Must Have CD's

by Scott Thill

OK, the election is over, but the recount frenzy is in full effect. If not, then I obviously shortchanged the American political system, thinking it incapable of doing something as simple as counting up the votes of its citizens. For that I apologize; unless of course I am right, in which case, nice democracy! Give the people a vote, then render it worthless. To mangle Mellencamp, ain't that America?

Anyway, no matter what remains the most important U.S. election of the past century has wrought, you're gonna need some sonic therapy to get over it all. Here's a couple of headache-killers and one desert-island disc that will transport you away from America, for a short time at least.

The Soledad Brothers, Voice of Treason

Like their buddies in The White Stripes, the Soledad Brothers front a stripped-down roots-rock revival more interested in resurrecting Howlin' Wolf and Skip James than putting out ridiculous videos on MTV. And on top of it, they've got their political heads screwed on straight. So while you're listening to toe-tapping throwbacks like the Beggars Banquet-era Stones simulacrum "Cage That Tiger" and "The Elucidator" or the John Lee Hooker-like "Lorali," you'll be partying for a good cause. Because although the Brothers wear their libertarianism on their sleeves, "Voice of Treason" (contrary to its title) is a mostly polemic-free good time. And what could be more American than that?


Earlimart, Treble and Tremble

Earlimart's Aaron Espinoza happens to be at the center of the Los Angeles arts collective known as The Ship, but his band is the one making all the headlines. And although Earlimart's earlier albums were inspired noise rock nuggets partially influenced by bands like Pixies and others, this sedate, measured effort is a far cry from those releases. Perhaps it's because Espinoza recently lost a good friend in Elliott Smith or perhaps it's just the war, but whatever it is, somber but moving meditations on love, loss and their respective ramifications like "Unintentional Tape Manipulations" and "Hold On Slow Down" are set to replace anything by Sparklehorse on the KCRW playlist. In fact, Earlimart is very close to becoming adult alternative's Next Big Thing -- and that's a good thing.


Milemarker, Anaesthetic

Although this art-punk hybrid might not exactly be desert-island disc material for those bumping whatever Top 40 is hawking these days, it should be. It really should be. Because Milemarker enjoy phreaking paradigms of any sort -- whether it be dance music, punk, poet-rock, and more -- and their various releases show it.

But Anaesthetic is a resounding triumph if only for the extended genius of "Ant Architect," and eight-minute rumination on the collision between consumerism, rampant technology and the fragile human nature both are looking to supplant. A syncopated, mostly bass-and-drums affair shot through with Siouxsie-like dread and spoken-word wisdom, "Ant Architect" is one of the most striking epics ever laid down on wax. But there are also dance-punk classics like "Shrink to Fit" and off-key jams like "The Installment Plan," both of which carry more drama than a season of CSI. Whatever your rules and conventions were for indie rock, they'll be flying out the window by the time this disc winds down. Get it now.

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© Melt Magazine 2004