2010: Brad LaBonte
I think end-of-year top ten lists serve a valuable role, but they ain’t great at capturing the asides and buffoonery that make paying attention to whatever the hell is going on worthwhile. As such, here’s a list of some 2010 moments, utterances, successes and failures that stuck out in my mind, followed by a proper list. Lists, baby!
Dropz - “Tha King A Pop
This WFMU blog post sums up the greatness of Dropz’s Michael Jackson tribute. Replace the incessant “MAH-CHAEL”, “MAH-CHAEL” with absolutely anything for instant hilarity.
Billy Currington - “Pretty Good At Drinkin’ Beer”
Currington shoves his supposed worthlessness in all y’all’s faces. Replace “drinkin’ beer” with any pointless activity for instant hilarity.
Travis McCoy - “Billionaire” (ft. Bruno Mars)
Here’s the unspoken paranoia that lies at the heart of “Pretty Good At Drinkin’ Beer.” Jesus Christ, the first line is “I want to be a billionaire so fuckin’ bad.”
Taio Cruz’s “Dynomite”: “I’m wearing all my favorite brands, brands, brands, brands”
Brand-worship as an end in itself. Forget “My Adidas” — just give me a fucking BRAND.
The theme from “Louie”
The lyrics, in their entirety: “Louie, Louie, Louie, Louie /Louie, Louie, Louie, Louie, Lou-eye /Louie, Louie, Louie, Louie /Louie, Louie, you’re gonna die”. Adapted from Stories’ “Brother Louie,” it’s perfect for a show obsessed with the idea of running out of time before you’ve accomplished anything.
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy
The most entertaining film I’ve seen this year is probably a four-hour DTV documentary about the making of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. It’s literally four hours of interviews with almost everyone involved in every Nightmare project. The relative paucity of clips is surprising, then hilarious, then welcome: the film acquires a stunted rhythm that becomes hypnotic. Bob Shaye is insane, Wes Craven is smug and pretentious, and everyone else is just glad to have been on the ride.
Salem’s performance at the SXSW Fader Fort
In which a band, scene, and generation shows what it’s made of. Learn a trade, jerkwads.
Two great tracks hampered by overblown finales. "The City Never Sleeps" spends eight minutes soely devoted to the irresistible Viva Ruiz, with whom Gaving Russom’s unremarkable city boy vocals can’t help but clash. Azari & III’s "Reckless (With Your Love)" is a great throwback to when people actually sang over house beats, and Manuel Tur makes it even better by smoothing out its edges, at least until he hands the track over to some some "funky" acid lines for the last two minutes. Still, those beginnings are something else -- so much something else that they both make the list!
How could a new reggae reissue label headed by Mark Ernestus (Basic Channel) and Mark Ainley (Honest Jon’s) fail? Though Dadawah’s fine Peace and Love, the label’s sole LP reissue, attracted the most attention, it’s probably my least favorite of the crop. All nine reissues are worth a look or four, with my votes going to Naphtali’s smooth digi-skanker “Hole Up Your Hand” and Jah Warrior’s “Dub From The Heart,” a track from 1996 that sounds so much like the exact mid-point between Tubby’s and DMZ, it’s scary. I’ll put it this way: out of everything on this list, Dug Out is the only project whose next release, whatever it is, is practically guaranteed to be great.
Maranha contributed to the great Organ Eye album that came out a few years back on Staubgold, and that album provides a nice reference point for his new one. Strip out all of Minit’s electronics, add unceasing tambourine hits on two and four, and just let Maranha’s violin wail on a drone for 40 minutes. The debt owed to Tony Conrad and Faust is almost too obvious, but whatever, dude.
Rush Hour was another do-no-wrong label in 2010. The Dutch outfit masterfully balanced reissues from the likes of Ron Hardy, Boo Williams, and Mayday with top-notch modern house, releasing both at a truly staggering pace. I count something like 25 releases this year, and Dexter’s “Not the Only Girl” stands out. Over a slightly disco-fied mid-tempo jack, Dexter lays a screwed vocal that lets you know, over and over, that you’re not the only one, with an interruption that offers further clarification: “No no no, it ain’t love.” It’s spookier than Salem, with ten times the feeling.
If you can get beyond the silliness of it (when Wolf Blitzer tries to dougie, you know this crap has a shelf life), “Teach Me How to Dougie” hits the sweet spot. It’s just a damn catchy song, tastefully produced, smooth and fun as hell.
Dozzy one-ups Sandwell District, Horizontal Ground, Do Not Resist The Beat! and other purveyors of stripped-down, dark, purist techno by expanding the palette while still sticking to the script. There’s an insistence to all of this, sharpened by the crucial mastering of Rashad Becker at Dubplates & Mastering, that allows Dozzy to connect the blown-out ambient of Apollo Records and the post-kraut experimentalism of A-Musik to what’s going on now. It’s a cure for the problematic reverence for the past that settles around Further. The label is definitely quality, but all of their releases should be as 2010 as this one.
I listened to a ton of Lungfish and The Incredible String Band this year, and that might be why Higgs’s indulgent mysticism finally clicked for me. He obviously doesn’t care about doing anything other than what he’s moved to do, and if you’re not on board with a heavily bearded man chanting about hoofprints on the ceiling of your mind and Holy Bible Time for ninety minutes over accordion drone and banjo (with a fantastically stupid, brief electronic blast inserted into “Root & Bough”), I guess I can’t blame you, but I do feel kind of bad for you.
The bulk of OK Judge Revival is mostly top-shelf garage that injects a little Brian Jonestown Massacre into The Feeling of Love’s shambling, Doo Rag-knicking framework. It’s very good. But dang if the last two tracks don’t kick things into the highest high gear, and if we’re talking albums, any album that closes on such a note is an album with which one cannot fuck. “God Willing” is pure Velvets: as perverse, painfully ironic, hilarious, and affecting as a speak-sing song that begins with a description of why a small community of parents masked a rash of teenage auto-erotic asphyxiation deaths as a suicide trend can be. Why did they do it? Less embarrassing, our intrepid singer informs us. “Young Jesus” closes things on an ecstatic note, with the band banging away on a two chord groove for six minutes while G. Marietta preaches about his coming from the same mother as our Lord and Savior. Ladeez and Gents, the coolest band on the block.
I think I said all I can say in my review of the Night Slugs comp from last month. These guys are doing their own, completely unique thing, and in UK dance music, that’s almost impossible to pull off.
A few months back, Mark E posted on the MERC Facebook page, “NO MORE EDITS!” Maybe he’s sick of the scene’s cheeky, brain-dead extensions, but Kultra, widely reported as a Mark E project, makes the strongest case possible for the defense by brilliantly spinning UB40’s “Don’t Break My Heart” into an eleven minute slow burn. He mostly keeps the beat of the original, smeared with an ambient haze and added synth lines, but the only non-instrumental sounds for the first eight minutes are quick breaths on the upbeats and Ali Campbell’s brief “Whoa-oh-oh” exhalation before he sings the title line. E eventually drops and repeats that title line, allows Campbell to take a verse nine and a half minutes into the song (the one about how “real basic love never dies”), then lets the track die.
“Don’t Break My Heart” is a screwed-up song, and Mark E excludes its creepiest line (“If you make me mad/If you make me mad /You’ll wish that you had not /You’ll wish that you had not”). By structuring the song as he has, he turns a dangerous obsessive’s rant into a naïve dreamer’s plea. You could take that as either a rescue or an unseemly gesture, but the point is, this is the edit as art, rather than as just a means to a party’s end.
By Brad LaBonte