I dig it. Everyone’s tired of the Iraq mess, the American economic mess, and the mess of lightweight crap in the record stores as well. Too many messes, too little time to do anything about it. Well, that’s where handy-dandy lists, like mine, come in; they help you break clear of the chaos and head straight for the sustenance. Plus, who can live without post-rock, funk gods, and bloodthirsty zombies? That’s right, no one.

Mogwai, Happy Songs For Happy People

You can tell that Scottish post-rockers Mogwai have a thing for irony. The last album from the moody instrumentalists, entitled Rock Action, was anything but rock; their newest, cheerfully titled release (perhaps a left jab to REM's "Shiny Happy People"?) comes at a time of rampant political upheaval. Whatever. Their music, even without a preponderance of vocals, is probably the most addictive mood music you're likely to hear the rest of the year, Radiohead or no Radiohead.

Like all serious artists, Mogwai knows that words can sometimes get in the way of meaning, so their tongue-in-cheek song titles, such as "Hunted By a Freak”, most often belie the beauty and grandeur of their arrangements. For those of you who bought into the adult alternative hype of Sigur Ros, Mogwai ought to do the trick, especially since they were messing around with compelling soundscapes far before their Icelandic counterparts. But whatever your taste, there is no other band working today that can operate so visually through their music. This one is not to be missed. C'mon, get happy!

James Brown, Motherlode

The Godfather of Funk has literally released too many albums to count, and those are just the originals. So when it comes to compilations, forget it -- you might as well close your eyes and pick one. But you could do a lot worse than this potent 1988 release, culled together by producers Cliff White and Tim Rogers and reissued with a few bonus tracks to help whet your appetite.

Reissues are always a gamble, because the music industry has a good time holding material back for later release, which is a nice way of saying the album you buy today might just be reissued six years later with one new song on it. Which brings us back to Motherlode, Polydor's fond farewell to Brown, who had left the label shortly before it release. The songs here are too powerful to pass over. From the powder-keg funk of a live "There It Is" to P-Funk All-Star Bootsy Collins' turn on the freak-out masterpiece "Untitled Instrumental", Motherlode truly delivers the goods. If you're not already a Brown aficionado (why?), this release is a perfect starting point. If you are, it’s another golden nugget in your collection.

Various Artists, 28 Days Later, Official Soundtrack

Director Danny Boyle uses music like Stanley Kubrick once did: to provide not only a point of departure but also a centering force for his films. Boyle's brilliant Trainspotting used ex-druggie Iggy Pop's bouncy comeback tune, "Lust For Life", as an intro to his tale of, well, druggies trying to get clean.

But 28 Days Later, the Manchester-born auteur's reinvention of the zombie horror genre, is like nothing the director has ever done, and the soundtrack is as good an indication of this as any. It is primarily interested in atmosphere, chock full as it is of short, instrumental pieces; in that sense, it may be the only conventional thing the director has done. But there are also a few notable inclusions here, such as Grandaddy's jaunty "A.M. 180" (from 1997's Under the Western Freeway) and the underrated Blue States' ethereally strange, "Season Song". Throw in some Brian Eno tinkerings and you have one hell of a creepy accompaniment to what promises to be the year's scariest film. Listen to it underneath the blankets and whatever you do, don't open the door.


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© Melt Magazine 2003