Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (2012)



So far all of Fiona Apple's records have worked fine for me; I split with my peers on the Extraordinary Machine argument a bit, but aside from that I concur with everyone that she's a vital and inventive voice, simply one I hadn't really connected with on such a deep level as many. Initially it seemed like the same was true of her new record and the one that's provided her with something like a critical breakthrough, or at least has underlined the growth in her reputation since 2005. I filed it away as a solid record that just wasn't necessarily something for which I could feel a lot of passion. To briefly explain this: I don't really know. You know how you can know something's there even if you can't get to it? That was how I always felt.

But spending a good deal longer with this intimate and wildly individualistic record has made me a convert. My interest in Apple has tended over the years to be in her voice more than her songs, and her voice remains the hook here -- chirping, growling, intimating, demanding, it's an incredible performance and seems to occupy a seamless place in the album from beginning to end, as though it were recorded in one sitting. Desire and self-criticism, anger and loss have always been communicated less in her words than in her singing, and that doesn't change here, but if you take the time you're likely to notice that the words are often, well, glorious. But for your first several exposures, stick to the visceral -- that's where this is most rewarding. You may never even get to the point that the words demand your attention, but you won't be displeased when they do so, whether at simple enough turns like "Look at look at look at me / I'm all the fishes in the sea" (pained, percussive "Daredevil") or the winking love note "I'm amorous but out of reach / A still life drawing of a peach" ("Valentine") or the mindbendingly wonderful "he makes my heart a Cinemascope screen / showing the dancing bird of paradise" ("Hot Knife").

I want to write this and tell you how I've determined either that I have changed or that Fiona Apple has changed, and that's why I'm suddenly obsessive about this record despite the same thing never happening with her celebrated earlier recordings, and I don't particularly want to give the illusion of jumping on some sort of a bandwagon out of fashion, not that I'd really give a shit about doing that. But unfortunately, any indication either way about that is going to be inconclusive, because that will require a new and unprejudiced reappraisal of the first three (three and a half?) records, and I simply don't want to wait six weeks to post this. Is it sufficient if I tell you I'm anxious now to go back and try again? Is it sufficient to tell you I'm falling completely in love with this album? That's what matters, really.

Where am I attacked most directly? It's not so much the plinking music hall persuasions, which are there at center stage from note one, and I can't even be sure if it's the feeling of a certain surrender of control that's both honest and highly affected -- call it a careful, uncontrolled control -- but I know that Apple is dramatic, and that excites me. She both knows when to reveal those throaty powerful choruses, when to play her own weaknesses ("Valentine"), when to pick up speed on the keys and lay down some devious hook, and sounds genuinely surprised when any of these things happen. Okay, maybe it is music hall again. Performance is not the poorest way to discover oneself, particularly when it seems as though our participation is by design, a direct communication.

It's early in my relationship with all this, of course; I can't yet tell you what in a year will mean the most to me about the ruthless rambling on "Jonathan" or resigned, intimate, complex concoctions like "Periphery" and "Werewolf," but I know that there is depth and intrigue there that I cannot yet process, and this again is something that's alluring to me. Perhaps that's the straight line here from Machine and When the Pawn...; it certainly is a feeling that I associate with Apple above most others. But it endears a more serious attachment here because the things that are immediate, including bits and pieces of those cuts but moreover a run of devastating material toward the end, have the kind of rapturous beauty and command -- command, again, even of weaknesses -- that make an indestructible, lifelong relationship of performer and follower. Apple's most easily likened to someone like Leonard Cohen, whose humiliations and excesses seem to enhance her art, whose air of mystery and strangeness is enchanting but seems felt and frustrated, never a put-on.

What are the big showpieces here? First is "Left Alone," a swirling, almost atonal rhythmic track with Apple's most snarling and soulful vocal laid atop it. But the run of three tracks that close Idler Wheel are what convinced me immediately that there was more here for me than I could quickly discern. "Regret" is just the prelude, its chaos a storm contained, but the "Cecilia" revision "Anything We Want" is something else -- that yearning crack when she says that about finding some time alone! -- and "Hot Knife," well, it's the incongruous surreal sort of weightless masterwork you dream about, some bizarro Andrews Sisters slash Erykah Badu thing I don't even know what to do with, backwards and forwards and totally normal, a dead ripoff, but fully inside-out and new. It makes me positively giddy.

Fiona Apple's lengthy lapse between records, even if born of music-biz frustration, can only be described as a brilliant career move, which further proves how much the business has changed in just the last decade or two. Not very long ago, it was considered career suicide for mainstream acts like Peter Gabriel and Dire Straits to spend ten and six, respectively, years between studio albums. But in the interim since Extraordinary Machine, itself a publicity magnet thanks to its release controversies, Apple's internet base has grown exponentially, and the world has swarmed to her enigma, so that she's in a position whereby the things she chooses to do with her creative energies are nearly automatic Events. She can do most anything with such power -- I can't quite wrap my head around what she's done so far but I know it's an exceptional, intelligent, valuable album that I imagine is going to be even more important to me in the long run than I can presently detect.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kaki King: Everybody Loves You (2003)



Since we were just talking about the productivity problem I've had with this blog lately, I'm going to just lay out there that only about half of it can be blamed on my apathy about most new music I've heard lately and the spreading thinner of myself as a result of the movie reviews. What actually comprises a bulk of my issues lately is re-learning how to live by myself (Amber and I are fine; she's in Greenville for college for a good while though) and in turn how to write in a perpetually silent house. Ironically I generally require silence to write anything, even if it's about music. I need a dark and quiet room and no distractions whatsoever, and normally it's simple enough to excuse yourself out of civilized life for an hour or two on the weekend and get a good chunk of work done. I really enjoy writing, so this is a fun thing for me.

But since Amber moved out I've had to face up to one particular hindrance, and that's not just that I can't stop myself from clicking on internet things and falling down a hole of wasted time, but also that silence itself can actually become a distraction. Deafening, even. So if I hole myself up in the bedroom with the door shut to keep the cat out for a little while, theoretically it's a good environment, but I think the solo time with my thoughts makes me less likely to compose anything worthwhile. For one thing, it invites way too much self-analysis. I can notice now the way that I begin with a thought, start formulating how to reach it, and then get distracted by the way I'm reaching it which leads to several other tangents, etc.; it's extremely annoying, but it's the way I've worked for years so it seems like consciousness of it is kind of damaging.

My point is: I've discovered that music like that of Kaki King, the usually-but-not-always instrumental acoustic guitarist who's one of the best modern players, has proven useful as I've cautiously allowed the speakers to emit something during long sessions of babbling about things. Generally I've mostly listened to King in fragments, seldom putting a full album on, but that's starting to change as I find that the lovely, emotive atmospherics she generates are conducive to clearing my head and getting things down on the proverbial paper.

On this first album of hers, I can't really single out individual songs except the really beautiful and seductive "Night After Sidewalk," sort of halfway between Richard Thompson and Nick Drake, and I'll tell you that while King is something of a virtuoso, her music aims for background ambiance and isn't terribly challenging -- though I don't think it means or needs to be. On this first pass, some of her percussive effects are a bit much; intended as a risky stroke, they instead just stick out a bit irksomely. There's also a useless hidden track with (sort of) vocals, which is just frivolity but I'm concerned it turns people off from King's later vocal material which is often excellent, enhanced by her breathy urgency.

Tonight as I post this, we're getting brushed by the edge of Hurricane Sandy; while the storm is about to become dangerous north of here, in my region it's basically just a heavy and pretty rainstorm. This music's perfect for it. I'm by the open window now and just feeling almost disembodied. More than recommending the album, I suppose I'm recommending that feeling.

Index of posts 1-400

The slowdown in posts here in 2012 has been considerable, but that's largely been a result of the working through of a few adjustments in my personal life as well as my gradual learning of how much time it actually takes to maintain three different blogs on the internet. Next year will see things around here a bit more organized, and there are about to be a LOT of posts to cover end-of-year stuff. In a few days, I'll be dropping reviews of catalog stuff for a month and a half or so while we plunder through new stuff, and conversely my other projects will be on hold. Should be fun.

KEY: [A+] / [hr] = highly recommended / [r] = recommended / [c] = caution / [NO] = avoid

(Keep in mind, we're using iTunes capitalization here. I am well aware that from a cataloging standpoint that's total bullshit, but it keeps me from having to deal with surname ambiguities. I'm a library assistant in real life so I know this is offensive, and all I can tell you is... I like pissing you off.)


10,000 Maniacs: In My Tribe (1987) [c]
10,000 Maniacs: Blind Man's Zoo (1989)
10,000 Maniacs: Our Time in Eden (1992) [c]
13th Floor Elevators: The Psychedelic Sounds Of (1966) [hr]
13th Floor Elevators: Easter Everywhere (1967) [r]
2 Many DJ's: As Heard on Radio Soulwax, Pt. 2 (2002)
3 Mustaphas 3: Soup of the Century (1990) [c]
The 6ths: Wasps' Nest (1995) [hr]
The 6ths: Hyacinths and Thistles (2000) [r]
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead: Source Tags & Codes (2002) [c]
A.C. Newman: The Slow Wonder (2004) [r]
A.C. Newman: Get Guilty (2009) [r]
Actress: R.I.P. (2012)
Adam Green: Jacket Full of Danger (2006) [r]
Aesop Rock: Labor Days (2001) [r]
Air: Moon Safari (1998) [hr]
Al Green Gets Next to You (1971) [hr]
Al Green: Let's Stay Together (1972) [hr]
Al Wilson: Show and Tell (1973)
Alanis Morissette: Jagged Little Pill (1995) [r]
Albert King: Best of (1968-73)
Alexander "Skip" Spence: Oar (1969) [hr]
Alexi Murdoch: Time Without Consequence (2006) [hr]
Ali Farka Touré (1988) [r]
Anal Cunt: I Like It When You Die (1997)
Andrew Bird: Noble Beast (2009) [hr]
Andrew Bird: Break It Yourself (2012) [r]
Andy Statman: Nashville Mornings, New York Nights (1986) [r]
Angelique Kidjo: Logozo (1991) [c]
Angie Stone: Black Diamond (1999)
Animal Collective: Sung Tongs (2004)
The Animals: Animalism (1966) [r]
Annie: Anniemal (2004)
Annie Lennox: Diva (1992)
The Antlers: Hospice (2009)
The Antlers: Burst Apart (2011) [hr]
The Apples in Stereo: New Magnetic Wonder (2007) [r]
AraabMUZIK: Electronic Dream (2011)
Arcade Fire: Neon Bible (2007) [hr]
Arcade Fire: The Suburbs (2010) [hr]
Ariel Pink: Worn Copy (2005)
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: Before Today (2010) [hr]
Atlas Sound: Logos (2009) [r]
Atlas Sound: Parallax (2011) [hr]
The Avett Brothers: I and Love and You (2009) [hr]
The B-52's (1979) [hr]
The Bats: Free All the Monsters (2011) [r]
The Beach Boys: Surfin' Safari (1962) [r]
Beach House: Bloom (2012) [hr]
Beastie Boys: Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (2011) [r]
The Beatles: Please Please Me (1963) [A+]
The Beatles: With the Beatles (1963) [A+]
The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night (1964) [A+]
Belle & Sebastian: Write About Love (2010) [r]
Best Coast: Crazy for You (2010) [r]
Big Boi: Sir Lucious Left Foot- The Son of Chico Dusty (2010) [r]
Big Star: #1 Record (1972) [A+]
Big Star: Radio City (1973) [A+]
Björk: Selmasongs (2000) [hr]
Björk: Biophilia (2011) [r]
Blur: Think Tank (2003) [hr]
Bob Dylan: Together Through Life (2009) [r]
Bon Iver (2011)
Brian Eno & Rick Holland: Drums Between the Bells (2011) [c]
Broken Bells (2010)
Buddy Holly: The "Chirping" Crickets (1957) [hr]
Buddy Holly (1958) [hr]
The C.A. Quintet: Trip Thru Hell (1968) [r]
Cake: Motorcade of Generosity (1994)
Cass McCombs: Wit's End (2011)
ceo: White Magic (2010) [r]
Chatham County Line: Wildwood (2010) [r]
The Chemical Brothers: Further (2010)
Chromatics: Kill for Love (2012) [r]
Chuck Berry: After School Session (1957) [hr]
The Clash (1977) [A+]
Cloud Nothings: Attack on Memory (2012) [c]
Crystal Castles (2010) [hr]
Cults (2011) [hr]
Curren$y: Pilot Talk (2010) [hr]
Curren$y: Pilot Talk II (2010) [r]
Curren$y: Weekend at Burnie's (2011) [r]
Curren$y: Muscle Car Chronicles (2012)
Curren$y: The Stoned Immaculate (2012) [r]
Cut Copy: Zonoscope (2011) [hr]
D.L. Byron: This Day and Age (1980)
Daft Punk: Homework (1997) [r]
Das Racist: Relax (2011) [hr]
De La Soul: The Grind Date (2004) [r]
Death Grips: The Money Store (2012) [NO]
The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love (2009)
The Decemberists: The King Is Dead (2011) [hr]
Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest (2010) [hr]
Dent May: Do Things (2012) [r]
Depeche Mode: Sounds of the Universe (2009) [r]
Delorean: Subiza (2010) [r]
Destroyer: Kaputt (2011) [hr]
Devo: Something for Everybody (2010) [NO]
DJ Quik: The Book of David (2011) [c]
Drake: Take Care (2011) [NO]
Eels: Tomorrow Morning (2010)
El-P: Cancer 4 Cure (2012)
EMA: Past Life Martyred Saints (2011) [r]
Emeralds: Does It Look Like I'm Here? (2010) [c]
The Essex Green: Cannibal Sea (2006)
The Everly Brothers (1958) [hr]
The Extra Lens: Undercard (2010) [r]
The Faint: Blank Wave Arcade (1999)
Fairport Convention (1967)
Faith No More: Angel Dust (1992) [NO]
Fang Island (2010)
Feist: The Reminder (2007) [hr]
Feist: Metals (2011)
The Field: Looping State of Mind (2011) [r]
The Flaming Lips: Embryonic (2009) [hr]
Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (2011) [c]
Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma (2010)
Four Tet: There Is Love in You (2010) [r]
Frankie Rose: Interstellar (2012)
Fucked Up: David Comes to Life (2011)
Galaxie 500: Today (1988) [hr]
Galaxie 500: On Fire (1989) [hr]
Gang Gang Dance: Eye Contact (2011) [r]
Gang of Four: Content (2011) [r]
Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost (2011)
Goldfrapp: Head First (2010)
Gonjasufi: A Sufi and a Killer (2010)
Gossip: A Joyful Noise (2012) [c]
Great Lake Swimmers: Lost Channels (2009) [hr]
Great Lake Swimmers: New wild Everywhere (2012) [NO]
Grimes: Visions (2012)
Handsome Boy Modeling School: So... How's Your Girl? (1999) [NO]
Herbie Hancock: Head Hunters (1973) [hr]
Hot Chip: Made in the Dark (2008) [hr]
Hot Chip: One Life Stand (2010) [hr]
Hot Chip: In Our Heads (2012) [r]
How to Dress Well: Love Remains (2010) [c]
Iceage: New Brigade (2011) [r]
Ice-T: O.G. Original Gangster (1991) [r]
Ida Cox & Coleman Hawkins: Blues for Rampart Street (1961) [hr]
Imani Coppola: Chupacabra (2011) [r]
Information Society (1988) [hr]
The International Submarine Band: Safe at Home (1968) [r]
Interpol (2010) [c]
Iron & Wine: The Shepherd's Dog (2007) [hr]
Iron & Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean (2011) [r]
J Dilla: Donuts (2006) [A+]
James Blake (2011) [r]
Jay-Z & Kanye West: Watch the Throne (2011) [r]
Joanna Newsom: Ys (2006) [hr]
Joanna Newsom: Have One on Me (2010) [A+]
John Coltrane: Giant Steps (1960) [A+]
John Coltrane: Ballads (1962) [A+]
John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (1964) [A+]
John Maus: We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (2011) [r]
John Talabot: fIN (2012) [r]
Julia Holter: Ekstasis (2012) [c]
Julian Lynch: Mare (2010) [r]
Julianna Barwick: The Magic Place (2011)
Kanye West: 808s & Heartbreak (2008) [hr]
Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010) [A+]
Kate Bush: 50 Words for Snow (2011)
Killer Mike: R.A.P. Music (2012) [hr]
The Kinks (1964) [r]
The Kinks: Kinda Kinks (1965) [hr]
The Kinks: The Kink Kontroversy (1965) [hr]
Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring for My Halo (2011) [NO]
L7 (1988)
L7: Smell the Magic (1990) [hr]
Lambchop: Mr. M (2012) [r]
Leonard Cohen: Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967) [A+]
Leonard Cohen: Dear Heather (2004) [hr]
Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas (2012)
Lotus Plaza: Spooky Action at a Distance (2012)
Lupe Fiasco: Lasers (2011) [NO]
Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes (2011) [r]
M. Ward: Duet for Guitars #2 (1999) [r]
M. Ward: End of Amnesia (2001) [r]
M. Ward: Transfiguration of Vincent (2003) [hr]
M. Ward: A Wasteland Companion (2012)
M83: Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (2011) [c]
Madonna: Hard Candy (2008)
Madonna: MDNA (2012)
The Magnetic Fields: Distortion (2008) [hr]
The Magnetic Fields: Love at the Bottom of the Sea (2012) [r]
Male Bonding: Nothing Hurts (2010) [hr]
Male Bonding: Endless Now (2011) [r]
Marvin Gaye: What's Going On (1971) [A+]
Marvin Gaye: Let's Get It On (1973) [A+]
Mates of State: Mountaintops (2011)
Matthew Dear: Black City (2010) [r]
The Men: Open Your Heart (2012) [r]
Midnight Juggernauts: The Crystal Axis (2010) [hr]
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (1950) [A+]
Miles Davis: Relaxin' (1958) [hr]
Moby: Destroyed (2011) [r]
The Mountain Goats: The Life of the World to Come (2009) [hr]
The Mountain Goats: All Eternals Deck (2011) [hr]
Nana Grizol: Love It Love It (2008)
Neil Young: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969) [hr]
The New Pornographers: Challengers (2007) [r]
Nicolas Jaar: Space Is Only Noise (2011) [hr]
No Age: Everything in Between (2010) [c]
Oasis: Definitely Maybe (1994) [hr]
OFF! First Four EPs (2011) [r]
Okkervil River: I Am Very Far (2011) [r]
Old 97's: Blame It on Gravity (2008) [r]
Old 97's: The Grand Theatre, Volume One (2010)
Old 97's: The Grand Theatre Volume Two (2011) [c]
Old Crow Medicine Show: Tennessee Pusher (2008) [hr]
Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica (2011) [r]
Otis Redding: Otis Blue (1965) [A+]
Otis Redding: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul (1966) [hr]
OutKast: Idlewild (2006) [r]
Over the Rhine: The Long Surrender (2011) [r]
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: Belong (2011) [r]
Panda Bear: Person Pitch (2007) [r]
Panda Bear: Tomboy (2011) [c]
Pantha du Prince: Black Noise (2010)
Parliament: Osmium (1970) [hr]
Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What (2011)
Perfume Genius: Put Your Back in 2 It (2012) [r]
The Pernice Brothers: Goodbye, Killer (2010)
Pet Shop Boys: Yes (2009) [hr]
Peter Gabriel: Up (2002) [hr]
PJ Harvey: Let England Shake (2011) [hr]
Prince: Dirty Mind (1980) [hr]
Prince: Controversy (1981) [hr]
Prince: 1999 (1982) [A+]
Prince: Purple Rain (1984) [A+]
R.E.M.: Murmur (1983) [A+]
R.E.M.: Collapse into Now (2011)
Radiohead: In Rainbows (2007) [A+]
Radiohead: The King of Limbs (2011) [hr]
Ray Charles: Genius + Soul = Jazz (1961)
Ray Charles: Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962) [A+]
Real Estate: Days (2011) [r]
Red Hot Chili Peppers: I'm with You (2011) [r]
Robyn: Body Talk (2010) [r]
The Rolling Stones: England's Newest Hit Makers (1964)
The Roots: Rising Down (2008) [r]
The Roots: undun (2012) [r]
The Saints: (I'm) Stranded (1977) [hr]
The Saints: Eternally Yours (1978) [r]
The Saints: All Fool's Day (1986) [hr]
Saturday Looks Good to Me: Fill Up the Room (2007) [hr]
Schoolboy Q: Habits and Contradictions (2012) [c]
Sepalcure (2011) [r]
Shabazz Palaces: Black Up (2011) [hr]
She & Him: Volume Two (2010) [r]
The Shins: Wincing the Night Away (2007) [A+]
The Shins: Port of Morrow (2012) [c]
Sleigh Bells: Treats (2010) [NO]
Smith Westerns: Dye It Blonde (2011) [hr]
Spiritualized: Sweet Heart, Sweet Light (2012) [r]
Spoon: Transference (2010) [r]
St. Vincent: Strange Mercy (2011) [r]
Stevie Wonder: Music of My Mind (1972) [hr]
Stevie Wonder: Talking Book (1972) [hr]
Stevie Wonder: Innervisions (1973) [A+]
The Strokes: Angles (2011) [r]
Sufjan Stevens: Illinoise (2005) [hr]
Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz (2010) [hr]
T.I.: King (2006) [r]
Talking Heads: 77 (1977) [hr]
Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978) [A+]
The Tallest Man on Earth: There's No Leaving Now (2012) [hr]
Tame Impala: Innerspeaker (2010) [hr]
Teddy Thompson: Bella (2011) [c]
Television: Marquee Moon (1977) [A+]
Tennis: Cape Dory (2011) [r]
Terry Malts: Killing Time (2012) [hr]
The-Dream: Love King (2010) [r]
Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972 (2011) [c]
Times New Viking: Dancer Equired (2011) [r]
Titus Andronicus: The Monitor (2010) [hr]
Toro Y Moi: Underneath the Pine (2011)
tUnE-yArDs: BiRd-BrAiNs (2009) [hr]
tUnE-yArDs: whokill (2011) [A+]
TV on the Radio: Dear Science (2008) [hr]
TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light (2011) [hr]
Twin Shadow: Forget (2010) [r]
Twin Sister: In Heaven (2011) [hr]
The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) [hr]
The Velvet Underground: White Light / White Heat (1968) [A+]
The Velvet Underground (1969) [A+]
The Walkmen: Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone (2002) [hr]
The Walkmen: Bows + Arrows (2004) [hr]
The Walkmen: You & Me (2008) [hr]
The Walkmen: Lisbon (2010) [hr]
The Walkmen: Heaven (2012) [hr]
The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient (2011) [NO]
Washed Out: Within and Without (2011) [r]
Wavves: King of the Beach (2010) [r]
We Are Scientists: Barbara (2010) [NO]
Wilco: The Whole Love (2011) [hr]
Wild Nothing: Gemini (2010) [r]
Wire: Red Barked Tree (2011) [r]
WU LYF: Go Tell Fire to the Mountain (2011) [NO]
Wye Oak: Civilian (2011) [r]
Yo La Tengo: Popular Songs (2009) [hr]
Youth Lagoon: The Year of Hibernation (2011) [r]
Yuck (2011) [r]

A$AP Rocky: LiveLoveA$AP (2011) [hr]
Aimee Mann: Magnolia OST (1999) [c]
Big K.R.I.T.: Return of 4Eva (2011)
The Chemical Brothers: Hanna OST (2011) [r]
Curren$y: Return to the Winner's Circle (2011) [hr]
Curren$y: Verde Terrace (2011)
Curren$y & The Alchemist: Covert Coup (2011)
Das Racist: Sit Down, Man (2010) [r]
Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx: We're New Here (2011) [r]
Lupe Fiasco: Friend of the People (2012) [c]
The Mountain Goats: All Survivors Pack (2011) [r]
Radiohead: TKOL RMX 1234567 (2011)
The Weeknd: House of Balloons (2011) [r]

Alexi Murdoch: Four Songs (2002) [hr]
The Antlers: (together) (2011)
Burial: Kindred (2012)
Colleen Green: Cujo (2011) [r]
Crystal Stilts: Radiant Door (2011) [hr]
Darkside (2011) [r]
The Decemberists: iTunes Session (2011) [r]
The Decemberists: Long Live the King (2011) [r]
The Flaming Lips: With Neon Indian (2011) [r]
Girls: Broken Dreams Club (2010) [r]
Hot Chip: We Have Remixes (2010) [r]
James Blake: CMYK (2010)
Nicolas Jaar: Don't Break My Love (2011)
Okkervil River: Golden Opportunities 2 (2011)
PAPA: A Good Woman Is Hard to Find (2011) [hr]
R.E.M.: Chronic Town (1982) [A+]
Radiohead: TKOL RMX 8 (2011)
Sufjan Stevens: All Delighted People (2010) [r]
Surfer Blood: Tarot Classics (2011) [r]
The Tallest Man on Earth: Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird (2010) [hr]
Vampire Weekend: iTunes Session (2011) [r]

10,000 Maniacs: MTV Unplugged (1993)

The "5" Royales: All Righty! The Apollo Recordings (1951-55) [r]
The "5" Royales: Complete King Masters (1954-60) [A+]
? & the Mysterians: Best Of- Cameo Parkway (1966-67) [hr]
101 Strings Orchestra: 20 Years of Beautiful Music (1969) [hr]
1910 Fruitgum Co.: Best Of (1968-70) [hr]
Aaron Neville: A Collection of His Best (1966-2006) [NO]
The Action: The Ultimate! Action (1964-68) [r]
Adam and the Ants: Stand and Deliver- Very Best Of (1977-95)
Adriano Celentano: Best (1975-99) [r]
The Adverts: The Singles (1977-79) [r]
Afrika Bambaataa: Looking for the Perfect Beat (1980-2001) [hr]
Al Green: Definitive Greatest Hits (1967-2007) [hr]
Al Martino: The Ultimate Al Martino (1952-79)
Alabina: L'Essentiel (1996-2000)
Alan Lomax: The Alan Lomax Popular Songbook (1933-59) [r]
Albert Ammons: The Boogie Woogie Man (1936-44) [r]
Albert Ayler: Free Form Jazz (1963-69) [hr]
Alex Chilton: A Retrospective (1967-95) [r]
All Saints: All Hits (1997-2001) [r]
Amos Milburn: Bad Bad Whiskey (1947-55) [r]
The Andrews Sisters: Best Of (1937-50) [hr]
Archie Bell & the Drells: Tightening It Up (1967-79) [hr]
B.B. King: His Definitive Greatest Hits (1951-93)
B.T. Express: Best Of (1974-80) [r]
The Beach Boys: Summer Love Songs (1963-71)
Buddy Holly: Greatest Hits (1957-59) [A+]
Cabaret Voltaire: The Original Sound of Sheffield (1978-82)
Chuck Berry: The Great Twenty-Eight (1955-65) [A+]
The Everly Brothers: Cadence Classics- 20 Greatest Hits (1957-60) [hr]
The Everly Brothers: Walk Right Back (Warner Years) (1960-69) [r]
Faces: The Definitive Rock Collection (1970-75) [NO]
The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends (2012)
Gene Vincent: Best Of (1956-63) [A+]
Hall & Oates: The Essential Collection (1974-2001) [NO]
Hank Locklin: RCA Country Legends (1956-68) [r]
The Impressions: Definitive (1961-68) [hr]
Jack Nitzsche: Hearing Is Believing (1962-79) [hr]
James Brown: In the Jungle Groove (1969-86)
K.C. & the Sunshine Band: Best Of (1974-89) [hr]
Oasis: The Masterplan (1994-97) [r]
Ray Charles: Ultimate Hits Collection (1953-90) [hr]
R.E.M.: Eponymous (1981-85)
Sam & Dave: Sweat 'n' Soul- Anthology (1965-71) [A+]
Sam Cooke: Portrait of a Legend (1951-64) [A+]
Smokey Robinson & the Miracles: Ooo Baby Baby- The Anthology (1961-72) [hr]
Taj Mahal: Best of (1967-74) [r]
Talking Heads: Sand in the Vaseline- Popular Favorites (1975-92) [r]
Talking Heads: Bonus Rarities and Outtakes (1975-92)
Van Morrison: Best Of (1965-89) [r]
The Yardbirds: Ultimate! (1964-69) [hr]

The Beach Boys: The Smile Sessions (1965-67) [c]
Big Star: Keep an Eye on the Sky (1970-74) [r]
Chuck Berry: The Chess Box (1955-75) [r]
Little Richard: The Specialty Sessions (1954-60) [hr]
Phil Spector: Back to Mono (1958-69) [A+]
Sam Cooke: The Man Who Invented Soul (1957-61) [hr]

Oasis: The Early Years (1992-95)

non-LP cuts: #

Top Artists + Index
The List of Lists 2011
The Best Records of 2011
Top 100 Music Videos + Index
All-Time Top Albums + Index
The List of Lists 2010
The Best Records of 2010
Welcome & Introduction


Just because. Only includes officially released material from the thirteen LPs, the 22 singles, and the EP.

01 All I've Got to Do
02 Don't Let Me Down
03 Help!
04 Strawberry Fields Forever
05 I Call Your Name
06 Dear Prudence
07 She Loves You
08 Rain
09 Girl
10 You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
11 I Want to Hold Your Hand
12 Here, There and Everywhere
13 I'll Cry Instead
14 Money
15 In My Life
16 Penny Lane
17 Norwegian Wood
18 I'm Looking Through You
19 I'm a Loser
20 I've Just Seen a Face
21 This Boy
22 There's a Place
23 For No One
24 I Don't Want to Spoil the Party
25 Happiness Is a Warm Gun
26 Sexy Sadie
27 Within You Without You
28 Ticket to Ride
29 Hey Jude
30 Long Long Long
31 Not a Second Time
32 What You're Doing
33 Ask Me Why
34 You Really Got a Hold on Me
35 Things We Said Today
36 Julia
37 If I Fell
38 No Reply
39 I Will
40 I'll Be Back

Monday, October 22, 2012

Killer Mike: R.A.P. Music (2012)

(Williams Street)


You can be forgiven if you put a new rap record on in 2012 and feel like you've entered a time warp when you hear this rapid-fire old school shit against a super-angry rant about Reagan; the only evidence, in fact, on the current apocalyptic single bearing the former president's name that this isn't the Iran Contra era is a (not very kind) reference to Barack Obama and the rather classic closing line: "I'm glad Reagan dead." Well, then. It's naive incendiary politics but how great and strange is it to hear such rage directed against matters that predate Mantronix? Killer Mike blows his horn about his literacy even as he makes conspiratorial accusations, though I doubt anyone would question that he's right about how we live in a world of a white-tinted single party system -- the right and the extreme right, naturally -- but that's dangerous talk right now in these last weeks of the danger of a Romney administration. As he puts it, "If I say anymore / They might be at my door." Cute. But we love rock stars with a thirst for awareness and education (lord, how I hate the word "consciousness") that's far outpaced by their imagination, the ones who can't keep their mouths shut; that's basically John Lennon, right? Lennon would've dug this record.

It's also strange to think of an album by a genre mainstay like Killer Mike as a breakthrough, but this really does burst out and forth like nothing he's done before; he comes out swinging from the first seconds of "Big Beast" on this immediately striking and intense record, the intensity of which never flags. That will come as a relief to those who feel hip hop albums have nearly universal pacing issues these days. If you're unfamiliar, you're unlikely not to respond to Mike if your tastes are centered at all on the bare touchstones of classicist rap music; Mike's professorial and aggressive like KRS-1 and he comes on with his brutal poetry and harsh messages in the best way, with just the right tinge of the celebratory. I mean, there's a lot of shouting and cackling and anger, but there's also the high school poetry class idiosyncrasy of his readings on "Anywhere But Here," which is a good measure of how convincingly Mike reaches for eternal youth here despite his mining of the past, and then there are these things like "Go!" which is two minutes of the most blistering insanity I've heard in any context lately. It sticks out but fits somehow, and that's how consistently surprising and odd R.A.P. Music is -- it pronounces but immediately evens out its own eccentricities.

The relentlessness of Mike's flow is complemented, maybe contrasted, here by the brilliant production of El-P, who honestly seems to put more effort into this than he does into his own work -- he matches Mike's rooted, throwback intensity and integrity with some of the most outlandish and backward-looking production of recent pop music, much less hip hop. Like Mike himself, El-P's work here manages to render itself both immersive and nostalgic, as though naturally and effortlessly engineered for the most massive possible appeal within those for whom this music is a biblical thing, which includes the artist himself if we're to trust the erudite appreciation of rap on the title cut. Dig the retro atmospheres of "Anywhere But Here," the almost Chromatics-like soft rock of the massive "Willie Burke Sherwood," the Atari shit synthpop of "Don't Die," the stomping, blurting funk of "Southern Fried." And even those don't match the cleverness of the urban paranoia on "Untitled," which is as salient a match of words to music as hip hop's produced in some time. Dammit, the thing's even good when it's kind of a little annoying, as on the Rick Rubin circa 1986 pastiche "JoJo's Chillin'."

You can't stress enough how much everything just comes together on this release. Mike and El-P run this thing like a killer MC/DJ combo, knowing just when to slice through all the aggression with some occasional smooth-as-hell groove that seems completely out of time, out of tune with everything we're hearing these days. You feel like you're floating in some posthumously invented era of the artists' own creation, a hip hop dream of sorts. "I don't trust the church of the government / Democrat, Republican." Yeah. This is the sound of an assured, accomplished veteran flaunting his skills a la Sign o' the Times. Mike gives a shit, he's coming on like a motherfucker and you'd better listen.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Andrews Sisters: Best Of (1937-50)



One of the easier pop music myths to dispel is that which holds that the Andrews Sister's immaculate appeal is purely generational. We might mistake it as such due to the automatic nostalgic mistiness their harmonies generate, but that's a function of the music itself rather than its era -- like Vera Lynn's aching wartime schmaltz on the other side of the Atlantic, their work is designed as timeless sentimentalism, to create a longing for home tempered by wit and a coy youthfulness. Everything about the feelings conjured up in "I'll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time" or "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)" (recently used to devastating effect in The Master) is there through the will and desire of Maxene, LaVerne, Patty, and their arranger Vic Schoen.

But even if the sisters' body of work was explicitly tied to the exhaustive amounts of work they did during the War, much of it volunteered as a tribute to servicemen, the world they define is still one in which we live. No event of the last century continues to define our lives like the Second World War, and when we hear these songs now, even complete frivolities like "Say Si Si" and "Yes, My Darling Daughter," it stirs something immediate that isn't hindered by time even if it captures something about that time.

Between the '20s and their first serious breakup in the '50s, the Andrews Sisters recorded upward of 400 songs for Decca. By the time of LaVerne's death in 1967, that number had ballooned to close to 700. A heavy proportion of those first 400 are brilliant -- I can't speak with absolute authority but the couple hundred I've heard are consistently wonderful. This Best Of disc, a double-set put out by MCA eons ago, is as pleasant a place to start as any, and it carries some of the most crucial, innovative, and historically vital sides they issued, but the deeper problem here is how much material of the Andrews Sisters is next to impossible to track down. My own collection consists of this plus a few other wayward compilations and a slipshod library of discs, records, downloaded tracks, and other odds and ends. A boxed set is desperately needed.

As it is, though, you won't go wrong with any collection you pick up, as you'll consistently be warmed up by the adventurous and influential harmonizing, by Patty's seductive asides, by the general air of yearning, sentiment, and sensuality that's really like nothing else in our cultural annals; certainly material like "Daddy," "Rum and Coca Cola," and "Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!" would've had a difficult time surviving the puritanical, Patti Page-heavy pop charts just ten years hence. (This set is missing the spectacular "Strip Polka," but it's not hard to find.) And of course you should demand that any Andrews Sisters CD you seek out contains the invaluables -- "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön," "Apple Tree," and of course "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," which brings us to the matter of just how startling this music can be.

The Andrews Sisters dabbled in jump blues, of course, as exemplified by "Bugle Boy," and that's exciting in itself -- but they also have songs dating from as early as 1939 that are virtually indistinguishable from rock & roll. Others did too, but no one with success on a level with the Andrews Sisters; the breathless "Well All Right" would sizzle in any era with its tremendously assured beat and winking, shouty, joyous refrain. The odyssey of the finest piano player in Texas, "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar" is practically a manifesto; the rhythm he beats puts the cats in a trance. At one point in the Glenn Miller-arranged "Rum and Coca Cola," there's this moment when Patty is about to take over for her solo and drops everything for just a moment to get taken over by the rhythm then wink into the microphone with a sharp, direct, completely out-of-time "ah! You vex me, you vex me." That's everything. And it's mutual.