2008: Daniel Levin Becker
What a year, and thank god it’s nearly behind us: Terrorist fist jab. Giovane bello e abbronzato. "There’s no reason not to be a pirate." Plaxico Burress, both because he shot himself in the leg and because his name is Plaxico Burress. R.I.P. David Foster Wallace, Isaac Hayes, this guy. R.I.P. black hole-related doomsday theories and the economy. Hello American democracy, 365-173, and hello Chinese Democracy. It’s nice to have at least one of you back.
I don’t have much time to rhapsodize. Here are some things I liked a lot and didn’t write about this year.
Arms - Kids Aflame (Melodic)
Lovely little record about being small in a big place. A dozen songs’ worth of Salinger characters, urbane and ingratiating and quietly ill at ease with it all. When the eastern seaboard drowns, this is how I will choose to remember New York.
Why? - Alopecia (Anticon)
A big, colorful, dutifully garish overthinkpiece exploring either the darker side of adulthood or the lighter side of mortality ("I sleep on my back ‘cause it’s good for the spine, aaand... coffin rehearsal"). Paradoxically, seems to get newer with every listen.
The Diggs – ctrl-alt-del (Sugarspun)
Dumb name, smart and perceptive rock. What might be called emo in a better world, had the taxonomy in question not taken a drastic turn for the worse at the end of the 90s.
3OH!3 – WANT (Photo Finish)
Boulder electrothug duo breaks it down, in the sonic equivalent of capital letters, for those of us who hate to dance. Durrty and shameless, but also impeccably produced and way smarter than it takes credit for. I hear they stole their snare sound from Justice.
TV on the Radio
I saw them last week for the first time in years and nearly wept. I’m still unfolding Dear Science, but their accumulated presence—despite their critical mass status and because of it—is both exciting and overwhelming. It’s suspiciously easy to be moved by racial firsts in 2008; the thing isn’t that the best rock band in America right now is mostly black, but that it took this long.
Bottomless Pit – Congress EP (Comedy Minus One)
This is worth it solely for proving that last year’s exercise in mourning, Hammer of the Gods, wasn’t a one-shot project. Less knotty and emotional, more directly appealing; four songs that all sound pretty similar but haven’t gotten old yet.
Koen Holtkamp – Field Rituals (Type)
Haven’t been listening to this for long enough to know why I like it.
Black Mountain – In the Future (Jagjaguwar)
Sophomore effort of unexpected dignity and versatility from alarmist Canadian heshers. They clearly have no idea what decade it is, which could probably teach the rest of us something.
Torche – Meanderthal (Hydra Head)
How do you pronounce “Torche”?
Attack Release - "Reputation Maker" (demo)
Clouds - "Glass House Rocks" (We Are Above You, Hydra Head)
Die! Die! Die! - "Sideways, Here We Come" (Promises, Promises, SAF)
5ive - "News I" (Hesperus, Tortuga)
The Magnetic Fields - “The Nun’s Litany” (Distortion, Nonesuch)
Notorious B.I.G. - "Juicy (Pete Rock’s Version)" (Ready To Die: O.G. Edition)
Pete Rock f. Jim Jones & Max B - "We Roll" (NY’s Finest, Koch)
pg.lost - "The Day Shift" (It’s Not You, It’s Me!, Black Star Foundation)
Tokyo Police Club - "Your English Is Good" (Elephant Shell, Saddle Creek)
Happy holidays. Here’s to self-expression in all its forms.
By Daniel Levin Becker