Archive for December, 2006|Monthly archive page
01. Clipse, Hell Hath No Fury
Ahh, sweet vindication. After years of well documented label bullshit, Clipse released their magnum opus which nearly lives up to accumulated hype. In many ways, Pusha T and Malice benefitted from the arduous and frustrating build-up between Lord Willin’ and Hell Hath, much as Wilco did from the YFH shuffling. But instead of merely building notoriety with label slight of hand, Clipse spent their time in industry limbo honing their already acute lyrical skills, coaxing the best and most fitting beats from Pharrell and building a devoted following. The resulting album was a lyrical slaughterfest with a pile of merc’ed lyrical targets and sparse beats that still womped. In a year full of disappointing rap records (I maintain that Fishscale is weak coming from Ghostface, More Fish even moreso), Hell Hath No Fury proudly stood at the top of the pack and commanded you fuckers to kiss the rings.
Audio: Clipse, “Momma I’m So Sorry”
02. Scritti Politti, White Bread Black Beer
White Bread Black Beer is another peak in the mountain range of Scritti Politti’s career. Green Gartside’s expert reinvention of his already winning formula gets more out of less without sounding sparse or contrived. The resulting creations are a testament to his abilities as a pop song writer and a persuasive wake up call to those who slept on him the first go-round. White Bread is also a challenge to bands such as Hot Chip and Junior Boys for whom Scritti Politti albums serve as crucial points of influence: Daddy’s back with a new take on an old game; time to step it up!
Audio: Scritti Politti, “Throw”
03. Matmos, The Rose Has Teeth In the Mouth of the Beast
Conceptual eggheads from the start, Matmos stunned me with The Rose Has Teeth, an album that matched its lofty ambitions of honoring influential historical figures with intensely compelling and thought-provoking compositions. Where previous releases proved to be daunting listens for some audiences, The Rose both fittingly represented its conceptual targets and invited its listeners to learn with lush arrangements and supplimentary technology (the liner notes also act as a primer wherein users can read more about its subjects). Few conceptual artists make art albums (these days) this engrossing or pleasurable to hear.
Audio: Matmos, “Steam and Sequins for Larry Levan”
04. Hot Chip, The Warning
With as much love as this album’s singles have received, you would think The Warning as a whole would’ve seen better press. After all, it’s spring-heeled leap forward in song-writing makes the snarky joke with feeble melodies known as Coming On Strong look positively flaccid. The Warning succeeds with warm synth melodies and pristine harmonies chunked up by a jangled emphasis on percussion, even springing for clever lyrics without gobs of irony. Hot Chip is also extraordinary at understanding dance music, which made killer cuts like “Over and Over,” “Boy From School” and “(Just Like We) Breakdown” into prime fodder for an iPod Shuffle’s worth of remixes from likewise excellent producers (with Erol Alkan and Solid Groove at the top of the pack). A perfect fit for techno and rock fans alike, The Warning should not go unheeded.
Audio: Hot Chip, “Arrest Yourself”
05. Justin Timberlake, FutureSex/LoveSounds
Not enough pop stars break away from their primary role in society: to perform and look good doing it. Justin Timberlake is a pop star unwilling to be relegated to talented body status. FutureSex/LoveSounds pushed all involved to out-perform their best work and come up with something fresh, even futuristic (jamming two tunes together? Two become one, motherfucker!). The result was a pop record so unexpected that a fair portion of JT fans still don’t know what to do with it, but love it anyways. Listening to this album is bearing witness to the maturation of a star who happens to make pop music.
Audio: Justin Timberlake, “LoveStoned/I Think She Knows (interlude)”
06. Tim Hecker, Harmonies in Ultraviolet
Topping himself yet again, Tim Hecker birthed Harmonies in Ultraviolet, one of my favorite albums to relax with this year. Gently massaging electrons to course in time, recreating the thaw of winter’s deepest freeze, picking up on the little reassuring noises and reminding listeners that they exist, Hecker makes the extremely detailed sound simple and gorgeous. Even at its most eardrum-rending it puts me at peace, a wonderfully contradictory feeling that assures me of Harmonies’ pronounced brilliance.
Audio: Tim Hecker, “Dungeoneering”
07. Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped
Let’s discard the age thing for a minute (even if you haven’t read about it, you’re thinking it) and focus on the reasons Rather Ripped works: Though the album is lyrically streaked with despair and desperate tears, it’s juxtaposed with some of Sonic Youth’s most downright pretty melodies, as if writing tunes matching the lyrics’ pained tone would be too much for human ears, so here it is anyway. Accessible to a point, Rather Ripped has all of the noisy energy and nuance one would expect from SY, slipping in peripheral counter rhythms between anthemic leads and spazzing out when being ear-pleasing gets too burdensome or boring. Kim Gordon also gives the performance of a lifetime, her gravel-shred silk pipes inhabit the narrator’s skin with unusual ease; Thurston Moore is no slouch either, recalling his best vocal motifs without sounding dated or old. No one needs to teach these old dogs new tricks. They wrote the handbook and Rather Ripped is this year’s lesson plan.
Audio: Sonic Youth, “Do You Believe In Rapture?”
08. Califone, Roots and Crowns
Califone continued their streak of fastidiously-crafted fragment folk with Roots and Crowns, an album that found the group at their most concentrated and assured. Each song is caught with its body in some farm house in southern Illinois, roughly around 1949, and its head in the whirring present, dumbfounded. Creaking harmonics with moth-eaten holes plugged with scraps of seemingly arbitrary sound gently coat the ears, speaking volumes of Brian Deck and Tim Rutili’s skillful orchestration. Complimented finely by Rutili’s seasoned vocals (which sweetly serenade as well as the scrape the ground and the notes surrounded it) and his scattershot poetic lyrics, Califone deliver the complete package (and an excellent Psychic TV cover to boot). Those ready for a bit of the roots and not yet ready to aggravate dust allergies should sit a spell and give Roots and Crowns a few good spins.
Audio: Califone, “The Eye You Lost In The Crusades”
09. Henrik Schwarz, DJ-Kicks
Because this is from the DJ-Kicks series rather than, say, Fabric, Henrik Schwarz and other artists who’ve contributed a mix have been able to reveal their tastes in a safe and often stunning manner. This volume is no different. Like Gilles Peterson with a greater appreciation for native sounds and no real need for acid jazz, Schwarz cherry-picks forgotten and underappreciated slabs from what must be a vast collection. Starting out by deforming Moondog’s “Bird’s Lament” and dancing it around with iO and D’Angelo, Schwarz keeps piling on stranger and more delightful tunes. And as with most DJ-Kicks mixes, Schwarz works a handful of his own tunes into the grooves of obscurities, most notably his reductive and seductive remix of Coldcut and Robert Owen’s soul-rousing “Walk a Mile In My Shoes.” As unpredictable as it is awe-inspiring, Henrik Schwarz’s DJ-Kicks is easily among the most ambitious and enjoyable mixes of 2006.
Audio: Coldcut & Robert Owens, “Walk a Mile In My Shoes” (Henrik Schwarz remix)
10. DJ Drama & Lil’ Wayne, Dedication 2: Gangsta Grillz
Though the distinction of being one of the few popular rappers to actually, you know, throw down has kind of gone to Lil’ Wayne’s head and made him say all kinds of crazy stuff. At the same time, it’s easy to argue that as his noggin’ grows bigger, so does the quality of his work — tapes like Dedication 2 and albums like Tha Carter II prove it. Even when he sounds like he might be slipping into a vicodin/’dro coma Weezy spits wrecking crew lines, so when he’s at his most alert (especially his freestyle on the “Show Me What You Got” beat, Jesus) it’s like a walking, talking, white-slinging firing squad. Although Jay-Z’s too tired from all the lamping he’s quietly doing by the pool, it would be spectacular seeing Louisiana’s Finest square off with the Old Reliable Guard. Instead, Lil’ Wayne’s just going to further extend his legacy and keep putting out barn-burners like this one.
Audio: DJ Drama & Lil’ Wayne, “Dedication 2”
11. Booka Shade, Movements
12. OOIOO, Taiga
13. NOMO, Nu Tones
14. Boris, Pink
15. Junior Boys, So This is Goodbye
16. Crowdpleaser & St. Plomb, Mindtrip
17. Islands, Return to the Sea
18. T.I., King
19. Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
20. Oakley Hall, Second Guessing
This list is a bit different from the one I submitted to Idolator’s Jackin’ Pop Poll thanks to some extremely well-timed Christmas presents post-poll. When the results come out (whenever that happens) you’ll see the differences. Thanks to everyone who visited my blog this year, commented on my blog, linked to my blog (special thanks to my pals at Pound for Pound, Another Night On Earth, Idolator and Not Rock On) or helped me in any way with my writing. It means a lot. See you in 2007.
01. Justin Timberlake ft. T.I., “My Love”
As ubiquitous as it is exceptional, “My Love” is a mighty response to skeptics wondering where sexy went in the first place. Timbaland, Danja and Timberlake recaptured the energy crackling in “Cry Me a River” and spun the tone dial from heartbreak to hearts swelling with passion. Its lustrous synths roughly creep up and down the scale like a jagged chill navigating a spine. Free spaces are stuffed with blushing bass tones. Deep, tumbling tom fills bound down a flight of stairs and dig up throat noise nuggets and fingers snapping along the way. Fully aware of his capabilities, JT’s falsetto is delicate but in control; and when he’s ready to belt, Justin’s engaging harmonies cause widespread swoons, ones not even T.I.’s dubious lines cannot interrupt. I’m still as lovestruck with “My Love” as when it first bowled me over, which seems to be a lot to ask from a pop tune these days.
02. Audion, “Mouth to Mouth”
For me, Matthew Dear and his Audion project are hit and miss in 2006. His Fabric mix was so techy and spare that it was easy to forget I was listening to a mix and not just assorted office noise or the copy machine on an ink binge. His remix of NOMO’s “Nu Tones” has the same M.O. , differing so greatly from the original that it might have been assembled exclusively with samples of him smacking his own ass with a vinyl copy of New Tones. He’s also had a few great releases, like his split with Ellen Allien and of course, “Mouth to Mouth.” Minimal only in premise, this 13 minute monster trapped listeners in a cheap pinball machine and rattled their teeth; or perhaps it’s the new soundtrack to the The Scrambler with the brakes ripped off. Dear’s construction is mildly infuriating and wholly fascinating, using interchangable patterns that never deliver all the elements at once. When each fizzy seizure bubbles up something is missing, only to pop up a few bars later to keep you hoping. Some might argue Villalobos’ “Fizheuer Zieheuer” is the superior minimal track on the year, but applause for being audacious aside, “Mouth to Mouth” is 1/3rd of the length and three times more powerful on the dancefloor.
03. Clipse, “Mr. Me Too”
Minimalism seems to be doing pretty well in music right now, especially if folks like Pharrell who love going overboard want to scale it back. Electric fence crackle motifs and space-aged toms might not have the goofy club-readiness of “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” but this is for Clipse, not Snoop (although that sassy tambourine section is ripe for the ass-shaking). Pusha T and Malice want to know what “the fuck y’all been doin'” while they’ve been lying low, then relay their conquests with the utmost confidence and steely demeanor, all without cracking from their hyper literate flow. Even Pharrell’s clever-for-a-14-year-old rhymes can’t fuck up a track this massive. More on Clipse when it comes time to discuss albums.
04. Basement Jaxx, “Hush Boy” (Les Visiteurs remix)
Just when you thought the Jaxx boys would find a new sound to call their own, they played it safe, and “Hush Boy” is no different. Flush with horns, divalicious vocals and a bouncing beat, it’s typical, but still pretty enjoyable. Whoever the fuck Les Visiteurs are, they saw a lot more in “Hush Boy.” Stripped to its vocals, Visiteurs furnish the tune with dirty synths and more banging percussion to put the stomp on other electro tracks it’s being mixed to and from. The peaked out synth spasm bridge would make Justice proud and ready to put a copy in their crates (just a guess). This is a public outcry for Les Visiteurs to deliver more remixes and some tracks pronto!
05. Zero 7 ft. Jose Gonzales, “Futures” (Rub ‘N Tug remix)
Those Rub ‘N Tug fellas, they sure know how to make the most of what they have. Aside from Jose Gonzales’ stellar vocal performance, “Futures” colors in the lines Zero 7 has followed since their debut. The first three minutes of the remix set the foundation, folding the tune’s elements into a hazy but motivated form. When they finally yank away the built up instrumental and leave Gonzales’ pastoral intonation hanging in the air, you just know it’s about to pop off. Never exactly reaching banger status, this jazzed up remix makes excellent use of the original (something many remixers tend to avoid) and pumps more life into it than found on the entirety of The Garden.
06. Cassie, “Me & U”
I’m still fairly happy with how I described this plucky jam earlier this year, so in the interest of time and space-saving, I’m going to refer you there.
07. The Klaxons, “Magick” (Simian Mobile Disco remix)
Love or hate the new rave scene, the chemistry between The Klaxons and Simian Mobile Disco unleashed the best from both camps. During the latter’s remix of the former’s “Magick,” pitched up coos, cavernous vocals and a shitload of aggressive synth work create musical fission seldom seen without some self-destructive mistake dragging the tune down. No mistakes to be found here, just a face-melter of a track ready for the Armageddon or another tablet of E. Summer of Love part three coming at you soon if this partnership keeps up.
08. Project Pat, “What Money Do”
So Three 6 Mafia and co. are about the last folks I’d expect to do RZA beats in 2006, but “What Money Do” makes me a believer. Mr. Fresh Outta Jail, aka Project Pat gets one of the crew’s best beats since “Stay Fly” and solidly rocks it. Beneath his brass-balled call to toss money in haters’ faces (as well an equally smug self-comparison to Dr. Ruth) are tidal waves of harp strums, sky-scraping orchestral samples and a trembling soul moan Bobby Digital might sneak into his lab when no one’s looking. I can’t think of a better track to celebrate one’s independence than “What Money Do,” so keep it around in case you get nabbed or maybe bogged down by the job/class.
09. Trentemøller, “Always Something Better” (Trentemøller remix)
Though Trentemøller is no Arthur Russell (nor does he sound like ’em, relax), the man knows that one’s work isn’t finished if you can think of more changes to make. So keeping with the title, Trentemøller further submerges the track into deep techno territory, unsheathing twinkling glitches and antagonizing synths looking for dancefloor conflict/contact. Better than The Last Resort and most of its tacked on singles, “Always Something Better” is easily my favorite Trentemøller output to date.
10. Coldcut ft. Robert Owens, “Walk A Mile In My Shoes”
A humble reminder that we’re all human, Coldcut and Robert Owens make this fresh take on a classic soulful enough that listeners might actually take pause. Henrik Schwarz’s remix is also pretty top knotch if you’re into spare African rhythms.
11. T.I. “Why You Wanna”
12. The Infadels, “Girl That Speaks No Words” (Alan Braxe & Fred Falke remix)
13. Islands, “Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby”
14. Digitalism, “Jupiter Room” (Erol Alkin edit)
15. Martin Buttrich, “Cloudy Bay”
16. Ricardo Villalobos, “Fizheuer Zieheuer”
17. Hot Chip, “Over and Over”
18. Guns N Bombs, “Crossover Appeal”
19. Christina Aguilera, “Ain’t No Other Man”
20. The Teenagers, “Homecoming”
I really haven’t talked much about the Klaxons this year although I’ve been quietly enjoying and coming to grips with their sound and aim. Emphasing the incorporation of in-your-face-visuals into already fierce tunes makes them a clever, enterprising group ready to push multi-media into lister/viewer eyes and brains. “Gold Skans,” the new single from their forthcoming album Myths Of The Near Future, has quickly joined my favorite Klaxons tunes. It combines Fischerspooner-influenced theatrics with art-geek superheroic themes and a sensational hook. If there was ever a commercial advocating MDMA use by the Brits, this would be it, regardless if it makes sense. Whether or not they match this intensity again, I’m looking forward to January 29th, the release date of the album.
Some of these are direct links (James Chance and Sea & Cake) and the rest are on Sendspace. Didn’t have time to upload them all before work.
With a few exceptions, LWE will be exclusively .mp3 posts for the next few weeks. Like every other blogger with opinions, I’ll be posting lists of favorite albums/tracks complete with .mp3s next week. Until then, please enjoy the tunes and holler if you have any requests.