Monday, December 28, 2009

Pop Finally Eats Itself, Classical Bores Itself, and The Decade is Nailed Shut Before It's In the Ground

Interesting insights abound this time of year, some late to the party.

**K-Punk on the fight for RATM's Christmas 2009

**Rogue's Foam with another intensely long dissection of many of the more unfortunately true stereotypes of 21st century classical music

**The Quietus has a mostly great series of "Wreath Lectures" on the ending decade worth your time

**The Wire also has a remarkably unirritating list of bests for 2009 with Broadcast and the Focus Group and Oneohtrix Point Zero (whose double disc I just got and am spinning madly) at the top!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rosebud- Have a Cigar (Patrick Cowley Mix)

Following up on my own advice, I went through youtube and found to find some rare Patrick Cowley and came across this:

So, to those who though the Scissor Sisters were the first to cover Pink Floyd in a disco style...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Electronic Music Gets Old and Old Electronic Music Gets New

I say my piece about two of the Warp20 sets

Also, a (shorter) review is up on the newly reissued and amazingly never released collaboration between Patrick Cowley and Jorge Socarras (of Indoor Life). I'd never heard of Indoor Life, who are fantastic, and all I'd heard of Cowley was his anthemic "Menergy". Do yourself a favor and do a quick Youtube search for anything Patrick Cowley put out, because it's all amazing. It's nothing like the album in the review linked to above (which is far more post-punk/proto-synthpop/art-pop), but I haven't found a bad tune in the bunch so far.

PopMatters Best of 2009

PopMatters Counts Down its Top 60 of the Year and I chime in on Fuck Buttons.

There's the expected litany of "Aww c'mons" in the comment boxes, in which several of the nice people from PM-god love 'em- try to defend our honour. With specific regards to Animal Collective, I can't help but feel much of the contention comes from the fact that the album was released in January and people have been hearing about it all year (as if we haven't been hearing about Dark Side of the Moon for 37 years). As much as critics boast of MPP's accessibility, it is a difficult album for the uninitiated. For those who've failed to be impressed in the past six years, it's not dissimilar to the their previous albums, just a kinda better version of it. It's not my #1 of 2009, nor my #1 Animal Collective album, but it's definitely one of the better consensus-y albums in recent memory. But there's nothing worst than hearing over and over again about an album you find to be either kinda lame or just plain mediocre, so I see why people are upset. I don't think any album could be truly great without its naysayers.

Grizzly Bear I can't speak to, because I still haven't heard the album in full. A few of the songs I heard were good-not-great, but "Two Weeks" is still quite fantastic. Everything about the song shrieks "indie status quo" in 2009 (an example, as mentioned in the previous post of Middle-of-the-Road as strengh), but those DRUMS! Why has no one else one off about those slippery vapor trail drums?!

Also, worth checking out, in addition to all the lists, is the Top Reissues, where I have a bit on Kraftwerk

Friday, December 11, 2009

PopMatters Top Electronic 2009 and the (lack of) Shape of Things to Come

Curated by Yours truly, with contributions by David Abravanel, Mike Newmark, Alan Ranta, and Dominic Umile

Read the list and extended intro recapping the year in electronic by yours truly here.

A lot of things I found out about while researching that introduction would likely have made my final list and perhaps altered its trajectory slightly (after compulssively weighing my finger upon the repeat with Mordant Music's latest, it'd likely be my new #1- and definitely made my list for Pazz and Jop- which I'll be voting in this year), but I feel it's a really strong showing.

If all that name-dropping that this windbag dished out in that opener wasn't enough for you, Philip Sherburne does me one better here (though he definitely uses some names that were known in the 90s).

Lots of year-ending and decade-ending lists popping up, and no I can't resist peaking either, but no need to post all of them here. My own personal list will probably pop-up at some point after you're sick to death of seeing them. My decade list keeps changing. There's a strong urge not to over/re-emphasize the familiar canon and given others a fair shake (part of the reason Fact's list was so admirable), but then there are also albums just too hard to ignore. As of this moment though, I'm leaning towards giving a bit more gravity to those who presented with the shock of new, as it seemed extra difficult to do in this decade, with barely any reinforcement from emerging trends and movements(the fault of music journalists, to be sure, who rarely stopped long enough to find connections).

Simon Reynolds's recent Guardian post on the fragmentation of opinion on the latter half of the decade seems to disregard two essential turns that may have caused the split in consensus as the decade drew to a close; the collapse of publishing industry and the collapse of the music industry. Both were at a downhill slope beforehand, but their near-demise completely relinquished their authority in fans who were turning to all the inexpensive or free ways to receive music and opinion, finding them equivalent or even superior means of consuming new ideas and tunes.

There were positives in this divergence. As Simon points out and my 2009 retrospective paragraph for PopMatters accents, there is a ton of great music out there, overwhelming amounts in fact. The death of the monoculture is by no means worthy of plaintive eulogy by any self-respecting nutritionist of the ear. Yet, the monoculture still kinda lives on, doesn't it? Each new U2 or horrifically-designed Springsteen album absorbing far more thought time then they deserve (the new issue of Rolling Stone even suggest that many of these fogies may have puttered out their best work...ever(!) in the past decade. Can any one but Rolling Stone fathom a world where that might be true?).

Elsewhere, a lot of what rises to the top of these lists you'll soon be sick of is what Simon has elsewhere called "pernicious adequacy" (in reference to Sonic Youth, perhaps one of the more soporifically adequate bands around, the slight tweaks of their established formula inspiring a chorus of niggling chatter that's usually more interesting than the album in question). Thus, the long tail of music's current reach has inspired a mainstream in the naughties that seems to be content to remain at the end of music's history, to accept its narratives and just do as well as it can within it. The remaining mainstream has seen the savages tearing down the walls and locked itself into a gated community, hoping that maybe the fans of this decentralized vanguard will tire of the snark and the solipsism, stop posturing and accept something "authentic", ie- deliriously okay (not MOR-mind you, a differentiation worth exploring, but not here). I mean once Prurient and Villalobos can be dismissed in the same breath as "hipster bullshit", where else can you go? This decade literally saw periods where white noise, barely pulsatile house, and drone metal were cool bandwagons to hop on for a while. After that kind of austerity, you kinda have to collapse back to the middle a little bit.

There's the potential to rip it all up and start over again, as music has lost many of its previous restraints with music as a sound product pretty much a non-issue for much of the listening audience. But the comforting temptation to accept adequacy and careerism in the face of an uncertain future has never been greater either.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Untruth and the Beauty of Artificial Truths

RE: Fact's #1 album of the decade (see previous post for link), Rogue's Foam, who does terrific and lengthy analyses, has a detailed exegesis of the aforementioned artist's work, along with fantastic embedded paintings by Whistler.

Also, at PopMatters, L.B. Jeffries writes convincingly of how Philip K. Dick's fiction promotes the same reification of artificial spaces as video games

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fact Magazine Top Records of the Decade

There's a great alternative 100 Best Albums of the Decade feature running now at FACT magazine with an incredible selection list and a couple I'd never heard of until now. Spoiler alert: Some selections in high positions may repeat in my eventual list of the decade, though perhaps this won't come as much of a surprise.

Great to see mention of The Caretaker, Belbury, Monolake, Ariel Pink, Metro Area, Luomo etc., who probably won't make a lot of these lists, but made really influential and era-definitive records (but, ech, to see the Artic Monkeys on this list after that embarassing "5th Best British Album" at the NME fiasco makes me somewhat proud I'm not British- though hardly more proud to be American).

PopMatters Best of 2009 in Music

PopMatters is counting down the Best Music of 2009 in the next two weeks and I'll have a few entries here on the list, but you check them all out and listen to sound samples to see what you think.

As of now, I've got one on the single list(#12)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Daze of Future Passed

Review of Sadly, The Future is No Longer What it Was.

He looks a bit like Evan Leed, no?

"Denied the propulsive fuel of conscious intent, a human being is little more than a complex aggregate of accumulated memories, a living multi-track tape-recorder." - Kek-W on the Caretaker

"The threat is no longer the deadly sweet seduction of nostalgia. The problem is not, any more, the longing to get to the past, but the inability to get out of it."- K-Punk on the caretaker