Friday, December 8, 2006

let's boogie to the elf dance

For each of the past five years, Sufjan Stevens has released an EP of Christmas-themed songs, both traditional carols and originals (now collected in the Songs For Christmas box set). I heard a few of these last year around this time, and was struck by the way that they play up Stevens' central strength (his skill at composing unusual arrangments) while completely sidestepping his central weakness (his tendency towards pretention).

Take, for instance, today's track, "Let's Boogey To The Elf Dance." Its palpable aura of casual goodwill and all-around lightheartedness are so winning that I find myself preferring it to nearly all of the more (self-consciously?) "important" tracks on [Greetings From] Michigan and [Come On Feel the] Illinois[e].

[Related: I often have a hard time stomaching material by The Decemberists, whose tendency to indulge in twee anachronism is by now so shtick-y that you could essentially make a drinking game out of it (1 shot each time Colin Meloy mentions a European place-name; 1 more each time he mentions an occupation that existed in the 19th century). It is for this reason that my favorite Decemberists song is "Apology Song," about something as modest as a stolen bike.]

Thanks to Ray and Rich T. (respectively) for gifting me these tracks.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

rag for william s burroughs

So if you were to ever make a 10-minute film about the life of William S. Burroughs, you could use this Matmos track as your soundtrack. Gunshots, adding machine sounds, Jajoukan pipes: this cut has it all. (If I were to quibble, I'd say they should have faded out into the sound of purring cats in the final minute, but otherwise, spot-on.)

From Matmos' new(ish) album, The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth of A Beast, which is a suite of ten songs, each dedicated to a different deceased queer.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

ornate tangles and grubby drones

Growing, "Fancy Period"

This inspired number starts off by cultivating a field of acid-trip patterns into an impossibly ornate tangle which threatens to blot out everything behind its whirling calligraphic streamers. Like all barriers, though, this one is illusory, and around minute four you slip through into a totally different landscape, where pseudo-Zimbabwean filligrees float beatifically over funky bionic stutter. Ambitious!

Vulture Club, "Untitled"

I don't know much about Vulture Club other than the fact that it has released an album full of heavy guitar drones in their most concentrated form: no riffs, no melody, no Julian Cope poetry, just sweet sweet room-shaking low-end, with the tiniest bit of occasional modulation serving to hold interest. This track is for anyone who finds unadorned amplifier hum to be strangely lulling and comforting.

Vampire Belt, "Snake Out"

Mixtape-makers take note that that Vulture Club track flows nicely into this piece, which commences with a few seconds of grimy hum before busting out into some of the finest splattering skronk I've ever heard. Chris Corsano has been earning so much praise for his inventive improv drumming that people forget that he can also do straight-up hardcore pounding when paired with a player who demands it: Bill Nace is that player here, providing inspirational art-damaged guitar-work that is very finely mangled indeed.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

what happened to the levees

The Coup, "Laugh, Love, Fuck"

This song features a refrain that goes: "I'm here to laugh, love, fuck and drink liquor / and help the damn revolution come quicker." What more do I really need to say? Will it help if I say it also features a cheesy clap machine?

DJ Drama and Lil' Wayne, "Georgia... Bush" [edit]

Chuck D once famously referred to hip hop as "black America's CNN," an assertion that was questionable then and remains questionable now. But the statement feels relevant in reference to this song, a chilling little bit of post-Katrina reportage from 23-year-old New Orleans native Lil' Wayne. Anger and sorrow tangle here with conspiracy-theorizing and good old-fashioned Bush-hammering (although it's worth noting that Ray Nagin takes a solid hit as well).

Friday, August 11, 2006

for good selves and bad

Ladytron, "Destroy Everything You Touch"

A better summer would not have featured this song playing over and over again in my head. But instead of the better summer, I am having the one in which I am blundering through the landscape like a grief-maddened Godzilla, leaving a trail of bent wreckage and disappointed people behind me. The gap between this song's upbeat bent and the bleakness of its lyrical content conveys a certain fuckheaded resoluteness: that desire to confirm one's own worst suspicions about oneself, and the feelings of idiotic satisfaction and cynical glee when this dubious goal is achieved.

Kimya Dawson, "My Rollercoaster"

I'm not sure who brought the Kimya Dawson tunes to Spring this year, but I stood in the kitchen by myself on the final night and listened to this song and it brought tears to my eyes. This song is goofy and dorky and exuberant and tender: these are the ways I like to think of myself when I'm not thinking of myself as a maddened Godzilla, v. sup.