Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best Videos of 2009

The Cro-Mags show fucked up my hearing to the point that for the first time ever it hasn't fully returned with a good night's rest, preventing me from listening to the four or five albums I still have in queue to make my albums list at least sort of comprehensive. Or at least comprehensive enough to avoid overlooking 6 or 7 great records like I did last year. So until my ear recovers fully, in no order, here are the musical videos that I obsessed over the most this year.

Anal Judicator- "Cum-Coated Colon"

Easily the greatest digipornogrind video ever made.

Cro-Mags- 2001 CBGB's Show

I tried three times throughout my life to get into the Cro-Mags only to be again put off by what I always perceived as my own city's infamous hardcore variant as blockheaded, colorless and boring. But considering the quickly homogenizing deluge of denimXcore out there, my quarter-life crisis has spurred a weird renewed love of blockheaded hardcore that has either made me appreciate the catchiness of The Age of Quarrel, Terror, 100 Demons and Merauder, or has just made me more willing to overlook the faults I had found with them before. Shit, I'm even listening to Agnostic Front now, embracing a level of ignorance I thought I had left behind when I stopped listening to Hatebreed and Bleeding Through after high school.

Vinnie Stigma For President

I spent my teenage years being so against punk made after 1982 that I overlooked a lot of things. I still maintain that punk leans heavily towards singles and comps and not full albums, save for the established canon (Brains, Flag, Pistols, Ramones, blah, blah). Although Minor Threat seem to be more revered and influential than they were ever good. But that myopia made me bypass the first Agnostic Front album, Discharge, crust, crossover, and early Cro-Mags. The Agnostic Front thing is relevant because my familiarity with them never went past knowing my ex-girlfriend liked them, which at the time was enough to queer me away from investigating their music, plus the metalcore song they did with Jamey Jasta used to bug the shit out of me. I legitimately like "Peace is Not an Option" actually and have a lingering adoration of Jamey Jasta's voice, but it was Miret's weird choking dog vox that turned me off. Plus, throughout high school, I was privy to enough second and third hand NY hardcore to have an already low opinion of the seemingly empty-headed macho bullshit associated with it.

And now I scour Stuff You Will Hate as often as possible for posts on all of this. Funny.

Merauder- "Master Killer"

Speaking of scouring Stuff You Will Hate, I found this on there. I noticed during my nu-metal phase 10 years ago that the worse a genre, the better it's exceptions. I rarely go "HOLY SHIT" anymore at anything, most recent being "Lemonade" or the "Videophone" video, but getting put onto this Merauder song was a life-changing moment. I haven't gotten around to checking out the record, which is hopefully just as amazing and 90's, but I doubt it could be as out and out terrible as most 90's capital H hardcore. Shit, it's Wu-Tang through a metalcore filter, for Christ's sake! How could it fail?

"Stanky Leg"

The only new dance I've learned to do this year as performed by a group so faceless and unimportant that I couldn't even have been bothered to copy and paste their name from the youtube video.

Beyonce- "Videophone (Feat. Lady Gaga)"

Can we replace "swagger" with "sass"? Or amend FCC regulations and community standards to more ingrain "cunty" into our lexicon?

Das Racist- "Rainbow in the Dark"

The dialogue about them is "their songs are dumb as shit but they're amazingly intelligent and clever in interviews and blog pieces". Which is bullshit because they're equally as smart and clever in their songs not about dual franchise spaces. Since Plastic Little have fallen off the face of the planet, the part of me that needs "funny and smart rap not performed by Weird Al" from time to time has been filled (no Lupe) by an Indian dude that looks Colombian and a Colombian dude that looks Indian. That have vague connections to MGMT. And honestly have more quotable and enjoyable lyrics than most rap records released this year, Jay Electronica included (not taking away from the 10th member of Wu-Tang. He's nice, but really, who isn't nice at this point? Every third crumbum in Philly can rap circles around everyone who gets lazily maligned for being "radio rap".)

Boy Crisis- "The Fountain of Youth"

Speaking of Das Racist, Victor Vasquez is in a late aughts-era synth-rock outfit called Boy Crisis that is apparently a lot more popular than Das Racist (if Myspace and are to be believed). It's basically the same densely-packed humor of Das Racist but with surprisingly good 80's synth-rock trappings. Bonus points for shooting the video to make McCarren Pool seem more interesting of a space than it actually is.

Big Daddy Kane Looks at Jay-Z in an Odd Way

Via Das Racist. I think Kane's face embodies how I feel about almost every current rapper when they give interviews. Especially CuDi, Raekwon or Nas.

Mr. Vegas- "Hot Wuk"

Not new, but only as of last semester joined a short list of anthems-to-chap-your dick-grinding-at-a-party-to.

Tay Zonday- "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch"


Biggie Live Birthday Party Performances

Saw this when on one of those late-night "watching Wu-Tang videos when I should be sleeping" benders. Especially endearing is how shabby of a performer Biggie was in the beginning, especially next to the preternaturally fucked-up ODB.

ONYX- "The Worst (Feat. Raekwon and Method Man)"

I don't miss all the late 90's green-lighting that ruined almost every rap and R&B video around that time but I do miss an era where even as people chicken littled the shit out of rap, a bunch of then has-beens like Onyx could have a forgotten gem of a song like this.

If Mos Def Were President

Between this and The Ecstatic, it's hard not to love him again.

Blackout Crew- "Rumper Jumper"

I was afraid that they would never come up with anything as good as "Put a Donk on it". And then they show up as Oompa-Loompas. If an ideal world, this is all Jersey Shore guidos would listen to. And I would honor them for it.

Larry Tee- "I Love You"

I can no longer tell if I'm laughing with or at anything. Maybe I'm laughing in. Anyway, this is both scary and lovely at the same time, which is to me what downtown NYC pre-Bloomberg has been portrayed to me as.

Jah bless this little girl.

CBS KIPIX Goes Inside Horrorcore

It's not worth pointing out how foolish trend pieces and expose stories on "youth movements" or "subcultures" always come across, but it is amazing how hilarious post-ICP posicore fail looks when people end up dead and all the wannabe-Esham's are asked to form opinions. The culture isn't between red and blue state's, it's between people with labret piercings and high school graduates.

Metallica- "Battery (Feat. Dave Lombardo)"

Notable for the ridiculous double bass from 2:13 or so on. Bonus points for James' electrodyke hairdo, which in terms of chronology puts his look somewhere in between Rosie O'Donnell and Adam Joseph/Robyn.

Flairs- "Trucker's Delight"

An awesome French house single with an awesome Gameboy Advance-inspired video by a shit French alternative rock band popularized by shit /b/tards.

LMFAO- "Shots (Feat. Lil'Jon)"

1. I was legally drunk from August 2008-May 2009.
2. This is testament to LMFAO's ability to perfectly craft lovably obnoxious songs about things I should hypothetically be against (L.A., Myspace, animal prints, etc.).
3. I was buying tickets for HORSE the Band and Norma Jean last month at Irving Plaza and the LMFAO party bus was parked outside in the afternoon, most likely they were either playing a show or "hosting" something or other. While standing there at the box office, a random entourage/LMFAO affiliate, recognizable for his PartyRock belt buckle, L.A.-damaged 2007-era Williamsburg hipster clothes (they're really behind on the West Coast apparently), and completely unawareness of anything. Dude tried to get inside, so she told him he'd have to come back with a tour laminate or some credentials, and he honestly looked either high out his mind or that he had no idea what the fuck tour laminates or credentials actually were. It was the single cutest thing I've seen all year.
4. Clearly the second best thing Berry Gordy's ever created, with the first being the idea that Diana Ross wasn't a ghoul.

Jennifer Holliday and Jennifer Hudson- "And I'm Telling You"

Despite BET's best efforts, some intrepid fan of plump black women over-singing reposted this video from I think either 2007 or 2008's BET awards. Still the most epic thing that's ever been on youtube. The sheer amount of jawbone calisthenics from Holliday makes this required viewing for anyone wondering whether looking crazy equals being a good live performer. The answer is clearly "Yes it fucking does".

50 Cent and Jay-Z 2003 Reebok Commercial

There's an amazing amount of shit going on in this commercial. One, when the fuck did this happen? I had no idea this occurred until it got dug up during the Jay-Beans-50 thing that never turned into anything from this past fall. Two, how cute are they? Trading lines and references to each other? Jay even quotes "Your Life's on the Line". Third: I wonder how many people caught that when 50 was holding up Jay's S. Carter's, they were like a baby's size 4? How did that get past Jay? And finally: synchronized dancing?! Why can't we have this in rap again? Oh yeah, because it's populated by fevered egos who can't push units.

Rakim on Nas

"Conservative person" is saying the least. Ra has continually come across as the least fun dude in rap for a minute now. He had a point about the family details, but the attitude and the lack of relevance make for an awkward clip.

The Greatest Amateur Rap Ever

This is the video I'll forever show people to explain that despite their over-intellectualizing hip-hop as a genre is simply someone rapping over a beat. Anything else is icing.

Millie Jackson- "Fuck You Symphony"

R&B singers have been boring since Luther lost weight, man.

Dying Fetus High School Cover

Dying Fetus are fucking awful, but the kid has a good voice and the touching thing about it is that the kids actually cheer for him. Either this is the nicest school ever or he's the raddest dude in the world.

The Adventures of Stevie V- "Dirty Cash"/Nightcrawlers- "Push The Feeling On"

I'm more than ready for 90's retro-fetishism. Say the word and I'll whip up a Nirvana cover band and have Daria parties in my dorm. I might even bring back kinderwhore for Halloween, who knows. In a good sign of the coming couple of years, two really great house songs were sampled this year, by Dizzee Rascal and Pitbull respectively. Hopefully this'll remind everyone that shitty hip-house raps and blue afros>monroe piercings and dead bird haircuts.

Necro- "The Human Traffic King"

I can't help but get behind and support this.

Nick Cannon and Affion Crockett- "Eat Dat Watermelon"

Weird to think that the only intentionally funny thing Nick Cannon's ever done is a heavy-handed but memeriffic criticism of Southern rap via the Spike Lee school of blunt satire. Even weirder that I've found myself whispering " coming!" Ying Yang Twins-style all year.

Mystikal- "Here I Go"

My favorite Mystikal song, via the divine intervention of a 2001-era Cedric the Entertainer.

Davey Havok and Ceremony @ 924 Gilman

It's hard not to cackle at seeing Mr. "Love Like Winter" try and get aggy like its 1986.

Hurricane Chris-"Halle Berry (Live from the Louisiana Congress)"

"Halle Berryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, Halle Berry. Halle Berryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, Halle Berry."

Pickin' and a Singin'

Dudes have been dead for 40-50 years that eat your average wanky Spastik Ink-aping prog-tard alive.

LeLe- "Show Monaco"

If there was any justice this album wouldn't have been as overlooked as it was. Although the concept of jokey French house made by Belgians might be a bit much for people still stuck on Boyz Noise.

Mal Blum- "Ukelele"

SUNY Purchase's own! And awesome to the core.

Ken Susi- "I Want Candy"

I was hoping this would become a meme and not just the kind of thing I'd alienate my friends by showing whenever I was around them with a computer. But apparently being in Unearth doesn't merit that many page views anymore.

Swedish Death for Dummies

I bought an HM-2 off of Ebay as soon as I saw this and haven't looked back.

Public Image LTD.-"Rise"

So apparently they did have good tracks after Metal Box. "The Rules of Attraction" and creeping nostalgia for the early 00's made me seek out this soundtrack cut/last gasp of John Lydon's relevance.

The Cramps- "I Was A Teenage Werewolf"

It boggles the mind how he kept those pants up until you realize he wore them everyday and was probably fused to the material.

Neophyte- "Alles Kapot"

My best friend in junior high got into jungle and hardcore while I was getting into better rock music than the Puddle of Mudd, Doors, and KoRn I was listening to in 2001. He moved on halfway through high school, but gabber and happy hardcore would always find a way into my life, especially through the goth/raver kids I used to know when we'd all loiter around Chinatown. Like NYxHC, it's drifted from an annoyance to an proud indulgence.

Jonathan Richman- "I Was Dancing at the Lesbian Bar"

This video, plus his first three albums, have converted me to the point that, like with Converge and TV on the Radio, I promise to see his NY appearances every year until one of us dies of diabetes-related complications.

The Dogs- "Yo Mama's On Crack Rock"

All praises due to Unkut for putting me on to the most conceptually amazing Miami bass song every made.
"My mama don't do that no more!"

Drake's Hot 97 Coronation

And the best for last! The Affion Crockett parody was hilarious but extraneous because Aubrey is, unfortunately, unintentionally funny enough on his own. Choice moments:
-Anytime Drake does a church lady hand gesture
-"Can I do dat?"
-"All the way from! Degrassi! All the way from!"
-2:34: Flex- "You said you were in the ASTON MARTIN doing DONUTS"
Drake- "Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! I SAID THAT!!!"
-4:39: Drake checks for lumps

Monday, December 28, 2009

Best Songs of 2009 Pt. 2

Juicy J- "Fiyayaya Weed (Feat. Project Pat)"

M.I.A. is best employed in small doses, regardless of how much I grew to like Kala two years ago. Not for nothing, but she's gone out of her way since "Paper Planes" blew up last summer to make herself indefensible in her nutty self-aggrandizement and Kanye-esque ALL CAPS lapses into retardation that would seem to belie the fact that she's a grown-ass 33-year-old British woman with a kid and husband, and not, say, Ke$ha. Ke$ha, in comparison, seems to actually have her shit together. Juicy J, on the other hand, should be on everything. In fact, if life was fair, Juicy J, Devin the Dude, Wayne and Gucci would form a supergroup and capitalize on their statuses as by far the most consistently entertaining rappers around. I'll have to file that with my fantasty Ludacris/Redman duet album under "things as likely as a free Palestinian state".

Katy Perry- "Waking Up In Vegas (Calvin Harris Remix)"

Katy Perry is terrible. Its been said that her only redeeming quality are her breasts, and that's pretty accurate when you consider she managed to incorporate played-out mid-aughts emo vocal tropes (hysterics, pitchiness, vacillation between keys, sounding loud and whiny, being unable to perform a cogent run) into music that seemed instantly dated and lyrically sub-Wacka Flacka Flame. One of the things I'll miss the most of pre-housecleaning Idolator will be the daily floggings the editors rightfully gave her. "Vapid tart" might seem to be too harsh of a description to affix to someone you don't personally know, but not when you actually sit down and read the lyrics to "Ur So Gay" of "Hot and Cold". Anyway, this is a KTU-style Calvin Harris electro remix of the song, which somehow makes it pretty good. Calvin Harris is also the guy who produced half of this year's Dizzee Rascal album and has apparently been popular for two years with the sort of people who actually enjoy David Guetta and Paul Oakenfold.

KiD CuDi- "Hyyer Feat. Chip Da Ripper"

I'm saving my Festivus grievances with CuDi for the album list, but this song, besides having the most gorgeous beat I've heard all year, represents the inherent problem with the dude; that he's on his own albums. Even Joanna Newsom could've sang-rap better on this. Even L Burna-era Layzie Bone could've wrecked this. But instead you get the American Apparel equivalent of Gangsta Boo continuing to ruin his own record by simply being on it. GZA, Rae, and Ghost would let their man get a solo track, and letting Chip Da Ripper do this whole thing himself would've been preferred.

Lady Gaga- "Telephone (Feat. Beyonce)"

"Bad Romance" doesn't work without the video to coax you into overlooking how obnoxious and disjointed it is as a eurodance song, so I picked this, which not only has a neat dedication to theme in its connection to "Videophone", but also the subtle adapting to each others styles. Beyonce does a few Gaga-isms on the bridge of "Telephone", while Gaga toned down the gag-for-the-sake-of-a-gag steez on "Videophone" in favor of the disarmingly poppy sort of take she was using on songs like "Star Struck" only a year ago.

Lil' Wayne- "Watch My Shoes"

If you pretend that Young Money isn't aimless, goofy and messy, that Dedication 3 never came out, and that Rebirth had stayed a blunted hypothetical rather than a bloated tribute to Wayne's inability to make good decisions, then No Ceilings would just be a victory lap for Wayne. But even though tracks like this make a good chunk of the mixtape great, it still kind of felt underwhelming, like there was an air of "who cares?" to it. That may have more to do with Wayne over-saturating everything and the very perceivable dip in his lyrical ability somewhere around "Barry Bonds", or being supplanted in the mixtape hype cycle by Gucci. Or maybe everyone's adjusted too quickly and regardless of whether he has "ceilings", lil' homie doesn't really have any surprises anymore. Still, "What the fuck yo bitch got on on her mind/My fuckin dick (I call her dickhead)" is a lot more enjoyable that the redundant scat-rap he's been regurgitating, and unfortunately making a staple of other rapper's lines.

Magrudergrind- "Lyrical Ammunition for Scene Warfare"
Again, nothing on youtube and imeem is now a Fox wasteland, so you'd have to go to their myspace to hear it, but suffice to say you won't hear a catchier metal or hard/fast/grind/thrash/skacore song all year.

Major Lazer- "What You Like"

"Don't ya like it when me shift your drawers one side/And roll on a condom, one slide"
The best opening line in any song released this year. There's iffyness on this album because half of it isn't anything resembling dancehall, but the main redeeming feature of the album was this song, which is the sort of slackness that makes dancehall parties better than the eurotrashy trance/KTU stuff you'd find in Manhattan.

Manchester Orchestra- "In My Teeth"

The most successfully Nirvana-sounding thing of all the alleged Nirvana-sounding things that came out this decade (The Vines, Seether, etc).

Mario- "Break Up (Feat. Gucci Mane & Sean Garrett)"

I'm still confused as to what Sean Garrett's purpose is other than to coolly assist rap and bullshit singers on their own tracks, which would seem a bit extra. If Mario or Chris Brown is already doing the singing, why is this dude getting 4 bars? Anyway, this is I think the 4th Gucci song or feature on the list, and its certainly earned, and though Mario is pretty much a non-entity (I mean I only knew this song existed because of the Wayne version on No Ceilings), its fun to hear such wacky beats coming from Bangladesh considering how underwhelming his post-"A Milli" output initially was and how great his older stuff fro Luda 8-9 years ago was.

Maxwell- "Bad Habits"

I put this on in my friend's car the other week on the way to a gig and without missing a beat he went "...are we gonna fuck right now?" That sums up how formed and evocative the song, and the album is.

Memory Tapes- "Bicycle"

Mos Def- "Roses (Feat. Georgia Anne Muldrew)"

Simultaneously gorgeous, soulful, and ugly and weird. Its odd because, the track is almost ruined by the changes in the chorus but is also made more interesting because of it. Mos's catalog is polarizing, and I still think The New Danger is unfairly maligned due to a lack of context by people expecting Black on Both Sides II, but this song does encapsulate my tendency to love songs that the average person would probably (rightfully) hate.

MSTRKRFT- "Bounce (Feat. NORE)"

Two things I know: NORE is terrible, and MSTRKRFT continue to affirm which half of DFA1979 made the good decisions. Two things I learned from this song: Canadians can be trend-riding blog-house hipster doofuses as much as any American, and NORE will clearly do anything for some ends to cop Newports (i.e. "Oye Mi Canto")

Neon Indian- "6669 (I Don't Know If You Know)"

New Boyz- "Cricketz (Feat. Tyga)"

Sums up the ridiculousness of people getting in a heterosexist (and myopic considering 70's and 80's fashion) tizzy about fashion in the first verse while somehow redeeming Tyga as a rapper, who it turns out might be the second best rapper in Young Money. Also, West Coast lyrics right now>

Nickelus F & Portishead- "Cowboys"
Again, Imeem is deader than a doornail, so you'll have to check his myspace for the track. But finding this on Nahright when I was fumbling through the archives to find any good mixtapes that I missed this year was a revelation, not much for the dude's rapping because it's just as generic as what you'd expect from a Drake associate. What interested me about the tape, besides the fact that he RAPS OVER ELECTRIC WIZARD ON THE LAST SONG, is that it revealed how sick the Portishead songs from their self-titled album are as rap beats. In this context "Cowboys" is the nastiest beat I've heard all year, but something I would've taken a few more years to realize.

Nicki Minaj- "Handstand (Feat. Shanell)"

(Chosen over "Itty Bitty Piggy" solely because it demonstrates more of what she does overall)Nicki Minaj is the most New York thing in the world to me. Part of how much I enjoy her has to do with her tendency to add singing to her verses in a more novel and natural way than, say, Drake. When male singers started rolling with the rap and bullshit blueprint about 8 years ago, they mainly just sang with flows, as opposed to blending them together in an interesting way. Nicki does that, and usually sounds like she's having a lot of fun when she's doing it. Listening to her is the opposite of listening to any of the over-30 crowd's rap records this year. They sound tired, past-their-prime and like they were reaching, while Nicki and Gucci and even the New Boyz sound like they have more ideas than they know what to do with a still fresh vigor for rapping. That should matter a lot more than transgressive regionally-biased notions of what constitutes being a "good rapper". I'd take Nicki singing like a 11th grade hoodrat from the Bronx over GZA any day of the week.

Peaches- "I Feel Cream"

Though a slight retooling/rip-off of a Chemical Brothers beat, it's one of the few good things about 2009 Peaches, who quickly decided to morph into a disco queen to stay relevant. This song actually manages to come off sexy, something absent from the last two Peaches records.

Pissed Jeans- "R-Rated Movie"
Once again, both Imeem and Youtube failed. Album's worth stealing to hear it, though.

Pitbull- "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)"

Pitbull as dance-rap niche artist? Unfuckwitable. Pitbull as actual southern rapper? Ehh. 84,000,000 youtube views don't lie. Those are Avril Lavigne/Taylor Swift numbers, B.

Q-Tip- "Barely in Love"

Unlike the Mos track, this actually does get ruined by the chorus, which tramples awkwardly into an early 70's rock thing, even though I get the feeling the whole thing is supposed to evoke Stevie Wonder and Sly & the Family Stone. Still, the verses kill, and if I maligned a song for only having one good part, half the thrash, black metal and death metal songs on my iTunes would've already been deleted.

Raekwon- "Have Mercy (Feat. Beanie Sigel)"

The track that caught my ear enough to make me revisit the album enough to actually enjoy it, sort of like "Incarcerated Scarfaces" was on the original. Beanie is kind of Philly's Scarface and everything he evokes on the track, which is blessed with the welcome return of Blue Raspberry, hits home. It doesn't rush, it doesn't drop instantly dated and kind of dumb references, it does what a well-written verse of any genre should do, which is deliver its ideas patiently:
"My days getting shorter, my nights getting longer
My cell getting smaller, my son getting taller
I exercise my mind, my body getting stronger
But my blood getting colder, heart getting harder
My chances for appeal, getting slimmer
My skin getting brighter, my hair getting thinner
See, when you stressed out, you could age fast in here (have mercy)
I done seen weak niggas not last a year, so before lights out
I write my kids every night, kiss the stamp on the kite
And say a prayer, I hope it lands safe in this flights
I pray they sleep safe through the night
Try to teach my son right, give him some jewels
But it's hard to raise my boy from this visiting room
Many cells turned to prisoner's tombs
I just pray I don't die in here, and last night I almost cried a tear
(have mercy)"

Delivered by someone who has actually done a few bids, its probably one of the better takes on jail since "Up North Trip" (or at least the OZ Soundtrack from '99)

Rick Ross- "Usual Suspects (Feat. Nas)"

I really still can't believe how amazing, like legitimately amazing, some of Deeper Than Rap. How did he get these beats in a recession? Who is really clamoring to give Rick Ross such impossibly lush and frequently affecting songs to rap about crab meats over? And what if JUSTICE League produced an entire Nas album? Surely it'd be infinitely better than what Jay Electronica and Polow Da Don gave him for NIGGER.


Ryan Leslie- "You're Not My Girl"

Sa-Ra Creative Partners-"White Cloud"
Imeem/Youtube again. This album should be copped anyway on general principle, though. The flipside of that rule I mentioned in regards to posting the dance track on Til The Casket Drops, Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love has too many great tracks, so I picked the most incongruous one, their acid-damaged dance track.

Souls of Mischief- "Tour Stories"

Who knew they put out a record? Especially a consistently good one? With Prince Paul helming most of the production?

Notable for the "Chillin in Australia with them white Jamaicans" line alone.

Space Ghost Cowboys- "Time Goes By, Whatever"
Can't really find this anywhere yet because they aren't that popular outside of Purchase, or at least on the level of Moving Mountains or Dan Deacon, so I'll just have to gush for a sentence or two without audio evidence about how amazing the band is and how they're probably the only legitimately good band or act to have ever emerged from Purchase. Our school produces mostly indulgent or derivative bullshit in terms of the music scene, but this is the first thing since Communication Corporation I could confidently play to outsiders to demonstrate that Purchase bands aren't just a clique-y circle jerk of pretentious studio comp majors.

U-God- "Magnum Force (Feat. Jim Jones & Sheek Louch)"

U-God is now making better records than GZA and Meth. I'm scared.

UGK- "Harry Asshole (Feat. Webbie & Lil' Boosie)"

T.I.'s on house arrest, Pimp C is dead, Bun B fell off, and Boosie, Gucci and Wayne are all doing bids or going to have to do bids. Its a rough time if you're one of the top shelf Southern rappers right now.

Anyway, the beat recycling and concept recycling on the final UGK album is a little bothersome, but an entire song about pubic hair on scrippas over the "Pocket Full of Stones Beat" just needed to be made.

Vivian Girls- "The End"

Chosen for being the most forlorn track on Everything Goes Wrong

Wale- "Pretty Girls (Feat. Gucci Mane)"

Wavves- "Summer Goth"

None of this record should be as good as it is.

The Widest Smiling Faces-"Jellyfish"

"Jellyfish" is my favorite Aviv song, but here's "The Only Lonely Ocean Instead", since I think watching him perform that says a lot more.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs- "Heads Will Roll"

"And that's a one hot song every 5 year average/And that's so (laaaaaaaaaaaaaaame)"
To be fair, investing in a post-DFA synth-rock sound two years after it would've made sense or been profitable to do so probably works out well when your audience is composed of faux-riot grrls with subscriptions to Seventeen and Teen People.

50 Cent- "Tia Told Me"

The beat and hook are great, but the issue is that you have to actually give a shit that Ross was a C.O. to really embrace the lyrics. The craft is there, a bit of that "I Get Money" spark left over before it really flickered out, but its moot. Especially the line "We don't wanna hear your Mafia tough talk/That fake fuck voice don't fly in New Yawk". Really? I've been in Brooklyn 20 years and I'm pretty sure that's all that flies in NY, B.

Best Songs of 2009 Pt. 1

This year's commentary on songs that I thought were better than other songs is especially long, mainly due to the pretty good year its been for albums and singles. As always, I began the year complaining and ended it overwhelmed by great music, some of which I'm rushing to digest as I'm typing this (about 14 albums) so I can get the album list up by Thursday afternoon at the very latest. Will I succeed? If there's food and drugs around in the next few days, then that's a no.

Beyonce- "Video Phone (Feat. Lady Gaga)"

The last two Beyonce albums took me a year to enjoy, the former due to some sort of egregious oversight on my part, the latter because the ballad portion of I Am...Sasha Fierce was just terrible. I don't enjoy hearing Beyonce sing ballads because, though most likely on key, her voice tends to sound like a horse neighing to me in the context of her having to emote in such a way (Which itself makes her duet with Shakira kind of a menagerie). But the "fierce" portion turned out to be fucking great. At this point Beyonce's kind of robotic in her perfection of what's possible as a black pop singer, aided by the fact that from when I was a kid to now hip-hop, rather than say, Third Eye Blind, became the standard influence on pop radio production, even when the songwriting itself still harps on worn out pop-punk and post-grunge tropes. A perfect example of that meld actually is "Irreplaceable". But since the album's not going to make my list, I have to gush now about the indefatigable level of attitude and awesomeness here. The video's great, which is nothing new considering this last Beyonce album, and Lady Gaga manages to counter Beyonce's poise and measured choreography with what amounts to her interpretation of a "new way" NYC vogue freakout (shades of Leyomi Mizrahi?).

Absu- "Between The Absu of Eridu & Erich"

Amerie- "Pretty Brown (Feat. Trey Songz)"

Baroness- "The Sweetest Curse"

Never took them seriously as anything other than an imaginative 2004-era Mastodon clone until the dual leads come in halfway through, which besides supplanting the band that they clearly got most of their inspiration from, reminds me of how terrible Mastodon have become.

Bat For Lashes- "Daniel"

Beanie Sigel- "Think Big"

Beans is the kind of dude that I love in small doses, but could never sustain an album. He's the kind of rapper that can show up on a track like "Ignorant Shit" and lyrically annihilate it but after its all over you know you'll probably delete half any record you download from him afterward. Therefore 2:15 of Sigel going in in the middle of this weird "Waiting to Exhale" drama he's putting out in the public is optimal; no bullshit, just the Broad Street Bully getting it in on something that automatically caresses the automatically stans out for 90's rap throwbacks.

Brand New- "You Stole"

The minute the old guard emo/scene bands quit having any sort of ideas about commercial success is usually when they put out their best stuff. Poison the Well, Zao and Thursday come to mind, all acts who put out their best records after they were poised to maybe push more limited edition merch just to break even on tour. Out of all these bands, Brand New is the only one to have matched that abandoning of pop prospects or even radio programming with a great album all the way through, epitomized by the best song on the record, 6 minutes of watery guitar, brush drums, brooding, and a scant middle section guitar freakout.

Brutal Truth- "Evolution Through Revolution"
Myspace took over imeem and youtube is oddly bereft of any audio from this albums save for two songs, but its streaming on their myspace so there you can hear what basically sums up the Brutal Truth catalog: equal parts amazing and annoyingly dumb. There seems to, in Brutal Truth, Snoop, and Cephalic Carnage, be a common theme of aging potheads not only becoming sad and embarrassing, but terrible. This track represents Brutal Truth, whose dedication to almost /b/-tard levels of stupidity and shittiness on Evolution Through Revolution just continues the weird descent into self-parody that makes up a good quarter of Sounds of the Animal Kingdom, which even they now admit was recorded terribly because they're non-functional stoners. But this song is worth all the crap for the one cool riff they introduce every now and then.

Burnt By The Sun- "Inner Station"

The greatest grind-y chugXcore band of all time. By far. And one of the few Dave Witte projects that isn't terrible (looking at you Municipal Waste).

Busdriver- "Do The Wop"

Somehow Busdriver managed to release an even more niche album than the trippy prog-rap record he put out with Radioinactive and Daedalus 5 years ago, mainly because somehow the leap to Epitaph and success he got from the change in sound convinced him that filling his record full of Deerhoof and West Coast post-Dilla beatmakers would be a good idea, i.e. it should've been more Flying Lotus, less Nosaj Thing (even though the latter puts on an amazing DJ show). This is one of the least convoluted/unlistenable tracks on the record, which, as a stan, is a definite letdown.

Cam'Ron- "Get It In Ohio"

I could've done this on Frooty Loops unmastered and everything, which is a big reason Cam is endearing. Even on Come Home With Me there were songs that it seemed like no one cared to even attempt to make sound as good as the other songs on the record. But Cam sounds best over mixtape-fidelity beats, this being the most triumphant sounding shit on the whole record which, though he's lyrically in a rut at this point, is the closest thing to good he's released since Purple Haze.

Camera Obscura- "French Navy"

The sound of velvet sweaters filled with syrupy goo being picked at by incorrigible chinchillas.

Clipse- "Eyes On Me"

I usually like the most danceable track on a record for two reasons: either the record's pretty awful but its saving grace is said song, or the album's great and the dance track is incongruous and is easier to highlight than anything else. It's the former for this song, which is one of a few highlights on a pretty blah Clipse record, that felt half-assed and half-restrained instead of focused like, say, Hell Hath No Fury.

Converge- "Cruel Bloom"

Only strange due to the fact that it tends to lean more Tom Waits/Neurosis than their ballad-y, contemplative songs tended to in the past, but one of a handful of things I heard during the year I could actually call "beautiful" without feeling as though I'd have to justify myself.

Dizzee Rascal- "Dance Wiv Me"

DJ Class- "I'm The Shit Remix (Feat. Kanye West)"

The last two years at college have made me appreciate the power of a good club track a lot more than when stuff like J-Kwon and Juelz Santana was the norm and if you were lucky they'd pepper in some dancehall and soca so you could actually get into the vertical outercourse that was the entire purpose of you pre-gaming three shots of grain and loading your wallet with two packs of Trojans and your emergency contact number. At this point I'm more likely to go to a club or party to check out what's popular with people who don't spend all their time listening to 90's house and blackened thrash, which more often than not is pretty amazing stuff, even when it's terrible. I could write a dissertation on the power of song placement and genre and how "Sexual Eruption" and "Turn My Swag On" were the most important and powerful songs of last year, regardless of genre. "I'm the Shit" was usually packed in between house throwbacks and one or two Baltimore club songs, and though Baltimore club didn't really get ingrained in setlists up here like it might've elsewhere, this song's probably going into the canon.

DJ Paul- "Stay Wit Me"

DJ Quik and Kurupt- "Ohhh!"

The real reason people loved West Coast rap was because it sounded great at parties and was easily digestible. No multi-layering of jazz samples, no "rah rah!" yelling, just groove and an efficiency at storytelling that has been lacking from East Coast rap for a good minute now. If life was fair this would be a block party staple next to the "Cha-Cha Slide" and "Gin and Juice"

Don Omar- "Virtual Diva"

I am an asshole. And the Bronx is rife with STIs.

DOOM- "Batty Boyz"

The fact that people didn't get up in arms about this song is either testament to DOOM's lack of real-world popularity of the fact that this is actually one of the funnier and least-hostile anti-gay rap songs ever made, so much so that "anti-gay" is probably a little to describe the track. Basically the opposite end of the spectrum of "Boom Bye Bye"

Drake- "Houstalantavegas"

I love Drake as an R&B sanga, but as a sanga ternt rappa, he's pretty much just a faux-sophisticated mixtape rapper, which is why I put this over "Best I Ever Had". Being saved from his lyrics, which fall into the aughts-trend of not making much fucking sense or meaning as much as he thinks they do, is the main reason, but the fact that this is So Far Gone's ultimate "I put on music when I fuck" song puts it over the top.

The-Dream- "Rockin That Shit"

The most 80's Janet Jackson-sounding shit EVER. And fuck Fabolous. Honestly.

Eminem- "The Warning"

Sure, when the only good song you've put out in 5 years is a Mariah Carey diss track, you're clearly as dated and over-the-hill as Mariah herself, but its worth it to hear pre-Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Eminem.

The Flaming Lips- "Convinced of the Hex"

Erasing 5-6 years of "Meh" within 30 seconds

Game- "I'm So Wavy"

Still lyrically garbage, still with an ear for great beats, but now with the ability to actually rap. Could still get run over by Reginald Denny and not affect anything at all; dude's the definition of extraneous.

General Surgery- "Restrained Remains"

Ghostface Killah- "Stapleton Sex"

I have a personal list of things I subject friends to to see if they are, quite honestly, interesting enough to bother investing into a personal relationship with. FTM tranny on MTF tranny porn, Wonder Showzen, etc, etc. This song quickly got added to that list, and anyone flinching or getting overly conservative during this shit gets the gasface and demotion to "acquiantance". Disarmingly reckless yet even-handed and sex-positive as only Ghost could do.

Grand Puba- "Hunny"

Hits the same 90's old-head rap spot that Stakes Is High does. Sure, its sweater and Hennesey rap but there's nothing wrong with that.

Grizzly Bear- "Ready, Able"

Like every Grizzly Bear song, it's the chorus that does most of the work, though the build-up is just as important. 1:56 in though, the song reaches a well-earned crest of almost soulful ache in the melody. Something pretty enough to stage an low-budget rape scene around.

Gucci Mane- "Lemonade"

When I started seriously listening to Three 6 Mafia and UGK two years ago, I longed for a car, not for transportation but for the sole purpose of getting ridiculous speakers and enjoying my favorite tracks the way they were meant to be. This track, the best song on The State vs Radric Davis, is the kind of song that makes me alienate long-suffering friends and relative, the kind of blustering of "You don't understand how fucking amazing this is! Listen to the 70's-rock build-up the bass does in the chorus and then the knock it settles back into after each one!" or "Yes the song's about jewels, why does that matter?" that elicits eye rolls and snide dismissals from the kind of people trying to still push Elzhi or The Blueprint 3 on me.

HEALTH- "Die Slow"

If I had to rank this shit, this would probably be my second favorite song of the year, tapping into the two things I listened to most attentively my junior year of high school: pre-1994 industrial and post-punk with ghostly androgynous vocals. Although I can easily see why they're not that popular.

Jamie Foxx- "Speak French (Feat. Gucci Mane)"

If I had to rank this shit? Fourth favorite song. About a minute too long, and like "Lemonade" and "Die Slow", something I feel that I'd have to defend and explain rather than let speak for itself. Which seems insane to me, but "grim yet cunty" isn't quite the niche market they're trying to reach with this. Also reaffirms my belief that we're in a renaissance of music-to-miss-periods-to not seen since the early 90's.

Jay-Z-"Thank You"

The only thing on this typically half-shit/half-interesting album. Now that I'm not 12 anymore I tend to hold Jay on a higher pedestal than I did then, forgetting that the guy never did actually put out a classic. Sure I'd prefer an album of "Thank You"s, but units need to be pushed to continue to pay off Papa Knowles, so I have to be realistic. Shit, even Reasonable Doubt benefitted from and was elevated by critical hindsight, nostalgia, and the fact that 90's rap was arguably better because albums were still being constructed, as opposed to the current era of disjointed, filler-laden major label mixtapes. Still, first Jay track I've screw-faced over in years.

Jeremih- "Birthday Sex"

Guaranteed to make a room smell like pussy and cocoa butter. And maybe TCB hair products.

Joell Ortiz- "U.N.I.T.Y"

Only member of Slaughterhouse I fucks with for a reason. Who else could've flipped this song into a paean to platonic relationships?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

We Just Let Him Be Successful

I've got maybe one more post before I launch into the "Best of '09" list, so in the spirit of giving here's a story about me, Degrassi, and ketchup chips

"I'm goin in."- Pierre Trudeau

I've been meaning to do a post on Degrassi for two years now, but wasn't quite able to find the angle until the magic of synergy and the idiocy of handing college students the keys to the higher learning bureaucracy came together back in the ides of April of this year. My college has the dubious distinction of being where Wheelchair Jimmy had his coming out party as the creator of the 3rd best R&B album of the year (behind Ryan Leslie and Maxwell, natch). That distinction is dubious because his headlining of the first night of Culture Shock, our college's yearly clusterfuck of Livejournal-community trolling/infighting, character assassination, uninformed bitching, subcultural pandering, budget overspending, student government dilapidation, and occasionally moderately buzzed-about bands and carny rides, was met with the same polarized reaction's Aubrey still gets, "OMGILUVDRIZZY" and "The fuck is a Drake?"

That's a question I myself had around the time of the dust-up over 2008's Culture Shock lineup. Though I was still in a reactionary haze of "kill whitey" hipster derision and Pitchfork-baiting and went the hardest at Alaina Stamatis for her choices, that year was the work of someone who actually did a great job and just happened to have unfortunately picked a shedload of bands that invoked negative feelings regarding "hipster culture" and the very real gentrification/displacement happening in Bed-Stuy, Red Hook, and Bushwick. Bands that, considering the overlap between my school's music and arts scene and that of the middle-to-upper class pillaging of a borough I'd nostalgically like to keep Pabst-free, were just as beloved or buzzed about on my campus. This, of course, despite there being a very clear delineation between the zebra-print trust fund Jarmusches and let's say people who just wanted ska or some other dumb college kid cliche.

When all of this was going down, I was in the middle of a studio production class for non-music majors that I foolishly signed up for hoping to learn at least how to EQ some shit, but ended up leaving the course disappointed that the only thing I learned was about mic parts and types and headroom. In that class were a bunch of other disappointed people who, like me, had some association with music but weren't in the conservatory (except this one 6'4 guy who was an opera major and looked like a pro wrestler from the late 90's "Attitude"-era of the WWF) and wanted to know at least enough to get by themselves. Guitar players, this kid Omar who rapped, and this girl Christina, who was a 23-year-old Floridian and the only other Degrassi fan in the class. This last fact became apparent when, during the long stretches of free time and waiting around that happened in that class, she was on her Mac scrolling through album covers, and suddenly Drake comes up.

Earlier that year there was an episode of the show where, to both reinstate Jimmy's status as the ultimate token black kid and continue Degrassi's attempts to humor its actor's music careers (see Steele, Cassie), his latent murderball talents were augmented by rapping skills that were pretty much absent in earlier seasons (the skills, not the rapping, as WSHH eagerly exploited).

(Side note: Isn't it funny that Ashley's worries about being eclipsed and abandoned by someone more talented is exactly what happened to the entire cast of Degrassi as of So Far Gone coming out? ...Actually lets pretend that I'm not reading too far into Degrassi for thematic applications to real-life events.)

I was surprised at how decent Aubrey could rap, even though his bars weren't anything to write home about; really, Wheelchair Jimmy's skill level was only that of a half-dead Stack Bundles (guess which half). But he was decidedly better than Cassie Steele's "grunge/pop" or whatever the fuck she's touting herself as on her music myspace, or Jake Epstein's prescient mix of Jason Mraz's bland/embarassing collegiate soft rock and all the aesthetic and lyrical trappings of a white Long Island teenager in 2004. "Decidedly better than other musically-deluded Degrassi cast members" doesn't quite measure "promising career trajectory" so seeing the digital mixtape cover for Comeback Season and hearing Drake curse and talk about drugs only elicited the gas face. Sometime in 2007 I got heavy into blogs, and then all the assorted go-to rap sites like NahRight?, so I was more than familiar with the deluge of shitty-to-average mixtapes and internet albums and freestyle-a-day gimmicks that sub-prime mortgages have blessed us with the last two years or so. There certainly seemed to be thought in the presentation, which is always a good sign, but I was already writing Lil' Wayne off as having fallen off and reaching the zenith of potential that a mixtape rapper ever could by April, so why bother with anything nowhere near as good or interesting as Wayne circa 2004-2007?

By that same time this year, his buzz had reached a point I couldn't ignore, which really just meant NahRight? was spam-posting his tracks and that his affiliation with Lil'Wayne became a full-fledged co-signing and conscription into the Island of Lost Toys that is Young Money. Yet somehow I had gone all this time without having heard or seen any proof that people gave a shit. I downloaded Comeback Season and So Far Gone before the actual concert but I couldn't tear myself away from HORSE the Band and Fiona Apple long enough to force myself to listen to it. So I went in completely clueless as to what to expect of the 10pm-ish performance, 10pm-ish because while he was supposed to be already on campus, Drake was at Hot97 very nervously and awkwardly gesticulating and rapping off his Blackberry.

"Somethin something alcohol/yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah
Young Money, cars, alcohol/yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaah
Timmy! Timmy!/Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah
Can I do dat?/Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah"

That nervousness and awkwardness of watching a Canadian catch the holy spirit like a handicapped Tyler Perry character while consistently playing himself would continue throughout the evening and, really, throughout this year. Drake had assorted weed carriers onstage poorly stalling for time while I overheard kids talking about how he was with Flex at that very moment, which seemed like a bad move on his part but sort of par for the course with the behavior of the few non-hipster rap acts who have graced our campus (i.e. Cassidy being an overpaid bum who did a half an hour set after showing up late then bounced with the money). Official Culture ShockTM water bottles were thrown onstage repeatedly, each one confusing and irritating the assorted faux-thug Blanadians on stage. Then finally after probably half an hour the kid shows up. A headlining act that half the attendees had never heard of. A headlining act with no hits, Degrassi baggage to overcome, and no Lil' Wayne to save him if something goes wrong, refuting rumors of Wayne somehow showing up to our school for free.

And thus, the lights dim and I'm introduced to what is basically such watery post-808's rap'n'b that I almost felt like I was listening to the kind of early ambient that they'd play in spas or how I've always thought of the high-rise apartments you see in movies from the 80's. Shit Patrick Bateman would listen to. I'm not impressed. Later in the year I would be, but only because I stopped thinking of Drake as a rap act and started thinking of him as the kind of 00's R&B you could put on while you try to convince your girl that all that talk about pre-come causing pregnancy is an urban legend. He goes through "Uptown" and etc, but I couldn't help but tear apart his performance. Green as he clearly was/is, he came across incredibly disingenuous, like what someone's idea of "swagger" or being a mixtape rapper is, as opposed to actually being that on stage. Everything came across forced, like it was a put on or just another role. The crowd, or at least the female portion, went ape-shit for "Best I Ever Had", which came across as just another rap and bullshit song about simping and tricking, but with the romantic comedy addition of the notion that somehow you, the girl in the audience or at home, are the best sex he's ever had.

(Side note: Drake should start opening his set in a wheelchair and then collapsing only to triumphantly get up and rock the show like Nirvana did at Reading in '92. He could probably sing "The Rose", too, though that might be a bit heady for the Power 105 set.)

I left near the end of the song. I perceived his performance to have hit its peak and I needed to get food before the on-campus spot closed, so my priorities were set.

The next night, I would skip suffering through the Cool Kids, who are fucking awful, to attend a fashion show/Ricky Blaze performance scam put on my friend, whose healthy attendance was a monument to how much people disliked this year's Culture Shock lineup. Christina was happy about it, but her reasons were obvious.

The entire concept behind getting Drake to play Culture Shock was the same as getting Wale to play "Fall Fest", essentially a smaller, more neglected version of or spring concert, that previous semester was the thought of the winfall our college would get if we got in on the ground floor of a potential star. That didn't really work out in terms of Wale, he of decent lyrics and hideously/predictably overrated mixtapes, but weirdly enough, despite all the naysaying, Drake did. Probably the most press our school has gotten lately, outside of a student naming her play "Niggerback" or Billy Prinsell doing his public access show in blackface three years ago, is Drake. It still comes up in searches, and as long as people care about him, despite his tragicomic tendency to fuck himself over (as well as his suspect over-affected drawl), the college will be associated with more than just alumni like Regina Spektor, Dan Deacon, and Moby.

Considering we've never had a problem getting rappers to come to Purchase, the idea that Culture Shock would appeal to talent trying to get a platform seems to be more idealistic than anything. Culture Shock 2010 is currently being hammered out, and Drake's effect will probably reveal itself around then, but without some demonstrable change moves like that will have only affected Purchase's notoriety and maybe our profits, not the quality of our acts. Or else we might have to give cassie Steele a call after all.