Saturday, January 2, 2010

It's 2010!

Who saw that one coming? Not me, for sure. It's like I blinked and the aughties were over. Weren't we all just paranoid the computers were going to eat us in 2000? Weren't we all just mourning a terrorist attack in 2001? Didn't Kanye West just embarrass himself on national television? Did anything else happen while I was asleep?

I haven't made any New Year's Resolutions yet. Last year's were a bit of a flop, although I did manage to do quite a few things "jauntily." I don't have any burning issues I especially want to address. I have a job, my cats, semi-realistic expectations, and a handful of self-improvements that I really shouldn't discuss in an open forum (hint: I'm not writing this with a glass of something in hand).

I suppose I want what everyone wants at the beginning of each year. Some happiness. A little less tragedy. A smidgen of security. Perhaps a gift certificate to Best Buy. It's 2010. Nothing special. Maybe we'll all get through it okay. Promise?

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Best Albums Of 2009 #1

The Horrors-Primary Colours

When The Horrors debuted in 2006, they hit the airwaves amid a frenzy of UK-media hype. They were all black outfits and frizzy hair and Cramps-meets-Bauhaus spaz-outs. They were the goth band for the punk kids, wherever those kids may be. It was pretty heady stuff if you were into that sort of thing, but not a lot of people were. NME made Arctic Monkeys stars. The Horrors were swiftly brushed aside as also-rans.

Three years later, The Horrors returned with a new album and a (slightly) new sound. At first, Primary Colours sounds like an album made by a completely different band. Further listens unwinds the album a bit, however. This is definitely the same dark band; they’ve just wrapped themselves in some gauzy new threads and sounds.

Primary Colours starts with a swirl of bleak electronica that reminisces David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy. 45 minutes later, the album ends with a full-band flurry that album producer Geoff Barrow borrowed from his band Portishead’s “The Rip.” In between, the touchstones are varied. Joy Division… The Cure… The Jesus And Mary Chain… My Bloody Valentine… Primary Colours is best described as “Gothic Shoegaze,” but even that moniker doesn’t do the album justice. The album is 2009 in a nutshell: it’s loud, nonsensical, and a little on the bleak side.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Best Albums Of 2009 #2

Jarvis Cocker-Further Complications

Jarvis, Jarvis, Jarvis… An album about fucking and divorce, eh? You salty middle-aged sexpot, you! Lyrically, Further Complications hit me harder than just about any other album released in 2009. No, I’m not a salty middle-aged sexpot (though I might be salty.). but he just seems to get it and it’s nice to know that there’s another person out there in this big, mean world who does. Whether it’s ruminations on manwhores (“Homewrecker!”) or allegories about older men and dinosaurs (“Leftovers“), Further Complications never fails to deliver one sucker punch to the heart after another. And all these months after its release later, I just have to admit that “Hold Still” pretty much puts me into a panic attack every time I hear it.

The Best Albums Of 2009 #3

Arctic Monkeys-Humbug

I’ve heard a lot of grousing this year about how the Arctic’s third album is a “disappointment.” About how it’s too sludgy or slow or uncool or whatever. Well, yes, Humbug is sludgy and slow and uncool. It was produced by Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme. Sludgy and slow and uncool is kind of what he does. Which is why Humbug kind of transcends all trends this year. Arctic Monkeys basically made a low-down, dirty rock record in a year when the hip thing to do in rock music was to be psychedelic, low-fi, or twee (and in some cases, all three!). It took a lot of guts to throw all credibility out the window, but the results are pretty heady.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Best Albums Of 2009 #4

Art Brut-Art Brut Vs. Satan

I just might be Art Brut’s Eddie Argos. It seems like every Art Brut song is about unfortunate mishaps with pills, comic books, self-embarrassment, or that band you really, really like. Their third album, the Frank Black-produced Art Brut Vs. Satan, is chock full of new stories that lovingly ape Jonathan Richman while waving the flag of The Replacements. Art Brut is one of those odd bands that continues to be widely ignored while still crafting utterly brilliant and shockingly honest records. So, I guess if my life is going to continue echoing anyone’s, it might as well be Eddie Argos‘, because I could do a hell of a lot worse.

The Best Albums Of 2009 #5

Franz Ferdinand-Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

You know that feeling you get at 2am when you’ve just been thrown out of the bar onto the cold, dark streets and you’re not really sure where your cell phone is? And you’re pretty sure you left your credit card at the bar, but the bouncer won’t let you back in because, apparently, you called his girlfriend a “crack whore loser?“ And you keep trying to open your car door, but you don’t remember if you drive a Ford Taurus or a Jeep Cherokee? But you know in the back your mind that you are absolutely the most fabulous person about to blow chunks on the street corner? That’s Tonight: Franz Ferdinand.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Best Albums Of 2009 #6

The Flaming Lips-Embryonic

I was just about to give up on The Flaming Lips after 2006’s At War With The Mystics. Not that the album was terrible by any stretch of the imagination. It just seemed like a typically flat post-success album. Everyone does it. The Flaming Lips’ return to the mainstream in the early aughties was a joyous celebration of a band that’s been doggedly persistent for the last few decades. So a bit of a letdown was expected. Now that it’s all out of the way, The Flaming Lips have returned with Embryonic, a rather shocking nosedive into psychedelic rock that spans two discs. Embryonic is a dense album that rewards upon multiple listens. It’s hard to find the commercial elements here. Every so often, there’s a “Silver Trembling Hands,” or a “Convinced Of The Hex.” But for the most part, Embryonic is chock-full of stuff no radio station is going to touch. The best part? They save the most commercial track, “Watching The Planets,” for the very last song on the second disc. Sheer brilliance!