Archive for December, 2012
10) Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
Dylan Baldi’s latest album scares me in the most brilliantly amazing way possible. What started a couple years ago as a heavy, low-fi basement project has turned into the most powerful indie-shred rock on the planet. This is perhaps the only band of the past 2 decades that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Nirvana.
09) Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls
If the Grammys have any integrity left, then the Shakes should be a shoe-in for Best New Artist. The pulsing soul-rock of the Brittany Howard-led band was my go-to record this year for early Summer evenings in the back yard, and it was hard to find a better match for sharing a cold beer with friends.
08) King Tuff – King Tuff
Tuff creates a world where he coexists with half of himself not giving a fuck about any of the pre-set boundaries of pop music, and the other half acting like the greatest pop-punk scholar of the past 2 decades. It’s an astoundingly warm land to share with him. Holy fuck this album is amazing.
07) Japandroids – Celebration Rock
They really couldn’t have named this album any better – punk rock with the melodies of classic rock boombastics and just the right usage of the word “fuck”. It’s hard not to completely love this album, and upon each listen you discover more subtleties in the recordings that make you realize how perfectly they made this record.
06) Beach House – Bloom
Luckily for all of us, the dream-pop duo essentially just made both a sonically and emotionally twin to their 2010 album Teen Dream with their latest record. Bloom has an extra spark of punch than its predecessor, but still is the most psychedelic drift-off of the year, and Beach House remain the crown-bearers of the dream-pop moniker.
05) Dr. Dog – Be the Void
A lot of the long-time fans of the Dog I know didn’t think this album was up to snub with their other masterpieces – I told them all they were out of their minds. While it may not necessarily have the striking indie-pop hits of some of the earlier records, Scott McMicken is astonishingly at the top of his lyrical game. This album tests how deep you’re willing to go with connecting your heart and soul to a present-minded yet traditional rock band, but the payoff is tremendous.
04) The Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now
This Swedish singer-songwriter does things with just his lyrics and acoustic-guitar that tens of thousands of folks would sell their souls to be able to do. If you love old-school 60’s Dylan, then this may the first guy who will ever come close to making you feel the same way. His first two albums were great, but this one is perfect.
03) Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes
To put it quite simply, there’s basically nobody in the same league as Steven Ellison when it comes to modern creative production. Calling him an electronic producer is an insult – he touches on classical, jazz, ambient, and anything else that would create the perfect sound he needs to manifest. The man is a true artist, and his music deserves to be showcased in the Museum of Modern Art.
02) Animal Collective – Centipede Hz
As crazy as it may sound, I thought things got a little too stream-lined on the last A.C. record, Merriweather Post Pavilion. But on this year’s album, they figured out how to once again mesh their totally nutso attack of instrumentation with the melodic pop sense of the previous record. Some folks found it too jumbled upon 1st listen, but if you give it a chance, it all makes perfect sense. It’s not only the most listenable album they’ve ever made, but my favorite of their career.
01) Sigur Rós – Valtari
The Icelandic lords of all things ethereal have had their fluttering moments of perfection since 1999’s Ágætis byrjun, but Valtari is the first full album that can stand by the magic of that breakthrough. You have no clue what the lyrics mean, but still they seem to shake the essence of your soul. This is music of the angels, and the last necessary piece of the puzzle to define these guys as one of the greatest bands of all time. Prepare for a massive shot of heart quivers.
20) Grimes – Visions
I gotta admit, it took me a hot minute to board the Claire Boucher train, but I’ve come to love this album. Cute and sinister haven’t coexisted this well together since The Christmas Critters episode of South Park. This was one of my go-to late night driving albums this year.
19) The Walkmen – Heaven
The most underrated band on the planet makes their most poignant album of all time with Heaven. This is the kind of shit modern rock aficionados dream of, and the title track is easily my favorite song of the year.
18) Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill
Ten minutes into the half-hour opening cut off Pill, you say to yourself – “Holy shit, this is some of the greatest rocking Neil Young I’ve ever fucking heard.” This album is both a blessing and a testament to the fact that you can make relevant and amazing rock music well past it’s time to start collecting your social security benefits.
17) The XX – Coexist
Things get a little bit more of a back-beat on The XX’s follow-up to their 2009 debut, but luckily sound just as spooky and drift-worthy. Being sad and British hasn’t seemed this appealing since The Cure first hit the scene.
16) Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
When J. Spaceman is on, the results can be truly breathtaking, and this latest record is just as epic as the hugest works from his past. If you want massive soul-rock, then this is about as big as it gets – their live gig in Portland this year was possibly my favorite show of 2012.
15) Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
After a decade of silence, I never thought we’d hear again from the deepest band on the planet. Allelujah continues their legacy of making huuuuge, epic, half-drone tunes that no other band would ever have the audacity or balls to attempt. This is probably the greatest and most unexpected reunion of the past 5 years.
14) Grizzly Bear – Shields
Finally these guys put out an album that wasn’t made to put preschoolers to sleep. If they hadn’t obnoxiously complained about not being nominated for a Grammy, I’d be totally excited for whatever was coming next, but now I feel like this will go down as their finest work. There’s no doubt that it’s the most brilliant indie-rock of the year.
13) Tame Impala – Lonerism
Thank God these Australians realized that dream-pop still had somewhere to grow and evolve to. Psychedelic floating over great melodies and fantastic lyrics – shit can’t be beat. If these guys keep their progression up, they could be one of the greatest bands on the planet in a couple more years.
12) Dan Deacon – America
I think the “U.S.A. Suite” on this record could be the line in the sand between folks who love music and folks who just love redundant pop. More so than ever, each track on Deacon’s latest is an honest-to-goodness journey through the literal wirings of modern sound’s potential. Dude’s my hero.
11) Jack White – Blunderbuss
This is the album Mr. White has been hoping to make for 15 years. This is the sound he envisioned for The White Stripes before embracing the fact that his ex-wife had absolutely no drumming skill whatsoever. This is the most influential artist of the past decade at the top of his game. Rock and roll survival music.
30) Yeasayer – Fragrant World
If you still haven’t become familiar with the obscure, dance-worthy psychedelia that is Yeasayer, then this latest album is a fantastic place to start. Every song’s turn is unexpected yet comfortable, and I wholeheartedly believe they’re one of the most important bands on the planet right now. They should be opening for Radiohead.
29) Benny Yurco – This is a Future
For any of us familiar with Benny’s dominating axe-slashing prowess, it’s hard to believe there’s not one guitar solo on this, his debut record. But then you realize how great these Kingston via Brooklyn tunes are, and it all makes sense.
28) Actress – R.I.P.
The ambient electronic magic of this album falls somewhere between the subtle wonder of Caribou and the genius production of Flying Lotus. If you’re worried that every producer is being subdued by the womp of dub-step, then this album is a huge sigh of relief.
27) Heems – Wild Water Kingdom
Heems released two mix-tapes this year that made you realize that maybe Das Racist breaking up isn’t as big of a bummer as first instincts project. Things clicked perfectly on WWK, where laid-back, spun-out beats created the perfect backdrop for his hilarious and furious attacks.
26) Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Modern soul music needed a good kick in the head, and thank God Ocean showed up to do it. Like anybody who’s heard it, I think the record is killer, but I feel it lacks the amazing hooks found in previous singles like “Novocaine” and “Swim Good.”
25) The Black Keys – El Camino
Shit, who would have thought a few years back that the Akron duo would become the biggest band in America? Bringing back Danger Mouse was a huge move, even though this album comes in a solid third to their previous 2 efforts. And yeah I know, this album actually came out in December of 2011, but it was fucking everywhere this year so deserves its spot on the list.
24) Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet on Sky
Ahhh, the 3rd album since Dino Jr.’s reunion 5 years ago is once again consistently amazing, and finds Mascis and crew truly at the top of their game. If you ever loved this band and haven’t given the new stuff a try, be prepared to love them even more than ever before.
23) Swans – The Seer
The legends of post-punk made the greatest album of the career this year, 30 years after this debut. Centered around the half-hour long title track, drone and darkness have never coexisted in such a land of triumphant light.
22) Dr. Dog – Wild Race E.P.
The tunes just keep fucking keep coming from the Dog gang, and like always, they’re undeniably amazing. I have no clue why “Be the Void” wasn’t on this year’s album of the same name, other than the fact that they needed to prove how many amazing songs they had tucked away still.
21) The Shins – Port of Morrow
Sure, James Mercer may have once again hired an entirely new band for this album, but his consistent onslaught of amazing songs makes him allowed to do whatever the fuck he wants. Deceptively complex pop music at its apex – keep em’ coming James.
40) Band of Horses – Mirage Rock
B.O.H. got a big chunk of their balls back on this album that they seemed to have lost on Infinite Arms. While still lacking a stand-out tune like the one that made you fall for this band on either of their 1st two albums, Mirage Rock is a solid statement that you shouldn’t forget about these guys just yet.
39) Best Coast – The Only Place
Bethany Cosentino made it quite clear on this, her sophomore release, that she has no plans any time soon of changing up the formula for her So-Cal garage-rock band, and that’s fucking fantastic. We need a regular go-to for bashing odes to the sun, and hopefully Best Coast will remain that go-to for quite some time.
38) Bear in Heaven – I Love You, It’s Cool
I had all but written off these guys in the past few years, but things went up a few notches on this latest Bear In Heaven release as they seemed to embrace every musical angle that make people hate bands from Brooklyn. Meshing rock and electronica together with no regrets and no excuses, this record’s great for late night city-gazing with headphones in the rain.
37) Marco Benevento – Tigerface
While the album starts out with a debatably off journey into lyrical pop territory, the rest of the record makes up for it with the brilliant instrumental melodies that Marco has made a name for himself with. It’s hard for him to shake the influences of both Vince Guaraldi and his old teacher Brad Mehldau, but why would he ever want to?
36) Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Things got shockingly yet refreshingly simple on the latest work of genius composer Dave Longstreth, and this album seems like an essential step in his sometimes eerie and always ethereal pop journey. This is maybe the most intelligent band on the planet.
35) David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant
Maybe the most ideal collaboration I could ever dream of, (other than Eddie Van Halen and Les Claypool ever teaming up,) Love This Giant takes Byrne’s funk obscurity, combines it with Annie Clark’s gently sharp attack, and puts a giant brass section underneath – I hope there’s a sequel.
34) Benjamin Gibbard – Former Lives
We’ve been hearing Gibbard deal with heartbreak for quite some time now, so it’s no surprise that it sounds perversely wonderful on this solo release. It’s lacking the drive of Death Cab’s drums, but the rest of the sonic exploration makes that well worth it.
33) Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes
Pink has always taken pop music into worlds familiar but previously unseen, and Mature Themes is the perfection of an AM radio station on Venus. This is the most gently odd album of the year, just like his next album will be, and the one after that ad infintum.
32) How to Dress Well – Total Loss
Tom Krell brought in a touch more of the R&B flave to Total Loss, his sophomore album, but that doesn’t take anything away from this being the dreamiest music out there. The kind of record that makes you glad to have a roof above you for fear of total drift off.
31) Bob Dylan – Tempest
Anybody who didn’t get the big man’s new album obviously hasn’t been paying attention to anything he’s done in the past 30 years. Yeah, we know, his voice sounds like shit – that’s kind of the point. These songs are the definition of epic and bold, and nobody else on the planet could have crafted them. And since Dylan doesn’t allow Youtube videos, then I’ll put up Tim Heidecker’s one-up Titanic song that intentionally beats out Dylan’s by a minute and a half.
50) fun. - Some Nights – At first I didn’t want to admit that I dug this album so much, but the fact is it’s some of the best pop music to come out in years. If Top 40 radio was more littered with this stuff than the emo/dub-step crossovers, then I might actually be listening to it. I could definitely do without some of the intentional auto-tuning on some of the tracks, but I’m not afraid to make this my #50 pick.
49) The Men – Open Your Heart- There’s post-punk, and there’s no-psychedelia, and then there’s The Men. This is straight up punk music like there hasn’t been in a while, and these guys have already forged a place for themselves at the table right next to The Buzzcocks.
48) Captain Murphy – Duality - When it was recently revealed that Murphy actually was the rapping alter ego of the genius producer Flying Lotus, it seemed like one of those – “How did I not realize that moments.” Obviously the beats are fly as hell on Duality, but his cartoon-hinged MF Doomish lines are equally as impressive.
47) Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror - I didn’t think it would possible for these Noise-Pop destroyers to get any more aggressive on their sophomore album, but sweet Jesus did they ever. I still think they’d be better off with an actual drummer than the drum machine they use, but they are still on a very conquering run.
46) Trey Anastasio – Traveler- Trey hasn’t made a solid album with either Phish or by himself since 1995′s Billy Breathes, but this one kind of comes close. The production work of Peter Katis is a huge step in the right direction, but unfortunately the songs just aren’t there to back it up.
45) A.C. Newman – Shut Down the Streets- The front-man for New Pornographers seems to have an endless run of song ideas under his belt, and this solo album lives up with some of his finer work with the band. It’s a little more stripped down, but still manages to put out the pop music sing-alongs from Venus kind of vibe.
44) Thee Oh Sees – Putrifiers II – The first time I heard these guys a few years back, I thought I had a clear picture of their sound – Now I have no idea what to expect and that makes them so much more amazing then I thought they were. Kind of like if the Flaming Lips decided to only do the hard, raging shit.
43) Nas – Life is Good- God’s son came in strong with this record and made a good case for the fact that he ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. I could do without the reggae tinged things he seems to be favoring since his Damien Marley collaboration, but this shit might be the best work he’s done since Illmatic.
42) Delta Spirit -Delta Spirit- If someone time traveled from the 60′s and wanted to know what good music sounded like today, I might play them this album before any other. Brooklyn rock at its finest, minus all the bells and whistles.
41) Chairlift - Something - This synth-pop duo may be the only folks out there that are actually pulling off being a synth-pop duo. This album grows on me more and more upon each listen, and Caroline Polachek has one of the most beautiful voices in the indie scene today.
In one of those awesomely profound WTF moments, the legendary DJ and producer DJ Shadow was actually kicked off of the tables at a headlining gig of his in Miami on Friday night. Even though the absurdly obnoxious Miami Mansion Nightclub had not only booked Shadow for the gig but had highly promoted him as the main attraction, whoever the snooty, coke-dripping fuck who runs the place is decided that Shadow’s music was “too future” for their 3 AM Friday night crowd – yes, his set started at 3 in the morning. I guess when a DJ is playing such amazing music that the crowd is actually focused on his set, it becomes a lot harder for the club to push $8 Heinekens. “Hey Tony, turn this crap off and plug in my iPhone so we can hear this sweet dub-step remix of “Gangnam Style.”" Honestly though, if this isn’t one of the most depressing signs of the end of the modern DJ, then I don’t know what is. I’m sure when he was bringing his turntables into the club that night, most of the bouncers there were like “Whoa, those are the craziest laptops I’ve ever seen.” Truly the club has no right or reason to call itself a music venue, and to be honest I don’t think it’s something they claim to be – but I mean, look at the venue – if I was a DJ it definitely seems like a hot room to rock. However, it doesn’t look like like the normal nor ideal place to be in the audience and watching a DJ perform. Shadow’s been pretty vocal on his Twitter feed about it. Today he posted “Obviously I should have never been booked there in the first place. Square peg in a round hole, etc.”
But to his awesome credit, he also posted this – “I don’t care if I get kicked out of every rich kid club on the planet. I will never sacrifice my integrity as a DJ…ever.” And this just a moment ago: “Ironically it was drum and bass that broke the camel’s back! Note to self…play more drum and bass!!!”
With all the latest news of DeadMaus basically saying he’s only in the DJ game for the money, and along with the whole other string of button-pushers out there, it’s great that there’s still a DJ that you can believe in and who’s actually standing up for himself and his music. I’ve had mad respect for Shadow ever since Entroducing… blew everybody’s minds in 1996, and now my love for the man has only gone light-years higher. Here’s a really shaky video of him getting kicked off the tables, as well as my favorite and the biggest and darkest track off that debut album, “Building Steam With a Grain of Salt.”
I recently completed my submissions to State of Mind magazine for my top songs of 2012, and while I hate admitting my love for something even quasi-popular, I couldn’t deny the power of The Alabama Shakes‘ track “Hold On.” This led me on a tangent thought about the reoccurring theme of holding on to shit in popular music, and how it’s one overly-used topic that I actually don’t tire of – my affinity for the A. Shakes song being proof of that. Thus, I thought it’d be a good time to correlate my top songs of all time that are based on the theme of holding. Longevity, pause, and tight connections – all united by the hold. Here they are, feel free to add ones that you think are superior. And yes, I did intentionally forget Wilson Phillips‘ “Hold On” and 38 Special‘s “Hold on Loosely” – because both those songs massively suck.
#6 – The Beatles – “I Want to Hold Your Hand”
It’s hard for us younger folk to really imagine what if felt like to first hear this song on the radio and realize that pop music was about to take a dramatic leap into the future, but there’s no doubting that the tune still holds up today. It was also the 1st song that made me realize fairly complicated chord structure can sound simple and pop-friendly when in the right hands. And c’mon, the desires of youth summed up in a simple phrase…
#5 – Beastie Boys – “Hold it Now Hit It”
This was my favorite track off of Licensed to Ill as a kid, and was potentially the biggest foreshadowing on the first album of The Beastie’s real power that was yet to come. The song is essentially all one big breakdown – and the allure of the dramatic pause that was presented fully affected my obscure dance moves for the rest of my life.
#4 – The Alabama Shakes – “Hold On”
Like I said before, the power behind this track is fucking undeniable. And I love the fact that it’s referencing the tight grip but also uses the big pause and hold to launch their attack. Good shit.
#3 – Smokey Robinson – “You Really Got a Hold on Me”
So many people have tried to release versions of this song, and I don’t know why the hell you would even try when Smokey just straight up crushed it from the get-go. It’s perhaps the greatest vocalization of the death grip on one’s heart ever put to a beat, and everyone’s had it hit home at some point.
#2 – Thompson Twins – “Hold Me Now”
What a fucking banger! That fuzz bass is just massive. Honestly, don’t say there hasn’t been a time in your life when this came on the radio and you just cranked the living fuck out of it. The pleading hold has never been pushed stronger. Ever heard this huge nine and a half long version?
#1 – Sam & Dave – “Hold on I’m Coming”
Probably one of the most bad-ass tunes of all time. Slow your roll bitch, I’m on my way!
You know how when you listen to a Girl Talk album, you say: “Oh, that shit sounds really fucking cool, but I feel like I could have done that on my little sister’s laptop”? Well the electro-wizard known as Dan Deacon has basically taken mash-ups to a whole new realm on his latest “mix” tape – this is the kind of thing where you say: “Oh shit, this sounds fucking nuts and I have no clue what’s actually happening.” Perhaps motivated by his brilliant sonic-success of this summer’s attack on the Carly Rae Jespen hit “Call Me Maybe Acapella 147 Times Exponentially Layered,” Deacon has just released a 5 track mix known as Wish Book Volume I. Hopefully the volume 1 part refers to more on the way, because nobody else is doing this stuff and we need to get as freaky as possible as we move into 2013. I know I was definitely not waiting for “Gangnam Style” to be mixed up with Grimes‘ “Oblivion” – but it takes a bold leap into the unknown. Take a listen below, and download the whole mix from Soundcloud HERE.
Here’s Deacons’ full rundown:
Hope you enjoy. Wish Book Volume 1 was made with music made by (in order of appearance): grimes+psy+beach house+skrillex+diplo+nicky da b+dirty projectors+lil wayne+nicki minaj+oneohtrix point never+tune yards+animal collective+rod stewart+the strokes+wiz khalifa+beyoncé+lcd sound system+death grips+ludacris+rihanna+the beatles+roy orbison+silver apples+katy perry+69 boyz+gary glitter+james brown+lmafo+black dice+the ronettes+r. kelly+black eyed peas+lenny kravitz+the misfits+2 chains+daftpunk+led zeppelin+the notorious b.i.g.+devo+lightning bolt+unknown artist recorded in jaipur, india+marvin gaye+radiohead+rage against the machine+salt n peppa+brian eno+madonna
This week M83 released the final video in their connected trilogy of epic mini-movies from tunes off last year’s brilliant Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. While the initial video for “Midnight City” was met with much acclaim from anyone who laid eyes on it, the follow-up video for “Reunion” sort of squeaked out with not much fanfare – probably because that tune isn’t nearly as epic as its predecessor. But now the 3rd installment has appeared with the tune “Wait,” which is the dreamiest cut off the album and probably my favorite, and most likely will reach the fame of the 1st video. But all 3 are brilliantly produced by the team of Fleur & Manum, and front-man Anthony Gonzales has claimed that the videos are somewhat of a tribute to Akira, Village of the Damned, and Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind. The first 2 references make sense as the story line is about children with heightened powers rising up to a new age of human purpose, but I think the Close Encounters reference just has to do with the fact that he digs aliens and shit. All 3 videos remind me more of the Arthur C. Clarke masterpiece, Childhood’s End, which if you have yet to read – then go spend 8 bucks and read it today. Either way, here’s my interpretation of what’s going on with em. Here’s “Midnight City”.
Ok, so we’ve got this center where the government is collecting children who have exemplary powers of mental control and intellect – basically a more frightened version of the Xavier institute if you will. It’s not quiet a prison, but it definitely appears as if they’re held here against their will. So in comes this new little kid who seems to instantly be able to unify all the children in some sub-conscious mind-cloud. With the combined mental strength and motivation of the whole team, they are able to break free. Kids being kids, they make their way to an abandoned warehouse where they use their ESP to throw cars around and break shit. Then they go up on the rooftop and watch the sun set as they presumably haven’t had a chance to do that in a while and the sun seems to potentially provide the essence of their power. It’s also possible that they’re testing their true strength here and actually speeding up the rotation of the Earth and causing the sun to set earlier than usual, but that’s tough to determine. On to “Reunion”.
So one of the children didn’t escape with the others, and is now set up in a room where the evil government folk are manipulating her powers to use as a weapon for themselves. You can tell they’re using her for bad shit because her eyes go red here instead of that awesome stella blue. She locates the missing children and essentially explodes the inner divinity out of the youngest one to turn her into a homing beacon so that the bad folk can recapture them. This process kills the young girl, and the other kids are like “Fuck, we gotta get the fuck outta here.” They run away from their hunters til the one powerful kid from the beginning says, “Hold on, I think I got this shit.” At this point, the dark empowered child takes control of one of the hunter guys, and uses his body as a puppet for her own darkened attack. She lifts the SUV in the air and chucks it at the kids, but the little guy is able to stop it mid-flight. Then a few other super-kids show up, and with their combined power they are able to relaunch the SUV back at the hunters. This combined power of the enlightened children is enough to snap the darkened girl out of her manipulated trance. She takes off her wiring and gets out of there. The rest of the kids then go into a church and combine their sacred inner lights into one powerful force, and we see the sun rise. Perhaps insinuating again that they have this unified control of the sun or rotation of the Earth and that they are turning shit once more. To the conclusion – “Wait.”
All right, now shit gets really heavy. We’re in space and we see a mirrored pyramid shape floating around slightly reminiscent of the thing that held General Zod in Superman II, but more likely a reference to the monolith from 2001. With the faint image of one of the girls’ faces interspersed with shots of a galaxy in space, it appears that the children have now astrally projected themselves off of Earth, and thus perhaps they actually are the flying pyramid monoliths. Either way, we cut back down to a severely trashed city where the now lone girl who escaped from the last video is wandering past dead bodies and destruction. We see some guys brutally beating the fuck out of someone else and then we cut back to space where we see a massive explosion go off on Earth. This is the little girl exploding her powers out, destroying all the perceived evil of society around her and cleansing the Earth. We then see here walking the now completely barren world of nothingness where upon she extracts a drop of water from the land and begins the process of rebirth on the planet. Back in space, we see the true 2001 reference take place as the boy enters full Dave/Star Child mode – launching through the escalated motions of his existence as we see the DNA structure realigning. Cut back to Earth, where the young girl has now completely reformed things into a rain-forest paradise and has essentially become the new Mother Earth. She is the new creator and the new dawn of the next life of a cleansed world. At the same time, Star Child reaches his own next state of evolution, and in exhausted completion he and his monolithic pyramid self come crushing back into the Earth. The new age officially begins. Brilliant, beautiful stuff. Powerful sounds and imagery as we near the end of 2012 here. Kind makes you really want to hold tight to the people you love. And seriously, go read Childhood’s End right now – it’s essential for an understanding of modern human potentiality.
The music world has had to say farewell to two influential acts in the past few days, and before you call me completely fucking nuts to mention a modern, humorous, Brooklyn rap group in the same breath as one of the most influential jazz pianists of all time, just hear me out for a second. Both Dave Brubeck and Das Racist have been essential pieces of the framework of American music. Essential. Where we sit right now at the end of 2012 would not sound or look the same without either of them. But at the same time, neither of these acts’ passing should be met with mourn or sadness.
Dave Brubeck would have turned 92 today. Ninety-fucking-two. And he was still performing concerts up until 2011 – to say the man led a full and extended life is the understatement of the year. In 1959, Brubeck completely changed the shape of jazz and sound with the release of Time Out. Now this is the same year that Miles Davis released Kind of Blue which frankly sounds like a snoring grandfather compared to the explosive punch of Brubeck’s release. Some of my earliest memories as a young child are of my father playing “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk” on our baby-grand piano, and I’m fairly confident that having the odd time signatures of those tunes ingrained in my DNA at such a young age helped prep me for a lifetime of enjoying the eccentricities and odd specifics of both music and life. When I hear great piano players today, I can always hear the touch of Brubeck in their work – his striking of the keys and his embrace of the attack is something that all amazing pianists have tried to take into their soul at some point. Hell, I just mentioned him last week in my piece about the amazing Austin Peralta. So last night when I was listening to some of my favorite Brubeck tunes far past the midnight hour, with a glass of fine scotch by my side, I realized I wasn’t sad – I wasn’t mourning. In fact, it felt just the same as every late night that I’ve spent like that over the years. His music is transcendent – of stillness and time, of joy and pain, of life and death. And when I flip through the neurons of my existence, “Blue Rondo a la Turk” will always be speeding through my brain.
So again, why the fuck would I include Brubeck’s passing in the same blog where I talk about a bunch of sarcastic jokers from Brooklyn breaking up their half-serious hip-hop act after only 5 years? Because this is good ole’ America. And in the same place where 50 years before, a white jazz player could flip the lid on his whole scene and be angry that he gets more notoriety than his black counterparts, a Afro-Cuban American and Indian American could flip the whole lid on their own scene by sarcastically mocking the racial profiles that circle around our popular society. Heems and Kool A.D. are both those dudes that you smoke a blunt with at a 3 A.M. party in a tiny BK apartment while they totally rag on and destroy your drunk buddy puking in the corner. In a time when hip-hop had almost reached the extent of its shelf life, we needed some guys to come in and tell us to lighten the fuck up – all the time subtly and geniusly pointing out everything that’s wrong with all the shit we take so seriously. And like Brubeck, this is not the time to mourn the passing of Das Racist. They accomplished their mission. They kicked shit back into gear and helped rise a whole new brilliant independent rap scene from New York. They’re not pissed at each other – they’re not sad – they’re just moving on. They have every right to do whatever the fuck they want to do, and their residual ripple will continue to last as long as one can in our modern attention-deficit prone society. So I say long live America. Long live Das Racist. Long live Dave Brubeck. Long live us, and everything that makes us suck, and everything that makes us amazing.