The Year of Living Musically: 2008 Winds to a Close

 

Album of the Year, by the way

Album of the Year, by the way

Every year, the music scene brings great joys and horrific train wreck disappointments.  2008 is no different.  Read on:

JOYS

No Age’s Nouns- The key thing about No Age is that though they unabashedly flirt with unadulterated ambience, noise, and bizarre loops (Things I Did When I Was Dead is just as strange as the title suggests), they are still PUNK RAWK, unlike Sonic Youth, their biggest influence, who didn’t get quite so accessible until Thurston Moore stopped killing his idols.  Verbs would be a more appropriate title for this album; the songs ooze movement and action, and that’s why the album is punk.  If one steps back from the speed rush of songs like “Miner” and “Sleeper Hold”, one will find the most original guitar sounds of the 21st century.  Unsurprisingly, it’s also the best record this year.

Crystal Castles’ Crystal Castles- Simultaneously one of the best records this year and a great entry point into noisy dance for Pac-Man addicts.  Yes, the synths may seem a bit gimmicky, but Alice Glass’s vocals, the DFA 1979 sample on “Untrust Us”, the blurred line between remixing and sampling on “Crimewave” (with some vocals taken from HEALTH)… they all add sonic depth to 8 bits, something that millions of Kraftwerk ripoffs somehow failed to do.  And “Black Panther” is catchy as all hell.


No Wave Recordings Released- The most confrontational rock movement ever (it could happen nowhere else but New York) never was a contender for an audience.  But 2008 rolls around.  And what do I see? An affordable Mars anthology.  A complete Teenage Jesus anthology (1995’s Everything is a helluva misnomer).  All 10 minutes or so of Beirut Slump.  DNA’s anthology released on vinyl.  Finally, the available documents of the No Wave span more than an hour.  

Guns N’ Roses Release Chinese Democracy- No, the music itself is a disappointment, but the joy is the fact that they finally released it; the joy is that I, who has hated Axl Rose for god knows how long, can point to the perfectionism imploding into junk that is Chinese Democracy, and can say “See, I told you they sucked”.

DISAPPOINTMENTS

Cher Is Not Murdered- In 1998, Cher used a little vocal effect on the verse of her song “Believe”.  Her label wanted her to remove it, but she adamantly refused.  10 years later, every other hit song uses Autotune.  Cher has not yet been saved by Daft Punk (“One More Time” makes up for every vocoder abuse ever), but as the two Parisians start to make movies instead of house, Cher gets closer and closer to paying for T-Pain’s sins.

Black Kids’ Partie Traumatic- All right, no one expected this to be a great album.  But the disappointment is that this is not an absolutely horrendously cheesy album.  The appeal of “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You” is that it’s synthetic and silly, not that it’s danceable or reasonably catchy.  With Partie Traumatic, Black Kids should have gone for broke and made a horrible, self-indulgent record that would be tremendously enjoyable (About a quarter of the Rapture’s Echoes is a good precedent).  Instead, they made a semi-competent record that was pretty much what everyone expected it to be.  Why so unimaginative?

TV On The Radio’s Dear Science- TV on the Radio have always been a very distinctive band; though there are thousands of audible influences in TVOTR’s work, the sounds they draw from are so disparate that there’s really only one song that sets a precedent for what David Andrew Sitek, Tunde Adembimpe et al are doing; This Heat’s “Sleep”, from the 1981 album Deceit.  This is still somewhat true for Dear Science; there are still tons of influences, but only one precedent.  The problem is that the influences have changed from to sterile noise (think late-period Nine Inch Nails) in place of “Phil Spector as jet engine”, as the Village Voice put it, sanitized drum machine funk (think Cameo) in place of the shifting rhythmic intrigue, and Bowie ripoffs (Golden Age in particular) in place of fourth-dimensional doo-wop.  The disappointing thing about the album is that TVOTR are not using new instruments or a new producer; nothing has really changed except the quality has dropped off the face of the earth.  Sitek has lost all the intrigue of the alluringly hazy Young Liars EP; Adebimpe has lost all the soulful melodies of “Staring at the Sun” or “Province”; Malone is just a great deal more annoying.  Here is what is most telling: The New York Times compared Kanye West’s song “Love Lockdown” to TVOTR. 5 years ago, I would have cancelled my subscription.  Now, I shrug and agree. Dear TV on the Radio, thanks for nothing.

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3 Responses to “The Year of Living Musically: 2008 Winds to a Close”

  1. Nice list mate. Crystal Castles “Crimewave” is not a cover of Health. It samples bits of the vocals and rearranges them, both the original and the CC version are here:
    http://www.myspace.com/healthmusic

  2. Totally agree with No Age Nouns. Cancel the NYT anyway, TVOTR or not. No, keep reading but keep writing more. ANd listening. Golden years, oh my….

  3. Autotone and Cher. Axl Rose and Chinese Dem. Two artists fighting the system to make their musical dreams come true. I wonder which one fought harder. Try and track that down, Petey. Later.

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