YEAR IN MUZIK
Hi hi hi,
Welcome to Daftpop pop culture weblog! This week I hope to see daftpop bloggers make lists of our favorite albums, movies, pop culture phenomena, etc, of 2008.
I’m going to start off with my list of top 10 albums from 2008.
Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
I guess I’m getting the sad, slow stuff out of the way first. When I was a kid, (and sometimes still now), I had an abstract worry about whether or not music was mathematically finite. It’s just a combination of notes in a musical line, in combination with other musical lines composed of notes in the same key…How long can humans invent **new** simple, beautiful, intuitive melodies? How many times can we make a new “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” or, an, um, “Jesus?” Albums like Bon Iver’s reassure me that human capacity for creating melody really is infinite. There is nothing shocking about this album. It is firmly placed in the sad-man Bonnie “Prince” Billy tradition. One man. Several voice tracks. A couple of instruments. A cabin in Eau Claire, Wisc. And what you get, from the songwriter’s beautiful mind, are those basic, intuitive melodies.
Sebastian Tellier, Sexuality
This is, honestly, my favorite cd from 2008. I read in the Chicago Reader that this album is the prototype for the tongue-in-cheek euro mini-genre “NuHammer,” which allegedly pays tribute to 80’s and 90’s euro-electro by sounding just as cheesy. But I can’t accept that. After seeing Sebastian, I know that this French man is a grande artiste, with a grand vision for his music. To be all neat and tidy about these things, Tellier’s vision can be compressed into exactly two Daft Punk songs: Discovery’s “Something About Us,” and Human After All’s “Make Love.” The former features an emotionless robot voice confessing love while a smooth jazz guitar and 70’s sex-funk bass create a self-consciously dated sex jam. (It is one of my favorite songs ever, perhaps.) A real live piano and lilting electric guitar accompany a demure voice singing the part-creepy, part-heartfelt imperative, “make lo-ove. make lo-ove.” Sebastian perfectly co-opts these sounds and makes a concept album out of them. Is “Sexuality,” and it’s two foundational Daft Punk songs what people call the “French Touch?” Because I can’t think of anything so French as that affected, sentimental electro.
Lil Wayne/Weezy/Mr. Carter, Tha Carter III
Sadly Tha Carter family is just not as good as Da Drought family, but that doesn’t make me any less enamoured of Wayne’s mouth-of-wonder. As is now tradition, we get all kinds of information from his incoherent spits of words. For instance, on “Phone Home,” we find out a valuable piece of the Weezian puzzle: that Wayne is a benevolent alien, kind of like ET. “We are not the same/I am a Martian,” he gurgles. We get Wayne’s continued fascination with formal modes of address in the song titles, “Mr. Carter,” “Dr. Carter,” and “Mrs. Officer.” We get another amazing set of Wayne’s instructions for the opposite sex: “Suck my dick with red lip stick and don’t let it smear,” (I’ll put that next to “Don’t Stop Won’t Stop’s” words: “I’ll never give a bitch what i earn/what the fuck i look like/i want a bitch who can fuck right/cook right/and if not, then left foot right/foot get to steppin/ bitch walk light.” !!!!) But mostly we get to see Wayne touching on every relevant point in popular black music—be it some ghettotraxxx, cash money boy salutes to wealth (the former two songs often are one and the same), R&B sex jams, lyrical left-fielders, and of course one of them Kanye-produced songs with an old-school gospel sample. There is truly a Wayne for all occasions.
The Walkmen, You & Me
Some sounds touch souls more deeply than others. Organs and country guitars seem to do it for me. On top of that, Hamilton is a sad, sad man, and You & Me finds him singing about his aimless almost-rocknroll star life, alienation, and people acting like assholes–just like he always has. Antiquated instrumentation remains–to borrow Andrew’s words, the Walkmen still long “for a time that never existed.” And here they do it again, more sedately, more touchingly, but just as goodly as they’ve done it before.
Cool Kids, The Bake Sale
Bringing ’88 back is such a good idea. These boys rhyme from simpler times; cereal and Star Wars belts number among their concerns; women possess wills and desires outside the minds of their hustla masters; and beats just sound sooooooo coooooooooool. Cool Kids entirely ignore hip hop revelations and trends from the last decade. They reign in an underground kingdom of their own creation, and instead of fretting about whether or not they fit in, they declare their coolness and invite their detractors out to lunch. This is floetry of the mundane at its 80’s flossy finest.
Beach House, Devotion
I wish I didn’t like this as much as I do, because it’s not loud or busy or forward looking in any way… that is to say, it is the opposite of all things I value aesthetically. But Devotion is seamless in its reverb soaked subterranean world, and underneath all the dust and Niko nostalgia, it’s full of beautifully composed 60’s pop songs.
MGMT, Oracular Spectacular
These boys don’t know who they want to be: 1976 Bowie? Midnight Vulture’s Beck? Tom Petty? But they’ve got some songs I hate to love. I look forward to MGMT finding an identity and making better albums in the future; this is the kind of band who gets better with age. (No, seriously, they’re like 19 years old.)
Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
I don’t feel like talking about it, but this album is pretty good.
M83, Saturdays = Youth
It’s France loves the 80’s: catharsis, synths and all. When I first heard this album I was shocked. Is it ok to just make an album-long version of Simple Mind’s “Don’t You Forget About Me?” Or even less hip, is it ok to make 6-minute tracks that sound like the bridge of Springsteen’s most triumphant anthem? I let my heart decide, and it said yes.
Flying Lotus, Los Angeles
This is Dilla back from the dead and Doom at his jazzy smoothest. It doesn’t even matter if Lotus is his own thing; Los Angeles is as seamless and mindboggling as either of those dudes’ creations. (There, I just said it.) (Here, I’m taking it back. Donuts is now and forever shall be the greatest.) If there is any significant difference, I would argue that Los Angeles is sexier than Donuts; where Donuts is all coitus interruptus, Los Angeles is all like, “baby, lessss groove all night long.” In any case, Los Angeles, like Donuts, does what music should do. It scrambles jazz or soul through a dance or hip hop brain; it breaks down genres and builds new ones.