Monday, January 31, 2011

Elliott Smith: My Top Ten

So last night I decided not to go to bed and instead to put together a list of my favorite Elliott Smith tracks. Now I don't go that deep into his catalog, so a few of these may seem obvious, but he has enough work to make such a thing worth while:

10. "2:45 A.M."

This seems to be where the Beatles-y tunes of Smith's later career really started, with a scale, a slow build, and a shit-kicking ending.

9. "Waltz #2"

It really is a waltz, for real, even with those crazy high speed planes landing at the end.

8. "Tomorrow Tomorrow"

Smith has a well deserved reputation for doing a lot with a little, but even when there is a lot happening, certain things can penetrate through a song like they are the only thing going on, which is what the guitar part does right here.

7. "Can't Make a Sound"

Never underestimate the power of power-pop.

6. "Everything Means Nothing to Me"

This one really shows my prog-rock heritage but I don't care. What it really shows is that Elliott Smith is nothing if not versatile, and not just versatile enough to make a passable Radiohead rip-off, but versatile enough to make me listen to this song twenty times before I realized it sounded like Radiohead, among a million other things.

5. "Southern Belle"

Like it or not, Elliott Smith is definitely a product of the nineties, and even he can't escape the all encompassing influence of that decades most influential band. But where others mimicked the noise of Nirvana's power chords, Smith mimicked the sentiment, density, and energy. He even somehow carried the Pixies-inherited loudQUIETloud through with nothing more than an acoustic guitar. Pretty good, in my opinion.

4. "L.A."

Ever wonder what Elliott Smith's biggest influence is? Ever call him a folk singer? Well you don't have to anymore.

3. "Needle in the Hay"

Movie soundtracks can really have a negative effect on some songs, but this one is definitely strong enough to resist association. Smith distills In Utero to its bitterest, pulling the anger back behind his teeth and spitting his lyrics out like leftover vomit, while the lowest acoustic guitar in the world rumbles out in pieces, shaking us off our feet. Where Kurt Cobain needed to scream, Elliot Smith doesn't even need to open his mouth. And did I mention its a little bit like Amerie's "1 Thing"?

2. "Between the Bars"

This is Elliott Smith seemingly at his calmest and possibly most traditional. As much as variations in instrumentation and structure allowed him to spread his brush across so many genres, this track shows the essence of his sound at its most exposed: an unapologetic, heartfelt, and somehow, clearly justified melancholy.

1. "Angeles"

This is the heart of Either/Or and of Elliott Smith in my opinion, the coveted "decoder track" of his genius. I would like to say that this song combines all of his best traits in one place, but its really hard to say that when it really contains so little. With the same sentiment, however, I can say that it exemplifies what makes his music great, in that it is deeply, deeply strange. Every listen reveals unexpected relationships, dynamics, and sounds. What starts out as touching complaint-folk quickly swirls into the abyss leaving hell knows what behind. What is that sound? Train tracks? David Bowie? Are we in space? Steady low tones lead us in circles. Fractured plinks and eventual angelic choirs beg us to stop moving and evaporate. Among all this, Smith walks up behind, somehow whispering in both our ears at once about hunting, poison arms, and economics. Most importantly, who the shit is Angeles? Isn't that plural?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Music for the insane. So much like Panda but so much NOT at all like Panda. I don't mean to sound like a fanboy, but I cannot wait for this shit to come out.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

One of his best. And it NEVER ENDS.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"My swagger straight through the roof bitch."

The Odd Future catalog continues to provide some playful and ominous enjoyment.

I've been listening to Mouse on tha Track's new mixtape quiet a bit this week and this is one of its best moments. The song is at once tightly wound, as you can hear from its constant and unsettlingly syncopated lyrics, and creepily ominous, in its menacingly confidant chorus. Combine that with a vicious tag team of amped up rappers and you have a song with one of the least appropriate titles I have ever heard.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Martorialist just did this terrific roundup of Lil B's best work from the past month. If you are skeptical about the man's quality, this is the place to go. Favorites posted below:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Just found this and I'm loving the shit out of it. Deal with it. I apologize for the low quality.

Pretty exciting

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"To me “Look Like Jesus” could totally be a punk rock song. It’s just a different style of production. I could see a punk rock band covering that song and it’d be the shit! See that’s what the kids are doing, they’re taking more chances than the adults right now. The adults are more business minded. They was hating on the kids for so long and now the kids are busting they ass and they don’t know how to take it."

-Danny Brown on Lil B, rap in general (Cocaine Blunts)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Danny Brown

Excited about this one. Almost seems to have one foot in the young and one in the old, musically and lyrically. More on this later.
Good good article.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tennis Shoes and Tuxedos

I don't know much about Fiend's history, but his most recent, super solid mixtape has been entertaining me for the last few days. The man has gravitas out the butt, and most of the beats on the tape compliment his low drone with surprisingly chaotic noise. Very nice.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Wicked Game" v. "Fade Into You"

There seems to be some sort of secret world of nineties alt-rock songs with slide guitar parts. There probably should be more of this today.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On H.A.M.

Well this is an interesting turn. Lex Luger steps into the "big" leagues while Kanye West and Jay-Z, no strangers to game-changing collaborations (see Big Pimpin, Izzo, Get em High) team up with a rising star to try a production style that is quickly gaining hegemony. Thankfully, its more Kanye and Jay bringing themselves to Lex Luger than Lex Luger bringing himself to Kanye and Jay, which makes for a much more interesting track, as well as less danger when it comes to the two established artists being upstaged by a show-stealing rookie, which has been known to happen. Most importantly, it lets Luger stretch and try some shit out, rather than the other two who, I believe, have had quite a bit a time to do that on their own.

The question stands , however: is it better than Luger's usual work? Well no. There is more to chew on here than a normal Luger track just because there is more going on than usual. Gone are his trademark horns. Newly arrived is a slowly building approach, leading to sections that are (gasp) stark and sparse, lacking Luger's all too familiar density. He's clearly been saving his most experimental stuff for this release. More importantly, Kanye and Jay are alright at riding this beat. So all in all, its a pretty good track, the climactic chorus beating you over the head with grandeur and drama--an attitude that clearly fits these rappers pretty well--better than any other track by this producer I've heard.

Besides that, however, the sort of "best of both worlds" gimmick--part of this track's appeal--falls short in the sense that all three artists are bending towards each other, making this a much less original track than it could be: Kanye and Jay-Z are clearly mimicking the heavy, statement based cadences of Luger's recent collaborators like Waka Flocka and Rick Ross. And, I'm not going to lie, they're not as good at it. Lex Luger, similarly, has clearly listened to MBDTF quite a bit, adding multiple segments, operatic voices and voice distortion all over the place. Thankfully, he works well with this material and the production is what really comes through the strongest. There is no doubt in my mind that this is one of his best produced tracks. There is also no doubt in my mind that this track will get more attention than his usual output, especially from higher minded critics. Hopefully, those drawn here will also be drawn to his more consistent, but also more comfortable and possibly more enjoyable canon.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Beat cranks

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A lot of beats seem to be going in this direction and I don't have a problem with that.