Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Best of 2008: Year End November - Rhythm and Blues

Miles Davis Quintet - 'If I Were A Bell' from Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet (1956)

Hardcore for Nerds (Best of) 2008: Year End November - Rhythm and Blues

1. Cold War Kids - 'Welcome to the Occupation' from Loyalty to Loyalty.

2. The Gaslight Anthem - 'Miles Davis and the Cool' from The '59 Sound.

3. Rarely Seen Above Ground - 'The Climb' from Organic Sampler.

6. Jape - 'Phil Lynott' from Ritual.

5. The New Year - 'Folios' from The New Year.

6. Grails - 'Acid Rain' from Doomsdayer's Holiday.

7. Mogwai - 'The Precipice' from The Hawk Is Howling.


This is the last instalment in my pre-end of year list, collecting together some albums that have caught my attention in the last few months. I've already discussed directly and indirectly the first and last pairs of albums, so I wasn't sure how to best construct a mixtape or post from the seven here. As it happened though, taking some less obvious tracks from those albums and an placing them around the newer additions, a theme seemed to appear. It's not rhythm and blues in the sense of "r'n'b" as such, but rather jazz/blues and the more primal origins of rock. The rhythm is in the brash, assertive first two bands and the two beat-driven, experimental Irish artists; the blues are more in the lusher, post-rock tracks of the final three - although within them there is a great variety of style.

Two features have been lifted from Geek Down - first, the genre-paralleling streaming track at top (I probably could have found a Miles Davis track from 1959 and the true 'cool' period instead, but I like that song and it's around the birth of the sound, anyway) and second, the longlist at the bottom of 2008 albums that I've listened to in full, all of which have been covered in this post or previous posts (with two exceptions - God Is An Astronaut and Loma Prieta). It's not perhaps that long - about thirty/thirty-five in total - but it should be the basis for a proper top ten-fifteen of the year in a few weeks.

Cold War Kids and The Gaslight Anthem are part of my loosely-conceived 'alt-Americana' typology of not-quite-indie, not-quite-punk, alternative rock bands that express something very strongly (and critically) American in their music. In the Cold War Kids' case, it's the jazz-rock angst of ordinary life; in that of the Gaslight Anthem, the Springsteen-esque musings. With one, theres's anxiety and fear; with the other, hope and wistfulness. Both are brash, somewhat derivative bands but with enough underlying complexity and creativity to fulfil their cultural role; to infiltrate the mainstream with sufficiently thoughtful and discordant music...

Rarely Seen Above Ground and Jape are both alter egos for Irish rhythm artists: Jeremy Hickey, a drummer and all-round instrumentalist and producer; Richie Egan, the bass player with Dublin instrumental post-rock heroes The Redneck Manifesto. Rarely Seen Above Ground is consequently a groovy, catchy, drum-based but richly coloured blend of pop, post-punk and funk constructed into a nebulous, Talking Heads-resonant feel of music. The song comes in two parts, by the way, so that's why it slows down in the middle. Jape, in general, is more heavily electro - check out this version of 'I Was a Man' or the popular video for the older song, 'Floating' - but this track, for all its minimalism, is an almost perfect encapsulation of his sound and direction. I'm no great fan, musically, of Thin Lizzy, but the sentiment of 'Phil Lynott' is hard to argue against. Pure Dub (as in Dublin, not Kingston).

The New Year is a find directly from Lex Dexter of Organizing Grievances/The Prisonship. The full self-titled album is very good, but I stuck with the same representative choice, the opening track 'Folios', a good deal like a mostly acoustic, jangly, upbeat version of Slint's 'Good Morning, Captain'. Grails and Mogwai are the combined object of josephlovesit's half-finished discussion as well, but in a case of parallel evolution of taste more than anything else: these really are the two most vital post-rock releases of the year, and from which I have chosen their respective closing tracks. Grails 'Acid Rain' is my favourite song on the album, out of a selection of many great ones; though opening with a familiar swipe of Eastern melody, in reality it is far different, a "lush, pacific world of surf melodies and jazzy rhythms, disintegrating into pulsing electronics and re-emerging cyclically into tender clarity". Mogwai may be underwhelming or irritating some critics with their latest album, but I'm in the ideal situation of never really appreciating anything else they did beforehand; and while 'Batcat' and 'The Sun Smells Too Loud' might be atypical Mogwai songs, 'The Precipice' is a straightforward but perfectly executed epic, a descent into sheer post-rock crescendo that identifies why Mogwai still really are, for me, the originals.

2008 Longlist:

(all Irish bands have a Myspace link; other albums have a link to review/download on Worship and Tribute where available)

Bats - Cruel Sea Scientist

The Black Keys, Attack and Release

Chequerboard, Penny Black

Cold War Kids, Loyalty to Loyalty

Envy/Jesu - Split EP

Envy/Thursday - Split EP

Fight Like Apes, Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion

God Is An Astronaut, God Is An Astronaut

Foals, Antidotes

Fucked Up, The Chemistry of Common Life

The Gaslight Anthem, The '59 Sound

Grails, Take Refuge from Clean Living

Grails, Doomsdayer's Holiday

Halves, Haunt Me When I'm Drowsy

Ham Sandwich, Carry the Meek

Have a Nice Life, Deathconsciousness

Heathers, Here, Not There

Human Bell, Human Bell

Jape, Ritual

The Jimmy Cake, Spectre and Crown

Loma Prieta, Last City

Matmos, Supreme Balloon

Mogwai, The Hawk Is Howling

The New Year, The New Year

Patti Smith & Kevin Shields, The Coral Sea

Rarely Seen Above Ground, Organic Sampler

Shooting at Unarmed Men, Triptych

Sinaloa, Oceans and Islands

So Cow, I'm Siding With My Captors

Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend

...Who Calls So Loud, ...Who Calls So Loud

Zomes, Zomes


the apoplexic man said...

this is excellent!

good picks my brother.

I was unaware Envy and Jesu had a split; do you have it by chance?

gabbagabbahey said...

see this post: http://hardcorefornerds.blogspot.com/2008/06/envy-some-more-envy.html
there's no download link in it I think, but a bit of searching in Google Blogsearch or Sordo db should find it.

Zack Thrower said...

I was disappointed by "Last City". Didn't like the vocal effect being throughout.

gabbagabbahey said...

I haven't listened to it that much, but I thought the vocal effect was interesting. reminded me of Honeywell, which is a kind of gold standard in screamo vocals. but that's not to say it can't be overused in this context.

Anonymous said...

a very nice selection of records and songs, I like it and it keep me well informed about whats hot from 2008, because the indie/post-whatever record store in my city I visit the less (an idiot of owner, I prefer to spend much more time in nicer stores, I always enter it with some records in my mind, listen, might grab some, pay and leave again soon)

I missed Jape completely so far and yeah, the new mogwai, I have to get it as soon as possible (means: as far as I have enough money again)

Rarely Seen Above Ground, mh, no, I don´t feel anything listenig to them, just boredom, but the rest is very good

by the way: have you seen?

Dave said...

Incredible post- tonnes of excellent music that probably everybody should check out, especially BATS because they are twice as good as your mother.

The RSAG album is quickly becoming one of my favourites of the year- the bonus disc (his debut album!) doesn't do it for me at all, but the album itself deserves to be played at every club for the next 5 years. If there is any justice in the world, it will be the source for dozens of quality remixes in the coming months.

DFelon204409 said...

hey it's nick from w&t. thanks again for the linking. i'm sort of the dl right now because i'm working on sputnik's year end content but will definitely get that and other updates in december.

gabbagabbahey said...

hey, thanks for the appreciation everybody.

- urbanology: no, that passed me by! I'll check out the album asap.

- dave: you must agree with Phil Udell's review of RSAG in State which finished on the same point about remixes - that "the raw material is solid gold" or something to that effect. but his other point was that it's lacking a bit in production, which I have to agree with somewhat. it could be a better album, even if the ideas and the music itself are brilliant. the second disc has a couple of very good tunes on it, too.

nick - no problem. w&t has covered a lot of the same ground as me in the first place, besides introducing me to some other great albums.

Dave said...

haha, actually yeah I got the idea from his review and decided to claim it as my own. The production isn't an issue for me though- I think it fits in well with the post-punky vibe.

DFelon204409 said...

also, i put up deathconsciousness up in january if you need to link to that too. peace.