Chance the Rapper/Homeboy Sandman
So what exactly are you afraid of?
Chance the Rapper: Acid Rap (free download)
His flow a cartoon whine, his wordplay wittily associative, his affect educated ghetto, and his main life experiences rising in the rap game, zonking on cannabis and lysergic, and surviving a battle zone, he projects an anxiety that has recognizable cognates among alt-rock waste-os with a lot less to be afraid of. Amusing though he and his yelp can be, I like him best when anxiety is a mood rather than a subject, particularly on the quasi-political track hidden behind "Pusha Man"‑-"Paranoia," an anti-summer song, because summer's when people gets shot. I also welcome the two-and-a-half minute "interlude" that praises, yup, "falling in love"‑-and the one that proves "Clean Up Woman" is his favorite song. A MINUS
Homeboy Sandman: Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent (Stones Throw)
The guy who cashes "checks for packs of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked" is so skilled he risks being too smart for his own good‑-a little like Aesop Rock, except that a) he's not white and b) he's not an obscurantist. He wants to set his people on the right path and keeps thinking up explicit ways to say so. But none of them have gotten near that goal so far, not even theoretically, as they might if his skills included the ability to rise to actual hits, as opposed to pleasurable musicality, and also to sink to them. Not that that kind of skill comes any easier than the rhyming and rapping he's so good at. But I'm struck by my favorite song on this EP, "Lonely People," in which a raggedy "Eleanor Rigby" refrain flexes against verses that begin: "Look at all these wannabe famous people/All they talk about is famous people/Every statement be defaming people." True enough, obviously. But it makes me wonder whether fame is really something he's willing to go for. B PLUS
Well, not really. I'm very content to toss aside clunkers and devote limited resources to things I want people to enjoy along with me. If I was still being paid to do comprehensive pop coverage, however, I would write about the David Bowie (which I think is a dud, but don't hate), because its (rather wacky) coverage and media presence this year makes a story in itself.
When I refer to "metacritic file" I'm talking about a file that I maintain, which starts with metacritic.com data but counts high reviews (>= 80) and adds a few things that metacritic.com doesn't bother with but I think worthwhile, like Free Jazz, Downbeat, Tatum, Gubbels, Monsen, and myself. That file produced the list I posted earlier. It still has flaws: for one thing there are more UK pubs than US ones (evidently the Brits read more than we do, even about metal and especially about electronica); for another, I don't collect the data automatically, so there are all sorts of lags (probably why Yo La Tengo leads Vampire Weekend, something I don't expect to last). I haven't talked much about this because I decided it was too much work to bother with this year, but wound up finding it too useful to dispense with.
"Sunbather," by the way, is a remarkable record. Not my thing, but I was impressed, and some of you will like it more than I do -- maybe even Bob. I haven't listened to Wonder Years, but I find the review sources among the most unreliable that metacritic.com surveys.
Absolute Punk (score: 100): "It is my firm belief that The Greatest Generation has no real precedent in this community."
Kerrang (score 100): "It's an often staggering record, by a great band, defying odds, on a hell of a run of first-lass creative form." (love those commas).
Alternative Press (score 90): "It’s fast; it’s honest, and it’ll probably make you tear up more than once."
And the ever-reliable Allmusic (score 80): "If you're a fan of autumnal pop that wears its heart on its sleeve as it shouts its feelings out to anyone who will listen and you're not a fan of these guys, The Greatest Generation is here to realign your priorities for you."
To the right, we have reviews from "civilians." Two raves, and a mixed review from "qrobur" that, well, could have saved me the trouble of downloading the thing (though if I had read the "raves" above first, that would have helped as well): "Having seen the Metacritic score and being an enthusiast for punky noise, I had reasonably high hopes for 'The Greatest Generation'. Alas, it proved to be no more than your standard, identikit pop-punk. A hundred other groups can and do make the same noise and more or less write the same songs. It's competently played, it's quite well produced, nothing offends the ear and I'm quite sure my mother wouldn't mind listening to it. Well, she'd be welcome to it; this tedious album won't be getting any more of my time."
Next highest score, at 96: death metal band Deafheaven. Not counting the Miles Davis live box, the next highest are Jama Ko and (sigh) Jason Isbell at 90. (Kanye West, incidentally, is at 85. Vampire Weekend are at 84.)
Like A Rose
Same Trailer, Different Park
I Am Not A Human Being II
Kenny Dennis LP
In full disclosure, I have some catching up to do. I own the Tegan & Sara, Deerhunter and Wussy Duo, but haven't played them yet. I still have to track down Shaking the Habitual and several others. Spent several months listening to almost nothing but country. Lately, mostly hip hop.
Thanks to Cam for the tip that Anticon is now selling CD versions of the Kenny Dennis EP. Came in the mail today and surprise - it has 2 excellent bonus tracks that weren't on the download: Perculators and Dennehy Rmx. Weird that Anticon's logo is nowhere to be seen on the package.
Been working on a "half way there" post for the blog which I expect to finish sometime during the next few days (add a "g" to "blospot" on the blog roll link to your right), but if anyone is curious, my 2013 top 20 as of right now might look something like this:
"Shaolin shadowboxing, and the Wu-Tang sword style. If what you say is true, the Shaolin and the Wu-Tang could be dangerous."
So I finished reading RZA's Wu-Tang Manual last night, which I found to be a lot of fun if not as philosophical as his later Tao of Wu, and it occurred to me that a few months back when we were naming artists who've earned the most "A" grades from our host, we thought to include George Clinton's P-Funk universe as well as Peter Stampfel's various incarnations, but, to the best of my recollection, no one mentioned Robert Diggs and his Wu-Tang empire. So here's a list of A-listed albums featuring (not exclusively, but for the most part) the artistry of The RZA:
"Do you think your Wu-Tang sword can defeat me?"
Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (Loud/RCA 1993) A-
Ol' Dirty Bastard: Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version (Elektra 1995) A-
Raekwon: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... (Loud/RCA 1995) A-
Ghostface Killah: Ironman (Epic/Razor Sharp 1996) A
Killah Priest: Heavy Mental (Geffen 1998) A-
Sunz of Man: (The Last Shall Be First) (Red Ant 1998) A-
RZA: The RZA Hits (Epic/Razor Sharp 1999) A-
Ghostface Killah: Supreme Clientele (Epic/Razor Sharp 2000) A-
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Epic/Razor Sharp 2000) A
Wu-Tang Clan: The W (Loud 2000) A-
Ghostface Killah: Bulletproof Wallets (Epic 2001) A-
Ol' Dirty Bastard: The Definitive Ol' Dirty Bastard Story (Elektra/Rhino 2005) A-
Ghosface Killah: Fishscale (Def Jam 2006) A
Ghostface Killah: More Fish (Def Jam 2006) A-
Ghosface Killah: The Big Doe Rehab (Def Jam 2007) A-
Wu-Tang Clan: 8 Diagrams (SRC/Universal Motown 2007) A-
Ghostface Killah: Ghostdini Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City (Def Jam 2009) A-
"En garde, I'll let you try my Wu-Tang style."
All true and insightful. I worry about how many performers are going to be able to take the time and money to do this in the future. For a long time, if you had the skills, you had the opportunity. Can only hope that continues.
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.
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