cartwheels into your heart

Monday, January 23, 2006

For each of the first two years of this blog, I did a year-end roundup, where I put up my top ten lists and commentary. This past year, I have to admit, I got burned out on all that stuff fairly quickly and I just couldn't bring myself to say anything I hadn't already said elsewhere. Even the prospect of keeping up with new music made me ill at the start of 2006 -- I turned my attention to all of the films from last year I had been neglecting -- and it's only been in the last couple of days that I've felt enthusiastic again (yay new Destroyer album). But in advance of next week's Pazz and Jop reveal, I thought I'd at least print my ballot here, as a means of closure:


1. Kelley Polar - Love Songs of the Hanging Gardens - Environ (18)
2. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois - Asthmatic Kitty (16)
3. Out Hud - Let Us Never Speak of It Again - Kranky (13)
4. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm - Vice (13)
5. Isolee - Wearemonster - Playhouse (10)
6. Stars - Set Yourself on Fire - Arts and Crafts (10)
7. Vitalic - OK Cowboy - PIAS (5)
8. M.I.A. - Arular - XL/Beggars (5)
9. Superpitcher - Today - Kompakt (5)
10. Robyn - Robyn - Konichiwa (5)


1. Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone - RCA
2. Robyn - Be Mine! - Konichiwa
3. Snoop Dogg ft. Justin Timberlake - Signs - Geffen
4. Lindsay Lohan - First - Universal
5. Gwen Stefani - Hollaback Girl - Interscope
6. Broken Social Scene - 7/4 (Shoreline) - Arts and Crafts
7. Amerie - 1 Thing - Columbia
8. The Killers - Mr. Brightside - Island
9. Death From Above 1979 - Black History Month (Alan Braxe & Fred Falke Remix) - Vice
10. The Game ft. 50 Cent - Hate It or Love It - Aftermath

Would I move things around were I to submit the ballot now? Sure I would. For one, I probably overrated Isolee and M.I.A., neither of which have had much staying power for me as the year wore on (I rewarded them mostly for their initial bursts of brilliance; at a certain point, I was as into them as anything else in my top ten). As ever, lists like these are merely snapshots.

A few singles reviews as part of the new international jukebox on Stylus. I'm not entirely sure how the editing process goes (maybe I just can't compete with the delirious imagery of Powell or the amusing self-awareness of Barthel), but here are three reviews that didn't make it to print:

a-ha - "Analogue"
Wait, did everyone else know that a-ha has had a career for the last twenty years? I could've sworn they were scheduled for a future installment of VH1's Bands Reunited. Comeback or not, this song is pleasant adult pop, as the band ditches the trademark synths of "Take on Me" for fuzzy guitars and a spacious piano line that's coincidentally reminiscent of another new song by an 1980s holdover: Depeche Mode's "Precious."

Miranda! - "Don"
Awww, I'm tickled to hear a Spanish-language pop song that for once isn't peppered with gruff reggaeton shouts or familiar norteƱo flavors. I still have no idea what they're singing about, but this Argentinian band creates a sense of colorful fun through synth bloops and winsome coed harmonies.

Ne-Yo - "So Sick"
He's straight from the school of whining male R&B singers who miss their boo so much it hurts (class president: Mario), but I have to say, when I first heard this song in the car a few weeks ago, the details in those first few lines (illustrating how even everyday banalities take on a new significance post-breakup) really got to me.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ever since Josh called Alfred a formalist, I've wondered whether the label applies to my mode of criticism as well. I mean, I'm not sure exactly what this means, except I tend to be more interested in musical structures than in poetic evocations. If you asked me what my favorite pop-song bridges were from the past year, for instance, I'd have a good idea. (Off the top of my head: "Since U Been Gone," "First," and "Here I Go Again.") I talk about instruments a lot. (Like, what was with all of those R&B songs circa 2003-04 that used these noodly jazz-guitar sounds? I'm thinking of, like, Baby Bash's "Suga Suga." But it was everywhere for a while.) I get the sense that Alfred gets classed as a formalist because he has the capacity to judge different sorts of music (indie, mainstream, etc.) on the same general aesthetic level, not as encumbered by issues of hipness or politics as many critics are. I don't know if this is the same thing, though.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

There's something to be said for watching a film in the spirit of its protagonist, which is why I don't feel too bad for curling up naked under a comforter in a darkened bedroom, with a mild headache and sore joints, while Last Days played on a small television in front of me. I even came close to falling asleep a few times, especially during long uninterrupted takes like Blake playing drums behind the front window: I would just sort of drift off, and then when I came to, Kim Gordon's face would appear. Okay. After the credits rolled, I stumbled into the kitchen, washed out a saucepan and thought about making soup but didn't, then put on In Utero and crawled into the bath, where I lay for fifteen minutes in a daze, disaffected, wanting to avoid later social engagements by just not doing anything.

Of Gus Van Sant's three most recent films, I'd rank Last Days somewhere between the mostly captivating Elephant and the tedious Gerry. I found myself most engaged by the elements of banality set against the miseries of Blake's addiction and inevitable demise, most obviously the business-speak of the Yellow Pages salesman but also the Boyz II Men video that blares as Blake hides and sulks. (The video isn't banal in the sense of it being dull but rather in the way it represents the unflagging progression of media images insensitive to the individuals whose spaces they occupy.) But I also don't quite know how to judge these films, as the aesthetic experiences they offer seem to be of a different category than most films I see. All of them are, to a degree, pointless, but that's not a failure: that pointlessness is sort of the point.