East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Top ten: Stockholm syndromes and a century

0. Franco, "Tres Impoli"; "Mamou (Tu Vois)": If you've being paying attention you'll know many of the hits on Sheer's African Classics/Cantos' Classic Titles Franco comps already, though not necessarily the same ones I did. New to me is "Mamou (Tu Vois)", the debut of singer Madilu System, though it's mostly Franco chatting over an indelible groove. Less indelible than monumental is the 17-minute version of "Tres Impoli", a grumpy diss which, in its nine-minute edit, has long been one of my all-time faves. Where the edit fades out with the second part of Franco's guitar solo (which is the same as the first part), this just keeps going, returning to choruses and verses, followed by that solo again. When you've hit upon a song this great, more of the same is a gift.

1. Kronos Quartet, "Tenebrae": So, classical music! Argentine Osvaldo Golijov seems to have become its It Dude since his version of St. Mark's Passion, which I thought a not entirely successful fusion, but this! For his first version of "Tenebrae", Golijov nicked some lines from Couperin's setting of Lamentations; for his second, he cut out the clarinet and the soprano chanting the Hebrew alphabet and handed the remains to the Kronos Quartet, who, old pros that they are, wring every last tear out of it.

2. Juvelen, "Don't Mess": It's tremendous fun to hear this Swede sing "I don't give a shit" in his pinched falsetto. His rising rapid-fire "you should know I'm only doing this for you" should shame the guy from Jamiroquai into giving up music and opening a hat shop. If you think this is unlikely because nobody has less shame than the guy from Jamiroquai: meet Juvelen!

3. Jean Grae & 9th Wonder, "My Story"; "iNTRO": Jeanius's "iNTRO" shows that Ms Ibrahim/Benjamin's flow is at the same rarified level as the brief peaks of Sha-Rock and Lauryn Hill; and she comes close to sustaining throughout the album. The heart of the album, "My Story", unsparingly details the experience of an abortion, which, along with a later miscarriage, wrecks her. She still doesn't know if it was the right choice. But don't tell her the choice shouldn't have been hers.

4. Annie, "Songs Remind Me of You": Not fun fun fun like "Chewing Gum", but less chilly than "Heartbeat". Still not sexy. Still awesome.

5. Ne-Yo, "Closer": Michael Jackson normalised, and no, that doesn't mean Janet.

6. Randy Newman, "Piece of the Pie"; "Harps and Angels": The title track of Harps and Angels, about a near-death experience, is as amiable as he's ever been. "Piece of the Pie" is anything but friendly, what with its Serious Artiste dissonance and cheap John Mellencamp diss. Yes, Mellencamp's "Our Country" is overtly patriotic, but it's not just chest beating: it's explicitly small-d democratic (we'll find out if that coincides with the big D over the next four years).

7. Jens Lekman, "Kanske Ar Jag Kar i Dig": Starts with a short shaggy pig tale; ends with a matter-of-fact statement of the romantic effectiveness of self-deprecation. How Scandanavian of him.

8. Pink, "So What": One of the most vituperative fuck-yous to an ex ever recorded. Fight, drink, fight: what does she think this is, a Kusturica movie? Not in real life: her real ex-husband gets cameo time in the video.

9. Horoya Band National, "Karan-Gbegne": Say this for the late Guinean president Sékou Touré's authoritarian socialism: it supported at least one fantastic horn section.

10. Conor Oberst, "Milk Thistle": What's improved is his singing: dig the way he milks his "ow" sounds for pathos. Melisma for the common man.

Ten more or thereabouts:
Matias Aguayo, "Minimal (DJ Koze mix)"
Easy Star All-Stars ft. Toots & the Maytals, "Let Down"
Jean Grae, "Think About It"
Keletigui et ses Tambourinis, "Miri Magnin"
K'naan, "If Rap Gets Jealous"
Randy Newman, "Potholes"
Conor Oberst, "I Don't Want to Die (in the Hospital)" and "Get Well Cards"
Orchestra du Jardin de Guinee, "PDG"
Southern All Stars, "I Am Your Singer"
Dawn Upshaw, "Lua Descolorida"

Ten albums:
1. Randy Newman, Harps and Angels
2. Franco, Classic Titles
3. Authenticite: The Syliphone Years
4. Conor Oberst
5. Jean Grae, Jeanius
6. Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Shamokin!
7. Golijov: Oceana, Tenebrae, 3 Songs
8. Jorge Lima Barreto, Zul Zelub
9. Juliane Banse, Kurtag: Kafka-Fragmente
10. Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, Reich: Music for 18 Musicians

Please go back to scaring the old ladies: Magnus Lindberg.