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1.1. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (Def Jam)
1.2. Nicki Minaj – Roman Reloaded (Young Money / Universal)
1.3. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music (Williams Street)
1.4. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream (RCA)
1.5. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (Interscope / Geffen)
6. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball (Columbia)
7. Vijay Iyer – Accelerando (ACT)
8. Demdike Stare – Elemental (Modern Love)
9. MNDR – Feed Me Diamonds (Green Label Sound)
10. Pujol – United States of Being (Saddle Creek)
11. Raime – Quarter Turns Over a Living Line (Blackest Ever Black)
12. Neneh Cherry & the Thing – The Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound)
13. Sky Ferreira – Ghost (Capitol)
14. Purity Ring – Shrines (4AD)
15. Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio (Blue Note)
16. Jessie Ware – Devotion (PMR)
17. Branford Marsalis – Four MFs Playin’ Tunes (Marsalis Music)
18. Trebuchet – S/T (Side With Us)
19. Jeremiah Jae – Raw Money Raps (Brainfeeder)
20. Ceremony – Zoo (Matador)
21. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp (Jagjaguwar)
22. Chuck Prophet – Temple Beautiful (Yep Roc)
23. Forgetters – S/T (Too Small to Fail)
24. Quakers – Quakers (Stones Throw)
25. Andy Stott – Luxury Problems (Modern Love)
The L.A. Times has a review of Nicki Minaj’s L.A. show that criticizes the singer for having too many personas, which I think misses the point. What Nicki Minaj is is too many personas. Nicki Minaj is a bunch of unrealized, scattershot ideas. Nicki Minaj is a schizophrenic 12-year-old with tourettes who’s drank three mochas and has been handed a mic. Because of this—this barrage of short, quick information blasts one experiences while listening to the 29-year-old’s music—Nicki Minaj mirrors the 21st century and its nonstop information overload. It’s a genius, prescient presentation, that happens to fill the important role in teenage pop music of driving older people crazy.
Nicki Minaj is also Katy Perry for the fuckups, evinced by the crowd at the Paramount Theater in Oakland on Thursday night for Minaj’s first-ever headlining tour. In every direction: neon wigs, tight dresses, high heels, high hems, low necklines, lace tutus and gratuitous cleavage, but, like, with intentionally messed-up makeup, or ripped fishnets, or tattoo sleeves. One could easily people-watch in the lobby and feel like the $100 tickets were already money well spent.
1. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening (DFA/Virgin)
2. Yellow Swans – Going Places (Type)
3. Jóhann Jóhannsson – And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees (Type)
4. Robyn – Body Talk Pt. 1 (Konichiwa/Interscope)
5. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor (XL)
6. Standard Fare – The Noyelle Beat (Bar None)
7. V/A – Welcome Home (Diggin’ the Universe): A Woodsist Compilation (Woodsist)
8. The Velvet Teen – No Star (Self-Released)
9. Jack Attack – My Rights Have Been Violated (Self-Released)
10. Jason Moran – Ten (Blue Note/EMI)
11. Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday (Young Money/Universal)
12. Goodriddler – The Strength of Weak Ties (Sell the Heart)
13. Grouper / Roy Montgomery – Vessel (Self-Released)
14. RVIVR – S/T (Rumbletowne)
15. Marco Benevento – Between the Needles and Nightfall (Royal Potato)
16. Hanalei – One Big Night (Big Scary Monsters/Brick Gun)
17. Superchunk – Majesty Shredding (Merge)
18. Hearse – Diagnosed (Self-Released)
19. Sam Amidon – I See the Sign (Bedroom Community)
20. M.I.A. – Maya (Interscope)
21. Evan Parker & John Weise – C-Section (PAN)
22. Daniel Bjarnason – Processions (Bedroom Community)
23. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (Warp)
24. Joseph Hammer – I Love You, Please Love Me Too (PAN)
25. Best Coast – Crazy for You (Mexican Summer)
This is only news to me because I had cynically decided Nicki Minaj’s record would be terrible about eight months ago. I knew the formula, or so I thought: artist puts out a few mixtapes, gets a couple high-profile verses, scores big with critics for something that sets them apart and then goes to record a proper album that crassly exploits those distinguishing features or somehow manages to make them sound completely unoriginal. At least that’s how I thought it might play out.
The first time I heard Nicki Minaj, I was fairly blown away. Then I looked her up and found this. The title of every song she’d guested on thus far sounded like a headline from Penthouse Forum. This brings up age-old issues about feminism in rap and the need to use sex as a foot in the door to get the real issues across; most realize swiftly that sex can be used instead of it using you, especially in the pursuit of sales and page views. When “Bed Rock” hit, I knew that Minaj had just built a career on the line “I think it’s time I put this pussy on your sideburns” in the same way that Ke$ha got famous by waking up and feeling like P. Diddy.
I also decided that her record would be terrible, because there would be too much money thrown at it, and that usually ruins everything. And though Pink Friday sounds plentifully funded, it doesn’t strip Minaj of her basic character—or, I should say, her multiple characters. She still ends lines by spewing like a barking dog (a la guess who’s playin’ Freddy), she still inhabits a persona for two seconds before abandoning it (British aristocrat, southern belle), but the varied production of the songs means that she doesn’t have to overcompensate with a scattered delivery.
Yeah, the thing’s fuckin’ filthy. It’s also hella clever and fun. Without Googling, I hear samples from “Video Killed the Radio Star,” “Don’t You Forget About Me” and “Scenario.” Eminem is an idiot on “Roman’s Revenge”—really, “no homo” in the year 2010?—Rihanna’s uber-inspirational on “Fly” and the production on “Did it on ‘em” lurks addictively. Not to mention that “I’m the Best” is an outstanding way to start an album: verse one humble (“I made a couple mistakes”), verse two trailblazing (“I’m fighting for the girls that never thought that they could win”) and wrapped up with a choice lift from Beyoncé (“all my bad bitches, I can see your halo”).
Oh, shit, and people in Japan don’t speak Thai. But that’s okay, and old Barbie World news anyway. The record’s still good.
So it turns out the Beach Boys, despite widespread rumor, are not actually suing yeowling bimbo Katy Perry for the line “I really wish you all could be California girls.” What they should sue her for, obviously, as forefathers of the summertime jam, is unleashing such a nauseating hit song on the American public. Have you heard the thing? While the Hollywood blockbuster seems to be getting smarter (Inception, The Kids Are All Right), the “summertime jam” is increasingly becoming the radio equivalent of the old-style Hollywood blockbuster—i.e., full of blatant dippiness and cheap thrills designed to make you feel awesome.
But Perry’s “California Gurls” does not make me feel awesome. What does, especially on the way to the beach or sharing beers in the sunset or at a backyard barbecue, is “Dance Yrself Clean,” from LCD Soundsystem, which bank-shots off every border of “summertime jam” to redefine the term. A rant against friends who suffer from diarrhea of the mouth (“Talking like a jerk / Except you are an actual jerk”), the track explodes three minutes in with thick analog-synth blasts and dirty, dirty hi-hats, owing to Talking Heads and Freddie Mercury while paving nine minutes of the way toward a future disco music.
From Inglewood, Cali Swag District brings us the dance-craze “Teach Me How to Dougie,” a razor-thin hip-hop hit hanging on an infectious, simple beat that first made waves in underground circles late last year. Capitol Records cleaned out the bad words and rereleased it this May; the original‘s better, but it still sounds ultrafresh and continues to inspire uploaded dance videos of four-year-olds dancing the dougie in the driveway. (Although: kinda bummed that L.A. gets attention for “Dougie” while this video from Oakland’s Turf Feinz is evidence that the Bay Area produces California’s most elegant street dancing.)
Dancing finds a lonely space in Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own,” an instant contagion advisable to avoid if you don’t want it stuck in your head for the next month. Cribbing Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” concept, the song finds Robyn (a former Swedish teen pop star whose new album opens with a song titled “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do”) self-assured on the dance floor even while the object of her affection goes home with someone else. And Lord, the hooks are insane.
Is there any hit more tailor-made for summertime status than “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae? A rebuke to haters through deft dance moves and killer cadences sung in Monae’s Aretha-like voice, the song tacks on two minutes of call-and-response shouts, horn riffs, ukulele breaks and strings well past the usual three-minute mark; it’s also the rare song with a Big Boi verse where the Big Boi verse isn’t the highlight. Listen to it once and be transformed.
Transformation is the game on M.I.A.’s new album, nowhere more so than on “Steppin’ Up,” with its rhythmic cacophony of lug-nut drills; it manages to make the ridiculous phrase “subb-a-sub-a-sub-sub” sound ill. Similarly, sampling Annie Lennox’s “No More I Love Yous” is a terrible idea on paper; Nicki Minaj owns it for “Your Love.” (“Bloody hell,” M.I.A. recently quipped, “Nicki Minaj runs things.”) Minaj has been a prolific filthy-guest-verse rapper in the past, and if the slow burn of “Your Love” earns some overdue recognition, it will have justified its existence.
No summertime jam this year fills the seaside role like “When I’m with You,” by Best Coast, aka Bethany Cosentino. Cosentino loves cats, smokes weed and has a drummer who routinely wears a bunny suit. She’s also written the carefree beach party hit of the year. If the Beach Boys can shake any money out of Katy Perry, they’d be wise to kick a chunk to Best Coast for keeping their California dream alive—the sunsets, the sand, the surf and the salvation of sloppily swapping saliva. Summertime!
Finally, the internet has been dominated in the last week by what everyone’s declaring the Summertime Jam That Never Was. Cee-Lo’s “Fuck You” isn’t ever going to enjoy radio play, but that hasn’t kept it out of my head since I heard it, just one time, seven entire days ago. Simply put, the song’s catchy as hell, and now that the nonexistent summertime weather in Santa Rosa has finally turned around and decided to shine, it couldn’t hit at a finer time. Watch it below, and enjoy.
I am imagining most people enjoying the new Vampire Weekend with a copy of the dictionary nearby. I am imagining teenagers Googling “Richard Serra Skatepark” to find out where it is, only to discover an incredible artist they’d never heard of. I am remembering myself making horchata from a packaged mix bought from Grocery Outlet earlier tonight, and deciding to stick with the real. I am imagining offering the rest of my horchata bag to Leilani, who makes me laugh.
I am imagining kids watching Jay-Z’s new video and thinking that he invented goth. I am imagining kids watching Lil’ Wayne’s new video, or Lady Gaga videos, and thinking the same thing. I am upset at Ke$ha for jacking L’Trimm’s tip. I am scrolling down the list of songs that Nicki Minaj has guested on, and thinking “nasty,” and then seeing a picture and thinking it tenfold. I am wondering if the sample to “Bed Rock” is from anywhere or if it merely sounds familiar and perfect.
I am looking forward to new electronic releases by old dogs like Blockhead and Four Tet, new dog like Flying Lotus who I wrote off until hearing the “GNG BNG” remix with Blu, which is how I want hip-hop to sound in 2010. I am noticing a rampant use of the dancehall triplets since Arular. I am wondering if RJD2 can come back correct like he deserves. I am reminding myself of seeing him live, numerous years ago, and him not exactly blending records on beat.
I am pondering the fate of Amoeba‘s Berkeley store since hearing rumors of its possible closure. I am saddened upon visiting, last Friday, and being one of about four customers in the entire place. I am speculating that it makes the least amount of money despite being the O.G., and further that they own SF and LA but still rent Telegraph. I am confident that owning a record store next to a college is not what it used to be.
I am conflicted about the reappearance of AFI at the Phoenix this weekend, despite having long ago championed their cause. I am seeing in my mind the setlist from their show on Dec. 29, 1993, at the Phoenix, their “last show,” and remembering how we unabashedly elevated them such that they could not break up like they wanted to. I am thinking of comments in Gimme Something Better that seemed to disparage the scene from which they sprung, and thinking about stepping stones. I am missing Dave and Adam, and still awaiting the new issue of Society Suckers.
I am spinning over the elegance of Nonesuch’s deluxe vinyl pressing of Joshua Redman’s Moodswings, and over the fascinatingly remedial packaging of William S. Fischer’s Akelarre Sorta. I am excited at finding an LP by the German saxophonist Günther Klatt, and tickled that its notes read “Location: Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg. Date: July ’84. Producer: Günther Klatt. Reason: Don’t know.” I am listening to Shafiq Husayn‘s En’a-Free-Ka for the fifth time in three days.
I am hoping that raising a child gets easier like they say, and wishing that Liz and I had time to be together. I am closing my eyes and concentrating on the rain falling on the stovepipe. I am thinking of my walk downtown with Lena in the buggy tonight, at 10pm, and the sound of the wheels crackling the fallen twigs echoing off the Federal Building, and I am glad because my special order for Bjork’s Volta comes in tomorrow.