Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Worth-It Roundup January-March 2010 ($tarring Ke$ha!!!!)

Hello, happy music lovers, and a joyful Eastertide to you all! Did you know that "Easter" is derived from Babylonian fertility goddess (and friend of the blog) Ishtar? At least, that's the gist of all the paranoid "Babylon" updates I seem to get every year around this time. Actually, this year it wasn't so bad--the tinfoil-hat crowd seems more concerned that Ahmadenijad is going to bomb the US Air Force base at newly-rebuilt Babylon, razing that ancient city for good and paving the way for Christ's millennial reign. (I think.) At which point, you'll only be able to listen to the choir of heavenly host OR the eternal screams of damnation, depending on whether you voted for Obama. So before this impending eschatological brouhaha, might I recommend you hurry up and listen to the following 15 singles and albums?

I make no apology for this entry or my #2 album, below. It's not mindless boosterism--it's simply that I happened to hear them because of my "Babylon" alerts, and they're really good. Note that I'm making no mention of those scoundrels in SOJA.

Speaking of Soldiers in Jah's Army (Jah=Love, right?):"Soldier of Love"--Sade

"Speechless"--Lady Gaga
In case there was any doubt about what a great songwriter she is, here's her sop to old dudes who can't stomach dance music. Worked on me! This is my favorite song of hers, though I like plenty of the others. I love her unhinged growl near the end, and the fact that the drummer seems to be having fun, bashing away. I also enjoy that, while claiming to be speechless, she shows no signs of shutting up anytime soon. (This paradox finds precedent, of course, in Psalm 137, "By the waters of Babylon," the original song about not being able to sing.)

"American Saturday Night"--Brad Paisley
I won't lie, the happy consumerism of this ode to assimilation bothers me, insofar as it seems to elevate globalization over immigration, products over people. On the other hand, maybe that's just the baseline of his argument: "You Red-Staters keep talking about these 'damn foreigners', but they're great! At the very least, look at all the cool stuff they sell us." Or maybe I'm just sick of critics, including myself, imagining that Paisley is somehow their mediator with the "typical country audience." Maybe he's just a good songwriter who loves Amstel Light and plays some amazingly fluid guitar, of which this song has lots.

"Bedrock"--Young Money
Here's the entertaining ILM thread.

"Tik Tok"--Ke$ha
See Album #1, below. (Heard this at the Middle School skate party last night!)

"Call Me Dragon"--These Monsters
These monsters of post-rock have a sax player! Also, they rock. In fact, I'm not sure they qualify as "post-rock," and should instead be classified as "instrumental rock." You can't just call EVERY instrumental band post-rock; otherwise, you'd have to call the Ventures and the Surfaris post-rock, and that'd just confuse little kids. I dunno, this is all I've heard of them, so maybe in other songs they bring their formidable rockingness to bear on non-rock Aboriginal funeral chants or something. (Thanks, Castro!)

"Why Don't We Just Dance"--Josh Turner
"Bricks and Mortar"--Editors
"Chase the Tear"--Portishead
"Ala Freakin' Bama"--Trace Adkins
"Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong"--Martina McBride
"Rainy Days at the Beach"--Sable
"A Little More Country Than That"--Easton Corbin
Heard those last two just before the new decade commenced, driving through central Missouri, which unsurprisingly has better country radio than northern Illinois. Corbin's currently #1, so he counts for this year. I'm not sure about Sable--his song might be firmly entrenched in 2009. (It's gentle Buffett-country.)

When I posted this album list on this ILM thread, I mentioned that only the Ke$ha and WASP albums were consistently surprising and exciting. Ke$ha haterz cried foul. We discussed. If you wanna check out the discussion, go there and search by "WASP"--that'll get you where you're going.

The internet is, naturally, a glittery vomitorium of Ke$ha commentary. Much of it is really interesting. (Kogan's got a nice overview of links here.) Since nobody reads this, I'll go out on a limb and say that her singing is as important and challenging as Dylan's, Rotten's, Axl's. (This is what I was working toward in those ILM posts.) I need to do some more thinking about why, but basically it's this: her music is great; her singing is Wrong; the Wrongness of her singing is integral to her music's greatness. Which is to say, her music is NOT great in spite of her singing's Wrongness. Rather, she opens up previously unexplored vistas of Right Singing, showing how the rest of us have been wrong all along.

To do: elucidate what I mean by "Wrong." Obviously, I myself am prepared to be proven wrong at some point. Obviously, if you don't hear the greatness in her music, you might not care about her importance. But like Eminem a decade ago, her music is full of undeniable life that's going to take a while to explain. (And has anyone YET explained fully the greatness of The Marshall Mathers LP?)

Mary J. Blige--Stronger With Each Tear
Vampire Weekend--Contra
Josh Turner--Haywire
Some good chatter about Turner and the Carolina Chocolate Drops (see below) at the ILM Rolling Country thread.

David Bowie--A Reality Tour
Carolina Chocolate Drops--Genuine Negro Jig
XP8--Drop the Mask
Nneka--Concrete Jungle
Alicia Keys--The Element of Freedom
Los Tucanes de Tijuana--Retro-Corridos
Blake Shelton--Hillbilly Bone
Gary Lucas & Dean Bowman--Chase the Devil
Lady Antebellum--Need You Now


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