Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Below are some albums I've heard so far this year that I know I like to some degree or other. They're alphabetical, though Erykah is my definite favorite, with Etran, Portishead, Ellen, Hercules, Quiet Village, and Todd Barry close behind in terms of enjoyment/total plays.

Ellen Allien, Boogybytes Vol. 04 (Bpitch Control)
Awesome Color, Electric Aborigines (Ecstatic Peace!)
Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) (Universal Motown)
Todd Barry, From Heaven (Comedy Central)
Be Your Own Pet, Get Awkward (Ecstatic Peace!)
Blood on the Wall, Liferz (The Social Registry)
Booka Shade, The Sun & the Neon Light (Get Physical)
Boys Noize, Suck My Deck (New State)
Cafénéon (Station 55)
Jennifer Cardini, Feeling Strange (Kompakt)
Clinic, Do It! (Domino)
Carl Craig, Sessions (K7)
Raheem DeVaughn, Love Behind the Melody (Jive/Zomba)
Drive-By Truckers, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West)
Etran Finatawa, Desert Crossroads (Riverboat)
Al Green, Lay It Down (Blue Note)
Hercules and Love Affair (DFA)
Moby, Last Night (Mute)
Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis, Two Men with the Blues (Blue Note)
No Age, Nouns (Sub Pop)
Noze, Songs on the Rocks (Get Physical)
Plantlife, Time Traveller (Easy League/Decon)
Portishead, Third (Mercury)
Quiet Village, Silent Movie (K7)
The Roots, Rising Down (Def Jam)
Santogold (Downtown)
Sick Girls vs. Syrup Girls, Shotgun Wedding Vol. 8 (Violent Turd)
Tapes ’n Tapes, Walk It Off (XL)

I'm quite aware of my limitations here. I left off reissues (DJ mixes don't count, which is why I included Carl Craig, a record I'm on the fence about in terms of category); of those, I've most liked the Willie Nelson box, the Steinski double CD, New Jack Swing Gold, James Brown's complete singles vol. 5, the 1969 Motown box, the August Darnell comp on Strut, the Horace Silver's Newport '58, and the first Nigeria Special comp (like the other two so far, too, just not as much), none of which I've given as much time as I'd like. Despite having a small poster in front of me (it was free at the Sonic Boom near my house), and despite liking the singles I've heard fine, I still haven't cracked the shrinkwrap on Vampire Weekend, or on Malkmus or the live Brad Mehldau Trio, and I still haven't played the Magnetic Fields, the Gutter Twins, the triple Jarrett reissue, or the Helio Sequence, just to stick to stuff that seems interesting in one way or other. I'm woefully behind on hip-hop and no serious jazz fan need pay me any mind whatsoever, though I like the stuff and need to hear more of it.

In country I've been trying out singles--basically been doing the new-chart-adds thing a few other writers and bloggers have been up to. As the sidebar indicates, I monitor a number of charts and some reviews and MP3 blogs, and that's made my listening much more singles-centric--something I enjoy a lot, but it can be hard on tracking albums. The two charts I've paid the most attention to have been the Billboard Country Top 60 and the BBC Radio 1 UK Indie Top 30, whose respective level of turnover are pretty different: two or three new songs per week on average for country, around eight to ten for indie. I use a lot of my free eMusic downloads for the latter; it's introduced me to a number of goodies (my favorite being Johnny Foreigner's "Our Bipolar Friends"), and so has the country list (fave: "Every Other Weekend" by Reba & Kenny). I need to dive deeper into Hip-Hop/R&B chart items too. And thanks to Resident Advisor I've heard plenty of good dance 12s so far too. (Probably wrong to call them "12s" when most of what I hear is digital, but you know what I mean.)

For the personal reasons described earlier as well as hearing more singles-qua-singles, this has been an odd year for me musically--probably more impressive overall than 2007, but messier; I have a looser grip on it than I felt like I did last year. My upcoming road trip will probably not alleviate that too much, and that's fine. I do need to work harder on doing longer, better paid work--the great thing about writing lots of short reviews is you get to listen to a lot; the downside is that you're always too busy to relax. Or as Douglas Wolk inscribed into my copy of Reading Comics last year, "Always on vacation, always on deadline."