11 January 2011

two zero one zero

2010 was a massive year for me in many ways, and, maybe more than in a while, music was a specific and intrinsic part of that: not just in the usual way of years being book-ended and de-facto-defined by listy/mixy nerdage, but in the in-the-moment experience of music helping to enhance and create the year's distinct character as it went along...

a general, gushing sense of all things firing on all cylinders, goodness and life and love springing up at every turn, high highs and low lows, the rush and comfort of the familiar-made-fresh, new things from old, rediscovery and revisitation, vibrancy and potency and possibility and life stretching out in strange and settling ways, and feeling ready, but not anxious, for it to arrive.

the very lived experience of it felt especially vivid, season by season: remember the blizztacular snowpocalypse?! {the night i fell in love with "angel echoes"} and the springiest springtime of my life, for sure (sweet, not fleeting)! {when that fateful, be-witchy joanna newsom re-directed my life once again} then there was a double-edged summer of loose ends, brownian instability and a couple of major meltdowns at home [meterological/horticultural, technological, personal/cohabitational...] {and also lazerproof living room dance parties} b/w endless rural road trips with my blueberrybaby and her blueberrymobile, full (too full) of ice cream and swimming and seafood and sweet little back-country towns ... and then the coziest, homeiest autumn – both resting up at the roost and flitting off to be with my home-away-from-home – leading up to the most fully festive december i can remember. {and a little record player asking "will you please spend new year's with me"...} wow...i hadn't even thought it all through like that before now, but truly, what a year it was...!

as often for me, the year [and, incidentally, the decade] started musically with a diversion into older music, in this case the manifold, mash-tastic sounds of the 2000s, via my january-engulfing mixburst project [which still hasn't quite gotten its due, i feel, though i've got a sense its last gasp hasn't yet passed] – other such forays came with bit of n'awlins noodling in march, a late-springtime round-up of sixties-era dancefloor stylings for our house sockhop, a midsummer investigation of woody guthrie in conjunction with the grapes of wrath and his birthday singalong, and un p'tit trawl of pop français for the like-titled event i dj'd for the philly jewish film fest in november [the results of which i really ought to post here sometime...]

but, really, i had precious little time in 2010 for anything from previous decades. right from the start, i was thrilled by a near-constant stream of new ishness. my AMG coverage skewed more to brand-new-new releases than ever before, and it was also the first year i was covering shows for CP on a regular near-weekly basis; both of these things meant that i was listening to and processing possibly more new music than i ever have, and definitely doing more to stay on top of what was coming out any given week, who was touring when, etc. etc. and it was exciting times! i saw tons of great shows, had a lot of fun writing, got many many great cds in the mail, generally felt like i was riding and cresting with the cycle. not to say that i'm necessarily keen on jumping back in for this year's go-round, but we shall see to that soon enough...

here are some lists: 20;10.

20 albums
Hot Chip, One Life Stand
1. Joanna Newsom, Have One On Me
3. Allo Darlin, Allo Darlin
4. LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening
5. Robyn, Body Talk, Pt. 1-3 [Pt.1 if I have to choose]
6. Vampire Weekend, Contra
7. Javelin, No Màs
8. Sam Amidon, I See The Sign
9. ceo, White Magic
10. The Books, The Way Out
11. Scissor Sisters, Night Work
12. Yelawolf, Trunk Muzik [mixtape]
13. Free Energy, Stuck on Nothing
14. Malachai, Ugly Side of Love
15. Tracey Thorn, Love and Its Opposite
16. Big Boi, Sir Lucious Leftfoot: Son of Chico Dusty
17. Belle and Sebastian, Write About Love
18. Alphabeat, The Spell/The Beat Is...
19. Stornoway, Beachcomber's Windowsill
20. The National, High Violet

[1-8, and especially 1-6, feel totally solid – those are all absolute 5-star albums in my book – beyond that, it's carefully calibrated and yet still so arbitrary-seeming...nevertheless, continued to nearly 100 on the sidebar...enjoy?!]

10 songs:
Vampire Weekend - "Giving Up The Gun"
LCD Soundsystem - "Home"
Dominique Young Unique - "Show My Ass"
Joanna Newsom - "Good Intentions Paving Company"
Teenage Fanclub -"When I Still Have Thee"
Javelin -"Intervales Theme"
Devon Sproule - "Ain't That The Way"
Glasser - "Home"
Robyn vs. Salt'n'Pepa, "Push it Fembot (A Rokk Pie N Mash-up)"
Big Boi feat. George Clinton, Too Short & Sam Chris - "For Yo Sorrows"

[much harder to narrow down; nearly impossible to meaningfully numerate. hence. see also, soon: H'010nanny]

i'll have a bunch to say more specifically about the year's music in the next couple of posts, which will cover my pair of 2010 year-end mixes, but for now i'll just sketch a rough narrative of my year in music, inserting my best-of list rankings just in case they mean anything (mostly because it looked nice last year), framed around the curiously seasonal stylistic clustering that i kept noticing throughout the year – hard to say how much these month-or-two micro-trends were observable on a larger scale (they do make some amount of marketing sense, i suppose), but they definitely stood out to me as the seasons moved along.

the early months saw a lot of new records from well-established old favorites – as highlighted here; the Magnetic Fields, Spoon and Vampire Weekend {#6} [whom i came to love far more this year...i guess i can now accept matt's claim, which i'd forgotten, that it's "the first album of the new decade"] – Alphabeat {#18} (poor, misbegotten danes), Eluvium {#24} (essential wintertime) and, above all, Joanna Newsom {#1} & Hot Chip {#1•}, who made the two utter masterpieces – both, incidentally, with the word "One" in their titles – that jockied for the #1 spot on my year list [and ultimately sort of end up sharing it, though at my most honest i have to give the hot nod to the chippies].

new faves by old friends continued to be perhaps the most notable recurring theme of this year's music, with notables including the Books {#10}, Liz Phair {#22}, Nellie McKay, the Roots {#74}, Big Boi [i.e. ex-Outkast] {#16}, ceo [i.e. ex-TTA] {#9}, the Extra Lens [/sub-Mountain Goats] {#61}, Tracey Thorn {#15}, albeit via a slightly underwhelming detour away from electronics, the New Pornographers {#27}, who cut very possibly their best record since Electric Version – high praise coming from me, even if i still tend to underrate it almost as much as most people did, the Arcade Fire {#31} (it was shocking, but ultimately reassuring, to discover that i am still capable of fairly loving this band), Cee-Lo, Taylor Swift {#58}, Belle & Sebastian {#17}, and, most especially, LCD Soundsystem {#4} and Robyn {#5}, both of whom owned this year, in their own way, probably even more than JN and HC.

(and sure, there were also plenty of disappointments and misfires along the way from several once-dependables, most notably M.I.A. [whose album i may someday bring myself to revisit, but it's gonna take some doing], Damon Albarn [whose Gorillaz have never been my favorite of his projects, but in past i'd always been pleasantly surprised to discover their records after the fact; this time i jumped in from go and found a bewildering emptiness that i swear i've listened to, but can tell you almost nothing about...], the aforementioned Spoon [sigh], and even ye gods Elvis Costello, Jonathan Richman [fine but feckless, which is to say their albums have yet to make me give much of a feck], David Byrne and The Knife [both of the latter in curio-collaboratory mode, making conceptual opera/theater/narrative pieces that i have dutifully enjoyed listening to but not managed to fully plumb, which isn't a great sign.])

but i'm getting ahead of myself... the early part of the year also offered a clutch of accessibly sprightly, tuneful electronic albums from the old-guard likes of Four Tet {#29}, Caribou {#75} [forever in tandem; great to see that they're still growing that way], Bonobo {#67}, plus Pantha du Prince {#83}. and it did yield a few fast new friends; some splashy-delic and sample-happy [Javelin {#7}, Malachai {#14}], others fervent and folky [Mynabirds {#21}, Sam Amidon {#8}, Phosphorescent {#25}] also, fine and fancy rambling with Free Energy whose video shoot i missed [to garden, dang it!] but whose moniker sums up the spirit of the season maybe better than anything.

and then it was the summer of, as i've mentioned, Immaculate dance-pop. with the season signaled by LCD, the charge led by Robyn [holy hosannah Batman, Robyn Returns! was maybe the most beautiful musical mega-event of the year... she even revamped up the remix game for the occasion - I'd kill to get my hands on a fully-stocked "Dancing on My Own" 12", but i'm not convinced it actually exists...] and solid soldiering on the part of the mighty Kylie {#84}, Kelis {#76}, Sia {#89}, ceo {#9}, Scissor Sisters {#11} and Delorean {#72}, massive mixtapes from A-Trak {#86} and Major La Roux-zer {#63}, and fine chart fodder from B.o.B, Ke$ha {#80} 'n' Katy Pee. [h.m. Goldfrapp {#95}, Marina {#82}, and Sky Ferreira, from whom I looking forward to hearing more than just "One." good work keeping with the title theme though, Sky, (and, also, Yeasayer and Swedish House Mafia.]

and then it was September and there was a sudden outpouring of "serious" dark/arty prestige indie rock from mostly established acts [Deerhunter, No Age, Walkmen, Women, Abe Vigoda, Blonde Redhead, Crocodiles] little of which i really got into, save for the Arcade Fire, which came out in August but otherwise mostly falls in line there...seriously it felt like no-fun back-to-skool indie music Oscar season all of a sudden. meanwhile there was also a similar/simultaneous upsurge of variably artsy/abstract/fuzzy/hazy/gauzy/dreamy/blissy/questionably chillwave-associated? new indie stuff going on: How To Dress Well {#55}, Glasser {#51}, Teengirl Fantasy {#77}, Tamaryn, Candy Claws, Salem, among others, which may not all have had all that much to do with each other really, but seemed like some kind of convergence, and seemed like some new sort of thing happening, and certainly seemed like something that it was important for me to figure out. [of these, the first three crystallized as things i am at least fairly interested in, and it turns out they're all pretty different from each other, but i couldn't necessarily tell that in advance.]

(i never really got a handle on witch house (did anyone?), and meanwhile i mostly managed to avoid figuring out all that much more about dubstep this year either, despite Diplo's curatorial efforts, except that i guess most of it is kinda post-dubstep by now, or something? like, also despite spending an awful lot of time with Darkstar {#69} 's North almost-but-not-quite connecting with it...still feeling undecided [though "Aidy's Girl" is still awesome] but it's pretty obviously not dubstep at all...anyhow what do we call the mellower pretty stuff in this diaspora? i've only recently been digesting James Blake, which seems like something decidedly else as well...not entirely sure I get it yet, but it's nice enough to listen to. Likewise Mt. Kimbie and Ramadanman both of whom I've found exceedingly pleasant on at least one occasion or another. but this stuff mostly just seems like the new IDM, and i feel like i'm having the same slippery, unpredictable relationship with it that i had with the old IDM...well, hoping for some solid, solidifying full-lengths in future. it takes full-lengths i think. for me. or comps'll do... f'rinstance, on the more up tick; apparently i'm going to need to spend more time the Night Slugs comp too, that one snuck up on me...i might be just starting to understand "Wut," but again not entirely convinced... however, Permanent Vacation I can get with: funky disco and house, just like i like it. so, needing to get my hands on that too...) [/end electronica digression]

the rest of the year was more of a mixed bag, including many of the aforementioned old favorites, and also Diamond Rings {#26} (whom i did/do overrate somewhat, i suppose, but it's awfully easy to feel fond of him) and Sufjan {#52}, which I'm warming to, but mostly it was – especially in November/December– the most incredibly egregious glut i've ever seen of 'strategically-deployed' X-mas shopping seasonable R&B product, sorry, torrents, sorry, releases?: Rihanna {#29}, Nicki Minaj {#51}, R. Kelly, Jazmine Sullivan, Cee-Lo, Shakira, Ciara, Michael Jackson, Soulja Boy, Diddy-Dirty Money, Black Eyed Peas, Girlicious, Keyshia, Keri, Jamie Foxx, Ghostface, Young Jeezy, Kid Cudi and I'm sure I'm missing several, and, oh yeah, a little something from Kanye West... save, ok, for 'Ye (hang on, let me finish...) that's in roughly descending order of how much I can be bothered to care, although if these had been spaced out through the year a bit more I might have made more time for them (pace The-Dream...sigh, I'm sure I'll get around to liking him eventually. I did make a bit of progress this year...) Dunno what to say about this lot except that the Rihanna singles are pretty undeniable, and I look up to picking up plenty of these albums in used bins over the next few years... [in fact, I've already started - snagged the new Trey Songz for $2 last week.]

Kanye, Kanye, Kanye. OK. I have to say I have enjoyed MBDTF {#30} (meh, disappointing acronym...shall we just call it Twisted?) a lot, which is at least a fair amount more than I expected. It's probably replaced 808s as my favorite KW album – significantly, because it's at least as interesting. I guess it makes some amount of sense as an across-the-board consensus pick [though, really, why couldn't it have been This Is Happening!? – it's no less willfully obdurate, and has a much snappier title], though I can't really fathom it as something that you would give a perfect 10/10... [if anything, it seems like a perfectly imperfect 9.9/10 – no way is this album 1% better than Homogenic] well, sigh. anyhow – some catchy tunes and fun beats, and even some pretty good rapping, though there's also so much bone-headed clunkiness on there, musically, lyrically and production-wise... ok whatever.

So, speaking of: two notable areas that have more or less run throughout the year for me, in contrast to much of what i've been discussing above, are hip-hop and, to a lesser extent, indie pop. as I predicted/planned at the year's outset, i listened to substantially more rap this year than the past few, even if I never did get around to writing a post called 2K h1p-h0p or some such... got a lot of enjoyment out of Big Boi {#16} and the Roots {#74}, for sure, but my favorites were actually two new discoveries, Yelawolf {#12} and Dominique Young Unique {#23; top three song}, both formidable presences with fairly (though not entirely) divergent energies on the mic. also really enjoying the Curren$y mixtapes {#32} lately, as promised, and working my way into Rick Ross, Wacka Flocka Flame, and Das Racist {#49} (great, but somehow not as much of an instant click as they seem like they should be). definitely enjoying Nicki Minaj too (the pop stuff on her album doesn't bother me too much, though I guess I didn't have quite the same expectations other people, and after a bit of waffling [i listened compulsively for about a week this summer, then set it aside for months], i have to admit that Drake {#34} album is extremely compelling and well done, even in its cornier aspects.

As for indie-pop, the big whooping news was of course Allo Darlin {#3}, by some measure my favorite NEW band of 2010, and also the one i most successfully spread love for amongst my loves and friends (even if i did miss their real show, stupid stupid stupid...) Big ups to Stornoway {#19} too on that front (and they did get the chance to blow me away in concert.) Otherwise, Lucky Soul {#85} delivered a worthy follow-up that's just missing some crucial ballads to really connect, Teenage Fanclub {#40}, whom I've barely paid attention before, impressed me mightily, with a few songs in particular, and best twees alive (pretty much?) Belle and Sebastian {#17} made a somewhat mixed-bag record that has at least one of their all-time greatest songs, and at least a handful of pretty good ones. I guess Best Coast {#92} count too. and I guess they're ok.

On a related note: with a few obvious exceptions on the dance-pop front [R-byn, c-o, A-phabeat], and a couple of low-pro Smalltown electrofolks [Diskjokke {#73}, Bjørn Torske {#78}], there was extremely little Scandinavian music that got me at all excited this year – a major change from the last three-four-five years. I liked jj's follow-up {#54} maybe more than I wanted to admit (though it's still a sizable disappointment), I really dug the Love is All {#90} for a brief moment there, I'm enjoying the new Britta Persson {#59} , and, for maybe the first time, a couple of Finnish groups – Husky Rescue {#98} and Regina – caught my attention. And there were a few Hybris releases – Monty, Elias – that probably deserve more of it. Also, Silje Nes, Olafur Arnalds and Ölof Arnalds [no relation? this is confusing] made some amount of prettiness, and perhaps Jonsí did as well, though I'm dubious [except in the visual realm. there; yes.] But I have – so far – found little to love in the new ones from The Ark and Billie the Vision and the Dancers, who are two of my very favorite artists of the last five-ten years, and the Labrador records output mostly failed to shake me up either [Radio Dept, Club 8...Sambassadeur {#94} was oh-kay.] Oh yeah, and I hated the Jenny Wilson album, and Junip and First Aid Kit were boring. I already addressed The Knife, though I am curious about this Oni Ayhun business. (also, i've been draggin my feet on reviewing a number of the aforementioned albums.)

So. Have I dropped enough names yet? There's still a number of things I haven't even mentioned, like (mostly) rock music. Which I listened to a bunch of as well, maybe the most in a while. Like Tame Impala {#91}, The Futureheads, The Black Keys, Wavves {#99}, Dr. Dog {#79}, Foxy Shazam, and the aforementioned Free Energy {#13}. And do The National {#20} even really count as rock anyway? [Somehow their album went from boring off my pants to top 20...i think it had something to do with watching the snow fall to it.]

Well anyhow. There is no end to this story, really. It goes on and on and on. And it goes on and on and on... on to the next!

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