2009: Daniel Levin Becker
My yurr-end favorites this yurr include a suspicious number of lead singles and side-one-track-ones. Make of that what you will: the album is on its way out, pop was really good in 2009, the collective attention span is beginning to buckle under the deleterious effects of multitasking, we’re all deluged with content and I’m doing a below-average job of riding the wave. Among the few full albums I stuck with (without having or choosing to write about them), none did anything I’d call novel or innovative; even the singles, for the most part, didn’t show off new moves so much as make old ones look easy. No doubt it’s me, not them, but so be it. One takes comfort where one can these days.
Secret burblings buried in fields of pillowy noise, seafaring legends encoded in one layer out of every hundred. The Ballasted Orchestra with phasers set to ‘warm.’
I feel about "Hysteric" in 2009 the way I felt about "Maps" in 2003, except in the interim the band has redeemed itself more or less completely in my estimations, thanks in no small measure to Dave Sitek’s moonlight gig as the Timbaland of New York indie rock.
Kind of like ten different rainy Sunday nights as viewed from a moving train. (Could be any day of the week, really, but the coolest song here is called "Sunday Night.") Agreeably bleary and, for what it’s worth amid all the oh-aren’t-they-done-yet Deerhunter mishegoss, refreshingly unpretentious.
Not to be confused with all the other self-titled albums; also somewhat diminished with respect to the fun of tracking down/comparing/correctly identifying versions in the Cohran boys’ catalog. But better and sharper than ever.
There’s one of these every year (give or take nine months for domestic release): a simple, emphatic album by some dudes, in this case five from New Zealand, who’ve done their post-rock homework instead of trying to solder together a post-post-. Ender have the tidal drone thing down and know just how long to keep it up. Let the greater ambitions come with age.
So there’s still a bit of life in emo, even in a year where the Get Up Kids publicly apologize for godfathering it. This album certainly does nothing new, either in contradiction to or in complicity with its title (hard to tell with the congenitally earnest), but it hones the standard grievance-airings into jagged, rhythmic impeccability.
Floating around online as a radio rip, which actually only makes it better: Jay’s leftfield wit and footloose rhyme sense just soak up the interference and spit it back out cooler than ever. Top-shelf Just Blaze beat, lucid five-percenter weirdness, plus a last verse that would bear using whatever executes your listening device’s rewind function, if it weren’t already taken care of for you on-air.
Computer blue. Darling pinky.
A mincing, honking tree-hug of a single that comes so close to erring on the wrong side of the sentimental that its lovely, wholesome subtlety is all the more exceptional. Just about makes up for Karl Blau’s awful cover of Why?’s "This Blackest Purse."
Skyscraper reads like an experiment trading in shadowy NYC for the other shadowy parts of the world; this song, more successfully than the title track, manages to slip geography altogether and settle into a noirish non-place that suits Paul Banks’s antsy auteurism nicely.
No freaking clue what this song is about, but it’s hard not to bounce along. One of the year’s better album titles too.
Perfect balance between serenity and disquiet. On just about all levels, at that, even if there should maybe have been parentheses around the W.
Chamber Music was easy to ignore, what with Cuban Linx 2 and the El Michels record (and, uh, "Stapleton Sex") getting all the buzz this year, but it pays off if you’re willing to take it with the grain of salt necessary for pretty much everything RZA curates these days. It’s also been so much easier to love M.O.P. since this happened.
One unexpected dip into Yo La Tengo worship and suddenly the whole enterprise makes a lot more sense.
What’s a lovely voice like you doing in idiotic lyrics like these?
Points above all – at the risk of overthinking an otherwise sporting club jam – for underlining its own comical, autotuned artifice instead of trying to pass it by unnoticed. Let’s not even talk about the video.
BlaQKout wasn’t the revelation it was billed as, but for my money it’s still better than that Dâm-Funk business.
By Daniel Levin Becker