The Freelance Mentalists.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
  give you back your hope in a plain brown envelope (Pazz & Jop 2012 ballot/comments)



In no real order (10 points each): the first albums queing up, scratching and itching in ways that nothing else can quite reach (except a few others, but they never did come to mind quite as fast)---Don Allred
1. Neneh Cherry & The Thing---The Cherry Thing
2. Various---Fac.Dance 02
3. LCD Soundsystem---Shut Up And Play The Hits
4. Neil Young & Crazy Horse---Americana
5. Dirty Projectors---Swing Lo Magellan
6. Mountain Goats---Transcendental Youth
7. Bonnie Raitt---Slipstream
8. Martha Wainwright---Come Home To Mama
9. Best Coast---The Only Place
10. Ned Sublette---Kiss You Down South
(no points given to singles, sayeth The Pazz & The Jop)
Singles:
1. Frank Ocean---"Bad Religion"
2. Kelly Hogan---"Daddy's Little Girl"
3. Rufus Wainwright---"Montauk"
4. Miguel---"Adorn"
5. Death Grips---"System Blower"
6. Bob Dylan---"Duquesne Whistle"
7. Bob Dylan---"Pay In Blood"
8. Patti Smith---"This Is The Girl"
9. Willie Nelson---"Come On Up To The House"
10. Machinedrum---"Whatnot"
Comments on some of my Top Ten Albums:
LCD Soundsystem---Shut Up And Play The Hits If LCD had started touring earlier, maybe they could have helped the hyped massification of "electronica" (or techo-rock, as some called for) to achieve lift-off, long before brostep. Every moment of this four-hour farewell show is a good place to start. They've even learned how to experience "45: 33" with us.  I could barely stay awake during the studio original, and its b-sides were reduced to consolation prizes. for which I felt pathetically grateful. Here. they're just really cool dessert x appetizers. (This is a 3 DVD set, including  the original theatrical documentary, which is okay, and the complete concert, which is much more than okay. In fact, it's very hard to beat, 2012-wise,  so I'm listing it in the same hungry way as somewhat frustrated  film reviewers used to top ten The Wire.)
The Dirty Projectors---Swing Lo Magellan Their previous albums usually took a while, but this one got me by the elbow right away, marching me up a swaying, strangely flexible path,  a groove, nonetheless-- complicated as it just has to be, but with plenty of immediate gratification, sloshing purple post-soul-chamber-rock, with daisy chains and field trips and school play backdrops--anyway, hope Frank Ocean checks it out, speaking of "keepin' it surreal," eh Frank. Novelty at worst, and while I once thought they might accrue Talking Heads cred without Talking Heads hits, now I'm not so sure they won't end up with both.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse---Americana Does not exceed my expectations of the stylistic vehicle/approach, but gets its paws purty far under the hood. Might want to fast fwd halfway through the 8-minute "Tom Dula," and a couple others get a little bogged down in the middle (also expected, of apparently live-in-the-studio [except maybe the deft backing vocals] stomping grooves with gnarly solos, and a lot of first takes, 'tis said), but overall, damn good. No prob  with "God Save The Queen", especially as closer--he might be singing to an American queen--esp with sweet little surprise slipped in towards the end. Good after "This Land," with verses I do not recall singing in Cold War grade school, and "God Save," at least this version, has "Con-found their politics, frustrate their e-vil tricks," amen! ("Get a Job" is the scariest ol' folk imperative yet.)
The Mountain Goats---Transcendental Youth  No need to tunnel back into your Mountain Goats for comparative purposes; this album stands (leaps, eats tin cans) on its own terms, which acolytes and novices alike will recognize--not because it's a re-hash; just that all these coded hoodrat catacomb testimonies make unmistakably American sense. if you are a The Hold Steady fan but getting a bit frustrated with creative lovehandles, rest assured this contains no fat, does bring plenty crucial lyric and sonic detail, with  hungry underdog cunning,  zig-zag wandering and straight-ahead momentum. Also, if you're frustrated by good horn sections wasted on, say the Byrne/St. Vincent thing (yeah I'll listen again, or maybe not), well you've come to the right place, as Elvis would say. Kind of a King Creole urban twilight  pang-vibe here,  times art-rocking MGs leader John Darnielle's metal-compatible spirit too.
Ned Sublette---Kiss You Down South Worked w Branca, Cage, Ashley, LaMonte Young etc., though mainly familiar to me via Willie Nelson's excellent cover of "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other", writing/producing for Afropop Worldwide, plus his intriguingly reviewed histories of Cuba and New Orleans. Willie and all the rest of that get smoked by his guitar, with nylon strings like steel springs, but only when necessary. Some of it reminds me of  Augustin Barrios, as played by John Williams: gently fearless, lyrically tensile acrobatics--although Sublette's got a rough, earthy emphasis too. Lyrics fit perfectly, even when they're occasionally too glib (and the meta "Flow" doesn't flow all that well, by his usual standards). Good strong, tuneful voice too, always. But dammm, that guitar. Goes electric on the last track, but def not new age, or noise age, for that matter. Nor is it too tasteful (likes his f-bombs, he does).
Best Coast---The Only Place The title song seems obligatory, sincere, self/peer-mocking; past that, it's mostly a blue Pacific twilight breakup album, curving back  like shades, yet ditching the mockery, succinctly interrogating self and the ex,  with former New York resident Bethany Cosentino suggesting a tough Bronx accent sometimes, or maybe it's just  time for an Italian thing.
Martha Wainwright---Come Home To Mama So, like Cat Power and Fiona Apple, very confidential-to-allusive-to-cryptic-to-let-it-blurt (and back), singer-songer Martha Wainwright now uses tuneful beat science to parse hot mess. Even further into the studio as self-expressive/referential protection and risk than the Power, less (eventually) tending to monotony than the tirelessly delving  Apple, Come Home To Mama has more of a band feel than either, and knows from Prince, Stevie, Ziggy, Dolly, her parents and brother, while always being her own story. Good on drugstore headphones too.
Hon Mentions:
Corin Tucker Band's Kill My Blues Her solo debut was all nice and pensive and sometimes intense, burning those autumn leaves like Robert Plant (an RP demo, anyway). But Kill reminds us that Sleater-Kinney eventually repped Zep, and also who the frontperson of S-K was(hint: nobody in Wild Flag). No loss of thoughtful lyrics either, but Mama's got a leaf blower now.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse---Psychedelic Pill I liked "Driftin' Back" at first, the lyrical zengahs, vocals (lead & harmonies both), suggestions of Television covering "Eight Miles High", groove, all very cute-but eventually seemed static, I nodded off. Woke up for the rest of Disc 1, really liked the way "Ramada Inn" is so intense, and  even more so when it's like a screen grab of scenes from a marriage in crisis, slowly, inexorably unfolding, but could go off the road at eny second, or not. That's life, that's what all the people say. That was the boombox, but when I tried Windows Media Player, right-clicked on the tiny HDCD in lower right, went to enhancements >graphic equalizer, with tasteful presets (incl Grunge), but started over w Custom, to maximize the shred and chaos theory around the bounce. "She's Always Dancing" is even about this aesthetic, this way of life, and is prob may fave so far, but "Driftin' Back" works much better this way, and wowww, "Walk Like A Giant", guys! (The bounce/shred ratio of this particular cement truck compound might've occurred to him while listening to Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks". He Tweeted their name when asked about who he liked now--but see, if he did extract some more sense of "Walk's" big  doggin' bed from FTP's gratuitous-even-for-by-definition-nasal toot, that's socially redeeming value after all,  and somebody did ask, nonplussed readers.) By the same toke, I prefer tbe first version of the title song, with its "psychedelic Bromo-Seltzer", as Beefheart called this phasing when his album got dosed. Also like the very relevent "She's out for a good time", and your basic sonic cheap thrillz, beneath the usual nostalgic coating. And overall, despite some fatty deposits, this album seems like a strong seconding (twelthing, XXIVing) of Janis Joplin's reply to a reporter's question about what Today's Troubled Youth are searching for: "Sincerity, and a good time." Woo-hoo indeed! Bottoms up, sisters and brothers.
PS: "twelthing, XXIVing"--but I hear a lot of albums that try to provide this, and most of 'em just reach new heights of mediocrity, at best.
PPS: "hey now now hey now now, blockin' out my anger/finding my religion/i might be a pagan" is a great punchline of sorts,esp. after he goes from blocking out his thoughts, except the thought of being Jesus in His cave (not His tomb, not yet, Hallelujah), rolling away thoughts like rocks, and then getting his mantra on for 35 bucks, so "excuze my religion." Also like the "hey now" etc going to the bit about Picasso turning to wallpaper, which tends to happen even after burning out and/or fading away (can always buy some more wallpaper of your fave artiste, if the previous fades). He knows it's a near thing of ambient not turning to wallpaper at the wrong moments---"gonna get me a hip-hop haircut", not sneery but to a very Neily tune, good 'un. Ooo, oh----those zengahs!
―Another Hon. Mention, Banga, is mentioned in....
Some of my Singles choices:
Frank Ocean--"Bad Religion" Frank Ocean's channel ORANGE seems mostly undone by flaccid vocals and desiccated settings--recently dehydrated by chronically low-burning fever--'til the second half of long-ass "Pyramids" and tracks 14-17, which as an EP would make a pretty good Prince homage. Fave so far is "Bad Religion" : "Any religion that keeps you on your knees is a bad religion/Unrequited love is a one-man cult/Lookin' inside a styrofoam cup," or something close to that. Anyway, too true!
Patti Smith---"This Is The Girl" Behold, a sudden leap into quality, which turns out to be a sustained reward for ditching Banga's first three tracks,  and maybe the last, "After The Gold Rush." This hallowed Neil Young rumination  starts out as the perfect follow-up to themes and imagery in several excellent Smith originals, but then she shifts from "in the Nineteen Seven-tees" to "The Twenty-first Cen-tur-ee," repeated way too many times by a kiddie choir (!), and way too reductive when she ends it there--no burned-out basement, no thinking about what a friend had said. It's like a sanitized fairy tale. But most of the album still seems pretty damn strong so far--you can hear it and all her others on her MySpace---eeewww! But it's true, lot of other artists have tons of their albums on there, now that nobody goes.
Machinedrum---"Whatnot" "Driftin' awa-a-ay..." times aural adrenochrome, but there's no sense of intrusion, of trying/having to wake the singer and listener up. We're getting nowhere on time, distinctively navigated.
Bob Dylan---"Duquesne Whistle" As Tempest begins, The ear is euphorically encouraged to veer in toward a train, with Dylan in pursuit. Though he does mention "You're like a timebomb in my heart", it doesn't sound like a complaint, or a compliment, exactly--for him, this feeling may be part of the daily adrenaline rush. Gough Daddy go!
Bob Dylan---"Pay In Blood" "but not my own," The only cap he's popped in himself  is medication, sounds like, as he shivers and relishes every corrugated breath he takes, every perfectly enunciated word and perfectly decayed note (or however you forensically tag it) he shapes. If you've got it, flaunt it. The band agrees, and gurgles: it's happy hemoglobin in the pipes, every time Mr.  D.'s  payday chorus comes around again.
Uh-oh---more notes on Tempest:
I really like "Roll On John", especially after "Tempest": "From the Liverpool docks" (cue pennywhistle, way back there), walking  the streets , 'til he gets to "come together right now over meee"--to this tune, not the original, an ugghh combination. Otherwise, I like the music on all the tracks, each setting (ncl vocal) does its damndest to support the oh-so-challenging, pungent, shit-stirring words--pre-emptive strikes vs. doubters, incl Father Time and Ol' Lady Muse--which usually work seems like, although "Tin Angel" seems ponderous, and the tabloid tendencies may ultimately work best in wrapping fish---I dunno, I'll keep listening. One of my favorites is "Narrow Way", its length justified by gradual transition: the usual-for-this-set sabre-wielding entrance, later he's wanting to rest his head between her (or the usual "your") breasts, still growling, "I can't work up to you, you'll have to work down to meee, someday." Sure, Babe.
"Scarlet Town" pulls me in, esp. on headphones. I can put it on Pause, get up for another drink, come back to the table, old dude sill talking shit in there I can't quite dismiss, in fact I may have to report. Watch the rest of the room too.
Summary of Tempest-era Dylan so far:
I'm not that crazy about some of the lyrics, but musically it's tight, at least some of which comes from keeping that band (and himself) working dang near every night. A lot of  good studio albums have appeared during the Endless Tour. Also too many live boots to keep up with, so what else can you trust but your own ears, on whatever enchanted,disenchanted or quirky evening.








 
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