Friday, December 17, 2004

Da Year That Wuz

It's almost over. 2004, that is. This is the time when I start thinking about putting together a top ten list and some kreative komments for the annual Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll. I decided long ago that there was no way I could come up with some state of the music nation treatise or ipods-what-do-they-mean? handwringer every year. (I should explain a little. Every year, the Voice encourages voters in the Pazz & Jop to send in an essay or some random comments about the year past.) I'm way too out of the loop to pretend that I have a clue as to what is going on with poprock culture. I always figure it's just more of the same, only louder. So now, I just come up with some one-liners about various targets ubiquitous enough that even I couldn't ignore them during the year. It's more fun that way. Plus, it makes it look like I care a little. Sometimes when I'm slow handing in comments, the dean of rock & roll, Robert Christgau, sends me a form e-mail that says in effect: Look, I don't understand it either, but you have apparently amused us in the past with your Pazz & Jop essays, so get on the ball and give us some. P.S. - Don't ever e-mail me for any reason. Yerz, The Dean. Or something like that. Also, every year I crawl deeper into my vinyl cave. I rarely listen to the radio anymore, cuz all the stations sound horrible - not the music, the stuff surrounding the music - and they depress me. Constant commericials, robot deejays, the same 10 songs. Plus, the robots rarely tell me what I'm listening to. Some stations will play 5 songs in a row and never tell you what they were! I rarely watch the video channels either these days. They are way up in the 70's and 80's on my cable box. I forget they are there. I only try to remember that HBO is channel 201 and that's hard enough for me cuz I'm slow. I get those digital music channels on the teevee, but they are in the 400's! They might as well be on Mars. Or on a regular radio that I never listen to. God help me, I listen to NPR mostly. It comes in the best. All of this helps to isolate me from popworld. I have to look at lists of singles just to think of stuff to vote for. I used to have scores of new pop songs indelibly etched in my brain every year. Alright, enough of this. I'm old! There, I said it. And albums? Well, that's a little easier. I can almost always come up with ten of those a year. My lists are usually pretty weird though. Things I got in the mail, mostly. I always have one album on it that everyone else voted for. But that's it for the most part. I'm not "willfully" obscure, but I ain't the general public either. I try to at least hear the "big" albums that come out. But I miss a lot. I'm usually not a big fan of the top ten every year. Wilco? No thank you. Soft Bulletin? MMM...Nope. Oh, lots of them.

This year I'm probably gonna vote for that Fiery Furnaces album. That will put me in with the in-crowd for one album at least. I really really dig it. I still have never heard their first album. I agree with whoever said that the new one should have been all one song. I coulda appreciated the perversity of that. The first one sounds more like the White Stripes or something, no? Well, it's cool that they got that out of their system. People who don't like that Fiery Furnaces record are hiding something. I don't know what, but I'm gonna investigate. I like the piano. I like her voice. I don't hate his voice. I like the long songs. I like the allovertheplaceness of it. I like the ambition behind it. You know: About his voice. Which is kinda just another indie-dude voice. I wonder if I would have listened to that album twice if he had done all the singing!! Weird, huh? But I might have gotten all chauvinistic on his ass and just decided that he was some lame brian wilson/elephant 6/genius-wannabe! I'm not saying that I definitely would have thought this, but lemme tellya, if you are gonna make an overlong indie-prog art-rock album it helps to have a cool/lovely grrrl's voice helping to sell it.

*Contenders For My Prestigious Top Ten List*
What else? Big & Rich. They are my number one with a bullet. And I'm not gonna get on my high horse OR cowboy and explain in depth why it moves me so. It just does. It's an undeniable record once you've heard it. Whether you love OR hate it. I played it for someone once and they actually found it OFFENSIVE!!! No, really. They were offended. All I know is that it is the only album that gave me chills all year. Actual honest-to-god chills! That's all I need to know.
Peccatum's Lost In Reverie might make my list. I liked it as much as anything else I heard. Ambient/dark/electronic/metal. Lovely stuff.
Das Oath's self-titled album on Dim Mak might make it. I love that thing. Noise/punk/hardcore crazy stuff. Way better than Stankonia.
Maybe the last Beta Band record. I really liked it, but it might not actually be memorable enough to make my list.
That Numbers Band reissue *Jimmy Bell's Still In Town* I played the hell out of that thing. I don't really know why it impresses me so much. Jazz/rock/hipster R&B poetry ain't usually my thing. I kept pulling it out and putting it on again. It's hypnotic or something.
David Thomas & Two Pale Boys - 18 Monkeys On A Dead Man's Chest. This was a GREAT album. AndI know for a fact that almost nobody heard it.How do I know that? I just do. Have you heard it? Exactly. I'm gonna have to review that one on here soon.
Isis - Panopticon This is a big maybe. Same with the new Neurosis. I dig them both a lot, but Neurosis have done better and I will have to listen to the Isis a bunch more to remember how good it is. Which isn't a good sign. I should just remember how good it is. I know it sounded great when I got it, but I didn't play it ALL that much. We shall see.
The Homosexuals Boxed-Set - Astral Glamour. This is a definite. I don't have a problem voting for reissues. It was new to me!
Notekillers comp on Ecstatic Peace. This is more of a long-shot, but I love the thing. great nowave/punk/guitar a la sonic youth and all those other downtown heroes, but this stuff predates a lot of SY & their ilk. Not that that's why it's good, cuz it was first. It's good all on it's own. Loud, jazzy, rock instrumentals that excite you in all the right areas. Or me anyway.
The Gris Gris album on Birdman. Another maybe, but I play it a lot and it is one of the few great 60's/garage inflected albums I heard this year that doesn't get swamped by the history of it all. The dude takes Seeds/13th Floor Elevator and makes something new out of it. The songs are really strong. Maybe that's it. None of it makes me want to dig out an old Rokey album. That's my biggest compliment. Hives make me wanna hear the Remains, Jack White makes me wanna hear the Pixies or The Gun Club, and all those back-from-the-cave-with-more-rubble-for-your-grave bands just make me want to listen to Too Short or something.
Tarentel - We Move Through Weather Instrumental dope-nod beauty with a hella-cool drummer and lots of space to fill that they actually fill. Improv stuff too. Spare me the live show. Send any bootlegs ya got. My couch is comfy.
I know I'm forgetting a bunch of stuff, but these are some of my definites, some maybes, and some maybe-nots. Oh, and Bonk! I forgot Bonk! NOBODY heard that Bonk album. I think they made one copy and sent it to me. It's great though. Norwegian punk/classic rock/whatever on Racing Junior records. *Northern Soul* is the title. If Junior Senior mated with The Darkness? Nah, I'll think of something better than that. Maybe you can download it somewhere for free if you don't believe me.


Blogger Nate P. said...

OK, understand: I neither love/like nor despise/dislike Big & Rich. I do not really understand why. "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)"? Not in my top ten. Or twenty. 40? Yeah. (It is possibly the only thing ever improved by being associated with the ubiquitous "World Series of Losing Money Playing Cards, You Schmuck" ads on ESPN.) The album? Still somewhere on the hard drive, but not getting any play. At all. I asked Matos once what I'm missing and he protested "c'mon, you have ears!" But I think they've been damaged. By the RZA.

As far as I can parse it:
-People who really like B&R: people who really liked mainstream country but wanted some genuine evidence it is getting out of what appeared to be an increasingly conservative rut; camp enthusiasts; people who want a spite vote to lash out and say "fuck you" to Loretta Lynn for hanging around with Jack White (or, more likely, the people who are entertained by Loretta Lynn hanging around w/Jack White); people who do not have to deal with midwestern dualie-truck "SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, COMMIE FAG" culture on a regular basis and therefore do not have to regard all pop-country, no matter how progressive and subversive, with at least mild suspicion; people who get giddy at hearing Texas white boys talk about "crunk" (which is sort of like the flip side of Devin the Dude referencing Reba McEntire, maybe). Aside from the Loretta-haters, these reasons are all laudable.
-People who hate B&R: Assholes, mostly. And backlash kneejerkoffs. And British people, which when it comes to journalism has already been covered by those first two categories.

I'm not a part of any of these demographics, and am pretty much country-illiterate, so that's my feeble excuse. (Then again, this IS the year I discovered I love at least two Foghat singles unconditionally.)

11:27 AM  
Blogger Maria D. said...

I grew up in Montana and vowed in high school to never EVER listen to country. But Big & Rich swings and I just can't deny it.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Scott Seward said...

See, I think the anti-Big & Rich thang is easy to understand. It's a pretty corny record. Albeit, corn of a high order. And some people, even people with a funnybone or two, aren't always gonna cotton to corn. Ya know? You have to succumb to Big & Rich. You have to let them take you on their crazy pop-country-rock-rap-disco ride. You can't go kicking and screaming. And if you have a low corn-tolerance, well, it might not be your thing. My corn-tolerance has always been as high as an elephant's eye so the album was never a problem for me. They didn't have to win me over. And in the end, no other album I heard this year was such a JOY to listen to. Just wall to wall entertainment. And those harmonies! And those hooks! I still haven't heard that Gretchen Wilson album. I gotta get that one. And I still haven't heard what one wag called *Von Dutch Rose*. If more rock critics are writing about and loving the pop-country these days it's cuz there is SO MUCH of it that is catchy as hell and worth listening to. I'll let others talk about the cultural aspects of it. Music-wise though, that stuff is pretty hard to miss or discount.Plus, the videos are amazing.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Yeah, I think one thing Nate forgot in his taxonomy of the pro-people, is just: people who really appreciate and enjoy the fuck out of really well-performed two-part close-harmony singing. I mean, there are a few people left in this world who like to dig on the things musicians are actually doing with their instruments and voices, without regard to extra-musical concerns. Just a few though. Maybe even a critic or two, I'm not really sure anymore though.

I like the B&R record, but it probably wouldn't be a 2004 top tenner for me, were I to compose such a list. Much as I admire it, I simply don't find myself pulling the dang thing out and playing it all that much.

5:03 PM  
Blogger The Manthony said...

people who really appreciate and enjoy the fuck out of really well-performed two-part close-harmony singingthese people should check out Good Charlotte. They've got an Everly Brothers 2K thing going on sometimes.

The Hives/Remains comparison is so apt that I was about to hate you for fucking up my Hives love, Scott, but then I remembered I also like the Devo element. You forgot the Devo.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Matthew Perpetua said...

Scott, I strongly recommend checking out the Fiery Furnaces first album. It's not as dense and perverse, but it's very very good, basically the same sort of thing in miniature. I like it a bit more, but that could be because it was my first contact with the Furnaces aesthetic. There's a LOT less singing by Matt on the first album too, btw.

I also recommend hearing/seeing them live. If you email me your address, I'd be happy to hook you up with a show from the Blueberry Boat tour in which they chop up/mix up/rearrange the songs so that it's one long super medley.

7:18 PM  

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