Sunday, December 09, 2007

Songs for Swingin' Cineastes!

This year marks the second an-
nual Idolator Pop Critics Poll
(formerly "Jackin' Pop"). The fol-
lowing represents the bulk of
the ballot I'll be submitting.

As the deadline isn't until 12/21
at 5pm (EST), I've been working
on this thing off and on ever since
editor Michaelangelo Matos made the announcement on
11/16. I reserve the right to tweak these lists a time or two be-
fore the deadline. The links are to my Amazon, AndMore-
Again, Siffblog, and Stranger reviews and/or previews.

[Updated on 12/10/07. Top 10 order changed and singles list expanded.]

Top Albums:
1. Lavender Diamond - Imagine Our Love (Matador)
2. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (DFA/Capitol)
3. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black (Republic/Universal)
4. M.I.A. - Kala (Interscope)
5. C.S.S. - Cansei de Ser Sexy (Sub Pop)
6. Various - The World Is Gone (XL Recordings)
7. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)
8. Wax Tailor - Hope and Sorrow (Decon)
9. Stereo Total - Paris Berlin (Kill Rock Stars)
10. Menomena - Friend and Foe (Barsuk)

Hope and Sorrow review from Seattle Sound:
On his noirish debut, JC Le Saoût united the hip-hop
heads with the film buffs. As his handle suggests, the
French DJ/producer stitches disparate elements to-
gether—hypnotic beats, luscious strings and snatches
of movie dialogue—to create a stimulating cinematic
whole. His follow-up sticks to the same winning formula.

Singer Charlotte Savary and rap outfit the Others are back for the
attack, while Ursula Rucker (“We Be”) and the unstoppable funk
force known as Sharon Jones (“The Way We Lived”) serve as wel-
come new party guests. The latter shines by channeling Shirley Bas-
sey in Goldfinger mode, but without the gloss (here’s hoping the Bond
producers hand her the reins for 007’s next outing). Hope
and Sor-
row charts a sunnier course than last year's Tales of the Forgotten
Melodies, but it’s every bit as enchanting. KATHLEEN C. FENNESSY

Top Reissues:
1. Miles Davis - The Complete On the Corner Sessions (Sony Legacy)
2. Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth and Collected Works (Domino)
3. The Gist - Embrace the Herd (Cherry Red)
4. Joy Division - Closer [Collector's Edition] (Rhino)
5. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures [Collector's Edition] (Rhino)

Colossal Youth review from Resonance:
Originally released in 1980, Colossal Youth is the musical
equivalent of Charles Laughton's expressionist masterpiece
Night of the Hunter. The British actor never directed another
film. The Welsh trio never recorded another album. No matter.
In retrospect, it was a brilliant move to quit while they were a-
head—there’s no way they could’ve topped this post-punk classic.

No one sings quite like Alison Statton, who recites her strange
tales in lightly-accented deadpan. Around her, Stuart and Phil
Moxham's carnival-esque organ, unhinged bass and rickety drum
machine fade away and radiate. Their spare songs play like messages
from another world. Disc two features the original album, while two
features 26 single, EP and demo tracks. Colossal Youth is every bit
as essential as Gang of Four's Entertainment and X-Ray Spex's Germ-
Free Adolescents—but far more unsettling. KATHLEEN C. FENNESSY

Top Singles:
1. LCD Soundsystem - "Dis-
co Infiltrator" (DFA/Capitol)
2. LCD Soundsystem - "Someone Great"
3. Amy Winehouse
with Ghostface Killah -
"You Know I'm No Good" (Republic/Universal)
4. Amy Winehouse - "Rehab" (Republic/Universal)
5. M.I.A. - "Paper Planes" (Interscope)
6. C.S.S. - "Let's Make Love
and Listen to Death From Above" (Sub Pop)
7. Björk - "Declare Independence" (Atlantic/WEA)
8. The Cave Singers - "Dancing on Our Graves" (Sub Pop)
9. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - "Be Easy" (Daptone)
10. Black Lips - "Veni Vidi Vici" [Diplo remix] (Vice)

Liner Notes:
I realize I shouldn't apologize for my list, but I will anyway.
It represents the best of the music I heard this year, but I was-
n't able to hear as much as I would've liked. Further, I've been writing more about movies than music lately. If space, time,
and money weren't considerations, I'd be buying as much now
as I did in the 1990s—at least I can sample more new releases
on-line—but they are, and I can't. Plus, I haven't worked in a record store since 1992 (or at a radio station since 1998).

On the other hand, I saw over 350 movies, so my film list
provides a more accurate reflection of my taste. And speak-
ing of which, this has been an amazing year for movies about music, whether as text (Once, Control, I'm Not There) or sub-
text (This Is England, Talk to Me). And how about all those mus-
ic documentaries (Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten,
Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, etc.) and all those music-satur-
ated re-releases (Border Radio, Radio On, Killer of Sheep, Let's
Get Lost
, The Landlord, etc.). For me, that's where 2007 was at.

So, that's what I liked. Then, there are the disappointments,
or those artists who fail to move me anymore. To quote
BB King, "The thrill is gone." The list includes Animal Collec-
tive, the Arctic Monkeys, the Hives (though the new single's
not bad), the New Pornographers (except for Dan Behar's
"Myriad Harbor"), PJ Harvey, the Ponys, Radiohead, the Shins,
the White Stripes (riffs and jams do not an album make), and
Wilco (an acquaintance's "dad rock" quip about sums it up).

Once upon a time, these acts found their way on to past top
10 lists. Not all of them released bad albums; in some cases, they've moved on. In others, I have. I'm simply looking for something different. Something more exciting, and at the same
time, more idiosyncratic. No doubt Polly Jean Harvey, for in-
stance, intended White Chalk as a personal statement, and I'm
sure it comes from the heart—I never doubt Harvey's sincerity—but in attempting to reinvent Blonde Redhead and Asobi Seksu in her own image, she sounds less like herself than ever. The results are strangely impersonal. So, for those who wrote off Lavender Diamond as hippie-dippy—well, they are. But at least Becky Sharp isn't trying to sound like something (or someone) she's not.

With that, here are my runners-
up: Keren Ann - self-titled (Metro Blue/Blue Note), Clinic - Visita-
tions (Domino), the Willowz - Chautauqua (Dim Mak), the Bird and the Bee - self-titled (Metro Blue/Blue Note), the Fiery Furnac-
es - Widow City (Thrill Jockey),
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings -
100 Days, 100 Nights (Daptone),
Baby Elephant - Turn My Teeth Up! (Godforsaken Music), the He-liocentrics - Out There (Now Again), Nicole Willis & the Soul In-
vestigators - Keep Reachin' Up (Light in the Attic), Grizzly Bear - Friend EP (Matador), Neil Young - Live at Massey Hall (Reprise/
WEA), Various Artists - I'm Not There (Sony), Nino Rota - La Strada/Nights of Cabiria (El/Cherry Red), Vashti Bunyan - Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind (DiCristina), Frederick Hollander - The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (El/Cherry Red), Scout Niblett - This Fool Can Die Now (Too Pure), Greg Ashley - Painted Garden (Birdman), Thee Ohsees - Sucks Blood (Castle Face), Jenny Hoy-
ston - Isle Of (Southern), and Belinda Carlisle - Voilà (Rykodisc).

Turn My Teeth Up! review from Resonance:
Classically trained keyboardist Bernie Worrell was
the unsung genius of Parliament-Funkadelic—the
magic ingredient that elevated the Motor City crew
above the other groove merchants of the 1970s.

Consequently, Baby Elephant isn't just a meeting of
the old school funk (Worrell) and modern hip-hop minds
(producer Prince Paul and drummer Newkirk). Turn
My Teeth Up! represents a chance for the former child
prodigy to strut his stuff. Sometimes, his magic fingers
mimic the sound of a spaceship ("Baby Elephants N Thangs"
with George Clinton), sometimes a horror movie sound-

track ("Crack Addicts in Love" with Nona Hendryx).

Other guests include Yellowman, Reggie Watts, Shock-G
and a barely recognizable David Byrne (Worrell logged
time with the Talking Heads in the 1980s). Though these
11 tracks vary in quality, Worrell's beautiful bleeps and
bloops make every one worthwhile. KATHLEEN C. FENNESSY

Next Up: Part Two (more runners-up)

Endnote: While I'm at it, here's my top 10 film list (as it cur-
rently stands): Away From Her (Sarah Polley), Into the Wild
(Sean Penn), Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg), Daratt
(Mahamat-Saleh Haroun), Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett),
Control (Anton Corbijn), Zodiac (David Fincher), Tie: Once (John
Carney) / Lady Chatterly (Pascal Ferran), This Is England (Shane
Meadows), and No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen).

Those 11 titles comprise 36.7% of the full tally. Every
year, I compile a top 30, which I'll be working on until
the end of the year. Two not-yet-released contenders:
Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and P.T. Anderson's There
Will Be Blood. There have already been three Seattle press
screenings, but I wasn't able to make it to any of them.

Finally, the title of this post is, of course, a bastardization
of Frank Sinatra's 1955 platter, Songs For Swingin' Lovers!
Click here for last year's music list. Images from the official Lavender Diamond website, Live Music Blog, and Blue Note.


Anonymous said...

I consider Radiohead a commodity at this point -- they never disappoint me, I'm not weary of them by any stretch of the imagination, but I can't for the life of me discern a qualitative difference among their albums, or maybe even their songs. The new stuff is fresh for a short while -- after that, you could put on anything of theirs and I'd enjoy it equally. At this point in my musical fandom, that's actually a compliment.

Kathy Fennessy said...

Thanks for your comment, Sam. I hear what you're saying. I continue to enjoy their music, in a general sense, but I fear they're turning into an album act at this point. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the lack of hooks since "Kid A" has been a problem for me. I have this theory that it was becoming a problem for EMI, as well. It's hard to market a record with no obvious singles. Granted, I loved "Black Swan," but the rest of Thom Yorke's solo record had that same amorphous quality--you know, like it's all one long song, or as you suggest, like all the albums are part of a larger whole. I suppose I'll probably always *like* Radiohead, but I'm finding them increasingly hard to love. And I've felt the same way about Wilco since "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." Sorry for such a long-winded response. Great to hear from you, and I hope the holidays are treating you well.