5. "Criminal," Britney Spears
Three words: Pan flute solo.
The year 2011 ought to be remembered fondly by fans of the Bay Area's electronic music scene. It was a year when the stars seemed to align and the city's nightlife seemed to explode around the arrival of new venues that cater specifically to the desires of dancers and partygoers. With these venues came the beginnings of a new scene influenced by the larger amount of acts making their way through the area. Maybe it's not a directly causal relationship, but we think this year's seen some of the best music to come out of the Bay in a long time. Join us as we round up the best local electronic records of 2011.
Means & Ways
This was a big year for Aybee's Deepblak label. Not only was it the imprint's 10 year anniversary, but 2011 also saw the release of Eric Porter Douglass' (a.k.a. Afrikan Sciences) excellent Means & Ways. Sounding like Oakland's answer to the slick leftfield sound of L.A., Means & Ways is a challenging record of complex rhythms that draws less from Dilla and more from the Oakland scene's affiliation with Ron Trent and the deep house sound of the upper Midwest. (Aybee was after all signed to Prescription, and handled its sub-label, Future Vision.) Tracks like "Go Speed" and "A-Tonk" see Douglass sharply cutting up jazz samples and mixing them with stoned rhythms and clever bass riffs. Elsewhere on the record, Douglass creates more straightforward dancefloor killers like "Ejercicios" and "Nanorock Skank."
See more of our Metallica Week coverage:
Like it or not, Metallica is the biggest metal band of all time. It has gone from a niche act to an ultra-sized, all-consuming juggernaut -- an inescapable, irrepressible rock entity with the ability to draw massive crowds across the globe or pleasantly do whatever the fuck it wants. Only the likes of Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Guns N' Roses could conceivably challenge Metallica's throne as the biggest name in metal. But even then, for all those bands' influence, something just makes James Hetfield and co. tower over them. No other metal band has stayed so prominent within the broader culture -- or become a worthy shorthand for heavy music -- the way Metallica has.
To get an idea of Metallica's cultural influence as the band turns 30 years old this week, let's move past the standard tools used to measure success in the music biz (namely, record sales, ticket sales, and awards won) and instead consider how often Metallica has appeared or been referenced in general pop culture. Along with getting its own edition of "Guitar Hero" and being name-dropped on Murder, She Wrote, here are six curious examples of Metallica's tremendous influence on pop culture outside of heavy music.
Hip-hop isn't exactly the most festive or friendly music in the world. Yeah, there's a smattering of Christmas rap songs -- although Run-DMC's "Christmas In Hollis" really isn't that good -- but on the whole, the genre has shunned the lure of the extended holiday season. But don't despair! Rappers never waste an opportunity to shout out thanks to their cohorts and colleagues, sometimes devoting entire songs to the gesture. So with Thanksgiving imminent -- and with the holiday being some sort of turkey-themed celebration of gratitude -- here's a heart-warming round-up of hip-hop songs that give thanks.
5. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, "Another Special Announcement"
The original "Special Announcement" saw Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff very genially thanking those people who'd helped them to make their debut album, Rock The House (two ladies named Tina and Gina received special attention). Come the time for the follow up, "Another Special Announcement," and the duo turned the session into a call-and-response session, shouting out crew members like Ready Rock C and their bodyguard Charlie Mack. Too damn hype!
"Historically, artists painted the court and the aristocracy. I'm the court painter of hip-hop -- the artists are that important." So says Justin BUA, the hip-hop generation artist who celebrates the release of his new book The Legends of Hip-Hop with a signing session at Booksmith this Friday starting at 6 p.m. The scratch wizard Qbert will also be in attendance, providing the sounds to accompany BUA's art. So ahead of BUA's book launch, we got him to run down his five favorite illustrated hip-hop album covers.
5. Snoop Doggy Dogg, Doggystyle
"I think this album cover was actually done by his cousin. For me, obviously it's not a great painting, and it's super obvious that the guy is definitely not a great artist -- but it's iconic. It's naive, super simplistic, not painterly, and there's no control of temperature, but the illustration just felt right to me. My first reaction when I saw it was, first, jealously, like, 'How come I didn't get to do that cover art?' Then it was, 'What, is this done by a four-year-old?!' The third, though, after time went on, was, 'Okay, this just feels right.' It fits the vibe."
It's almost November -- the month when music scribes pull their ears out of whatever Sonic Youth/Public Enemy/Kate Bush playlist they normally exist to and begin cramming for that all-important professional exercise: The annual Best Of list. Picking the 10 or so best new albums of the year and placing them in some order is fun, difficult, and absurd -- and just the kind of bloodless masochism that music writers and music fans love. In anticipation of this project, we thought it'd be fun to assemble a list of albums that seem likely to show up on a lot of critics' lists this year. Sure, it's a bit early -- least year's nearly unanimously declared best album, Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, wasn't released until Nov. 22. But hell, it'll be fun and get us all thinking, so let's do it. Note: This is by no means a definitive list of the best albums this year. It's just a list of candidates that occurred to us in an approximately 10-minute brainstorm while eating a ham sandwich. Do us all a favor, smartypants and pedants, and leave your ideas about the best albums of 2011 in the comments section.
Album: 21, by Adele
In brief: Young British diva occupys the eardrums of approximately every human in the English-speaking world with a huge, indelible, heart-wrenching break-up document.
Argument for: Whatever critics say -- and many of them love Adele -- 21 is empirically the year's biggest album in at least a couple ways: It's the best-selling album of 2011 in the U.S. and the U.K., and the best-selling digital album ever. So there.
Argument against: Adele is a great singer and a penetrating songwriter, but maybe there are albums more of their age, more timely, than a piano-driven soul record about love.
Lateef the Truthspeaker performs at Mighty tonight.
With a line-up that includes cut-and-paste maestro DJ Shadow, innovative rap duo Blackalicious, and the spirited funk styles of Latryx, the Quannum collective is a Bay Area institution. Since its inception in the early '90s, the creative crew has soundtracked a key part of the Bay's independent hip-hop scene, releasing records through the Solesides and then Quannum labels.
5. Blackalicious, "Swan Lake"
Vintage 1994 from Blackalicious's Melodica EP, Chief Xcel and DJ Shadow conspire to loop up a sample of O'Donel Levy's take on "People Make The World Go Round" to craft a slinky, laid-back beat. Gift Of Gab returns the production favor with a suitably nourishing and accomplished rap.
That the Internet hasn't blessed us with a Smiths Yearbook Quote Generator is altogether unforgivable. Knowing that high school seniors are being denied the opportunity to punch in their emotional state on the eve of graduation -- for example, "deeply and irreversibly forlorn" -- and receive a Smiths' couplet that best illustrates their mood -- in this case, "I wear black on the outside / 'Cause black is how I feel on the inside" -- breaks this Mozite's beating heart.
The Smiths lyrics: Fertile quoting grounds for graduating seniors.
Morrissey's ability to encapsulate adolescent confusion and alienation in just a few dozen, delightfully sounding words was unparalleled. He dressed up routine, petty drama, puffed up those slights and slings, and made them romantic, profound, worthy of splashing on a banner and flying across the sky. "Sixteen, clumsy, and shy / I went to London and died." Yes; we want to as well!
In honor of Rhino Records' massive new box set (the release, out today, is available in either vinyl or CD and feature the band's four studio albums, three compilations, and sole live disc, as well as other Smiths-related goodies), we've compiled a list of Morrissey lyrics most worthy of yearbook immortality. (And most likely to elicit a wince at the 20-year reunion. Much like selecting a college, compiling your wedding guest list, and voting for president, you will anguish over choosing the right yearbook quote to the point of giving yourself an aneurysm, only to realize upon completion how utterly pointless the whole fucking endeavor is.)
1. "As merry as the days were long / I was right and you were wrong / Back at the old grey school / I would win and you would lose," from "You've Got Everything Now,"
Typically utilized as a not-quite-subtle shot at a much-loathed protagonist. Neither side can accurately recall the origins of their quarrel -- in all likelihood it started when some lip gloss was borrowed and never returned, or when one individual tallied more goals than the other during a field hockey game in gym class -- just that it mushroomed into a burning animosity that nearly inspired Heathers-style acts of violence.
British electronic ensemble Metronomy plays the Rickshaw Stop tonight. Back in its home country, Metronomy scored a coveted Mercury Music Prize nomination for its last album, The English Riviera, which dropped earlier this year. That project's second single, "The Look," also grew into something of an anthem for the summer (and, much more importantly, featured a video starring stop-motion seagulls).
Beyond Metronomy's own success though, founder member Joseph Mount has amassed a credible and extensive remix portfolio; he's re-worked songs by high profile acts like Franz Ferdinand, The Gorillaz, and The Klaxons. Here, then, is a svelte round-up of five of the best Metronomy remixes.
5. Franz Ferdinand, "Do You Want To (Metronomy Remix)"
Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand's original cut of "Do You Want To" is fueled by a scuzzy, scrappy charm which seems motivated by working on student indie rock dance-floors. Metronomy's vision for the track takes things in a more sophisticated direction, smoothing out the frayed edges without loss of attitude. It's a winning flip.
We'd bet Barry O. bumped some of these back in the day...
As you might imagine, combing back numbers of my Listen to This While High column and my own vast library for a reasonable stab at the Fifty Stoniest Songs Ever is a labor and hashish intensive experience. Preliminary fossickings unearthed these half-hundred favorites, many of which may seem unfamiliarly funky if not downright perverse. At long last, here they are: The Top 50 Songs to Get High To.