2008 – Above all, Hip-hop in all its multifaceted glory

12Feb09

(David writing)

  1. K’naan The Dusty Foot Philosopher (A)
  2. Randy Newman Harps & Angels
  3. TV on the Radio Dear Science
  4. Lil Wayne Tha Carter III
  5. Orchestra Baobab  Made in Dakar
  6. Honey Honey Loose Boots [EP]
  7. Drive-By Truckers Brighter than Creation’s Dark
  8. Girl Talk Feed the Animals
  9. Sleeping in the Aviary Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel
  10. Steinski What Does It All Mean? : 1983-2006 Retrospective
  11. Conor Oberst Conor Oberst
  12. Black Kids Partie Traumatic 
  13. DJ Yoda Fabriclive 39 (A-)
  14. Santogold Santogold
  15. Dan le Sac v. Scroobius Pip Angles
  16. Menya The Ol’ Reacharound  [EP]
  17. T.I. Paper Trail
  18. Robert Forster The Evangelist
  19. William Parker Quartet Petit Ouiseau
  20. Stew Passing Strange -Original Broadway Cast
  21. R.E.M. Accelerate
  22. Hayes Carll Trouble in Mind
  23. The Roots Rising Down
  24. Hamell on Trial Rant & Roll: Terrorism of Everyday Life
  25. Be Your Own Pet Get Damaged  [EP]
  26. Mike Edison I Have Fun Wherever I Go
  27. Taj Mahal Maestro
  28. Raphael Saadiq The Way I See It
  29. El Guincho Alegranza
  30. Kate Nash Made of Bricks
  31. Jean Grae Jeanius
  32. Nas (Untitled)
  33. The Mighty Underdogs Droppin’ Science Fiction
  34. Les Amazones de Guinee Wamato
  35. The Magnetic Fields Distortion
  36. No Age Nouns

 

 7 0r 8  hip-hop albums in my top 17,  my highest count since I don’t know when. But, OK, three of the six are DJ bricolage, more or less invented in 1983 (with some inspiration from Grandmaster Flash) by Steinski, whose collected works I list at #10, not really a new album, but the best of it has never been available legally before, though I’m not who says it’s legal now either).  (Girl Talk and DJ Yoda are the others).

It was Lil Wayne’s year, of course, but I’ll take K’naan not just for his far-seeing grace (and humor) under pressure, but for his tunes as well.

Aside from Lil Wayne himself, whose collected works I caught up with and immersed in throughout June, the biggest surprise for me was TV on the Radio. I was pretty skeptical through Cookie Mountain, and never thought than any of the new prog bands would take their music this far or slam it this hard and focused.

My hopes for Suzanne Santo (Honeyhoney) great new singer-songwriter (OK, so the guy does a lot of the writing anyway) have been dashed by a surprisingly dull major label debut — after all this time, why do majors still think the thing to do with a new artist is round off their edges, fade them out through a few runs in the wash. Or maybe they just didn’t have the songs. In either case, their indie debut Loose Boots makes a strong case for the EP as a form. I have three on my list, which probably hasn’t happened since the mid-’80’s, if then.  One, Menya’s, possibly the first band in history to gain notice specifically because they happen to be former students of a widely known rock critic, is in the classic record–and-release-what-you’ve-got-now mode of indie debut EPs. But the other one, Be Your Own Pet’s, is weird. With an indie album behind them, they got their major label debut this year, and I was real into it, in fact getting into an absurdly heated argument with Kenny while driving back from the Sierras towards his Central Valley home last summer about how hooky it was or wasn’t (real topic: But what are hooks?).  But later I had to sheepishly admit that Kenny was also right, because when I’d set up the playlist in itunes, I’d absentmindedly led the album with  the 3-song EP I’d downloaded from emusic. The EP turns out to be an indie release of three songs the major found too “violent,” including “Becky,” a tale of high school murder I found as hilarious as BYOP intended.  After the EP, the album never reaches those heights again, hooks included. So the EP is the keeper (including the indie debut, which I found not-quite-there).

The Mike Edison album is rudimentary boogie-rock over shouted tales of mayhem from a former editor of magazines about wrestling, marijuana and porn.  I kept coming back to Hayes Carll’s somewhat ordinary assortment of grounded relationship songs and rock life for “She Left Me For Jesus,” which is everything you might imagine and more.

Oh, and Kenny & I came up with our ’08  hip-hop tags independently — mine was a draft in December.   Does anyone else think was a standout year for hip-hop?

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2 Responses to “2008 – Above all, Hip-hop in all its multifaceted glory”

  1. 1 kmostern

    Have to say, David, I don’t think the problem with Honeyhoney’s First Rodeo has anything to do with the major label. I think the problem is they don’t have the songs, which is finally to say they don’t have enough reason for being. I want jazzy soul-singing white girls as much as anyone. But as I”ve said elsewhere, not a single one from the current crop has shown they have a reason for singing soul, unless total self-annihilation counts as such a reason. (This is a case where the reporting wasn’t what turned me off, but the more closely I listen to Rehab, the more I can’t stand Amy Winehouse.)

    Suzanne Santo will develop the songs when she answers this question. Which brings me to my real point, which is to answer your comments about the viability of the EP, a form that precisely shortchanges the question of concept and meaning. Singles (which are now “tracks”) are conceptual or not, but they are over in three minutes, and at least since the mid-1960s, no one has asked more of them as a form then that they be exciting for a short time. Albums give you the time to illustrate what you’re about. Precisely what an EP is is a sampler. You like the songs on Honeyhoney’s sampler, sure, listen to them — I think they’re OK too. But they don’t do what albums (can) do, and the length is the reason, and the reason I can’t compare the EP to the best albums of the year.

    In our early days, which was also the heyday of the EP, the best ones were R.E.M.’s “Chronic Town” and Let’s Active’s “Afoot.” (OK, “Metal Circus” too but my point is made most cleanly by comparing R.E.M. and Let’s Active.) The producer, record company, and context of both records are identical. Precisely what happened is that R.E.M. demonstrated that they had a sound, a set of new ideas that could be translated into song, and Let’s Active proved to run out of songs immediately, exacly like Honeyhoney. And for the last two and a half decades we’ve continued to listen to Chronic Town, and I’m sure you haven’t thought about “Afoot” once. Because of my greater attachment to power pop as such, I found it and listened to it again last year, first time since. I still enjoy it, and I still consider it as minor a record as I’ve ever enjoyed. That’s what EPs are.

  2. 2 schweitzito

    I’m sure you’re right that Loose Boots’ First Rodeo’s failings are their own, not their label’s — wishing otherwise was the talk of the fan in me.

    If you can compare a 40-minute workm with a 75-minute one, but not with a 15-minute one, where exactly does the cut-count or duration draw the line between EP and LP? When I realized I had no idea where that line was, I stopped worrying about what differences there might be. Of course, the counter-argument might be, well, why not compare songs to albums? If there are great albums with just two tracks — In A Silent Way comes to mind, though no rock, why not count singles as albums? I don’t, but a three-song 10-minute job is a possibility. If it works, it works. And what “works” means could and does of course fill books. And blogs.


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