Despite the return of Lightning Bolt (with the most anticlimactic release of the year), another Super Roots EP from Boredoms, the masterful drones of Sunn 0))), and the continued prolificacy of Merzbow, 2009 was all about accessibility, even in the so-called “indie” scene. That’s why Bitte Orca is considered to be the greatest album thus far by Dirty Projectors, even though it only slightly edges out 2007’s Rise Above, and why Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion is considered to be the Brooklyn band’s finest hour. Conversely, it’s the reason why Black Dice’s Repo and No Age’s Losing Feeling EP failed to attract any significant attention- both were fairly noisy efforts, with Black Dice failing to make the Animal Collective transition from epic free noise explorations to bouncy electronic pop, and No Age slightly backing off from the indelible melodies of 2008’s Nouns. And if 2009 was all about accessibility, then Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is without a doubt the album of the year. Despite the French band’s dedication to snappy and instantly catchy pop songs (the 2000 single “If I Ever Feel Better” still ranks among their best songs), their albums have always contained either embarrassingly 80’s pastiche tracks (On Fire from 2000’s United), anemic and hookless soft rock songs (roughly half of Alphabetical), or overlong instrumentals (“North” from It’s Never Been Like That). What this means is that while Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective made their most accessible albums to date by cutting back on their intriguingly experimental tendencies, Phoenix were able to make their most accessible album to date by simply cutting out the lesser tracks. The two aforementioned bands stepped down; Phoenix stepped up. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is short- less than 40 minutes long- and does not contain a single track that’s less than addictive. From the quick rip of “Lasso” to the extended jam of “Love Like A Sunset,” Phoenix cover a fair bit of ground, but keep it punchy enough to never sound desperate. All hail the French.
Archive for Lightning Bolt
Despite the fact that this decade is in no way over, Pitchfork Media is still going ahead and publishing their top 500 tracks of the 2000s. Though I hope that Lightning Bolt’s new album, Earthly Delights (out Nov. 13) includes at least one track that makes the Pitchfork writers sorry they jumped the gun, the truth is that there’s probably nothing left in the 2000s that will significantly affect Pitchfork’s list. Which is not to say they didn’t mess up; if listing 300 tracks without a word of description for any isn’t a cheap trick, then I don’t know what is. However, I’m not here to review Pitchfork; I’m here to beat them to the punch and name my best track of the 2000s, which won’t be bettered in the next four months and probably not in the next four years. Yes- All My Friends is just that good. Read on; For all of its virtues, Someone Great never struck me as a particularly emotionally resonant song. Something in James Murphy’s falsetto lends the song a certain archness that’s been apparent in nearly every LCD Soundsystem song, from Losing My Edge to New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down. So, as good as Someone Great is, it seemed to lack a genuine emotional push, which is probably because Murphy made the music (taken from 45:33) before the words, which he probably made up on the spot. It was the “emotional” (quotation marks very important) song I expected LCD to make; musically fantastic, lyrically witty, and with a raised eyebrow All My Friends is a bit different, as it marks the point where even though Murphy references Steve Reich with the piano, he doesn’t need to make the song about Steve Reich and how he was totally into Music For 18 Musicians before you and your friends were. It’s a cutting song, but the damning lyrics are sympathetic, unlike pretty much every other song Murphy ever wrote. All My Friends is about living a hedonistic life and finding it hollow, about aging and regretting, and, despite the first person, about Murphy himself. Losing My Edge, LCD’s first song, was also about Murphy. But the difference between this and All My Friends is the difference between Rodney Dangerfield and Woody Allen. What Losing My Edge lacks is transcendent; what All My Friends lacks is the designation of best song of the decade. Coming from me, it doesn’t matter too much, but if any song represents the general mood of the 2000s (slightly elegiac, darkly humorous, emotional), it’s this one. And you can dance to it.