10. Adebisi Shank – This Is The Second Album Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank [IRL]
Okay, so everybody loves Adebisi Shank. They pack out the Button Factory, we all agree that they belong in this sort of list, and their songs sound bigger than France. But think about how strange that is for a minute. Conor O’Brien guests, but it’s a struggle to even figure out what’s him. The next closest thing to singing is monotone vocoding on Genki Shank. What’s relatable about antsy prog guitars? Or about anything? It’s not clear. My only guesses are stupidly abstract things like ‘saturated primary colours’ or ‘this song sounds a bit like Duplo’. It’s fantastical, and, conveniently for the purposes of this sentence, fantastic too. Micromachines plays like a song from the first album recut to soundtrack an adventure game. Genki Shank tumbles from neck-snap post-hardcore into Rocky Balboa territory. Bones is a Paul Simon song performed by a robot from the past programmed to simulate the future. And International Dreambeat, well that’s obviously a rainbow. This is a distillation of all the might of the first album, a bunch of dreams in 8-bit colour, all of Japan and the inner beauty of kitsch stuff most people like with a raised eyebrow. And this is a joke about this being a review of the second album by Adebisi Shank.
An interview I did in the first issue of TN2 I edited, pp. 6-7, plus a video of the infamous stage invasion at the launch in Whelans.
9. Xiu Xiu – Dear God I Hate Myself [US]
Calling your album something this blunt is a pretty strong rebuff to a culture of ironic appreciation and knowing self-deprecation, especially if you have the kind of haircut Jamie Stewart has. So, with vocal intonation, confrontational lyrics, frantic meshes of blips, beats and guitar notes and doses of silence, Dear God I Hate Myself sets out to render unipolar depression into a form still roughly bound by the conventions of the pop song. Of course, this, or something approaching this, is what Xiu Xiu has been about for its entire existence. But this is somehow different to deal with. The thumb and index finger plucking of Hyunhye’s Theme, matched with chromatic flourishes and some Chinese strings, is a “you” song, a confused atmosphere for Stewart to inhabit while he writes his letter to a friend. But then comes the title track, probably the most accessible Xiu Xiu song in terms of its combination of sounding like a normal song and its being upbeat. It’s a strange combination, listening to “and I will never feel happy/and I will never feel normal” before being compelled to join in on the nigh-anthemic chorus. “Dear God, I hate myself.” For whatever reason, that moment breaks down some of this-is-weird barrier of unrelatability Xiu Xiu can carry, and that transfers to the whole album, making it probably the best of all eight.
Transcript of Totally Dublin interview from here, and controversial make-self-sick video.
8. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening [US]
I had an argument about this album just after it came out. I was for it, my adversary was against it. For every point I made – less filler than previous albums, great individual tracks, James Murphy’s personality, Drunk Girls sounding like our mutual friends when they are, in fact, drunk girls – he held the exact opposite opinion. We agreed on one thing, though. Dance Yrself Clean. If there’s even been a reason to lament the process of opening shrink wrap, removing vinyl, putting it on a record player and sitting down to actually listen to it for the first time, Dance Yrself Clean is it. It’s not a grower. It’s there already. You turn it up loud, because it’s quiet, and Murphy starts to wax with a hint of dejection about socialising or whatever. Then it blows up. Sheets of synth and bass. One of those rare endorphin surges, like when In The Flowers pops or Mr. Grieves turns. It’s a fucking white marble sculpture of a song. And, despite the opinion of my friend, that’s not all that’s good about This Is Happening. Murphy’s on form throughout, whether complaining about Village Voice gossip columnist Michael Musso or love being like an astronaut. The beats are in the pocket, building slow and repetitive as they do, unafraid of overstaying their welcome. And they sound like his record collection, still. From this position, I can say ‘serious’ or ‘cop-out’ or ‘hard to define’. And I have done, in conversation, for months. If album-making, rock band-touring LCD Soundsystem does end up finishing here, it’s a good way to go.
Pitchfork interview and loads of fun Drunk Girls video.
7. Earl Sweatshirt – Earl [US]
Tyler, the Creator takes on the job of introducing his brother and newest OFWGKTA member Earl. “Earl, Earl say something. Trust me guys, he’s a rapper. Say something!” So he does. “I’m a hot and bothered astronaut crashing while jacking off to bufferin’ vids of Asher Roth eatin’ apple sauce.” Which is obviously a different way to embark on a rap career. As a debut album, Earl’s the equivalent of opening an Ikea flat pack and watching it turn into the Sagrada Familia without touching it. This kind of convoluted, sometimes forced DOOM-y rhyming seems like it shouldn’t be coming from someone young enough to be sent to boot camp by his mother for doing it, but there’s shit here that a polished 30 year old rapper couldn’t even dream of. Leftfield similes: “I’m attracted to you like teenyboppers to Apple Stores.” Cartoonishly provocatory pronouncements: “Wave hi to the Ritalin regiment, double S shit, swastikas on the Letterman bitch.” And yes, plenty of rape, both date- and otherwise. But the point is, this is the kind of imagination only one other dude in the world has anything similar to, and that’s his brother, who put his album out on Christmas Day 2009 and thus avoided this list narrowly. On that (Bastard by Tyler the Creator), Earl calls himself the reincarnation of ’98 Eminem. If Eminem was this weird, the last decade would have been a stranger place.
Download Earl and all the other OF shit for free at their site (at the top), and look at this.