seagulls' torrid eddy
Favorite "singles" (by the Voice's definition, meaning songs) of 2003, in alphabetical order because that way I don't have to put them in any more numerical order (and with sound samples where I was able to find them):
Angel Racing Food: Venus Bigfoot (Little Teddy)
Jowe Head was the weird Swell Map and the weird Television Personality, and that's saying something, in both cases. He sent me a demo CD of his new band quite a while ago, which I promptly misfiled. Ages later, I turned it up, put it on, and loved it, especially this song, even if I still don't quite know what they're singing in the chorus (it's not "she's the only girl for me," but something like that). I somehow imagine their conception of Venus Bigfoot as kind of the yeti equivalent of Robert Crumb's Angelfood McSpade--a fantasy construct that's horribly wrong but hilarious because it's so wrong. The hooks, though: those are nothing but right.
Antibalas: Che Che Colé (Daptone)
My love for the Daptone/Soul Fire axis (the former Desco people) is pretty well documented--they like the same kind of hard funk I like--and people outside New York are finally catching on to how great Antibalas are as a live band. But I'd been hoping for a while that they'd break away from the strict Kutian Afrobeat they've been playing for a while, esp. since their occasional Ethiopian covers are so good. And I remembered that they'd talked in the early days about how they were a Latin/Afrobeat fusion--and now they've done it. In some sense it's a plug 'n' chug exercise (one side Latin/Afrobeat, the other side Latin/Afrobeat/makossa), but what a good idea for an exercise. (You can hear samples of it here.)
Bangles: Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll Revolution) (Koch)
The one song on Doll Revolution that allows me to fantasize, briefly, that everything since "Hazy Shade of Winter" has just been an awful dream, if one can have an awful dream involving many years of silence. And the harmonies are wonnnderful, even if I'm still always slightly bugged that they got that one weird chord in the chorus wrong (I say "wrong" because it's nonintuitive in Elvis Costello's own version--maybe he didn't include it in the demo he made for them).
Jaga Jazzist: Animal Chin (Gold Standard Laboratories)
I have a weakness for very clean smooth recordings that go much faster than I can process in my head--Cool Breeze's "Watch for the Hook," Frank Zappa's "G-Spot Tornado," etc. This is one of those, with the added advantage of a live band's Tortoise-isms. (There's a streaming MP3 of it here.)
The Juan Maclean: Give Me Every Little Thing (DFA)
There was something kind of special about John Maclean's old Six Finger Satellite, and this was not it--not anything like it. But I'm also a little hesitant to say that it's the DFA touch that makes this single what it is, because "You Can't Have It Both Ways" was so awesome too, and both are so unlike the rest of the DFA continuum. And each other: "You Can't Have It Both Ways" mutates over eight minutes; this one stays in a single crabbed form, stomping on the ground until the whole house thumps in sympathy. Is it fair to say on the strength of 2 1/2 singles (one of which I don't even like that much) that he reminds me of Arthur Russell?
Ludacris: Stand Up (Def Jam)
Because Hot 97 is the greatest radio station in the world, and they were playing this every time I turned on the radio for about three months, so it has to be great. And I think I only changed the channel on it once or twice.
Outkast: Hey Ya (Arista)
Radiohead: Myxomatosis (EMI)
Yes, together: riffs of my year. One of my three or four favorite places in Portland so far is Big City Produce, a grocery store a few blocks from the intersection of Albina and Killingsworth--a little bit of a walk from our place, but not bad. It's got really cheap, fresh, good produce, marked-down slightly-expired boxed food, and cooking staples for a whole bunch of the area's cultural cuisines--it's probably got a more ethnically mixed clientele than any other market I've seen. There's a fun little veggie-friendly café in back; Mireaya, the World's Friendliest Clerk, chats with everybody at the register. And the stereo system always seems to be playing Outkast and Radiohead on shuffle, and it sounds awesome.
(Actually, Outkast-wise, I almost like "GhettoMusick" better--I remember the first time I heard it, on Maya's computer, grinning because Andre had discovered rave culture--"feelin' good, feelin' great"--and improved on its music.)
Stereolab: "...sudden stars" (Elektra)
I think Tim Gane said, in an interview I can't find any more, that he'd assembled this from some unused Stereolab recordings from 1992, some more from 1996, and some newly recorded stuff. Well, if it's fair to do that with a writing or songwriting notebook, why not with recordings? He seems to be putting together a lot of "suite"-type songs over the last few years, but the pieces belong together here---when it goes into that classic Stereolab motorik beat halfway through, I still get a little shock. A year or so ago, I dumped all the Stereolab singles onto my hard drive and burned myself a CD-R of all of them in reverse-chronological order (starts all dignified with "Captain Easychord," gradually devolves until it ends with the blowout of "Super-Electric"). I loved it like that, but on a hunch, right before Lisa and I left to drive across the country, I re-assembled it with "'...sudden stars'" (what's it a quote from? does it have something to do with the "instant O"?" is it a quote from Messaien?) at the beginning. Now it's like a little overture, but with stylistic rather than melodic excerpts of what comes after it. Hope it gets to be in the same position when they do their real greatest-hits.
Tender Trap: ?Como te llamas? (Tell Me Your Name) (Elefant)
Late-in-the-year records always have an advantage in this kind of exercise. According to Tender Trap's own site, this one's not even out for another few weeks. Too bad: I bought it at the beginning of December, and kept singing it to myself all month. Probably propped up a little in my estimation for excellent linguistic/sexual politics. Propped up more for tune tune tune tune tune and more tune. (There seems to be a RealPlayer stream of it here.)
If anybody hears something they like for the first time because of the music links (here or below), can they please let me know?