Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Best of 2010: #9 Women - Public Strain

In an age of atmospheric rock bands who forgo the rock part, and regular rock bands who can’t create a mystique for the life of them, Women have stood apart. This is mostly because so much of their music is built on the a back and fourth conversation between a tight as hell pop rock rhythm section and a pair of divergent adventurous guitar players. (I wonder if their dust up this past fall was along those battle lines, for the sake of the story it should be.)

On Public Strain, Women have made a record that is leaps and bounds above what was already a preternaturally unique and assured debut. Through out the record the a wash of fuzz that would feel right at home on a Fennesz record(or might even pass off as a record of it’s own) is cut through with tightly wound pop songs. “Narrow the Hall” is a furiously dark post punk. “Untogether” anchored by one of the most infectious bass lines of the year. “Bells” swelling and slight, allowing for a breath in a surprisingly chaotically paced album. Album closer “Eyesore” is a ghostly dark rock epic. With the right promotional push it could be the black light enthusiast’s song of the year.

Through out the album Women sound like a machine verging on near collapse as it pushes it's self into it’s last possible gear. Guitars sound like the strings are going to all snap apart at once, the drums heads are all going to cave in and all you’ll be left with is a bass thumping forward until it realizes it’s been abandoned. This never actually happens on this album but you get the sense, if they went one track further it would have.

Best of 2010: #10 Tyler the Creator - Bastard

This is indefensibly offensive music. Let me just say that right away. That I or anyone else likes it suggests we’re little boys with a completely debased sense of humor and a completely immature view of the world.

In my youth I found Kurt Cobain, who’s pro-queer, extreme feminist ideals I took to heart. It lead me down the road of Riot-Grrrl, occasional nail polish, Sleater-Kinney, and a general distaste for all things macho and extreme. But something funny happened on the way to the end of the last century. Rap music. For years I did moral back flips to rationalize my love of the often homophobic and possibly even more often misogynistic perspective on the finest work of N.W.A, Wu Tang Clan, Biggie, Jay-Z and pretty much anyone else you could name.

With Tyler the Creator’s Bastard, these horrible attributes are abundant and inescapable. But so too is a sense that this is coming from a place of true nihilism, not seemingly from a philosophy of specific hate. This is obviously a white liberal argument (and a very thin one at that) for some pretty vile shit. And so I won’t try too hard to sell this. I will say the beats, mostly produced by Tyler himself, are gritty, simplistic and excellent. And the rhymes are completely immersive in often unpleasant but always captivating ways.

It is one of my ten favorite records of the year because it feels strangely new. (Though it could probably be branded a revival.) In an age of hip-hop for everyone this record insists that some people hate it. It dares forward looking intellectual types to like it in spite of themselves. It’s just wicked. Hopefully both me and Tyler grow out of this shit.