Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Disposable Music: Dave's Top Ten Tunes for 2009

Is it just me, or is production a thing of the past? Now, I’m not suggesting that we return to the self indulgent over-produced world of Alan Parsons or anything like that. Good God no! But, did you happen to listen to the 2009 release “Horehound” by Jack White’s latest project The Dead Weather? The sound is appalling! I realize Jack is a fan of sparse production, but the cymbals sound like someone hitting rice paper with a spoon and the recording levels are pushed so high that what should be an ear splitting wall of aural pleasure ends up sounding like the shitty speakers in your Dad’s old K-car. And Jack’s not alone. Bad production seems to be the trend in popular music. What gives?

Well, I have a theory, and it goes something like this: you get what you pay for. Those “masterpieces” from the 70’s cost millions of dollars to produce. Even with today’s advanced recording techniques, some basic sound engineering goes a long way to producing a good finished product. Yet it all costs money, and in today’s digital world music is basically free. Anyone with a kindergarten level understanding of economics knows that you can’t earn a living by investing lots of money in something that you give away. The music industry is no exception.

So I think Jack has it right - throw an album together as fast as you can, screw the production and tour like hell. At least people still pay to see bands play live. And with that, here in no particular order are my top ten tunes for 2009:
(Sorry Jack, I just couldn't bring myself to include The Dead Weather. Great live show, though!)

British Port Authority – He's Frank
How is this not the single of the year? Combine Fatboy Slim’s beats and sense of humor with vocals by Iggy Pop and you’ve got an instant summertime pop classic. Roll down the windows and let the sun shine in!

The XX – Crystalised
The first single from this London quartet (now a three piece) is a perfect example of their dual vocals and indie pop style. Worth the hype.

Atlas Sound – Quick Canal
When I first heard Quick Canal I had no idea Atlas Sound was the solo project of Deerhunter’s (whose Microcastle was on my 2008 Top Album list) lead singer Bradford Cox. Doesn’t matter. Quick Canal is a succulent stunner, with just enough background noise to keep me interested.

Spoon – Got Nuffin
Another great track from Austin’s veteran hipsters.

Modest Mouse – Satellite Skin
Ok, gotta admit, I’ve got a soft spot for these guys. Still, No One’s First… is an EP with as much variety as any of their albums. It’s like they didn’t feel the pressure to create a cohesive album, so just compiled some tracks on a long EP. Works for me.

Animal Collective – Summertime Clothes
Man these guys are weird! Ain’t it great?

School of 7 Bells – Wired For Light
Twins! What more can I say?

Fever Ray – When I Grow Up
Has anyone ever heard of a Swedish band called “The Knife”? Me neither, but all you ever hear about Fever Ray is that it’s a side project of The Knife’s lead singer. Regardless, after listening to the album Fever Ray, I’m afraid for her two children. Very afraid. This is dark stuff.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – And The Hazy Sea
They do a pretty good job of filling a very large hole that was created when Pavement ceased to exist. “And The Hazy Sea” opens their debut as well as Stephen Malkmus could have ever hoped.

Kasabian – Underdog
Got their groove back on this one, sorta. Sounds like the boys are still popping pills, which is a good thing for us.

A Place To Bury Strangers - Lost Feeling
Nothing new here, but thank god someone out there still makes music with loud fuzzy guitars and distorted vocals. The Jesus and Mary Chain would be proud.

Obits – Milk Cow Blues
Nothing new here either, but thank god someone out there still likes to rock. April Wine would be proud.

Now, for those of you who were counting, that is actually twelve tunes, not ten. Let's call it "Dave's Top Ten Tunes Plus Two for 2009". And, as a reward for those of you who have been patient enough to read all the way to the bottom, here's a link to where you can download each of these fine tracks for your listening pleasure: . (Download the zip file DigglingMash2009, unzip, and enjoy!)