Friday, January 05, 2007

More of the same.

Hello again!

Carrying on with a couple more little lists today. Cast your eyes downwards and you'll find out what I think were the best various compilations, artist compilations (including reissues) and un-pigeonholeable releases of 2006. That's assuming that you're interested in all this anyways...

Top 10 Various Compilations of 2006
1. Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution In Sound (Soul Jazz)

The music on this compilation was recorded at a time of turmoil for Brazil and it comes from a handful of artists who were convinced that music could change the world. It was a noble, but doomed endeavour, but the politics (for those who don't speak Portuguese anyway) is just another facet of this joyous, celebratory music. Gal Costa's 'Sebastiana' is one of the sexiest things I've heard all year, while both versions of 'Bat Macumba' that bookend this comp (from Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes) are the sound of the best party you've never been to. Essential stuff.

Tom Ze - Gloria (mp3)

2. The DFA Remixes Chapters One & Two (DFA/EMI)

One of those compilations that it's hard to gauge whether it's essential or inessential is this bipartite collection of all the DFA's remixes thus far. If you have them all already, it may seem a little pointless to shell out for two CDs worth of tunes that will be familiar to you, but if you don't have them, then you might struggle to be swayed into taking a chance on them. But really, this contains some of the best remixes of the last five years and works as a way of charting the progression of the most consistent production team of the nascent twenty-first century. From the wonderfully scrappy disco rework of Le Tigre's 'Deceptacon' through to their more recent, adventurous takes on Hot Chip's 'Colours' and Tiga's '(Far From) Home', it proves that The DFA are at the forefront when it comes to pushing dance music in new and exciting directions.

Hot Chip - (Just Like We) Breakdown (mp3)

3. DC Recordings Presents Death Before Distemper (DC Recordings)

Most record labels these days subscribe to an eclectic aesthetic, but within the realm of dance music, the opposite is often the case. From the likes of Kompakt, Get Physical and Trapez, you get mostly brilliant, but occasionally quite uniform releases. With DC Recordings, that is also applicable, but after ten years in the game, J. Saul Kane's imprint has fashioned an out-there mindset amongst his handful of acts (a sound that can only be described as sci-fi disco), that it often sounds like their ploughing their own separate furrows, but gathered together, as they are here, it becomes evident that they're all working from the same distinctive blueprint. But no other label does what DC does and this remarkably consistent comp showcases that sound perfectly, with sonic adventurers like The Emperor Machine, Kelpe, White Light Circus and Padded Cell setting phasers to stun and doing so with alarming regularity. Highly recommended.

The Orichalc Phase - Respond In Silence (mp3)

4. Faith Presents T.K. Disco: Mixed By Bill Brewster (Stateside)

Yet another great compilation from Stateside, this sheds light on a neglected aspect of the many-coloured '70s disco scene. T.K. Disco, set up by the venerable Henry Stone in the middle of that decade, had a different kind of aesthetic to most other disco and funk labels at the time. That came out of the label's home being Miami, something reflected in the label's double palm tree logo and, more importantly, in the sunnier, more exotic sound of the records that came from there. T.K. was far from obscure at the time, releasing hits from the likes of George McRae and K.C. & The Sunshine Band among others, but this album highlights some of the dustier, arguably better grooves that came from this stable from the likes of Little Beaver, Mad Dog Fire Department and Jimmy 'Bo' Horne. For people who like their disco with more funk, more fun and more bounce to the ounce then this is the CD for you. Bonus points for Bill Brewster's (DJ History) hectic mix on the first disc.

Foxy - People Fall In Love (While Dancing) (mp3)

5. New York Noise Vol. 3 (Soul Jazz)

In my opinion the best of the New York Noise compilations so far, this one focuses on a lot of the synth-noise stuff that came from NY in the early-80s, but casts its net slightly wider to take in the fevered jazz-blues of James Blood Ulmer andthe scratchy, deconstructed rock of the two fabulous UT songs included here. Worth the price alone for impLOG's jaw-dropping 'Holland Tunnel Dive' and Judy Nylon's fun, feral take on 'Jailhouse Rock'.

James Blood Ulmer - TV Blues (mp3)

6. Salsoul Presents Disco Trance & Cosmic Flavas (Salsoul)

7. Elaste Vol. 1: Slow Motion Disco (Compost)

8. Girlmonster (Chicks On Speed)

9. This Is Rong Music (Rong Music)

10. American Hardcore: The History Of American Punk 1980-86 (Rhino)

Top 10 Artist Compilations/Reissues of 2006

1. Mclusky - Mcluskyism (Too Pure)

At last, a near-comprehensive collection from one of the finest bands to come from Wales in the '90s, or at least definitely the best that you never heard. Although they couldn't get arrested in their lifetime, the cult of Mclusky has continued to grow since they decided to call it a day over two years ago. Sharp, witty, surreal and often brutal, Mclusky were a punk band who took the Pixies sex and violence approach to furious guitar music and ran with it. There weren't many songs from the last six years that were as hilariously mental as 'Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues' (a song that most definitely lives up to its audacious title) or as genuinely touching as 'She Will Only Bring You Happiness', despite its refrain of "Our old singer is a sex criminal". This three CD set (one hits, one b-sides, one rarities and live tracks) will win them more and more fans and will hopefully see their red-eyed conviction finally pay off, even if they are no longer with us.

Mclusky - That Man Will Not Hang (mp3)

2. R.E.M. - And I Feel Fine: Best Of The I.R.S. Years (1982-1987) (I.R.S.)

A portrait of one of the biggest bands in the world finding their feet, And I Feel Fine also, arguably, contains some of the best material they ever recorded and some of the best songs to come out of the American underground in the whole of the 1980s. Who can resist the sheer passion and intensity of songs like 'Radio Free Europe' or 'Finest Worksong'? Also, this period was where they perfected the careworn, country-flecked indie-rock that they honed on Out Of Time and Automatic For The People with the likes of 'Cuyahoga', 'Driver 8' and 'Fall On Me' standing out. Makes you fall in love with them all over again, at least until you go and dig out Reveal, thinking that, 'y'know, it might not be as bad as you thought it was.

R.E.M. - Cuyahoga (mp3)

3. Lindstrom - It's A Feedelity Affair (Feedelity)

A highly essential purchase for anyone with even a passing interest in dance music, It's A Feedelity Affair cobbles together some of Hans-Peter Lindstrom's 'hits', alongside some of his lesser known works, some of which are best part of a decade old. Fashioning all hues of disco into impressive mini-masterpieces, Lindstrom here proves himself adept and adaptable within his field. While some of the more proggy tracks, like 'There's A Drink In My Bedroom And I Need A Hot Lady' are more geared towards the living room (maybe even the dining room, if dinner parties are your wont, you bourgeois pig!), there are just as many club-skewed tracks like 'The Contemporary Fix', 'Cane It For The Original Whities' or the ubiquitous and much-remixed, 'I Feel Space' that practically beg you to bust a move. This compilation may be taken as Lindstrom putting a cap on the first phase of his career before he moves onto god knows what, but whatever seam he chooses to mine in the future, he'd have a hard time bettering the lofty peaks on this album.

Lindstrom - Cane It For The Original Whities (mp3)

4. Pavement - Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition (Domino)

Pavement really are spoiling us with the remasters they've issued over the last few years, but this one was undeniably the best yet. Not only were the extra rarities worthy of most other bands albums, but it gave us Pavement fans a chance and an excuse to delve back into the most divisive album they committed to tape. Upon revision, Wowee Zowee hasn't become my favourite Pavement album, but this reissue has definitely made me appreciate it more. Seen as an attempt at commercial and critical suicide, the album is glaringly rough-edged, some of the songs still sound like cast-offs and it's about fifteen minutes too long, but it also carries some of the band's best moments, in the sublime 'Grounded', the raggedy, stop-start indie of 'Rattled By The Rush' and the weary sway of opener, 'We Dance'. A wild, fractured, but grand statement by one of the best American bands of the 1990s.

Pavement - Give It A Day (mp3)

5. Tom Moulton: 'A Tom Moulton Mix' (Soul Jazz)

It's a bit contentious that this should be in the artist compilations list, seeing as it is ostensibly a various collection. However, Tom Moulton's stamp is all over these songs, so it has a verisimilitude that not all various albums have. Tom Moulton, for those who aren't clued up, basically invented the remix. He never djed, he worked only in the studio, but he had an innate sense and feel for what would work in a sweaty disco club, stretching out the good parts, building tangible anticipation and creating a real sense of euphoria that the original's didn't always have. He's done more for dance music than most and this compilation is a joyous celebration of that turning point in the history of the genre.

Orlando Riva Sound - Moonboots (Original 12" Promo Mix) (mp3)

6. Josef K - Entomology (Domino)

7. Sebadoh - III (Domino)

8. Chavez - Better Days Will Haunt You (Matador)

9. Field Music - Write Your Own History (Memphis Industries)

10. David Byrne & Brian Eno - My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts (Nonesuch)

And now, I want to highlight a few releases that don't really come under any bracket, as far as I'm concerned, so let's just call it...

Top 5 Honourable Mentions of 2006

1. LCD Soundsystem - 45:33: Nike Original Run (DFA/EMI)

When James Murphy took the offer from Nike to create a one-off continuous mix, engineered to soundtrack a workout, there were cries of sell-out. Rather than take the money and run, as it were, Murphy avoided the temptation to phone it in and turned in an often hypnotic, always surprising work that pointed towards where LCD Soundsystem were headed next, most explicitly in the second 'movement', which has turned up on their sophomore album, Sound Of Silver as 'Someone Great'. After it was released via iTunes, the carping stopped and some message board posters were even likening it to Manuel Gottsching's classic, seminal masterwork, E2-E4. It's not as groundbreaking or even as good as that record, but as a stand-alone piece of work, it's pretty damn good all the same.

2. Glass Candy - Yes Music (CD-R)

The latest in Glass Candy's tour CD-Rs was their best, most fully realised yet. They use these releases to get songs that are often just works-in-progress out there to the fans, while the band try to perfect them. Songs like the classy, icy Moroder-disco of 'I Always Say Yes', 'Etheric Device', and, 'High B' sound finished already, but I'm sure that, when the album, Life After Sundown finally comes around, it will be utter perfection. In fact, I'm going to throw my hat into the ring and say that it will be the album of the year.

Glass Candy - I Always Say Yes (mp3)

3. Eugene Mirman - En Garde, Society! (Sub Pop)

Comedy albums can be a strange beast; the jokes come across but the communal atmosphere of being in a comedy club actually watching the jokes being told is often lost. Laughter is infectious after all and even though the laughter from the audience is recorded, it doesn't come as easy to laugh along when you're listening at home, alone. With En Garde, Society! though, I was laughing like a drain from start to finish, as Mirman's surreal flights of fancy are just so damned hard not to get carried away by them. Mirman's a smart gag-man too, not just silly, he understands the evocative, tickling nature of funny-sounding words and his delivery and timing is by and large impeccable. The only comedy album released this year that has real relistenable value (sorry Demetri Martin and Brian Posehn).

Eugene Mirman - Truth Or Dare, Dogs, Tube Steak Sex Guys (mp3)

4. Daft Punk - Live At Belfort (Bootleg)

It's often difficult for electronic acts to cut it in the live arena, doubly so if you weren't actually there, but this bootleg of Daft Punk at the Eurockeennes festival in June this year dashes both those presumptions with a bucketload of aplomb. Guy-Man and Thomas are way too savvy not to understand what makes live music so life-affirming and here they play the hits with a DJ's acumen and a rock band's intensity. Even the Human After All cuts work better in the live setting and while it's not as good as actually witnessing it first hand, this is as good as live albums get, even if it is unofficial. Seek it out.

Daft Punk - Da Funk (Live At Belfort) (mp3)

5. Lily Allen - My First Mixtape (Download)

La Allen announced herself onto the world with this hour-long mash-up of classics, contemporary pop, r'n'b and hip-hop, with her own songs. The first marker of the fact that Lily was something a bit special was that her own material didn't sound incongrous in the mix. Plus, where else can you hear Creedence Clearwater Revival, 50 Cent and Dizzee Rascal in the same place?

Download it here (save as).

Back tomorrow (maybe) with my pick of the best television of 2006. Flogging a dead horse in style!



Anonymous vilhelm said...

great blog keep it up

10:50 pm  

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