1. Scott Walker – The Drift. Oh the bitter irony. Just a few posts ago I was bemoaning the rise of annoying, mogwai-voiced, Legend of Zelda reject Joanna Newsom, now I go and award warbly wonder Walker wecord-of-the-year. Uhm... I sorta contain multitudes, I guess. I won’t pretend this was the album I listened to most this year, but it was genuinely unique (an almost impossibly rare distinction at this point), darkly compelling and frequently brilliant in its Penderecki-meets-Zachary Brimstead clatter. Plus, how many other singers have the balls to use an evil Donald Duck voice on one track? There’s gotta be more of a sense of humor at work here than is readily acknowledged, in addition to the creepiness. The big question is, will anyone else ever follow in Walker’s footsteps and go from former teen pop idol to reclusive, avant garde, operatic artiste? Usher, get one cacophonous orchestra and slab of percussive frozen meat, please.
2. V/A – International Sad Hits vol. 1. A compilation of tracks from four artists - Kazuki Tomokawa and Kan Mikami from Japan, Kim Doo Soo from Korea and Fikret Kizilok from Turkey. I think it’s a no-brainer that I would buy a well-compiled comp simply called “Sad Hits." Add “International” to the title though and we’re really cooking, since you don't necessarily know if the lyrics are insipid in their native tongue. It’s all mournful folk music onto which you can project your own epic tales of woe. In mine I’m an exiled balloonist traversing the clouds with my superintelligent panda friend Sho-Bing. We come across a city in the clouds that has lots of cool lamps and is ruled by a young Mimi Rogers. Then I get into lots of crossbow battles with the Lemur People* who are running roughshod and breaking all the lamps. Plus, I’ve got a pornstache. Oops, wait, most of that was meant to go in the blurb for the “Non-Threateningly Bizarre Hits” comp. Pretend you just read something else.
3. Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped. The numbering in this list is sort of arbitrary, but for me this ended up being probably the most-listened-to rock album released this year. It’s also their best since ________. At the risk of my harsh words devastating him and causing him to dress sloppily, I won't miss Jim O'Rourke.
4. Mission of Burma – The Obliterati. So were they saving up that crack about Nancy Reagan’s head for 20+ years or what?
5. The Gossip – Standing in the Way of Control. The songwriting continues to improve and the riffs and singing are more righteous than ever.
6. Jay Reatard – Blood Visions. Great, moody, noir-edged punk somewhat reminiscent of the Wipers.
7. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Have you heard? She’s kinda hot. But now everybody’s all about Jenny Lewis. Sorry, but I picture Jenny Lewis having a bunch of Muppeteers and nimrods in Christmas sweaters as her frustrated platonic friends, all of them drinking strawberry shakes and singing along to Bryan Adams' Greatest Hits (what the hell am I talking about?). Give me Neko any day. I don’t like this as much as Blacklisted but it’s still great and more ambitious.
8. Bob Dylan – Modern Times. For people who thought “One Froggy Evening” wasn’t actually froggy enough.
9. Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Make You Go Out to the Backyard, Pick a Switch, Then Come Back Here So I Can Beat Your Ass With It. James McNew talks tough in these album titles but let’s hear him try to cut a convincing promo on The Magnificent Muraco. Yeah, I thought so.
10. Ghostface Killah – Fish Scale. Did you catch his 30 Rock cameo a few weeks ago? Can The Ghostface Variety Hour be far behind (and if so, has U-God been practicing his plate-spinning skillz)?
HOTT JAMMZZ (as seen on Club MTV®)
(Gnarls Barkley's most ingenious costumes yet)
1. Gnarls Barkley – "The Crazy Song" (aka "Captain Crazy"). Did a Kidz Bop version ever come out? Listing this here reminded me of this maddening, idiotic, Chuck Klosterman-penned NY Times article from June. Seriously, this article’s crimes are legion and it would take a whole seperate post to get into it. Why didn’t I do that six months ago, anyway? Is it too late? No, it’s never too late (“What about the fact that no one cares?”) “No one cares” is the new “people care,” wise guy.
2. Robert Pollard – "Love is Stronger Than Witchcraft." Easily one of his best non-GBV tracks, ranking with the likes of “Alone, Stinking and Unafraid,” “Supernatural Car Lover” and “Gifford’s Enchanted Sweatshirt"... whoops, I think I just made that last one up. I can't really tell anymore.
3. Junior Boys – "In the Morning." Low-key electro(-ish) pop, pulsating yet melancholic (“Oh yeah, that’s the stuff”). Huh? (“C’mon, be more obtuse. Just a little more, c’mon.”) Uhm, okay… uh… the supple groove is like a shimmering chimera, subtly shifting in dynamics while churning dancefloors like a worldweary buttersmith (“Oooooh yeah, that’s it! Blog me hard, baby!!”). OK, this is too creepy. Next track… (“No wait, talk to me about Destroyer! C’mon, Rubies, baby, RUBIES!! C’MON!!”).
4. Gnarls Barkley – "Smiley Faces." I may actually like this even better than “Crazy” but I don’t want to piss off any Hilton family members or troubled, schizophrenic Kidz Boppers who have access to loaded weapons by admitting it.
5. Clipse – "Wamp Wamp (What it Do)." I don’t completely get the hype around the album yet but this song is awesome (“awesome” being a popular slang term among contemporary urban youths). It would no doubt match up perfectly with the next freaky “Little Superstar” Bollywood footage that'll be dug up and turned into an online “sensation.”
6. DC Snipers – "All Humans are Garbage." I wouldn’t go so far as to call Missle Sunset album of the year, but at least it blew up and knocked Panic at THE! disco off the charts… oh, wait…
7. Cat Power – "The Greatest." Whatever happened to that possible SNL audition Chan alluded to a while back? Maybe she should apply herself instead to finally wrting a song half as depressing as the average Seth Meyers sketch.
8. Justin Timberlake – "Sexy Back." The first time I heard this, I didn’t know what it was and thought that Peaches had hooked up with some hot shit producer or something. Then I found out it was by this Henry-lookin’ motherfucker (wait, you don’t think "Henry" will catch on as a derogatory term for guys with overgrown infant heads? You’re wrong. Just dead wrong.) Do you suppose New Kids on the Block are bitter because they didn’t have Timbaland taking an inexplicable interest in them back in the day? This song is also entertaining because it presumes that sexy was somehow undervalued as a commodity for a time, like it was off somewhere taking a bethonged power nap.
9. Portastatic – "Sour Shores." Poor Mac doesn’t get the attention he deserves. Even now, I can’t think of anything to say about this song. Except it’s good and all. Damn.
10. Hank IV – "Got Got." This song is ok, it’s pretty rockin,’ but the sole reason it’s top ten is because it was inspired by Omar from The Wire. Note to all musicians: I will grant any music about or inspired by The Wire a slot on next year’s prestigious top ten list. I don’t care about your previous crimes against music. James Blunt can croon to a velvet painting of Snoop in his next video; Phil Collins can rewrite “Another Day in Paradise” so that it’s about Dukie; Joanna Newsom can record an 18-minute track for kazoo orchestra about Herc stealing the Triforce of Power from Ganon. I don’t care, it’ll all go on the list. Bet that.
(Still trying to forget Michael K. Williams' role in "Trapped in the Closet")
*Originally it was the "Manatee People" but I've since learned that manatees are off limits. That'll teach me to stray from lemur country.