Monday, January 12, 2009

Best of 2008: Songs (Part 2)

Portishead, “Plastic” (from Third)
One of the strengths of Third is that it doesn’t ride from obvious single to obvious single; it’s an album, in the most cohesive sense of that word. Extracting any one song from the front-to-back flow of the thing robs both of some of their power and grace. That said, several songs do stand up on their own, and “Plastic” is one of them. In its prematurely-truncated drum sample rests the crux of Portishead’s continuing power: the interplay of the authentic masquerading as the artificial and the artificial muddying the waters of authenticity.

The Raveonettes, “Hallucinations” (from Lust, Lust, Lust)
“Downstairs on the sidewalk I kissed Stella some more – those cliffhanger kisses, you know, when you feel as if you’ll drop to your doom if your tongues untwine – before she sank into the seat of her car and disappeared. Then I stood there for a long while, my heart a sparkler spraying light across the sidewalk.” – Johnny Miles, Dear American Airlines

The Walkmen, “On the Water” (from You and Me)
Song of the year. No point in repeating myself. Read all about my gushy love here.

Sun Kil Moon, “Tonight the Sky” (from April)
Sometimes it just takes a song ten minutes to properly unfold. Don’t rush a guy.

The Funkees, “Akula Owu Onyeara” (from Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Nigerian Blues, 1970-76)
A token inclusion from one of my favourite reissues of ought-eight (more on reissues in another post). Seems that compilations of Nigerian music are a dime a dozen these days, but this one shook my ass on several occasions. Also, I just watched Ginger Baker in Africa (more on that in another post) and I feel the need to include this. I know nothing about The Funkees, but this shit is crazy.

Dave Douglas and Keystone, “Kitten” (from Moonshine)
Awesome how Adam Benjamin makes his keyboard sound like a fuzzed-out guitar, no? That’s right: no guitar.

The Vandermark 5, “Speedplay (For Max Roach)” (from Beat Reader)
The world in seven minutes. Long live Vandermark.

The Peggy Lee Band, “Scribble Town” (from New Code)

DJ/rupture and Andy Moor, “One Hundred Month Bloom” (from Patches)
Notable for the sample/interpolation of “Today” by the Smashing Pumpkins. Also notable for incredibleness.

Bill Dixon and the Exploding Star Orchestra, “Constellations for Innerlight Projections (For Bill Dixon)” (from s/t)
I defy you to make sense of the spoken word bit. The song’s strength is as a showcase for this amazing ensemble, at once expansive and agile. They turn on a dime, rise to deafening heights, turn inward, crash upon themselves as though they were a single player.

Mary Halvorson Trio, “Momentary Lapse (No. 1)” (from Dragon’s Head)
Looking forward to her next release.

Matana Roberts, “Nomra” (from The Chicago Project)
Wonderful player, wonderful band.

Francois Carrier, “Experience” (from Within)
Not as monolithically impressive, perhaps, as “Core,” the (aptly-named) forty-minute centerpiece of Within, but a beautiful piece of group improvisation nonetheless.

Angles, “Every Woman is a Tree” (from Every Woman is a Tree)
Stylistic similarities to On Cortez by Dragons 1976 – a group of contemporary players mining the fertile nexus of hard bop and free music as you might’ve found on mid-‘60s Blue Note (think bands featuring Jackie McLean and Bobby Hutcherson), while still finding new directions to push the sound. I can’t recommend this album enough.

The Bitter Funeral Beer Band, “Chetu” (from Live in Frankfurt ’82)
“A bit drum circle-y,” said Mark-O. Maybe so. But I keep getting drawn further and further into this space where world and free music meet.

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