Thursday, January 19, 2012

Worth It In 2011: #1 - Eric Church (PLUS THE COMPLETE LIST)

At PopMatters's Best Country of the Year list, I wrote:

On Chief, Eric Church plays the cad, honing his voice into pure aggressive TWANG. He’ll pick a fight with your boyfriend and then graciously let you buy him a drink. After you dump his sorry liver, he’ll drown his sorrows in breakup songs that sting like prime Taylor Swift. It figures that this album’s most perfect line, “Here’s to all us haters of old lovers’ new last names”, is a toast. But rather than weepy honky-tonkers, Church and producer Jay Joyce have made wall-to-wall classic rock tunes, including a Springsteen ode that sounds more like John Waite. And the singles are phenomenal. In 2011, no song embodied America’s racial and class tensions like “Homeboy”; few songs chronicled our subsequent need to medicate those tensions like “Drink in My Hand”. 

At Singles Jukebox, where "Country Music Jesus" was Anthony Easton's pick, I wrote:

No no no, Eric, you’re thinking of Charlie Daniels, and he is not Jesus, no matter what he says when you’re together hunting, fishing, and enjoying other outdoor activities. But then, Eric and I have so much to talk about. Why, for instance, does his excellent soft rock ballad “Springsteen” sound like Bad English, while THIS song swipes the riff from Springsteen’s “Fire”? (Maybe to set up the “Fire On the Mountain” bit?) Will Country Music Jesus’s reach extend to all humanity, or simply to the realm of country music? I dunno where Eric places Jamey Johnson in the great “Country Music Jesus” sweepstakes, but the shaggy concert I attended was a little more laconic than this whole revival business, while I’m pretty sure people bang drums, scream, and shout at Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum shows. Which, I guess, proves once again that you can never predict what Jesus is gonna look like. Speaking of which, has anyone ever told Eric Church, maker of my favorite album of 2011, that his twang sometimes resembles Rob Thomas?

(From Anthony's blurb, in a passage that gives me chills: "So he is blaspheming the good Lord, and he is blaspheming country music, but sacramentalizing both at the same time. It is a viciously sophisticated work.")

At Singles Jukebox, where "Homeboy" enjoyed a somewhat controversial reception, I wrote:

As a narrative I buy it, because I know the Brother. Back in high school he had ridiculous dreadlocks instead of a “hip-hop hat” and the rest, he didn’t push Daddy around but he did spend some time in jail, and now he’s a solid taxpaying citizen with strong family ties. Small predominantly-white towns SUCK in many ways, so you try to escape to the first Other that comes along, and your conception of that Other is probably based on the broadest stereotypes, and maybe you pair those stereotypes with violence because that’s an Other too. The problem is, Church isn’t handing this sermon to his wayward Brother as a private press 45. As a cautionary tale “Homeboy” is worthless, because any real-life Brothers won’t listen to it. No, Church is preaching to a public country audience, much of which already views hip-hop culture as an Other and equates it with violence. But I’M Church’s audience too, and maybe lots of us know Brothers of our own and “Homeboy” touches us as a well-constructed piece of songcraft. Job well done! On the other hand, “Homeboy” is definitely constructed — Church and co-writer Casey Beathard have invented this Brother, the fake gold on his teeth, and his superficial take on Otherness. They’ve also appropriated the word “homeboy” and the synths from the hip-hop culture they’re dissing. They’re hypocrites and opportunists. But the synths sound great, and the lyrical twist “come on home, boy” is deeply felt; this song isn’t glib about Otherness like the go-to pariah “Beer for My Horses”. Finally all my back-and-forth on “Homeboy” zips it up into a tense interlocking bundle of contradictions that I can’t separate from how much I enjoy its details, guitars, and narrator, even if he’s using his bully pulpit to congratulate his country’s narrowest minds.

Eric Church
(EMI Nashville)

The complete list!

1. Eric Church -- Chief (EMI Nashville) (major, country)
1 REISSUE. Neil Diamond--The Bang Years: 1966-1968 (Legacy) (major, reissue)
2. Limp Bizkit -- Gold Cobra (Interscope) (major, rap, metal)
3. Henri Pousseur--Parabolique d’Enfer (Sub Rosa) (indie, classical, electronic, reissue)
4. Monotonix--Not Yet (Drag City) (indie)
5. El Bebeto y su Banda Patria Chica -- Quiero Que Seas (Disa) (major, Latin)
6. Lady Gaga--Born This Way (Interscope) (major, dance)
7. Original Cast -- The Book of Mormon (Sh-K-Boom) (indie, CCM)
8. Cheer-Accident -- No Ifs, Ands or Dogs (Cuneiform) (indie)
9. DJ Quik -- The Book of David
10. Thi’sl -- Beautiful Monster (X-Hustler) (indie, CCM, rap)
11. Steel Magnolia--Steel Magnolia (Big Machine) (major?, country)
12. Burlap to Cashmere -- Burlap to Cashmere (Jive/Essential) (major, CCM, folk)
13. Quintron--Sucre du Sauvage (Goner) (indie)
14. Randy Montana -- Randy Montana (Mercury Nashville) (major, country)
2 REISSUE. Various Artists--Nigeria 70 -- Sweet Times: Afro-Funk, Highlife & Juju from 1970s Lagos (Strut) (indie, reissue)
15. The Dirtbombs--Party Store (In the Red) (indie, dance)
3 REISSUE. Various Artists--Fania Records 1964-1980: The Original Sound of Latin New York (Strut) (indie, reissue, Latin)
16. Charlotte Martin--Dancing on Needles (Test-Drive) (indie)
4 REISSUE. Bacilos--20 Grandes Exitos (Warner Music Latina) (major, Latin)
17. Mary Mary -- Something Big (Columbia) (major, CCM, R&B)
18. PJ Harvey--Let England Shake (Vagrant/Island) (major)
19. Iron and Wine--Kiss Each Other Clean (4AD/Warner Bros.) (major)
5 REISSUE. Stephin Merritt -- Obscurities (Merge) (indie, reissue)
20. Locussolus--Locussolus (International Feel) (indie, dance)
21. Bragado -- De Pies a Cabeza (Discos Power) (indie, Latin)
22. Various Artists -- 101 Things To Do In Bongolia (Electric Cowbell) (indie)
23. Jake Owen -- Barefoot Blue Jean Night (RCA) (major, country)
24. Group Doueh--Zayna Jumma (Sublime Frequencies) (indie)
25. Mikko Innanen & Innkvisitio -- Clustrophy (TUM) (indie, jazz)
26. Paul Simon--So Beautiful or So What (Hear) (indie?, CCM)
27. The Lonely Island -- Turtleneck & Chain (Universal Republic) (major, rap, comedy)
28. Dead Cat Bounce -- Chance Episodes (Cuneiform) (indie, jazz)
29. ChuCha Santamaria y Usted -- ChuCha Santamaria y Usted (Young Cubs) (indie, dance)
30. Los Huracanes del Norte--Soy Mexicano (Musinorte/Disa) (major, Latin)
31. Those Darlins--Screws Get Loose (Oh Wow Dang) (indie, country)
32. Buraka Som Sistema -- Komba (Enchufada) (indie, dance)
33. Thompson Square--Thompson Square (Stoney Creek '10) (indie, country)
34. Weasel Walter, Mary Halvorson, Peter Evans -- Electric Fruit (Thirsty Ear) (indie, jazz)
6 REISSUE. Drive-By Truckers -- Ugly Buildings, Whores & Politicians (New West) (indie, country, reissue)
35. Alexi Murdoch--Towards the Sun (Zero Summer) (indie, folk)
36. R. Kelly--Love Letter (Jive ‘10) (major, R&B)
37. David Banner & 9th Wonder--Death of a Pop Star (b.i.G.f.a.c.e./eOne ‘10) (indie, rap, CCM)
38. Heavy Winged -- Sunspotted (Type ‘10) (indie, metal)
39. Blind Boys of Alabama--Take the High Road (Saguaro Road) (indie, country, CCM)
40. Gucci Mane--The Return of Mr. Zone 6 (Warner Bros.) (major, rap)

1 comment:

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