Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest (4AD)
Smart young people have been telling me about this band since 2007, and I've been shrugging just as long. Give their big breakthrouygh a few plays and, unless you're the right kind of smart young person, you'll shrug too. Though you'll notice some tunes and also toward the end some committed tenor sax, and though there are those who praise its OK lyrics, it's still an arty indie-rock texturama. Only then give it more time than seems altogether fair and you'll find that this texturama has sufficient structure to assure that eventually the tunes and then the saxophone and then even the sound effects will signify and lift you up. Conceive it as DJ electronica that makes its point, starting all partial and halting before gathering itself to a properly modest climax. Except that it's played by a live band. And has OK lyrics. Smart, nothing‑-pretty darned intelligent. A MINUS
Best Coast: Crazy for You (Mexican Summer)
Bethany Cosentino believes romance is a myth‑-not a lie, a myth, like Sisyphus. That's why she decks her deliberately simple tunes in echo effects that also obscure the specificity of her already multi-tracked singing voice, why "weed" is damn near the only concrete noun on the entire record unless that burning ball of gas in the sky counts. Musically, the idea is to recreate the Beach Boys' aura 50 years later. Thematically, it's to prove that she's a postmodern girl who knows better. The catch is that through all her generalizations it soon becomes clear that she needs that guy much more than a postmodern girl is supposed to. Too bad she can't pin it down and also can't pin him down. I blame the weed. A MINUS
John, welcome to the club! Isn't it a bummer when your mentor doesn't agree with your likes! It feels like you've failed and you need to reevaluate your whole life. When the Dean shot me down for liking 'Outertainment' (Stampfel ) too much, it took me days to recover. It's a strange kind of relationship we develop with our heroes. However, 'Apollo Kids' was released the last week of the year, and maybe the Dean hasn't had time to properly digest it, and will count towards 2011.
As for 'Halcyon Digest', yes, I have to admit, it is likeable. Its musical sounds do fit together well in many places, and in some parts, the repetition actually works up a nice groove! But at other times, the artiness just bogs it down. I hate to praise something those narrow-minded Pitchfork reviewers gushed over(isn't it irresponsible to their music lovers to casually dismiss the 2010 albums of Eminem, Tricky, Liz Phair, and MIA, which they did), but, I know, you got to respond to just the music. It worries me, because Pitchfork has become a powerful influence on young peoples musical minds.
Later, I was a little irked to see that the album wasn't on the Dean's List at all. But after stewing for a day or two, I just kind of let it go. I've learned enough about my personal tastes at this point that I'm comfortable making my own judgements. Had it not been for Robert, I probably wouldn't have found this album, since he introduced me to Ghostface to begin with. So thank you for that, Robert.
Funny...on my Best Coast download the "genre" category of all the songs is listed as "Surf Pop." Except for tracks 4-6, which are designated "Oceanic Lo-Fi"
Robert: Thanks. Very helpful.
I think many of us are fascinated by your working strategies. The volume of work is incredible; four a week seems like nothing until you realize it's four next week too and the week after that and and the week after that and so on. I'm nearly in the "I've fallen behind and I can't keep up" category already. And all I do is listen while I go about my day. You listen, read, think, sort, rank, conceptualize, analyze, write, edit, think some more, listen some more, analyze some more, re-write . . . I'm just relieved that the process is also rewarding for you.
And let it be said from some of us, we notice that every single word is carefully chosen.
Robert: This is to clarify a formatting wrinkle – Historically your lists have either been alphabetical or in order of preference. And I’ve wondered if that strategy carries over to your Expert Witness reviews, even though there are only two albums each time. Since neither the band names nor album titles are in alphabetical order today, and since Deerhunter is 16 slots higher than Best Coast on the 2010 Dean’s List, I conclude that the order of the two "Expert Witness" reviews does amount to an initial “ranking” of the two albums from top to bottom each time, that is, when the grades for the two are identical.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.