If "Western Sky" and "Seventies Girl" don't turn up in Best American Short Stories of 1997, I'm demanding a recall.
Drum'n'bass that pilfers bebop and old-school samba rather than the usual fusion/groove piffle.
Straight Outta Boone County
Twenty obscure college-kid, alt.country bands covering 20 equally obscure old-time country tunes from the '40s and '50s. Sound hokey? Dern tootin'. Sounds great, too.
Dick's Pick's Volume 8
(Grateful Dead Records)
Arista's double-CD release of the band's Fillmore East 2/11/69 show was pretty psychedelic, but this mail-order-only triple-disc (see www.dead.net) represents what 'Heads have long considered among the top two or three boots ever: Harpur College, Binghamton, New York, 5/2/70. A rare acoustic set, then two hours of fierce trippin'.
Ne La Thiass
Kind of like Afro-pop lite, but a lovely acoustic session nonetheless.
Drum'n'bass as hip hop, and funk as drum'n'bass. The biggest pop crossover hit jungle never had.
The Film Music of Toru Takemitsu (Nonesuch)
Thirty years of moody Japanese impressionism from the guy who scored Kurosawa, Imamura, Oshima, and more.
A resoundingly appropriate FUCK YOU! to the techno-electronica hype by one of the founders of the genre, this brave, subversive, career-staining effort careens from Henry Rollins thrash to FSOL ambiance without apology.
Arc of the Testimony
Space jazz in silhouette. Tony Williams, RIP 1945-1997.
Psychoanalysis (What Is It?)
Ill-adjusted De La Soul mastermind opens an art-hop clinic staffed with sicko segues and hilarious genre in-jokes. A hip hop classic.
Rodrigues Sol Negro
Afro-Brazilian blues with the haunting purity of Gregorian chant. Far as I can tell, the most amazing new voice to come out of Brazil in years.
Risc Vs. Reward EP
The essential tracks by drum'n'bass's master beat micromanager. Swing, chillin'.
Come On Over
Listen: Hand to God, this is a good record. Now come to poppa.
MISSY "MISDEMEANOR" ELLIOTT
Supa Dupa Fly
"Big girls don't cry, they take all of it."
Takin' the Country Back
A country comeback from a Nashville lifer whose best song ("Somebody Slap Me") is an ode to chauvinism and whose second-best song ("Jump On It") is an advertisement for trampolines.
ROY HARGROVE'S CRISOL
A disc that's as good as its advertisement (and it was hyped a lot). The ever-exciting young trumpeter makes way for a phalanx of ace Cuban percussionists, legendary pianist Chucho Valdes, and the next superstar of the tenor sax, David Sanchez.
Modestly sweet, gently chiming pop from a trio that insinuates normal slacker hipness between the lines and occasionally brings in the horns for a faux-funk shindig that Paul Weller's Style Council would have killed for.
MARY J. BLIGE
Share My World
Her firepower and instinctive sense of phrasing reveal stupendous talent on a par with Aretha and Chaka. This is her third personal best in a row.
The best Catholic punk rock band since X.
Super Blue & Funky
Offspring of a large family of Croatian coal miners from Utah (we're not making this up), Boyack has got blues to the marrow of his genes--and guitar riffs that can expose frauds like Kid Jonny Lang with a single note.
The best new folkie of '97, Orton is a waif-like, post-rave, post-hippy Linda Thompson.
As We Are Now
The year's best jazz composer. She's got a piano style that's both commanding and collaborative, and an ace rhythm section--drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Christian McBride--to sharpen and extend the focus of her vision.
K-CI AND JOJO
Temporarily rid of Devante Swing, the Jodeci bros. discover less lewd means more sexy and that a real melody or two helps those sweat-soaked harmonies get over.
Una Mujer Como Yo
A siren from Cuba--full of shiny passion--able to inhale meringues, salsas, and cumbias.
A floppily fun French disco duo that fluked its way onto KDWB and came back with Vespa-scootin' street cred to burn.
MOUSE ON MARS
Airy techno/pop for the post-rave chillout room from Daft Punk's Kraut doppelgänger.
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN
If You're Feeling Sinister
Like the Velvets if they'd gone to a British boarding school. Along with Beth Orton's debut, this record promises a Brit folk-rock revival for the '90s. 'Bout time.
An alto saxophonist who has improved more in 10 years than any national-caliber horn player I can recall. Credit perseverance and a crucial stint with Miles Davis.
Hip hop that's mean as shit, tough as hell, cryptic, and convincing. And no "signed, big-budget muthafuckas" allowed.
Brighten the Corners
All right S.M. We called in the "grammar police." They couldn't figure this one out either.
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