In part two of this month, reviews of Lil Wayne, the Strokes, King DJ, and Michael Bublé.
I’ve talked about Michael Tatum before, but that Kitty song compels me to cite this marvelous Tatum sentence, about Skrillex: “…any hairstyle that resembles a palomino’s hindquarters when viewed from an elevated height commits cosmetological crimes so outrageously grotesque they could send Korn’s Jonathan Davis into a raging fit of trichotillomania.” I mean, that is why I love the English language.
In part 2 of this month, reviews of music for autobahns, a rough guide to samba, Kacey Musgraves, A$AP Rocky, Monoswezi, Modestep, OneRepublic, and Teleseen.
Space-themed music experiences were having something of a moment last week. While Oktophonie at the Park Avenue Armory brought the stark coldness of the world beyond our earth in minimal electronica, over at the Brooklyn Academy of Music there was Planetarium, a collaboration between Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, and Bryce Dessner.
Every year, the Village Voice holds an annual poll, inviting nearly every critic in the biz to vote on the best albums and singles of the given year. Because of its size, it’s generally the best way to measure yearly progress in pop music: the numbers actually mean something. The thing is huge; 493 critics voted in 2012. Although there’s less change than I would have liked, there’s been definite progress since last year. The 2011 Pazz & Jop albums chart contained only one major album, a collaboration between two artists who have both done better work elsewhere. The singles chart alternated between arty album tracks and crass pop-rap rampages beloved by opportunists always on the lookout for new ways to one-up their colleagues. What made it onto Pazz & Jop last year was not what people really loved, but what they didn’t hate, the result of a standoff between the ideologically opposed magazines Rolling Stone and Pitchfork – the winners were the albums mediocre enough to survive. Rather than a consensus, I thought, we had a lack of consensus.
One person’s final frontier is another’s impersonal void, or at least those are the two experiences of space you’re likely to have at Oktophonie at the Park Avenue Armory. On the first of its performance run that started this week, the crowd, some grudgingly, took off their shoes and put on white “cloaks” (really more like ponchos) and filed into the circles of chairs on the floor of a raised white stage. What followed was over an hour of what is described as a “ritualized lunar experience,” scored by cold modernist music and shifts of light.
Since January I’ve been squeezing an extra review into each catalogue, and, nearing the end of February, it finally cost me a deadline. I’m pretty satisfied with the way things turned out, though. As of this post since March last year, I’ve reviewed 100 2012 albums, not bad. High points here are a Canadian teenpop singer and an angry, stealthy metal band. The low point is what I believe to be the worst album of the year – beat Deadmau5 by a hair. If you think the Dirty Projectors sound contrived, wait till you hear this 70-year-old cult artifact.
This month, reviews of Miguel, Tame Impala, Swans, Killer Mike, and Future.
In part 2 of this month, reviews of Lana Del Rey, Kid Koala, Japandroids, Cat Power, and Alabama Shakes.
This month, reviews of Pink, Macklemore, Bruce Springsteen, The Coup and Grimes.
2012 was a good year for hip-hop heads not least because it was a year that saw the emergence of Joey Bada$$, a preternaturally-gifted rapper from Flatbush who (incredibly) turns just eighteen later this month.
CHICAGO — In the summer of 2011, back before his blown-up image started selling thousands of records, I discovered Frank Ocean while looking through a batch of new releases, through a then-mysterious single called “Novacane.” First I was drawn in by the lyrics, with their Kubrick references, subtle wordplay, and evocations of a young man so passive-aggressively alienated that cocaine, Viagra, porn stars, sex, and even music can all go parading past him like a perfect L.A. daydream and he feels absolutely nothing. Then I realized I was addicted to the rich, polished keyboards and the expressive melody they provide. The song is a formal triumph. What sounds like warm commitment is in fact Ocean relishing his emotional isolation, digging his heels in further and further and liking it. This is a dangerous message, especially when kids are already using your records to escape the world in the first place. Sucker for dangerous messages that I am, I fell immediately in love.