Thursday, December 23, 2004

Sir can I buy these shoes
For my mama please?
It's Chrismas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry sir?
Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes will make her smile
Cuz I want her to look beautiful
If mama meets Jesus tonight

Dip Dip Dive is on Christas vacation. See you fools in January!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Hey, the Pitchfork lists turned out pretty well! I now have a list of albums to buy when I'm in the mood to buy indie-rock albums! The Arcade Fire album kind of sounds to me like the midpoint between Bright Eyes and the Pixies, which means it's not quite as good as Bright Eyes but still pretty good. (I mostly don't get the Pixies. [Or the Fall. Or Pavement.])

Also, I just got my first Pazz & Jop ballot! I'm in the club now! What's up fools! Seriously, this is something I've wanted to contribute to for more than ten years now, so it's a big thing for me.

I'm a bit sad to see the end of list season, so here's one final list:

Top Ten Baltimore Celebrities of 2004

1: Carmelo Anthony. I feel a weird sort of kinship to Carmelo because he's from Baltimore and went to Syracuse and is wicked tall. However, he's ridiculously good at basketball and black and younger than me and also two inches shorter, so maybe we're really not all that much alike. But! He lead his team to the playoffs this year, which is more than Lebron can say. And he played on the Olympic team, which I think was a good thing to do, even if the team did insanely badly. He endorses Adidas, the only sneaker company that makes non-fugly sneakers in my size. He reps Baltimore in his ads. He brawled with a whole bunch of dudes in a nightclub by himself when one of them spat in his girlfriend's face. And he appeared in a local DVD called Stop Snitching, made by one drug dealer and aimed at another drug dealer. Hardcore! Plus Bun B stated his best verse of the year with "We goin' hard in the paint like Carmelo."

2: Michael Phelps. Also from Baltimore! Also very tall! Won more medals than anyone else in the Olympics ever, even though he couldn't beat that one Australian guy. And he eats breakfast a lot at Pete's Grill, a diner about ten blocks from my house where I keep meaning to go.

3: David Simon. I don't have cable, so I don't watch The Wire, but everyone else loves it. I just started renting the first season, and wow! It's really good! I probably prefer Homicide, which Simon also made, and which I've been enjoying on DVD all year even if it fell the fuck off around season 5.

4: Rod Lee. B-more club music is blowing up! Hipsters like it! Swizz Beats bites it! You can hear it in the background on The Wire sometimes! If B-more club is going to blow up nationwide the way crunk did, it'll need a Lil Jon figure, and Rod Lee is about the closest thing to that. It helps that he makes better tracks than anyone else.

5: Sam Cassell. Played in his first all-star game, helped take the Timberwolves to the Western Conference finals, looks really, really weird, like a baby alien pterodactyl or something.

6: Barbara Mikulski. She's the senior female Democrat in the Senate, and she made a really decent speech at the Democratic Convention. She won her election easily this year against a giant creepy Republican millionaire. Mostly, though, I just like it that there's someone in the Senate with a ridiculously thick Baltimore accent.

7: John Waters. He made a movie this year! I didn't see it. He put out a Christmas album! I haven't heard it. But, you know, I like John Waters.

8: Elijah Cummings. He's my Congressman, he won his election this year, and he's one of the guys from the beginning of Fahrenheit 911 who told Al Gore that he should have won.

9. David Byrne. I have no idea what he's done this year, but the reissue of The Name of This Band is the Talking Heads is hot. Look, this list is hard! I can't think of that many people!

10. Comp. His album still isn't out, and he got cut from the Ghostface album, but he did appear in Def Jam: Fight for NY wearing a T-Shirt that said Baltimore in the Sopranos font where the R is a gun.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Tom's Top 50 Singles of 2004 - Part 5

Oh snap, top ten!

10. Big & Rich: Holy Water. Maybe it was a little cowardly of Kenny and John to make the subject of the song "she" instead of "I", but there's always room for huge, goopy, sentimental get-me-out-of-here-save-me power ballads. And when a song like that is delivered in pitch-perfect rising-storm huge-production Southern rock epic format, it's hard to imagine anything better. And when it's sung with earnest, resigned, gravelly desperation with gasping underwater guitars and a stately string coda like "November Rain" or something, it's just about the best thing ever. "Holy Water" is the second-best Coldplay song of the year.

9. Snow Patrol: Run. The first-best Coldplay song of the year, obviously. Sad, resigned, shrugging voice and guitars work through the muddle of the verses and then explode on the glorious chorus, an eruption of wistful joyous melancholy melodrama, like if Seth Cohen got dumped by Summer and then drove out to the desert to tearfully look up at the night sky because he knows he's on a TV show and that's what people on TV shows do (but, you know, still feeling it - there's a reason people do this stuff on TV shows; it makes you feel it). When I talked about this song on this blog and in my Pitchfork review, I said how this song sounds to me like staring out the window of a plane going somewhere you don't know if you want to go as it takes off. I hate to beat a dead horse with that image, but I'm fucking proud of it and I can't think of anything better; can you?

8. T.I.: Rubber Band Man. If you're going to rap about how hard you are, maybe you should do it over a candy-pop ascending playground organ riff that blows out into a glorious kids' choir on the chorus, with chunky off-kilter boof-boof bubblecrunk drums underneath. And maybe you should let the total, unbridled joy of this irresistible beast creep into your voice so it sounds like you're trying to hold back an elated giggle when you're rapping about your money and your groupies and your cases. (And, you know, it'll help if you rap about this stuff really, really well.) And then maybe you should step aside at the end and let the kids and the drums handle the end of the song. Then maybe you'll have something.

7. Beyonce: Naughty Girl. Words cannot express how happy I was when Beyonce put this one out as a single. "Crazy in Love" was hot, but slinky elastic playful sex-disco is what Bee was born to sing. When she cooed "Love to Love You" over lush bubbling bass at the beginning of the track, it was all over. The harpsichord chimes and Middle Eastern tootling and ridiculously sexy gangster moll video were all just the icing on the cake.

6. Ghostface feat. Jadakiss: Run. Absolutely thrilling. Desperate men wild-eyed, their entire lives depending on how quickly they can get away from these devils right now, the most important moment of their lives. Have you ever seen someone running from the cops? I saw it once a few months ago, all bleary-eyed walking to work from the bus stop at 8 on a Tuesday morning when across the street this kinda fat dude breaks out from the crowd, just motoring, big white policewoman a couple of steps behind him. He made it about a block before she caught up and tripped him, landed hard on him, had him in cuffs in a couple more seconds. I don't know what he did, why he was arrested, but sometimes I wonder what he's doing, where he is now, what was going through his mind at that exact second. A song this powerful is the sort of thing that makes you contemplate your place in the world, how dumb-lucky you are (I am) to never have to deal with feelings like this. But not while the song is on. While the song is on, I can't think about a single thing except how awesome it is.

5. Crime Mob: Knuck If You Buck. Oh man. Evil glistening Dario Argento piano and snap-snap-punch drums and vocals so thick, mixed so low that you're lucky to pick out every third word. This just sounded like another creepy-crunk track, like "No Problem" or something, the first time I heard it. Now, months later, it comes on in the radio and a couple of minutes later I feel like the breath has been sucked out of me, like there's something chasing me. Diamond and Princess, the two girls on the track, both come with awesome hard-ass Gangsta Boo sassy amped toughness - did you know these girls are 16 and 17? Can you imagine how cool they're going to turn out?

4. Streets: Dry Your Eyes. The sound of the world imploding on you, the thoughts going around your head while you wander around the city, not sure where you're going, just staring at your feet on the sidewalk, consumed. Devistated resigned acceptance, violent self-disgust, dots in front of your eyes. It feels so ridiculous and inappropriate to talk about the acoustic guitar or the strings or Skinner's cadence or whatever, and it doesn't even feel right to judge it on a list with other songs. When Skinner mumbles "I've got nothing - absolutely nothing", it feels like nothing else exists. "Dry Your Eyes" isn't number one because the three songs ahead of it evoke dizzy joy in me, and generally I'd rather feel dizzy joy than flattening despair.

3. Armand Van Helden feat. Spalding Rockwell: Hear My Name. From a hearbroken murmur to an ecstatic whoop. I first heard "Hear My Name" in the car, coming home from Indian dinner listening to one of those Heavy Sumosonic CDs where you need to slog through a whole lot of imitation-Eels indie-rock and lameass backpack rap to get to the one or two amazing gems buried in the disc's second half. When this one came on, I lit up right away and just started laughing, just laughing, intensely delighted, hitting back on the CD player and playing it over and over. I can't think of a single other song that has smashed its way into my pleasure centers so immediately, like I was mainlining Pixie Stix or something. "Hear My Name" makes me love everything.

2. Nina Sky feat. Jabba: Move Ya Body. Eerily cool disco blast of beautiful voices and beautiful synthesizer and flawless percolating drums and pointless dancehall dude, self-assured and sexy and utterly happy, you know that stuff. But "Move Ya Body" still sounds like ice cream on a hot summer day even in the middle of the damn winter. It's a ray of sunshine, a puppy chasing a tennis ball, a toddler dancing. As far as I'm concerned, it's impossible to not love it.

1. Big & Rich: Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy). Oof, the intro: that crunch-smash riff, those little pings, the fiddles kicking in. The deliriously stupid gang-shout chorus and butt-rock guitar solo and ridonkulously corny, absurdly gleeful spoken-word bit. Kenny and John have those great big searing harmony voices, but on this track they've got awe in those voices, like they're still vaguely in disbelief that they've managed to make something quite this awesome. I just want to fucking hug them, dude. This is such a monster jam I can't even talk English anymore.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Tom's Top 50 Singles of 2004 - Part 4

20. Juvenile, Wacko & Skip: Nolia Clap. It just hangs there. It hovers. Spaghetti-Westen whistle, sideways offstep drums & claps, churning horns, descending synthetic strings. It's got that clean little clipping thing, better than any clean little clipping generic Southern song all year. Great intro: "Bust it!" All three MCs have those great distilled Southern voices; they stretch their vowels between the drum bits and keeps the whole thing floating. It's hard to explain why I love half these songs, but it's especially hard with "Nolia Clap". It just rings through the air, it owns the room.

19. Slim Thug feat. T.I. & Bun B: Three Kings. Buttery slow crawling horns, like a swing 45 played on 33, with some G-funk synth and skittery hi-hats over it, and that's it. The original version sounds screwed & chopped because of Slim Thug's voice, that slow deep unbelievably thick drawl. T.I. is sniffy arrogant, bored even as he sucks up to Texas by shouting out every guy except Flip. But Bun B owns the track with maybe his best verse of the year. For weeks I had it in my head: "We goin' hard in the paint like Carmelo / This is for them boys that sip purple and sip yellow / Shorty shake your jelly like jello / She curvy like a cello / Damn, baby put me up before I even said hello", just perfect.

18. Fabolous: Breathe. Beautiful soul track, sounds stately and elegant and desperate and unbelievably sad. Fab turns it on like I've never heard him turn it on: "I address the haters and the underestimators / And ride up on em like they escalators / They shook up and hooked up to respirators / On they last breath talking to investigators." This is obvious Blueprint Jay-wannabe stuff, but it's also perfect Blueprint Jay-wannabe stuff, and it would've been one of the best tracks on The Black Album if Jay had done it. And it's such a cheese song concept, breathing, but if there's one thing Fab knows it's cheese song concepts. There aren't too many things like hearing an OK rapper make an amazing single. Speaking of which...

17. Terror Squad: Lean Back. The moment where the overblown epic thriller-soundtrack string intro gives way to the whistling middle-eastern riff and the clippity snares is one of the the most thrilling moments of music this year. It made everything sound huge and glorious, even like waiting on line with my friends at the state fair for one of those rides that turns you upside-down. The whole track is nice: dumb-stupid little dance, Joe and Remy coming as hard as I've ever heard them. But "Lean Back" is in the top 20 because of that intro.

16. J-Kwon: Tipsy. The New Yorker article about the Track Boyz (right? Track Boyz? Not TrakStarz?) said that they made thier drum noises by clapping, banging on things, slamming phone books down on tables. That explains why the "Tipsy" drums don't sound like any drums before ever, these huge all-consuming world-destroying noises. It doesn't explain the ravey vwerp-vwerp bleeding synth noises, though. It's just a big jumping stomping monster of a track, and it just about owned my brain for the entirety of March.

15. Mr. Vegas: Pull Up. I love what Nina Sky does to the Coolie Dance rhythm, that breezy cool calm warmth. But I also love what Mr. Vegas does to it, running all around it like a totally ecstatic puppy, frantic, overjoyed, uncontrollable. But this adrenaline freakout is all perfect rising epic dancehall hooks, and that amazes me.

14. Guerilla Black feat. Beenie Man: Compton. I know I should've gotten over it by now, but I haven't; Guerilla Black sounds so much like Biggie. Impossibly like him. Like I still have to just shake my head and marvel that this isn't a new Biggie single. And, you know, I love that voice, it's the voice of the greatest rapper of all time, you know? And plus this track is perfect, like a fusion of Just Blaze/Kanye helium soul and warm clacky late-80s dancehall, total warmth and grace and big-hearted stutter-groove. It glides.

13. Daddy Yankee: Aqui Esta Tu Caldo. I haven't even heard this entire song. All I've heard is the minute-36 edit on the Reggaeton Fever mixtape. I don't know if it was properly released as a single, I don't even know if it's from this year. I have no idea what Yankee's saying. But wow, the bit where the music drops out on the chorus and Yankee stops the frantic hardass Bounty Killer toasting and just starts wordlessly howling and the spooky chunky piano beat comes back in, man, that's my favorite moment in music this year. That's it. That's all I need.

12. Prince: Musicology. OK, so it's regressive James Brown funk jam with anachronistic shoutouts to JMJ and Chuck D and old people. Dudes in hip-hop clothes get kicked out of the club in the video. It's like the most rockist song ever. But holy god it knocks. Prince's moan at the beginning, the perfect little horns staps, the ringing bassline, the almost minimalist breakdown, the humming guitars, wow. I'd say it's the best Prince song since "7", except I haven't really listened to all that many Prince songs since "7". My bad.

11. Slim Thug feat. Mike Jones & Paul Wall: Still Tippin'. That lonely violin, that spare, eerie drum track, those thick slow flows: "Still Tippin'" is a terribly sad song, like heartbreakingly sad. They're talking about rims and I'm-so-great, whatever, it's a dirge, it's this sad empty sigh so thick and elastic that you just can't get out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Tom's Top 50 Singles of 2004 - Part 3

30. The Walkmen: The Rat. Rising and falling chaos of guitars and organs and drums, like U2 if they were in Total Recall when the dome broke and they had to hold on to keep from getting sucked out onto the surface of Mars where their eyes and tongues would bug out and they'd suffocate, except they're playing at the same time. "When I used to go out, I'd know everyone I saw / Now I go out alone if I go out at all": oh man, yeah, I feel that. Hamilton Leithauser strained drunk gravelly croak screech, sound like the guy from Spoon after the fifth consecutive hangover, yeah, I feel that too.

29. Usher feat. Alicia Keys: My Boo. It's funny; on the Nelly remix, Nelly sounds way less convincing than Alicia Keys on the "I don't know about y'all but I know about us" part. I love the understated seesawing strings and the baby "ahh ahh" samples, timed just perfectly with the heartbeat drums. I love the singing, of course. It's just beautiful, of course. And the climax: "My oh my oh", shit, I know what it's like to be in love. You know?

28. Wiley: Wot Do U Call It? Timbaland woke up for work late this morning, groggy as shit. So he slurped down five cups of coffee real quick, and he's not groggy anymore, but his heart is beating all fast and his hands are sweating and he keeps jerking his neck and so he makes this track. I love how Wiley takes the Tim burble-rumble-snap and twerks it up until it's a jumpy, twitchy, tourettic mess. And plus it's fun to make up your own dance to the "Go that way, go that way" part.

27. LCD Soundsystem: Yeah (Pretentious Version). HFS used to do this dance-music show on, I think, Saturday nights (they might still do it), and I was super into it when I was in middle school and they were playing the Prodigy's "Out of Space" constantly. I'd never listened to electronic music, and the main pleasure I got out of it was the way the track would play for like four bars and then another thing like a little lazer noise would come in, and then something else, then something would drop out, then something that had dropped out would come back in. It was so fun to listen to, like "oh, there's that noise again!" It was clean and clinical and, like, mathematical, while at the same time being hard and dense and propulsive and awesome. This track gives me the same kind of pleasure, except that all the elements are total cheesed-out disco signifiers, like burbly Bee Gees bass and fizzy snyths and conga breakdowns, but still arranged like a Prodigy track. It's really fun. People seem to like the Stupid Version more. I don't get that.

26. Shawnna feat. Ludacris: Shake Dat Shit. Perfect timing. Shawnna is a great rapper, using her voice just right, working it up and down the beat, slamming the syllables down at just the right moment with just the right inflection. Totally ballsy. Did she learn from Luda how to clamp down on every syllable like a hungry pit bull? Or did Luda learn that from her? Timbaland's Chinese guitar is impossibly lush and full, the best guitar sound on any song this year. The drums have that great little clip-clop skip bubble to them. Man, I wish everyone still loved Tim as much as I do. Luda nails his cameo on the hook, but I'm sort of glad he doesn't have a verse, though maybe this track would've blown up if he did.

25. Franz Ferdinand: Take Me Out. This has become the go-to song (this and fucking Modest Mouse for some reason) for people trying to prove alternative rock's not dead blahblahblah. Why are these people trying to ruin this song for me? Why can't they just be like, "Good song, awesome!"? Man, the way the beat slows down after the intro and the drums kick in and that riff rings out, well, it's beautiful. It reminds me of The Name of This Band is the Talking Heads: lively, fluid arrangement, a singer who knows he's not great but knows he's having a good time, messy but totally on beat, full of life.

24. T.I.: Bring Em Out. Some people were pretty amped when I compared this to B-More club in Pitchfork. I was on to something! It's like my first original music insight ever! These are amazing drums: dip, clap, jump. Whistles, screams, horns, Jay-Z saying the same thing over and over again, hands in the air now: total chaos! It's great! It sounds like it's going to fall apart any minute! T.I.'s voice is awesome. When he has boring cripsy generic southern beats, he can be totally nothing. But this big ungainly behemoth beat reigns him in and keeps him on, and he sounds cool and arrogant and totally controlled.

23. Jay-Z: Dirt Off Your Shoulder. Man, that part of Fade to Black where Timbaland is playing beats for Jay and the "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" beat comes on and Jay freezes with this total shock on his face and Tim starts giggling like "I'm the best there is", I love that. The riff on this beat reminds me of the later Godzilla movies, when he's good and he's just about to face off with Mechagodzilla or Gigan or whoever for the last time, facing each other accross mountains, making eye contact, Godzilla staring him down like what. Jay hears it too; jumping right inside this is beat like he lives there: I'm a hustler, homey, you're a customer, crony. He's exhilarated! "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" sounds exactly like what it is: a collaboration between the best rapper in the world and the best producer in the world, both of them totally on top of their games.

22. Usher feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris: Yeah. Right after this came out, before top 40 radio and VH-1 found out about it, there was this crazy guy on the bus in the morning, big dude, maybe 40, dirty sweatpants, gray hair. Possibly a Vietnam vet, I don't know. And he had headphones on and he was like "Rewind it back!" "Got the beat to make your booty go!" "Yeah yih-yeah yeah!" Screaming this stuff in the back of the bus. It was awesome. I wanted to high five him, but you don't high five people on the bus.

21. Lil Scrappy: No Problem. The sun rises, throwing jagged harsh angular light over a dessicated landscape. The city looks dead, but things are moving in the shadows. All of a sudden you realize: while you were asleep in your bed, the world ended. Your family and friends are probably dead. It's going to take all you have just to stay alive until the end of the day. When you jump into your car and head out, looking for food, weapons, anything, this is the song playing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Tom's Top 50 Singles of 2004 - Part 2

40. Lethal B feat. a million dudes: Forward. This track sounds like its own seething, roiling, violent world. I kind of think of it like "Still Tippin'"; it's this peek into a local aesthetic that I'm totally into without knowing anything much about it. If I'd made this list after hearing this song a few more times, it would've been top twenty, maybe top ten. The beat sounds like a block full of car doors slamming at almost the same time while a little kid jumps up and down on a giant synthesizer like in "Big". There are ten rappers on here, and all of them are awesome.

39. The Streets: Fit But You Know It. I don't follow this song at all. Like, I don't know what Mike Skinner is saying or what the story of the song is or who the white-shirted man is. In the grand scheme of the album, I have no idea what this is doing there. But it sounds right; the guitar stomp sounds like beer sloshing around in your skull, and Skinner sounds like he's off his head, confused, not sure what he's saying. It's fun!

38. Kanye West: The New Workout Plan. When I was making this list and my albums list, I had to deal with The Kanye Problem. I loved "Jesus Walks" when I first heard it, I loved The College Dropout when it first dropped, but goddam Kanye has gotten on my nerves so much over the past seven months or so, talking about how he deserves every good review and award and magazine cover and getting hot when someone has the temerity to deny him any of these things, ruining the best joke in "Jesus Walks" ("y'all eat pieces of shit") by having a defiant prisoner say it to some evil guard in the video before getting beat down. But there's none of that in "The New Workout Plan"; it's just a ridiculous blast of silly stupid fun, no rapping except for the beginning and then a whole lot of talking and chanting about nothing and Roger Troutman singing and clapping and guitar breakdown stuff and that violin, it's nice, it's fun. (College Dropout got to I think #15 on my albums list, "Family Business" would've been top ten if it was a single.)

37. Too Short: Burn Rubber. I don't even know if this was a proper single. Did Lil Jon produce it? I think I read somewhere that he did. This track should've been huge, but I think it just made a couple of mixtape rounds. Did Too Short even put out an album? This should've been his "99 Problems" or "Friday Night": fake beefed-up old school, big clap samples, chilly bells, "pleah" noises scratched in. Short sounds absolutely cold, hard, evil, just like always. Says something about Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty!

36. Cam'Ron: Get 'Em Girls. Howling choirs of the damned, speedy funeral drums, maybe the best rap wordplay this year. Nobody ever talks about Cam's voice on this song: not sounding as self-assured as usual even if his words are, there's quiet fear in there, like the girl from Nightmare on Elm Street fronting tough to Freddy even though she's scared to death. He's not the king of this stuff, he's the dude standing up to the choir, facing it down, not letting his game face slip. Slowly building up his confidence until the "who could fuck with me" line, and then he's ready to fight. The first verse sounds like Tricky to me for some reason: non sequitor repeat-syllable wordplay delivered with a wound-up paranoid edge over cold, apocalyptic music.

35. Nelly feat. Tim McGraw: Over and Over. These two probably would've made more headlines and drawn more money if they'd done some Super Bowl halftime show ish, singing on the roof of an Escalade in Vegas in the video. But it's a sad and lovely song, unhurried, unrushed, nothing to prove, beautiful. The first time I heard it, I wasn't always sure who sang which parts. I love that clicky drum track and the little guitar bings and the part where McGraw gets all choked up like "can't go on not loving you" through that filter that makes it sound like he's shouting from the next building over.

34. Liquid Liquid: Bellhead. "Bellhead" doesn't sound like it was made by a band. It sounds like it was made by a drumline of crunked-out elves with whistles and vibraphones and scary drugs. It moves and wiggles and undulates and bounces and twerks and glistens.

33. Nas: Thief's Theme. Slow, creeping, right on the edge. Look over your shoulder. There's nothing there, but you could've sworn you heard something. What are you doing? Why are you alone, this part of town, this time of night? Don't you fucking know better? You've lived here for how long? Did you really need that pack of cigarettes? It's cold, huddle up, pull your hood up. Grit your teeth. You're almost there.

32. Avril Lavigne: My Happy Ending. "I Miss You" was a great middle-school tantrum, but it's nothing next to the pure undiluted brattiness of "My Happy Ending". Avril maybe thinks she's making a grand, sweeping, cinematic declaration of sorrow, but she's really just slumped in the corner, sticking out her lower lip to blow the hair off her forehead. "Mom, shut up, you don't understand, he was everything everything that I wanted." That sharp Canadian Alanis accent, vowels sound pointy. You want to lock your door, sit in your room, "No Mom, I'm not coming to dinner, I'm not hungry, why can't you just leave me alone, god!"

31. Lil Wyte: I Sho Will. Honky. The horns on the beat sound honky. They honk. Lil Wyte is the whitest rapper since, I don't know, Paul Barman. "I gotta rip this mic from California to Maine." Maine? He treats a DJ Paul/Juicy J club banger like it was um Anticon or something, except he's a poor dirt-stache Southern kid so he's got something to prove, got the swagger and the anger and the defensiveness and the weird goofy sense of humor. Not even Bubba Sparxxx would talk about being the Willie Nelson of the next generation or talk about "Hypnotizzle run the shizzle" or beat up big giant white guys in the video. I can't remember the last time I heard someone so amped and amazed that someone would let him into the studio and put out his record.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Le Tigre cancelled their Saturday night B-More show, which totally sucked; I had been wicked amped. The show was set to take place at Sonar, a dance club, which is about one billion times cooler than just another Ottobar show or whatever. And it was going to be them with Measles Mumps Rubella and Lesbians on Ecstacy and, most awesomely, a Diplo DJ set. But so Sonar decided to give refunds and just do the show anyway for free with no Le Tigre, which was great. We missed Measles Mumps Rubella, but Lesbians on Ecstacy were shockingly great. I'd been afraid they'd be shitty ironic low-tech arty electroclash nonsense, but no, they kicked up a huge, inspiring noise like circa-97 Prodigy or Lo-Fidelity All Stars or something, totally beefy and credible thumping techno with occassional and sort of unfortunate sidelines into drum-n-bass. Spank Rock came out for a short set with three dancers and a percussionist, called himself the black Le Tigre. And Diplo killed it: "Drop It Like It's Hot" over "Love Cats" (sounds wack but totally worked), "Nolia Clap", New Order, "Galang", Baltimore club, baile funk, I can't even remember what all.

Pitchfork asked me for my top 50 singles of 2004, so here they are, starting today, with comments!

Tom's Top 50 Singles of 2004 - Part 1

50. Gretchen Wilson: Here for the Party. "Here for the Party" isn't remotely close to being the best song on Here for the Party, but none of the best songs were released as singles. On its own merits, "Here for the Party" is a pretty great country shitstomper with a nice little snakey guitar riff and a hot anthemic hook.

49. Dizzee Rascal: Stand Up Tall. Another case where most of the best songs from a great album weren't released as singles but even the just-OK tracks make pretty great singles. The punchy drums and buzzing farting bass noises are hot, and there's something cute and distinctly British about the plinky synth hook. Dizzee sounds refreshed and energized. It's nice.

48. 8Ball & MJG: You Don't Want Drama. Buzz buzz clap clap stab stab. "You Don't Want Drama" is one of the most devastating crunk tracks of the year because it's so chaotic and focused at the same time: all these attention-grabbing elements should sound like a mess all piled together, but they're arranged just right so they'll all hit hard. Ball & MJG wreck the beat beautiful, of course; that's what they do.

47. Blink-182: I Miss You. I would probably like "I Miss You" a lot more if someone else had sung it; it's hard for me to take anything seriously in that pinched nasal California mallpunk whine. But this is still a great self-pity tantrum; it reminds me of the time I put my fist through a window because my mom wouldn't drive me to my friend's house. Plus: really nice cellos!

46. Jay-Z: 99 Problems. There's not one new thing I can say about this song, so allow me to reiterate: guitar cowbell Rick Rubin cop accent ridiculously huge drums sqealing noises Mark Romanek Vincent Gallo cameo bikers Mike D in the studio you know the type loud as a motorbike but wouldn't bust a grape in a fruit fight I don't know what you take me as or understand the intelligence that Jay-Z has elegant shit-talking.

45. Plastic Little: I'm Not a Thug. It's just funny. I got a unicorn, mang. The token black dude, up in ya house party. Totally credible snotty I'm-great rapping over totally credible operatic tiny lazer-winding beat. Everyone should be having this much fun. I mean, this is basically what the Beastie Boys were doing in 1985, right? I mean, right?

44. Ja Rule feat. Fat Joe & Jadakiss: New York. This is probably the greatest thing Ja Rule will ever be involved in: cool understated dangerous creepy lowdown growl over beautiful twinkling airy sci-fi beat. I love the way everyone sings the chorus and how MTV bleeps pretty much the entire Fat Joe verse and Jada's wicked asthmatic cough-laugh. I just love it.

43. M.I.A.: Galang. Diplo played this on Saturday night, and I just about lost it; it sounded so good on a giant sound system, the "ya ya heyyyy" part especially. This track is just the beginning, of course, but it still sounds like a monster: bass clusterbombs, jumprope synth riff, skipping drums, Maya's voice. It's beautiful.

42. NORE feat. Nina Sky, Daddy Yankee, Gem Star & Big Mato: Oye Mi Canto. NORE stumbles around like a drunk aging prizefighter trying to find his groove. The reggaeton guys run circles around him, but they're not doing it to be dicks; they're just trying to help NORE get back on track and maybe get themselves noticed. Nina Sky strokes our hair and tells us everything's going to be OK, shhhhh.

41. Yung Wun feat. DMX, David Banner & Lil Flip: Tear It Up. So apparently this song was taken directly from Drumline. Maybe it's this old song that every single Southern marching band plays; I have no idea. But Swizz hooks it up wonderful: those drums put a lot more messy, rippling life into "Tear It Up" than most crunk tracks have. Banner and Flip nail their guest spots; that's what they do. Yung Wun does the thing Lil Scrappy does, teenager acting tough and growling that he's coming into your house to tear out your heart aaat miiidnight, I love it. DMX screams "Ahhh-AHHHH!", and I love that too.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Hey, look at this! My top ten albums of the year! On Neumu! Awesome!

Here's the thing about some people who go to Howard Zinn lectures: they are suckups. Why do they have to give the guy a standing ovation before he even says one word? How come they applaud wildly every time he manages to finish a sentence? Why laugh uproariously at every single throwaway quip like this was the Def Comedy Jam? And then applaud again? Let the man speak! Although I have to say that Zinn wasn't doing anything to help the situation; he was on some serious preaching-to-the-converted ish at Hopkins on Wednesday night. Know your history, the government lies, we need a mass peace movement, right. Now please maybe tell me something I don't know. I learned more from the first two minutes of Spike Lee's catatonic commentary track on The 25th Hour DVD than I did from that entire lecture. Weak.

Also weak: The O.C. stealing plotlines from Arrested Development and making them not funny. Oh look, the grandfather is going to jail? And he's appointing his incompetent wife to run his company? When his son/daughter, the most competent person gets left in the lurch? Did they think we wouldn't notice? They're on the same damn network! Last night's O.C. didn't have any of that stuff, but I forgot to write about it last week.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Eternals remind me of Citizen Fish. They both churn up a nice thick dubby soup, and then they both throw some nasal amelodic overpowering vocalist on top of everything. It's particularly glaring in the case of the Eternals because they're working this seductive swirling cinematic beat-heavy reggae thing, and that does not mix well with this dude's bleating. But I love Citizen Fish, and I like the Eternals. Part of it is I feel it when dudes who came up with the indie-rock pack decide that fuck indie-rock, they want to do something new. That makes sense to me. And part of it is that at the Talking Head a couple of nights ago they were all dense, stressed charisma, said obnoxious vocalist busting out angry-ninja dance moves and generally ignoring the fact that they were playing to a tiny, half-full, nasty-ass indie-rock club. They sounded loose and open and strong.

J-Zone is funny! I like J-Zone.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

So Many Shrimp has the video for Lethal B's "Forward", and oh my god I love this song. It feels like it could just go on for days, however long it takes for every single MC in England to spit a hot sixteen (or eight; I have no idea how to count bars). My favorite is the guy who yells, "AAAAAAH! CRACK YOUR SKULL!"

Hey fellow writers! Do you guys cannibalize your blog entries for reviews? Is that OK? Can you just cut-and-paste something you wrote? It's not, like, self-plagarism or anything?