Friday, January 29, 2010

The RA '00s lists (Albums, Mixes, Tracks) are up now; I contributed blurbs to each (No. 71 album, No. 21 and 3 mixes, No. 17 track). There's quite a bit on all three lists that I don't know, but a lot of what I do know I like a lot. In many cases (especially albums), I'd presumed some sort of greyness about many of those I haven't heard, or else had heard one and wasn't hooked. I'll be revisiting everything I can, as I can--maybe I'll make it a project.

RA had impressed me as a reader before Todd Burns tapped me for reviews. It intelligently reckons with music that is too often left to the "don't think--feel" school. (They have a point, but the other is better.) I've grown to like a lot of the contributors--Ryan Keeling, Stéphane Girard, Finn Johansen, and Richard Carnes I peel an eye for, of names I hadn't already known--and I like Todd's seriousness and quizzical eye. I'm really glad to have been part of these lists.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A few weeks ago on Twitter, I wrote, "All this talk about VW made me put on this actual No. 1 Western-appropriation-of-African-guitar." (It wasn't actually hyperlinked, obv.) Well, I stand corrected! I like Vampire Weekend, both albums, though "Cousins" makes me think that they should be the latest victim of the age-old buzz-band rumor that they started off playing third-wave ska. (It's like my generation's Rod Stewart semen stomach-pump.) In the Seattle house I lived in before moving to Brooklyn I worked under a smallish store poster of the first album's cover; it was there, and free, and I liked the graphic. I had it on my wall for six months before I ever cracked the shrinkwrap on my copy of the debut. Then I put it on and liked it! Any reservations I might have had (and that the tracks I'd listened to in isolation might have given me) pretty much ended there. New one might be better or at least more expansive, which I can sometimes take to mean the former, but I haven't had a chance to go back yet.

I wasn't kidding about Londonbeat, either. It struck me immediately as a soukous guitar riff, something time has only strengthened. It's basically because the song came out after I'd gotten into Loketo's Extra Ball, a Christgau A, that I noticed the similarity, but once you hear it you won't escape it. The fact that Extra Ball is, per its pinball-inspired title, so fucking fast doesn't hurt either. (I remember putting the title track on a techno mix-tape because I figured it was fast enough to fit in. Obviously, it didn't.) It's also one of the places where "speed soukous" was codified--the sebene, the fast part, the vamp, took over from the rest of the slower, verse-and-chorus song. It's not that different than what hip-hop did with the breakbeat and samples, rejecting everything it didn't like and homing in on what it did and repeating it for that instant high. Indeed, it was occurring around the same period.

I think part of what imprinted the Londonbeat riff as Congolese-Parisian has to do with Extra Ball being essentially where "soukous" became separate from "African music" to my ears. I knew there were different styles, but since all I really knew of the stuff was what I was buying on Christgau's recommendation, but it takes a while to sort out the exact properties that make genres tick. It's one reason I loved buying all those tatty techno comps in high school--pulling apart the good stuff and figuring out where it was coming from, and what it was doing. I'm harder than I should be on people that think Vampire Weekend sounds like Graceland: your ear will pick up on whatever commonalities it hears, just like when my mom is reminded of Bob Dylan by the Plain White T's. And no, that is not what Vampire Weekend reminds me of in relation to African music, either, thank you for asking.

But Londonbeat--that song is still amazing, still utterly present, and that riff is so damn Congolese. I'm certain I've never seen anyone else write about it. I don't think that makes it anything other than a blip, mind you--besides it being a great record, it's not a record of any particular historical import. It operated within a historical continuum it did very little to alter: great Euro-dance-pop songs existed before "I've Been Thinking About You," existed after it, without being touched by it, except where it counted, on the charts: No. 1 in America April 13, 2001. The guitar (and the breathy male vocal harmonies) are what distinguish it most from its dancier SBK-esque brethren, but they're more than enough. I wonder what happened to them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stealing from Frank Kogan's LiveJournal: how I came to the records in my Pazz & Jop ballot, or how they came to me.

1. DJ Koze, Reincarnations: The Remix Chapter 2001-2009 (Get Physical) 30
Pretty certain I saw word of this on the Resident Advisor Feed; it got me excited, and I tracked down a leak and reviewed it for the A.V. Club. I bought the CD at Sonic Boom the day it was released.

2. Art Brut, Art Brut vs. Satan (Downtown) 13
A publicist's email alerted me this was coming out, and I pitched it to eMusic. Listened to a stream and loved it; again, bought the CD when it came out (also at Sonic Boom).

3. DJ Quik and Kurupt, BlaQKout (Mad Science) 11
Rodney Greene, on IM, sent me the link to the video for "9x's Outta 10." Dug around some more and found out the whole album was coming out. Pieced together the album from various singles on eMusic and Hype Machine, with blanks filled in by a friend who'd gotten an entire leak. D/L'ed it from eMusic when it came out (and later reviewed it), and bought the CD for a friend as a wedding gift, along with No. 4 below.

4. Tanya Morgan, Brooklynati (Interdependent) 11
Downloaded from eMusic (for which I later reviewed it) on the strength of a rave on 17 Dots by Joe Keyes.

5. 5 Years of Hyperdub Records (Hyperdub) 8
Saw a news item on RA; pitched it to Baltimore City Paper alongside the Warp 20 comp, and got the d/l link from the publicist. Later purchased at Other Music.

6. The Fiery Furnaces, I'm Going Away (Thrill Jockey) 7
7. A-Trak, FabricLive 45 (Fabric) 5
8. Black Moth Super Rainbow, Eating Us (Graveface) 5
Auto-sent promo CDs, all three. I did three FF pieces (Random Rules for A.V. Club with Matt, sit-down with Eleanor for The Stranger, late-breaking review for eMusic), reviewed A-Trak for RA and BMSR for eMusic.

9. Bloody Mary, Black Pearl (Contexterrior) 5
Requested from Forced Exposure along with a handful of other titles, and fell for it instantly. Reviewed for RA.

10. Syran Mbenza and Ensemble Rumba Kongo, Immortal Franco: Africa’s Unrivaled Guitar Legend (Riverboat) 5
Was sent a promo d/l link from Riverboat and reviewed for Las Vegas CityLife.

1. Walter Jones, "Living Without Your Love" (DFA)

Read a review on FACT, downloaded from eMusic.

2. Joy Orbison, "Hyph Mngo" (Hotflush)
First heard about this when Simon Reynolds linked to a YouTube of it on his blog, was all like, "Really? 'S all right, I suppose, but . . ." I sort of felt that way at first, but it kept drilling into my skull.

3. Art Brut, "Demons Out!" (Downtown)
Heard it with the Vs. Satan promo; played it over and over and over.

4. DJ Kaos, "Love the Nite Away (Tiedye Mix)" (Rong/DFA)
David Drake's Pitchfork track review.

5. DJ Quik & Kurupt, "9x's Outta 10" (Mad Science)
See No. 2 album.

6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Zero" (Interscope)
I think I first heard this on KEXP, on one of the rare occasions when I listened to the radio in Seattle.

7. Maxwell, "Pretty Wings" (Columbia)
For Singles Jukebox review.

8. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, "Young Adult Friction" (Slumberland)
Another Singles Jukebox entry. I'd avoided them because I found the name so insufferably twee, and really didn't think I wanted to know about yet more C86 redux; little did I know.

9. Joker & Ginz, "Purple City" (Kapsize)
Nate Patrin's recommendation.

10. Dâm-Funk, "Brookside Park" (Stones Throw)
First heard of him via FACT, then bought the CD out of curiosity.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Of course I like this. No way "The Tra-La-La Song" is better than "The Race Is On," though--and no fucking way is "Ridin' the Storm Out" better than "Fall on Me."

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Look at this. You don't have to care at all about dance music in order to think this is a seriously smart, imaginative, playful, fun idea. It's a DJ-mix equivalent to things like the Wu-Note Project or the Pelican "Cover Versions," and along with Tom Ewing's new reductionist Tumblr project, it makes me think the internet is stepping up nicely for the new year.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Hey guys have you heard about this brand new band called Golden Girls?!?!?!

Apologies if you're listed out, but here's another: Top 10 albums and online DJ mixes of 2009, for the January Beat Connection. The mixes are all linked, and in many cases I re-upped them. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

My Pazz & Jop albums ballot:

1. DJ Koze, Reincarnations: The Remix Chapter 2001-2009 (Get Physical) 30
2. Art Brut, Art Brut vs. Satan (Downtown) 13
3. DJ Quik and Kurupt, BlaQKout (Mad Science) 11
4. Tanya Morgan, Brooklynati (Interdependent) 11
5. 5 Years of Hyperdub Records (Hyperdub) 8
6. The Fiery Furnaces, I'm Going Away (Thrill Jockey) 7
7. A-Trak, FabricLive 45 (Fabric) 5
8. Black Moth Super Rainbow, Eating Us (Graveface) 5
9. Bloody Mary, Black Pearl (Contexterrior) 5
10. Syran Mbenza and Ensemble Rumba Kongo, Immortal Franco: Africa’s Unrivaled Guitar Legend (Riverboat) 5

I wrote some brief comments about each of these here, alongside lists from Mike Prevatt, Peter Scholtes, and Philip Booth.

Happy 2010 to everyone. I hope the year is good for you all.