East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Top ten: Rain in the pouring sunshine

I'm even more behind the times than usual this month, with the pick from 2005 sounding more dated than the one from 1920. At least I made Rihanna number one before Billboard.

1. Rihanna, "Umbrella": This is the song you'll be hearing all summer; it's clear Def Jam are giving her the push, complete with Hova intro and gold-bodysuited video. It couldn't have happened to a better song: "Umbrella" recycles the melody of "Hotel California" into a buoyantly minor tune. And the bassless beat is sparer than Beyonce would dare.
2. Wolfgang Muthspiel & Brian Blade, "Gnadenwald": Muthspiel, the best jazz guitarist around today, sounds different from most of his peers -- his interest is in harmony; his underdubbed beds are as carefully laid out as his lead lines. He's released two excellent recent albums: the trio record Bright Side, and Friendly Travelers with drummer Blade. On "Gnadenwald" in particular, his wide array of tones are all gentle, conjuring a Europe endless.
3. Fujiya & Miyagi, "Ankle Injuries": There are two good lines on their album, one of them being this song's "Fujiya, Miyagi, Fujiya, Miyagi". (The other: "We were just pretending to be Japanese".) The singer, Fujiya or Miyagi or whoever, is one of the few to correctly employ the drone, i.e. to sound like an insect, not a robot.
4. Timbaland ft. Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, "Give It to Me": You would expect a song by this trio to be the greatest of all time. Disappointingly, this only scrapes into the top 3000.
5, 6. The Gothic Archies, "Freakshow"; "We Are the Gothic Archies": The Tragic Treasury, Stephin Merritt's funniest project since 69 Love Songs, collects his work from the Lemony Snicket audio books. "Freakshow" is a series of unfortunate insults: "Real people question how/Someone took a lobster's face and put it on a cow". The nonstandard grammar in "We Are the Gothic Archies" is just as freaky.
7. Monroe Silver, "Pittsburgh, PA": Ah, ethnic humour -- so many Jewish names end in "-berg"! Hilarious! Don't encourage me to write a Korean version.
8. The Ponys, "She's Broken": So I got to their second album just as they were releasing their third. Jered Gummere is the major talent, but Melissa Elias is a much better singer.
9. Hank Williams III, "My Drinkin' Problem": More ethnic humour.
10. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, "Rabbit Fur Coat": Narrative -- the opiate of bohemians, not that they don't want mansion houses too.

Ten more: The Game ft. Junior Reid, "It's Okay (One Blood)"; Girls Aloud, "Biology" (yes, it took me two years to understand this one); The Hold Steady, "Stuck Between Stations", Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, "Happy"; Wolfgang Muthspiel Trio, "Etude #2"; The Ponys, "Glass Conversation"; Scritti Politti, "Dr. Abernathy"; Thione Seck, "Ballago"; The Thermals, "Here's Your Future"; Tom Ze, "Abrindo as urnas".

Better politics than song: The Gossip, "Standing in the Way of Control".