Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Year End Best Of

I wrote an article about Fucked Up's David Comes To Life for Blogcritics. And with that I am officially done writing about that album. P.S. it's awesome.

I also did my best hip hopalbums of 2011  for RapReviews. 

1. Danny Brown XXX
2. Death Grips Ex Military
3. Has-Lo In Case I Don't Make It .
4. Random Axe
5. Pusha T Fear of God II
6. J Rocc Some Cold Rock Stuf
7. Tanya Morgan You and What Army?

My honorable mentions were:
Deadverse Massive The Takeover
Oyoshe Bring Da Noise 2
Serge Severe Back On My Rhymes Greneberg, S/T
The Aztext: Who Cares If We're Dope? 1-4

If I was going to list my non-hip-hop favorite albums of the year, the list would include:

Jessica Lee Mayfield Tell Me
The Babies S/T
Little Scream The Golden Record
TV On the Radio 9 Types of Light
Sugar Minott Hard Time Pressure
Iceage New Brigade
The Field Looping State of Mind

Some random thoughts:
I was incredibly busy this year, and most of the albums that resonated with me were either mellow or really aggro. Something to either smooth out the stress or match my hectic mood.
There is so much more amazing music made each year than is humanely possible to listen to that it is discouraging.
One of the most popular albums of the year, the Adele record, was actually pretty good.
The Bon Iver record is so boring it makes me angry.
I've gone from not caring about Kanye West to actively disliking him.
I started listening to electronic music again.
Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Ten Favorite Songs of 2011

Here are ten songs I loved in 2011.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, "Senator"
In a year of total political disfunction, the chorus of "I know what the senator wants/what the senator wants is a blowjob" was the greatest thing ever.

tUnE-yArDs, "Gangsta" Merril Garbus moved to Oakland right around the time Oscar Grant got killed, and saw the aftermath of that as well as Oakland's high black-on-black homicide rate. "Gangsta" is a reaction to that, with lines like "If you move into my neighborhood you'll never make a sound." Ironically, there are no black people in the terrible video she made for it.

Fucked Up, "Queen Of Hearts" I love this band, I love this album, I love this song. It manages to be both uplifting and tortured at the same time, and is surprisingly poetic underneath its harsh exterior. "All we needed was something to give/the dam is broken, we suddenly live."

Jessica Lee Mayfield, "Our Hearts Were Wrong" This album was world-weary, heartbroken roots music done with production by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. This song sums it all up. "I know how you work/I am just like you/No matter what you say our hearts are wrong."

Danny Brown, "30" Danny Brown sounds on the edge of losing switching between clowning and getting scary real as he raps about turning thirty over a drunken Skywlkr beat. "Came a long way from extension cords in the window/borrowing neighbor's power just to plug in the Nintendo"

TV On the Radio, "You" I was too sick to see them live. I asked my wife how the show was, and she said "noisy." I really wish I could have seen them play this live.

Spank Rock with Santigold, "Car Song"  Way bitchin' 80s, yo.

Waters, "For the One" One half of Port O'Brien channels Neil Young and Kurt Cobain as Waters. I'm pretty sure drugs were involved in the making of the video.

My Morning Jacket, "Outta My System" I wasn't in love with this album, but this Beach Boys-ey song about getting your wild days out of your system stuck with me.

Has-Lo "Everything Is"  This is a devastating song about doing the accounts on your life and realize you are coming up short.

 "When your money ain’t right it seems like everything’s wrong 
‘cause everything is 
When your love ain’t life it feels like everything’s gone 
‘cause everything is 
And you search for it, and you hurt for it 
And you promise each other you’ll work on it 
And you might have to let it go free ‘cause it never was yours 
But that’s everything. 

Tanya Morgan and Spank Rock Reviews

I reviewed two albums last week for RapReviews. First up is Tanya Morgan's new EP, You and What Army?
I'm a fan of TM, and this is another solid release by the group, who are now down to just Von Pea and Donwill. Ilyas saw God and went off on his own.

Then I reviewed Spank Rock's Everything Is Boring and Everyone Is A Fucking Liar. There are some great songs, but the whole thing is merely ok. I love "Nasty," with Big Freedia.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Field Review

Swedish musician Alex Willner has been recording as the Field since 2005. The Field’s 2007
debut, From Here We Go Sublime, was built upon loops and repetition of electronic elements that burbled along pleasantly. His 2009 follow-up, Yesterday and Today, followed the same template but got a little funkier. He’s perfected his formula for his new album, Looping State of Mind.

This record works on several levels. First of all, it works as a dance record. The beats are bigger and heavier than on the previous albums, the synths louder, and the overall feel is of trance done really, really well. However, Willner’s goal is not to blow MDMA-addled ravers minds, but to experiment with sound.

For this reason, Looping State of Mind works as a piece of avant-garde composition. Willner obviously owes at least some debt to Steve Reich; The Field’s music is built on the same principle of repeating and slightly shifting patterns as Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. A prime example of this is “Arpeggiated Love.” It starts off with a clacking beat not unlike a train. Slowly another pattern is built on top of it, and then another, and another, until all of the patterns are interacting and intermingling with each other. The song shifts subtly with the addition or subtraction of various instrumentation and elements. What seems like the beat at one point becomes something else entirely over the course of the song's 10 minutes. Despite the fact that it takes so long to build, the song is consistently rewarding and never boring. The beat is hypnotic, and each new pattern or shift opens the song up in a new and unexpected way. It is like viewing a painting from an extreme close-up and then slowly panning out, realizing as you do that what you thought was the image was something else entirely.

Looping State of MInd is most importantly a beautiful record. Its songs are gorgeous, and despite the head-nodding beats, this is soothing and relaxing music. I listen to it on my commute home in the evenings and it never fails to make my crowded bus ride bearable. A wall of calming sound that is as calming as it is electrifying, Looping State of Mind is the Field’s strongest record yet, and one of my favorite albums of the year.

Article first published as Music Review: The Field - Looping State of Mind on Blogcritics.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Nocturnals and Strictly the Best Reviews

I did several reviews for RapReviews this week. First, I reviewed the Nocturnals ....To Be Continued album. It's available for free at their website. Left-field hip-hop on an Aesop Rock/Anticon kick.

I also reviewed the reggae compilations Strictly the Best 44 and Strictly the Best 45.

I'm working on a few more, and starting to catch up on albums I missed for my year-end list.

Scott Solter - One River

As a producer and mixer, Scott Solter has worked with Superchunk, Okkervil River, the Mountain Goats, Pattern Is Movement, and the Court and Spark. One River is a re-release of an ambient album he made in 2005.
Ambient music is by nature intangible, meant to evoke sensations and feelings rather than the structure and explicitness of most music. I started listening to One River after visiting the Rothko Chapel in Houston, and I immediately saw the connection between Rothko’s monochromatic paintings and Solter’s washes of sound. Neither is meant to be appreciated in the same way as traditional art. There is no subject matter in Rothko’s paintings just as there is no verse-bridge-chorus structure in Solter’s piece. Instead, both artists are concerned with creating emotions in more subtle ways than does traditional art. What ambient music and abstract art offer is an opportunity to experience art that isn’t trying to define the listener/viewer experience. You aren’t distracted by the form, and so can better experience the sensation that the art evokes in you.

One River is meant to be listened to as one piece, and it slowly ebbs and flows over its 33-minute running time. There are processed guitars, synthesizers, and subtle percussive elements. It pulses and runs like the river it is named after, and the end result feels natural and organic despite the digital tools used to produce it. The overall mood is peaceful and reflective. It never veers into new age cheesiness, and doesn’t contain any unsettling or dissonant moments. I love Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume 2, but there are several tracks on that collection that are truly unsettling; and I was happy that One River avoids getting creepy.

Mark and Laura Solter created a film called Twins and Wives to accompany the re-release. While it is an interesting visualization of the music, I prefer to listen to One River without the visuals. Part of my enjoyment of the album is what images and feelings it brings up. It taps into an area of the brain that most music doesn’t touch.
I really enjoy this album, and I’m thankful that Perth-based Hidden Shoal Recording chose to reissue it. It’s gotten me to explore more ambient music, and has been a wonderful contrast to the majority of music that I listen to. One River is an excellent album that fans of ambient music won’t want to miss.

Article first published as Music Review: Scott Solter - One River on Blogcritics.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Twin Perils Review

I reviewed Twin Perils new album, Speak and Destroy, this week on RapReviews. So not my bag.

I'm more excited about the new Tanya Morgan EP, "You and What Army?" which I may or may not review this coming week.

I've also been meaning to review the Beat Street soundtrack for months. I have the review half-written and everything. The problem is, it's sort of a terrible album. The only real highlight is the Treacherous Three's "Christmas Rap," which is amazing.

In totally unrelated news, there are stencils going up all over Haight Street that feature a sad-looking emo kid and the words "you can't kill me because I'm already dead." This is probably proof of what an old man I am, but it drives me fucking crazy. You are already dead? Really? You are a middle class kid from a good home in one of the wealthiest cities in one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest country in the world. Quit feeling sorry for yourself and your pathetic first world problems and start living life and doing something positive. Jesus fucking christ.

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