Search My Blogs

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Numbers 90-81, "To Hell With Good Intentions"

90.Someone Great - LCD Soundsystem
Sound Of Silver (2006)
This is a wonderful, understated number. It bleeps and bloops along with a repetitiveness that puts the otherwise affectatious vocal solidly in the foreground. It's about expectations that never quite reach fulfilment, the little disappointments we find in others as much as the unexpected joys.

89.To Hell With Good Intentions - McLusky
Mclusky Do Dallas (2001)
Well, hardcore doesn't get much of an outing in this list. In fact McLusky probably carry the entire hardcore banner here. And really, what other candidates were there? This is absolutely brimming with typical attitude, and a bass line that growls with a suppressed ferocity that periodically explodes in incendiary fury. Resolutely working class in their attitude, McLusky didn't mess around with words, and nor did they need to. Every line here says just enough without eloquence to produce some of the finest poetry that was ever shouted.

88.Kaliko - Zomby
Zomby EP (2008)
We've already spoken about dubstep as arguably the ONLY well-defined genre unique to the noughties, and this is perhaps close to its apotheosis. Resolutely anti-melodic, entirely driven through rhythm, but a rhythm that refuses to sit still. Because its modulations ARE the song, and so it's dance music you can just barely dance to. So it sits kind of purposeless, ungrounded in any actual music that's gone before, but it needs ALL the music that's gone before it for its wellspring. Vital, nervous, a little unhinged, with a kind of tic-toc heartbeat, this sounds like the vital signs of a vampire.

87.I Turn My Camera On - Spoon
Something To Look Forward To: Past & Present Selections For The Radio (2005)
Spoon. I think of it as the "Party of Five" phenomenon. At some point in the late nineties, it became a thing that every not actually coolsie show on TV needed to bust out some sort of soundtrack populated by vaguely "indie" sounds. And boy did Spoon reap a harvest from that. The Simpsons, Veronica Mars, Bones, Chuck, Scrubs, Numb3rs, to name but a few of the shows that borrowed Spoon's  coolsie cloak. While their albums have been patchy, they've done nothing but shine as a singles act, with some unbelievably catchy bassline driven numbers of which this is probably their best.

86.The Strangers - St. Vincent
Actor (2009)
Now here's a late decade curio. It's hard to know where to position the erstwhile Anne Clark. Her pedigree, immaculate, via Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, she belongs rightly at the more complex end of the musical spectrum. Weird harmonies swirling everywhere but where you expect them to go, and it probably takes a true musician's musician to sound like a peer to David Byrne. This one is both entirely typical and one of her more sublime efforts.

85.Black Cab - Jens Lekman
Oh You're So Silent Jens (2003)
"Oh no, goddamn/I missed the last tram/I killed the party again/Goddamn, goddamn, goddamn."
Jens Lekman burst out of the blocks in the early part of the decade to become everyone's favourite weirdo with an accent. His lyrics are equal parts simplicity and profundity matched usually to a pretty basic three chord structure. Yet as a songwriter he certainly sits somewhere near the front of the pack, and it's hard to pin down exactly why, but he can DO THINGS with the same chords everyone else is using just by inserting his lyrics. It's the lyrics themselves to some extent, but it's also that VOICE ...

84.Cone Toaster - Black Dice
DFA Compilation #1 (2003)
Yes. So, you're copping a fair whack of experimental electronica in this list. Because again, if any genre really existed a propos of the zeitgeist, certainly the late noughties produced a real wellspring of experimentation thoroughly in line with the idea that we exist in a time BEYOND the end of music, a time when everything's been said already and all that's left for musicians is to fuck with music's existing, finite tropes. This band have made an extremely interesting musical journey, from an earlier hardcore-noise-industrial mode in the prior decade, the noughties saw Black Dice come out all pedals swinging, reinvented largely as experimental electronica, there's guitars in there if you listen closely enough, but gated through enough weirdo pedals to be all but unrecognisable. The joy of this is the way it all slowly falls apart ...

83.Poker Face - Lady Gaga
The Fame (2008)
Shut up. She's done enough.

82.Schrapnell - Isolee
We Are Monster (2005)
And speaking of styles that were unique to the decade, microhouse has probably done enough to be able to stand vaguely in its own right as a genre. Albeit one that doesn't seem to offer terribly much for other artists to build on. But anyone who knows me, knows minimalism is the zone of electronica where I think ALL the goodness lies. And this beautifully illustrates why. Rhythm works with simple, understated melodies that with repetition produce thoroughly infectious hooks, and the song builds through a subtle layering of tracks, you never notice the main riff is little more than four declining notes.

81.Outhouse - Nathan Fake
Outhouse (2003)
Yep. More minimalism. This one more driven, dancier, its techno pedigree worn pretty tellingly on its sleeve. Nathan Fake specialises in exactly this sort of dance-floor oriented minimalism built around an almost indeterminate bassline/melody, it's a track you just can't possibly hum to yourself, because there really aren't any phrases as music would traditionally have understood them, but this is where minimal distances itself from downtempo. The tempo here is up, the rhythm never lets go  of you, and the journey is just storied enough that this stands out among the many contenders that might have represented this not always terribly unique song form.