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Take it Back to 2002 (Sam Hunt)

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These are some things that I, Sam Hunt, enjoyed in 2002.

Take it Back to 2002 (Sam Hunt)

These are people, albums and things that I enjoyed.

Kid606/Miguel Depedro – While The Action Packed Mentalist Brings You the Fucking Jams, Kid606’s crowning achievement of the past year, was largely ignored by the hype-builders that be, his various collaborations and manifestations spun a web sufficiently wide to attract fans of all genres and attitudes. His taste-making was almost as savvy as his beat-making, as his Tigerbeat6 (/Violent Turd) imprints leapt out of their pissy-electro roots to incorporate everything from new age noise to new wave electro-punk to spaced-out psychedelia. As well, his match-making shined through via a series of 3” cds which found predictably unlikely shared space among Black Dice, Erase Errata, Dalek, the Numbers, and many others. Cex and Gold Chains both wedged partially serious rhymes between devastating beats ‘n’ tones to offer some of the year’s most innovative (if not simply the most fun) hip hop albums. K606 also turned his nose to the Boom Selector by releasing dj mash-up albums by Djs /rupture and Broken Window, both of whom dug a little deeper than 2 Many Djs to mix the obscure with the even obscurer, proving that shock value is not the genre’s only merit. Kid606 himself showed us improved versions of his many personalities. The Action Packed Mentalist Brings You the Fucking Jams mashed up mash-ups to the brink of destruction, introducing explosive maxed-out bass and methed-out vocal samples to his own punked-out electronic tones. In the process he remixed and rethought everything from D12 to Radiohead to the Bangles, and did so without missing a beat. His 3” cd, Why I Love Life, seemed to pick up where he left off with the mellow tones of PS I Love You, this time adding melodic and tonal depth, but without sacrificing any of the subtle delicacy of his past work. He worked with Dalek to make Ruin It and provided screamingly sick beats to Dalek’s raspy flow, complementing and showing up the expectedly quality rhymes. I’m a bit worried that at this rate Depedro will overextend into mediocrity, but until it happens I’m all ears.

Tim Barnes – Another silently omnipresent character from the past year, Barnes’ name was a trademark of quality that reached all corners of the music world. His percussive and multi-instrumental collaboration with PG Six (Pat Gubler) on the stunning Parlor Tricks and Porch Favorites added a tense structure and pastoral excitement to Gubler’s lazy psych-folk tunes and break-downs. His talents as a drummer landed him on tour with Neil Haggerty (as part of the Barnes-White double drum assault), Pullman (one of the best shows of the past year as Barnes stepped forward during the encore to play guitar on a cover of Brian Eno’s “Here Come the Warm Jets"), Wilco (popping up at their NYC shows and sometimes even on network tv), and eventually playing by himself or with Glen Kotche. His label, Quakebasket/Locust, released his own solo album (featuring only himself and his drum set – an admittedly tough sit), Glen Kotche’s tonally divine solo album, a Chicago Underground-esqu Darin Gray/Kotche collaboration, and a number of worthy reissues. Best of all, not once during any of these projects did he appear to be having anything but the time of his life. Barnes’ approachably giddy outlook makes him easy to like, and his commendably varied and high-quality music output elevates him even further.

Touch and Go Records – 2001 was a pretty dismal year for Touch and Go. Their releases all seemed to hit with a dull thud, rather than the explosive bang for which they had become so trusted and well-known. It was beginning to seem that perhaps this once infallible institution was starting to become (gasp) not as cool as they once were. Worst of all, their founder and president Corey Rusk was nearly paralyzed in a motorcycle accident, understandably redirecting concerns toward ensuring Rusk’s quick recovery. But by March of 2002 Touch and Go was already beginning to look like a label transformed. Enon, who had washed ashore from the defunct (and barely ever funct) SeeThru Broadcasting label, came back to their Braniac roots and released High Society, a spastic, catchy scatterbrained rock delight that featured Blonde Redhead’s Toko Yasuda sharing vocal duties. The Mekons and Silkworm both released typically solid albums, but showed no signs of their hipness diminishing with age. The Black Heart Procession’s Amore Del Tropico, however, was a vast departure from previous albums, adding lush instrumentation and angrier structure to augment their signature morose sound. Recent signees the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and !!! brought critical attention and praise to Touch and Go as they returned to their perch atop the lists of “hip” labels, embracing two of the best acts of the NYC “fun” scene. Steve Albini helped to deliver Nina Nastasia, a timid NYC singer-songwriter whose first album was issued in something like a 500-copy run. The Blackened Air, her Touch and Go debut, was a stunningly instrumented and flawlessly produced masterpiece that earned her the praise of Will Oldham fans everywhere, as well as a spot on the Shellac-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties. The UK’s ATP was a celebration of Touch and Go acts, past and present, and was surely a lifetime high point not only for the curator, but for his implicit partner and facilitator, Corey Rusk. This is the stuff of Reader’s Digest and made-for-tv movies.

All Tomorrow’s Parties – Presided over by uber-curator and online eccentric Barry Hogan, the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival (in which one act is allowed to invite a festival’s worth of acts) made its US debut on the campus of UCLA in March as Sonic Youth did their best to mingle noteworthies of the avant garde with equally noteworthies of rock’s past and present. Eddie Vedder, Cat Power, Television, the Boredoms, Black Dice, Big Star, Stereolab, Dead C, Wilco, Merzbow, Aphex Twin and Sleater Kinney were among those who mingled and performed while members of Sonic Youth popped in for guest guitar work of every possible nature. Across the ocean in southern England, the Shellac-curated ATP brought Mission of Burma, the Fall, Cheap Trick and the Breeders, as well as a thorough retrospective of Touch and Go’s catalog and characters. Will Oldham played Arise Therefore beginning to end, The Oxes burned down the house with their trademarked wireless assault as well as a rotating cast of guest drummers (as well as debuting their hilarious Oxes-Wireless Pink Flag parody t-shirts), and a bunch of guys dressed up as ninjas got chased around by an actual ninja. The ATP institution is as good in practice as it is on paper. Each festival serves both to honor its curator as well as to expose attendees to an unbelievably wide variety of styles and tastes. The rock-and-roll summer camp atmosphere that accompanies the resort-housed UK ATP was definitely missing from the somewhat alienating confines of UCLA, but not enough to spoil the mood. Next year’s curators Autechre, Matt Groening and Stephen Malkmus are sure to offer equally diverse and irresistible lineups. As well, the revised locale of the LA festival and the outskirts resort that will host the NYC branch should bring the mood of the US incarnations a bit closer to that of the original UK setting.

Comedy -- After years of cult accumulation, it appears as if the most talented comedians of the 1990s are finally starting to receive their just due. David Cross released his achingly funny and brutally political double live album, Shut Up You Fucking Baby, on Sub Pop, offering commentary on weighty issues such as the post-9/11 cancellation of football games (“but I bought all these snacks!”), redneck fights (“you done riled the wrong motherfucker, motherfucker”), the Catholic church (“which just got a whoooole lot sexier”) and best of all, the US Government. Along with Bob Odenkirk, Cross took the entire Mr. Show extravaganza on the road, selling out theaters even with tickets steeply priced. David Wain, Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black, all former members of MTV’s brilliant sketch comedy show The State, finally made skits from the new "Stella" project available to the public (www.stellacomedy.com), and as suspected, they are brilliant. Never did giant black dildos, funny faces, silly dancing, and repeated phony ass-kickings seem like such intelligent humor, but every Stella short can be watched ad-nauseum (sometimes literally) without losing any of the initial impact. Look for these guys to take the act on the road in 2003, and look for me at every show. The dubiously originated Just Farr a Laugh prank call compilation found its maker calling up booking agents and singing song excerpts over the phone, calling a local supermarket as a distraught Barry White to complain of being mocked for his appearance (“I was wearing these shades and the Eddie Murphet/Golden Child/Tom Tom Club/Do the Right Thing/Worldbeat style hat, just to remain inconspicuous...”), and calling various establishments as the persona of a lonley dimwit named "Bleachy." Meanwhile Jon Wurster’s is-it-real-is-it-fake Stereolaffs debauchery persisted with Chain Fights, Beer Busts and Service with a Grin, a double disc set made with WFMU's Tom Scharpling. Featured performer Charles R. Martin, The Music Scholar, even took a moment to tell Dusted about his all-time favorites (www.dustedmagazine.com/features/14). Liam Lynch and Matt Crocco, creators of MTV’s Sifl and Olly show, released a DVD of Sifl and Olly’s long lost third season. Their combination of non-sequiting characters with absurd (and stragely catchy songs) helps to make them to two funniest sock puppets that I’ve ever seen. Crescent fresh songs like “Whatever" (chorus: “Cuz this is my United States of whatever!”) and “Clown in Prison” make me wonder what the fuck MTV was thinking when they pulled the plug on these guys.

Duhh -- While I feel no guilt in my enjoyment of Andrew WK and mash-ups, their merit is considerably more difficult to justify than, um, most of the other things on this list, thus they are lumped into the same category. Andrew WK’s I Get Wet was a dopey, brief, wholely derivative album devoted entirely to WK’s central beliefs in partying hard and not quitting. All of this came from a former tape label owner and Wolf Eyes collaborator. Many wondered if he was serious or if his fans were all part of some giant social experiment. Eventually music fans began to simply enjoy his jovial presence above his rock contemporaries, as his campaign for serious fun silently (and loudly) mocked the serious angst of non-garage commercial rock. Why not? Another form of complement via quasi-parody came when “mash-ups” or “bootlegs” began to seep across the Internet to the United States. Bootlegged bootlegs (at $20+) of The Best Bootlegs in the World Ever compiled double-hits like “Smells Like Nirvana” (featuring a cappella version of Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious” perfectly laid on top of an instrumental loop of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”), a Stroke of Genius (The Strokes’ “Hard to Explain” + Xtina Aguilara’s “Genie in a Bottle”), and many others. It was surprising at how well many of these songs fit together, and even more surprising that this mashing often had considerble synergy. 2 Many Djs, a fairly anonymous British duo, championed the genre by spinning some of the best mash-ups on BBC radio, as well as many of their own. The samples were cleared and licensed for use ONLY in Luxembourg, and copies of As Heard on Radio Soulwax Volume 2 gradually became available (at import prices) in the U.S.. AHRS not only brought the hits, but it presented them in an ingeniously sequence thematic order, not only combining lyrically similar songs, but maintaining something of a consistent flow of ideas throughout the album's 60+ minutes. It turned a cheap thrill into something of a bit more substance, and offered a faint legitimacy to a heavily (and often rightfully) mocked genre.

Ten of my Favorite Releases of 2002
1. Black Dice - Beaches and Canyons - DFA
2. Plush - Fed - After Hours
3. Kid606 - The Action Packed Mentalist Brings You the Fucking Jams - Tigerbeat6
4. Nina Nastasia - The Blackened Air - Touch and Go
5. 2 Many Djs - As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2 - PIAS
6. PG Six - Parlor Tricks and Porch Favorites - Amish
7. Gold Chains - Gold Chains / Straight From Your Radio - Orthlorng Musork / Tigerbeat6
8. Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf - Interscope
9. Mirah - Advisory Committee - K
10. Richard Buckner - Impasse - Overcoat

By Sam Hunt

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