Live Show Review Mogwai Showbox Sodo

Mogwai: My ears are still ringing

Mogwai played at the Showbox Sodo on Thursday,September 4, 2008. I arrived knowing that it wouldn't be the greatest Mogwai show I'd ever seen (see related article) but was excited nonetheless. As expected, band members were milling around the venue during Fuck Buttons' opening set. Guitarist John Cummings was doing sound for Fuck Buttons, Stuart Braithwaite watched the set from the back, drummer Martin Bulloch hung out with the merch dude and jack-of-all-trades Barry Burns did time between the sound booth and the bar. No sign of bassist Dominic Aitchison, but that was pretty normal too. The crowd was larger than I expected and as usual, the male to female ratio was exceptionally high. After a short setup time, suddenly there was a high pitched, butt-rock scream to introduce the band, which I found a little jarring.

Mogwai's new album, The Hawk is Howling, drops on September 23rd and it's gonna be good, y'all. The band opened with a new track, "The Precipice." It seemed like they hadn't entirely worked out the live version of this song yet, but it was still good: Characteristic buildup but with a low-key delivery. The peak was not as staggering as with other songs in their repertoire, yet didn't disappoint. The set continued with a mix of old songs and new, making good use of sonic, sweepy lines and hypnotic landscapes. The volume during "Ithica" was downright painful at times, driving many audience members to run for cover or buy thoughtfully provided ear plugs. I'm of the "If it's too loud, you're too old" school, so I endured the pain. Ha! I always love watching Stuart play this particular song, he plays so fast he almost falls backwards. No matter how many times I've seen Mogwai, I still marvel at how human beings can produce sounds like this.

The band's delivery of their new song, "Thank You Space Expert," was very much like a lullaby to me, very tonal with what sounded like a xylophone being played, or maybe a toy piano. The audience was lulled into a false ending, then suddenly the buildup began again. The heavy stuff never really took over though, the orchestral guitar and the childlike piano just kind of walked alongside each other, and created such a beautiful effect.

One of my all-time favorite Mogwai songs is "2 Rights Make 1 Wrong," so I knew just when the opening notes kicked in. However they played a variation I'd never heard before, the vocoded parts were lengthier, the organ was a lot more heavily featured. My first reaction was to wonder why they'd mess with perfection, but I read it on the bands face – they looked a little bored, almost as if they'd rather not be playing that particular song. "2 Rights" ended with a little experimental beatboxing by Barry, who did seem to be having fun with it, and the audience definitely appreciated the effort.

This was followed by an album-quality "Hunted By A Freak" and then the always amazing and beautiful "Mogwai Fear Satan." They immediately ripped into a huge, spherical sound and I wished we could have been outside for it to fill up the sky with the weeping and wailing guitars. I wanted to scream and cry and throw up all at the same time. I was transported back to the first Mogwai show I ever saw. After the first round of madness, they reduced the sound to a pounding drum and a single, echoing note. The crowd was totally silent in anticipation until they just couldn't take it anymore and started whooping and calling out for the payoff. Even still, I don't think most people were expecting the piercing onslaught that was soon unleashed. It was wild and pugilistic and perfectly played, bright white lights blinding us and then we were plunged into darkness again as the throbbing music brought us back down to earth. And the crowd went wi-i-i-ld. Whew! I think I cried a little.

This was followed by "Batcat," another new song that had me thinking of black metal and Metallica; it was all fuzzy and scream-y. After "Come On Die Young," Mogwai attempted to play another new track, "I'm Jim Morrison and I'm Dead" but had to stop mid-song due to technical difficulties. Stuart: "I think we've upset the local witch or something. We've had quite a lot of problems tonight. But I've had a good time though and hope you have as well."

Finally, I heard the unmistakable strains of my other favorite song, "New Paths To Helicon Pt 1." It was played nicely but the band continued to have a few problems here and there. It seemed a little, well… plucky. Notes that normally stream and keen seemed singular and solitary, and a little choppy. It was still enough to put me in a hypnotic zone and the climax of the song still raged through my body like an army. Technical difficulties continued on the last two songs and you could tell how frustrated the band was at that point. I was kind of hoping to see someone throw down their guitar in disgust, but I think those days are past.

The final song was "We're No Here" and it was almost too much, the bass and the lights and the intensity; I was in a full swoon at that point. And completely deaf. The band finished off with a thundrous and wonderful and painful flourish, to the shell-shocked crowd's appreciation and then it was over. My ears are still ringing.

Imaginary Scoop Matador Records Mogwai

Mogwai: A superfan love story…

The last time I saw Mogwai, I almost lost my left foot. No joke. That was probably the best Mogwai show I've ever seen, and that's saying something. I've seen them play 16 or 17 times now. Also no joke. Ask anyone; I'm the most ridiculous, embarrassing, drooling Mogwai fan on the planet, and I'll totally fight anyone who challenges me on that point.

I found Mogwai at a time in my life when things seemed pretty bleak. I was in a zombied-out fog and was unable to feel much of anything. Enter Mogwai. The first time I saw them play live, I was totally blown away. The only Mogwai album I owned at that time was EP+2, which is a pretty mellow recording in my opinion, so I wasn't expecting the full-on audio onslaught I experienced. My blood began to pump again. I began to live life on a steady diet of Mogwai. The music became a substitute for my heartbeat. It kept me upright. It was as if I was teetering on the edge of a cliff, Mogwai playing on the ground far below. When I let myself go over the edge, the volume and ferociousness of the music kept me afloat and then gently brought me back down to earth. I owe a lot to Mogwai. They helped bring me back to life.

Don't ask me about the first time I met Stuart Braithwaite. I think it's often better to never meet your musical idols. It was easily one of the worst and most humiliating nights of my life, although I can laugh about it now. I've since met most members of the band on a few occasions and managed to maintain a little more dignity than that first time.

For the next nine years, I proceeded to collect as much Mogwai-related crap I could get my hands on. eBay became my best friend. I own rare 7-inch splits on colored vinyl, "number 1" album pressings, press kits, out-of-print tour singles, autographed set lists, videotaped shows I can't even watch because they were in the European PAL format, Mogwai commemorative earplugs. I toyed with they idea of buying the drummer's pacemaker when it was for sale on eBay. I have the Mogwai Young Team logo tattooed on my neck. I've made lasting friendships with people all over the world that were based on our love for Mogwai. I've traveled to four different states and three different countries to see them play.

Enter the story of my left foot. I went to see Mogwai play at the Connect Festival outside of their home town of Glasgow. A small cut on my foot on the first day of the festival turned into the most gnarly staph infection you've ever seen. I thought it was just a really bad blister but it proceeded to grow larger and more painfully infected. Still, I waited until after seeing what was easily the best Mogwai show I've ever seen before getting medical attention. I had to be taken out of the festival in an ambulance. Shut up.

I used to be able to easily rattle off any of their obscure song titles, the album each song was on, the year it was recorded. I devoured all Mogwai news and monitored their website and the BrightLight! bulletin board regularly. In short, If Mogwai took a crap, I knew about it. But in recent years, my fanatacism has cooled somewhat. Not because the band has changed, but because I have changed. I've long since given up on the childish dream of getting married to any of the band members (well, almost) or on writing a film specifically for them to score. I don't have a fervent need to own every tiny piece of flotsam that floats past.

I still love Mogwai. I love what they've become. I love that they alone have spawned a genre of music that now includes Explosions in the Sky, Mono, Lebanon, This Will Destroy You, Kinski and countless others. I love that they continue to create (the new album comes out on 9/23/08) and collaborate with various artists. I'll continue to keep an eye on their careers and various side projects. But I don't think I need to lose a limb anymore to prove my love. They don't need it either.

{Heather just saw Mogwai again in Seattle. The review is coming soon. We can confirm no limbs were lost at the show.}

Billy Joel Bob Dylan Imaginary Scoop Mogwai Pinback The Knife

Dusting off the old albums

With the mediocre (at best) new releases we’ve had over the last few weeks, I find myself dusting off albums I haven’t listened to in a while. In high rotation currently are (in no particular order):

  • Bob Dylan Bringing It All Back Home
  • Pinback Summer in Abadon
  • Mogwai Zidane soundtrack
  • The Knife Deep Cuts
  • Billy Joel Greatest Hits Volumes 1 & 2

I keep pulling Danzig II off the rack but it hasn’t made it to the CD player yet. Even new releases as bad as we’ve had can’t bring me back to 1995 metal. Anything good you’re in the process of rediscovering?

Mogwai Play It Again Sam Record Review

Original Soundtrack to 'Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait'

I’m not really sure who closely our loyal TIG readers follow the comings-and-goings of international soccer (“football” to the rest of you non-Americans). My guess is that the level of fanatic devotion to the sport is somewhere between zero and none. I could be wrong, but in terms of international soccer stars that the average American – heck, even a casual soccer fan – could only probably name guys like David Beckham, Ronaldinho, maybe Wayne Rooney, and possibly the former star of the French national team, Zinedine Zidane.

Now, I suppose I shouldn’t blame anyone for not keeping track of the Bundesliga or the British Premier League or the like, but you should at least have the same visceral reaction I had when presented with the idea that Mogwai was going to do the soundtrack to a movie about Zinedine Zidane. I mean, fast moving soccer player and Mogwai seem to go together like playing Tori Amos to soundtrack a film about Shaun Alexander. However, here we are, discussing music from a documentary about the French footballer with the famous temper written by a bunch of moody Scots who once recorded in the “Castle of Doom.”

It might not be a match made in heaven, but Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait is a fun exercise in musical conflict. Now, I suppose I should admit right off that I have yet to see this film. Should that matter when examining the music? Probably not, but it leaves me having trouble imagining how the music of Mogwai could mesh with a movie about soccer. Sure, most Americans think of soccer as a slow, boring sport, but well, they’re totally, utterly and magnificently wrong, so we find ourselves back at the beginning, trying to match soccer highlights with modern day dirges. And dirges they are. “Black Spider” starts like a modern rock band stuck in molasses, but then again, that is what we like about Mogwai – the slow, luxurious building of thick, textured melody. If that is what you are after, than Zidane is right up your alley. “Terrific Speech” and “Time and a Half” sound like a funeral marches for a returning (and dead) hero, bleak and melancholy, while “7:25” has a little more hope to it, sounding more like something you can recover from an injury to. Some of the album is definitely designed as backing music, tracks like “Wake Up and Go Berserk” or “Half Time” adding mood to a scene rather than existing as its own entirely. “Half Time” especially comes across almost like a Sigur Ros composition. Things, do get a little out of hand, though, on “Black Spider 2” that clocks in at over thirty minutes, which is overindulgent even for noise purveyors like Mogwai.

Maybe Mogwai has found its new niche – they’ve penned or helped penned music for two movies this year: Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait and Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain. The Mogwai formula really doesn’t change that much between their studio recordings and these soundtrack sojourns, although you feel that they know they’re background fodder here. Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait doesn’t really offer us much new from the band, but its you’re a connoisseur of Mogwai, then you’ll enjoy it. Just don’t expect to hear it at the stadium.

Clint Mansell Kronos Quartet Mogwai Nonesuch Record Review

Original Soundtrack to The Fountain

If you’re really looking for independent music stars, you need look no further than the Kronos Quartet. They are the alternative rock stars of the chamber music scene. All the cool kids love them and their avante garde schemes, from collaborating with Chinese musicians like Wu-Man to creating cacophonous tributes to a former FBI chief (“Sing! Sing! J. Edgar Hoover”) to being Philip Glass’ favored musicians.

However, now they are projecting themselves into modern rock (well, depending on how you want to define it), finding themselves working with Amon Tobin and Clint Mansell (formerly of Pop Will Eat Itself). Their collaboration with Mansell comes in the form of the score of Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain and finds themselves mixing up with Mogwai while they’re at it with surprisingly invigorating results.

Clint Mansell has converted himself from early 90’s rap-dance-rock pioneer of the much-underappreciated Pop Will Eat Itself to the personal composer for Darren Aronofsky, starting with the electronic soundtrack of Pi to his first collaboration with the Kronos Quartet for Requiem for a Dream to a truly movie-score-like album for the sci-fi love story The Fountain. The dark mood of the film is reflected in the somber, dirge melodies created by Mansell, the Kronos Quartet and Mogwai (who fittingly recorded their portions of the score in “the Castle of Doom”).

If you’re looking for uplifting music, this is not the place to start. Instead what you get deep, resonant tones, hushed vocals, scratched and scraped guitar strings and ominous string arrangements that hover over the horizon like a pall of death. What works out so beautifully is the mixing of Mansell’s slow, pained melodies with the string work of the Kronos Quartet. Just hearing the opener “The Last Man,” you know you’re not going to be enjoying a light-hearted romp. Instead the sonorous quality of the Kronos Quartet mimics the hurt of the film (and of course, points out the biggest difficultly of reviewing a score – how do you talk about it as an independent work and surprising, many aspects of The Fountain work well as their own pieces). “Holy Dread!” as the name implies, is a death march if ever you heard one, with pounding kettle drums mixed underneath the resonant cellos and grunted choral work, while “Tree of Life” picks up the pace some and in that sense I mean that instead you feel like you might be getting hunted down by a demon to this music.

Where The Fountain works its best is where all three corners, Mansell, Kronos and Mogwai, all play a part. In those moments, a fury of sorrow seems to be created, reaching into a Dante’s Inferno to pull back out a mix of howling strings, booming drums and mournful melody that meld together perfectly, such as towards the end of “First Snow” or throughout “Death is the Road to Awe” (yes, uplifting titles) where it becomes obvious that these artists were meant to collaborate at some point (and you really wonder how Clint made it from PWEI to here in only a few steps).

The Fountain is not for everyone, it acts much more like a classic movie score than your typical modern rock album, but the moods created by the trio at work for most of the tracks are moving and beautiful. If you need a launching pad to begin to delve into some less rock-oriented artists like the Kronos Quartet, this might be a good place to start – you can comfort yourself in know that Mogwai and Clint are there to keep you company, but you can also sit back and enjoy (well, maybe enjoy isn’t the word as much as be absorbed by) the textured strings of the Kronos Quartet. It is definitely something for which a chance is clearly worth taking.

All Girl Summer Fun Band ballboy Blur Broadcast Caesars Cat Power Clearlake Crooked Fingers Dandy Warhols Dear John Letters Death Cab for Cutie Downpilot Heather Duby Idlewild Imaginary Scoop Kaito Massive Attack Mogwai Nada Surf New Pornographers Okkervil River Outkast stellastarr* Sushirobo The Divorce The Earaches The Fitness The Lights The Long Winters The Malinks The Postal Service The Primate Five The Shins The Thermals The White Stripes Visqueen Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Best of 2003: Imaginary Staffers Top 10 Lists

Char, Imaginary Girl

  • All Girl Summer Fun Band, “2”
  • Death Cab for Cutie, “Transatlanticism”
  • Massive Attack, “100th Window”
  • Outkast, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”
  • Stellastarr*, “Stellastarr*”
  • The Dandy Warhols, “Welcome To The Monkey House”
  • The Fitness, “Call Me for Together”
  • The Postal Service, “Give Up”
  • Various Artists, “Lost in Translation” Soundtrack
  • Visqueen, “King Me”
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Fever To Tell”

Dana, Imaginary Girl

  1. Nada Surf , “Let Go” &
    The Postal Service, “Give Up”
  2. The Thermals, “More Parts Per Million”
  3. The Long Winters, “When I Pretend To Fall” &
    Visqueen, “King Me”
  4. The Shins, “Chutes Too Narrow”
  5. The Divorce, “There Will Be Blood Tonight” &
    The Lights, “Beautiful Bird”
  6. Idlewild, “The Remote Part”
  7. Mogwai, “Happy Songs for Happy People”
  8. Dear John Letters, “Stories of our Lives”
  9. Heather Duby, “Come Across the River”
  10. The Malinks, “Can’t Shake Last Night” &
    Downpilot, “Leaving Not Arriving”

Liz, Imaginary Girl

  1. The Thermals, “More Parts Per Million”
  2. The Divorce, “There Will Be Blood Tonight” &
    Ballboy, “Guide for the Daylight Hours”
  3. Visqueen, “King Me” &
    The Long Winters, “When I Pretend To Fall” &
    Idlewild, “The Remote Part”
  4. Stellastarr*, “Stellastarr*”
  5. Clearlake, “Cedars” &
    Okkervil River, “Down the River of Golden Dreams”
  6. The Decemberists, “Her Majesty, the Decemberists”
  7. The White Stripes, “Elephant”
  8. The Postal Service, “Give Up”
  9. The Shins, “Chutes Too Narrow”
  10. Caesars, “39 Minutes of Bliss (In an Otherwise Meaningless World)”

Chilly C, Imaginary Boy

  1. The Primate Five, “1234567APE”
  2. The New Pornographers, “Electric Version”
  3. The Earaches, “Fist Fights, Hot Love”
  4. Blur, “Think Tank”
  5. The Divorce, “There Will Be Blood Tonight”
  6. Cat Power, “You Are Free
  7. Belle & Sebastian, “Dear Catastrophe Waitress”
  8. !!!, “Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard: True Story” (EP)
  9. Sushirobo, “The Light Fingered Feeling of Sushirobo”
  10. Stellastarr*, “Stellastarr*”

embracey, Imaginary Boy Film~Theatre Critic

  1. Broadcast “Haha Sound”
  2. Various Artists, “Lost in Translation” Soundtrack
  3. Various Artists, “Morvern Callar” Soundtrack
  4. Beth Gibbons & Rustin’ Man “Out of Season”
  5. Death Cab for Cutie, “Transatlanticism”
  6. The Dandy Warhols, “Welcome To The Monkey House”
  7. Gillian Welch, “Soul Journey”
  8. Tipper, “Surrounded”
  9. Cat Power, “You Are Free
  10. Lucinda Williams, “World Without Tears”

Imaginary Chapman Boy

  1. The Strokes, “Room On Fire”
  2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Fever To Tell”
  3. The Libertines, “Up the Bracket”
  4. Outkast, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”
  5. The Postal Service, “Give Up”
  6. Death Cab for Cutie, “Transatlanticism”
  7. The Rapture, “Echoes”
  8. Junior Senior, “D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop the Beat”
  9. The Raveonettes, “Chain Gang of Love”
  10. Broken Social Scene, “You Forgot It In People”

Imaginary Lorenzo

  • Death Cab for Cutie, “Transatlanticism”
  • Junior Senior, “D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop the Beat”
  • Menomena, “I Am the Fun Blame Monster!”
  • Rufus Wainwright, “Want One”
  • The Long Winters, “When I Pretend To Fall”
  • The Postal Service, “Give Up”
  • united state of electronica, “demos”
  • Various Artists, “Wig In a Box” Compilation
  • Visqueen, “King Me”

Jake Barnes, Fictional Lost Generation Character

  1. Kaito, “Band-Red”
  2. American Analog Set, “Promise of Love”
  3. Rachel’s, “Systems/Layers”
  4. The Postal Service, “Give Up”
  5. Cat Power, “You Are Free
  6. British Sea Power, “Decline of British Sea Power”
  7. Cinerama, “Cinerama Holiday”
  8. Beth Gibbons & Rustin’ Man “Out of Season”
  9. Longwave, “The Strangest Things”
  10. Innocence Mission, “Befriended”

Michael X, Imaginary Boy

  1. Dead Meadow, “Shivering King and Others”
  2. Kinski, “Airs Above Your Station”
  3. A Perfect Circle, “Thirteenth Step”
  4. Massive Attack, “100th Window”
  5. Radiohead, “Hail To The Thief”
  6. Mogwai, “Happy Songs for Happy People”
  7. American Analog Set, “Promise of Love”
  8. Mono, “One Step More and You Die”
  9. The Ruby Doe, “Dream Engine Blue”
  10. Los Halos, “Leaving Va.”

Ryan Schierling, Photographer

  1. The Long Winters, “When I Pretend To Fall”
  2. Idlewild, “The Remote Part”
  3. The Weakerthans, “Reconstruction Site”
  4. The Postal Service, “Give Up”
  5. Visqueen, “King Me”
  6. The Decemberists, “Her Majesty, the Decemberists”
  7. Nada Surf, “Let Go”
  8. The Thermals, “More Parts Per Million”
  9. Dischord (compilation), “20 Years Of Dischord”
  10. An American Starlet, “3 Song EP”

sero(tone)in, Imaginary Boy Events Expert

  1. Crooked Fingers, “Red Devil Dawn”
  2. Idlewild, “The Remote Part”
  3. The Decemberists, “Her Majesty, the Decemberists”
  4. Broken Social Scene, “You Forgot It In People”
  5. The Wrens, “The Meadowlands”
  6. The Pernice Brothers, “Yours Mine & Ours”
  7. Kaito, “Band-Red”
  8. Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, “Hearts of Oak”
  9. Aereogramme, “Sleep and Release”
  10. Songs: Ohia, “Magnolia Electric Co.”

Trix, Imaginary Correspondent

  1. Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, “Hearts of Oak”
  2. The Shins, “Chutes Too Narrow”
  3. The Thermals, “More Parts Per Million”
  4. The New Pornographers, “Electric Version”
  5. The Wrens, “The Meadowlands”
  6. The Notwist, “Neon Golden”
  7. The Postal Service, “Give Up”
  8. The Decemberists, “Her Majesty, The Decemberists”
  9. Stellastarr*, “Stellastarr*”
  10. Dirtbike Annie, “Show Us Your Demons”

return to the full 2003 recap

Audioslave Belle & Sebastian British Sea Power Broadcast Cat Power Crooked Fingers Dead Meadow Idlewild Imaginary Scoop Kaito Martina Topley-Bird Mogwai Mojave 3 Nada Surf Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Outkast Radiohead Sleepy Jackson Sloan Smog Ted Leo & the Pharmacists The Bad Plus The Dears The Decemberists The Delgados The Divorce The Long Winters The Malinks The Mars Volta The Postal Service The Primate Five The Rapture The Shins The Strokes The White Stripes Wonderful

Best of 2003: Your #1 Album Picks of the Year

Although some folks couldn’t rank their lists {igChar}… which is fine… you know… if you just can’t bear to proclaim to the world, “THIS WAS THE BEST FUCKING ALBUM OF THE YEAR!!!” but some of us could. And albums that have such an exclamation bestowed on them deserve a special note. So here they are… the albums that our voters deemed “THE BEST FUCKING ALBUM OF THE YEAR!”

These albums all received at least one #1 vote:

  • Outkast, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” *
  • The Postal Service, “Give Up” *
  • Radiohead, “Hail To The Thief” *
  • The Strokes, “Room On Fire” *
  • The White Stripes, “Elephant” *
  • Wonderful, “God Bless Our Pad” *
  • Audioslave, “Audioslave”
  • The Bad Plus “These are the Vistas”
  • Belle & Sebastian, “Dear Catastrophe Waitress”
  • British Sea Power, “Decline of British Sea Power”
  • Broadcast “Haha Sound”
  • Cat Power, “You Are Free
  • Coil, “The Key to Joy is Disobedience (limited box set)”
  • Crooked Fingers, “Red Devil Dawn”
  • Dead Meadow, “Shivering King and Others”
  • The Dears, “No Cities Left”
  • The Decemberists, “Castaways and Cutouts”
  • The Delgados, “Hate”
  • The Divorce, “There Will Be Blood Tonight”
  • The Drive-By Truckers, “Decoration Day”
  • Eddie Izzard, “Circle (live)”
  • The Flaming Lips, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”
  • Four Tet, “Rounds”
  • Holopaw, “Holopaw”
  • Idlewild, “The Remote Part”
  • Kaito, “Band-Red”
  • Led Zeppelin, DVD {This voter explains, “No album release came close to the monumental Zeppelin DVD package”}
  • The Long Winters, “When I Pretend To Fall”
  • The Malinks, “Can’t Shake Last Night”
  • The Mars Volta, “De-Loused in the Comatorium”
  • Martina Topley-Bird, Quixotic”
  • Mogwai, “Happy Songs for Happy People”
  • Mojave 3, “Spoon & Rafter”
  • Nada Surf , “Let Go”
  • Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “Nocturama”
  • The Primate Five, “1234567APE”
  • The Rapture, “Echoes”
  • The Shins, “Chutes Too Narrow”
  • Sleepy Jackson, “Lovers”
  • Sloan, “Action Pact”
  • Smog, “Supper”
  • Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, “Hearts of Oak”
  • The Thermals, “More Parts Per Million”
  • Triple R, “Friends”
  • Twilight Singers, “Blackberry Belle”
  • Visqueen, “King Me”
  • The Wrens, “The Meadowlands”

* Denotes more than one #1 rating received.

return to the full 2003 recap

American Analog Set Basement Jaxx Belle & Sebastian Black Rebel Motorcycle Club British Sea Power Cat Power Clearlake Cursive Gillian Welch Grandaddy Idlewild Imaginary Scoop Junior Senior Los Halos Massive Attack Mogwai My Morning Jacket Nada Surf Smog Sun Kil Moon Ted Leo & the Pharmacists The Aislers Set The Darkness The Delgados The Hiden Cameras The Jayhawks The Lights The Mars Volta The Rapture The Strokes The Thrills The Twilight Singers The Wrens Visqueen Wonderful

Best of 2003: Top 100 Imaginary Albums of the Year

You voted, and we tabulated. Now you can print and clip the top 100 imaginary albums of the year list for your post-holiday-gift-certificate shopping pleasure…

  1. The Postal Service, “Give Up”
  2. The Shins, “Chutes Too Narrow”
  3. Death Cab for Cutie, “Transatlanticism”
  4. Radiohead, “Hail To The Thief”
  5. Outkast, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”
  6. The White Stripes, “Elephant”
  7. The Long Winters, “When I Pretend To Fall”
  8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Fever to Tell”
  9. The New Pornographers, “Electric Version”
  10. The Decemberists, “Her Majesty, the Decemberists”
  11. The Strokes, “Room On Fire”
  12. The Wrens, “The Meadowlands”
  13. The Divorce, “There Will Be Blood Tonight”
  14. Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, “Hearts of Oak”
  15. Nada Surf, “Let Go”
  16. Visqueen, “King Me”
  17. Idlewild, “The Remote Part”
  18. Junior Senior, “D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop the Beat”
  19. Cat Power, “You Are Free
  20. Belle & Sebastian, “Dear Catastrophe Waitress”
  21. The Rapture, “Echoes”
  22. The Darkness, “Permission to Land”
  23. The Thermals, “More Parts Per Million”
  24. The Dandy Warhols, “Welcome To The Monkey House”
  25. The Lights, “Beautiful Bird”
  26. Stellastarr*, “Stellastarr*”
  27. Various Artists, “Lost in Translation” Soundtrack
  28. Massive Attack, “100th Window”
  29. The Mars Volta, “De-Loused in the Comatorium”
  30. Wonderful, “God Bless Our Pad”
  31. British Sea Power, “Decline of British Sea Power”
  32. The Delgados, “Hate”
  33. Jayhawks, “Rainy Day Music”
  34. Los Halos, “Leaving Va.”
  35. Mogwai, “Happy Songs for Happy People”
  36. My Morning Jacket, “It Still Moves”
  37. The Aislers Set, “How I Learned to Write Backwards”
  38. The Thrills, “So Much for the City”
  39. Kaito, “Band-Red”
  40. Basement Jaxx, “Kish Kash”
  41. Gillian Welch, “Soul Journey”
  42. Grandaddy, “Sumday”
  43. The Decemberists, “Castaways and Cutouts”
  44. Twilight Singers, “Blackberry Belle”
  45. Sun Kil Moon, “Ghosts of the Great Highway”
  46. American Analog Set, “Promise of Love”
  47. Damien Jurado, “Where Shall You Take Me?”
  48. The Hidden Cameras,”The Smell Of Their Own”
  49. Cursive, “The Ugly Organ”
  50. Clearlake, “Cedars”
  51. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, “Take Them On, On Your Own”
  52. Mojave 3, “Spoon & Rafter”
  53. Rufus Wainwright, “Want One”
  54. Calexico, “Feast of Wire”
  55. Crooked Fingers, “Red Devil Dawn”
  56. Sleepy Jackson, “Lovers”
  57. Fountains Of Wayne, “Welcome Interstate Managers”
  58. Manitoba, “Up in Flames”
  59. Pretty Girls Make Graves, “New Romance”
  60. Andrew Bird, “Weather Systems”
  61. Johnny Cash, “Unearthed”
  62. The Libertines, “Up the Bracket”
  63. The Paybacks, “Knock Loud”
  64. Broadcast “Haha Sound”
  65. Deerhoof, “Apple ‘O”
  66. Menomena, “I Am the Fun Blame Monster!”
  67. Fanny Pack,”So Stylistic”
  68. Jet, “Get Born”
  69. Kinky, “Atlas”
  70. The Notwist, “Neon Golden”
  71. Broken Social Scene, “You Forgot It In People”
  72. Ed Harcourt, “From Every Sphere”
  73. Exploding Hearts, “Guitar Romantic”
  74. The Kills, “Keep On Your Mean Side”
  75. Blur, “Think Tank”
  76. Four Tet, “Rounds”
  77. Kings of Leon, “Youth & Young Manhood”
  78. The Drive-By Truckers, “Decoration Day”
  79. The Minus 5, “Down With Wilco”
  80. The Orb, “Bicycles and Tricycles”
  81. Downpilot, “Leaving Not Arriving”
  82. Longwave, “The Strangest Things”
  83. Okkervil River, “Down the River of Golden Dreams”
  84. The Malinks, “Can’t Shake Last Night”
  85. The Stills, “Logic Will Break Your Heart”
  86. United State of Electronica, “Demo”
  87. Guided By Voices, “Earthquake Glue”
  88. Anna Oxygen, “All Your Faded Things”
  89. Beth Gibbons & Rustin’ Man “Out of Season”
  90. Dead Meadow, “Shivering King and Others”
  91. Martina Topley-Bird, Quixotic”
  92. Rachel’s, “Systems/Layers”
  93. The Fitness,”Call Me for Together”
  94. The Primate Five, “1234567APE”
  95. Triple R, “Friends”
  96. Holopaw, “Holopaw”
  97. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “Nocturama”
  98. Smog, “Supper”
  99. The Bad Plus, “These are the Vistas”
  100. The Gossip,”Movement”
Interview Mogwai

Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai

I'm sure you've heard that Seattle is the Coffee Capitol of the known universe, so I have to ask: Do you drink coffee? And if so, what is your favorite coffee drink?
Oh, probably a mocha. People in Scotland aren't that precious about their coffee. Most people just drink instant coffee.

Right down to business. Are you upset with America right now?
Oh, I don't know. I don't think it's reasonable to criticize a whole country.

Why not? We do it all the time.
Yeah, it's not really America's fault there are one or two problems with their foreign policy.

I notice that in every interview, something comes up about your adverse relationship with Blur. Really, all I want to know is how you feel about having something in common with Oasis.
Good. I like Oasis. They're decent fellas. They can really put 'em back, too.

Are you going to sing tonight?
No, I don't really do that any more.

So you're finished singing forever?
Pretty much. It's not really in our nature to step up to the mic.

You have a solid reputation as the loudest band in the world. How long do you think you'll be able to continue that?
I don't think we've been as loud recently as we have been in the past, to be honest about it. We're not really concentrating as much on the volume anymore.

How long before you take the Eric Clapton route and rewrite your songs for the acoustic set?
I don't think we'll ever do that. Although we used to do it when we first started. We only had five or six songs, so we used to play them twice – play them quiet and then play them loud. After awhile I think we finally realized how atrocious that was. There was one song that was quiet and loud, so we played it once slow and once fast.

So what's the set like now? Do you just play the songs straight up or are there a lot of changes?
We expand things quite a bit. There are a couple of songs on the new album that are pretty computerized, so we have to change them quite a bit. Everything changes a bit when you play it live. I don't really trust bands that can completely reproduce a record – I think that's a bit creepy.

There's currently a lot of debate surrounding increased use of independent music in commercials. "Summer" was in a Levi's commercial this year. How'd you end up in a Levi's commercial?
They just asked us. We actually only got paid for it last week.

A lot?
Not really. Not as much as you'd think.

So what are your guidelines for letting people use your music?
We usually just let them. We actually said no to somebody today; I think that's the first time we've ever done that. It was someone making a film, but it wasn't a very good film. But we usually just say yes.

We're not precious about it. And I certainly don't think there's anything wrong with putting your music in an advert. I've got friends in more commercial bands that are a bit extreme about it, but I just think it's a good way to expose people to your music. Not everyone hangs about indie record shops and buys fanzines.

Looks like we have time for one more question before you have to start preparing for your aural assault: You're on stage, and you find out the world is about to end; you have time for one more song. What do you play?
Who's the guy who wrote the opera that lasted for 81 years? I'd probably do that. Either that or "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

Live Show Review Mogwai The Showbox


(Note to reader: the original draft of this review read simply, "Mogwai kicked so much fucking ass I'm still wetting my pants." However, in the interest of giving something back to the community, I have composed this expanded version, replete with second-rate thoughts that can't even begin to compare to the unique sensation of soiling oneself in pure, unadulterated bliss.)

There was a time when a review of a Mogwai show would sound like a broken record: "They started out with a song that was real quiet and then it got real loud. The second song was quiet with patches of loud. Then they played a real loud song that all of a sudden got quiet." And while there was nothing wrong with Mogwai doing that (considering that their version of instrumental rock & roll madness provided the foundation for most of the post-rock splayed on the edges of the current indie scene), there certainly comes a point in every artist's career when something has got to give.

And give generously they have. Hearkening eerily back to the early days of the band, when they used to expand their set by playing two different versions of each song, one soft and one loud, Mogwai have come full circle to prove that volume does not equal intensity. "Rock Action" and "Happy Music for Happy People," the band's two most recent offerings, have brought to light a kinder, gentler Mogwai, one that revels in the deep satisfaction of lush soundscapes more than the quick fix of sonic explosion. Live, this maturation is at times more shocking than the sudden wall of noise in the older material.

It's comforting to see Mogwai now that they are in that stage of their career that they can draw from an extensive catalogue of the now-wildly-diverse offerings that defy all critical attempts at slapping a label on the band. Early in the set, progressive but tempered numbers like "Hunted by a Freak" and "I Know You Are But What Am I?" built, constructed with layer upon layer of distinct sound templates, a tension that was not fully released until the distortion pedals were kicked, the lighting went all red, and "Mogwai Fear Satan" closed out the night, finally washing over the entire crowd with the Legendary Wall of Noise that is reputedly the loudest in the world (that was when I wet my pants).

After the show, my friend Adam was overheard saying, "That set was just ridiculous. It's just unfair to anyone who wasn't here." I think that about sums it up.