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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Numbers 200 - 176, "The Teaches of Peaches"

It doesn't take terribly much inspection of the list so far to arrive at a particularly unfortunate conclusion: POLITICAL MUSIC IS DEAD TODAY.

Because there isn't even an otherwise ignored undercurrent of political activism to the contemporary music scene, such as has previously been the case since the 1950s.

In the 80s and 90s, the likes of U2 and Midnight Oil would routinely be presented as overtly "political" music. What's really being measured is the tradition of the "protest song". Bono and the Oils wrote protest music - songs that had an identified target and went for its political jugular.

Today, we have M.I.A., yes, but what's interesting is that the politics has migrated from the song itself and into the sphere of the singer's identity. M.I.A.'s music might reference "third world democracy" before singing "zoom-a-zoom-a-zoom-zoom", but the content is by and large not political, and not message-oriented. And as a sung message anyway, to a certain extent perhaps any statement has to be INHERENTLY trivial, and existentially banal.

Instead, as political activism in general has become more oriented to the personal and the realm of identity politics, so political music has become more discursive. So it's less about the transmission of opposition to 'monolithic others' to be shouted down via slogans and rhetoric, and more about cultural modes of resistance.

Peaches doesn't spend a huge amount of time opining on the discursive practices behind gender. Her lyrics don't celebrate queer cultures in the recognisable and overt way that say the Pet Shop Boys' "Go West" was an overt paean to them. The differene between "Go West" and "Fuck the Pain Away" is obvious from the song titles alone, and it exemplifies quite well the overall change that we are mapping. Peaches doesn't tell folks to go out and join queer collectives. But every element of her SELF, her identity, her persona is imbued with a radical counter-disourse towards some sort of similar EFFECT.

It's the difference between maintaining the illusion of the unitary, immutable power of the word, the truth, that which lends itself to structuralist analysis, and accepting a truly postmodern, discursive analytics. The two prescribe very different modes for effective political action.

And given Midnight Oil and U2 have resolutely failed to change the world through music, I would mount a case that a new, discursive political music stands just as good a chance of achieving something as the old modes we'd more directly recognise.

That said, I, a decrepit socialist find real meaning in connecting with the unitary, barricade-storming ballads that socialists have marched behind for hundreds of years. Billy Bragg, Phil Ochs and Joe Hill offer us a motherlode as historians of political songforms.

And because everything that's wrong with the world today is an inability to grasp the historical context of anything, well, where people stand up for their rights, Joe Hill is with us still. Joe Hill inspires us still.

200.Night (Radio Edit)Benga & CokiNight (2008)
199.Barely LegalThe StrokesIs This It? (2000)
198.Amazing it SeemsGranadaGranada (2005)
197.Get Myself Into ItThe RaptureGet Myself Into It (Comm Single) (2006)
196.Strict MachineGoldfrappBlack Cherry (2003)
195.The OrchidsCalifoneRoots & Crowns (2006)
194.The FuneralBand Of HorsesEverything All The Time (2006)
193.RuttenSkreamSkream! [Bonus Tracks] (2006)
192.FoolsThe DodosVisiter (2008)
191.Apocalypse SongSt. VincentMarry Me (2007)
190.C'MereInterpolAntics (2004)
189.PunchlinesMates Of StateBring It Back (2006)
188.Hang Me Up To DryCold War KidsUp In Rags [EP] (2006)
187.Lights OutSantigoldSantogold (2008)
186.Ten Years Or TwentyMoon Wiring ClubShoes Off And Chairs Away (2009)


185.New SlangThe ShinsOh, Inverted World (2001)
184.He's Alright [Bonus Track]Kurt VileChildish Prodigy (2009)
183.Are You The One?The PresetsBeams (2005)
182.Pure Pleasure SeekerMolokoThings To Make And Do (2000)
181.Banging CampThe Hold SteadySeparation Sunday (2005)
180.DanielBat For LashesTwo Suns (2009)
179.Fuck The Pain AwayPeachesThe Teaches Of Peaches (2000)
178.Thou Shalt Always KillDan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius PipAngles (2008)
177.Try AgainAaliyah Feat. TimbalandAaliyah (2005)
176.L.E.S. ArtistesSantigoldSantogold (2000)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Numbers 225 - 201, "Things Fall Apart"

What were the noughties?  It's possibly a premature question to ask. Where we had a clear sense of what the previous decade constituted in 1995, we probably had a less clear picture of the 90s in 2005, and an arguably less defined one again in 2015.

So, in one respect the capabilities of a discrete ten year block to connote all of the aesthetic, social and cultural changes within it seem to be declining. And that's possibly part of what we're mapping. There is no question that the seemingly ever-accelerating pace of globalisation along with the rapid technological changes that have enabled it have produced an infinitely more complex world, and complexity is by its nature resistant to essentialism.

Complexity is also resistant to harbouring the sort of regionalisms that prosper behind protectionist walls. Discourse is now at least potentially more global than ever, and it becomes more difficult for regional discourses to exist in isolation from others that don't share a similar regional focus.

And you'd expect all of this to lead to a few things in the musical milieu:
  • A more globalised musical culture with less regional differences
  • A musical culture based less on discrete styles or genres than around interrogations between those styles
  • A musical culture less dominated by a small number of headline artists, and more by an undifferentiated mass body of artists
  • A democratisation of the process of music production enabled by advances in home recording technology and new distribution models
And largely we've seen all these things to one extent or another come about.

The noughties were arguably the first decade which saw no major new music genres emerge. This ties in with concepts a postmodernist would have no trouble at all recognising regarding the 'death of history' and our living  in 'an eternal present'. But it also maps a new form of discursive plurality that has perhaps almost  come to define the postmodern condition. The inherent intertextuality of all discourse is both highlighted and heightened by the new technologies used for its transmission. So no song exists independent of both the musical discourses that preceeded it, nor similarly the contemporaneous discourses within which all music is received. This would include all economic, political, social, societal, etc discourses.

And it's not surprising a model like that should turn out few new discrete styles and genres, where the production of  such depends more upon isolation and an environment in which similar discourses arising from similar inputs have their own discrete chamber within which to reverberate, wholly isolated from the larger body politic.

My thesis is that we've really only seen two significant new musical styles in the last ten years - Grime and Dubstep. Grime is hip hop with the postmodernism turned up to 11. Where hip hop was all about sampling and re-using found objects, it was thoroughly dada-ist in its aesthetic. So, what many posit as the ultimate postmodern musical style is actually thoroughly grounded in an aesthetic that dips its lid more in modernism's direction.

Grime appears to dissipate the entire possibilities of identity. Grime is Dizzee Rascall riffing on the same syncopated rhythm eight lines in a row, eight times the same statement, but with each line producing different meaning. Grime is complex triple-stepping  beats where High Modernist Hip Hop just needed a kickdrum on every 4/4 beat.

Where hip hop writes from the position of a vastly over-determined unitary narrator. "I" is the most routinely used word in hip hop lyrics. But that identity has thoroughly broken down in grime. Gone much of the "bitches and bling" bravado, to be replaced by a more humble, more polyvalent, less all-powerful narrative.

Similarly, Dubstep has its origins in drum and bass and allied dance styles. Accordingly, it's almost a completely post-linguistic style. Lyrics are minimal and exist more as just another sonic element. It's in many ways the apotheosis of the post-meaning, post-god, post-discursive style that one would predict emerging, given how many other aspects of contemporary complexity also exhibit these traits.

More on this to come. I thought you'd probably want some actual music in the interim.

#NameArtistAlbum (Year)
225.You Know I'm No GoodAmy WinehouseBack To Black (2006)
224.Letter from AbroadJohn Cale(2008)
223.Skip To The EndThe FutureheadsPromo Only Modern Rock June 2006 (2006)
222.Green AislesReal EstateDays (2011)
221.2080YeasayerAll Hour Cymbals (2007)
220.Postcards From ItalyBeirutBeirut (2006)
219.Body Language (Tocadisco Remix)M.A.N.D.Y. Vs. Booka ShadeBody Language (Single) (2007)
218.I Feel SpaceLindstrømSolid Sounds 2005.2 [Disc 1] (2005)
217.KnifeGrizzly BearYellow House (2006)
216.Pass That DutchMissy Elliott Feat. LudacrisRespect M.E. (2003)
215.Memorize The CityThe OrganGrab That Gun (2004)
214.Booo! (Radio Edit)Sticky Feat. Ms. DynamiteReal Garage [Disc 2] (2001)
213.Stargate of the HellAcid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.Glorify Astrological Martyrdom (2008)
212.HallelujahNick Cave & The Bad SeedsNo More Shall We Part (2001)
211.First Day On The RunThe FauvesThousand Yard Stare (2000)
210.So Many WaysMates Of StateBring It Back (2006)
209.We Own The SkyM83Saturdays = Youth (2008)
208.Make Out Fall Out Make UpLove Is AllNine Times That Same Song (2006)
207.Fell In Love With A GirlThe White StripesWhite Blood Cells (2001)
206.Cannot Get StartedHandsome FursPlague Park (2007)
205.As I Sat Sadly By Her SideNick Cave & The Bad SeedsNo More Shall We Part (2001)
204.Remember MeBritish Sea PowerThe Decline Of British Sea Power (2001)
203.Comfy In NauticaPanda BearPerson Pitch (2007)
202.A Lady Of A Certain AgeThe Divine ComedyVictory For The Comic Muse (2006)
201.Us AmazoniansKirsty MacCollTropical Brainstorm (2000)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Numbers 249 - 226 - "Sign 'o' the Times"

So what the hell happened in the noughties?

Seriously. There are gaps you know ....

You don't really start from anywhere meaningful to say in terms of earth shattering events of the decade, the one that shattered the Twin Towers of New York City and with it so many lives is inescapably the defining one for the entire globe.

Across vastly different cultures and regions, the impact of these events came to define the decade  for so many - arguably any culture with any significant access to media to an extent that has certainly been rare in human history.

Do we see this new zeitgeist reflected in the music of the age? This is one issue we will ponder.

On a musical level, I have a few theses to extend progressively here.

My main one is that the decade really saw the end of all things monolithic in rock in particular, maybe pop and rap less so. Who are the big stadium acts now? They're all guys, and I do mean guys, from the 80s or earlier doing reunions.

It seems like Blur v Oasis are the last meaningful monoliths we are ever to see if there's any trend to be evinced from the handing of these sorts of titles to Snoop Dogg, Beyonce, Rihannon, J Lo, Gaga, etc. The thing that unites them is a large-scale vacuousness, a sense that all these beings are mannequins to more or less overt extents.

They're brands built by marketing, they themselves are just sites for discourse, billboards. So much so that even though they are at one level all about MEEEE as a global marketing force, the actual 'self', the sense of all this being about a real, living person rather than someone who descends daily from Mount Olympus, is entirely lost.

And technology pushes us ever more into this ever more self-enabled, atomised world. And we, and young folk in particular spin a very positive narrative about these discourses of narrative and freedom.

Yet at the same time we feel betrayed and jaded with what we see as outmoded structures in government and in the broader political/social sphere, we claim to crave a better sense of engagement with an ideal something in so many areas of our lives. Yet we're getting torn apart by the atomisation discourse on the one hand and the communitarian on the other.

In musical terms, file sharing and related technologies have impacted an entire artistic discourse. The self-proliferation and DIY ethos has much in common with punk. But at the level upon which distribution is still reliant upon industry models we have seen considerably less investment in new artists and innovation than at any time probably since the dawn of rock itself.

It must be pointed out, this survey doesn't bear that lack of innovation out. It shows that artists are always going to find a way to make great music. But the look of the whole 'scene' is very different to how it the 90s would have appeared looking back from 2005.

In this list, we see a profusion of artists and styles pointing off in a million directions, where in the 90s we'd be stoking the chart with Britpop and Madchaster or derivatives thereof. Subcultural forms were either established and survived and evolved within themselves.

In the case of rave, it started out as a wildly innovative and deeply counter-cultural movement, but it was soon coopted by the entire corporate superDJ/superclub/superfestvial scene with such depressing speed and completeness, this has to be one of the key stories of the 90s.

That decade started with the promise of a 'Peace Dividend' from the Cold War, but was bookend by the events of September 11, 2001 that led the US at least into a War that accrued public debt at such a rate that government couldn't drag the US economy out of recession, giving us ten years of stagnant growth.

So, this isn't the nineties, but it's obviously an extension of it. Why should an arbitrary point in time affect any of this anyway?

Technologies that enhanced social atomisation and individualism were already well advanced, even if we didn't have social media yet. Probably the other great universal global trend to emerge this decade.

More on this. And specifically on how everything has impacted music later this week.
#NameArtistAlbum (Year)
249WomanizerBritney SpearsThe Singles Collection (2008)
248Down Down DownThe PresetsBeams (2005)
247Living With WarNeil YoungLiving With War (2006)
246DeparturesCloser MusikKompakt Total 3 (2010)
245The Lisbon MaruFuck ButtonsTarot Sport (2000)
244IncinerateSonic YouthPrime Cuts (Promo) (2006)
243Fingers Become Thumbs!Future Of The LeftCurses (2007)
242Club FootKasabianKasabian Empire ()
241EpocaGotan ProjectLa Revercha Del Tango (2001)
240Little RhymesMercury RevAll Is Dream [Bonus Track] (2001)
239Running The LopingSmogA River Ain't Too Much To Love (2005)
238Hate To Say I Told You SoThe HivesTyrannosaurus Hives (2000)
237Bewitching CattleMoon Wiring ClubShoes Off And Chairs Away (2009)
236 The Empty PageSonic Youth(2002)
235Death to DeathThe CrucifiedTake Up Your Cross/Nailed (2008)
234Inside OutsideThe GratesGravity Won't Get You High (2006)
233You And MeHer Space HolidayThe Past Presents the Future (2005)
(Beautiful Days)
MonoWalking Cloud And Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered And The Sun Shined (2004)
231I Feel Just Like A ChildDevendra BanhartCripple Crow (2005)
230Take Me To Your LeaderAdd N To (X)Loud Like Nature (2002)
229The Modern AgeThe StrokesIs This It? (2000)
228Drop It Like It's HotSnoop DoggShark Tale Motion Picture Soundtrack (2006)
227Pon De FloorMajor Lazer Feat. Vybz KartelGuns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do (2009)
226Empire State Of MindJay-Z Feat. Alicia KeysThe Blueprint 3 (2000)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Numbers 275 - 250 - Beginnings

And here it all is.

The beginnings of it all. The dregs as some might have it, but reality is that of all the horns blown and all the things struck and strummed in undoubtedly billions of permutations down the decade, of all those countless notes and the nuances between them, THESE ONES I HAVE CHOSEN ARE THE VERY BEST OF ALL. I've whittled the universe to a pinhead for you.

I'd be really grateful to hear any and all feedback. What I'm really NOT interested in is "how can you possibly think x is a better song than y?" If you want to do that sort of binary nit-picking, go de-louse a zebra. You don't get it.

This IS a hierarchy, let's be clear, but if I gave myself another 24 hours it would all look different again. It's not authoritative in the sense of it being final. It's authoritative because it's the best it can be at this moment. Or any theoretical one.
  • Song must have been released between Jan 1, 2000 and Dec 31, 2009 (by single OR by the date of the album on which the track debuted)
  • A maximum of three tracks per artist in the LONGLIST of over 500 tracks
  • Each song graded and LONGLIST reduced accordingly to Top 275
  • All titles in Top 275 are then ranked individually
And at the end of the day, that only took me just on five years to complete!


#NameArtistAlbum (Year)
275Diamond DancerBill CallahanWoke On A Whaleheart (2007)
274Golden AgeTV On The RadioDear Science (2008)
273Smiley FacesGnarls BarkleySt. Elsewhere (2006)
27219-20-20The GratesGravity Won't Get You High (2006)
271Two Silver TreesCalexicoCarried To Dust (2008)
270International DatelineLadytronWitching Hour (2005)
269That's Not My NameThe Ting TingsWe Started Nothing (2008)
268Pageant SquareThe Kingsbury ManxThe Kingsbury Manx (2000)
267No GhostThe AcornNo Ghost (2010)
266Last DanceThe RaveonettesIn And Out Of Control (2009)
265La Rock 01VitalicOK Cowboy (2005)
264Plaster Casts Of EverythingLiarsLiars (2007)
263Processed BeatsKasabianPre-Release Singles Compilation [2641660] (2003)
262Prayer to GodShellac1000 Hurts (2000)
261Your Hand In MineExplosions
In The Sky
The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place (2003)
260PiratesBurialBurial (2006)
259GalangM.I.A.Arular (2005)
258I Have Forgiven JesusMorrisseyYou Are The Quarry (2004)
257PendulumBroadcastPendulum [EP] (2003)
256Tom The ModelBeth Gibbons & Rustin ManOut Of Season (2002)
255Southern HospitalityLudacris Feat. PharrellBack For The First Time (2000)
254I'll Send My Face To Your FuneralHis Name Is AliveDetrola (2006)
253Neighborhood #3
(Power Out)
Arcade FireFuneral (2004)
252Song 4 MutyaGroove ArmadaGreatest Hits (2007)
251Carve Your NameThe GratesTeeth Lost, Hearts Won (2008)
250Drop The PhoneShy ChildNoise Won't Stop (2007)