Pitchfork recently compiled a guest list of artists’ top music from the past year, and Khaela (aka The Blow) was among them (the only gay lady.) Her favorite artist picks came with detailed explanations. She gives new reasons for you to listen to any of these albums again, or for the first time.
1. Deerhoof: Friend Opportunity
My experience of hearing music rarely takes the form of listening to an album all the way through. I have always been an enormous fan of Deerhoof, and have lusted over whatever I have heard, but for some reason have never owned any of their records. Maybe because I’ve never had a real stereo. I got to play some shows with them in Europe and got a copy of their CD, and listened to it in the rental car. I think the whole record is just about perfect, for all the reasons that everyone always says, because it is pop music precisely butchered so that you can really only have to listen to the excellent guitar refrain and not have to include stupid verses filled with filler lyrics. The one song which sounds like a very sparse rendition of some emotional number from a musical, sung by the lonely little girl character, is pretty amazing. I only get antsy during the second to the last song (I think) the total free jazz rock out one, but I guess you have to let them off the leash now and then. I would argue that Deerhoof is the best band, and it’s probably becuase the star of their music is always the music.
2. Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna, Are you the Destroyer?
I listened to this album on repeat with my girlfriend while we drove around Calfornia, opening a few shows for Of Montreal. (It’s another record I probably would never have owned if not for playing with the band). We kind of overdosed on the songs, dissecting the lyrics and trying to figure out where Kevin Barnes was coming from, singing along and wearing his persona like a wig. Once we got over the basic shameless ripoff of David Bowie, we really savored the delicious layers of production and the indulgent faggy lyrics and the great melodies. I think the songs are really good, and I think there should be a special reward for having the balls to sing, “We make love like a pair of Black Wizarrrrrdss!”
3. Julie Doiron: I Woke Myself Up
I love this record. I got it when I played a show with Julie in France, though I have been a fan of hers for a long time. She writes excellent songs, and sings them like she has a microphone all the way down her throat so that it can pick up the literal sound of her heart valves.
4. High Places
They don’t have a full length album out yet. They played with the Blow through the US this fall, and we got to hear them play their lovely jangly distortion of gadgets and lady voice five nights in a row. It’s kind of like hearing really good atmospheric world-inspired-music made by white kids, with your head in a bucket.
5. Marnie Stern
I listened to her songs on an internet site created for the promotion of musicians and laypeople, and they were amazing. I didn’t listen to her whole record, and I don’t even know what it is called, but I would buy it if I was in a record store and had some money. It sounded violent in an especially female way, which I really appreciate.
6. Lavender Diamond: Imagine Our Love
I love Lavender Diamond for the way in which it is the exact opposite of what I heard from Marnie Stern. The songs are complete and very gentle, though forceful in their loving insistence. I haven’t heard the album all the way through on my own, just seen them live and had the songs played to me on a friend’s iPod. I think that Becky Stark is pretty brilliant. I wouldn’t have thought that that sort of softy singing about love would be appealing to me, but she delivers it with such confidence, and with just the tiniest mischievous twinkle, that it works for me. It makes me believe in love.
7. Vampire Weekend
I heard of these dudes a few months ago, and have only heard a few songs on that website where people promote their music and themselves. Their songs are really good. My guess is that they will be the band that gets remembered as the most prominent poster child of the late 00s indie-pop afro-pop imitation trend. I don’t know who invented the trend, but theirs is the most poppy and digestible by the masses. I’d buy their record too, I think.
8. Dirty Projectors
I haven’t heard their newer record but their live show in London was very, very good. They managed to marry the soft sounds with the hard sounds, in the way that makes you appreciate both even more. The girls’ voices did weird things that I didn’t understand at all, really beautiful.
9. Trouble vs. Glue
They are a really awesome Italian band who don’t have an official full length out yet. They used to be part of Dada Swing, which put out something on Kill Rock Stars. Now they are pared down and super vital weird electro. It sounds like if a German band set up all their instruments on stage to play and then some Italians locked the Germans in the closet and played the set for them. I saw them twice in Europe, when they play everyone just shuts up and stares.
10. Annie Lennox
I only heard one of these songs on the radio in Germany, but the way the music sounds isn’t what’s important in her case. She makes the list.