by carl wilson

Turning Lemons into Daiquiris

moddance.jpg
The greatest record of all time? See second paragraph.

I wrote the Essential Tracks column in today's Globe and Mail, featuring three instances of musicians making the most of their limitations - Derek Bailey and his carpal-tunnel syndrome (or, as it turned out, worse), Laura Barrett and her homemade EP, and Jim Guthrie and his credit-card commercial.

Speaking of lists, Matt Woebot's recent bold presentation of The 100 Greatest Records Ever is fascinating. Although it doesn't really live up to his claims for it (particularly of avoiding obscurity - I hadn't heard of nearly half of them, though I know that's partly a UK-vs-North-America issue), the literal application of the term "record" is refreshing - it runs the gamut from singles to 12"s to full albums, mainly selecting the medium that's most appropriate to the genre (for instance '80s-'90s dance music is a 12" form while post-1960s rock is album-oriented). The passion is palpable, the visuals dazzling, and the choice of Pere Ubu at Number 1 is deeply gratifying to me, though I might argue for Dub Housing instead. If you were building a collection, Matt's list would make a superb starter's guide.

Also there's a different kind of year-end roundup this week - of experimental and "outsider" releases (as much as I dislike that term) - from Doug Harvey in the LA Weekly.

Later: Jason Gross's annual and ever-essential collection of the year's best music writing from newspapers and online sources (but not magazines, where the Da Capo series gets its better content) is now available at RockCritics.com. My column on payola from the Globe in August gets a nod in list number 2, for which I'm very grateful. (Globe articles by my colleagues Liz Renzetti and JD Considine also appear in that list.) My favourite set is actually his fourth, "Amazing Stories in and of Themselves," which provides a useful review of issues that mattered in music in 2005. I would quibble with some of his picks for worst writing, though - Stephen Metcalf's solid (if not so original) Clash essay in Slate doesn't deserve to be ranked with David Yaffe and Josh Levin's genuinely lame pieces in the same zine. Nonetheless, he does us all a huge yeoman's favour each year by holding up these gems and/or coal lumps for a second appraisal. Thanks, Jason.

While we're on about the year in writing, we should note with regret the endpoints of Franklin Bruno's Konvolut M. and Tom Ewing's New York London Paris Munich, two of the mo'better blogs that ever wuz. But otherwise there's a lot of new and renewed scribbling (ok, typing) action in the musosphere to be happy about, including the comebacks of old faves like Woebot and the Church of Me. (See links page.)

ESSENTIAL TRACKS
By Carl Wilson
The Globe and Mail
Friday, January 6, 2005

After 12 Weeks
Derek Bailey, from Carpal Tunnel (Tzadik)

At 75, influential British guitarist Derek Bailey was diagnosed with carpal-tunnel syndrome, which left him unable to hold a guitar pick. In fact, it was a sign of the neuro-motor disease that would claim his life early Christmas Day. (His funeral was Thursday.) But first he released one last disc, an aural documentary of himself slowly reinventing his stabbing, atonal improvising style to pluck by thumb. This final cut rings with a fresh-won clarity - a pungent coda for a maverick thinker for whom each musical moment was a battle, but there never was a war.

Deception Island Optimists' Club
Laura Barrett, from Earth Sciences EP (order via Barrett's MySpace)

Recent University of Toronto grad Laura Barrett accompanies herself on resonant African kalimba (or "thumb piano") while singing lilting melodies that recall Tin Pan Alley, but with a serrated edge. At least six types of ambiguity spring traps in this ostensibly utopian ditty.

Hands in My Pockets
Jim Guthrie (CapitalOne commercial or in full at Guthrie's site)

Toronto songwriter Jim Guthrie has a wry, disarming voice and a ruminative way with words. But this winter he's turned to the noble, near-lost art of the jingle, penning a TV-ad tune that has Canada humming, though its nonsense-rhyme lyrics have zilch to do with credit cards. It may be too catchy for its own good: The bouncy title phrase has been adopted as a taunt by anti-Liberal protesters, and even as a hired gun, this indie artist would likely be appalled if his gifts also ended up lending credit to Stephen Harper.

Read More | | Posted by zoilus on Friday, January 06 at 12:18 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (7)

 

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Posted by GfgrJlscNF on January 23, 2006 11:27 PM

 

 

Works now.

Posted by Chris on January 11, 2006 12:34 PM

 

 

Working as far as I can tell, Chris...

Posted by zoilus on January 10, 2006 05:46 PM

 

 

I couldn't get the link to Matt's list to work. Just me? Ubu at top spot makes my mouth water.

Posted by Le Bob on January 10, 2006 08:22 AM

 

 

That Milton Nascimento/ Lo Borges album on the "100 best albums list" lost the better part of a year for me. Recommended to me personally by - no shit - Jim O'Rourke. (Not like we're buddies or anything.) It's like a Brazillian "Smile". Or maybe "Camofleur".

Posted by Canadian Bystander on January 7, 2006 12:05 AM

 

 

and Worlds of Possibility is back, too, Carl

Posted by Rob on January 6, 2006 05:44 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson