Thursday, December 19, 2013
Also recommended in 2013
This post constitutes a listing of good records that you may like or love that I, for one reason or another, did not or could not write about at length. Possible reasons include: not enough to really say beyond "this is good" or whatever I've offered below; not enough time to listen more than twice (I try to hear a record at least four times before I write even One Sentence about it); or just a simple time crunch, as with M.I.A.'s Matangi. I didn't manage my free time all that well this year, I wasn't able to take my usual music-heavy vacation in December, and car troubles and illness stymied my ability to give some things my full attention that probably deserved it. Going forward, all of these albums will remain in rotation for me and may require further attention in the future.
I'm a bit burned out on thought-out criticism (boy, what a terrible thing for a person to say who enjoys writing about this stuff and does so just for fun) so the quick comments below are mostly meant just to steer you in the right direction with regard to whether something might appeal to you personally or not. I've tried to keep it simple, cause something has to be.
Jamie Lidell (Warp)
Excellent New Jack-infected club soul is front-loaded but smart and sensual.
Suede: Bloodsports (Warner Bros.)
Back from the dead with arms wide open, apparently listening to lots of Midnight Oil and the Beautiful South. Good for driving. Wholly free of bloat, too.
Charles Bradley: Victim of Love (Daptone)
The Daptone label's specialty is an uncanny mining of soul music's storied past, in this case the minimal analogue funk-blues of the great Stax singles of the '60s. Like a lot of these releases, it isn't as telling or personal as some of the music it's imitating, but Bradley is performer and singer enough to hold his own stacked against anything; the album's a wonderful listen.
Weekend: Jinx (Slumberland)
Ideal sleazy rock for zonked-out, desperate evenings; parts of it were a godsend when I briefly DJed for a couple of Fridays at a dive bar this year. All the songs are pretty much identical, but if sufficiently zonked, that won't matter.
Maya Jane Coles: Comfort (I / AM / ME)
Crossover techno DJ from London discovers her singing voice, welcomes a gaggle of guests. But it's still her invigorating, puzzling rhythms that will continue to win new coverts, in and outside of the electronic subculture.
Collette: When the Music's Loud (Candy Talk)
AlunaGeorge: Body Music (Island)
Two solid dance records that can't quite sustain full excitement for their duration. AlunaGeorge wins out for songcraft, which at least half the cuts memorable and joyous, but Collette has one of the best disco songs of the year with the title cut. A good party wouldn't thumb its nose at either record.
Neko Case: The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You (Anti-)
Absorbing, even moving, and better singing and writing than ever -- but as usual, I spend most of my time listening to Case's music wondering why it doesn't blindside me like it seems it wants to. For her many fans, I have to imagine this is a must, and I'll certainly keep trying.
Of Montreal: Lousy with Sylvianbriar (Polyvinyl)
Their best and least cluttered in a long time (not even sure how long -- I have their last few but can't remember much about them, and this is one reason why the album ended up in this post cause normally I'd check); if anything, it's impressive how simple and imaginative and effortlessly varied it is. Eventually, though, Barnes decides to annoy everyone because that's what Barnes does. I'll easily grab this before the Flaming Lips' recent drab impressions of eccentricity and psychedelia, though.
Paul McCartney: New (Hear Music)
Skipping nonsense like his album of standards, I still find it necessary to give every new McCartney album a few spins, even though since the last actual dud Press to Play they've all been uncannily similar -- I might poke fun and my Beatles fanaticism might have an off-year, but the fact is that his old band means more to me than anything in the entirety of pop culture save Peanuts, and every passing year we get with him still at least trying is a blessing. He tries harder than usual on this one, especially in terms of performances: the tracks are lean, direct and loose and he rocks more convincingly and with less obvious fears (of his demographic's rejection; of his non-demographic's rejection) than on anything he's done since the '80s. But he's still mitigating himself; you can sense the cogs turning all the time, and so this just averages out to another fair-enough McCartney album, especially when it starts to get gooey and indulgent on the back end. If he can somehow harness the clear effortlessness of his musicianship and pop smarts with some level of precise craft -- and, more pertinently, if he embraces his veteran status a la Dylan or Cohen rather than playing to a nonexistent audience -- maybe he'll do something as special as an inexplicable mob of Boomers are regarding this to be.
Black Milk: No Poison No Paradise (Fat Beats)
Potentially one of the best artists in the underground; he's certainly paid his dues and has proven his mettle with both sides of the mainstream by now. And he's a great MC. But this shares an annoying tendency with the Roots' last several albums (and maybe not coincidentally, Black Thought features on one track): Black Milk doesn't rap enough. His organic, airy production is a pleasure, and the sporadic guests are well-chosen, but I'd rather hear more from him and less from the atmosphere. Do I sound sufficiently like an old man now? "You kids don't rap enough!"
Minor Alps: Get There (Barsuk)
The guy from Nada Surf and Juliana Hatfield get together and generate pretty-good melodic acoustic mild-rock. Much better than it sounds.
MØ: Bikini Daze EP (Genepool)
I was pretty dismissive of this earlier in the year, but eventually the Barry/Greenwich/fuzz caught up with me. Only half of it works, but it's an EP, so.
M.I.A.: Matangi (Interscope)
I'm embarrassed that I didn't get to review this. M.I.A. is a great artist and deserves to be approached with seriousness and gravity by everyone. I think the album's a little overstuffed and busy, but it's still a hit to the jugular like everything she creates; I'll probably realize in January when I can more proficiently concentrate on it that it deserved a banner review and top marks. My apologies to all. (And I don't even think "Bad Girls" is remotely the best thing here. Not even close.)
Yo Gotti: I Am (Epic)
Didn't realize how much I missed flagrantly over-the-top 1998-2003 hip hop. As much as you can shoot holes through this album's lack of originality and the relatively ordinary methodology of Gotti and his guests, it sure sounds amazing.
Sally Shapiro: Somewhere Else (Paper Bag)
Hypnotic electronic album definitely wins the award for the year's most misleading LP cover.
The Men: New Moon (Sacred Bones)
The Men are several bands, and if you've liked any of their haphazard references to a given one of them, you'll find something to enjoy here. Since my favorite Men song is "Candy," I appreciate all of the Replacements thrash and twang, but the jury's out on whether the louder, dronier stuff is as mesmerizing as on their thus-far-peak, Open Your Heart.
Moonface: Julia with Blue Jeans On (Jagjaguwar)
Like Wolf Parade? Like Sunset Rubdown? Here is Spencer Krug playing piano, writing pleasingly romantic and grand-sounding confessionals. It's nice.
Josephine Foster: I'm a Dreamer (Fire)
Beautiful, jazz-infected arrangements by the apparently widely celebrated singer-songwriter, whose compositions are uncannily evocative of another time and place while seeming present, eccentric, unique. A hell of a voice, too. I'm excited to investigate her back catalog now, which apparently encompasses Americana, psychedlia, psychedelic Americana, etc.
Housekeeping note: If I manage to get everything evaluated and finalized properly, my top ten will be posted sometime late Monday. If not, it'll be the day after Christmas. Really not interested in rushing something that important to me for any self-imposed deadline. A few fun things will be up in the interim, anyway.