Posts Tagged ‘Outkast’

My top ten albums of 2003

Friday, December 3rd, 2004

It’s about that time: my Top Ten of last year (2003, not 2004). It was a pretty good year, but mostly because there were a lot of pretty good albums released. There were none that really blew me away, but I had a hard time narrowing my list down to ten (much less putting it in some kind of order that I’m satisfied with) because there were so many great-but-not-transcendent releases. In any case, here’s my stab at it.

  1. Alamaailman Vasarat - Käärmelautakunta
    While this album didn’t initially strike me as a huge step forward from AV’s debut album, it has steadily grown on me to the point that it’s easily my favorite from 2003. The band mixes moods and tempos to wonderful effect, and really hammers out a unique niche. What other band blends klezmer, metal, jazz, folk, and rock? What other band makes that not only seem natural, but fun?
  2. A Perfect Circle - Thirteenth Step
    This was a real pleasant surprise. I like this one better than any Tool album - it’s dark, well-paced, heavy when heavy is called for, and very much a unified whole that’s greater than any of its parts. A great alternative rock album (with its fair share of proggy touches) at a time when “alternative” is a synonym for “stale.”
  3. Anti-Pop Consortium - Anti-Pop Consortium Vs. Matthew Shipp
    A more effective meshing of jazz and hip-hop does not yet exist. And it’s just our luck that two of the most cutting-edge artists in either genre chose to work together. The only negative is that this was Anti-Pop’s last recorded output - making it little more than a teasing glance at what could have been.
  4. The Postal Service - Give Up
    Probably the most purely poppy album we’ve reviewed here, but damn is it good. This duo of electronica wizard and emo vocalist has become the indie-rock darling of the moment, achieving success and even a deal with the real U.S. Postal Service. Heart-wrenching melodies and masterful production.
  5. Spring Heel Jack - Live
    Another electronica duo, but of an entirely different stripe; on this album, Spring Heel Jack collaborate with a free-jazz band featuring Matthew Shipp among others. The result is alternately a relaxing ambient soundscape and a monstrous beast on a violent rampage. One of the best - and certainly the most raw - electronica/jazz meshings I’ve yet heard.
  6. Explosions in the Sky - The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place
    With this album, Texas’ premiere post-rock band finds peace. This is a surprisingly upbeat, pleasant, quietly hopeful work that offers the first glimpse at a brand of post-rock that isn’t all doom and gloom. Melodic and enchanting.
  7. Outkast - Speakerboxxx
    The first half of Outkast’s double album is utter brilliance - innovative and fun hip-hop. The second half, The Love Below, is more experimental but far less coherent, to the point of seemingly kind of stiffly stupid at times. But the whole thing is well worth it for Speakerboxxx’s irrepressible energy.
  8. Do Make Say Think - Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn
    These guys just keep getting better. Probably the loosest and jazziest of the big-name post-rock bands, DMST are close to transcending the genre altogether. Their latest effort is lovely and entrancing, but not afraid to go for the jugular when the time is right.
  9. Sufjan Stevens - Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State
    Perhaps the most purely beautiful album on this list. This album is a heartfelt paean to Stevens’ home state of Michigan and runs the musical gamut from twisted Glassian minimalism to folksy solo banjo strumming, all of it anchored by Stevens’ arresting vocals.
  10. The Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra… - “This is Our Punk Rock”…
    I have been getting skeptical of these guys, especially as Godspeed You Black Emperor! seems to be running in place, but they really came through with this one. It’s still the same melodramatically bleak, gloomy, spacious post-rock as before, but so well done that it can’t be faulted.

So what missed the cut? A bunch of albums that could have been swapped in pretty easily, depending on my mood, for the last few on the list above: Mogwai’s Happy Songs for Happy People, The DecemberistsHer Majesty the Decemberists, Azigza’s Kriya, Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism, Sunn O)))’s White1, the Non-ProphetsHope, Dissection’s Live Legacy, MatmosThe Civil War, Bone Structure by Bendian/Liebig/Gunther/Stinson… the list goes on and on. It was a good year, but again, nothing that really seemed absolutely timeless.

One thing that jumps out at me is how little of my list would be considered “prog” by most folks. I do have a fair amount of albums from 2003 that are prog, but few of them really hit me. I’ve known for a while that my tastes are shifting, but it’s interesting to see it happen so dramatically. Although, interestingly enough, quite a few of my favorite albums from 2004 thus far would fall under the prog category, so who knows.

Best of 2001, revisited

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

So, as anyone who reads this blog on a fairly consistent basis (insofar as it’s consistently updated, at least) knows, I do my best-of-year lists a year after the fact to correct for a number of errors, most obviously the fact that I can’t possibly hear or buy all the great albums released in a year all that quickly. The folks over at The Turntable - the blog associated with Stylus - do a similar cool thing, which is go back and draw up a new “best of year” list a year after the fact, and compare it with their old lists. The differences are interesting at least. So here: I’ll do the same thing - here is my Best of 2001 as I would have it today. Note that I made this up without looking back at the original Best of 2001 list I posted in December of 2002.

  1. Present - High Infidelity
  2. The Dismemberment Plan - Change
  3. Magma - Theusz Hamtaakh Trilogie
  4. Mogwai - Rock Action
  5. Miles Davis - Live at the Fillmore East: It’s About That Time
  6. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Grand Opening and Closing
  7. The Beta Band - Hot Shots II
  8. Green Carnation - Light of Day, Day of Darkness
  9. Outkast - Stankonia
  10. Satoko Fujii Quartet - Vulcan

Some other great albums released in 2001: Femi Kuti’s Fight to Win, System of a Down’s Toxicity, Djam Karet’s Ascension, Explosions in the Sky’s Those Who Tell the Truth…, Avant Garden’s Maelstrom, Bob Drake’s The Skull Mailbox, Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein, and John Coltrane’s The Olatunji Concert. Whew. It was a good year, apparently. Oh, and the best surprise of the year was Dream Theater’s Live Scenes From New York, which was actually really good - light-years better than their previous live album (though that’s damning with faint praise, I suppose). The Coup’s Party Music was pretty good, but a little disappointing.

You may note that Krakatoa’s Togetherness disappeared from my list (from #4 originally). I still think it’s a great album, but I just haven’t been inclined to pull it out very often for the past couple years. Same goes for their other albums, including the newer one on Cuneiform, which never really grabbed me that well in the first place. Hmm.

Also, High Infidelity took a huge leap from #7 to #1, and after peeking back at the archives, four of the ten items on the list above were not on the old one at all. Still, the top few more or less remained constant, which is cool.

Pitchfork’s end-of-year extravaganza

Wednesday, December 17th, 2003

Pitchfork has started its mega-special, “The Year in Music 2003″. Lots and lots of lists, basically - but I like Pitchfork’s lists. Sometimes they try a little too hard to be witty, but it’s nice to be able to see the individual reviewers’ quirks of taste.

Having gone to more bars and clubs in the past week than I usually go to in a month, I can now safely say that the Most Overrated Hip-Hop Song Ever is Outkast’s “The Way You Move” (great opening, then just degenerates into a boring chorus over. and. over. again.), and the Most Overplayed Hip-Hop Song Ever (as well as the runner-up for the Most Overrated Hip-Hop Song Ever) is… Outkast’s “Hey Ya”. Ugh.

And by “ever”, I mean “in the past few months”.

Hip-hop in which lyrics are secondary

Wednesday, March 26th, 2003

Hmm, interesting counterexample to my assertion from the last entry that hip-hop lyrics are paramount in importance for me: Outkast. I don’t place much stock in their lyrics, but I love the music as a whole. Probably because it’s so energetic and, to risk misusing (or inventing) a term, maximalistic.

Eh, and another one is Anti-Pop Consortium, maybe. Although I really dig the flow of the rapping, which is generally absolutely amazing in its speed and cadence, the words themselves are too damn stream-of-consciousness to mean anything to me. So maybe that assertion just bullshit, and lyrics don’t necessarily take primacy for me even in hip-hop.

I might replace it with a somewhat modified contention that in hip-hop, vocals (not necessarily lyrics) are far more important than in most other genres. But that just seems like a truism. Rapping, after all, could be considered in its most basic form spoken word poetry. So obviously the voice is the key element.

What’s spinning, May 18 edition

Friday, May 18th, 2001

Okay, my impatient readers: here’s an update.

In case my mysterious and virtually total absence from various music-related boards wasn’t enough of a clue, I’ve been away from the music scene for a bit. Oh, I’ve been listening to tons and tons of good music, but I haven’t been buying much, and I haven’t been writing about it much. This is mostly because I’ve finally immersed myself in photography, as I have wanted to do for some time. While it hasn’t replaced music as my consuming passion, it has left a bit less time and far less money for music.

In any case, a list of stuff I’ve been listening to a lot for the past month or so:

  • Arise From Thorns - Before an Audience of Stars
    Acoustic gothic-styled rock with pleasant female vox. Pretty nice stuff; lots of acoustic guitar, which I like, and a dark, moody atmosphere, which I also like. The whole thing is sort of on the level, with few peaks and troughs, but there are a few gorgeous acoustic guitar solos and some cool lyrics.
  • Einstürzende Neubauten - Silence is Sexy
    Still spinning a lot. What a great album, man. See below for comments. I find myself singing the ridiculously catchy “Dingsaller” refrain to myself a lot.
  • Garmarna - God’s Musicians
    Rockified Scandinavian folk music - pretty nifty stuff. I will now demonstrate my utter lack of knowledge about European world/folk music by saying that when I first heard these guys, they reminded me of Capercaillie, the band that plays rockified Celtic music. I was introduced to them by a friend at Yale, who played me a couple tracks from Vengeance, which is next on my list.
  • Karnataka - The Storm
    Sort of like a modern adult contemporary band with good female vox and lots of guitar solos. At their best, they write stuff that’s on par with the most beautiful pieces by, say, October Project. Unfortunately the album is quite uneven, with the best stuff at the beginning and end. Nevertheless, I like it.
  • Colin Masson - Isle of Eight
    Three really long compositions, almost completely instrumental and almost all of it played by multi-instrumentalist Masson. A lot like Mike Oldfield, but with more of an emphasis on the guitar work (mostly electric, with some nice acoustic parts). The textures are cool, with good variation in the thematic material. When the female vox kick in things get much simpler, but at least those parts are quite catchy. A pleasant surprise.
  • Radiohead - Kid A
    I listened to it a bit when I first got it and liked what I heard; now, listening more closely, I still like what I hear. “Idioteque” reminds me strongly of Squarepusher, but then that’s about all the experience I have with that sort of beat-driven music. The opening track couldn’t be more perfect.
  • A Silver Mt. Zion - He Has Left Us Alone…
    This took much longer to grow on me than Godspeed You Black Emperor! albums, but it’s now one of my favorites. Wistfully beautiful stuff, and perfect for road trips or train rides.
  • Spaced Out - Spaced Out
    Fusion. Not my cup of tea, in general - the stuff tends too much towards soloing without much melody. But there’s definitely some good music on this album, particularly the bass playing which is showy and fun. Fusion fans should definitely get a kick out of this one.

I’ve also been listening to a lot of various MP3s. A few Outkast tracks that have convinced me that I need an Outkast album, now. More Garmarna, most of which I actually like better than the stuff on the album of theirs I have. Some tracks from the album of remixed Sigur Rós songs, some of which are really cool and some of which suck a fat one. Univers Zero “Central Belgium in the Dark”, from the Crawling Wind EP - ah, classic stuff from one of my all-time favorite bands.

Stumbled across Brendon Rapp’s music blog. Some interesting reading there. Hi *Legion*.

They say money’s the root of all evil but I can’t tell
You know what I mean - pesos, francs, yens, cowrie shells, dollar bills
Or is it the mind state that’s ill
Creating crime rates to fill the new prisons they build
Over money and religion there’s more blood to spill
The wounds of slaves in cotton fields that never heal
What’s the deal?
Black Star, “Thieves in the Night”

Mos Def, whatever I might think of his solo album, writes some damn fine lyrics. The Black Star album - his collaboration with Talib Kweli - is masterful.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer is dominating the list of “top ten most visited reviews” on the stats page, with no other band having more than one album on the list. Blah. I hate those guys. They’re just so bad. Arr.