hurt, vulnerability, and beauty. Anyone who had enjoyed his music felt that in some way they were connected to him. We felt his pain through his lyrics and we sympathized with him despite our inability to be close to him. His words spoke to souls, his music made people connect, and his presence in this world seemed to make things better. – Angela Rodriguez
1947 – 2003
Putting in more than three decades worth of work into the music industry, Zevon was a cultured musician and great student of the musical arts. He spent most of his childhood in California and Arizona before becoming the musical director for The Everly Brothers in the early 70’s. He firmly launched into his own career after the release of his 1976 self-titled album. Since then, he has released numerous collections (his finer works include 1978’s Excitable Boy, 1987’s Sentimental Hygiene) including his final album, The Wind (featuring guest appearances by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Ry Coder and Don Henley); Zevon finally succumbed to cancer in September. – Billy Ho
Some of the others who left us in 2003: Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Sam Phillips, Wesley Willis, Matt Davis, Ronnie Dawson, Matthew Jay, Matthew Fitzgerald, Adam Cox, Jeremy Gage, Sheb Wooley, Robert Palmer, Bill Perkins.
Albums of the Year
Blur – Think Tank (Virgin)
“This is Blur’s finest and most troubled moment. Seemingly struggling with itself, forced to change and grow but trapped inside preconceptions and lofty expectations. But don’t be deceived by attempts to closely relate the progress of this record with their far more humble beginnings. Think Tank is a vital step in this band’s growth and evolution.” [Read review]
My Morning Jacket- It Still Moves (ATO)
Best capturing the sounds of Southern influenced rock music, My Morning Jacket’s vast, serene and occasionally thundering clap paints an earnest picture of true Americana. Drenched in delightful rural qualities, It Still Moves is inspired.
The Strokes – Room On Fire (RCA)
What Shivani said: “The album seems to depend on reductionist theory. That is, incorporating nothing in any degree of excess. The result is a short, thirty-three minute, album that blows you away.” [Read review]
The Unicorns – Who Will Cut Our Hair When You’re Gone? (Alien8)
There is a changing of the sound; and pop music is given the upright beating it deserves courtesy of The Unicorns! With songs like “Tuff Ghost” torching ideas of plaintive rhythms, Who Will Cut Our Hair When You’re Gone? is truly an eclectic, morbid, humorous and brilliant collection of tunes.
Mando Diao – Bring ‘em In (Mute)
“Bring ’em In is blessed with the same aura of excitement that 1965’s My Generation had, an exhilaration felt while spinning the record for the very first time, an undying importance that no amount of waterlog can sink.” [Read review]
Cursive – The Ugly Organ (Saddle Creek)
“For now, I think I will just revel in The Ugly Organ – a well conceived work of self-indulgent, conceptual, emotionally deconstructive faux-rock that is but surely the next chapter in Cursive’s eminent history.” [Read review]
Sun Kil Moon – Ghosts of a Great Highway (Jetset)
Former Red House Painters member Mark Kozelek’s latest musical offering is a harrowing recount of the past’s unending allure (and occasional torture). Its triumph lies not in one single facet, but the end result that evokes many a great visions of music’s great influence. Ghosts of a Great Highway is a delight in every way.
Warren Zevon – The Wind (Artemis)
Recorded during his battle with cancer, Zevon’s career that spanned more than 30 years came to an illustrious end with The Wind. Supported by a plethora of great people (Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley and Jackson Browne among them), the album is a stirring collection of music that sways from rock songs to ballads to alternative-country gems like “Numb As a Statue.” Warren Zevon will be missed.
Fountains of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Managers (S-Curve / Virgin)
“The latest offering from Fountains of Wayne is a legitimate pop-laced outing with depth; an ideal sound for the simmering days of summer; the sort of album you want to share with your friends.” [Read review]
Radiohead – Hail to the Thief (Capitol)
“The Radiohead opera continues to set precedence among its kind (or lack thereof). It is a wonder where they could possibly go from here – do they continue on this jaunt, moving on to the next act, or do they pull another discerning audio/visual contradiction that will leave not only the listener, but the rest of the industry’s hopefuls countless worlds behind.” [Read review]
Sufjan Stevens – Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State (Asthmatic Kitty)
As concepts go, Stevens’ ambitious 50 state tribute is among the greatest. His first, a collection of tunes hailing his home state of Michigan, is one written for single word praises: beautiful, lush, towering and heroic – a testament to his incredible poise and tuneful splendor. [Read review]
Grandaddy – Sumday (V2)
“Sumday is clarity amongst the stillness that is found in between those cavernous surrounds. And if traveling home / breaking free / casting off from the weary past requires clemency, then the end sum of all that resides here is that glorious sense of lifting burden; an emancipation with great conviction.” [Read review]
Matthew Ryan – Regret Over the Wires (Hybrid)
“…an incredible potency intertwined amongst the tales of regret, confusion, acceptance and loneliness … between these cynicisms, hopes and insight, the lofty comparison that may dog a lesser artist, becomes the mere sinking sunset to this very passionate fable.” [Read review]
The Weakerthans – Reconstruction Site (Epitaph)
“If anyone were ever to forward the cause for written spontaneity and a freshness for inspirational description, John K Samson would be our lonesome scribe. And for those seeking a companion for their favorite “road” book, the music of The Weakerthans is that cross-country trip you yearn to take over and over again – a bona fide sound for that timeless vision.” [Read review]
Super Furry Animals – Phantom Power (Epic / Sony)
“For someone who seeks a more personal inquisition, this is the best way to melt away a burning day; for those who are seeking restitution for the torrent of crimson and desolation, Phantom Power is the perfect soundtrack to the looming apocalypse that may plague your soul.” [Read review]
The Decemberists – Her Majesty The Decemberists (Kill Rock Stars)
“…huddled in confines with bricklayers, bakers, schoolboys and one never-dispirited soul, I lived the soldiering life. And through the tales of faraway lands and beckoning sounds of admirable fascination, I am again filled with certain humanity.” [Read review]
Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham – L’Avventura (Jetset)
While the partnerships that were Donny & Marie and The Captain & Tennille proved that the duo could be a disastrous concept, Dean & Britta traces back to more soulful pairings like Otis Redding & Carla Thomas or Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot. With original compositions and interpretations of others, L’Avventura is beautifully sung and grandly conceived; a classy pair of aces. [Read review]
The Jealous Sound – Kill Them With Kindness (Better Looking)
“We look for those open arms where we can rest our weary core, where we can sit and hear and wait for the profound, where we can scream in relief “It feels so good to feel”. And like the moments spent in Shehan’s audience, the understanding is clear, and the only constraints lie in whether or not we’ve found them in time.” [Read review]
Beulah – Yoko (Velocette)
“It is a togetherness forged by Beulah’s realization of mortality and their revelations that follow; a reassurance for the spirit. While we could merely ache along, the overriding inclination is for one to embrace this alluring sadness.” [Read review]
The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop)
“The Shins have over the course of two releases, rightly etched themselves in pop’s Rosetta stone. Enigmatically tracing the greatest of pop roots with quenching success, Chutes Too Narrow is perfectly stated, and undoubtedly, a masterpiece.” [Read review]
The list in numbers
Number of different albums appearing on our lists: 72
Number of albums appearing on more than one list: 17
Number of times an album, well liked by a writer, was panned by the editor: 3
Number of times The Shins appear on our lists: 5
Number of times The White Stripes appear on our lists: 0
As we close out another successful year here at Sound the Sirens Magazine, it cannot be understated how much appreciation we have for the people who make this all possible.
We would first like to thank the amazing writers and their hard work; your time and work is greatly appreciated. We would also like to thank all the public relations teams, record labels, publicists, bands, and media folks who have graciously worked with us in 2003.
And last, but absolutely not least, each and every one of you who read our work. We hope you have enjoyed the year as much as we have. So from myself and the entire staff at Sound the Sirens Magazine, happy holidays and thank you; see you all in 2004!
– David Walter, Associate Editor
Feel Unlucky Punk: 5 records lost in the punk explosion
We take a look at 5 records lost in the post-1994 scramble of punk’s mainstream success.
We could sit here all day and discuss the ethos behind the entire punk mantra but it has been discussed to no end. Instead, we’re inspecting the spiraling consequences of the mainstream upsurge of punk that ultimately peaked in 1994/95. Three years after what many dubbed as “the year punk broke” (1991), the resurgence of the punk subculture back into the mainstream scope was in significant contrast to the
However, the effects of a genre’s popularity often result in a number of those caught up in the wave to get left behind. Casualties of other people’s success. For one reason or another, glory did not come to them as expected, and the resulting fallout ends with bands disbanding and careers changing. The fallout of an entire movement
Here are the 5 records lost in the post-1994 scramble of punk’s mainstream success.
05. Hog – Nothing Sacred
(Geffen Records, March 1996)
Los Angeles punk band Hog
I wore out my cassette tape copy of Hog’s Nothing Sacred it was so good. The title track is fantastic in particular, but there are so many great songs on this album, like the aforementioned “Walls” and “Not Perfect”. To this day I still go back to this album as the perfect windows down highway album because sonically, it sounds like a damn rock record. If you ever come across this album somewhere in a record shop and you like loud guitars, melodic punk, and some attitude, don’t hesitate to spend the money on it.
Stream: Hog – “Shut Down”
04. Waterdog – Waterdog
(Atlantic Records, October 1995)
Atlantic’s pop-punk flag carriers depended greatly on Green Day’s popularity to carry over. This self-titled disc was surprisingly accessible (bolstered by radio-ready tracks “Can’t Let Go” and “Jessica”) but ultimately lacked a strong connection to the recently converted masses. Unlike the Berkeley trio’s unabashed, juvenile visage, Waterdog relied on slightly more cultured lyrics and less simplistic
This album was not the best produced but had some great songs- most notably the closer “Good-bye, Good-bye”, and the track below “Jessica”. I still like listening to this song today and while it isn’t as loud or as urgent as Hog’s Nothing Sacred, had plenty to like, especially if you enjoyed pop-punk with a less bouncy appeal. The band came and went after only one album, but who knows just what they could have done during a different era.
Stream: Waterdog – “Jessica”
03. Samiam – Clumsy
(Atlantic, August 1994)
Amongst their respective discography, Samiam’s Clumsy can easily go unnoticed. Their foray into the majors did not end here but unlike some of their kind, Samiam lasted through all the troubles and are still around today. Their creative blend of chunky pop punk components with more rock-oriented mechanisms resulted in their fiery guitar powered focus. Keen on quality vocal delivery and constantly trying to rework their musical progression, Samiam
Sergie Loobkoff of the band also spent time in seminal emo band Knapsack as well as indie rock band Solea. I had a chat with Sergie Loobkoff about Solea back in 2002 about his then-new band.
Samiam are one of the lucky few.
02. Jawbreaker – Dear You
(Geffen Records, September 1995)
Pulled from shelves just months after its release, Dear You is a painful reminder of the fickleness that saturates the major label landscape. Far more restrained than their previous work, Jawbreaker’s (then) final release is as mysterious as it is admired; a defining example of bad things happening to good bands. Almost completely disappearing from North American retail stores (and most definitely from the Geffen catalogue), it has been the scourge of punk record collectors who have been unsuccessful at securing a copy. Featuring the classic Jawbreaker track “Jet Black”, Dear You was re-released in 2004 via Blackball Records. After Jawbreaker’s initial break-up, Blake Schwarzenbach went on to form one of my favorite bands, Jets to Brazil.
In 2017, against all odds, Jawbreaker reformed. Remarkably, there is new music on the way. New Jawbreaker. In 2019. Who would have thought
01. Klover – Feel Lucky Punk
(Mercury/Polygram Records, August 1995)
Featuring members of legendary Boston hardcore outfit Gang Green, Klover epitomized all that was the spirit of a misunderstood generation. Leering like the Buzzcocks, influential like the Jam and embodying the youthful enthusiasm of early Social Distortion, Feel Lucky Punk was an immensely competent release. Confidently portraying ideas of rebellion, social rejection and an underlying cause for unity, it was a record that exuded all that was great of the punk movement. Strengthened by the “Basket Case”-like “Our Way” (how did this song not resonate with the radio crown? I just don’t know), the gang vocals of “Beginning to End” and the truly wonderful cover of the Real Kids’ “All Kindsa Girls”, Feel Lucky Punk is a real gem that deserved far more than it received. The album sounded great, the songs were exactly what you would expect from a shiny, major label punk release- everything seemed poised for success. It never came. Klover disbanded in early 1996 after just one album.
If there was ever an album so commercially ready to be big, it was this one. Mercury Records didn’t do anything for the band, and the songs here were relegated to used bins in Tower Records all around the world. Too bad because there is so much good material on here, so much of it is still so listenable today (you could argue that it holds up better than a lot of mainstream punk of the last decade). Their cover of “All Kindsa Girls” is still one of the best covers you’ll hear. However, it is the opening track “Our Way” that really sets the tone for the album and remains one of the best things not to have been huge.
Stream: Klover – “Our Way”
10 alt-rock albums from the ‘90s you should pick up on vinyl now
We’ve gone digging through the shelves to cherry pick 10 1990’s alt-rock and grunge albums that are well worth revisiting on vinyl.
Dust off the turntable and turn off the
A decent amount of modern day releases are already getting vinyl runs at release, alongside CDs and digital, and of course the classics have been on LPs for decades, available at most thrift stores or used record shops. But the 1990s tunes — which landed in the awkward transition phase of cassettes and CDs — have been a barren wasteland. Until now-ish. If the album was an alt-rock hit over the past couple decades, there’s a decent chance a label has pulled it off the shelf and pressed it on vinyl.
So, we’ve gone digging through the shelves to cherry pick 10 1990’s alt-rock and grunge albums that are well worth revisiting now that they’ve been re-issued on vinyl. From Oasis to Goo Goo Dolls, here’s what we’ll be spinning while rocking some flannel.
Bush – Sixteen Stone
This 1994 rocker, Bush’s debut record, put the band on the map. The band would go on to have some great releases, but none of them matched the perfect storm of alt-rock and monster hits of Sixteen Stone. The album was host to No. 1 singles like” Comedown,” “Glycerine” and “Machinehead,” all of which still get regular spins on the airwaves. Beyond the remembered commodities, though, the entire album is a churning romp. There’s a reason it made Bush a household name in the 1990s.
Counting Crows – August and Everything After
This album went Platinum about as many times as an album could go platinum, and for good reason. Almost every song on this record turned into a hit single, from “Mr. Jones,” to “Round Here,” to “Rain King.” It’s a snapshot of that particular brand of country alt-rock that fell into vogue in the era, and top to bottom, is still a fantastic set of songs.
Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
Don’t worry, we’re not leaving Britpop alt-rock off the list. Oasis’ second album is arguably the band’s best, anchored by “Wonderwall,” “Champagne Supernova” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” It’s even more fun on vinyl, with a bit of pop and warm hum to really bring the guitars home. The band may all hate one another now, but there was a shining moment when they could work together and make one hell of a good record.
Pearl Jam – Ten
It’s not a ‘90s rock rundown without a heaping dose of Seattle on the list. Most of us probably still have an old cassette copy of Ten laying around somewhere between the car seats, but now it’s available on vinyl, too. You know, in case your record collection is lacking a bit of that flannel rock that only “Even Flow,” Black,” or “Jeremy” can provide.
Wallflowers – Bringing Down the Horse
It’s been a long road since this one hit shelves in 1996. In the years since Jakob Dylan released his seminal album with The Wallflowers, he went on to carve out a decent solo career and eventually revived the Wallflowers name once again. But, nothing has matched the hit-making power of Bringing Down the Horse. It spawned three Grammy nominations and songs you’re probably still humming under your breath, like “One Headlight,” “6th Avenue Heartache,” and “Three Marlenas.”
Green Day – Dookie
Before Green Day was putting together epic political rock operas, the band was just a little ball of California punk fury. That raucous attitude came to a perfect head with Dookie, the band’s major label debut, and one of the best little punk albums of the ‘90s loaded with head-bangers like “Longview” and “Basket Case.” Green Day would go on to make plenty of fantastic records after this one, but this is the snapshot where the band went from punk up-starts to living legends.
Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
The band would eventually sputter and fall apart a bit later, but there were few alt-rock bands bigger than the ‘Pumpkins for a good run of the ‘90s. In Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Billy Corgan’s boundless, rambling ambition actually paid off with lightning in a bottle. The sprawling double album was loaded with fantastic tracks that would dominate the airwaves, including “Zero,” “Tonight, Tonight,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” “1979” and more. It’s seriously hard to fathom how many monster singles were packed on this release. The vinyl release falls on the pricier side (the cost of being a massive double album in the first place), but well worth it.
Our Lady Peace – Clumsy
The Canadian alt-rockers didn’t leave quite the legacy as some of the bigger names on this list, but regardless, few albums were better than Clumsy from top to bottom. Raine Maida’s trademark falsetto blasts through hits like “Superman’s Dead” and “Clumsy.” Beyond the singles, though, deep cuts like “
Nirvana – Nevermind
No ‘90s alt-rock list would be complete without the OG on the rundown. Nirvana’s Nevermind is an iconic work of grunge rock. It will never grow old, it will never lost punch, and it will always make you start banging your head when you hear the opening notes of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The album is largely responsible for ushering grunge and alt-rock into the mainstream, so it might be obvious, but it doesn’t make it any less awesome.
Goo Goo Dolls – Dizzy Up the Girl
Some rock fans already knew the Goo Goo Dolls before Dizzy Up the Girl, but this one turned the band into a radio and ‘90s staple. it already had great songs like “Dizzy,” “Slide,” “Broadway,” and “Black Balloon” on it — but those paled in comparison to the rollover soundtrack hit “Iris,” which became about the biggest song in the world for a hot minute when the film City of Angels was released (which itself featured a memorably weird Nic Cage performance FYI). Again, you probably have this one on cassette somewhere, but it’s high time to replace it with something fresh.