"Ghost on the Canvas"
There has got to be one of the most glorious bridges of all time in this track. Campbell's signature track, still, is undoubtedly "Wichita Lineman" -- whose sweeping strings belie a song of tremendous sadness and loneliness. Paul Westerberg pulls a similar trick here -- making one of the most memorable tunes of the year about a man whose mind is slipping away.
I heard "Santa Fe" for the first time in a rental car somewhere between Madrid and Salamanca. It was an amazingly sunny Spanish day. The Euro highways were messy and I was foolishly trying to live out a dream of traveling by map in an age of GPS. Zach Condon's much smarter than I. He accepted the keyboard and the horn, stuck them side by side and in this track finally seems to have mastered his mixture, pushing us along by something ancient and contemporary all at once.
Music, like fiction, is a dream. A sort of disruption onto our everyday consciousness making us forget about the general malaise and hopelessness with which we march forward. See philosophy for more on this. See the second half of "Helplessness Blues" for help with the rest of it. It's gossamer right hand turn around the 3 minute mark explodes the furious strumming and anxiety which propelled us at the beginning turning what seemed to be an average folksong into an existential day dream.
Truth be told, probably my album of the year. But its an EP, so stay tuned to see what the album will be. I have a theory about what What a Pleasure means. It's about letting your roots show, about being unashamed to go out there and just take a page out of somebody's book, paste it in your own and revel in the unmitigated joy of it all. Frankly, this whole album sounds like an 80s band covering the Smiths in the most stripped down manner, but, yeah, what a pleasure indeed. Much like "Helplessness Blues," "Face It" is about turning down the accepted track, about dreaming, and about the beauty of letting go.
Just like the kid that comes late to the party White Denim made a mark. Look, I tried to be all nonchalant about the whole "garage" revival a few years ago, which sounded to me just like a bunch of rich kids who like to listen to the Velvet Underground. White Denim is much more my speed of garage, endlessly repetitive with tracks subsisting on those polar opposites that the VU loved to mine -- harmony and noise. Just when you're lulled all the way, the buzz of the solo comes in and rewakes you all over again.
My praise for Nerves Junior hasn't been as effusive as Zach's but its not difficult to see how entrancing this group is just from the seemingly demonic slow-core of "Kale" which seems to sneak up on you every time you listen to it even though you know that it's coming. Maybe it's how the minimal beat recycles itself, how the keys drone a wheeze, or the tendrils of the guitar which seem to weave the voice into a web of apathy until they saw your head off. Slow burn masterpiece.
I was totally wrong about you. I remember that show I went to on Frankfort Ave where you guys were getting ready to switch drummers. I thought that the pop wasn't the way to go. I thought that maybe, forgive me, pop died with Michael Jackson and guitar pop way ahead of that. You got me on this one, damn you. Fuck, "Buffalo" is good. How you managed to throwback and throw forward at the same time is beyond me. So, I'm a big enough man to admit when I was wrong. I want to be a buffalo, too.
Winner of the year nominee? Beck. He shepherded two fantastic discs this year, Malkmus & the Jicks, as well as Thurston Moore's delightful Demolished Thoughts which now takes on even more meaning with the separation from Kim Gordon. Thurston's terse singing about blessings. The strings saw away. The phrasing fragments. The melodic undercut with a-harmonic vocals which make the end so unflinchingly human.
That riff! That riff! I've been waking up in the middle of the night with that riff going on and on and on in my head. When Annie Clark's Strange Mercy hit shelves did we have any idea that that riff lay in store for us? A symphonic offering that seems to seep from underneath the floorboards propelled forward by an undaunted beat "Strange Mercy" comes together at the end, throwing all its cruelty at us at once. A strange mercy, indeed to be enveloped by this track in all its angularity and damnable repetition.
"Art of Almost"
Wilco went all arty. Well, you knew it was going to happen. They've been throwing concerts at Mass MOMA, running around with Jim O'Rourke. This track is EPIC. The highlight from The Whole Love, a 3 part serenade to failure with an electro underscoring that gives way to a blistering guitar solo that your cousin, the heavy metal prodigy, couldn't dream of. This track stands as not only one of the great tracks of the year but something that looms larger -- a musical statement that defies music and works its way into that quality of high art. A piece worthy of museums, not because of it's inaccessibility, but because it works as all great art should: a renewable source of energy.