Sunday, February 29, 2004

Sign I am getting old: I liked it better when people who said shit like this (that's "People who don't like Xiu Xiu are dead inside," avoid-a-linkers) were Natalie Merchant fans.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The new Courtney Love album is pretty good. I am genuinely shocked that I think this. Update: Matthew Wilder would seem to disagree, which is fine, since I am happy to disagree with anyone who wrote that embarrassing piece of shit Britney article. Another update: Not two minutes after I posted this, a reader reminded me, "You forgot about Wilder's piece of shit Madonna piece." So I did, so I did.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Click on this right now. Alicia Keys inna roots stylee. Incredibly great. (Thanks to Mark Marcelo's blog for the link.)

Saturday, February 21, 2004

The flyer Philip Sherburne discusses here is annoying the living shit out of me right now, because it's like my nightmare of Williamsburg/Olympia/wherever hipsterdom taken to its nth level. I mean, "White Out"?! Are these people REALLY living so far away from the rest of reality that they don't see how stupid they look by trying to meta- their way out of the fact that they refuse to engage any black music being made in the last 20 years, and even when that isn't the case they're doing it winky-winky ironically? It's not a crime to not like black music if you don't like it (though I'm probably not going to trust your tastes too much if you don't--I know, boo fucking hoo), but this approach is just idiocy. And it's doubly annoying when irony is used as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

This is on my mind anyway, in part because of something Jane Dark wrote a few days ago, about Nate's P&J tokenism thread on ILM. I have long found myself a little suspicious of Dark's writing even when I couldn't agree with him more, which happens frequently enough for me to keep my eyes open for his byline(s). I'm not sure any other music writer infuriates me and earns my respect in as equal measure; he's brilliant at words and brilliant at rhetoric. But even when he's getting his mitts dirty in pop he seems to be writing from a perch, and I don't mean there's anything particularly academic about his approach, either. I mean he's always a couple steps ahead of you, and doesn't mind you knowing it. This is irritating not because I feel left behind but because as a reader I constantly feel like he's patting me on the head. I learn a lot from his writing, but I distrust it a lot, too--as much as I think, "Geez, he's totally right, people are hedging on race in this discussion, myself included for not really even getting involved," seeing someone be called out for fundamental dishonesty by someone who writes under a pseudonym or ten seems a little too cute. (Like I ought to talk: Angelo is my middle name, Michael my first, so in a sense I'm faking it too.)

Nevertheless, he's not at all wrong when he says, "All too often, folks . . . will call down the lightning on alleged villains without quite saying who the villains are--a particularly noxious cowardice when it's obviously about protecting potentially profitable relationships ('All editors are jackasses! Except for everyone who might read this. I didn't mean you. Call me!')." I don't think that's specifically what Nate did on that thread, and I don't believe Dark thinks so, either. But I know what he's talking about, because I've done it quite enough myself. So getting back to the subject I started with--that flyer Sherburne wrings his hands over--let us ask: How many ways are there to step around "body fear," "submerged racism," "completely unearned snobbery," "total fucking cluelessness," "sheep," etc.? If anything, it reminds me of the year-end issue of XLR8R magazine, one of the most embarrassing things I read during a period and in a medium full of them. (Highlight: the dismissal of "disposable house music"--fair enough, sure, except it comes from, wait for it . . . a guy from the k-lame acid-jazz label Ubiquity Records!) update: Nate Patrin can defend his own damn self, thank you very much.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Keith was, of course, right to point this out a few days ago, but I always knew there was something it reminded me of, and now I remember: this ode to Paul's Boutique, which while lacking the badly-translated charm of the Billy Joel thing is still one of the earliest milestones to obsessive fandom on the Net that I'm aware of. I remember poring over it at my ex-girlfriend Amie's apartment--she was a U of MN student and had free Net access; I was a poor nightclub employee who spent a lot of time at her place on the computer--back in '98 or so, which isn't so early for the Internet really but I'd been hearing about it for something like two or three years at that point. Nice to recall a classic every so often, though.

Here's an idea and a half: halfway though Sam Chennault's Atmosphere profile, Slug mentions that he's working on a covers album: Slug Does Women, where he covers Liz Phair, Alanis Morrissette, and Shellac, because "Steve Albini is a bitch." Probably never going to see the light of day (nor is it probably even really in the works), but I'd listen to it once.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Porn PR speed-dating. Very entertaining. (Copped from O-Dub.)

Today I am 29 years old. Not doing much beyond writing and editing (and more writing and editing, plus learning to convert the files at work to our new computer system, gah), but I will be having birthday festivities on Sunday, hurrah. Here, for no particular good reason, are 29 things I'm happy with right now that I don't think I've shouted out (too much) on this blog:

1-5. Laura Cassidy, Andrew Bonazelli, Katie Millbauer, Neal Schindler, and Steve Wiecking. When I came back to the Weekly, I had no real idea what to expect from the staff writers--I'd worked with Laura before, knew Andrew's freelance work some, but both those had been years before. In the last seven (eight?) months, both of them--the primary music writers on the paper's staff--have been doing consistently good-to-great work, not just as writers but in behind-the-scenes roles (Andrew compiles the music calendar, Laura does the weekly club pick plus other technical jobs I'm not even sure I fathom) that allow me to worry about comma placement and other minutiae. They think both on their feet and sitting down, they work like demons, they're easy as pie to edit, and they're wonderful people on top of it--everything I want in coworkers, writers, colleagues, friends. Neal is our editorial assistant, the biggest non-film-editor movie buff at the paper, one of my best friends on the staff, and dauntingly energetic; he also does good work on singer-songwriters, a category-if-you-call-it-that that it's all too easy to fall into solipsism or received wisdom when discussing. He doesn't. Katie used to be the ed. ass't, has moved up in '04 to ass't editor (largely overseeing the food section), writes smartly about damn near everything (as, I hasten to add, do all of these folks), and had one of the most ambitious (and best) pieces I've yet run in her Cuban hip-hop overview. Steve edits the stage section; I knew (and liked) him around the tail end of my last Weekly stint, and when I came back he knocked on my door and said, "Can I write about some of the kitschy stuff?" Holy mother of fuck can he ever.

I don't usually talk about work stuff on this blog for the simple reason that I spend a lot of time at the office, and thinking about what I do for a living (not just rock criticism itself, though obviously that's on my mind a lot, too, but specific reviews, pieces, etc.), and want to think about something else sometimes. But man these folks--along with dozens of others, but them especially--deserve the dap. Bow, humans.

6. Augustus Pablo, King Tubby's Meets Rockers Uptown (Deluxe Edition) (Shanachie). Greatest dub album ever, of course; one of the records that changed my life when I encountered it in '97 (thanks again, Jon), and look--bonus tracks that stand right up next to the rest of the not-even-close-to-crumbling edifice.

7. 2003 a la Nate Patrin. Been playing it all day, and not once have I been tempted to put on anything else. With a stack of goodies that includes still-shrinkwrapped copies of Arthur Russell's Calling Out of Context, the four new titles from
Sublime Frequencies, and Glenn Branca's Lesson no. 1 staring down at me, that's saying something.

8. Sharpies, all shapes, sizes, thicknesses, etc. Bought at Staples last weekend; at long last, the ability to write whatever wherever in whichever color I want.

9. Tim Lawrence, Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979 (Duke). Three different music writers I know--none of whom know each other, as far as I'm aware--have emailed me asking what I think of this book. Apparently word got around (by osmosis?) that I'd devoured this over Christmas and early January. Lawrence is a bit stiff as a writer, but nobody is more dogged a researcher, and if the clubs he describes in such loving detail seem mythological as much by memory's exaggeration as by historical importance, the stories he extracts from their habitues, plus his own awestruck love of the stuff, does the job just fine. More than any normal person has ever wanted to know about David Mancuso's choice of phonograph needles, but even that fits into the overall theme of personal-freedom-as-cautious-excess. (What ruined disco, after all, was reckless excess, especially on the record companies' part; Mancuso is The Good in Lawrence's eyes because he's out to create a utopia, however exclusive, and one that lasts.)

10. Brian MacDonald set it up, we'll be writing some introductory and overview-type stuff for it, and it will store our maniacal labors of love--and others' as well, we hope.

11. Peter Biskind, Down and Dirty Pictures (Simon & Schuster). Dirt, dirt, dirt--especially on Harvey, mostly on Harvey, almost exclusively on Harvey. Great reading, though I gotta put it down after every chapter to get my head back on straight after all the Harvey abuses.

12. Louis Jordan, Jivin' with Jordan (Proper, UK). As outlined on Boogie Fever recently--in his prime, maybe the greatest record-maker of all time. Thing is, I haven't even gotten to his prime yet. Whoooo boy!

13-17. New Continuum books from the 33 1/3 series by Elisabeth Vincentelli, Chris Ott, John Perry, Joe Harvard, and, uh, me. There is nothing quite as satisfying as holding a book you wrote yourself in your hands. Even in advance form. Finished Elisabeth's Abba Gold treatise two hours ago, and it's as good as I'd hoped. Can't WAIT to read the rest of 'em.

18. The Roots ft. Cody ChesnuTT, "The Seed (2.0)." My favorite song of the past three weeks; the most ungodly-right guitar and drum sounds ever achieved, plus the lyric is some kind of miracle boast. Absolutely perfect from beginning to end.

19. Charlie Rich, "Who Will the Next Fool Be?" Close behind: a fugue for brushed drums, piano, and blues-country vocal.

20. The Streets, A Grand Don't Come for Free (Vice). Reviewing this for the Voice. Not sure what I think quite yet--apparently, it's a long narrative through-line, so I'll have to play it a bit more before I decide. Still, having it is its own reward.

21. Belltown Pizza on 1st Ave. between Wall & Battery. Try the medium pepperoni. It's the crust, but it's the pizza, too.

22. The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me (Frenchkiss). "We spent the night last night in Newport News" is so unbelievably perfect a Craig Finn line--sounds redundant but isn't, plus funny as hell just cadence-wise--I wonder sometimes if it isn't his best. Then 85 more occur and I forget to wonder.

23. My new apartment. Two bedrooms (one still needs filled, though that's probably happening next week-ish), a great heater, a bit out of the way but near loads of buslines--all it needs is furniture.

24. Procrastinating on book reviews. Though doing this has limbered me up so that when I finally get back into what I'm supposed to have been doing for the last four hours, I'll be ready! All right! Look the other way, boss!

25. This unbelievable explication of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." Courtesy of Keith Harris--who else?

26. Shoehorning Dave Queen's review of The A.M. into the section this week. Plenty more coming from him, huzzah. Yes sir . . .

27-8. ILM and ILE. Still. After--gasp!--three fucking years. What's the matter with me/all of us? Can't get enough of that heated, real-time, all-the-way-live discourse (haha "discourse"), I guess. Not to mention accompanying netspeak (haha "netspeak").

29. You are happy hardcore!
You are happy hardcore!

What kind of techno music are you?
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Sunday, February 15, 2004

About 7pm last night, eating bbq chicken nachos at a soulless corporate chain bar/restaurant (the kind that serves nachos exactly the way I like them), reading a magazine (The Believer, gets better every issue, swear to god), overhearing music piping in. Specifically, hearing a bassline--it seemed to honk, probably the cutting-thru-the-ambient-muck that made it that way, but it was essentially four notes heading downward, like a loop of someone descending a small stepladder after fixing a lightbulb. Sounded familiar but couldn't quite place it till I began noticing the voice on top of it: Van Morrison's. The song was "Into the Mystic," off Moondance, from 1970--a great album, an early favorite of mine if you can term a "favorite" a record you play a lot but never attach specific undying love to, meaning it's never been a particular emotional favorite though I'd never disagree with the idea that it's Morrison's best album, because it probably is. What struck me is that the vocal, drums (heavy on hi-hat), and b-line were all I could hear. No piano, no horns, no guitar, just the rock-solid basics, backing instruments, no melodic embellishment. It sounded fucking great, and especially as someone who's always resisted back-catalogue tampering like it was Ted Turner movie colorization, it made me wonder whether I wasn't perhaps a little hasty there. I mean, look at Panthalassa or the undubbed version of Al Green's "Love Ritual," or, a more recent example, the "pre-mix" bonus cuts on Captain Yaba's Yaba Funk Roots, a 1996 album that RetroAfric' reissued last year, whose final version is a solid, grooveful, highly polished evocation of Afrofunk-turning-Afrodisco only more modern and whose "pre-mixes" are RAW AS FUCK and shred mightily. Maybe someone oughta open the vaults and tamper some more. It might just be useless, like the countless Ibiza comps riddled with boom-boom-boom-boom versions of disco songs that didn't really need thicker bottoms to get your ass in gear. But maybe not.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

So. Pazz & Jop. Here's the short version: Great consensus picks, methinks--very strong top 10s, both albums and singles. I've come around a bit on OutKast--never hated it per se, just never overwhelmed, but it's grown on me, and the Grammys and the poll are part of why. Consensus is good, sometimes, even if it seems a little too consensus-y. I'll leave Nate's thread to that task, but I went a bit further than he did (or anyone should have, honestly). See, our good friend Keith asked aloud, "How would the album results differ if you discounted the votes from folks who didn't cast a singles ballot?" I wondered that, too. So I found out.

Pazz & Jop Top 100 Albums of Non-Singles Voters:
{ranking, artist, title, label, point total, (voter total), [placement in actual P&J poll]}
1. OutKast: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below Arista 920 (78) [1]
2. The White Stripes: Elephant V2 649 (57) [2]
3. Radiohead: Hail to the Thief Capitol 397 (36) [4]
4. Fountains of Wayne: Welcome Interstate Managers S-Curve 338 (37) [3]
5. The Shins: Chutes Too Narrow Sub Pop 257 (24) [6]
6. The New Pornographers: Electric Version Matador 245 (22) [9]
7. Rufus Wainwright: Want One DreamWorks 222 (24) [12]
8. Warren Zevon: The Wind Artemis 216 (21) [21]
9. The Strokes: Room on Fire RCA 214 (21) [11]
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs Fever to Tell Interscope 201 (19) [5]
11. Cat Power You Are Free Matador 176 (17) [14]
12. Richard Thompson The Old Kit Bag Cooking Vinyl / SpinArt 155 (10) [59]
13. Lucinda Williams World Without Tears Lost Highway 153 (16) [16]
14. Drive-By Truckers Decoration Day New West 151 (14) [9]
TIE My Morning Jacket It Still Moves ATO/ RCA 151 (14) [19]
16. Jayhawks Rainy Day Music American/Lost Highway 146 (14) [41]
17. Johnny Cash Unearthed American 138 (11) [31]
18. Kings of Leon Youth & Young Manhood RCA 135 (14) [26]
19. The Postal Service Give Up Sub Pop 135 (13) [17]
20. Belle and Sebastian Dear Catastrophe Waitress Rough Trade 134 (16) [18]
21. Pernice Brothers Yours, Mine & Ours Ashmont 133 (14) [22]
22. Grandaddy Sumday V2 116 (11) [30]
23. 50 Cent Get Rich or Die Tryin’ G-Unit/Shady/ Aftermath/Interscope 115 (13) [15]
24. Robert Wyatt Cuckooland Rykodisc 114 (9) [75]
25. Jay-Z The Black Album Roc-A-Fella 113 (9) [13]
26. Neil Young Greendale Reprise 103 (10) [51]
27. Death Cab for Cutie Transatlanticism Barsuk 99 (10) [34]
28. Ryan Adams Rock N Roll Lost Highway 98 (12) [48]
29. Rapture Echoes Strummer/Universal 98 (10) [25]
30. Joe Henry Tiny Voices Anti- 98 (8) [82]
31. Al Green I Can’t Stop Blue Note 91 (9) [53]
32. Rosanne Cash Rules of Travel Capitol 88 (9) [89]
33. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros Streetcore Hellcat 88 (8) [47]
34. Broken Social Scene You Forgot It in People Arts & Crafts 88 (7) [40]
35. The Bad Plus These Are the Vistas Columbia 87 (8) [60]
TIE Four Tet: Rounds (Domino) 87 (8) [29]
37. Junior Senior D-D-Don’t Stop the Beat Chunky Frog / Atlantic 83 (7) [27]
38. Gillian Welch Soul Journey Acony 81 (9) [81]
39. Fiery Furnaces Gallowsbird’s Bark Rough Trade 81 (7) [28]
40. Califone Quicksand / Cradlesnakes Thrill Jockey 80 (7) [94]
41. Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban Mambo Sinuendo Nonesuch / Perro Verde 76 (8) [118]
42. Missy Elliott This Is Not a Test! Elektra 76 (7) [24]
43. Kathleen Edwards Failer Zoe 74 (9) [57]
44. Reverend Charlie Jackson God’s Got It CaseQuarter 71 (6) [122]
45. The Wrens The Meadowlands Absolutely Kosher 70 (7) [43]
46. Festival in the Desert World Village 68 (6) [138]
47. Mars Volta De-Loused in the Comatorium Universal 68 (3) [36]
48. Miles Davis The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions Columbia / Legacy 67 (6) [75]
49. Raveonettes Chain Gang of Love Columbia 66 (7) [56]
50. The Decemberists Her Majesty Kill Rock Stars 64 (7) [71]
TIE Emmylou Harris: Stumble Into Grace (Nonesuch) 64 (7) [95]
52. M Ward Transfiguration of Vincent Merge 64 (6) [111]
53. The Thrills So Much for the City Virgin 63 (8) [42]
54. Rickie Lee Jones The Evening of My Best Day V2 63 (7) [120]
55. Basement Jaxx Kish Kash Astralwerks 62 (7) [8]
56. Led Zeppelin How the West Was Won Atlantic 62 (6) [37]
57. The Libertines Up the Bracket Rough Trade 60 (6) [23]
58. Yo La Tengo Summer Sun Matador 59 (6) [69]
59. Lyrics Born Later That Day… Quannum Projects 57 (5) [45]
60. Fannypack So Stylistic Tommy Boy 56 (5) [67]
61. Broadcast Haha Sound Warp 55 (5) [52]
62. Exploding Hearts Guitar Romantic Dirtnap 55 (4) [111]
63. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists Hearts of Oak Lookout 54 (6) [20]
TIE Cassandra Wilson: Glamored (Blue Note) 54 (6) [109]
65. Café Tacuba Cuatro Caminos MCA 54 (5) [65]
66. Nada Surf Let Go Barsuk 54 (4) [65]
67. Damien Rice O Vector 52 (6) [49]
68. Blur Think Tank Virgin 52 (5) [54]
69. Bonnie Prince Billy Master and Everyone Drag City 51 (4) [114]
70. Polyphonic Spree The Beginning Stages of … Hollywood/ Good 49 (4) [100]
71. Twilight Singers Blackberry Belle Birdman 47 (5) [107]
72. Rancid Indestructible Hellcat 47 (4) [74]
73. The Beatles Let It Be ...Naked Capitol 46 (4) [157]
TIE R. Kelly Chocolate Factory Jive 46 (4) [44]
TIE Weakerthans Reconstruction Site Epitaph 46 (4) [93]
76. Kelis Tasty Star Trak/ Arista 45 (5) [62]
77. TV on the Radio Young Liars Touch and Go 45 (4) [72]
TIE Wire Send Pinkflag 45 (4) [125]
79. Dandy Warhols Welcome to the Monkey House Capitol 44 (5) [63]
80. Songs: Ohia Magnolia Electric Co. Secretly Canadian 44 (4) [110]
TIE Thursday War All the Time Island 44 (4) [135]
82. Steely Dan Everything Must Go Reprise 42 (5) [138]
83. David Bowie Reality Columbia 42 (4) [168]
TIE Ben Harper Diamonds on the Inside Virgin 42 (4) [245]
85. Shelby Lynne: Identity Crisis (Capitol) 41 (4) [90]
86. Erykah Badu Worldwide Underground Motown 40 (5) [86]
TIE Jet Get Born Elektra 40 (5) [131]
88. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Take Them On, On Your Own (Virgin) 40 (4) [96]
TIE The Darkness Permission to Land (Atlantic) 40 (4) [31]
TIE Evanescence Fallen Wind-Up 40 (4) [207]
TIE Paul Westerberg Come Feel Me Tremble Vagrant 40 (4) [129]
92. Khanate Things Viral Southern Lord 39 (4) [241]
93. Josh Rouse 1972 Ryko 39 (3) [114]
94. The Distillers Coral Fang Sire 38 (4) [92]
TIE Fleetwood Mac: Say You Will (Reprise) 38 (4) [128]
96. Randy Newman The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1 Nonesuch 37 (5) [142]
97. Alicia Keys The Diary of Alicia Keys J 37 (4) [61]
TIE The Clientele The Violet Hour Merge 37 (4) [143]
99. Arab Strap Monday at the Hug and Pint Matador 37 (3) [215]
100. Beyonce Dangerously in Love Columbia 36 (5) [58]

and its corollary . . .
Pazz & Jop Top 100 Albums Excluding Non-Singles Voters:
1 OutKast Speakerboxxx/The Love Below Arista 2634 (227) [1]
2 The White Stripes Elephant V2 1762 (155) [2]
3 Fountains of Wayne Welcome Interstate Managers S-Curve 976 (80) [3]
4 Radiohead Hail to the Thief Capitol 847 (79) [4]
5 Yeah Yeah Yeahs Fever to Tell Interscope 817 (77) [5]
6 Basement Jaxx Kish Kash Astralwerks 723 (65) [8]
7 Dizzee Rascal Boy in Da Corner XL 700 (59) [10]
8 The Shins Chutes Too Narrow Sub Pop 660 (67) [6]
9 New Pornographers Electric Version Matador 636 (65) [7]
10 Drive-By Truckers Decoration Day New West 584 (53) [9]
11 Jay-Z The Black Album Roc-A-Fella 503 (53) [13]
12 50 Cent Get Rich or Die Tryin' G-Unit/Shady/ Aftermath/Interscope 445 (44) [15]
13 Strokes Room on Fire RCA 432 (49) [12]
14 Cat Power You Are Free Matador 430 (42) [14]
15 Rufus Wainwright Want One DreamWorks 427 (37) [11]
16 Ted Leo & the Pharmacists Hearts of Oak Lookout 392 (34) [20]
17 Lucinda Williams World Without Tears Lost Highway 388 (45) [16]
18 Postal Service Give Up Sub Pop 388 (38) [17]
19 Libertines Up the Bracket Rough Trade 341 (31) [23]
20 Notwist Neon Golden City Slang/Virgin 319 (29) [33]
21 Belle and Sebastian Dear Catastrophe Waitress Rough Trade 315 (32) [18]
22 Missy Elliott This Is Not a Test! Elektra 304 (34) [24]
23 The Darkness Permission to Land Atlantic 302 (29) [31]
24 Bubba Sparxxx Deliverance Beatclub/Interscope 299 (31) [35]
25 My Morning Jacket It Still Moves ATO/ RCA 296 (30) [19]
26 Pernice Brothers Yours, Mine & Ours Ashmont 285 (27) [22]
27 The Rapture Echoes Strummer/Universal 280 (35) [25]
28 Junior Senior D-D-Don't Stop the Beat Chunky Frog / Atlantic 276 (30) [27]
29 Fiery Furnaces Gallowsbird's Bark Rough Trade 272 (27) [28]
30 Four Tet Rounds Domino 262 (27) [29]
31 Justin Timberlake Justified Jive 260 (28) [46]
32 Liz Phair Liz Phair Capitol 259 (24) [38]
33 Johnny Cash American IV: The Man Comes Around American 257 (26) [39]
34 Led Zeppelin How the West Was Won Atlantic 249 (22) [37]
35 Mars Volta De-Loused in the Comatorium Universal 244 (28) [36]
36 Kings of Leon Youth & Young Manhood RCA 239 (24) [26]
37 Grandaddy Sumday V2 232 (21) [30]
TIE Death Cab for Cutie Transatlanticism Barsuk 232 (21) [34]
39 R. Kelly Chocolate Factory Jive 230 (22) [44]
40 Lyrics Born Later That Day… Quannum Projects 218 (20) [45]
41 Electric Six Fire Beggars XL 217 (21) [50]
42 The Thrills So Much for the City Virgin 216 (23) [42]
43 Warren Zevon The Wind Artemis 208 (23) [21]
44 The Wrens The Meadowlands Absolutely Kosher 208 (16) [43]
45 Johnny Cash Unearthed American 204 (17) [31]
46 Anthony Hamilton Comin' From Where I'm From So So Def/ Arista 203 (18) [54]
47 Broken Social Scene You Forgot It in People Arts & Crafts 201 (17) [40]
48 Damien Rice O Vector 188 (20) [49]
49 King Sunny Ade The Best of the Classic Years Shanachie 181 (15) [68]
50 Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros Streetcore Hellcat 179 (20) [47]
51 Manitoba Up in Flames Domino 178 (15) [64]
52 Broadcast Haha Sound Warp 174 (18) [52]
53 Blur Think Tank Virgin 173 (18) [54]
54 Beyonce Dangerously in Love Columbia 170 (17) [58]
55 Raveonettes Chain Gang of Love Columbia 162 (18) [56]
56 Alicia Keys The Diary of Alicia Keys J 160 (17) [61]
57 Ryan Adams Rock N Roll Lost Highway 153 (16) [48]
58 Kelis Tasty Star Trak/ Arista 150 (16) [62]
59 Buck 65 Talkin' Honky Blues WEA import 150 (12) [70]
60 Dandy Warhols Welcome to the Monkey House Capitol 150 (11) [63]
61 Atmosphere Seven's Travels Rhymesayers/Epitaph 148 (14) [75]
62 Kathleen Edwards Failer Zoe 141 (14) [57]
63 Little Brother The Listening ABB 141 (13) [83]
64 Jayhawks Rainy Day Music American/Lost Highway 140 (16) [41]
65 Matthew Dear Leave Luck to Heaven Ghostly International 140 (14) [73]
66 Café Tacuba Cuatro Caminos MCA 138 (13) [65]
67 Nada Surf Let Go Barsuk 138 (12) [65]
68 Al Green I Can't Stop Blue Note 137 (16) [53]
69 Sean Paul Dutty Rock VP / Atlantic 136 (15) [80]
70 Fannypack So Stylistic Tommy Boy 135 (13) [67]
71 TV on the Radio Young Liars Touch and Go 134 (13) [72]
72 Prefuse 73 One Word Extinguisher Warp 133 (14) [88]
73 Neil Young Greendale Reprise 131 (12) [51]
74 Yo La Tengo Summer Sun Matador 128 (14) [69]
75 Northern State Dying in Stereo Northern State 127 (13) [100]
76 Rancid Indestructible Hellcat 126 (14) [74]
77 Juana Molina Segundo Domino 125 (12) [91]
78 Super Furry Animals Phantom Power XL 119 (11) [87]
79 The Decemberists Her Majesty Kill Rock Stars 117 (11) [71]
80 David Banner Mississippi: The Album Universal 115 (13) [105]
81 Matmos The Civil War Matador 114(11) [113]
82 The Delgados Hate Mantra 113 (12) [97]
83 Erykah Badu Worldwide Underground Motown 111 (13) [86]
84 The Bad Plus These Are the Vistas Columbia 109 (11) [60]
85 The Kills Keep on Your Mean Side Sanctuary 106 (13) [79]
TIE British Sea Power The Decline of British Sea Power Rough Trade 106 (13) [85]
87 Sufjan Stevens Greetings From Michigan, The Great Lakes State Sounds Familyre/Asthmatic Kitty 105 (8) [114]
88 Ms. Dynamite A Little Deeper Interscope 104 (12) [102]
89 Shelby Lynne Identity Crisis Capitol 104 (11) [90]
TIE Sleepy Jackson Lovers Astralwerks 104 (11) [98]
TIE The Stills Logic Will Break Your Heart Atlantic 104 (11) [127]
92 Lightning Bolt Wonderful Rainbow Load 104 (10) [99]
93 Miles Davis The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions Columbia / Legacy 103 (10) [75]
94 The Distillers Coral Fang Sire 102 (12) [92]
95 Amy Rigby Til the Wheels Fall Off Signature Sounds 97 (12) [102]
96 Zwan Mary Star of the Sea Reprise 97 (11) [106]
97 Rodney Crowell Fate's Right Hand DMX/ Epic 96 (9) [78]
TIE Deerhoof Apple O' Kill Rock Stars 96 (9) [102]
99 Michael Mayer Fabric 13 Fabric 94 (9) [140]
100 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Take Them On, On Your Own Virgin 93 (12) [96]

I'd analyze this but (a) I'm tired and (b) I think they speak for themselves. Don't you?

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Favorite PR one-sheet headline I've encountered recently: "Andy Narell exploers a new route to brilliance in The Passage." Jesus--that makes so much sense. I'd been wondering what the passage was to, and now I know!

Saturday, February 07, 2004

About a year ago, I finished doing what was, to me then, a unimaginably monumental undertaking: Commemorating 2002 with a series of mix-CDs. Inspired by the eight-CD set Sasha had made at the end of 2001, I modeled mine on his--and since I was convinced 2002 was an even better pop year than '01 had been, I decided to be even bolder and raise him. I'd make . . . make . . . I'd make ten CDs! Hah! Show you right! So I did; I even invited folks to show me what I'd missed, an idea that netted me a handful of pretty cool mixes from various friends and strangers. When it was all over, I felt triumphant, somehow--like I'd accomplished what I'd set out to do, however arduous a task it may have been.

Then Sasha (who, it must be noted, has been keeping busy kicking ass in the New York Times of late) unleashed an 18-disc 2002 set. Ulp. I'd had a hard enough time putting my ten together; even if you count the fact that three of Sasha's 2002 were old songs (labeled such: Pop, Vigorous, Mellow), I wasn't going to bother ante'ing up. Obviously it's silly to conceive of these things in competitive terms--if you need any reason to look down your nose at music geekdom as a dick-waving contest, here you are--but I can't deny there was some of that happening on my end. The "competition" becomes even sillier when you look at how one-sided it was: Sasha and I hadn't met when he made the '01 set, and were barely acquainted when I did my '02 or he his. But I did think of it that way, mostly because I'd been struggling to figure out how to do something similar--I remember attempting to make a 2CD set encompassing my '01 faves and getting really frustrated at how dimensionless the tracklists I came up with were. In a weird way, what Sasha's '01 set did was give me permission to gigantize a year-end set. It seems silly looking back--I was a grown adult, for fuck's sake; who was stopping me? The answer, of course, was myself: I got caught up in the kind of internal rulemaking that's endemic to geekdom, or at least the kind I've engaged in all my life. (Important note: Please do not email me with Nick Hornby comparisons. I've already heard them a million billion times. I've even made them myself, years ago. It's getting tired, especially since I don't apply those rules to myself anymore. Thank you.) So eight discs of 2001 sparked my "I wanna do that" bug, and that the number had a rather lovely symmetry didn't hurt, neither.

Then Nate came up with the C700 Go! idea (coming soon to another page near you--stay tuned!) and blew the lid off shit. Right after I finished my 10CD 2002 set, I had decided it would be fun to take on another year--maybe do an eight-disc set for, oh, 1979. I actually made a CD of all '79 stuff; the idea was that I'd do them at my leisure, over the course of a few weeks or months, maybe do a handful of years simultaneously. When Nate put together his 106-song 2002 set, I was impressed--he knows hip-hop much better than I do, for a start--but when he announced he was going to try the same thing with 1972, I had a similar reaction to my earlier Sasha-aided epiphany. It wasn't as intense, of course--I'd already been going in a similar direction. But it's obviously done a job on my leisure time.

I always figured I'd go back and remake, or add to, my original 2002 CDs--Sasha's monster plus eight or nine other single discs from various friends, acquaintances, etc., certainly gave me plenty to work with. But in putting together the following, I decided not to worry too much about all that. Instead, I'm honoring my original ten; only a couple of songs didn't appear on them. Even when I'm happy with a C700 Go! I never mistake it for definitive--like all sensibilities, mine has major gaps. (I mean, no folk music in 1961 apart from an obscure live Dylan cut?!) And the 2002 below is amazingly short on microhouse, which especially given how much assistance I've had in acquiring it from the two Andys (Battaglia and especially Kellman) there really is no excuse for. But I'm quibbling--and there is always the possibility that I'll go back and make a companion disc consisting entirely of stuff that didn't make it onto my original ten. Not a bad fucking year, y'know?

C700 Go! 2002
1. Pet Shop Boys: “Home and Dry”
2. Crooked Fingers: “When U Were Mine”
3. Braces Tower: “Special Child”
4. Boards of Canada: “1969”
5. Elvis Costello: “When I Was Cruel no. 2”
6. Atmosphere: “Modern Man’s Hustle”
7. TLC: “Dirty Dirty”
8. DJ /rupture: “Rumbo Babylon”
9. Orchestra Baobab: “Gnawe”
10. Roberto Juan Rodriguez: “Jerusalem Market”
11. Burnt Sugar: “Lunching with Mr. Akhan”
12. Kid America and the Action Figures: “Dancin’”
13. The Streets: “Weak Become Heroes”
14. VHS or Beta: “Heaven”
15. Moony: “Dove (I’ll Be Loving You)”
16. X-Press 2 featuring David Byrne: “Lazy”
17. Soul Center: “A Good One”
18. 2000 Elephants: “Uzo (Cosmic Rocker Remix)”
19. Fischerspooner: “Emerge”
20. Luomo: “The Present Lover”
21. M. Mayer: “Falling Hands”
22. Smith ’N Hack: “To Our Disco Friends”
23. No Doubt: “Hella Good”
24. N*E*R*D: “Things Are Getting Better”
25. The Roots: “The Seed (2.0)”
26. Justin Timberlake: “Rock Your Body”
27. N.O.R.E.: “Nothin’”
28. Snoop Dogg: “From the Chuuuch to the Palace”
29. Frenchbloke: “Intro (Whoop de France)”
30. Nelly: “Hot in Herre”
31. Sugababes: “Freak Like Me”
32. Missy Elliott: “Work It”
33. Scarface: “On My Block”
34. Freelance Hairdresser: “Marshall’s Been Snookered”
35. DJ Shadow: “Six Days”
36. Out Hud: “This Bum’s Paid”
37. Sleater-Kinney: “One Beat”
38. Queens of the Stone Age: “No One Knows”
39. Andrew Broder: “The Takeover”
40. Nas: “Made You Look”
41. Clipse: “Young Boy”
42. Aesop Rock: “Night Light”
43. Jel: “17. Channel Assign”
44. Rjd2: “Smoke & Mirrors”
45. Moby: “In My Heart”
46. Pulseprogramming: “Blooms Eventually”
47. Alfie: “Cloudy Lemonade”
48. Ballboy: “I Hate Scotland”
49. Luna: “Black Postcards”
50. Pink: “Don’t Let Me Get Me”
51. Neko Case: “Deep Red Bells”
52. Spoon: “Small Stakes”
53. The Kills: “Cat Claw”
54. Sonic Youth: “Rain on Tin”
55. The Rapture: “House of Jealous Lovers”
56. Lo Fidelity Allstars: “Feel What I Feel”
57. Tweet feat. Missy Elliott: “Oops (Oh My)”
58. Future Bible Heroes: “I’m a Vampire”
59. Clinic: “The Equaliser”
60. Closer Musik: “Maria”
61. Cornershop: “Heavy Soup”
62. Kurtis Rush: “Get Ur Faith On”
63. Royksopp vs. Indeep: “Last Night an Eple Saved My Life”
64. Northern State: “Rewind”
65. Numbers: “We Like Having These Things”
66. Casino Versus Japan: “Single Variation of Two”
67. LCD Soundsystem: “Losing My Edge”
68. Princess Superstar feat. High & Mighty: “Bad Babysitter”
69. Murs and Slug: “The Two”
70. Cee-Lo: “El Dorado Sunrise (Super Chicken)”
71. Arto Lindsay: “You Decide”
72. Matthew Shipp: “Space Shipp”
73. The Cinematic Orchestra: “Burnout”
74. Imperial Teen: “Baby”
75. Daniel Bedingfield: “James Dean (I Wanna Know)”
76. Toby Keith: “Who’s Your Daddy?”
77. Drive-By Truckers: “The Three Great Alabama Icons”
78. Eminem: “Without Me”
79. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: “What Have You Done for Me Lately”
80. Shakedown: “At Night”
81. Playgroup: “Number One”
82. Dsico: “Love Will Freak Us”
83. ESG: “Six Pack”
84. Tata Pound: “Badala”
85. Yondo Sister: “Reviens Johny”
86. Dim Dim: “Riri”
87. Meshell Ndegeocello: “Hot Night”
88. Mixmaster Mike + Lateef and the Gift of Gab: “Kalakuta Show”
89. The Hives: “Hate to Say I Told You So”
90. Freelance Hellraiser: “Smells Like Booty”
91. Joey Ramone: “What a Wonderful World”
92. Rancid: “Don’t Call Me White”
93. Ivy: “Streets of Your Town”
94. Marianne Faithfull: “Sliding Through Life on Charm”
95. Ann Lee: “2 Times”
96. Kylie Minogue: “Burning Up”
97. Data 80: “Love Was Made for Two”
98. The Chemical Brothers: “Star Guitar”
99. Golden Boy with Miss Kittin: “1234”
100. Akufen: “Deck the House (Herbert Stops Like This Mix)”
101. Decomposed Subsonic: “Discopatterntester”
102. Pantytec: “Doubledip Uuh…”
103. Nettle: “Duende (DJ Scud Mix)”
104. Truth Hurts feat. Rakim: “Addictive”
105. Beenie Man & Robyn: “Red Red”
106. Future Troubles: “Drunken Master”
107. Wayne Marshall: “Party Time”
108. Styles: “Good Times”
109. Cam’ron: “Oh Boy”
110. Raphael Saadiq: “Uptown”
111. Kool G Rap feat. C-N-N: “My Life”
112. Tonex: “Bout’ a Thang”
113. Coldplay: “In My Place”
114. Dntel: “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan (Superpitcher Kompakt Mix)”

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Well, that was fast! On Monday, Chuck Eddy and I did the final edit of my Kylie Minogue/Luomo review, and now, on Thursday, it's on the Voice website.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

And oh yeah--this week, my singles column, One Piece at a Time, debuts. This time up: LCD Soundsystem, Go Home Productions, Strictly Kev, and, uh, Nickelback.

My letter to the Voice, which is basically what I wrote below, about Richard Goldstein's Michael Jackson/R. Kelly column, followed by his response.

Here's one I love: me, Andrew Bonazelli, and Laura Cassidy of the Weekly predict the Grammy Awards over a few drinks.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Irrefutible proof that I am a helpless product of the mid-'90s: Yesterday, I received in the mail a pair of 2CD compilations on Ninja Tune, Zen CD: A Retrospective and Zen Rmx: Remix Retrospective. They are nicely packaged, naturally; they are stuffed full of music, of course; and $50 says that a good 60% of music contained therein will never give me any genuine pleasure as long as I live. Having played three-quarters of the first disc of A Retrospective, I proved myself right: apart from Mr. Scruff's "Sweetsmoke," a playful riff (and I do mean riff) on stab-heavy late-'90s filter-house, most of it sounds bleh. Not just bleh--cutesy bleh, the kind that makes smart people distrust this stuff. You don't have to even be a hip-hop pseudo-lifer to find this approach annoying; it's the kind of stuff that appeals primarily to people who've been sheltered from hip-hop in any but its most collegiate or poppy guises--or at least that was the case back when people mistook this stuff for the future.

Needless to say, one of those people was me. And needless to say, I've put the disc on again and am playing it right now. And needless to say, this is the source of my shame: I keep giving it a chance, long after I should know better.

Why? What on earth am I learning by playing boring "downtempo" "beatz"/reconstituted hip-hop/refried food (har har)/any of this stuff? That the English are whimsical? All I have to do is read ILM for that. (Sorry, Limeys, I love a whole bunch of you, but your continued insistence that the usual post-Bolan/Bowie brigade of suspects somehow "rocks" or "can sing" is FUCKING BATSHIT.) (You too, pseudo-Limes.) ("Limons"?) Most all of it is wallpaper, and while I love me some good wallpaper (Another Green World holler), most of this stuff disobeys the golden rule of ambient, which is to repay attention as much as inattention. Most of the time when I play this stuff, even (especially) on headphones, my focus slides right off it like an egg on a freshly waxed car. I'll never forget the day I put on some NT comp (I think it was something like If Ya Kan't Stand Da Beatz Git Out Da Kitchin or something equally obnoxiously misspelled--and I am a BIG FAN of creative misspellings, so don't even try it) in close proximity to Endtroducing . . . (not back-to-back, I don't think, but within an hour or two of each other, most likely) and realizing that, you know, the reason most people kept saying nice things about DJ Shadow and not the rest of these guys was that he had so much more imagination than they did--he kept things moving by switching up patterns, developing ideas before your ears, playing tricks without being precious about it. He wasn't (isn't) afraid of being bold or flat-out rocking it. And most of the Ninja brigade and their cohorts . . . well, once they've EQ'ed the drums to a certain level of graininess and found their handful of samples, that's all folks. The sampler is the greatest instrument in the history of humankind because it allows you to do wild with the ideas; sure, you can end up with a grating over-busy-ness as a result, and the best hip-hop (or downtempo, or post-hop, or whatever) loops are often the simplest ones. (Cf. "Come Clean," "Method Man," most of Maxinquaye.) But the strike rate of this stuff was, is, surprisingly low.

Haha, "I'll never forget the day"--Jesus, even my epiphanies about this stuff barely register on the importance scale, even for me, and I'm a sucker for minutiae! That's probably why I like microhouse so much more, though--it's full of minutiae, stuffed with it, or at least the best stuff is. Even if m-house up and dies in '04 (and like I said, I wouldn't be a bit surprised, four or so remarkably consistent years is a LOT in this day and age) it's had a hell of a run. (Reasons no. 1 & 2 I think this might be happening: the upcoming DJ Koze and, especially, ugh, Pass Into Silence discs are the worst things I've ever heard on Kompakt.) I know that's unfair--it's one label, those are two releases, boo hoo. But you know the law of averages with record labels, especially ones run by and for friends--the further afield they go, the less focused they are, and when focus is all that becomes a real problem.)* But I'm not even able to muster any nostalgia for the N-Tune etc. stuff; it's wallpaper, period, most of it, except it's wallpaper that your kid brother threw his pudding pops at till it melted and it wound up just stuck there. (Not for nothing was one of its leading labels called Jazz Fudge, methinks.) It's not wallpaper that wriggles with life, that gets more fascinating with deep concentration, that isn't afraid of its own feelings or, especially, libido and have a sly not silly sense of humor about it (give me a genre whose artists call themselves Pantytec over one starring a Mr. Scruff).

Right--I sound like I hate this stuff unreservedly. I don't, though, partly because it gets at my biggest weaknesses: gigantism and identification. I'm willing to wager that the most famous v/a collections of this music have been the longest--the three 2CD Headz comps Mo'Wax put out and the 3CD Xen Cuts box Ninja Tune did five years or so back. (Which is another reason I'm bewildered by these Retrospective comps--didn't they already fucking DO this?) And of course here are a pair of 2CD sets . . . you get the idea. Yet--yet--the best collections I can recall right now have been not just single discs but relatively short single discs: City of Industry and Pop Fiction, both on Quango/Island in '97 and '96 respectively. The size of the Headz comps especially seem like attempts to demonstrate the immersive quality of the music, to show that this stuff is, you know, a world unto itself or something. (Well, that and the fact that the mid-'90s were a hubristic time generally, I mean Roaring ’20s eat your heart out; and that James Lavelle wanted to prove what a badass he was by folding friends famous--Beastie Boys--and semifamous--Tortoise--into his omelette.) Xen Cuts you can forgive for being a 10-year anniversary deal, and for having better selections all round. But especially the 4CD Headz 2A and B is my generation’s Sandanista! or something--too fucking much, of course, but also better than it’s given credit for. Or maybe not, since S! did win the Pazz & Jop in ’81 and all (no Headz II’s seven-point second-place finish in the short-lived Compilations ballot does NOT count). But still, bring up either and someone’s gonna bitch about overkill, and not at all wrongly, either.

But maybe I’m just nostalgic. Headz 2 came out during a really terrible period for me, when I was broke and completely alone in Seattle, the most completely adrift and aimless I have ever been in my life; I clung to that music (along with Prince’s Emancipation, another monument of too-fucking-muchness) with my life, and its one-dimensional aerosol-mist background paintings + clanging beatz worked as one kind of immersion therapy. (I was mostly a straightedge then, though I’d tried pot earlier in ’96 and was working very hard at not being a complete tightass about drinking, something that took me years to accomplish.) This stuff was a phase like any other, but it occurred at a crucial period for me, right before I stopped dicking around and kidding myself that what I wanted was to write about music.

So there you have it: I keep trying this stuff despite knowing better because it reminds me of when I was younger and less bright but things seemed possible in ways they don’t now. URGENT! LATE-TWENTYSOMETHING WRITER MISSES YOUTH! STOP PRESS! Right, I’m hopelessly banal. I’ll cut it out now. I do have more to say about this, though damn if I can remember what anymore. Maybe tomorrow. If I ever get over myself and/or my “past,” that is.

*Not that this is going to prevent me from going to NYC for the Superpitcher/M. Mayer/SoundMurderer extravaganza next month HOLY MOTHER OF GOD I CAN'T WAIT.

Monday, February 02, 2004

"This is rock music but you could play it at a disco." "Yeah, a dude disco."