They Know What It’s Like… To Still Be Unknown
Only a few weeks out before year’s end, at least six albums left on the A-list to be posted. More will come with time. However, I’ve found myself unable to appreciate certain releases as much as their champions; Christgau and Tatum have gone on about Neil Young’s Americana, though I find myself siding with Hull. Probably an album I’ll never listen to voluntarily again. In other news, my last count put the year-end list around forty, could creep up to fifty if I’m not careful.
WUSSY – Buckeye (Damnably): First and foremost, I’d direct you to discover their studio albums before delving into this disc, and I’d suggest you move chronologically. Truth is, the problem with this compilation is that which plagues most compilations cataloging good artists who surfaced after 1965: the albums from which the comp draws are already worth owning. The other problem—leaving out great songs—is not surprising. Seventeen songs in total, six from their debut and five from their most recent, leaving a paltry six to represent their two in between albums; four from Wussy and two from Left For Dead. Not a bad cut here but considering the breadth of their catalogue, seriously underrepresentative. How could you pass over “Little Spiders”? The token attribute that makes this worth pondering for purely autobiographical reasons is that the band hand-picked the tunes and determined their running order. It’s also their first break from vocalist/guitarist Chuck Cleaver’s Shake It! label, though Damnably is small enough. Robert Christgau and his Expert Witness acolytes love this Cincinnati set more than anyone else in the country, probably—and by extension the world—and it was his reviews that tipped me off. After seven years of sitting on the sidelines, they’re finally getting some recognition, but every report I read on this comp, regardless of how glowing, fails to mention individual albums as an alternative—if anything, this isn’t so much a summation of what makes them great than a primer for the unfamiliar to taste where they’ve been. Good songs, worthless collection. B PLUS
YONLU – A Society in Which No Tear Is Shed Is Hopelessly Mediocre (Luaka Bop ’09): Online moniker of 16-year-old Brazilian Vinicius Gageiro Marques, an artistic prodigy whose collection of compositions was released on David Byrne’s world music label three years after his suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. Originally self-released by Marques one track at a time on a web forum at the request of eager listeners, he utilized lo-fi bossa nova (“I Know What It’s Like”), sample-laden instrumentals (“Q-Tip”), unorthodox glitchtronica (“Deskjet”), acoustic Portuguese love songs (“Estrela, Estrela”), and his young, nasal voice to highlight the emotional range of his depressive odyssey. What most humanizes Marques isn’t his suicide but the humor he retained even in his darkest moments: “I know what it’s like / when your wanksock’s found and worn by another guy,” “Katie don’t be depressed / Katie don’t be depressed / Seriously I mean what the fuck.” The precocious Yonlu harbored enough talent to articulate the fine line between the frustratingly tragic and raucously hilarious. Masterful. A
DEATH GRIPS – The Money Store (Epic): Hip-hop trio hailing from Sacramento. Heavier on the dubstep than I prefer, though their beats are more memorable than most of their ilk, not that I could name any of their ilk. (“I’ve Seen Footage,” “Get Got”) ***
REGINA SPEKTOR – What We Saw From the Cheap Seats (Sire): Might still consider this Soviet-born Bronxite ‘anti-folk’ if she hadn’t devolved into ‘piano-pop’ and if I knew what ‘anti-folk’ meant in the first place. (“Don’t Leave Me [Ne me quitte pas],” “Firewood”) ***
CORIN TUCKER BAND – Kill My Blues (Kill Rock Stars): Former Sleater-Kinney frontwoman rawks for sure, remains memorable not so much. Carrie Brownstein’s Wild Flag is preferable. (“Groundhog Day”) **
THE VACCINES – The Vaccines Come of Age (Columbia): Could they get any lazier? “I could look for inspiration,” sings Justin Young. But he doesn’t. (“No Hope,” “Aftershave Ocean”) *