by John Kuroski
I’m glad we were pretty different, which feels a little weird to say, because, in ten whole years, five of our picks (and three of our top six) were the same. Aside from those five, I had never heard six of your picks (“Grass,” “Seventeen Years,” “Everything Hits At Once,” “Hoppipolla,” “Stay Cool” and “Crying”). Which of mine hadn’t you heard, and were you compelled to listen? If so, I’d love to hear your reactions. You’ll find my reactions to yours below. But big picture, I’m not terribly surprised by either one of our lists. If I can be glib and reductive, mine seems definitely more mainstream and slightly more black. Like I said, I’m not surprised by either of those things, nor am I sure what to make of them, if anything. You notice any other big picture trends?
Since psychedelia, indie and Pitchfork make me hesitant, these guys are near the top of my didn’t give them a chance even though they probably deserved it list of the last decade. After a few listens, Merriweather is starting to take shape in my head. This is good too. Melodic and accessible in a way I wasn’t expecting. I’m not sure if either of those adjectives would/should be read as compliments. Either way, this is enough to keep me exploring.
“Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”
Again, Pitchfork. So I didn’t listen to the album until December 2010, six years or so after it came out and plenty far removed from the hype. I literally couldn’t get past this song for at least a dozen listens. I would sit down to listen to the whole album and be so blown away by this song, that I had to stop and turn it off. I still can only barely recall the second half of the album. It’s all swallowed up by this song. Vomit of praise aside, they aren’t my thing, but still, it only barely missed my list.
Like I once told you, Eminem is very high on the list of people I respect but don’t enjoy listening to. I love his brand of asshole, but mostly I just can’t get past the voice. The only song on your list I just can’t embrace.
Twenty years from now (or has it already begun?), when hip hop gets the full canonization treatment, I’m glad that Jay will probably be at the top of the mountain. I love him, and it could be so much worse. That said, I’ve got plenty of problems with him. And that doesn’t surprise me. Like Elvis or Sinatra or Ray Charles or any other monument/ambassador, he’s just too big to not have some gripes with. This isn’t exactly the song to pin my Jay-Z hating on (although clearly I’m having trouble resisting the urge), but it does bring to mind two of his (for my money) dirty little secrets: 1.) for someone as good as he is, a little too much of his aesthetic identity hinges on his producers, 2.) although I have no idea what it was like to grow up the way he did, and although he has brilliantly used his autobiography as source material, and although forgetting those two things shows a fundamental misunderstanding of hip hop, I have, to put it glibly, gotten a little tired of hearing his life story, especially by the time this album rolled around, not just because he was more dollars removed from his upbringing, but because The Blueprint felt like the culmination of his past as source. Anyway, this beat is, though not exactly my type, very well done, as is the autobiography, so, like I said, this isn’t exactly the song to pin my Jay-Z rant to.
“All Falls Down”
Good choice and very eloquently analyzed. Kanye, more than anyone else, suffered on my list because of the singles stipulation. How about you (Kanye or otherwise)?
Not quite the up I was expecting, probably because it wasn’t quite the rhythm machine I was expecting, but pretty good. And guitar tones like that can make you forget about rhythm anyway.
You’re absolutely right about Black Thought. It’s indisputable.
Not my thing at all, but I have a vague, totally uninformed sense that they do it well. Also, fuck Vanilla Sky.
“Everything Hits At Once”
Very close to the top of my all time list of bands I should have listened to more of, for every possible reason, except that I just didn’t get around to it. This one confirms that well. And has there ever been an ugly, white dork with a voice as sexy as Britt Daniel’s?
Up there with Animal Collective among bands to whom I unfairly gave no chance. Unfairly. Yeah, this is a great song.