18 January 2007

2006 Year-End Mincetacular, pt. 3: more pictures and more words (less music?)

well, i thought all of these albums had very nice covers too, even though they weren't quite as good as the other albums these artists had done:

the sensuous cover is especially nice, and i had really been excited for the album as a follow-up to point, which i still think is one of the most fascinating and underrated records of the decade or what have you. unfortunately, it pretty much amounts to retreading the same sonic territory as point (not necessarily a bad thing) with much less of interest compositionally. since corny's stuff (or at least these two albums) are very much about sonics in a sort of pure, almost scientific sense, sensuous is in some ways a logical extension of point (moving further away from musical structure toward pure unfettered sound.) but it's just not as good. though it is often pretty.

get lonely (nicest mgs cover in a while - maybe ever? - though it would have had even greater impact if it didn't echo some of the come, come to the sunset tree covers i saw that also featured drawings of boxers) was of course highly anticipated by me, seeing as how the last mountain goats album was my undisputed #1 for 2005 (a year i otherwise mostly avoided making rankings.) i guess it's therefore striking that it didn't make my top 20...but that doesn't mean i don't like the album. i do like it, and i've derived quite a bit of enjoyment and consolation from listening to it, but somehow it didn't seem right to judge it on the same basis as other albums i was considering. dunno. "wild sage" is still my favorite - i like playing it on the geetar.

even though i didn't really come to love the mountain goats until sunset tree (though i did like them a lot before that) i feel twinges of fanboy jealousy at their rapidly expanding fanbase (huzzah!) like i really never feel for anyone. it's not even that, it's like - those people don't really understand...but john and me, we understand. i know, it's a larf.

likewise the eraser: nothing wrong with it; it's lovely and i'm listening to it right now. but its most noteworthy feature may be how clearly it demontrates that radiohead is more than the sum of its parts - in much the same way as the earliest john and paul solo albums did for the beatles. which is not just to say that it seems to demonstrate which aspects of r'head's sound are thom's (or nigel's) primary contributions, but that it is easy to hear the idiosyncratic and fallible human being who made this record. radiohead albums, by contrast, seem to me (and to many) to possess an almost superhuman quality, which sometimes makes it hard to believe they're merely the work of a band of musicians (and ordinary people). (again, like the beatles, for me and many.)

the good news is that radiohead aren't broken up. i missed seeing them this summer at the tower theatre (if only i'd known!) but my cousin saw them in sf, and he says that during the concert he would have sworn they were prophets. i can believe that. maybe they'll save the world in 2007.

as for daedelus
...well, i'd rather talk about four tet. jeez dude. did you know that i don't actually love four tet as much as i pretend to? it's kind of a game i play. i do sincerely love a handful of his tracks (mostly the poppy ones, but the pretty ones too), and he's kind of adorable (albeit insane!) in person, but in many ways i probably like him more in theory than in practice. anyway, he put out a lot of stuff in 2006, but as far as i can tell only one reasonably good new poppy production (that would be the just-fine "pockets", which i stretched to make work for two of my mixes, as per the rules.) so i still sort of consider it an off-year for him, even though he released a dj-mix (quite nifty, in fact, though rather sktrbrned) and the way-way-out two-part "exchange series" collabo w/ drummer steve reid (released under his given name, which might have been a clue - i only have vol. 2, thanx to tower-recs blowout, and i'm not sure i've actually been able to sit through the whole thing yet - i'm just not sure i'm ready to make that level of commitment to him.)

however, where sr. hebden really let me down was with the simply hideous art design of his (otherwise welcome, though not particularly remarkable - madvillain mix aside) remixes. this from the guy who brought us one (if not two or even three) of the most beautiful album covers in recent memory. i apportion no blame to the nice mr. jason evans, who photographed those covers (as well as manitobou's lovely album covers - by the way, based on jeremy juniorboys's comments, dan snaith really might save the world this year) and also did the photo for remixes. the remixes photo is not half bad - vaguely reminiscent of hrvatski's swarm and dither but with glass birds rather than tin mechanical ones (which seems fitting for mr. tet.) no, it's pretty much all about the big neon orange block lettering, or to be more precise how they fit with the music.

(and don't even get me started on this monstrosity. the alb's decent, though it's nowhere near as good (particularly as an album) as summer sun. oh you goofy critics. (plus, maybe the best song on it, "black flowers," sounds like nothing so much as a summer sun outtake.)

[in case you hadn't noticed, this post is mostly an excuse for me to talk about artists that i will continue to love no matter what they do.]

[why do i seem to be so preoccupied with cover art? well, it's interesting, isn't it? (i am an art historian, yknow.) possibly its a subtle form of rebellion against the internetification of music appreciation, which has tended toward the disregard of album artwork. really, worthwhile album design oughtta be the riaa's number one weapon against 'piracy.' take for instance that new menomena disc, at least is what i hear.]

hum hum hum...
other partial disappointments: well neither the dj shadow nor beck albums made me fall in love with them, but then i didn't have very high expectations. actually, the information is pretty fun to listen to, and definitely a step from the kinda joyless guero (or sea change, thank gawd - though i don't actually dislike that album as much as i pretend to) - it's just still so beck-by-numbers, and i don't know how i feel about him ripping off everyone's grooves so blatantly. let's put it this way - i still haven't started creating the cover for my copy. eh, i don't think he'll ever get his spark back, but that's okay. we'll always have mbv. (midnite bloody vultures!)

game theory is fine, and even pretty interesting, but i don't like it nearly as much as the tipping point, which in turn i think struck me more than phrenology did. point being that the roots' critical hype seems to wax and wane in ways i do not agree with. it is nice that people still like them. (but really, there are some pretty mediocre 'hooks' on that album.) (and it's not just because ttp is 'pop' - though i don't get why people had such a problem with that - i also think the rapping is better.)

[sheesh, enough about albums already, right? let's talk about some music and stuff. as my estimable colleage p. baker has writ.]

on the other hand, what do i know about rapping? i continued to only pay partial attention to hip-hop in 2006, at least by the standards of the musosphere as a whole. (if i just made that word up, i'm really glad, because it needed to exist.) (nope - apparently alex ross and carl wilson have used it before - the one to talk about the other, even. so that puts me in very estimable company. yum.) wait, where was i? oh yeah, pretending to feel guilty about not listening to a lot of hip-hop. eh, screw that. i pulled the "well excuse me if i'm not interested in hearing about your coke deals again" line earlier, but that's kinda facile and misrecognizing: actually, i'd be happy to hear about them (though, does it have to be so cryptic, with the slang and all? or are you worried they'll find out what you're doing?)...i just haven't gotten around to it yet. whatever. i still like rap, you know that. (except...it's kind of not so interesting anymore when it's just done straight-up, is it? i dunnnnno.) (i think part of my issue is that i feel like it somehow deserves an equal amount of attention to, oh, that other genre "pop/rock." which is just a losing battle.)

[incidentally: i loooove the way lady sovereign says "i dunno" at the beginning of "love me or hate me," right after she says "it's officially the biggest midget in thuh game." haven't actually checked the lady sov full-length (it was those nasty pitchfork blokes that put me off it - though to be honest i didn't really love her ep last year either) but that track is pretty sweet. really i'm just a sucker for a synth. more on that in jes a sec.]

meenwhile, alyssa asked me whether i still listen to rock. not a bad ? actually. the answer is yes. (hey, just the other night i listened to the 2nd franz ferdinand album and that scanners album that i really wanted to like more than i do. plus, i'll listen to, like, the stooges. do big star count?) the question, however, is what do you mean by rock, exactly. even the strokes, and certainly phoenix, i feel are almost pop with guitars. i mean, you can dance to 'em, rite? ok i know that's a ridiculous thing to say. anyway otherwise ashlee simpson (and the veronicas, and lindsay too) were responsible for the rock that i enjoyed the most in '06. plus the yellow pills guys. though not - i'm sorry fella - the latter-day rand[y?] windburn thing he sent me.)

[i admit it: i kind of just don't listen to punk. i did buy my first minutemen and wire and vintage pere ubu albums this year. and i listened to them and certainly appreciated them and even enjoyed them. just, not that much. i'll stop talking about this now.]

[one thing that comes to mind is the oakley hall album (gypsum strings - their second of two albums from '06!) that i picked up whimfully two weeks ago. that quite rocks, in a wholly non-pop (which isn't to say unmelodic) manner, and i quite enjoy it. it's all rootsy! rather ripped! it's like that there neil young (whose work i haven't yet, but after seeing heart of gold decided i should, really begun explore in earnest)

also, i must confess: i listened to the wolf parade album for the first time the other day, and i liked it. a lot, even. (still not crazy about the production, which was always my reaction when i'd hear them in passing - but - them're some good songs!) mayhaps 007 will see me start to care about indirok again, somewhat.

though it's looking like it may start with me finally getting rid of a bunch of the early-00s indi schtuff that has been occupying large portions of my cd shelves, well-behaved and largely undisturbed. though meanwhile i find myself quietly but continually compelled to complete my complement of, like, lampchop and low lps, as used-bins obligingly allow. the fate of the (bruno-dubbed) indiaspora is as yet unwrit.]

about guitars, though
. doesn't it just seem like they're more limited than synthesizers? yeah, you can do a lot of cool things with guitars, and make them sound like a lot of things. but you can make a synthesizer sound like (and do) anything! (you can also make a guitar into a synthesizer, and accomplish the same thing - but for some reason not many people seem to do that - in fact the only one i've really noticed is david byrne, who's been doing it live for a while now. i'm probably just not paying attention tho.)

and i refuse to accept that synths can't convey "human ee-motion" the way guitars can. what, b/c you can bend notes? you think synths can't do that? whatever - exhibit A: synths, still, after all these years of them being quote-unquote "novel[ty]," have an absolutely uncanny evocative emotional effect. often even when they're not used in particularly interestingly. guitars can have that effect too, but i don't think it's nearly so inherent in them. maybe it's just me. but then again, it's not.

iain't try'na say: "synths are the future, submit. guitars drool." just - it's nothing new, but synths remained ascendant in 2006. i'm not even going to name names (they're all over my mix, which i just know you wanted me to link to again; hence the subtitle, or whatever it is.) okay, one: "what you know." word. alright, two: timbaland. [soo happy he's back running the show, instead of whatever else he's been doing since miss e... showed us the future all of 6.5 years ago. oh yeah, i guess there was some other stuff with missy and justin in the interim - but still, he's been missed.] see, that's how to get me interested in hip-hop. or rock [delays] or even indie idiosyncretism [beirut?] or...hot chip? [hm, not sure yet] anyway...sosumi, i'm synth slut.

as for dance pop - what, did you expect me to have been writing about dance-pop? - well, you know, it doesn't even hardly have to try. yeah, it's almost just boring at this point.

electrognika, on the other hand
...i also feel lost in. sorta just not as popular, innit? or it's not accessible the way it used to be, back when 90% of what mattered (or what i was aware of) seemed to be on warp and astralwerks, which were well-distributed and often easy to come by cheap/usedly (because, i think, more people were checking it out or, at least, there was a smaller range of releases to check out.) sorry, i've been listening to the chemical brothers lately (yeah, their most recent album is decidedly inferior; but come with us still kicks! and that seemed like a dinosaur even in '02) and i just sort of miss big beat. though not idm so much (in theory i would like to have checked out the '06 aphx and sqrpshr albums, but...)

now - well, i guess i can begin to accept that kompakt, playhouse, perlon, bpitch, and what-have-you have more or less inherited that tradition (right?) but it still feels like a different (hipper/more underground/definitely less accessible) tradition that has not so much inherited as supplanted the other one. (where did it go? that basement jaxx album was so resolutely enh, with all it had going for it. why do [some] electronica producers just seem to lose their touch? they're so uncool now! even dj shadow's not immune - he's not going to be able to fool us much longer that this genre-jumping shenanigans constitute "artistic integrity.") bbbut. yes, there is ghostly - i feel their groove (dug the idol tryouts comp from this year; spectral sounds too though it was sort of hard to get into), and i like the fact that they're american (despite the "int'l.") and their stuff is at least somewhat available. (didn't somebody say force tracks was coming back too? oh, the luomo disc is pretty nice, though that's neither here nor there maybe.)

i guess part of my issue has to do with a dearth of personality. maybe i'm just not approaching it right. but although the stuff definitely sounds cool, i just have a really hard time getting into, for example, villalobos, or really any of the kompakt guys. on the other hand...maybe that's because i more or less just know them through mixes and compilations. [still no dice on finding a copy of alcachofa, let alone for a reasonable price - $15 or thereabouts would be do nicely - i've been searching for years! this is a "modern classic," people, it should be around!] i did manage to grab isolée's wearemonster - at a bargain thanks only to tower's final mad rush - that one's lovely. (but that's '05.) more like this please? i think maybe i'm disappointed about where the microhouse train seems to be ending up.

personality is not a problem, needless to say, for the likes of matmos, daedelus, ratatat [do they remotely count?], the dfa [those remix volumes are almost obnoxiously undeniably high- quality. i haven't heard the lcd-nike joint, yet.] even ellen allien [mostly cuz i came to crush on her via berlinette, but orchestra of bubbles has plenty of its own spunk, some of which makes it feel in places, like a mini big beat revival(!)] or, of course, for the knife.

oh, lovely lovely the knife. silent shout was the perfect, and perfectly realized, compromise between all that "minimal" claptrap (maybe we're not supposed to still call it that, but as you can tell that befits the kind of effect it's had on me thus far, musically at least, if not psychologically) and, you know, pop music. which makes it especially satisfying, not to mention extremely exciting, that it's apparently breaking through to a considerable extent (well, considering the circumstances!) let this be a test for what the power of the 'fork (ok, and the musosphere by extension) can accomplish.

incidentally, i've been bumping deep cuts all the time, almost obsessively - hard to believe it didn't get more recognition on its initial release: as far as i'm concerned it's easily the equal of its successor in terms of quality, and it's a hell of a lot more approachable. and not even that much less unique. guess it's too late for "heartbeats" to actually be a stateside hit, huh? matthew pointed out this evening that it (the album) is reminiscent of prime björk. good call, and now i will not start writing about björk, because it will make me cry. [ah...butbutbut...what's this? b-b-bjerk w/ b-b-beats? would you believe that hasn't happened in nearly ten years? and timbaland beats, no less? does this mean it's safe to dare to hope?]

[ETA: personality also less of an issue for rex the dog, who has made definitely the most fun stuff that i've heard from the kompakt kamp - looks like album coming soon, so yay! same for lindstrøm, whose album i really need to cop. though maybe what i just mean is that these guys have made my favorite (and the catchiest) singles that i've heard (which may also not be saying much.) that is, e.g. "personality" (=personability) is poppiness - it just means having some memorable quality, making it possible to relate. maybe that's not right though. wow, the rex the dog website is seriously adorable.]

[oh yeah, i guess there was this dubstep business too. i'm intrigued. i did get the various album (tower again!) (can we just call them various productions, please? that's at least slightly less confusing) and i remain unenlightened. i'm not really sure what's going on, except that there's an uncredited remix of a certainly, sir song ("secret stone," retitled "sir," for those paying attention) which is probably the best thing on the album. and my copy of that certainly, sir ep is still missing presumed dead. will burial or kode9 or whomever see domestic release? what if they, like, win the mercury prize or something?]

perhaps i better say something about dance-pop after all. in case it bears/needs repeating: as of 2006, i am officially a big smiling unapologetic Lover of Pop. i already was all of those things (smiling, unapologetic, a pop-lover, big perhaps not), but now it's official. and, as i may have mentioned, '06 was in some ways a banner year for Pop. chartywise. can we make a list of the (let's say just american) pop stars who released albums this year?

christina aguilera, justin timberlake, jessica simpson, beyonce, ciara, christina milian, amerie (apparently?), mariah carey, janet jackson, madonna (the live thing, yember?), prince, gwen stefani, nelly furtado, cassie, rihanna, jojo, paris, fergie, p!nk, mary j. blige (ok, late 05 - then let's count pussycat dolls too), (hannah montana, aly+aj, et al, if we even wanna count them)....

maybe better to ask; who (of significance) didn't?
britney spears. um, michael jackson. hilary duff. kelly clarkson (girl should get busy.) (ashlee/lindsay/avril/skye, but that's almost a separate issue; besides they were doing other things.)

is that a made point? possibly every year has this much pop in it, i'm just paying more attention now then ever (which isn't to suggest that i've heard most or even many of these albums)? but i kind of don't think so. in any case, it's kind of a brilliant time to be a poptimist. only trouble is, there is a noticeable lack of really stunning pop singles. it's certainly a far cry from '03 (the year of "crazy in love," "ignition remix," "hey ya," et al. - the year that ignited the fire of my poplust that has since been fanned into a blaze.) no "toxic" or "1 thing" or "since you been gone" either. i refuse to accept "crazy" as the best thing on offer...but then there's nothing that really jumps out as an alternative. ("my love" is gorjess and all but...no. btw, for a fun game: try singing its title to the tune of "my humps.") except, of course, for "4ever." no, even that's not that incredible.

guess that means we're counting on britney to pull through for us next year. you just know she's gonna do it too. everyone's rooting for her! there has never been a better moment! c'mon brit, make the single - nay, the album of the decade - i dare ya!

one thing i realized recently; a tradeoff inherent in becoming a pop dude - although it means that the music is more readily available, the albums easy to find, and also generally quite cheap, relatively soon, if not right away; concert tickets become more or less prohibitively expensive (and way less desirable, i think, given the venues and whatnot.) or else, in the case of european (or other international) pop acts, concerts are nonexistent, and albums generally also prohibitively expensive (only on import, and maybe rare even then) - but it's pretty easy to download them, (and easy to feel justified doing so, as there's not much of an alternative.)

for some reason i don't feel that way about downloading similarly overpriced and rare and import-only electronica albums. maybe that's because it seems like they are available here in the states, which may be an illusion caused by the sense that there's at least more of a community (djs, right, and bloggers?) here that's interested in them. or maybe it's just cause they're harder to download (at least on acquisition.) yeah, that makes more sense. though the personality problem persists (and, as discussed earlier, would only be exacerbated by listening to them in mp3-playlist form.)

that, i believe, is that. it appears i have just conducted a haphazardly systematic survey of my prevailing thoughts and opinions about the musical milieu, circa right now. i'm not sure that's what i intended, but it's not a bad way to end one year and start another (belatedishly), takin' stock and all that.

and now i reckon it's time for this ballyhooey to whimper out, since i don't sense any more bangs coming on. full speed ahead into 2007, then. i might almost be ready - post-end-of-year-binge remission seems to be wearing off. i'm not quite up to the level of anticipating new releases yet (good thing i got a headstart on of montreal and the shins.) but i have been digging back into the past - good thing to do in january (a la last year's 50's/60's vs. '05/'06 mixcassette, which i'd like to document hereabouts sometime soon) (1st anniversary!) in this case, i'm reading peter guaralnick's sweet soul music, something i possibly should have done ages ago (and i was intending as research for my EMP paper. but...just found out i didn't get accepted into EMP - more on that later perhaps - so scratch that.) since the paper's not happening, i'll try to channel some of the thoughts here instead, perhaps beginning with some running commentary as i read guaralnick.

what else to look for in coming weeks/months:
• my rejected EMP proposal, and more stuff about soul
• the mysterious liquid silver crystals
• a late '90s dj-mix (10th anniversary edition)
• maybe a funky groovin' mix (based on an inspiration i got tonight)
• that oldies tape, and if we're lucky, some of the other tapes i made early last year
• indie vs. pop vs. indiepop vs. .....but really, why so confrontational?
• thoughts on my burgeoning dj career
• ???

1 comment:

Dave said...

britney spears. um, michael jackson. hilary duff. kelly clarkson

All have albums on the way in '07. And all are kinda teenpop now that will.i.am is producing Jacko!