Critics love to write year-end lists almost as much as they love to denounce the pointlessness of them. Therefore, I am happy to offer you a few words on some of the works that did not particularly offend me over the last year. To wit:
1. The collected, free online oeuvre of the soon-to-be-ubiquitous Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (oddfuture.tumblr.com)
I didn’t know teenagers still listened to hip hop, let alone recorded it, but this bulky L.A. collective of teen, middle-class Dadaist skate punks would appear to represent the posting of post-hip hop once and for all, in which the Four Elements (the DJ, the MC, graffiti artists and b-boys) are as relevant as Fred Sanford’s heart attacks, yet the subject matter (articulated sex and violence 4 EVAH) have been reified into formal necessities. Which is to say, the essence of teenhood. Listening to these ‘records’ – particularly those of 16-year-old Earl Sweatshirt, currently grounded by his mom – I can imagine what it might be like to be young in 2010. Good thing, as it ain’t gonna happen.
2. Mel Gibson’s phone calls to former girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva (godlikeproductions.com, among other spots)
Comparing Gibson’s weirdly coherent taunts, currently being used by his much-surgeried ex to leverage better ‘child support’, to the casual rape jokes of OFWGKTA, one is reminded of the gap between speech and speech acts, of exploring an established idea (taboo or otherwise) and threatening to hit your significant other in the face with a baseball bat. And yet, after listening to this collection of coked-up-sounding rants, one admits that Gibson is not merely a sociopath, but a clever one. Which renders him one up on 90 percent of the rest of Hollywood.
3. Gonjasufi: A Sufi and a Killer Warp
From articulation as a return of the repressed, to the slurred dissolve of speech into futuristic navel-gazing fantasy: child psychoanalyst Melanie Klein described how the infant can’t discern between the inner and outer worlds, and S+K is this year’s strongest conflation of the two, sounding like what I wished the White Stripes did before I’d actually heard them.
4. Charanjit Singh: Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat Bombay Connection
Indian accidental proto-techno from the early 1980s, it sounds enough like traditional Indian music and enough like conventional electronic music that when it fails to conform to either genre, the first impulse is to blame yourself for not understanding it.
5. Caribou: Swim City Slang
I harbor deep suspicions concerning the work of eggheads who cop a pop mood, but it’s the braininess and attention to detail that allow you to get caught up in the abundance, forgetting the detail.
6. Blondes: Touched Merock NKOTB.
I feel the same about this record as the Caribou, which should conserve column space.
7. These New Puritans: Hidden Domino
This record is so pompous I really dig it – it reminds me of one sort of adolescence in the same manner that OFWGKTA elicits another. With its Hunters & Collectors Burundi rhythms and Echo & the Bunnymen certainty of emotional apocalypse, this is for the kids who were pretty sure they weren’t goths, though the jocks tended to disagree when they were beating upon them.
8. Crystal Castles II Universal
Because their average fan is 11, people tend to look at the ‘extreme’ or goth-y aspects of Crystal Castles and not the pretty ones. I suspect that the duo is the one act out there carrying on the legacy of My Bloody Valentine, not in approach but in methodology, abstracting noise into beauty like pudding from a foil cup. That this sort of angry bliss should touch typical teens gives me a bit of hope for the future, at least until a teenager steals my gig.
This year the music I enjoyed the most either clarified states of adolescence or provided an escape from it. Sort of like Berlin, itself.