Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 List

This year has really flown by, and unfortunately nothing has really meant as much to me, musically, that's new this year, as last year.  I can't say for sure if that's because of the new music that I actually heard, or because of other things in life.  Either way, I always look forward to this time of year because it gives me lots of things to newly discover/catch up on by letting my friends do the grunt work for me.  In any case--let the list begin! (I don't really have much to say this time around, but I'll do my best)

 15.  Mark Henning - Jupiter Jive

 Spacy, fun minimal-house type stuff.  This kind of thing I've been listening to a ton of lately, but not a lot of it has really stuck out as particularly above the rest.  The Luciano Fabric mix was really good, and so were a couple other mixes, but I figured this makes the cut as being actually a solo album.  In some ways it stands in also for the inordinate amount of listening time devoted this year to the Resident Advisor podcasts.

 14.  Jesus & Mary Chain - The Power of Negative Thinking

 I'm so glad that this was a 4 disc set, because I don't think it would be nearly as much fun/make me feel nearly as vacant if it were only one or even two discs.  Fantastic stuff.  I guess maybe this is cheating because it's not "new" but whatever.

 13.  Nico Muhly - Mothertongue

 Certainly one of the most interesting albums I heard all year.  At first I kind of just thought that the whole first piece was annoying, but after repeated listens it opens up a little.  The suite with Sam Amidon (I forget just now what it's called) is incredible, and I saw them do it live in a church, which was great.  They're very nice people (Vermont types, you know).

 12.  Lindstrom - Where You Go I Go Too

 It's really good, guys.  This might've ranked higher if I had just listened to it more, but for whatever reason I didn't.

11.  Mount Eerie - Dawn / Lost Wisdom

 I'm a sucker for Phil Everum, and both of these do the trick.  They're particularly nice in conjunction, being able to hear some of the songs that were on LW in earlier, even rawer form on Dawn.

 10.  Dj/Rupture - Uproot

 There are certain things that are pleasurable just because someone is so good at doing them.  Burn after Reading, for example, was not a particularly great movie, but I enjoyed watching it just because those guys are so damn good at making movies.  This is like that, except it's also good in and of itself (bonus!).

 9.  Deadbeat - Roots and Wire

 Kind of a surprise for me, in that I happened to randomly see it on a blog somewhere and thought I'd give it a whirl.  I really didn't expect to get so caught up in it.  A lot of stuff like this works great for background music, but there's something about the particular flow of this album that really forces me into it.  If i start listening to it and have to stop for some reason it really bothers me.  That's a good thing.

 8.  Cut Copy - In Ghost Colors

 I didn't find out until just recently that these guys were Australian.  That makes so much sense.  I actually often can't tell songs apart on this album, but I like it all anyway.

 7.  Los Campesinos! - Hold on now youngster

 I usually hate music like this, but there's something so infections and happy about this that I can't help but just love it to pieces.  Maybe I associate it with the first time I heard You! Me! Dancing!, which was on a mix Hamz made me, which made me very happy.  They're very funny and earnest and I imagine they fall over a lot.

 6.  Grouper - Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill

 This is sort of like Earth but doesn't leave me quite so depressed.  I just recently got this, and wish that I had had it for a long, long time. 

 5.  Jamie Lidell - Jim

 Oh Jamie.  How I love thee.  I saw him here in Philly with my friend Jess this summer, and it was fantastic.  He's such a nerd.  And, his guitar player wears a freakish Evil Knievel suit.

 4.  Mavis Staples - Live: Hope at the Hideout

 Shit, just listen to it.  She verges on self parody at points, with how aggressive/raunchy her voice gets, and its utterly fantastic.

 3.  Cool Kids - Bake Sale / That's Stupid Mixtape

 In terms of "things in the world that make me happy" this ranks up there.  Witty lyrics and stories, sick beats, and you know they're having fun doing it, which is something that sometimes I need more of in my life (okay, most of the time).

 2.  Bon Iver - For Emma, forever ago / Blood Bank EP

 Okay, so For Emma is just fantastic, truly, but it's also been incredibly hard to listen to because it's so emotionally wrenching.  Beyond that, though, the Blood Bank EP just solidifies it, particularly his Autotuned-out "The Woods" which is quite simply the most terrifying thing that I've heard in a long time, maybe ever. 

 1.  M83 - Saturdays = Youth

 I've never before liked M83, much as I tried.  This album, though, has been the one this year that I most consistently come back to, over and over again.  It's good when you're up, it's great when you're down.  There's an effortless quality to it that makes it that much more affecting.


 As I noted in my previous post, I really kind of consider Portishead to be outside of this whole scheme, at least in how I relate to the music.  So, just so you know, I love that too.

Friday, December 12, 2008

2008 pre-listing

I'm going to be making a list (hopefully soon) but here's just some general end of year thoughts...

A Series of 10 Musings on Music and Me, circa 2008.


An Old Friend Returns

I started getting really anxious about doing a year-end list, because that would mean that I'd have to quantify and place the new Portishead album, which seems like an unrealistic task.  It's not even that I like it so terribly much (I do) but more that it occupies a space somehow closer, more remembered, than the rest of music right now.  What would it mean to talk about Mark Henning (whose album Jupiter Jive really is great) and Portishead right next to one another?  It wouldn't make any sense.

Vampirical History and 80s Pop

If we're going to talk about the most important musical things in my life of this past year, one of the most edifying and memorable ones was in September, me, my girlfriend, and one of my best friends rode our bikes to an old church here in Philly, went into a teeny chapel, took a seat in a pew, and watched unfold before us the behemoth that is The Jolly Ship Whizbang.  They  performed Straight Up Vampire:The History of Vampires in Colonial Pennsylvania as Performed to the Music of Paula Abdul (a Gothic Political Romance).  It was almost exactly like what it sounds like, except way, way better than you could ever imagine.


Old Noise

There was a period in the spring where for about a month and a half, all I wanted to listen to was Big Black, Rapeman, Butthole Surfers, Flipper, the Dazzling Cherubs, and their many not-too-dissimilar brethren.  And I wanted it fucking loud.  Then, all of a sudden it stopped, which is probably better in the long run, at least for my mental health.  I had a brief relapse, of a different sort.  Connected thematically, if not totally sonically, was the mind-numbing Jesus and Mary Chain B-sides collection--it hurts so good.


Hey, would you look at that?  I actually kinda like M83, turns out.

Or, at least the new one, Saturdays=Youth, which I keep going back to.  Maybe I should reevaluate the older stuff.  Probably not, though.


The Saga of Villalobos:  So minimal, I'll make your microscope break

As a sort of endurance exercise, sometimes in the studio I'll put on Fizheuer/Zieheuer.  On repeat.  Just clicking the button makes me giggle.  

Anyway, that's sort of an outlier.  The rest of the time I was listening to pretty much everything else Villalobos has put out.  I think maybe it's got something to do with missing Germany, but also (and this applies more broadly to all the minimal/micro/deep-house/tech that's been in near non-stop rotation for me this year) there's something strangely comforting about having more familiar human touches (voices, for example) completely gone.  Maybe it's because I can just ignore it--I'm not ruling that out--but I don't think so.  

With this I do have to specifically mention the Luciano nina simone edit, which I can just listen to over and over and over.  The Mark Henning album is nice because it's like this but, you know, has a sense of humor, and Deadbeat's Roots&Wire is almost like a novel.  But, you know, a novel about a club.

 Quiet Times

You can read about the Bon Iver album almost anywhere on one of these types of things.  Really, though, you should just listen to it.  It's certainly one of my favorites of the year, but I've been having an emotionally wrenching couple of months, and I can't really listen to it much.  It's just too hard.  The Mount Eerie (w/ 2 other people who's names I forget) Lost Wisdom is sort of similar, but less visceral, in a good way.  I also love the second song, Voice In Headphones, as a really great way of making music about music that actually keeps the urgency.


Sometimes, Music Makes Me Really Happy

Los Campesinos! and Jamie Lidell both totally fall into this category.  Also the Mavis Staples album, in particular the part in "Why Am I Treated So Bad," about 3 minutes in when she starts just talking about her grandma, and that segues into her and the band humming/singing without words.  It lasts about a minute and a half before she gets back into singing the song proper.  It's one of those moments that reminds me how much I love music.  This sort of thing lasts almost throughout the entirety of the Aretha Franklin Rare and Unreleased comp. that came out last year but I didn't get to til this year.  Untouchable.

Also--The Cool Kids.  


The Disappointments

There are two in particular that immediately spring to mind, and whaddaya know, but that they're actually related.  I remember a period of time where I would wax enthusiastically to friends of mine that hadn't heard TV on the Radio about how they were truly, genuinely doing new and interesting things, that they made me think about the possibilities still left in rock.  This was roughly the first two months after I first heard Young Liars and a couple of tracks from Desperate Youth.  I saw them about a year or so after the absurdly titled Return to Cookie Mountain, and while that album didn't do much for me, the power of their live show is undeniable.  Gradually, though, they became one of those bands that in my head grew better and better even while I never really listened to them anymore.  Then, I heard about Dear Science, coming out, and got all excited.  Turns out, though, not so good.  Even as people spill much digink about how great it is, it leaves me totally and completely bored.  What's missing is that, in the early stuff (and this particularly applies to OK Calculator, which I still totally adore), even when the music was sing-along-able, or could totally get you grooving, there was still an undercurrent of something deeply unsettling.

The second disappointment was one that, had it not been, I might have literally exploded.  A Tom Waits tribute album, by ScarJo, with David friggin Bowie on it?!  And, of course, production by Dave Sitek (he of TVOTR fame).  If this thing had actually turned out really good, I think it would have completely turned over what I could and should expect from the world.  The fact that it's so-so (although not as bad as it could have been) is somehow reassuring.


James Brown

I've listened to James Brown almost incessantly this year--it's been the one thing that I can really point to that sticks out as continuous thread.  Does this really need any explanation?  


Other Things I really liked, that came out this year, without a snappy title

Cut Copy, Dj/Rupture, Windy and Carl, Nico Muhly, Earth, School of Seven Bells, and Mr. Oizo.  I haven't made up my mind about the new Kanye yet, but I'm leaning towards the "This is incredible" opinion.  It could go the other way though.