Some Stuff We Liked in 2011 (Part 2 of 2)
Check out Part One if you haven't already; it's all about funny dudes writing smart things about cool songs!
The new Explosions in the Sky record was pretty good, I guess. I played it in the background a couple times while doing mundane tasks, and I think it made the tasks marginally more entertaining. I enjoyed a live show in support of the album, mostly because I took the usual post-rock concert approach: drink lots of whiskey, then just kind of waking-doze and drool while indistinguishable songs played by a motionless, featureless band go from soft to loud.
I was talking to het (see page three) about the possibility of a post-rock/crescendo-dynamic threshold a few months ago, the idea that some great records come packaged with a limited amount of impactful detonations. "A lot of the albums I feel most passionately about at a given point in time I know I'm gradually not going to enjoy as much, just because they don't take me by surprise anymore," he said. "Whereas music that's just something functional to have on, I don't ascribe the same mental association of songwritingcraft to it, so it feels like I can't wear that out."
At some point it feels intellectually dishonest to spend recommendation space on records you genuinely appreciate yet find yourself rationing. So here are a few 2011 recordings that didn't make me mete out my listens. - Garbage Day
Richard Buckner, Our Blood
Richard Buckner's website used to be pretty much blank, other than instructing visitors to "stare directly at the sun." It's slightly easier to find information about him on the Internet now, including his latest label-written bio, which claims the five-year delay between albums was at least partially due to "a brief brush with the law over a headless corpse in a burned-out car." Is this true? Maybe. Probably. I don't really need to know. Because of Buckner's honestly depressing lyrics and hunched-drunken-troubadour demeanor, I welcome the occasional confirmation that he's alive and healthy enough, but otherwise, a sense of ominous mystery works well with his desolate desert-noir aesthetic.
Buckner branched out past his gothic folk roots on his past few releases, adding scattered psychedelic electric guitar and rumbling percussion. Those experimental elements surface on Our Blood, but with gentle acoustic melodies everywhere, it's a lighter-sounding record, heavy themes notwithstanding. When he sings "there's no place to hide from what we've done," Buckner sounds fragile and resigned, but there's a grim sort of peace to that. His voice still comes with a soft-tinged twang, but he's not twangy enough to make the "anything but country" assholes reject him outright.
Little Dragon, "Nightlight"
I tried selling a few friends on this Little Dragon track in 2011, and their reactions were unenthusiastic at best. But I knew I could get a much better response from The Internet As A Whole by using this magical phrase: Swedish-Japanese female singer. Also, some of the instrumentation reminds me of video-game music, if that makes a difference, which I'm sure it does. Pandering aside, "Nightlight" has a really soulful trip-hop groove to it. Those aren't the most effective keywords for SA readers, but fortunately everyone's already hooked at this stage of the blurb.
Joker, "The Vision"
I wrote about Emika last year, and I was definitely going to do so again, but Toni covered her album in Part 1. I'll still link another Emika track here, because everyone should be listening to her for sure and every mention helps, but I'll also recommend Joker, another dubstep artist who's probably supposed to be too poppy for real dudes to like. Jessie Ware's strident dance-diva hook probably stuck with me more than any other vocal performance in 2011, and the whole song is just so urgent, like it starts already in progress and it can't slow down. If you need to calm down after that, try Thundercat's "For Love (I Come Your Friend)," or anything else on his album Golden Age of Apocalypse. I know the name "Thundercat" sounds preciously awkward and/or dumbly nostalgic, but the music is jazzy and chill.
Fever Ray, "The Wolf"
Fever Ray's "The Wolf" served as the soundtrack for one of the weirdest film happenings of the year: the freaky grind-dance/patty-cake scene from Red Riding Hood, which didn't really seem period-appropriate for whatever period that was supposed to be. But, whatever, if it got people to listen to Fever Ray who normally wouldn't have, that's great.
Holy Ghost!, "Some Children"
Finally, I love that noted cameo specialist Michael McDonald pops up in quality songs by cool-kid bands these days, because it means my sweet Michael McDonald impression will remain forever relevant.