10. Junior Senior — D-D-Don’t Stop the Beat
These kitschy Danes were apparently an important transitional moment for a generation of uptight indie kids in overcoming dancephobia. For the rest of us, they were just fun fun fun, self-conscious but never self-serious, whether outlining their statement of purpose on “White Trash,” treating sexual orientation as a chummy joke on “Chicks and Dicks,” or instructing you what to do with your feet and/or coconuts. Jesper Mortensen and Jeppe Laursen never developed the wild junk-shop range of the B-52s. But at a time when a standard sex shtick was to gross us out, they played their sleaze for a different kind of gag.
9. Ramiro Musotto — Sudaka
The title’s an anti-immigrant slur, recontextualized as neatly as the field recordings that the Argentine-born, Brazil-based Musotto accumulates and tweaks. The best ethno-techno typically thrives on the tension between electronic and acoustic, but Musotto places both elements in harmony. He identifies with the junkman whose patter he captures on “Botellero” because he’s got a thing for the cast-off and humble: the burble of street commerce, Indian warrior cries, ceremonial spirit chants, Brazilian percussion, even a little masterful twiddling of his own on the single-stringed berimbau. After a lesser follow-up, Civilizaco & Barbarye, Musotto died of pancreatic cancer last year, at 45.
8. Bubba Sparxxx — Deliverance
Warren Mathis’ hick-hop persona would have been rewarding enough as a mere excuse for Timbaland to scoop up samples from the Yonder Mountain String Band or Area Code 615. But as current events set those of us in the NE Corridor scouting for southern men who’d kept their heads amidst the down home jingo jingles of ’03, Bubba proved a decent fair weather ally–clever, good-natured, funky. Can’t expect consistency from any good ol’ boy who admits “loved some Jimmy Carter but we never even voted,” and he went on to bigger-not-greater things with the goofy-fun “Ms. New Booty.” But having greatness thrust upon him was good for his art. So was Timbaland.
7. Yo La Tengo — Summer Sun
Introducing that wondrous rarity, the underrated Yo La Tengo album. Maybe your willingness to eavesdrop on the less discordant interplay between Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley depends on how beguiling you find their marriage as a symbol, but like Ira told the kids once: If it’s too quiet, you’re too young. With a classy cache of avant-savants–Daniel Carter, Roy Campbell Jr, Sabir Mateen, William Parker–supplementing bassist James McNew, “Georgia Vs. Yo La Tengo” and “Let’s Be Still” are genuinely improvisational where more vaunted (and noisier) projects noodle and nod. Probably the only indie rock band whose jazz record I’d anticipate, flutes and all.
6. KaitO U.K. — Band Red
Coed quartet submits to brief tune spasms, records maybe 30 songs, deserves more attention, disappears. Not to be confused with the similarly named electronics firm or similarly named Japanese DJ. Also not to be confused with retro-grrrl Erase Errata or twee-prog Deerhoof, both lacking the inspired amateurism of these art-punk tantrums. RIYL LiLiPUT half as much as frontwoman Nikki Colk. Or electric guitars.