A National Hero.

Friends, I feel like we need to take a break for a second.  Let’s pause to honor a man, a man who can influence millions with nothing but blind arrogance and sheer force of will.  I speak of J. Jonah Jameson, Editor in Chief of the Daily Bugle, Mayor of New York, proud father of a werewolf astronaut, reluctant employer of that lousy Parker kid, and the greatest supporting character ever, or at least in comics.

Let’s give it up for the eternally hilarious JJJ.  Best attitude ever.  What a champ.

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More comics.

I’ll be reviewing some more comics today, just stuff that came out over the last couple of weeks.  We’ve got quite a batch to get through, so sit back, settle in, and enjoy the ride.  We’ll start with Captain America.

1. Captain America was incredible.  A thrilling conclusion to the best story Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting have done since Bucky Barnes took up the shield.  “The Trial of Captain America” is also fairly accessible as far as Brubaker comics go.  He’s got a tendency to do a lot of two year epics with everything weaving together, but this one functions great by itself.  Butch Guice’s art helps bridge the mythology gap.  This is some really dynamic art.  The flow’s perfect.


2. Heroes for Hire was a little slow and a touch too predictable.  For a guy who really impressed with the fight scenes in the first three issues, Brad Walker’s handling of Misty Knight’s coma-dreamworld is conventionally dull.  White mist everywhere, kids with skulls for faces.  Been there, done that.  The writing fares better.  Abnett and Lanning have a nice handling of The Puppet Master.  I never thought he made for an interesting Fantastic Four villain, but he works well in a room full of (relatively) normal people.  The waking world scenes with him are the best part of the book.  The dream sequence isn’t awful, it’s just drawn out.  It’s the weakest issue of the series yet, but it certainly looks like things are going to happen next month. I believe in Heroes for Hire.

3. The Amazing Spider-Man #655

I might be being a little harsh on Heroes for Hire due to the work Marcos Martin’s putting in on Amazing Spider-man.  Really, Martin should be drawing Spider-Man every month.  His style just works so much better than the other artists working with Dan Slott right now.  I enjoyed the beginning of “Big Time” but I feel like it got hokey a little too fast.  Peter Parker’s always worked great getting shat upon, so a sudden influx of success seemed intriguing.  After the one issue turnaround, the next few spun wheels in all the soap opera shit, and if you’re writing a Spider-Man comic, you gotta keep the Soap opera shit moving.  Having him inner-monologue about how fuckin swell everything is gets gratingly cheesy.  Humberto Ramos’s Scorpion and Hobgoblin redesigns were also depressingly ugly.

And don’t get me started on this thing.

So extreme, ya gotta spell it X-treme.

I realize suspension of disbelief plays an important role here, but it’s impossible to take anything seriously when the bad guy looks like a Power Ranger villain.  I didn’t get past that first Alistair Smythe issue, but then I saw somebody died so I went back and thumbed through last month’s, which brings us up to speed…

The second half of the story is a dream sequence that Marcos Martin handles with expected aplomb.  This is what I was talking about with Heroes for Hire.  However, equally as good, if not better, is the comic’s first half.  In Issue 655, Peter Parker and J Jonah Jameson go to the funeral of Marla Jameson, Jonah’s wife recently murdered by the Scorpion while wearing a ridiculously stupid costume, which kind of makes it more tragic.  Its pretty Jonah centric and Martin can really get to the heart of a depressed man better than any of the more realistic artists or the hyper-exaggerated cartoony guys like Humberto Ramos or Chris Bachalo.  Being the greatest comic relief in comics, ever, JJJ’s always been a great foil to every other character in the Spider-Man universe.  The sight of Jonah beat down in the face of tragedy is depressing in a very realistic way. In a movie, Jonah’s story would eventually end, but in a serialized format, he has to keep going, keep striving against the unseen hands ruining his life.

4. Meanwhile, Andy Diggle continues giving up in the pages of Daredevil: Reborn.  It’s a damn shame.  The first arc of his run was intriguing, but it got bland fast and this miniseries is even blander.  Shadowland was passable if you’d never read a comic book crossover before but this one should be identifiable by all.  Instead of turning himself in for the appalling crimes he committed, Matt Murdock has fled to the Southwest and is up to trouble with some lousy excuses for dirty cops and drug barons.  I’m not certain of the story’s destination, but I’ve got a good feeling it won’t matter.  Two positive notes.  The comic’s a fast enough read that I can just flip through it in the store and the last page of the book is actually pretty great, because it’s next month’s cover.  Great use of pink, Jock.


5. The On Again/Off Again Thunderbolts was on again this month, thanks to a nice concise Man Thing story.

6. The Hulk continues to be surprisingly good.  You’d think Green Hulk, Red Hulk, Blue Hulk, Son of Hulk and the honorary Hulk Space Brigade would suck, but it’s actually an ingeniously smart move.  (Also, three She-Hulks, but fuck that comic.  I gave up after the first issue.*) The Hulk doesn’t fit into the Marvel Universe proper because he’s the goddamn Hulk.  There’s not much he can’t smash.  So now there’s just a whole Hulk community to interact with.  Suddenly we’ve got two Hulk comics, they’re both team books with a rotating cast of Hulks and they’re both great.  A lot of people are still turned off by the Jeph Loeb helmed relaunch of the Hulk.  But that’s old news.  This is the new-ER Hulk, and what a difference a year or two make.  I never got into Agents of Atlas, Jeff Parker’s breakout series, but his Hulk is a big improvement on that brand of zany storytelling.  Hulk is a romp, simply put.  It reads like the more inconsequential Hulk comic, but the dinosaur fights and promise of More MODOK more than make up for it.  Greg Pak’s Incredible Hulks takes itself quite a bit more seriously.  It’s interesting to see Pak picking up where he left off.  The current arc reintroduces some characters from his Planet Hulk/World War Hulk comics.  The Hulk Mystery Squad is in the Savage Land, helping Ka-Zar fight a giant, evil insectoid.

Ka-Zar: If Tarzan fought dinosaurs and more ridiculous creatures.

The title of the story is “Planet Savage” which kind of bugs me.  I’m getting sick of all these comics having such similar names.  It’s confusing, and the names aren’t even good.  There’s Planet Hulk, World War Hulk, World War HulkS, Son of Hulk, Son of Banner, Dark Son, Black Hulk Son.  Ugh.  (Okay, I made up the last one.)

Both writers are making good use of Hulk science, which I’m a fan of.  Issue 623 of Incredible Hulks features a fun defibrillator  scene as we see how much electricity is needed to restart the Hulk’s heart.  (Hint-A lot.)  Later in the issue, Hulk keeps watching a tragic video so he can stay angry and therefore heal.  It’s ridiculous, but in an awesome way.

The art’s great all around.  Even if rotating artists make for an inconsistent tone, at least they got good ones.  Paul Pellitier recently drew a fun Zeus fight, and Dale Eaglesham draws good dinosaur fights and giant bug men fights.  Ed McGuiness draws good everything fights, which is convenient because the last issue of Hulk was about Red Hulk and Green Hulk fusing together to fight an army of Space Hulks and their leader looked like a wampa and he had mind control powers.  It was ridiculous, but again, in a good way.

7. I was hoping the prices would go down on J Michael Straczinski’s Thor Omnibus because he’s a pretentious child, but no such luck.

8. Mike Carey’s new Alternate Reality X-Men crossover, Age of X, is off to a nice start.  Unfortunately, all the good X-Men are missing.   No Beast, No Multiple Man, No Nightcrawler, No Fantomex, and Wolverine’s almost identical to his iteration from Old Man Logan…   but hey, that was a cool Martha Johansen cameo!  At this point in the story, my complaints rest solely with the cast.  Apart from the stars, Rogue, Magneto, Kitty Pryde, and Cyclops (now called Basilisk) the supporting cast is lost on me.  I think there’s some New Mutants involved?  I recognized Doug Ramsay and Moonstar, but I’m at a loss for the rest of them.  I barely know any of these characters.  It’s a little confusing.  I need to do some wikipeding on these guys.  I’m a sucker for a good alternate reality, and this certainly looks better than the X-Men’s last venture into dystopian future, Grant Morrison’s Here Comes Tomorrow, so I’ll be sticking with this for a while.

In the story, humanity seems to have declared war on the X-Gene and all the mutants are holed up on Magneto’s island fortress.  Of course, Magneto’s up to no good, and is fighting the war with ulterior motives.  Just what exactly, we’ve yet to see.  It’s a good comic that may be exploring some familiar tropes, but it’s also got some interesting ideas of its own.  A good comic for the X-Men fans, but not new-reader friendly at all.  You have been warned.

9. Wolverine #6 isn’t a great jumping on point either.  However, it is a Wolverine story that’s not about revenge, and those are few and far between.  No, instead we’ve got the #1 fallback Wolverine story, where he goes berserk and the rest of the X-Men have to stop him.  Jason Aaron’s script is excellent, as usual, and Daniel Acuna’s art aint bad either.

10.  All in all, not a bad haul.  I promise I’ll review some movies or music or something people care about next week.

Jason Aaron is kicking my ass. A review of Punisher Max 10.

I was arguing about Wolverine with some friends the other day.  He has the tendency to get pigeon-holed into revenge story after revenge story.  The Punisher’s a similar character.  There’s usually not as much vengeance, but damn can he get repetitive.  Even Garth Ennis’s 60 issue run on Punisher Max recycled the same formula on almost every story.  They’re some great comics, but a lot like the blues, you’ve got to appreciate the subtleties.

Jason Aaron’s current relaunch of The Punisher with artist Steve Dillon hasn’t completely turned the Punisher on his head, but it looks like it could.  After Garth Ennis’s great humanization in the last volume, Aaron neatly sidestepped the mistakes other writers made trying to pick up in Ennis’s shadow.  This Punisher is a force of nature.  Aaron understands Frank Castle enough to avoid those pages and pages of inner monologue.  His Punisher is a man of few words.  He’s not as sympathetic as he was in the Ennis run, but he doesn’t need to be.  This Punisher is an anti-hero through and through.  If you’ve read Aaron’s rez-cop drama Scalped, you know he knows his way around a good anti-hero.  If you haven’t, well, just take my word for it.

The new Punisher Max doesn’t connect with the rest of the Marvel Universe, but does integrate Marvel characters for The Punisher to tussle (and murder) with.  Wilson Fisk is his usual self, but Aaron’s Bullseye is one of the few I’ve enjoyed reading.

The world’s greatest assassin was never a character I liked, except the issue of Daredevil where he got stabbed in the head, and the issue of Thunderbolts where he got crippled.  He’s supposed to be the most evil, amoral man ever.  I get that, but it doesn’t make him interesting.  It makes him bland.  His personality never got much deeper than “I like to kill people, especially if it’s Daredevil’s girlfriend.”  He was always just so content with everything, especially after Warren Ellis’s Thunderbolts run.  Ellis boiled Bullseye down to his most basic components.  The guy who lived to kill was now doing that and only that.  Sure, it’s creepy when Mike Deodato’s on art, but every writer to use the character after Ellis has just been miming the same monotonous shit over and over.

Enter Jason Aaron.  With an out-of-continuity universe to work in, Aaron’s made Bullseye an interesting person, and made him scarier in the process.  This Bullseye might be a murdering psychopath, but he’s human too, as we watch him get more and more frustrated as he tries to get inside Frank Castle’s head.  The whole “I need to become you so I can kill you” thing might seem cheesy, but Aaron pulls it off with such style, you can’t not admire it.  It’s actually kind of funny when it’s not terrifying.

Steve Dillon is also doing some great work here.  The facial expressions are fucking perfect.  Kevin Maguire isn’t even at this level.  Check out this page-

It might not look like much out of context, but that’s the greatest smile I’ve ever seen.

It’s odd that I’m raving about a comic 5/6 the way through the story, but you need to be aware of how fucking good this is.  Ennis still has 50 issues of great stories over Aaron, but damn if this current incarnation isn’t on its way to being the best Punisher comic ever.

Party Down

I don’t watch a lot of TV shows, because, TV can be a desolate landscape.  Also, I don’t have cable, or even broadcast TV anymore thanks to that digital broadcasting.  However, I do have Netflix, and with Netflix comes internet streaming!  Thanks to this I’ve caught up on valuable episodes of King of the Hill, and discovered Community is actually a really good show.  Not to sound like a shill, but this streaming stuff is handy.  One show I’ve recently fallen for, thanks to its Netflix availability is the recently canceled “Party Down.”  Party Down follows the goings on of a Hollywood catering company as they go from job to job, hi jink to hi jink.  It’s got Jane Lynch, pretty boy Adam Scott, and the greatest actor of our generation, Martin Starr.

Only the Cran-Man can out act him.

Party Down belongs to the post modern family of sitcom, with no laugh track, more character based humor, and characters that manage to actually change and evolve.  (What a novel concept.)  Luckily, there’s no fakeumentary handheld cameras. Those things get old fast.  But that’s all moot.  What makes Party Down a great show is how goddamn depressing it is.  The catering crew is comprised from striving actors, failed actors, and one striving sci-fi novelist, who of course, is played by Martin Starr.  The manager, played by Ken Marino, just wants to open a chain restaurant, and he can’t even get that off the ground.  Adam Scott’s Henry is the only exception.  He’s done with acting after a popular beer commercial and wants to move on with his life.

I’m only five episodes in, but I plan on finishing the show.  This is some great stuff.  Not many shows have the skill to successfully mix funny and miserable, but Party Down gets away with it.  Scrubs this aint.  I’d recommend it to the Freaks and Geeks fans.

2010: A List of Movies.

I wasn’t planning on doing a movie list, but Joe here inspired me, so here it goes.  Like the music list, I’m doing every movie I saw this year.

First, here are the movies released this year that I still want to see

Dogtooth, Winter’s Bone, Enter the Void, and Valhalla Rising.

And now, the list.

19. The Social Network

18. Kick-Ass-Having already insulted these in my “ten things that sucked” post, I’ve got nothing new to add.

17.      Defendor- A more realistic look at “real world superheroes.”  This is the movie Kick-Ass claimed to be.  Woody Harrelson does a great job with the title character, but a bland story and a reliance on luck and coincidence make this one forgettable.

16.      The Book of Eli-I’m getting sick of muted color schemes.  This was an okay movie, but please, no more.  Denzel Washington is running on autopilot, but Gary Oldman is appropriately cartoonish and Tom Waits has a small role, so it aint all bad.  The fights and battles are all impressive too.

15.      Easy A-No, I didn’t see many movies this year, but this one had enough sexy-adults-as-teens to keep me interested.  (Even the ugly kids were rich and beautiful)  The story was surprisingly funny, and Stanley Tucci was outright hilarious as “wacky dad.” I still don’t get why everybody was so well off, though.

14.      Centurion-The characters were all interchangeable and there’s too much digital blood, but also a lot of stabbing and chopping of limbs.  The battles in this medieval adventure story are all impressive and the movie moves fast enough that it succeeds.  The outdoor scenery is all beautiful too, just don’t expect any depth.

13.      Tron: Legacy-Really boring and terribly paced, but in a good way.  It’s the best boring movie I saw this year.  It also had the best use of 3D I’ve seen since Beowulf.  The simple color scheme is lovely.  As a friend pointed out, the simplicity of red/black/blue make it easy to follow and keeps it believable.

12.      Greenberg-Greenberg’s a lot like the Social Network.  The protagonist is an unlikable, self-absorbed asshole, nothing of importance happens, and it ends just when things start to get interesting.  Being fictional, Greenberg at least has a glimmer of hope.  Ben Stiller turns in a cringe worthy performance as the title character.  He’s a middle aged carpenter, barely anybody can put up with him, and any windows of opportunity are closing fast.  I want Greenberg to succeed.  I want him to become a better person.

11.      127 Hours-127 Hours beats you over the head now and then, trying desperately to make you “get it.”  This only accounts for a few brief moments in the movie though.  When the majority of the thing takes place underneath a rock, those things really stand out.  James Franco is great as real life asshole Aron Ralston, and Boyle’s excessive style of filmmaking really lends itself to the arm chopping scene.  He should make more gory movies.  It’s easily his best movie, considering it’s the only one I’ve enjoyed all the way through.

10.      Cyrus-Like Seth Rogen before him, Jonah Hill got really fat to play his best role ever.  Hill is the creepy title character in this low key romantic comedy with John C Reilly and Marissa Tomei.  Cyrus is Tomei’s creepy adult son that still lives with her.  Cyrus is short and sweet, and it mocks trance music.  I’m down with that.

9.      Iron Man 2-Iron Man 2 learns from the mistakes of the first movie, and creates some nice new mistakes while it’s at it.  Instead of a thrown together shitty ending, we’re instead barraged with too much happening at the beginning and none of it making any sense, but once the movie’s finally found itself, it picks up a lot.  The second half is a blast, and frankly, that’s enough for me.

8.      Black Swan-A little too melodramatic and goofy for me, this tortured woman-child tale is still told engagingly, and Natalie Portman’s performance is damn good.  It’d be cooler if she really was a were-swan, but what I got was still a fun 90 minutes.

7.      Shutter Island-As far as spooky and creepy goes, I liked Shutter Island a lot more than Black Swan.  Shutter Island had atmosphere, it had scares, and it had a much less predictable plot.  Both movies made me feel like a lab rat in a maze, with the director shouting at me from a distance, telling me which way to go, and…  Man, I don’t know where I was going with that.  Fuck it.  Both the movies are good, but neither are truly incredible.  That’s the point I wanted to make.

6.      Inception-For the longest time, I wasn’t planning on doing a movies list because I simply had nothing new to say. That’s exactly how I feel about Inception.  I will say that it’s a good movie.

5.      I Love You Phillip Morris-Gay prison romance from the writers of Bad Santa.  They left Zwigoff out of this one and directed it themselves, and it’s every bit as good as their last one.  The movie’s hilarious, but it still has respect for its characters.

4.      Scott Pilgrim vs. the World-Of the three big comic book movies released this year, two of them missed the point of the original material.  Unlike Kick-Ass, Scott Pilgrim had the basic sense to change the point.  No longer does Scott Pilgrim suck and need to grow the hell up.  He just needs love and self respect to conquer all.  (Mostly love)  I could do without pointless text inserts, and a little breathing certainly wouldn’t hurt.  I never saw why Ramona would want Scott, but it looks great, the jokes are hilarious, it has a pro-rock and roll message, and the fight scenes are the best I’ve seen in a long, long time.  It’s an odd movie, always jumping around and throwing more and more bizarre special effects at the viewer.  I’m glad to see people are catching on to Speed Racer and using more abstract, colorful and cartoony digital effects.  Realism is overrated.  Go Scott Pilgrim go.

3.      True Grit-God, here’s another one I’ve got nothing interesting to say about.  Hmm, let me try.  Let me try…  Okay, I loved the Bear man-that scene when Rooster and Mattie are lost in a blizzard and they get advice from a crazy old trapper.  Beautiful.  The ending has also got to be the most intense, brutal, heroic ending of any movie I saw this year.  And uh, shit.  I guess that was all I had to say.

2.      The Fighter-David O’Russell makes magic with Marky Mark.  Marky plays Mickey, a real life boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts, where they smoke lots and lots of crack.  Apart from him and Amy Adams, the cast is all fairly hideous, even Batman looks like a monster.  It’s got crack smoking, it’s got cop punching, and damn, does it have some hideous looking people.  It reminded me a lot of The Wrestler, except this one’s better, and that’s without the benefit of Mickey Rourke.  I love The Fighter.

1.      Toy Story 3-Toy Story 3 was simply the best. That’s just the way it is.  Nothing new to say here.  Stay tuned for more engaging reviews of other movies.

0.      TRASH HUMPERS. I don’t mean this as an insult. It just wouldn’t be fair to the other movies to judge them against Trash Humpers.  It exists on an entirely different plane of criticism.

2010: Music in Review Part 2

The saga continues.  Today, we complete the list with albums 15-1.  Hopefully, I’ll have completed my movies and comics lists by the end of next week.  Stay tuned!

15.      Forgiveness Rock Record-Broken Social Scene-It was a close call, but I think Broken Social Scene beat Arcade Fire in the melodramatic bombast Olympics.  Forgiveness Rock Record has the added advantage of kick-ass guitars.  This is indeed a rock record.  They win because they did have the decency to make album that rocked harder.  Forgiveness… also avoids a lot of the re-treaded feel of The Suburbs.  It’s not all new and exciting, but the old tricks feel less forced and the new tricks kick ass.

14.      Body Talk-Robyn-I’m a sucker for a good pop song.  Even this slick, futuristic synth pop stuff.  It seems to be the dominating style of music played these days, and it makes for some truly bizarre radio listening.  I no longer recognize these modern pop songs as songs, the structure is just so bizarre.  Nobody even seems to sing hooks anymore.  They just kind of drawl the title four to eight times.  It’s a weird pop world out there, and I’m getting lost.  Luckily Robyn was able to pull me back from the brink and into musical salvation!  Body Talk should be used in pop-star school.  This is what that synth-shit is supposed to sound like, so get it together, rest of the world.  It’s not that hard to make great songs, or at least it seems that way.  Robyn’s a good singer too, and she makes this brilliance sound easy.  It’s futuristic, but it’s still music.  For bonus points, “Call Your Girlfriend” even features an I-don’t-know-what solo.  It sounds like some sort of vocal manipulator, but I’ve got no idea what device is being played.  That’s exciting.

13.      Earl-Earl Sweatshirt-Last year, I called Freddie Gibbs the last true gangsta rapper.  That still holds true, even if he has been out-gangsta’d by a 16 year old kid.  Ya see, Earl Sweatshirt is beyond gangsta.  Most of these songs involve gangsta rap clichés taken beyond their extremes.  There’re a lot of songs here about murder, rape, theft, anal sex, etc.  It’s pretty ridiculous, but Earl’s smooth, low key delivery ground the songs in reality, and the beats by his brother Tyler the Creator are some of the best 8 bit synths I’ve heard since the first Crystal Castles album.  Earl’s a member of LA rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, which you may recognize from their ridiculous name.  The album is available for free on their website, so get out there and download that shit.

12.      Halycon Digest-Deerhunter-I wish I could rank this higher, but I haven’t heard the songs performed at ear-blistering volume.  Deerhunter rocks surprisingly hard live, and their albums don’t really do them justice.  I demand to hear these songs live, because Halycon Digest is Deerhunter’s tamest record yet.  Sure, it’s still #12 on the list, but it would probably be #1 if it rocked.  I’ll give credit where credit is due-Helicopter is the best slow song they’ve ever done.

11.      This is Happening-LCD Soundsystem-It’s not as good as their last album, but it comes pretty damn close.  Sure, it gets reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaally boring towards the end, but this is still a kick-ass album, and it’s got the best songs they’ve ever done.  Honestly, if this was a three song EP, it’d still be charting this high, as long as one of the songs was “All I Want”.  It’s also the album that gave me “Drunk Girls,” “One Touch,” and “Pow.”  Right on James Murphy.  There’s nothing terribly new or thrilling about LCD Soundsystem.  They play it safe, but they still come up with more imaginative stuff than  most people trying to be different.

10.      All Day-Girl Talk-Oh my god, he went and got himself an attention span.  All Day is the best Girl Talk album yet, a wholly realized piece-of-music that demands to be heard in full.  Instead of the flashes of brilliance I’ve been putting up with, it’s got actual momentum.  The music gets enough breathing room to accomplish something.  Apparently, it’s also his most mainstream album too.  I guess most of these samples are from a lot of recent hit songs.  Not that I can tell.  I thought Wacka Flocka Flame was a Pokémon until a month or two ago.

9.      Plastic Beach-Gorillaz-Plastic Beach is about as far removed from the first two Gorillaz records as those were from Blur.  It’s a new chapter in this ridiculous art project, but from the opening swells of “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach” you can tell it’s going to be a good one.  Damon Albarn crafts a full, orchestral sound on this album, and relegates the guests to the background.  It’s a pop opus in the tradition of The Who or the Kinks, and damn is it good.

8.      /\/\ /\ Y /\ -M.I.A. (I liked it so much, I’m even going to spell it the stupid way.)-This album is really loud and dumb, but so is Black Sabbath and they fucking rule.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s still good.  MAYA’s a big mess but it probably benefits from it.  There’s some bizarre, ridiculous shit going on here. We’ve got Suicide samples, Sleigh Bells samples, paranoid sloganeering, and even some dubstep.  On top of that, I’d go so far as to call it good dubstep.  It’s like Sandinista except I don’t get bored quite so immediately.  The other difference being that Sandinista probably had something to say, whereas MAYA probably doesn’t.  I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to stop taking it seriously when she starts chanting “Google connected to the Government.”

7.      Cosmogramma-Flying Lotus-It’s about damn time.  We need more electronic musicians to structure their albums like instrumental rap albums.  And he’s still getting more done in 90 seconds than most technotrons do in ten minutes.  Really, was that so hard?

6.      Treats-Sleigh Bells-This album is a benchmark of loud.  Treats is designed with “obnoxious” in mind. It’s physically impossible for old people to like this.  How cool is that?  It’s noisy, abrasive, and catchy as fuck.  In a world where the Fleet Foxes are still allowed to exist, it’s nice knowing I’ve got Sleigh Bells on my side.  Besides, there’s a Chippy sample.

5.      Shut up Dude/Sit Down Man-Das Racist-Is it unfair to count two mixtapes as one album?  I need to quell this controversy, and quickly.  Let’s start with the bad then.  Despite a few incredible tunes, their first mixtape, Shut Up Dude, is mostly just incoherent babble that starts and stops in four minute intervals.  Sit Down Man is a vast improvement in the crafting of actual songs, but it also feels more reined-in.  There’s nothing quite as good as “Rainbow in the Dark” or “Ek Shaneesh.”  “Rapping 2 You” comes close.  Complaints aside, minor they may be, I’m glad somebody has finally gotten their act together enough to sound like the Beastie Boys-refreshingly different and actually good.  Das Racist is two New Yorkers, Heems and Kool AD.  Together, they combine powers to craft a hip-hop-hodge-podge of rhymes hilarious and insightful.  It’ll never catch on, but at least they’re trying.

4.      King of the Beach-Wavves-It was a rather bleak year for rock and roll.  Earlier, I might’ve complained that this was the best rock record I found, but looking back, I just feel grateful.  King of the Beach benefits from catchy songwriting and the tightest rhythm section around.  The teen angst oozes out of this disc and it benefits from it.  This is bratty fist-pumping music.  There’s nothing adult about it.  Stealing Stephen Pope and Billy Page from Jay Reatard, (It’s not like he was using them) Nathan Williams managed to make his punchiest, punkiest album yet.  Can’t wait for the next one.

3.      Crystal Castles-Crystal Castles-One of the most evil albums of the year.  It’s also one of my favorites.  They abandon most of the 8-bit sounds that were so prevalent on the first record, trading it in for some sort of electronic shoegaze.  They bring fuzz into the 21th century with a vengeance.  Alice Glass flexes her vocal chops for this, getting both believably intimate and surprisingly screechy, even for Crystal Castles.  They’ve polished every facet of their musical diamond, (sorry about that.  Had to indulge my inner Peter Travers) but it’s the evil songs that truly stand out.  They get more melodic, more abrasive, and they often do both at the same time.  Opening a track with a fifteen second fuzz drone?  Fuck yes.

2.      Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty-Big Boi-I always thought Big Boi was the better member of Outkast, and I think this proves it.  Goddamn, this guy can rap.  Apart from a T.I. collaboration, there’s little  not to love on Big Boi’s second masterpiece.  Big Boi treats his raps like an instrument, reinventing the rules of hip hop as he goes along.  The guests are all top-notch too.  (I’m just not into T.I.)  Gucci Mane, Yelawolf, even George Clinton turns in a decent verse!  Really, this thing redeems the entire South, it’s so good.  It’s an album of nonstop bangers, and that’s the way I like it.

And the number one record of 2010 is………

What else?

I’ve got nothing new to say about this, except that maybe my proposed title of “Fantasy Ass Job” is still better, so here’s some of the best hyperbole from other reviews- With My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West transgresses paradigms and defies the limitations of genre.  It’s a keen contender for the most ambitious LP in hip-hop history.  Fantasy will stand as an album that dares to push the entire medium of recorded music forward.   Its vibrantly aesthetic to the extremes with conceptual, avant-garde, cinematic beats to it.  An ornately orchestrated pop epic built on a classic hip-hop foundation.  Nobody else is making music this daring and weird.  Kanye’s man-myth dichotomy is at once modern and truly classic. Comparing him to other rappers is pointless.

In retrospect, I should’ve got the sources, but I’m not about to go find all of those again.

2010 Music in Review

This is part 1 of my list.  This thing’s so big, I had to separate it into two posts! Instead of just listing the good albums, I decided to review every new album I heard in 2010.  So here’s albums 34-16.

 

34.      4×4=12-Deadmau5-Rave program Deadmau5 outdid himself with his most creative album title yet.  If only I could say the same about anything else.  4×4=12 is a groundbreaking work in predictability, even when he tries his hand at some obnoxious rave-rap and dubstep.  (How topical!)  Give it a spin if you’re looking for something to put you to sleep.

33.      Straight Killa No Filla-Freddie Gibbs.  Oh really?  Look, I know it’s just a mixtape, but so was The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs, and that was incredible.

32.      I Am Not A Human Being-Lil Wayne-Lil Wayne has no fucking taste.  All of these songs are lazy, the beats are uninspired, and the rhymes are just stupid.  “So smart she coulda’ gone to college?”  What the hell, Wayne?  I didn’t have the highest expectations for this record released from prison, and at least Drake isn’t on every song.  Unfortunately, Drake is on all of the good songs.  All three of them.  And they’re not even really good.  They just sound a little better than the fucking banal pop-rap production that dominates the record.  Seriously, it’s like he’s using the demo that came with his EZ-Synth Jambox.  Lil Wayne being in prison, there’s a lot of guest stars.  Because what else, Young Money goons are all over this thing, and Nicki Minaj doesn’t even have to decency to rap on it.  A half-hearted effort from everybody involved.

31.      Pink Friday-Nicki Minaj-Nicki Minaj fared a little bit better on her solo debut than anything else a Young Money Goon* did this year.  If only it were good!  She wastes most of the album singing, which she sucks at.  She still managed to get in a few decent songs.  I’m a fan of “Did it on Em” and the Kanye assisted “Blazin.”  “Roman’s Revenge” is the only other song worth checking, if only for the novelty of Eminem making animal noises while referring to himself as a dungeon dragon.

*. Is “young Money Goon” the official term, or should I not take Gudda Gudda so seriously?  Also, is  it Wu-Tang Clansmen?

30. Hurley-Weezer-Ugh.  They came so close!  Hurley’s the best album they’ve made since Maladroit, but it’s still not very good.  I can live with the weak lyrics, it’s the production that’s killing me.  This shit is so clean and shiny, it sounds instantly dated.  At least they stopped trying to reinvent themselves.

29.      OMG!-Rusko-Wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp Gucci Mane wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp wamp.

28.      Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys-My Chemical Romance-Was The Black Parade a fluke, or am I just delusional?  The follow-up to that record I loved so much is overproduced and uninspired to its breaking point.  C’mon guys.  That over-the-top dour shit was what made you good.  This is a step backwards.

27.      Album of the Year-Black Milk-More like 27th best album of the year!  Ha ha!  There’s nothing bad about this record, there’s just nothing great about it.  It’s like Be with weaker beats.  I don’t care how good a rapper Black Milk is, he doesn’t make good songs.

26.      Trunk Music 0-60-Yelawolf Yelawolf isn’t incredible by any means.  Right now he just sounds like a white trash T.I.  But as we’ve learned from Rick Ross and T.I. himself, nobody starts out great anymore.  I’ll give him a few more years, see if this goes anywhere.  At the very least, he’s a big improvement on Asher Roth.  Good job, white rapper committee.

25.      Distant Relatives-Nas and Damien Marley-This was almost a good album, and then Damien Marley showed up.

24.      Pilot Talk-Curren$y-Curren$y’s come a long way since I first encountered him three years ago.  It’s now possible to understand what he’s saying, there’s some emotion in his voice, he’s classed up his production, and he’s upgraded the guest features to include Snoop Dogg, Mikey Rocks and Big KRIT.  Mos Def lends his voice for the chorus of the two best songs on the album, (“Breakfast” & Jay Electronica assisted “The Day”) The guests make for the highlights of the album, simply because Curren$y has the worst fucking hooks.  Curren$y’s a big fan of the Bobby Digital method, where you repeat the title of the song 8 to 44 times or spell a sentence.  If he could get it together and spend more than 20 seconds crafting the song, he’d be set.

23.      Tron: Legacy-Daft Punk-Will a new Daft Punk album ever come?  It seems unlikely after this excursion into the world of movie soundtracks.  It’s lacking in computer wizardry, and most of the songs all sound like typical blockbuster music, but there’s just barely enough to make it okay for a few listens.

22.      Wu-Massacre-Meth, Ghost & Rae-Actually, it’s mostly the cronies of Meth, Ghost, and Rae.  Sheek Louch, Sun God and more also-rans do the bulk of the work here.  It sounds more like a mixtape than an actual album.  Tired beats, tired rhymes. There’s still a few god ones, like “Miranda” and “Youngstown Heist.”  It’s not a crowning achievement for any of these guys, but coming out six months after the incredible Only Built 4 Cuban Links Pt 2 and the awful Ghostdeni Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City, it’s forgivable.  It’s not like I was that lacking in Wu-Tang.

21.      Swim-Caribou-This record might be in the top ten if I didn’t have to listen to the guy sing.  As is, it’s still a damn good collection of electronica.  It’s not as high-energy as I typically like my computer music, but at least it feels like he’s trying.  If Kid Cudi was good, this is what his beats might sound like.

20.      Congratulations-MGMT-One of the year’s most unexpected records, Congratulations is also one of the few albums of “neo-psychdelica” worth listening to.  It sounds a lot like early Bowie-Jangly guitars, lyrics about famous people and fantasy.  There’s nothing here even trying to be as good and catchy as “Kids” or “Time to Pretend,” but they at least made enough changes to their sound to keep it interesting.

19.      Sea of Cowards-The Dead Weather-Jack White takes over on the second Dead Weather album.  It reminds me of the second Raconteurs album.  It has little to say, but it rocks a lot harder and benefits from it.  It’s not as good as anything The White Stripes ever put out, but it’s the best non-White Stripes record Jack White’s made.

18.      The Monitor-Titus Andronicus- If Bright Eyes wasn’t afraid to rock, this is exactly what he’d sound like. If that statement doesn’t make you cringe, you’ll love this album.  It also features the best saxophone solo of the year.

17. The Archandroid-Janelle Monae-Not quite as groundbreaking and futuristic than everybody says it is, but it’s a contemporary R & B album, so “groundbreaking and futuristic” is a relative term.  What it is is a collection of great pop songs.  Monae can sing better than anybody else on this list, and she delivers her lines with such conviction that I forgot I was listening to a sci-fi pop-opera about robot spiders (or something.)

16. The Suburbs-Arcade Fire-I didn’t listen to much serious music this year.  Until this came out, none of the good stuff was that serious.  The Suburbs caught me off guard.  It’s a lyrical album that came out in the middle of a six month Phish binge.  (Well, really a one month Lightning Bolt/Daft Punk binge. Suddenly trapped with lyrics to scrutinize, I was lost.  The Suburbs has meaning and a message.  It’s also incredibly dense.  The music’s still great.  We’ve got some more Springsteen posturing, some radio pop, and mandatory stadium blaster, but they’ve expanded into some cool new territory too.  There’s a lot going on, and I may not like sitting through all of it, but I’m not going to hate for sheer ambition.  It’s a fine album.  I just wish somebody had the decency to make one that rocked harder than its predecessors.