East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ten favourite albums of the year: Revenge of the old farts

You may note that the young are a minority of those named below, and only Pink has emerged during the last decade. It's of more concern that the albums by Dylan, the Dolls, Sonic Youth, Public Enemy and Ornette Coleman all seem well short of their respective peaks. But remember (i) the problem with Pitckfork/ILX/Da Blogazfear is that it's rarely acknowledged that anyone is interesting past their third (if not first) album, and (ii) to my ears, this was a pretty good year. And who knows which of the other artists listed, after a few years of critical distance, might join the all time greats? (Hint: #1.)
  1. Ghostface Killah, Fishscale: Wailing over a history of hip hop beats, Ghost is less spammy than usual, Clit Boulevard notwithstanding. The killer cameos are unified by Ghost's tone as much as the, gasp, narrative.
  2. Irène Schweizer, Portrait: Ignorance isn't bliss, but it allows surprise. I'd never heard of this sixty-something Swiss pianist until this year; this retro makes her sound like Cecil Taylor's funnier sister. It might've been number one if I had any context for it.
  3. Bob Dylan, Modern Times: For once, it's not his best album since Blood on the Tracks. Maybe second. Is it that hard to believe that our now unquestioned (RIP JB) Greatest Living Song and Dance Man can keep turning out minor gems until his voice goes? (No, that hasn't happened yet.)
  4. The Klezmatics, Wonder Wheel: Lyrics by Woody Guthrie: You know how I was looking for a new favourite band? Well, the Klezmatics get that spot. Between this, and their Hanukkah collection, and the associated Frank London album, this has been their year. Lorin Sklamberg might be the best singer in America right now.
  5. New York Dolls, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This: Their worst album. There's still no one who can match David Johansen for song concepts.
  6. Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped: You'd think after two decades of greatness, they might get some respect. Three steps down from Dirty is a step better than (to pick a band I love and hope to love more) Be Your Own Pet have achieved.
  7. Public Enemy & Paris, Rebirth of a Nation: Their best since, I don't know, Apocalypse '91? Paris's ghostwriting sounds like vintage P.E., while Chuck's lines are still the highlights.
  8. Jon Faddis, Teranga: It's not everything you can do with a trumpet. You could use it as a funnel.
  9. Pink, I'm Not Dead: Her rep as the freshest voice in pop survives her desire to be an Indigo Girl, because she knows it's not enough to be pretty, or even smart and pretty. A girl's gotta rock.
  10. Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar: This probably should be higher, but Ornette's albums take me a while to fully parse. His sound is still unmistakable, no matter how many bassists he has.
Most unfortunately overrated: Cat Power, The Greatest: For one thing, Dusty was direct.

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