Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Worth-It Roundup (first half of 2010)

Ke$ha still roolz!

There are some fine CDs and digital files in the world; we should all be grateful. Special thanks to Lake County's wonderful libraries, especially the Round Lake Area Library (call my legislator to preserve Interlibrary Loan!); the MSN Listening Booth; and, believe it or not, MySpace! They're not just for pederasts anymore.

1. Ke$ha--Animal
2. DMX--The Best of DMX (REISSUE) (and a seemingly redundant one, since his label just put out a DMX best-of a couple years ago; nonetheless, this demonstrates what flabbergasting skills the guy possesses) (and also what jawdropping misogyny...)
3. Diana Reyes--Amame, Besame
4. WASP--Babylon

5. Grong Grong--To Hell 'n' Back ('09 REISSUE)
6. Frightened Rabbit--The Winter of Mixed Drinks
7. Fela Kuti--Koola Lobitos/The '69 L.A. Sessions (REISSUE)
8. The Like--Release Me
9. Marvin Sapp--Here I Am
10. Drive-By Truckers--The Big To-Do
11. Various Artists--Fire In My Bones: Raw, Rare & Otherworldly African-American Gospel (1944-2007) ('09 REISSUE)
12. Vampire Weekend--Contra
Have I really not linked to any Vampire Weekend on here? They're beautiful and spunky. (And, if you believe the guy from Xiu Xiu, they are "fake Ivy League Afropop rip-off assholes who are, as their wealthy grandparents before them, plundering race without any consideration for the implications." But why would you believe the guy from Xiu Xiu?) Here's "Giving Up the Gun":

13. Daddy Yankee--Mundial
14. Mary J. Blige--Stronger With Each Tear ('09)
15. David Bowie--A Reality Tour
16. Gary Allan--Get Off On the Pain
17. Los Titanes de Durango--Los Locos del Corrido
18. Art Museums--Rough Frame (apparently I need to listen to more Television Personalities; like, more than none)
19. Intocable--Classic ('09) (also for further research: Los Relampagos del Norte, who originally did the songs on this album)
20. New Pornograpers--Together (I confess to only remembering the first three songs, which are amazing; hope to hear the whole thing again soon...)
21. Youssou N'Dour--Music from the Motion Picture I Bring What I Love
22. Josh Turner--Haywire (concept album about what an awesome husband and father he is)
23. Ludacris--Battle of the Sexes
24. Meth, Rae, & Ghost--Wu-Massacre
25. This Moment in Black History--Public Square
26. Hold Steady--Heaven is Whenever (I think; this one's kind of in the same boat as the Pornographers, only no songs were flat-out amazing)
27. XP8--Drop the Mask
28. Nneka--Concrete Jungle
29. Carolina Chocolate Drops--Genuine Negro Jig
30. Spoon--Transference
Have I really not linked to "Mystery Zone" yet? We'll set that right today!

31. Alicia Keys--The Element of Freedom ('09)
32. Matthew Shipp--4D
33. Los Tucanes de Tijuana--Retro-Corridos
34. Blake Shelton--Hillbilly Bone
35. Gary Lucas & Dean Bowman--Chase the Devil
36. Ray Wylie Hubbard--A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no C)
37. Was (Not Was)--Pick of the Litter (1980-2010) (REISSUE)
38. Midlake--The Courage of Others
39. Various Artists--Minimal Wave Tapes (REISSUE) (I go back and forth on those last three.)

Four Tet's in there somewhere, too; I just listened yesterday to that groovy electronic gentleman, and he was very charming. Not charming enough for the Top 20, probably, but he knows what he's doing.

Exempt from the ranking is good friend Kyle Gray Young, whose Songs for the Moon is a lovely classic rock record, chopsier than he's been in the past.

Somewhere around here there's a "Not Worth It" list, approximately as long, available upon request. It's not completely dire; some of it has sounded pretty good to other ears, but it's just not stuff I'd wanna subject myself to on a regular basis. And some of it is completely dire.

On to singles! I'm not quite as sure about these right now--lots I heard once or twice and haven't heard since, but they sounded good at the time. That's a pretty solid top ten, though. Thanks to Singles Jukebox for recommending and thinking!

"Your Love Is My Drug"--Ke$ha
"Praise You Forever"--Marvin Sapp
"Soldier of Love"--Sade
"Wile Out"--DJ Zinc ft. Ms. Dynamite
"Take That"--Wiley & Chew Fu
"Baby"--Justin Bieber feat. Ludacris
"Hipnotika"--A.B. Quintanilla's All Starz
"Wavin' Flag"--K'Naan
"Shutterbugg"--Big Boi
"Born Free"--M.I.A.
"Speechless"--Lady Gaga
"American Saturday Night"--Brad Paisley
"Swim Until You Can't See Land"--Frightened Rabbit
"I'm Ready"--Alicia Keys
"Stinkin' Rich"--Gappy Ranks
"Bedrock"--Young Money
"Tik Tok"--Ke$ha
"Crash Years"--New Pornographers
"Call Me Dragon"--These Monsters
"Estamos En Algo"--Intocable
"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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Best Thing I Heard Today: Courtney Jaye doing "Can't Behave"

From the not-bad soundtrack to Aquamarine, and also from Courtney Jaye's less not-bad debut album, comes this ode to the Bad Boys:

Courtney's boyfriend might not be a trustworthy individual. Rumor has it he's mischievous, and these rumors knock Courtney off her cloud. Does she kick him to the curb because he acts like Mick Jagger? Hardly; but she does confront BF about said rumors, amid handclaps. Bad boy to the left of her, gossips to the right, Courtney's stuck in the middle with her paranoia and empty threats. Here she is. Will she move?

(Re Aquamarine: Isabelle2828 sez, "They should make a second one. Where Clare visits Hayley and they meet Aqua in Australia. That would be so awsome!")

These Los Titanes de Durango are WORTH IT!!!

Los Titanes de Durango
Los Locos del Corrido

Picture Cream. Now imagine that Eric Clapton plays accordion. He has to cover all the same parts--fills and riffs and power chords and whatnot--only he plays accordion. Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker are still around, only now they're named Agustin and Jose. And Clapton has a brother! He plays a 12-string that he tunes an octave down. Doesn't add a whole lot to the power trio texture, but, you know, he's cool and he's Clapton's brother. Anyway, Clapton--now rechristened Sergio--writes and sings all the songs. They're like Cream songs if Cream had only one slow song, and if most of the others were spritely waltzes, and everything was recorded really dry and clean and sung in Spanish. (They're not really like Cream songs.) And now imagine that Arizona governor Jan Br3w3r wakes up in the desert to find that she's missing a kidney; someone replaced it with a baggie full of cocaine. Ms. Br3w3r starts to hallucinate in the desert heat--OR DOES SHE?? She gets into a fight with the Statue of Liberty on Gl3nn B3ck's TV show, and the Statue of Liberty bares her noble fangs and rips the baggie out of Br3w3r's abdomen in front of a live audience. Pandemonium ensues, and a Latino March on Washington. (Gl3nn B3ck is so moved by the whole experience that he quits his media jobs and joins the Catholic Workers.) (For no apparent reason, Jeff Beck does the same.) At the March, the transmogrified Cream, rechristened Los Titanes de Durango, play a long set bursting with giddy triumph, and the crowd listens for hours, barely even noticing when the band start repeating songs. That's sort of like this CD.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Best Thing I Heard Today: Billy Joel doing "Shades of Grey"

Billy Joel's songs are sort of like Weird Al's, without any laughs: each one shamelessly apes the style of some other famous band. (Or classical composer.) Here's Billy's Cream song:

There are people who will tell you that Billy's a terrible lyricist, literal and bludgeoning, dwelling on esoteric minutiae while grinding his own little axes; but then, there are people who have lost every trace of human kindness. What he is is a GREAT tunesmith--unless he's trying his hand at "soul"--whose lyrics fit the melodies pretty well and don't offend. Well, sometimes they involve "soft soap" (or lack thereof), and THEN they offend.

The Cream song in question is "Sweet Wine." Billy Joel's "Shades of Grey" shouldn't be confused with Joel Grey's version of "White Room":

Friday, June 25, 2010

Best Thing I Heard Today: The Like doing "Fair Game"

Retro-rock in any number of ways: there's '60s garage rock in the organ and guitar riffs, Liliput/Kleenex in the sprechtstimme vocals, and "Hungry Like the Wolf" in a lyrical namecheck. There's also plenty of Peter, Bjorn, and John in the excellently recorded drum pattern, but I don't mind:

What else? Mark Ronson produced (which is why this sounds like an Amy Winehouse record), and it seems like Little Steven and my StL man Doug Morgan should TOTALLY be playing these ladies, but they're not yet, so far as I can tell.

What would '60s girl groups sing about in today's debauched world? Well, she sings fast so I'm not totally sure, but I THINK Z. Berg is describing making out with her cousin at a family reunion. Not necessarily romantically; they might just be bored. "The rules are strange, but aren't they GREAT?!" It's our job to groove, not to judge.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Best Thing I Heard Today: Byron Cage doing "Faithful to Believe"

Absolutely thrilling call and response over drums, with blazing instrumental fills:

The drummer, I'm happy to learn, is the remarkable Calvin Rodgers, who you'll remember from Marvin Sapp's latest CD. Like that album, Mr. Cage's was produced by Aaron Lindsey and recorded live in a Michigan church. No doubt they touched it a little up after the concert, but just look at the video! The bulk of what we're hearing is live, and I'm always amazed by live bands who sound this good.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NOT WORTH IT: Titus Andronicus! Hole! Los Primos de Durango! Point of Grace!

Titus Andronicus
The Monitor

Concept album about the giant lizard that devoured the Lincoln baby, kicking off the Civil War.

Here's the problem with having a sloppy drunk guy unravel all his Civil War metaphors for you, at LENGTH, in SONG: no matter how audacious the concept, it's probably not gonna stick once everyone's sobered up. He won't be able to maintain his momentum for an entire tune. No matter how ingratiating his melodies, they won't have enough tension and heft to be memorable. And even if, through sheer good will or pathos, he's able to lure you into a gang singalong, you won't have any idea why you're singing the words that you're singing. Once he stops ranting and you're home in bed, all you'll have is a vague memory of some thick guitar sludge.

Nobody's Daughter
(Mercury/Island Def Jam/CherryForever)

She's still got one of the best voices around. Sadly, her new material has fewer surprises than the proverbial phone book in song. And since most of the album's interest stems from "who wrote what," Courtney's phone book's gotta be fascinating.

Los Primos de Durango
Mi Mejor Regalo

Their "100% Duranguense Light" is the only instance I can recall of a band blatantly trying to innovate through selling out. More power to 'em--except that to call regular duranguense "heavy" or "authentic" or somehow "not pop" is to hear music that's simply not there. Duranguense per se is already a softer, quicker, synthier, poppier version of banda, so what can it possibly mean to "lighten" it? The Primos' answer is to keep their tambora player in line and make their horn fills more cloying.

Point of Grace
No Changin' Us
(Word Entertainment)

There are probably "moms" who "identify" with "Love and Laundry" and the rest of the 11 slices of "country" "life" collected here. I just wonder about this gritty couplet:

"I’d sure like to relax laying in a bubble bath/
but then I’d have to clean the tub and really who's got time for that?"

Seriously, how dirty do Point of Grace leave their tub?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Best Thing I Heard Today: Genesis doing "No Reply At All"

Phil Collins infamously wrote "No Reply At All" for Disney's The Miracle Worker. This 1981 musical adaptation shouldn't be confused with other Disney flops from that dark era: the X-rated Tommy, cast entirely with animals; the misanthropic dreamscape Johnny Got His Gun; the sexually rapacious Annie Got HER Gun; and of course, Annie Frank, which denied both Holocaust and Jewry, and with which I always confuse The Miracle Worker.

"No Reply" expresses the title Worker's frustration at trying to communicate with her young charge, Helen Keller. The biggest controversy arose when Ron W. Miller, then Disney president, changed the Keller character's condition to an acute case of tinnitus, with which Miller's own son was stricken. The filmmakers dramatized this malady by inserting a piercing whine that sounded during most of the movie, rendering Collins's songs inaudible and chasing viewers out of the theater in droves. Collins countered with furious legal gesticulations. He is now wealthy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Best Thing I Heard Today: Diana Reyes doing "Baila Esta Cumbia / La Carcacha"

An irresistible Selena medley from the eclectic Reina del Pasito Duranguense:

Like every Diana Reyes album since she jumped to the Duranguense genre in '05, Amame, Besame is packed with energy and color. Unlike those other albums, this new one is only half Duranguense, the regional Mexican polka-pop genre that got its start in Chicago. (Read more about it in this landmark record review!) The other half is technocumbia, a more Afro-Latin pop genre named after a Selena song. Those tracks were produced by Luigi Giraldo, a former Latin boy band dude who's been working with Selena's brother in his Kumbia Kingz empire. (Giraldo's sort of like--who?--Justin Timberlake? If JT was mainly a producer? I'll think of a more apt comparison later.)

Anyway, here's one of the technocumbias--or rather, two! Diana sings Selena's songs in her huskier, throatier voice and knocks 'em out of the park, especially her triumphant long notes about two and three minutes in. The production is also full-throated, with horns and electronic effects jumping around the edges. I can't really hear the accordion player, but his nickname is "El Animal." What's not to love?

Friday, June 18, 2010