Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Best of the Decade: Music (27-25)

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 12:53 PM

Moving (finally) into the upper-half of the list. Here Africa gets a big nod, hip-hop gets pissed, and Todd Snider and Kimya Dawson slip sweet, funny songs into the atmosphere.


Album: Francophonic — Franco (Stern's, 2008)
Franco is the Congo's greatest musician, and perhaps all of Africa's, even if he never became as well-known in the U.S. as King Sunny Ade or Fela. There are many collections of his work that vary in quality and (particularly) availability, but this recent two-disc collection, which spans from 1953 to 1980, might be the best on either count. Intially, I had several Afropop compilations/reissues on this list, but decided to cut them out to make room for more made-in-the-aughts music. I'm including Francophonic — arguably the best of the bunch — as a stand-in for a decade full of great vintage Afropop collections. A few others well-worth tracking down:

A History of Township Music — Various Artists (Wrasse)
The Best of the Classic Years — King Sunny Ade (Shanachie)
The Best Best of Fela Kuti — Fela Kuti (MCA)
— Les Amazones de Guinee (Stern's)
Pirate's Choice — Orchestra Baobab (World Circuit/Nonesuch)
The Voice of Lightness — Tabu Ley Rochereau (Stern's)
Giants of East Africa — Orchestra Super Mazembe (Earthworks)

Song Sample: "Tika Kondima Na Zolo"

Single: "Time to Pretend" — MGMT (2007)
The band we refer to around here as "Disclaimer," but an insta-classic single that can't be left out.


Album: East Nashville Skyline — Todd Snider (Oh Boy, 2004)
From my original 2004 write-up:

This career-best effort from onetime Memphian Snider is the saddest, funniest, and most deeply humane "protest" record of the year even if it isn't overtly political. Snider is too modest and too nice to lecture anybody about anything, but he seems to understand in his bones just how extreme American life has gotten over the past three years, and he is certain of at least one thing: The bad shit always rains down hardest on the poor.

Song Sample: "Conservative Christian, Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males"

Single: "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People — The Legendary K.O. (2005)
Hip-hop responds to Katrina, part one:


Album: The Moldy Peaches — The Moldy Peaches (Sanctuary, 2001)
Juno made Kimya Dawson a semi-star, but here's where she came from. This is a very simple, direct album, and still maybe the least accessible record on the list. From my 2001 year-end stuff:

The Moldy Peaches is homemade, finger-paint pop — "teen" music totally devoid of self-censorship or commercial calculation. Littered with laugh lines ("I wanted to be a hippie but I forgot how to love"), grin lines ("Here is the church and here is the steeple/We sure are cute for two ugly people"), and choice advice ("If you are a kid and no one will play with you/Stick it out, stay tough, and you'll wind up super-cool"), it's a peek into the lives of two twentysomething misfits from suburban New York who alternate from the year's most moving love songs to dirty little sing-along ditties with titles like "Downloading Porn With Davo" and "Who's Got the Crack?" They dance this mess around, fling shit at the walls, tell tall tales, fall in love with how each other feels, and fall asleep watching late-night cartoons. With this sui generis debut, the Moldy Peaches have crafted a Have Moicy! for post-Kids kids, and if 90 percent of the listening public would probably dismiss it on contact, that doesn't mean they wouldn't learn something if they stuck it out. Choice lyric: "Me and my friends are so smart/We invented this new kind of art!" (followed quickly by "Who mistook this crap for genius?").

Song Sample: "Anyone Else But You"

Single: "Georgia … Bush" — Lil Wayne & DJ Drama (2005)
Hip-hop responds to Katrina, part two:

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