The annual “Best Of” issue gets me thinking about “Best Of” albums. My first Talking Heads purchase was the excellent two-disc set, Sand in the Vaseline, and The Who’s My Generation: The Very Best Of… is playing in the C-VILLE office as I write this. My favorite recent “Best Of” purchase? The Stax Records 50th Anniversary Celebration. The one I listen to most often? Either Neil Young’s three-LP Decade, or The Replacements’ All For Nothing.
And I have bones to pick with the lot of ’em.
The face of local music? That’d be Thomas Dean, whose album art (see above) graces the covers of a load of local and regional acts.
That Who collection? No “Behind Blue Eyes.” (Try The Ultimate Collection.) I bought Sand in the Vaseline because The Best of Talking Heads didn’t have “Cross-Eyed and Painless.” I’ll thank you not to mention the horrid The Best of Radiohead comp, and can only hope the karma police made Capitol Records pay dearly for that one.
A “Best Of” album can be a barometer of fan tastes, a corporate-curated singles mix, a chronology, a zoology, your-ology or my-ology. (Apologies for the -ologies.) Like any good -ology, however, a “Best Of” compilation should be a learning experience, if not an all-inclusive one.
My favorite “Best Of” albums dig deep into back catalogues to find songs that sit well alongside popular favorites; I dug into the Feedback Catalogues to do the same here. Visit c-ville.com and add your own “Best Of” categories and picks.
Best local album art: Thomas Dean
During the last few years, Dean—the bassist for The Invisible Hand and guitarist for Order—has dashed off posters, shirts and album artwork for the likes of The Carlsonics, Nethers and The High Strung like he’s our own Raymond Pettibon. Recently, he’s hit a stride with work for both the Hand’s Four Seasons EP and Adam Brock’s Borrowed Beams of Light EP. Dean also collaborated with painter Jeremy Taylor on a non-toxic mural for the side of The Bridge/Progressive Arts Initiative (see below) earlier this year. In Dean’s work, the body’s natural curves and contours go forth and multiply, mutate and menace. We’ve got our eyes on local cover art for more of Dean’s work but, per usual, he’s got 20 eyes on the music and art in our city.
Best use of Post-its: Warren Craghead
It took two pages of a March C-VILLE cover story for Craghead to make us a 14-page book titled The Surf and The Face. But Craghead is used to wringing large spaces out of smaller ones; you can follow his Post-it graffiti at seed-toss.blogspot.com.
Best looking crowd at a rock gig: The Invisible Hand
Ah, the importance of being earnest. Among local bands, Invisible Hand has been on a tear in the last year, and you can read it in the group’s crowds—guys with cultivated stubble and Oxfords (your writer is guilty as charged, here), gals in honest-to-goodness dresses for sweaty, searing rock, all with hungry hearts and eager ears. All dressed up for a band with places to go.
Best brick wall: The Bridge/Progressive Arts Initiative
Turns out that the Downtown Mall rebricking is only the second sexiest art project performed with bricks this year. Top prize goes to the nonprofit art space for turning over its south-facing wall to local and visiting artists alike, who swapped murals during the last few months.
Best party favors: Steve Keene tapes
When former WTJU DJ and one-time local Steve Keene returned for his December exhibit at Second Street Gallery, he brought in hundreds of his methodically slapdash pop paintings, all sold for between $10 and $15. He also brought cardboard boxes filled with his old WTJU radio shows from the early ’90s, free for those gallery-hoppers eager to take home mixes from the man who painted album covers for Pavement. Personal favorite: a May ’92 show that opens with Mötley Crüe’s “Angela” and closes with a block of tunes from Stephen Malkmus and crew.
Best local hip-hop anthem: “900 Block”
Penned by Stack Boyz emcees Bandana Money and Gangsta Gill, “900 Block” blueprints the elements of recent local hip-hop—the delivery, the pace and the self-perception of the rappers. What’s more, it turned the “two up, two down” Virginia sign into a hook that spans the state but stays local: “900 Block, I’m screaming, yo/ ‘V’ to the sky, ‘A’ to the floor.”