Friday, October 01, 2004

I'm feeling good. It's Friday and there's a nice little chill in the air and the sun is out and carry won the debate hands-down and Avail is playing at the Ottobar on Sunday. And ! It's time for another one of these guys:
Quarterly Report

A couple of notes real quick. I did a much longer version of this, but then the computer ate it and pissed me off. I haven't heard the new joints from Devin, Diplo, or Macha, and I'm amped to hear all of them. Gretchen Wilson's Here for the Party and Petey Pablo's Still Writin' in my Diary: 2nd Entry are two of my favorite albums of the year, and I bought both of them in the last three months, but both of them are too old for me to list them here. Apologies to Q and Not U, Devendra Banhart, and Interpol, all of whom almost made it on to this thing.

Top 5 Albums

1. Dizzee Rascal - Showtime. I wasn't all that into Boy in Da Corner; it seemed too much like a critical novelty - different and unexpected, but also unformed and uncertain and oddly tentative. Showtime is none of those things; it's a sheer blast of total audacity. A lot of reviews say that Showtime is Dizzee's attempt to gain an American hip-hop audience, and that may be true, but I hear his jungle and 2step influences much more clearly; "Stand Up Tall", for one, certainly doesn't sound like anything on 92Q. On Boy, Dizzee sounded rangy and awkward, but here he's cold and focused and intent. He's got the swagger and the thousand-yard stare. He's become a rapper. The music is cold and alien and real, except when it's warm and inviting and real. I downloaded "Dream" from Fluxblog before I heard the album, and I hated it then, but it works beautifully in the context of the album, a ray of light in the darkness. And "Imagine" is the saddest, prettiest, most eloquent and thoughtful and heart-wrenching emo gangsta lament in forever.

2. Bjork - Medulla. Only Bjork could have done this, made an entire world out of the sound of the human voice. I like listening to Medulla on my discman when I'm walking around; it lends this absurdly epic air to, like, the homeless dude on the corner or the pigeons outside the bus station. It swirls and wooshes and opens up and spins and dives. It's sad and expansive and euphoric and heavy. It follows its own set of rules.

3. Young Buck - Straight Outta Ca$hville. I was absolutely unprepared for how hard and strong this record is. It's a smooth, dangerous machine. Even when the beats are made by Lil Jon or DJ Paul and Juicy J, they sound like Havoc and Red Spyda: cinematic, windswept, creeping clanks and humming guitars and easy glide. Buck's voice is a cool snarl. It's dark and scary and empty and totally devoid of feelings, grainy video from a place where you never want to go.

4. Old Man Gloom - Christmas. I know exactly nothing about Old Man Gloom. I don't know where they come from or what they look like or who their friends are. I bought the album because a couple of critics I like liked it and said it was ambient shoegazer death metal, which sounded pretty awesome. Well, it is awesome. There's all these long, almost silent stretches of beeps and hums and nothing and then this riff will ring out and all of a sudden you'll be caught up in this hurricane of steamroller riffs and screams and rumbles and crashes out of nowhere. It's a jolting, visceral, physical experience. I have no idea why it exists. Heavy.

5. Masta Killa - No Said Date. I'd read that this album had all the original Wu members on it, so I was expecting a standard Wu-Tang album of eerie gothic bangers. I would've been happy with that. But No Said Date is more like a gullier Madvillainy than anything Wu. It's all muted drum claps and said trumpets and muttered vocals buried in the mix, a creepy ride through the background. I'd never really noticed Masta Killa, and that's why: he fades into the background and plays the corners. He's got nothing to prove. And plus the old-school banger has great metallic synth washes and Ol' Dirty sings the Baltimore club classic "You Big Dummy", so I'm happy.

Top 5 Singles

1. Big & Rich - Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy). This song is a ridonkulous machine of joy, a neon spaceship Whack-A-Mole machine. The guitars stomp and the fiddles and banjos surge and the vocals soar and it thrills and it kills like the horns on my Silverado grill. My favorite bit is the spoken-word part where John and Kenny take a breath and shake their heads like they can't believe they've just made something this awesome, and then they pull it together to scream the "And we made love!" part. I'm just glad something like this exists.

2. Armand Van Helden feat. Spalding Rockwell - Hear My Name. Oh my god I love this song. It has a grin factor of one billion. What an absurd, delirious blast of euphoria. This song just seems to move from peak to peak, getting dizzier and crazier and more ferocious until it explodes. It makes me want to stick my head out the car window and laugh and laugh.

3. Snow Patrol - Run. I love huge, anthemic, wounded Britpop epics. "Clocks" is my jam! This one has sort of nothing verses, but when the chorus comes in it opens up and drops out and bells and violins come flying up out of the depths and just carry the song off into the clouds. This song is like looking through the window of a plane as it's about to take off and take you somewhere where you're not quite sure you want to go so you just sigh and look out at the sunset and hope you don't crash.

4. Crime Mob - Knuck if you Buck. I love dense, wired screaming-in-your-face crunk, but I'm even more into slow, creepy horror-movie crunk. This song is fucking terrifying. The evil, glistening piano stabs turn into a choir of ghost children and the beat is just screams and pulsing drums. The vocals are really low in the mix like they're just part of the beat. And! This track has girls on it! Two of them! And they sound amped and tough as hell! I love that! This song sounds pretty much exactly like late-90s Three-6 Mafia, which totally rules.

5. Juvenile, Wacko & Skip - Nolia Clap. My favorite single of the decade thus far is probably "What Happened to That Boy" by Baby feat. Clipse and produced by the Neptunes. There's a lot to love about that song, but my favorite thing other than maybe Malice's ice-cold punchlines is the slow, underwater synth pulse. "Nolia Clap" has something similar: the bass strings and whistles and claps and beeps come together into this hypnotic burble that sounds like it's popping inside your brain.