Thursday, December 28, 2006


It still shocks me that so much of the country apparently relies on the major broadcast networks (NBC, CBS, ABC) for its news. I'm sadly not at all surprised that CBS dropped the ball so significantly in reporting the death of President Ford. When major news breaks, the BF and I immediately turn to the cable news channels: CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News (I deplore their politics, but when it comes to breaking news, they're generally on top of it). Who would turn to, say, ABC for anything other than Desperate Housewives?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2006: The year in comps part 3

J. Period - The Best of the Isley Brothers (mixtape)
Had I remembered to - it's rare when I just up and forget something in my year-end voting, but because this is a mixtape (I guess), I'd not included it here - this likely would've been in my top 10 albums of the year; having not heard DJ Drama and Lil' Wayne's Dedication 2, this is definitely my mixtape of the year, y'heard? J. Period does the Isleys legacy right, spotlighting hip hop tracks which have sampled their immense catalog alongside the classics themselves and new Isleys-based blends with some seriously hot rappers (Luda, CL Smooth, and others); of course it ends with Cube's "It Was A Good Day." In between you get the best-sounding history lesson ever - and it's sanctioned by the Isleys themselves. This sizzles.

Massive Attack - Collected
It's not quite as representative as I'd like - just 14 tracks? - but what's here is pretty uniformly stunning, from "Karmacoma" and "Unfinished Sympathy" to the new "Live with Me," featuring Terry Callier. The import's got another 10 tracks of rarities (including the Madonna collab "I Want You," one of her greatest tracks ever) and a bunch of videos. Yeah, you need this.

The Prodigy - Their Law: The Singles 1990-2005
Take this (again, go with the 2-disc) along with the abovementioned Massive Attack and, say, Underworld's 1992-2002 and the Chems' Singles 93-03 (double-disc version), and you've got a somewhat definitive history of big-deal electronica over the past 15 years. All deservedly big deals, I might add. Full review of this here.

(Part 1, Part 2.)

Late-breakers/incomplete '06 albums year-in-review

Daaaaaayum. There's a lotta late-breaking albums this year, aren't there? Ghostface's More Fish is probably the equal, at least, of Fishscale; I wonder if tossed-off Ghost is actually better? Vince Gill's These Days isn't late, really, but it took me a while to make it through four discs of Vinceanity. It's awfully good, though perhaps a bit overpraised. Then there's the new #1 album in the US, Nas' Hip Hop Is Dead - this is his second consecutive if-not-classic-then-damned-near (Streets' Disciple is seriously slept on); there's not a weak track to be found here. The Merle Haggard/George Jones collaboration, Kickin' Out the Footlights... Again, is seriously lovely as well.

For the record, I now count five great hip hop albums in a very weak year (agreed-upon, right?) for the genre: two Ghostface, Nas, Clipse, and (sleeper) Birdman & Lil' Wayne. Six if you include Missy's Respect M.E. import comp, and DMX is close. Plus there's of-hip-hop-if-not-exactly-hip-hop-sounding J Dilla's Donuts, and that BIG duets record which I like alot while admitting it's not all great. Great R&B albums of '06? Sadly, no new R&B made my top 20 (though some comps did: Chic, Stephanie Mills, Bobby Brown), but there are some good ones to be sure. To wit: Ne-Yo, MJB (Breakthrough, not that wack "hits" record), Beyoncé, Justin, and late-breaker-herself Ciara (whose album may end up the deepest of them all). Oops: and Prince's 3121 is pretty good, too.

Great year for country, though. Not only was there Cash's last will and testament (American V, I mean), but country-ish albums from Dylan and Jerry Lee joined him in my top 5. Alan Jackson, meanwhile, placed a pair in my top 20, with the beautifully hushed Like Red on a Rose beating out the beautifully gospel Precious Memories for a slot in my top 10. This was his career year, and it's a damned shame that more people didn't notice. (There's a lot more to Jackson than his 9/11 classic and "Chattahoochee," y'all.) And that wasn't all: the sadly ignored Barbara Mandrell tribute is superb, Little Big Town's '05 Mac-via-Mellencamp countryisms finally clicked this year (non-country types may particularly like their album), Josh Turner, Trent Willmon, and Julie Roberts all greatly impressed with sophomore efforts, and the Wreckers made a deserved rookie splash (Michelle Branch, who knew?). Plus Carrie Underwood's 2005 late-breaker spun off hit after great hit all year, peaking with her recent #1 "Before He Cheats."

Electronic music? Well, that Thom Yorke album was pretty good, as was the Pet Shop Boys' Fundamental (accept no substitutes, cop the deluxe edition with an extra disc of some smokin' remixes). Ghostly International's second comp is lovely if a bit long in the tooth, Henrik Schwartz's DJ Kicks another late-breaker, Mylo's '05-in-the-UK longplayer deserved better, and the Prodigy's remember-them? comp burned like Chuck D's Hollywood.

Oh, and I liked that Arctic Monkeys guitar-bass-drums album, too. And Sonic Youth are on a ridiculous late-40s/early-50s streak (like no one this side of guess who, Dylan), churning out insta-classics that aren't as easy as they look, while fellow New Yorkers TV on the Radio might yet be the inheritors of the SY legacy.

I know this is incomplete. So was 2006.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


(The Godfather circa '72, photo credit: AP/Dallas News)

Him from whom all funk blessings flowed - the most important musician of the past 50 years.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry and Gay

Happy Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

2006: The year in comps part 2

First things first: Stylus' top 50 singles (I blurbed Ciara's "Promise") and albums (Alan Jackson's Like Red on a Rose) of 2006. Added bonus today: our top reissues/comps of the year. (I did Missy's Respect M.E. and Stephanie Mills' Gold - at last, I got the divine Ms. Mills into Stylus! Mwah-hah-hah!)

You should know where my best of '06 lists are, if you're a regular around these parts. And here are 2 more of my favorite comps of the year.

The third volume in Family UK’s ongoing series (in which they remaster and compile on CD some of the decade’s finest-slash-most iconic 12” mixes) is as solid as its predecessors, if not moreso. This set’s divided into Pop, Club, and Soul & Funk discs, with the last succeeding the most, thanks to extended versions of Cameo’s “Single Life,” the Temptations’ marvelous toss-off “Treat Her Like A Lady,” Ready for the World’s “Oh Sheila” (what makes it better? More makes it better), and Quincy Jones’ “Ai No Corrida” (his 1980 album The Dude is more influential than you have any idea). All 3 discs are littered with joy, however, from “You Spin Me Around” and “I Can’t Go For That” to “I Wonder If I Take You Home” and “Love Can’t Turn Around.” Aces all around, then.

Diana Ross - The Definitive Collection
1. The kinda-sorta-genius of 1984’s “Swept Away,” co-written, co-produced (with Arthur Baker!), and featuring backing vocals by Daryl Hall. It’s also the most of-its-moment-sounding production Miss Ross ever sang atop.
2. Apart from a track from Blue (released this year, recorded in ’72 and shelved), there’s nothing here post-’84. Which, considering Ross’s output in the past 22 years, is a pretty good thing.
3. Finally, a Diana solo compilation. If you want Supremes tracks, get their Gold. (And you should.)
4. Crystalline remastering.
5. No padding – it’s only one disc.

1. Completely random, non-chronological sequencing.
2. “Theme From Mahogany,” a dreadful mid-‘70s theme from a better-than-you-think film.

“Yay” wins.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

2006: The year in comps part 1

This was probably the first year when I bought more compilations/remastered albums/reissues than new (quote-unquote) music. No apologies; Stephanie Mills' Gold, to pick but one example, brought me more joy than most of 2006's music. I don't think that means I'm getting "old," though I know some will disagree. (I'd argue contempo music-makers need to step they game up.) Some of my faves will be listed on Stylus, tomorrow I think. More will be posted here.

Energy 92.7 Presents Pure Dance
San Francisco’s independent dance FM puts together a charity comp of ’05 and ’06 pop-dance, and it’s an awfully fair – and mostly good – representation of the current state of dance (as opposed to electronic) music. Ferry Corsten’s storming Duran Duran-sampling “Fire” rubs up against Stunt’s great trance-pop “Raindrops” (which segues like a charm into Motorcycle’s lush “As the Rush Comes”), while elsewhere Shape: UK’s “Lola’s Theme” and Eric Prydz’s “Call on Me” make out in the red leather booth in the back corner. There are a few duds here (Filterfunk’s “S.O.S.” must be avoided), but if you like your dance choons big’n’shiny, it doesn’t get much better.

Prince - Ultimate Prince
It’s not perfect by any means. There’s no liners, and its first disc is completely unnecessary: 17 hits you already have on CD. But disc two is 11 of Prince’s extended mixes. On CD. At fucking last. The track selection is odd (and presumably done without Prince’s cooperation) – who was craving the Dance Remix of “Let’s Work”? – and unfortunately, songs on the first disc aren’t duplicated on the second, so you don’t get the epic 10-minute-plus “I Would Die 4 U,” for example. But you do get Sheila E.’s (!) Fresh Dance Mix of “Pop Life” (worth the price of admission on its own) and Shep Pettibone’s re-rub of “Hot Thing,” not to mention long versions of “Kiss” and “U Got the Look.” Plus the 12” Version of his classic b-side “She’s Always In My Hair,” possibly both D’Angelo’s and Andre 3000’s favorite song ever. So yeah, it’s worth it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Various artists

If they're smart, Rolling Stone will put Ahmet Ertegun on their next cover, after he died yesterday at 83. There's something perversely fitting about the fact that the last thing he did before falling into a coma was attend a Rolling Stones concert. He was music, period - one of the last of the great music men. He's influenced music more than most know. R.I.P., Ahmet.

Axl, stop draggin' my, stop draggin' my, stop draggin' my heart around. I'll believe it when I'm holding Chinese Democracy in my hands.

"You know it was never (my) intent to mock," O'Donnell said on Thursday's show, "and I'm sorry for those people who felt hurt or were teased on the playground." Fuck you, Rosie. What you said was racist. You may not have meant it that way, but it was. Admit it. "I'm sorry for those people who felt hurt" translates roughly as "I'm sorry you couldn't handle what I said," NOT "I'm sorry for what I said." And considering you cry homophobia any time anyone does/says anything you regard as "against" another homo (Gay Aiken, line 2, you little bitch), you've got a lot of fucking nerve. I am so over this fucking bitch. Shut up, Rosie, and go back to sea on one of your cruises, please. And stay there.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Oscarliciousness 3

Who I'd nominate right this moment, based solely on what I've actually seen. [Clarification: these are my personal picks. Apparently some people couldn't figure that out for themselves.]

The Departed
The Queen
Little Children
Thank You for Smoking

Leonardo DiCaprio - The Departed
Matt Damon - The Departed
Aaron Eckhart - Thank You for Smoking
Sacha Baron Cohen - Borat

Helen Mirren - The Queen
Penelope Cruz - Volver
Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet - Little Children
Abigail Breslin - Little Miss Sunshine

Supporting Actor
Jack Nicholson - The Departed
Mark Wahlberg - The Departed
Michael Sheen - The Queen
Jackie Earle Haley - Little Children
Steve Carell - Little Miss Sunshine

Supporting Actress*
Carmen Maura - Volver
Emily Blunt - The Devil Wears Prada
Meryl Streep - A Prairie Home Companion
Toni Colette - Little Miss Sunshine

Martin Scorcese - The Departed
Stephen Frears - The Queen
Pedro Almodovar - Volver
Robert Altman - A Prairie Home Companion**
Sofia Coppola - Marie Antoinette

Screenplay (not splitting, sue me)
The Departed
The Queen
Thank You for Smoking
Little Children

A Scanner Darkly

*I can't come up with 5 performances that echo strongly enough with me to slot here.
**Not because he's dead, either.
***There were only 2 I had an interest in seeing this year, and both exceeded my expectations.

Still to see: Half Nelson, Dreamgirls, Letters from Iwo Jima, Notes on a Scandal, The History Boys, United 93
Still not to see: Babel, Blood Diamond, Bobby
On the fence: Venus, The Pursuit of Happyness

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hank Williams, Jr. featuring Big & Rich, Van Zant, and Gretchen Wilson - "That's How They Do It In Dixie"* (Curb, 2006)

"That girl will throw a hissy"

White-trash video of the year, hands down - and that's a compliment. (Hank Jr.: good white trash. Hinder: bad white trash. Any questions?) Definitely one of my top 5 country singles of the year, and it'll probably crack my top 20 singles overall. Best thing Jr.'s done in damned near 20 years.

*From the album That's How They Do It In Dixie: The Essential Collection. Blogger only gives you so many characters for titles, and including the album title would've exceeded that limit.

Chris Rock - "No Sex" (Bigger & Blacker, DreamWorks, 1999)

Because sometimes it's good to be reminded that no matter what a stripper tells you, there's no sex in the champagne room. None.

(I remember catching some grief back in '99 when I put this in my top 5 singles of the year. I defended it then, and I'll still defend it. This is kinda-sorta genius.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

More Oscarliciousness: Film round-up 2

It's funny to think that when he started out, Pedro Almodovar probably had more in common with John Waters than about any other director. While Waters has (somewhat sadly) continued to play in his adolescent sandbox (I still [sometimes] love him, but c'mon), Almodovar has quietly become one of the most soulful filmmakers of his generation. Volver is a beautiful, beautiful film filled with luminescent camera work (by Jose Luis Alcane, working with Almodovar for a fourth time), a lovely little script by Almodovar himself, and most of all some superb performances by a number of Pedro's women. Carmen Maura is back in the fold for the first time in 18 years, and is marvelous as Irene, but obviously the star here is Penelope Cruz, better than ever back in her native tongue, as Raimunda. The camera clearly loves her (clichés are just that because they're sometimes true), and she loves it right back. This isn't a film of Pedro of yore, filled with cheap jokes; Volver is a loving look at women and the bonds of family which tie us, even after death. One of 2006's best, just barely below...

...The Queen, an unexpectedly moving, powerful film, and undoubtedly the finest work of Stephen Frears' career. Peter Morgan's script is the crown jewel here, a masterwork of economy and dialogue; Frears' direction is a close second. Performances are fairly great across the board (though James Cromwell isn't quite believable as Prince Phillip, and Sylvia Syms is overrated as a Queen Mother given not much to do): Helen Mirren in the lead role, of course - she melts into the role as Foxx and Hoffman have in Oscared years past - but also Michael Sheen's marvelous work as Tony Blair (he gets the private Blair behind the public one) and the sadly unlauded Alex Jennings as Prince Charles, a difficult role to which Jennings brings many layers of complex emotion. I left the theater stunned by how much I admired, and loved, this film. Both films: A

Also: I won't be seeing Babel, I don't think, because I finally saw Inarritu's last film, 21 Grams. And I hated it. The acting was superb, especially on the part of Naomi Watts, but the back-and-forth-in-time gimmick (and that's its only reason for being) was maddening, and the script so cloying I just kept looking at the clock, waiting for the film to end. It seems to me that Inarritu's a filmmaker who's truly crawled up his own ass, and that's a shame - he clearly has some talent, but needs some fucking focus. 21 Grams: D

Friday, December 08, 2006


1. Christgau's Consumer Guide is back! If you think I'm on his jock, you're absofuckinglutely right. No one's influenced me more as a writer.

2. Ciara's new album, Ciara: The Evolution, is rather kinda smokin'. Full review to come somwhere, somehow.

3. Holiday luncheons at work with free-flowing beers, wine, and margaritas (and great lemon bars, but I digress) make it a wonderful world, indeed.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Best. Thing. Ever. (Today.)

Christgau, reviewing Crunk Hits Vol. 2, on NPR's All Things Considered. And you can listen. As Lil' Jon might (just might) say, yeeeeeaaaah!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Carly Simon - "Why"* (Soup for One Soundtrack, Mirage, 1982)

Reposted from 8/11/2003 for Alf:

You want to know why Carly Simon's "Why" - which you might not even know of, let alone remember, unless you're the brill Marcello, largely 'cause it didn't even hit the U.S. top 40 (though it slipped its way up to #10 in the U.K.) - is so fucking astonishing, her best single ever (not that that takes so much doing, mind), and for that matter one of '82's high-water marks? Because it was produced and written by the Chic Organization, that's why. [When Nile and Bernard produced together, they used that moniker - also on Miss Ross's diana album, I believe - akin to a N*E*R*D/Neptunes kinda thing.]

Here's what Mr. Carlin said about said single yesterday in his amazing review of every single to enter the U.K. top 40 in 1982:

Brilliant autumn-period Chic masterpiece. The punctum here is how the synth wavers (Boards of Canada!) seemingly offpitch behind Simon's vocals, thus admitting the existence of vulnerability).

To which I'd add:

Not only does Carly's vocal sound vulnerable, she sounds pained, pierced, under attack, like she's nearly fixin' to die. And then the geniuses that are Nile and Bernard offset it with an almost-island-feeling melody (with the synths sounding too close for my comfort to steel drums at points, threatening to send the song into carnival-organ territory, which would make it honestly alarming in its cruelty [the contrast, I mean, the contrast]) - and yes, of course that's Norma Jean and Alfa on the backing vocals. [2006 correction: er, that'd be Luci and Alfa, since Norma Jean left after Chic's first album.] Center for just a moment around the 5:25 mark on the 12" version (a sterling example of the "if you take something great to begin with and extended it, it'll be even better" dictum), and hear the sudden introduction of a piano countering Carly's "la-dee-da-dee-da"s, and hear what Chic might've been like with Carly as their singer. Why is this bit only not even 10 seconds, I ask? [It's a rhetorical question regarding a genuine frustration.] This is sincerely, secretly avant-garde. This is a new wave. Nothing's shocking, you say? I reply, "listen to this."

"Why," sadly, never appeared on a proper Carly album (though it's now available on Rhino's 2002 Anthology double); it was recorded for the film Soup for One. I've never been a fan of Ms. Simon's, even with her stunningly supple voice (it's the material, people, and really, how many fucking times can she record standards anyway?). But this song makes the entire rest of her career worth it. Get it at any cost, and send thank-you notes to the usual address after. [And thank you, Marcello, for reminding me.] [2006 addendum: "Why" can be found (in its 7" edit, inexplicably) on the scorching '02 UK comp Cream Collect: Balearic, as well as on these records, most of which I believe are in print.]

*Updated: Alf's response.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Scott Woods is dead, long live Scott Woods.

Monday, December 04, 2006


My two favorite comments about the BCS disasters-to-be:

"Projected BCS matchups: Florida versus OSU in the Not-Fiesta Brought To You By Haphazard, Illogical Guesswork; Michigan versus USC in the Rose Brought To You By Aaaaargh; ND versus LSU in the Sugar Brought To You By Vicious Lopsided Beatdown; Wake Forest Versus Louisville in the Orange Brought To You By Seriously, Wake Forest?; Oklahoma versus Boise State in the Fiesta Brought To You By Wooo Ratings Bonanza. I'm a little bitter. Can you tell? Congratulations to Urban Meyer, the Florida Gators, and their 66-10 loss to Ohio State." (From The Fanhouse.)

"This all seems a lot of bluster to us; even if Michigan fans are right -- and personally, we think they are -- they're yelling at the wrong people. Yes, Walden and Buckner might be completely unqualified to be part of the decision-making process on this, but that there's a decision-making process on this at all is ridiculous. Until they fix this, this is going to happen every year, and we're going to have this same damned debate. And it's not going to change. This is why college football isn't as much fun as college basketball, and until they realize that, it never will be." (From Deadspin - my favorite sports site, hands-down, right now.)

Oh, and who were those talking douchebags on Fox's BCS Selection Show last night? Oh yeah, Fox doesn't have a college football crew, so they have to make one up. (Confidential to Barry Alvarez: don't ever dress yourself again. EVER.)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Jackin' Pop v Pazz & Jop

Good article in yesterday's NYT about the dueling polls to come. Stylus' year-end stuff will come sooner, and there's also the Nashville Scene Country Music Critics Poll to look forward to come January. It's the most wonderful time, etc. etc.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?