On the Fascinating and Often Listenable Feedback Loop That Was 2010


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Japandroids at the Fillmore

Ah, twenty-ten. Two thousand and ten. Two years before our state warps and crackles and slides into a boiling sinkhole that used to be the Pacific Ocean. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. There was a pretty good Sage Francis song called "The Best of Times," and I reviewed the album it was on, and then someone wrote a review of my review of that album in which he took me to task for "infectious punctuation" and other infelicities. My head hurts. My eyes hurt. My heart hurts a little, because lord knows it was a plenty disheartening year. But my ears, curiously enough, are still going strong.

I've already rounded up my most listened-to albums here, in some cases looping back here for elaboration, and posted a mix of some highlights here. (That's my most listened-to albums of 2010, mind you, not perennial old flames like Third Eye Blind and Ready To Die. Let's leave them out of this.) So below please find a few elaborations, emendations, reconsiderations, irresponsible impressionisms, and the like. Also maybe a cat video. I can't promise there won't be a cat video.

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It's tempting to stay out of the fray and let everyone else talk about Kanye West's exploits, but I can't not admire his dogged, Warholian dedication to celebrity -- his crusade to stay relevant in our insta-oblivion culture, at the expense of, you know, not coming across as a total megalomaniacal douchebag. I'm still on the fence about R. Kelly, but I'm positive West knows exactly what he's doing: milking the media machine with outbursts and outrages and unhinged Twitter rants (best so far: "Sometimes I get emotional over fonts") at just the right rate to ensure we don't forget him before he does what he's been supposed to do all along: release music. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is good, at times great, but it's not so much an album as a fashion spread, where we see nobody but Kanye (and maybe Nicki Minaj) in more than one outfit, but we get to see what RZA looks like in this cummerbund, what Rick Ross sounds like for these four bars. This is probably the future of everything about music besides the music itself. Everybody in skinny jeans and T-shirts that say "Yeezy reupholstered my pussy."




Courtship's take on Ciara's "Ride," courtesy of All Shook Down scribe Patric Fallon, is the best kind of cover possible: a reinterpretation that bears only a vestigial resemblance to the original, a successful experiment to prove the song's thematic integrity by stripping it down and reassembling it with different parts. 
In this case, the new version is painstakingly, even uncomfortably dirty, while the original is vampishly, sexily dirty: Ciara sounds sweaty from grinding with a bunch of dudes in the club, Fallon from cruising around the parking lot after pee-wee baseball practice. (They love the way I riiiide it.) The coup de grâce in the Courtship version is the reveal of the extended metaphor: it is merely "the beat," but Fallon sounds even sleazier when he tells you to get your mind out of the same gutter he ushered you into in the first place.



It was a good year for Jay Electronica. He had one killer verse on Curren$y's "The Day" and two killer verses on "The Ghost of Christopher Wallace" (which also features four minutes of useless hypemanship from Diddy):

We young black and restless, hung black and reckless
My name's on every guest list, bang on every setlist
Went to London town, tore it down and threw my necklace
Even Twitter said that Jay Elect be on that next shit

But most importantly he went and got himself signed to Jay-Z's (and Live Nation's) Roc Nation roster, probably the best possible outcome for any rapper, much less one whose marketing strategy thus far has been vagueness and scarcity. Look forward to hearing an actual album from him next year, rather than a profusion of poorly tagged mixtapes. Even if his otherworldly anti-materialist stance begins to erode under Hova's beneficence, he'll be a better lyricist than the vast majority of his contemporaries.



Also look forward to the self-titled debut from England's grunge-pop ensemble Yuck. I'm tentatively declaring it 2011's answer to this year's Surfer Blood phenomenon: thoroughly uninnovative, by-the-books alt-rock that completely hits the spot. 

I stand by some albums I've already effused about on this blog: CurT@!n$'s Wu Thesis mixtape was refreshingly straightforward and unbloated; Mr. T@!n$ has since proven himself a dedicated pillager of other people's beats, but never so elegantly as here. Derek Vincent Smith, a.k.a. Pretty Lights, has continued to refine his dusky soul-jam shtick since I wrote about Spilling Over Every Side; Glowing in the Darkest Night, part three of his free EP trilogy, is even better than the first two. And yeah, I still like Best Coast's Crazy For YouDo your worst, haters.



Ah yes, there it is. Here's wishing you and yours such simple pleasures in 2011.

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