All the News That Didn't Fit

On the Record

The Olympia Connection, Or Lack Thereof


The Numbness Is Just a Bonus

Hiphop City


Soul by the Pound


Incest is Best

The Rise and Fall of the N-Word


If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, Tell the Truth Anyway

You Don't Own Me

Summer Lovin'

Stagger Lee

Music to Lose Your Job By

Boy, You Sure Can Take the Fun Out of Music


Stuart Braithwaite From Mogwai

Going to New York City?


A Whole N'other Level

Who Says Morrissey Fans Don't Get Laid?


Not Modest Enough

Broken by Whispers
(Sub Pop)
Don't bother telling singer/songwriter Bob Wratten to snap out of it, get over it, or lighten up. Don't waste your time. It's just not going to happen. With his latest fragile and forlorn release, Wratten (formerly of Northern Picture Library and England's beloved Field Mice) is determined to show all you annoying "Hey! Look on the bright side!" types the true, deep satisfaction of comfortably dwelling -- wallowing -- in a state of melancholy. There is no bright side here. Wratten's dark, soothing cluster of songs showcase his bashful, eerily calm Brit-pop voice and bittersweet crescendos beautifully. The simple melodies, relying on patches of silence, lonely-sounding synths, and placid beats, reverberate in your head long after you've gone to bed, eyes open and head spinning in the still darkness. Inevitably, the album's perpetual state of vague sadness and obsession (from the third track, "Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise": "I think of you from time to time.../I know I never really knew you/Yet somehow, I miss you.") will start feeling tedious halfway through; songs might start sounding like overly indulgent drones and whimpers. But the next time your heart gets broken and you're shoveling a bowl of mashed potatoes into your mouth on a cold, damp Saturday night, slip in this disc and revel in the fact that somewhere, someone truly feels the ache in your chest. MIN LIAO

NO. 2
No Memory
(Chainsaw Records)
When a good band splits up and its members strike out on their own, the results almost universally fall short of the original. Which is better, Nirvana or the Foo Fighters? The Velvets or Lou Reed? Bikini Kill or Julie Ruin? Even Lennon and McCartney were pretty lousy on their own compared to what came before. Yet somehow, when Heatmiser split up, three bands were left in its wake, and there's not a Ringo in the bunch.

First, Elliott Smith found acclaim and a major label deal as a solo artist. Then Sam Coomes' band Quasi became critical darlings of the indie set. Now Neal Gust is joining the fray with a new band, No. 2, and if No Memory is any indication, he's primed to follow his ex-bandmates' successes.

Gust may not win any Academy Awards, but he knows how to write pop songs just the same. His intentions in that regard are so transparent that two of the songs on the album are simply named "Pop in C" and "Pop in A Minor." Leave it to those other two guys to be serious and introspective; Gust is just here to entertain, and he doesn't come off any worse for it. Part of that owes to the fact that Gust has written some great songs, but plenty of credit goes to the rest of No. 2 -- Gilly Ann Hanner on bass and Paul Pulvirenti on drums. They're a tight and energetic band, and they manage to make even the slow and quiet songs reasonably bouncy and fun.

No Memory somehow manages to be indie enough to stand with the rest of Chainsaw's roster, yet poppy enough that you could imagine hearing hook-laden tunes like "Practicing Your Moves" or "So Long" all over the radio, if there was such a thing as good radio. The fact that No. 2 won't be blaring from car windows all spring certainly isn't the band's fault -- this album is perfect feel-good music for driving around on a sunny day. But behind the hooks, there's enough substance to keep you coming back to No. 2 long after it gets too cold to keep the windows rolled down. MIKE VAGO

Steady Jobs & Flying Cars
(Sandwich Records)
When Brian Naubert was young, he figured by the time 2000 rolled around, he'd be living the high life -- steady job, flying car, the works. While he may still be searching for lucrative employment or an airborne motor vehicle, he and his bandmates in Ruston Mire have hit pop paydirt this year with their debut album, appropriately titled Steady Jobs & Flying Cars.

Ruston Mire, which also includes Faster Tiger's Mike Katell, a guy named Hambone, and -- on record, at least -- former Posies Dave Fox and Mike Musburger, seem to take their inspiration from another kind of Car: the Rick Ocasek version. The result is a quirky, slightly awkward, synth-trifugal force that's as smart and dispassionate as it is irresistible and fun to listen to.

In a perfect world, songs like "Monday or Forever," "Two Headed Monster," and "Superimposed" would be in endless rotation on MTV. In real life, they'll take over your stereo, causing you hours of delight. But the world is not a perfect place. And that makes Steady Jobs & Flying Cars that much more of an accomplishment. BARBARA MITCHELL