Albums Of The Decade, Part III

Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele (Razor Sharp/Epic/Sony Records; 2000)

SupremeClientele

Second solo offering from Tony Starks aka Ironman aka Pretty Toney aka Ghost Deini. Until Raekwon dropped his OB4CL2 this past year, Supreme Clientele was the last really great Wu-Tang solo album; after all the late-90s gems dropped by Wu-associates The Genius (Liquid Swords), Raekwon (OB4CL), Method Man (Tical) and Ol’ Dirty (Return to 36 Chambers) the Wu kinda disappeared after this joint. Of course, Ghost doesn’t write like the GZA but his flow is leaps and bounds above anyone else in the business; the only thing that makes this album less than perfect is the skits (hip-hop records need to cut that shit out) and that one whack song with U-God (Cherchez LaGhost), but for the most part it’s one of the best of the decade and an emphatic yes y’all from the Ghost; his swagger and confidence on this record is un-matched. Never boring, never repetitive- hell; the best beats on here aren’t even from RZA (although he was listed as executive producer, the unknowns made the best tracks here; Black Moes-Art‘s work on Nutmeg, Hassan‘s awesome backing track for Apollo Kids, Juju‘s track One and Choo The Specialist‘s dope beat for Malcolm). To RZA‘s credit, the best verse of his non-Wu-Tang career appears on the track Nutmeg.

Key tracks: Apollo Kids, Nutmeg, One, Malcolm

——————–

MC Paul Barman – Paullelujah! (Coup d’État Entertainment; 2002)

barman

Nerdcore hip-hop from an Ivy-educated wunderkind with help from Prince Paul and MF Doom– songs about not getting laid (ever), pornographic fantasies of firin’ blanks into Tyra Banks, referencing both The Iliad and high school math formulas (SOHCAHTOA & PEMDAS); it’s a thoughtful, hilarious intelligent satire with tongue-twisting verbal acrobatics and really good beats. Here’s a sample of Barman‘s “cornucopia of porn utopia” on the track Cock Mobster: “…I’ll disrobe Lisa Loeb / I want a smelly slice of Kelly Price / Plus get with the hairy scar of Teri Garr / Lisa Bonet: I’d like a piece of your day / I would jizz early inside Liz Hurley…” Yeah, this man is sick- very, very sick. It’s all in good fun however; Barman‘s scathing send-up of bloated college activism (I think the students of UC-Berkeley would be served well to listen to MC Paul; stop taking yourselves so damn serious!) is at times both playful tongue-in-cheek and dead serious. I can’t tell which sometimes, and I think that’s Barman’s point. You dork.

Key tracks: Cock Mobster, Old Paul, Excuse You, Anarchist Bookstore Pt. 2

——————–

Efterklang – Tripper (The Leaf Label; 2004)

Efterklang-tripper

I fell asleep to this album every night for about six months straight. It’s kind of unfamiliar as I listen to it awake, I’m sure there’s something in my subconscious it speaks to. I do remember having gentle dreams that gave way to a vivid awareness; first my visions were soft and out of focus, the words half-spoken. Then cumulus clouds suddenly were forming and disappearing in mere seconds, suns setting and moons rising and then being whisked galaxies away to another planet- there seems to be a conversation going on somewhere above and behind me and I can’t turn fast enough to see where it’s coming from- is that an alien tongue? Maybe it’s Danish. I awaken, completely lost in my surroundings, that groggy half-second before you realize you’re alive and alone in the dark; not quite fright and not quite comfort. Silence. Deafening silence. But there’s an imprint in that silence, a pocket that used to hold a sound. That sound was Efterklang’s Tripper. Now it’s gone. I’m back asleep.

Key Tracks: Step Aside, Foetus, Swarming, Prey & Predator

———————

Andrew Bird – Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production Of Eggs (Righteous Babe; 2005)

MysteriousProductionOfEggs

Andrew Bird defies any and all classification. Is it pop? Rock? Classical? Apparently he’s been labeled as “baroque pop” which is as close an approximation as one could allow- he’s classically trained and plays more instruments than Prince, and can write catchy songs incorporating elements of orchestral-based flourishes here or there; his violin playing is incomparable (as well as mastery of guitar, mandolin and glockenspiel. Even his whistling is so good he sounds like a singing saw). So here on his third solo outing is where it all came together; perfect slices of indie chamber pop cut from the pie shared with George Martin‘s arrangements with The Beatles, those mid-60s Brian Wilson Beach Boys‘ harmonies and Village Green-era Kinks. Every song on this record incorporates something you’d hear at a symphony; coupled with Bird‘s lyrical prowess (I swear he could be a PhD in English, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Metaphysics, Philosophy, etc.) it’s a fascinating record to behold- there’s a line from the song A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left that I can’t ever seem to escape when I’m having an existential crisis: We had survived to turn on the History Channel and ask our esteemed panel, “Why are we alive?” And here’s how they replied: “You’re what happens when two substances collide, and by all accounts you really should have died…” That might be one of my favorite song lyrics of any decade…

Key tracks: Fake Palindromes, A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left, Measuring Cups, Sovay

———————

Black Moth Super Rainbow – Dandelion Gum (Graveface; 2007)

Dandelion_gum

When they start space travel, and living in space, and all that space-related jazz, there will eventually be “space porn”. I mean, c’mon- ever since there’s been photography and then moving pictures, people have filmed each other naked; it’s inevitable. So this space porn is gonna need a soundtrack. This album from Pittsburgh-area synth freaks Black Moth Super Rainbow is the closest thing I’ve ever heard to my idea of space porn music, because I basically spend half my waking hours thinking about filming sex acts in outer space. Vocals vocoded beyond any discernible actual lyrics (although I’m sure they’re saying something), heavy old school analog synths; it’s the type of record you put on to take drugs to but realize half-way through that it’s freaking you out- you can’t stop thinking about alien threesomes and Captain Kirk 69ing Uhuru. It’s both not-of-this-Earth and creepily sexy. Maybe the lack of oxygen up here has turned me into a orbital pervert.

Key tracks: Sun Lips, Forever Heavy, Rollerdisco, Drippy Eye

Best Of January

ff-tonight

Franz Ferdinand

Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (Domino Records, released 1/27/09)

Sexy in a nerdy sort of way because on the one hand you have Alex Kapranos‘ Scottish pub-rock-croon over familiar yet odd, angular post-punk guitar chords and then on the other hand there are all these seemingly out-of-place 8-bit beeps and blips that show up (like the ones used in various old-school video games; the track Live Alone sounds like one of the radio stations you can choose to blast in your Ferrari Testarossa in that Sega game OutRun, circa 1986) which should work as the requisite antithesis for trying to get laid. The excursions of the newly discovered synthesizer are abound as Franz explore dub and electronica; but also keeping the old formula they’re known for: groovy sing-along dancefloor bangers. Since this is FF‘s “night” album, most of the album is an up-tempo affair with hand-claps, drummy freak-outs, stomp-alongs; it shuffles and stutters, stops and starts and eventually drives the point home. Getting weird with the extended acid-house instrumental during the last four minutes of the re-worked Lucid Dreams, the stripped-down acoustic bareness of Katherine Kiss Me, and Ulysses; cribbing its style from the deep space dub echo chamber. There’s also the classic formula revisited on tracks that sound exactly as Franz should; Turn It On and What She Came For. I’m recommending this album- if you’re already a fan of Franz Ferdinand you might be slightly disappointed, if you’re new to the boys from Glasgow- it’ll be exciting.

Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

andrew_bird_noble_beast

Andrew Bird

Noble Beast (Fat Possum Records; released 1/20/09)

Andrew Bird is a big fan of life; both in an intra-personal aspect and on a molecular level. Continuing on a concept from his three previous records of breaking the biological constraints of life down to its basest parts- the album is again rife with the imagery of elemental vocabulary like calcium mines, radiolarians (some type of protozoic life form that produces intricate skeletal systems), sea anenomes, etc.- it’s as if you need your old bio textbook to read his lyric sheets. I’m going to go ahead and start calling him Dr. Bird, he’s probably the most cerebral songwriter around these days; and I can’t quite call his music “pop”, being that he’s a classically trained violinist his music veers closer towards a baroque sentiment- imagine pop music of the late 1700s set to brainiac post-Ph.D lyricism. But the musicianship coupled with the uber-intelligentsia slant makes for repeated interested listens; highlights include Oh No, Masterswarm, Not A Robot, But A Ghost, and the hands-down best piece of music on the entire record appears after the 2:15 mark of Anonanimal– it’s actually one of the nicest breakdowns in a song I’ve heard in a while. But then again, Dr. Bird can write some really fine melodies; so it’s completely expected.

Noble Beast

More albums I missed from 2008 that I’ve been rocking heavily this past month:

deerhoof_offend_maggie

Deerhoof

Offend Maggie (Kill Rock Stars Records; released October 7th, 2008)

You know, I’m half on the fence with Deerhoof, half-off; I loved Reveille and The Runners Four (but not at first), sort of panned Friend Opportunity and was stand-offish about their latest. Eventually I grew to like all these albums after forgetting about them and revisiting them sometime later- it’s like I can’t get into it right away, it takes a bunch of listens before I get hooked in. I listened to Offend Maggie a few times back in October and let it sit on the shelf until about two weeks ago; now I get it- it’s got bigger guitars, less freaky, more restrained. Each album is less a continuation of the last than a re-invention towards something slightly different, but still essentially Deerhoof-esque.

paavoharju

Paavoharju

Laulu Laakson Kukista (Fonal Records; released July 22nd, 2008)

This record would’ve made my top five, easily- that is if I actually listened to it before I made my flawed and (now) out-dated list, actually there’s about 6 or 7 albums I would’ve slipped in my top twenty that I didn;t get a chance to hear until after the new year, but alas; no need complaining when there’s such sweetly ethereal music like Paavoharju out there. Ambient dream folk electronica from the far reaches of Finland; I have to say this is as fine a record I’ve heard in the last decade; there’s nothing to compare it to because there’s nothing else that I’ve heard that sounds even remotely like this.

the-bug-london-zoo

The Bug

London Zoo (Ninja Tune Records; released July 7th, 2008)

I’ve somewhat maligned the entire genre of dubstep, however this is not only listenable, it’s ridiculously enjoyable. It’s closer to “darkwave” dancehall, if such a thing exists (probably not) but it’s way better than any other dubstep I’ve heard. No wonder this ended up in so many top ten lists at the end of last year- it’s a great record.

Heavy Anticipation for February:

Dark Was The Night Compilation, due out February 17th from 4AD Records.

Morrissey‘s Years Of Refusal, due out February 17th from Attack/Lost Highway Records.

Abe Vigoda‘s Reviver EP, due out Feb. 17th from Post Present Medium Records.

Zach Condon has releases scheduled on Feb. 17th from two separate projects: his well-known day job Beirut with the March Of The Zapotec EP and his electronic side-project Realpeople‘s Holland EP.

Black Lips‘ new record, 200 Million Thousand; out Feb. 24th from Vice Records.