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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.

Obnoxious Noise is Awesome! (Dan Deacon)

So last year I really got into Deacon’s first album Spiderman on the Rings.  Hey Spiderman is an actual word as defined by Microsoft word spellcheck.  Isn’t that cool?  Oddly enough, spellcheck, spelled just like that, without the spaces,  isn’t a word.  Yet you’d seriously think it was, right?  I mean, wouldn’t  Microsoft be into that?  It automatically capitalizes Microsoft, but you have to spell spell-check with a hyphen.  That’s weird.

Oh yeah, Spiderman of the Rings.  Basically Dan Deacon makes music that I would file under electronic/dance, because I simply don’t understand the various subgenres of electronic music.  It’s all techno to me.  Drum ‘n’ Bass is the kind that sounds the most stupid, I think, but I have no idea where to go with the rest of them.  Where does trance start and glitch end?  What the fuck is house music?  Man, these guys have too many damn subgenres for their own good.  The cool thing about Dan Deacon is that he doesn’t really fit into any of them.  There’s the standard instrumentation you associate with techno, but also a lot of xylophones, chipmunk vocals, animal noises and indecipherable lyrics.  Deacon describes Spiderman of the Rings as “very youthful and carefree, sort of partying for the sake of partying.  Bromst is more of a celebration.”  Bromst is Deacon’s second album and it’s even better.  I get where he’s coming from with the celebration thing.  This record is bananas.  Ten mallet instruments stacked on top of ten people singing, half in auto-tune, the other half are dogs, stacked on top two kick ass basses, stacked on top of two or three drum sets.  I dunno.  Something like that.  I’m not great at describing music, especially Dan Deacon.  The best I can do is usually to compare something to something else, but I got nothing with this guy.  This shit is bizarre, but not like Black Dice, where it’s boring, or Pullhair Rubeye, where it’s just stupid, this is fucking awesome.  It’s the ultimate feel good record because it’s so damn obnoxious, you just KNOW that everybody else can barely stand it.  If they can put up with it, then they must like it, and they must be your friends.  Congratulations, you just made a new friend.  Dan Deacon kicks ass.  I even wrote this review as a stream of consciousness thing to kind of simulate what it feels like when you first listen to Dan Deacon.  His stuff is a little more coherent and composed than this piece, but it doesn’t feel like it at first.  I refuse to check for errors or proofread this bitch.  Now dance motherfucker dance!  Also, watch this video for Woof Woof.  It’s wacky.

I just read on his Wikipedia page that he toured with both Deerhunter and No Age last summer.  That’s fucking awesome.

Near Dark

First off, let’s get one thing out of the way-Avatar was a good movie.  People were only hating on it because it got nominated for an award it probably didn’t deserve, but who gives a shit?  It didn’t win, and it’s not like The Academy Awards are infallible, definitive bastion of movie praise.  Remember, these are the motherfuckers who give awards to Crash, Chicago, and Driving Miss Daisy (in the same year they fail to nominate Do the Right Thing).  The Oscars are just 2 ½ hours of Hollywood hotshots patting themselves on the back.  Stop pretending otherwise.  The best we can hope for is that they make PRETTY GOOD choices.  Don’t take them so seriously, is what I’m saying.  Try to look at them with a more objective eye.  Honestly, I thought this year’s selection of The Hurt Locker for best picture was a great choice.  The movie was genuinely great, and it was cool to see someone like Kathryn Bigelow, a lady who’s spent pretty much her entire career making action movies, get credit where it was due.  I liked The Hurt Locker so much, I decided to explore the Kathryn Bigelow archives.

Kathryn Bigelow is all the rage right now after winning all those Oscars, so you can impress your friends by bringing up Near Dark, her second feature, after The Loveless (A biker gang movie with Willem Fucking Dafoe!  I’ll get to that one later.)  Near Dark is all about this kid, Caleb, who gets bit by a hot young vampire girl and then he has to join her vampire gang and learn the ropes of vampirism.  You know how it is.  I’ve got mixed feelings about the movie.  On one hand, there’s certainly a lot of COOL moments, but on the other, it can be a bizarrely illogical film.  Characters make a lot of dumb decisions, and most of the vampires are just ridiculously amoral.  It’s one of those vampire movies where, not only do they never say “vampire,” but everybody acts like they don’t know what vampires are.  Never really understood the point of that.   But hey, this is pretty fuckin’ cool-

Damn, that's awesome.

And honestly, if you think that’s cool too, it’s probably worth a look.  I’ve got to err on the movie’s side.  It aint perfect, but I think it manages to pull it off, if just barely.  Bigelow’s inexperience shows.  There’s a lot of weird cuts and bad acting, but the violence is all well-staged, and it’s got some genuine suspense, mostly revolving around whether or not Caleb has it in him to kill a man.  Somehow, despite some paper thin characterization, I even managed to care about, not some, but ALL of the characters, so way to go on that one.

The supporting characters, at least the vampires, are all great.  These guys come from the bygone era when crappy movies at least had the decency to have some colorful characters.  Bill Paxton’s Severin being the star of the lot.  Paxton steals the show every time he’s on screen, stabbing and maiming his way into our hearts, but the other vampires are good too.  In addition to Paxton, you’ve also got Lance Henrikson and Jenette Goldstein.  That’s half the cast of Aliens!  Awesome!   I even liked Homer, the child vampire.  Jenny Wright and Adrian  Pasdar have good chemistry as the two star-crossed lovers.  However, the girl playing Caleb’s sister is pretty obnoxious, but luckily she’s not in it that much.  I normally don’t mind bad acting that much, but I have no tolerance for adorable children.  If those things can’t act (and they never can) they piss me off.

Lapses in logic aside, this is a pretty good, if sometimes frustrating movie.  It’s no Let the Right One In, but it’s still better than half the other vampire-related shit out there.

Digable Planets – Reachin (A New Refutation of Time and Space)

Man, good thing I was in a really shitty mood this week, or I probably wouldn’t have been able to get into Digable Planets.  I’ve been listening to their debut album, Reachin (A New Refutation of Time and Space) and I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised.  Emphasis on pleasant.  If these guys are one thing, it is definitely pleasant.  They’ve got the laid-back jazz-rap style down perfect.   The three MCs even go so far as to get some good non-threatening names-Butterfly, Doodlebug, and Ladybug, respectively.  These guys do not trade verses with Ghostface Killah, is what I’m saying.

Eric B and Rakim had just released their final album, Don’t Sweat The Technique, a year prior to Reachin, but the Planets raps are still from the pre-Rakim school of hip hop-Basic flows and songs about street life.  They even trade bars now and then.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that people who named themselves after adorable insects don’t spend half the album boasting about their microphone prowess, but after listening to nothing but Jay Electronica for a week prior, it was a nice change of pace.

One thing they do like to brag about is how good the MUSIC is, and I am all for that.  My favorite track, Nickelbags, is a celebration of funk, funky samples, and other things that are funky, and funk, ah, funk it, I mean fuck it.  I don’t know where I was going with that.  Just listen to the song.

This song is so good at 3AM.  That barely there flute is incredible.  It’s sleepy yet happy, entirely content with the world.  That was Bob Marley’s problem.  He needed more flutes.  (Well also most of his songs sucked.)  It reminds me of Sesame Street.  I doubt that’s what they were going for with this record, but it’s definitely what I got from it.  I think that’s more to do with the majority of my Sesame Street viewing coming from early 90’s tapings.  However, they do mention Snuffleupagus in a song, Bert and Ernie too.  I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, but hey, it’s there.

The album is very relaxed, it doesn’t have any true bangers, but it’s a great one nonetheless.  It’s a record for those summer days when it’s just too hot to do anything, or those spring days when you’re too depressed to listen to noise-metal, I guess.  Can’t wait to hear it on crappy car speakers.

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