Just a thought — a year that includes outstanding albums from deluxe veterans Yo La Tengo, Amy Rigby and John Prine underscores the waste and tragedy of Elvis stuck in unknown territory and pushed down the wrong path. Then gone, gone, gone.
I pray the Graceland footage includes the rooms they don’t allow tourists to visit. The place is an unmatched decorator-timescramble.
I have to correct an error I made on this list, by not doing what the title of this post says.
The clear high point for the Swedish rocker Gasolin’ was Gasolin’ 3, not the much milder and more tentative debut.
EDIT: Correcting the Correction —
No wonder I got confused … there were two versions of their third release. One in Swedish, one in English. Baker produced both. The one that zammed me so much was Gasolin’ (period), the version with lyrics I understand.
Don’t have a lot to say other than his work was always admirable and versatile.
And that his contributions to pop albums were exceptionally sophisticated in the right down-home way.
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.
- Poly Styrene, “I Luv Ur Sneakers”
- Paul Simon, “The Afterlife”
- Bombino. “Tar Hani” (My Love)
- Shabazz Palaces, “An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum”
- Serengeti, “Long Ears”
- Kiran Ahluwalia, “Mustt Mustt”
- Steve Cropper/Buddy Miller, “The Slummer the Slum”
- Pistol Annies, “Lemon Drop”
- Vijay Iyer, “Duality”
- Banquet of the Spirits, “Briel”
- Tom Waits, “Hell Broke Luce”
- Blaqstarr, “Wonder Woman”
- Wynton Marsalis/Eric Clapton, “Ice Cream”
- The Vivs, “Are You Coming Around?”
- James Vincent McMorrow, “Sparrow & the Wolf”
- Younger Brother, “Shine”
- Battles, “Africastle”
- Oneohtrix Point Never, “Andro”
This fine obit must be supplemented by me noting the Ventures, and Edwards in particular, changed my life in 1964 when my family got its first couch-sized stereo. Happened the installer had brought along The Ventures Play Telstar and The Lonely Bull (1963) to demonstrate the sound of the system. I had never heard speakers so large and never realized how much the detail of sounds could go into the impact of music. You had to have a certain kind of fluid technique and imagination to make pop instrumentals work. Wow. There was a lot more to music than I had realized.
My “Fresh Air” review. Couple points: I meant to review the Trio Da Kali collaboration when it came out last fall, but life got too complicated for a while. Proved to be a good thing, though, because the Landfall pairing is excellent in a quite different way. The triumph of string groups added to diverse modern music is my theme of the year. Carl Craig’s surprise wonder was my first discovery of the series.