Noah Zimmerman remembers a few records that brought ephemeral peace amidst a war-stricken global society.
Mars is Looking Awfully Nice (Noah Zimmerman)
The most notable thing about this past year was our collective avoidance of an El Presidente Por Vida George W. Bush-induced nuclear holocaust. Surely it’s in the works for next year. And Paul Wellstone died. And the little wildlife remaining is rapidly scraped away into the corners of our memory. And, of course, as The Onion nervously satirized, there are only about six corporations left in existence and they really, really want you to watch lots and lots of television and listen to generally horrible music. In a world where things invariably went from worse to well-shucks-I-hear-Mars-is-an-awfully-nice-place, I’ve noticed that there were a few balms one could have applied. And apply these balms I did, as I drew the blinds closed and shut my eyes as tight as possible, waiting for the pulsing, sub-woofered shudder of this planet under my desk as the end times finally rolled around. Maybe, as my editor mused, the whole apocalypse thing is a gradual process rather than one large explosion.
In the meantime, here are some particularly good albums from last year, in no particular order:
- Gold Chains – Straight From Your Radio (Tigerbeat6)
The first time I saw Gold Chains perform live, he had one (1) laptop and two (2) hot, hot backup singers. He was short and balding and he absolutely rocked the hell out of the show. The beats were a throwback to late 1980s electro but they referenced everything: reggae, hip hop, industrial and straight forward power pop. Who could touch his topics? Girls. Stimulants. San Francisco. On Straight From Your Radio, Topher Lafata pulls it all together for half of a full-length, with the tongue-in-cheek braggadocio matching the effortlessly smooth production minute for minute. Gold Chains reminded me of the fun of club-bumpers.
- MC Trachiotomy – W/Love From Tahiti (Bulb)
I’ve listened to this thing dozens of times and still don’t know what to make of it. Is it a concept album? A piece of conceptual art? Some guy from New Orleans fucking around with a drum machine, some old records and a bottle of moonshine? I have no idea but I love it. It’s the sound of a vacuum cleaner, the sound of a Styrofoam cup being torn in half, it’s the sound of pretty much anything you want it to be. Try falling asleep to it – it’s like you’re already dreaming before your unconscious.
- Boards of Canada – Geogaddi (Warp)
The Boards are back, finally. This album was epic, immensely complex and kaledescopic but always welcoming every time I listened to it. The lush harmonies that folded in on themselves like miniscule pieces of origami were technically perfect, of course, but it is rare to find electronic music that conveys this much emotion without being overdone. I’ve noticed that there are some interesting song sequences on Geogaddi: Try listening to “Dandelion” through “Julie and Candy” and then “A Is to B as B Is to C” through the end. Or find your own.
- Kid606 – The Action Packed Mentalist Brings You The Fucking Jams (Tigerbeat6)
Play it loud, please.
- Aesop Rock – Daylight EP (Def Jux)
Damn, Ace, why do you have to be such a good rapper? He’s Machine Gun Kelly on the mic with the pen of Ralph Ellison and the soul of Mark Rothko. Riding beats by Blockhead and his own hands like the consummate professional that he is, Aesop weaves densely woven stories, much like the skyline of his native New York City. It’s a dark world out there and Aesop Rock is the unwilling, jaded hero to show us the way. Let the disc play through to the bonus track and see if you don’t get shivers shooting down your spine.
- Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Yanqui U.X.O. (Constellation)
They had their chance to switch up the softsoftLOUDLOUDLOUDsoftsoft style that they had perfected on their first releases and all nine members of Godspeed came through on Yanqui U.X.O. It’s the same but different this time around. There are the same weird conspiratorial ravings but this time Gravity’s Rainbow manifests itself on the immaculate album art instead of within the immaculate songs themselves, but the band has matured musically. Strings, drums, bass and guitar dip and sway against each other and then everything is coming right at you like a freight train. Hang on.
- Mos Def, Diverse and Prefuse73 – Wylin’ Out (Chocolate Industries)
RJD2 simply blew heads apart with his “Wylin’ Out” remix. I am still in recovery from the Phil Spector overload of it all. Coming up with what was easily the most memorable beat from last year and possibly one of the best I have heard in hip hop would have put this disc on my year end list but everything else happens to be dope as well. Two excellent MCs and two spicy producers resulted in, yes, too much hype, but also an effort that was overlooked.
The Need More Time To Settle In List:
The Yeah, Except That Actually Sucked List:
- MC Paul Barman – Paullelujah!
- El-P – Fantastic Damage
- The Streets – Original Pirate Material
By Noah Zimmerman