Saturday, December 24, 2005

It's been a good two weeks since I even decided to shed an eye on this blog...maybe my enthusiasm for music in 2006 will drift away slightly...who knows. All I know is that I've spent the last little while compiling my top ten list for this year. Here it is.

10. It seemed that this year everybody and their boyfriend's newt was bugging out on M.I.A. Well-deserved I thought, even though the first time I heard this record I thought that it was the most overrated piece of crap I'd ever encountered in my adolescent life. After being exposed to it in a record store setting for twenty four hours a day, non-stop for eight weeks, I found that it kind of grew on me. This was the year of grime, the year that dancehall and hip-hop found a place with electronica and baile funk, and so here is the most mainstream of that outcome. Also hear: Kano - Home Sweet Home, V/A - Run the Road Vol. 1

09. I think that Low's The Great Destroyer reassured that great songs make great records. There was nothing out of the ordinary here, no analog delay pedals, no screeching noise-infested bouts at hyper-originality, just three people who write amazing, amazing songs. The SLC trio that is known for their delicate, subtle compositions with acoustic instruments and soft, whispered vocals went balls out for Sub Pop here, creating one of the heaviest records of the year. Also hear: Low - The Curtain Hits the Cast

08. No one can dispute the heaviness of SunnO))). Arguably no one before or after them will ever seem this heavy, but I'm sure that has been said before about many bands. The punishing minimalism of their metal assault is so unbelievably interesting - how can something so obtuse and crushing come from something so simple? Easily one of the coolest records of the year, if not the coldest. This is music to fill the holes in your soul with dry ice. Also hear: Earth - Hex: Or Printing In the Infernal Method

07. Black Dice never cease to amaze me. One minute, they're crafting Ebullition Records-style grindcore/noise workouts which inevitably lead to broken ribs and lost teeth; the next, they're associating more with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, illustrating their abilities to conduct climactic sound waves from old, dead radios and mixing boards - now, they're the easily the best band on DFA, and they fit in quite well, making noisy dance albums and continually developing a reputation for the loudest band on the face of the earth. Broken Ear Record is one of the catchiest albums I heard this year. When the bass drums come in on "Snarly Yow", the effect is so hypnotic it's like some weird sort of Talwin high. Also hear: Jetone - Ultramarine

06. I love the abstract chaos of The Hospitals. One of the most overlooked records of the year, I've Visited the Island of Jocks and Jazz explores every texture imaginable and does so with the lowest recording quality I think I've ever heard. It sounds like two guys fit their circuit benders into a closet with a booming PA system and pressed "record" on your dad's thirty year old tape player, on some gross old slimy cassette. And that's exactly the kind of balls-out character that makes this record so appealing - The Hospitals embody the honesty and spirit of the new noise-punk movement, and don't sound anything like the other noise bands. Wolf Eyes, in all their glory, better watch out, because this feedback driven group of retarded noise makers is boiling up from the underground. Also hear: Sightings - Arrived in Gold

05. So what - I know it sounds like Wonderful Rainbow. The point is, there is no band out there as wicked as Lightning Bolt. Everything they do is a sweaty, bloody affair, and these two Providence wackos have proven it with Hypermagic Mountain. Taking every Japanese noise-rock band ever - Boredoms, Melt Banana, Fushitsusha, etc. - and simply insulting them by being just more ferocious, Lightning Bolt look, act and sound like they could sink the Titanic all over again. That's practically the only adjective fit to describe them - titanic. Also hear: Boredoms - Super Ae

04. This is a record that really shook my tree, but just not enough to drop enough fruit to make it into my top three. Keith Fullerton Whitman, I think it's safe to say, is a genius. The guy spends most of time at Harvard, I do believe, in the electro-acoustic section of the campus, whittling away at instruments which emit some sort of magnetic field which can be disrupted, resulting in the culmination of processable sounds - or at least I assume so. I really don't know much about him - I just think that this record is beautiful. This music provided a soundtrack for all my endeavours through changing jobs, changing schools, changing weather patterns - and it seemed to compliment it all perfectly. Also hear: Tim Hecker - Radio Amor

03. Ahh, the top three. Better undoubtedly kick it off with Antony & the Johnsons. I Am A Bird Now is probably one of the greatest records I've ever heard - it's not everyday you hear a brilliant mixture of experimental music, jazz, soul, punk...etc. Everything was thrown into this record, and the result is a magnificent, Mercury-prize winning record, full of smooth, comforting melodies, and cinematic climaxes. "Fistfull of Love" - song of the year, hands down. Also hear: Antony & The Johnsons - Antony & The Johnsons

02. Here's where it gets really easy. A guy walked into the record store a while back, probably right after summer ended, and asked what record he should buy if he was looking for something that wouldn't leave his CD player for weeks upon weeks. A guy I worked with handed him The National's Alligator, and within two minutes, he had listened to it, taken the CD out, and decided we were right. This made me realize the power of this record - within two minutes, I understood that a stranger had heard the most brilliant pop album of the year, and I assume that he has not removed this album from his stereo - it's December. This record came to me in a difficult time; just when I thought that noise had taken over the underground and that Wolf Eyes was the future of music, a band comes along and shows me the possibility of life being otherwise. Thank you. Also hear: The Clientele - Strange Geometry

01. The greatest record of 2005 was also the most misunderstood. The Constantines are the greatest band on the planet. They are the greatest band in Canada, they are the greatest band in Ontario. Tournament of Hearts is the greatest record released this entire year. It is the most expansive, daring, and exciting album I have heard in 365 days. It is characterized by the sheer anticipation I experienced after Shine A Light had become unplayable because I had played it out. Every single person to critiscize this band and this record is musically uneducated. No other band will ever be this good. Also hear: Black Mountain - Black Mountain (though not even nearly as good)

Honourable mentions:

Kano - Home Sweet Home
Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice - Buck Dharma
Black Mountain - Black Mountain
Red Sparowes - At the Soundless Dawn
Hair Police - Constantly Terrified
Early Man - Closing In

Even the honourable mentions are kick ass records. A good year for music, all in all. See you in 2006.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wow. Such lateness this week; a good three days. Inexcusable - except for the fact that sports and music have been otherwise consuming my life. My iPod broke for the fourth time last night, unfortunately. Looks like I'm back to the olden days' ways of listenin' to that there analog vinyl on my turntable.

I had a really hard time picking my top three for the past week. I have been in a very strange mood constantly.

First off, The Mouse and the Mask by Dangerdoom - something I wasn't particularly stoked on when it was released, but I think that it's kind of grown on me. I was disappointed, probably because - like every other MF Doom fan I know - I was comparing it to Madvillainy, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, hip-hop album ever. I'm not even kidding. That album is perfect in every way. Dangerdoom, after pondering its existence for many a night, is of course not as good, but uncomparable. Whereas Madvillainy is an experimental, abrasive, dark, harsh, and all-encompassing exploration of jazz, punk, soul, funk, noise, hip-hop, and just about any other kind of recorded "music" of the past twenty years, The Mouse and the Mask is a much more happier, poppier release. Still good though.

Madonna still owns. I'm serious. "Hung Up" is such a killer single. That beautiful ABBA sample, that punishing, heavy, bass, the awesome EQ on the snare, the totally compressed, poppy production, the emphasis on the extreme hook, the lack of lyrical subject matter...I love it. This is what overproduced, spoon-fed pop music crap should be. If every pop musician sounded like Madonna I would be feeling a lot different than I do about mainstream music at the moment. Unfortunately, Madonna merely sets the standard, and nobody really follows her lead.

I needed some Nels Cline to lift me out of the abyss of guilty pleasures that is pop music. Destroy All Nels Cline is some of the most textural abstract jazz guitar music ever recorded. I stand by the statement that Nels Cline stomps on Jimi Hendrix any day. Jeff Tweedy doesn't just pick his musicians out of a hat - there is a reason why Nels Cline is Wilco's touring guitarist. This guy runs toy lazer guns through his pickups, which he runs through a plethora of pedals - he is so punk rock it is sickening.

Nothing for next week, except promises of punctuality. Thanks for reading, see you soon...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A quick link to one of the best podcasts on the internet right now, Radio Free Brooklyn. Two awesome guys play absolutely awesome music - fans of Godspeed!, Isis, Boredoms, Arab on Radar, Black Dice, Bad Brains, Et Sans, etc. take note - you have the podcast for you.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

This week was my week of Mark Kozelek; I dove head first into the Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon catalogues and discovered one of my new favourite songs.

I got sort of back into folk, which is stuff I haven't really listened to in awhile - I didn't get into Iron and Wine, Kings of Convenience, and I'm not much of a Holopaw fan. The whole indie-folk thing just doesn't usually do it for me. For this reason, I couldn't be totally consumed by the acoustic guitar - I had to give myself my usual dose of noise.

Songs For A Blue Guitar was my number one record this week. The opening track, "Have You Forgotten", is achingly beautifully, re-acquainting you with all the sad moments of your life, and forcing you to find solace there. It is one of the most delicately written, accurate pieces of music I've heard in a long time, and I must say that the fact that the Red House Painters were on 4AD at one point makes them that much cooler. This music is so dark, yet it makes you feel so happy. Get out the hankies.

I have never heard an album as violent and heavy as Black Vase by Prurient. The sweat and pain of one crazy, manical shirtless man with two microphones and four towering amplifiers copulates with primal drumming and rhythmic screams to form something that can only be described as Black Flag meets Merzbow. Both of those artists seem like the Bobsy Twins in comparison however - the track "Silent Mary" speaks for itself I think. You can download it from the Load website. Echoey bellows, catapulting ferocity, all from one guy, two mics, and some floor toms. Totally incredible.

White Mice are just simply crazy. They dress up like lab rats - literally, bloody, sliced-up lab rats - with gigantic masks and weird bloody coats. They are a bass guitar, a drum set, and a circuit bender, and they make the craziest, weirdest mix of black metal/dirge/noise/sludge that I've ever heard. This album is one of my favourites of the year, hands down, and will find a place nestled in my top ten list. ASSPhiXXXEATATESHUN is one messed mindjob of a record - take it in pieces; it's ultra powerful.

So, couldn't be totally quiet this week - I really tried though. Keep those acoustic guitars coming, folks, and I'll keep smashing them into quaint, tiny little bits.