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2013/14 – what I’ve been playing on the coldest, snowiest streets of my life.
Del tha Funkee Homosapien – Iller Than Most
Or Del the Funkyhomosapien!, as it appears on my iPod. Del won’t be caught caring about typographical consistency. In the same way, his surprise new album’s title is a fitting advertisement for its contents: He’s unconcerned about the exact degree of his illness, but he suspects it’s close to absolute. He’s right!
The Hidden Cameras – Age
NOT electro-pop, though if a handful of songs could lead to Rogue Wave’s Permalight being mischaracterized as such, a few years ago, then I guess a mere one (1!) song on eight-song Age (the memorable “Carpe Jugular,” plus a couple others where electro-pop elements are secondary features) can broadcast the label, shorthand for obsolescence? But Age is The Hidden Cameras as I’ve known them, continuing the moodier terrain of 2009’s Origin: Orphan, along with an older strategy of turning sing-song elements into elaborate orchestral pieces. And because it’s their latest, everything sounds bigger and brighter than ever before, until it loses that shine and fades comfortably into their discography. My only complaint is the length, not that it’s unreasonably short, or that I need more of what it has to give, just that such extravagance sounds a bit incomplete under 40 minutes.
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – Wig Out at Jagbags
Just barely, but it’s perhaps worth noting that this is the shortest of any Pavement or Jicks album since Slanted & Enchanted. It’s tight and efficient, but still overflows with half-checked weirdness. I miss the ache of Mirror Traffic, and though it’s not totally absent, it’s exciting to learn how something so vital and abundant exists years beyond it.
DJ Mustard – Ketchup
Highly advantageous symbiosis: A group of rappers I might not listen to otherwise and beats I definitely wouldn’t listen to as instrumentals, too streamlined for that, but together, addictive beyond reason. At a certain point you might start to imagine you’ve heard every possible permutation of the five or so earworm elements DJ Mustard employs for his productions, and to anticipate each return of the guys chanting “hey!” in the back, but then, a short time later, Ketchup’s insular genius overwhelms and it’s impossible to imagine beyond its simple building blocks. On top of that, the music occupies an unusual, half-haunting club/radio space. Someone says: “I’m in the club on a motherfuckin’ weeknight” – either that, or dream music.
Flatbush Zombies – Better Off Dead
I hesitate to prescribe art, except generally, but I feel that if every person listened to the litany of “Bliss,” every morning, the world would be a better place.
Kool A.D. – Not O.K.
A collection of outtakes from an album that’s not out yet, Not O.K. sets up a scenario where its future appeal, for non-fans, consists entirely of the fact that it marked the return of Digable Planets’ Ladybug. And yet, stripped of any terms of Announcement, it’s not really a “return,” though that’s part of why she’s great, on “CNN,” unwinding a verse from whatever room already contained her at the moment the microphone found her, and remaining there when then mic returns her privacy, a few dozen seconds later. Beyond that, Not O.K. is half-throwaway, half-great, or, put another way, all-throwaway, all-great.
Eddie B & Harry Fraud – Horsepower
Basically what I said about Ketchup, except Fraud’s production style is lush enough to make Horsepower’s instrumental half not quite dispensable. A pretty effortless listen. Even the chipmunkified soul sample on “Courage” is weightless, not a pointed intrusion from music’s past.
Deadkill – No, Never!
After a successful, ever-escalating 2013, from “fast rock” to noise rock to metal, album-per-quarter Good To Die goes full circle, back to my wheelhouse. I miss the skewed vantage Gaytheist brings to this kind of material, but as straight-ahead, uh, fast rock goes, this works really well.
Grant Hart with Frankie Teardrop and Catbath – Triple Rock Social Club (Minneapolis) – Thursday, December 26, 2013
The rift may be unhealable but it’s funny that Grant Hart and Bob Mould still have a similar idea of how a solo back-catalog show should be—all the tunes, with only infinite roiling electricity, amorphously melodic, as accompaniment—though Hart appears to form his setlist with a more spontaneous style. I still long to see Hart with a full band, or in front of a more than meager crowd, or to see The Argument get its proper due, but 25 songs casually reassembled sufficed, on a night so cold and dark as to be timeless, as long ago and incomplete as his musical origins.
Openers: Frankie Teardrop is the self-professed alter ego of Jordan Bleau, and he does proud, mostly, all the influences his name suggests. He looks 15 and speaks like a middle-aged Joey Ramone. His songs are still a bit half-formed but the energy is just right. // Catbath sounded unrehearsed in spots but their hybridized rock ‘n’ roll, with primary overtones of bubblegum and metal, perhaps Sleater-Kinney-ish at its more stable center, doesn’t look easy. In addition, all three players sing. No qualms here, neither about their weird incorporations nor about how those might unsettle an easier groove to be had – so many of their ideas and juxtapositions were terrific.
GH: You’re The Victim / Shine, Shine, Shine / Flexible Flyer / So Far From Heaven / Sorry Somehow / Golden Chain / Awake, Arise / The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill / No Promise Have I Made / Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely / California Zephyr / 2541 (“annotated”) / You’re The Reflection Of The Moon On The Water / Is The Sky The Limit? / You Don’t Have To Tell Me Now / My Regrets / Terms Of Psychic Warfare / Underneath The Apple Tree / Data Control / She’s A Woman (And Now He Is A Man) / Back From Somewhere / The Last Days Of Pompeii / St. James Infirmary (Trad.) / She Floated Away / Remains To Be Seen
Run Westy Run with The Tisdales and San Dimas – Turf Club (St. Paul) – Saturday, December 28, 2013
It was hardly surprising, two nights later, to find Grant Hart hanging out at the Run Westy Run show (he produced one of their albums) and then playing an impromptu three-song set before the main act. The Westies were a beloved late 80s/early 90s Minneapolis act, unheralded by almost everyone who wasn’t there. Their holiday reunion portends nothing, except a wonderful moment in time. The sound was astonishing, a band I never knew simultaneously clueing me in about their craft and justifying their absence/return. A much cleaner, more groove-based approach than was ever found in the Minneapolis bands that preceded them, or in the work of more immediate contemporaries like Arcwelder, but they sold it as an essential component of the city’s past/present.
Openers: A tale of two ages – The Tisdales, older, looser, assured, effective, probably borrowing their buoyant golden sound from Neil Young or Doug Sahm or Big Star. // San Dimas, younger, tighter, cooler, somewhat less effective, probably borrowing their heavier sound from the headbanging-appropriate length of their hair.
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