The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #24

Various, Pop Royale (2011)

This is (ahem) a mixdisc assembled by me. When I was giving a guest lecture at an Arts Criticism class a couple weeks ago, I was caught more off-guard than I expected by the question “What is your taste?” And I gave a lamer-than-optimal answer. Something on the order of:  I’m very eclectic (do everything but childrens’ and straight classical). Have a few styles like trad Celtic and Flamenco vocals that I cannot bear, but that’s me not a judgement on the musics. Lyrics matter to me all the time — dippy words can drag down even excellent playing — but the most outstanding international songs work even if you don’t know the language. I’m more interested in what’s emerging than mulling over or even celebrating the past.

Then, a couple days ago, I ran across this disc, which I’m going to present as a compact incarnation of my taste. With some caveats, of course. In this same year-end sequence I had discs devoted to international and hip-hop, but those are represented here and if I could do a dream radio sequence it would be like this — all the transitions work, whether standouts from fine albums, best tracks on flawed releases, or long shots that nail the bullseye. Only one complaint (“Air Is Still” recommendations get to have one flaw): the last track ends too abruptly.

The final note is that around 2010 is when I felt I was hearing close to all the releases that I needed to hear. That I could stitch together a program like this with confidence. These days, the pens have to be a lot tighter — and I know there’s more things running around outside them.

  1. Poly Styrene, “I Luv Ur Sneakers”
  2. Paul Simon, “The Afterlife”
  3. Bombino. “Tar Hani” (My Love)
  4. Shabazz Palaces, “An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum”
  5. Serengeti, “Long Ears”
  6. Kiran Ahluwalia, “Mustt Mustt”
  7. Steve Cropper/Buddy Miller, “The Slummer the Slum”
  8. Pistol Annies, “Lemon Drop”
  9. Vijay Iyer, “Duality”
  10. Banquet of the Spirits, “Briel”
  11. Tom Waits, “Hell Broke Luce”
  12. Blaqstarr, “Wonder Woman”
  13. Wynton Marsalis/Eric Clapton, “Ice Cream”
  14. The Vivs, “Are You Coming Around?”
  15. James Vincent McMorrow, “Sparrow & the Wolf”
  16. Younger Brother, “Shine”
  17. Battles, “Africastle”
  18. Oneohtrix Point Never, “Andro”

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