Some Stuff We Liked in 2010
As you've probably gathered from all the magazine covers and blog lists, 2010 was "The Year of French Black Metal." There was Alcest, and Celestia, and Celeste, and all the other headliners of EstFest 2010. But everyone already covered that, so we decided to dig a little deeper, beneath the permafrost layer, and discuss some other albums and songs and artists we really enjoyed during the past twelve months or so. These aren't ranked favorites lists or anything, more like what forums poster CRUSH POSER GAY says these year-end wrap-ups should be: "hey check this stuff out if you never listened maybe ud like it." (On a related note, listen to Boyz & Girl.)
Shannon Wright, Secret Blood
I consider myself one of the bigger Shannon Wright fans out there. For one thing, I know who she is. For another, I have purchased five of her albums. But I'm also a pretty shitty Shannon Wright fan, because she put out an album this year and I didn't even know about it until I'd already turned in whatever year-end lists people wanted me to make. Yeah, it was import-only, whatever. The important thing is that it owns, like everything else she's ever released. SA writer Dennis "Corin Tucker's Stalker" Farrell, one of the many friends to whom I've recommended her music, reported back "part Sleater-Kinney, part Elliott Smith, and part weird." As usual, he described a thing perfectly. Secret Blood tones down the weird compared to previous albums, with none of the primal screams that would sometimes slice through the tense, claustrophobic piano hooks, but while it's less strident, it's still plenty intense. I'd recommend starting with the crazier stuff, though, and because this is a starter article, here are some old live clips.
"Difficult" isn't the funkiest track on Uffie's Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans, but its constantly repeated hook "don't worry if I write rhymes, I write checks" (I like repetition. I like it.) explains her whole approach. Some reviewers have interpreted the "I write checks" line as "I make money"; I think it makes more sense as "I write checks to producers, who make the beats, which are all that matters anyway." On another track, she raps (actually raps, as opposed to her usual talking style) "you might be dope on the mic, but your music sucks." This is perceptive. If you are, in fact, dope on the mic but your music sucks, you're Canibus, or Ras Kass, or some other dude like 50 people have ever heard. By contrast, if you suck on the mic but your music's dope, you could be the unanimous choice for album of the year!
Christina Aguilera, "Woohoo"
I understand why "Woohoo" might be polarizing. It's based around a relentless loop, and this kind of thing can really annoy people. (For example, some people hate RZA's skipping-record beat for Ghostface Killah's "Stroke of Death," whereas I fucking love it.) Also, it features Nicki Minaj, who some people find obnoxiously hyperactive. (There are five songs released in 2010 embedded on this page; it was a statistical certainty that Nicki Minaj would be featured in one.) But those are respectable differences of opinion. Here's what's fucking indefensible: Entertainment Weekly, in a blurb (do they write anything else?) listing Aguilera's Bionic as one of the year's worst albums, complained that the song contains "way more vagina talk than anyone should ever have to hear outside of a gynecologist's office."
Yes, how dare a woman speak proudly about her vagina, even going so far as to suggest it's appealing; doesn't she know that *thing* should only be discussed behind closed doors, preferably at a medical facility where it can be treated for the diseases with which it's infested and the gushing blood and god knows what else! Surely the artist behind EW's #1 album, Kanye West, would never stoop to referencing his genitalia.
Chrisette Michele, Let Freedom Reign
I realize contemporary traditional-style R&B might be literally the last genre in which the Something Awful readership would take any interest, and I'm sure when I've linked to Chrisette Michele in the past, people skipped it because they thought it was probably a French black-metal band. But damn, she's released two quality albums in two years, and she also puts on an outstanding live show, so I'm going to devote a couple paragraphs to her and maybe at least a handful of people out there will give it a try. OK, how to make it palatable to this demographic: Let's start with Glee. Internet people watch Glee. Remember that "Bust the window out your car" song? That was Jazmine Sullivan, she's also great. Jazmine Sullivan wrote "I Don't Know Why, But I Do," the best ballad on Chrisette Michele's latest album.
People also know Rick Ross. Often Chrisette Michele is that female voice singing the hook on Rick Ross songs; he returns the favor by appearing on "So in Love." Because this album has Rick Ross on it, and because Chrisette herself raps on it sometimes, there has been some fan backlash, with people calling it a commercial sellout. Given that it's an album called Let Freedom Reign, and given that most of her rapping happens on the title track (featuring Talib Kweli and Black Thought), a more charitable reading would be that it's about her being free to do her own thing, and not sticking exclusively to her established classy, jazzy neo-soul aesthetic. Regardless, I'll include some links to her previous record too, because it's not like you've heard them.
Emika, "Double Edge"
I don't remember exactly how I came across this song, but I can say definitively that I've listened to it (and the only other Emika track available anywhere) more than anything over the past few months. Fortunately, they're dance tunes, so I'll always have hundreds of remixes to keep me occupied until my rockist desire for a FULL-LENGTH ALBUM gets satiated. Anyway, "Double Edge," it's creepy and sultry and catchy and repetitive (!), with a chilly piano loop and some electronic stutters. It's the type of song a movie might use to accompany a montage of club scenes that culminates in the night ending very badly. Apparently it's not "dark" enough for dubstep purists such as Rate Your Music user "DeeEmm1," who invokes Jersey Shore and "eurotrash power metal bands playing homo Hammond keyboards" as points of comparison before deciding "the songs themselves aren't all that offensive, I just wish there was a better name to call them than dubstep. Happy feet? Technostep? That's what it sounds like to me, technostep. This is a great technostep single."
First of all, if you find yourself saying "this song is fine, and I agree it succeeds at doing what it aims to do, but I am mad at it because I wish I could give it a different label to differentiate it from my precious, rigidly defined subgenre," you're doing music wrong. So, there you go. If you interpret dubstep so strictly that you start ranting whenever an artist threatens to broaden its borders, this might not be for you. I'll take this "great technostep single"; maybe that just means it's the right kind of "happy" music for people who don't usually like happy music. Oh, and some pretty sweet metal bands play keyboards, dude. You might have heard of them - those French black-metal groups everyone's talking about? -GD