December 2010 archives

December 31, 2010

Favorite albums of 2010

Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot...The Son Of Chico Dusty
After languishing in record label limbo (and perhaps benefiting from the long gestation period), 2010 finally saw the release of the OutKast member's solo record. With rubbery beats and a funk backbone descended from Bootsy Collins and the Godfather (the title references the southern slang phrase "gettin' out on the good foot" and, no doubt, James himself), Big Boi kept bottoms bouncing.

How to Dress Well, Love Remains
An album that sounds like it was recorded underwater, the sounds just seem to surface before being washed back under the waves. Much has been made of Tom Krell's R&B interests, and this deconstruction of the genre, filtering it through indie rock's lo-fi lens (with echoes of William Baskinski's Disintegration Loops), produced one of the most haunting and haunted records of the year.

JJ, JJ nÂș 3
While it doesn't live up to their last album, JJ No.3 doesn't really falter either. I found myself playing one right after the other a lot when this came out, and the two albums went together like two halves of a whole. Or rather like the ultra-extended play of the last album. In many ways, this album makes the list because of that.

Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
While there's no ranking on this list, make no mistake. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy tops the charts (as evidenced by the artwork, above). A baroque exploration into West's psyche that proves more is more, this album is relentless in its pursuit of ideas, browbeating one into submission. It didn't quite hit me on the first listen (though my mother actually commented that she liked one of the songs), it grabbed my ears and still hasn't let go after I watched the 30 minute video for "Runaway." Somehow, I love even the songs I don't like. The only album I actually purchased on vinyl this year (even tho it's already on backorder after having dropped on Tuesday).

Nicki Minaj, Barbie World (The Mixtape)
Before showing up all over Kanye West's album (and releasing an album of her own) Minaj set the stage with this mixtape. Barbie World manages to bring back Aqua and Annie Lennox in the span of the first two tracks. Maybe it's the nostalgia that those tracks garner or maybe that it manages to burnish the reputation of tracks I had all but forgotten when resequenced in this mixtape, but it poised Minaj to take over.

Robyn, Body Talk Pt. 1
In a year that saw no less than three EPs by pop queen Robyn (plus an LP that cherry-picks tracks from the three), my favorite continued to be the first EP. Driven by the propulsive "Dancing on My Own" (in a version I prefer over that released on the album) followed the rocking "Cry When You Get Older" I found myself returning again and again to this introduction to the pop project that Robyn would be working on through the year.

The Tallest Man on Earth, The Wild Hunt
Kristian Matsson's second album manages to improve on his first as he steps more firmly out from under Bob Dylan's shadow and into his own. The slightly ragged production highlights his voice and the sparse arrangements, leaving space for the sentiment contained therein to burrow into your emotional subconscious.

Wild Nothing, Gemini
The promise and release of summer run through this album, which manages to hit so many dream-pop touchstones and references that it would take paragraphs to outline them all. High school memories abound. I just want to get in my car and drive on empty roads thorugh wide open spaces, top down, radio up.

By eugene at 11:55 AM | Leave a comment | Tags: ,

December 31, 2010

Favorite songs, 2010

It's the end of the year, and so time for some idocyncratic year end lists. I love year end lists so I might as well add to the mix!

Drake "Karaoke" from Thank Me Later
An easy-going synth jam that speaks to the difficulties of relationships, I found myself listening to this on those long evening bus rides through the various parts of the world.

The Dream, "Yamaha" from Love King
The type of jam Prince would have tossed off in the 80s (I would die 4 u?, maybe?) it captures the thrill and excitement of street club love.

Iyaz "Replay" from Replay
Before trying to lay claim to an autotuned Chris Brown on his album, Iyaz released this single with a difficult melodic line that winds its way around chorus. The tricky melody hooked me and didn't let me go for weeks. Just ask Karen.

Justin Beiber, "Baby" from My World 2.0
Somehow, when Michael Jackson sang in his pre-teens he already had managed to exhude a certain amount of bass and sex and danger. Not so, Beiber, who is all treble and puppy love. Still, this pop confection managed captivate my aural sweet tooth. The Luda appearance rapping about his 13-year old first love seems, well, ludicrous, but somehow it all adds up to the fun.

Kanye West, "Runaway" from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Opening with a single repeated piano note that suggests Terry Riley's "In C" on prozac, "Runaway" builds into an a dark heavy indictment of his own failings. And just when you think it might be over along comes a coda reminiscent of Eric Clapton's "Layla" or B.Fleischmann's hidden cover of "Torn" at the End of Pop Loops For Breakfast. It's over indulgent and over the top but like almost everything else on the album it works magically and majestically.

LCD Soundsystem "All I Want" from This Is Happening
It's just a sliding guitar and a steady beat, but it comes together in such an amazing way that I found myself returning again and again to this song that was more of a "rock song" than the dance music for which they're known.

Mos Dub, "History Town" from Mos Dub
Max Tannone's mashup of Mos Def with dub reggae wasn't a total success for me, but I couldn't resist this combination of Mos with Desmond Dekker.

The New Pornographers, "Moves" from Together
Crunching guitars lead to slightly off-beat keyboard ryhthms in this entry. It's a highly produced track, with a lot of aural tricks sprinkled throughout the track, and I thoroughly enjoyed them all. Unfortunately, the rest of the album didn't prove quite as memorable.

Rihanna, "What's My Name" from Loud
Remember Ja Rule and Ashanti? Mesmerize? Something about this song takes me back to what I remember being the early days of rappers and R&B singer collaborations. At any rate, there's something about Rihanna's voice that I really love, and this song suggests the warm nights and late night relationships that keep the memory of summer alive in the cold winter months.

Robyn, "Dancing On My Own" from Body Talk Pt. 1
A driving song that commands your attention from the first pulsing synths, Robyn's fraught declarations of herself in the face of lost love are both painful and yet amazingly danceable. I prefer the version on the first Body Talk ep, but I can't argue with the album version either.

Shakira and Freshlyground, "Waka Waka"
This year's World Cup saw Shakira joining forces with South African Afro-fusion band Freshlyground to create an anthem from which you couldn't run. My favorite parts are actually the Freshlyground verses and the highlife-ish guitars.

Tallest Man on Earth, "The Wild Hunt" from The Wild Hunt
The beautiful (and somewhat Dylan-esque) opening track of that sets the stage for his latest album, it suggests the wide open cover art with just enough banjo to scratch that itch I have.

The Very Best "You Got The Love (remix)"
I missed the XX boat last year (though I did see them in concert) but this remix brought them back to me with a Very Best bonus.

Wild Nothing "Summer Holiday" from Gemini
It sounds just like the title implies, which makes me long for the summer to come.

By eugene at 11:44 AM | Leave a comment | Tags: ,

I've come to really admire Roman floor mosaics. In Croatia, I kept searching and searching for "The Punishment of Dirce" in the city of Pula. I returned again and again to the spot listed in the guidebook after giving up hope of ever locating it. I asked a number of people. Some didn't know; some pointed to a sign on the Ulica Sergijevaca that pointed west, alongside a sign that indicated the location of the Chapel of St. Mary of Formosa. The latter I could find; as to the former, I was lost.

One woman told me the mosaic was hard to find. She directed me up a small street and told me to take a left. Then another left. She told me I would see a sign. Eventually, I located it behind a makeshift car park beside the entrance to an apartment complex. A corrugated iron roof protected it from the elements. It was sunken into the ground. The sign the woman had mentioned was on a concrete wall posted at a height of 10 feet above the ground.

The mosaic was worth the hunt. I had seen a photo of it in the archeological musem after I had given up searching the first time. It convinced me to search again.

I first became aware of Roman floor mosaics in Jordan on visits to Jerash and Madba. In the latter town, I was introduced to the Madba mosiac map, the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land, as described by Wikipedia. The church in which it is located, the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George, is not alone in boasting fine mosiacs, as hundreds are scattered throughout the town.

Back in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is hosting a Roman mosaic from Lod. Discovered in 1996, the mosaic floor was only recently uncovered and displayed, in situ, in 2009. The exhibit at the Met is the first time it is being exhibited to the general public. It's tucked away at the back of the Greek and Roman galleries, and is well worth a stop if you find yourself in the neighborhood on a vist to the museum.

By eugene at 8:38 AM | Leave a comment | Tags: ,