by carl wilson

Extra: 2006, An Assistant-Baker's Dozen

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In which Zoilus listings-&-otherwise help-out guy Chris Randle discusses 12 songs that didn't come up in my own year-end roundup of albums and singles... and one that did. - CW


Pet Shop Boys, I'm With Stupid
George is dumb and Tony's his poodle, as the jokes go (often gayed up for extra hyuks). Somehow Neil Tennant can wring emotion out of even these tired jibes, turning their special relationship into the stuff of all his best songs - tortured queer love. His affecting portrait of a self-absorbed man attempting to justify his feelings for a lover everyone deems dumb as a post is that rare thing, a political song both sympathetic and damning. Tennant twists the knife even as he pities: Is his man really stupid, the singer quails as those sirens blare, or just an unthinking user? "Have you made a fool of me? Are you not Mr Right?" Oh, Tony - why couldn't you tell?

Rozasia, Track 3
Whirling flute trills, raw noise, mad little yelps. I first encountered Rozasia at one of those vital shows being organized in the city's dark, abandoned industrial spaces and it couldn't have been more perfect. I'm happy that their soundtrack for insanity will help ring in the new year for a hundred or so lucky people.

Meat Loaf, It's All Coming Back to Me Now
The Eye writer who reviewed this album called Meat Loaf "an eight-year-old's fantasy of what 'rocking out' might sound like when he or she grew up to be a teenager." I can't put it any better than that. Apparently the latest album was mostly a disappointment, but I love this single, reclaimed from Celine Dion (unlike most of her songs, it sounds more uncomfortable than merely terrible) and inflated with all the hot air that Loaf's barrel chest can muster. Bombast seemed to come back in vogue this year, with even mallcore bands embracing operatic openings and gothic excess. There's a kind of naive charm in the likes of My Chemical Romance attempting ludicrous concept albums they can't actually articulate the meaning of (better that than the Decemberists' basing songs on their English-lit classes), but the Wagnerian heavyweight still blew 'em out of the water with this one.

The Bicycles, Two Girls from Montreal
Summer was idle days in parks and snug clubs, listening to songs like this. They admire The Monkees and the drummer girl's voice is deeper than the singer boy's. How could they not be lovable?

Tim Hecker, Blood Rainbow
Music to fall asleep to, music for moving on, as a friend said when I was listening to this record recently. The glitchy soundscapes soothe while hinting at disquieting, thrilling uncertainty.

The Hidden Cameras, Lollipop
Awoo didn't get as much attention as it deserved, most reviewers glossing over a notable shift in the Cameras' subject matter from all dicks, all the time to a subtler, more wide-ranging lyrical approach. It's no classic, but it feels like a maturation. Of course, having said that, I would go and pick the ditty about blowjobs. But I love the sly poetry here, Joel Gibb yelping about "mouths of salivating froth" over bouncy sing-song staccatos that sound like a kids' song. They've broadened a bit, chosen to code and play coy more, but the Cameras are still queer and explicitly sexual in what they address, and when more indie groups seem willing to show that side of themselves than even at the year's beginning they deserve some credit. That Kids on TV album can't arrive soon enough!

Belle & Sebastian, The Blues Are Still Blue
Quite possibly the best song from their best album yet. The twee has been dialed down and augmented with a playful glam swagger. Kind of like a feyer New Pornographers.

The Blow, Parentheses
Paper Television seems to have been underappreciated, judging from all those year-end lists. True, it lacked an unflinchingly honest and heart-flaying vocal performance on the level of Come On Petunia or Hey Boy, but it's still solid, with this song being a particular standout, as the captivating Khaela Maricich gently tells her lover that it's cool to be sensitive and a punctuation mark: "You're not a baby if you feel the world/All of the babies can feel the world, that's why they cry."

Yelle , Short Dick Cuizi (Tepr Remix)
Some kind of French dance thing? Apparently remixed by a Gallic rapper? I could barely find this track online after hearing it at a dance party, with my limited capacity for the language, let alone uncover much information about it, but I love this, even if mocking a guy over his small penis seems like a failing of that famous French wit.

James Kochalka Superstar, Superfuckers Theme
I wanted to include a song taken directly from a video game for this, in recognition of the medium's increasing convergence with mainstream art and music and my own interests, but nothing was weird and compelling as 2004-05's Katamari soundtracks. My nerd substitute is the theme song for indie-comics-weirdo James Kochalka's demented, hilarious and sneakingly affectionate parody Superfuckers, performed by his side project band (which has gotten a distinctly higher profile in the past year - they did the theme for a failed sitcom!): "Always in our clubhouse getting high/ Everybody wishes we would die."

Plastic Little, Rap O'Clock
Ghostface frankly kicked their asses on his guest spot, but Plastic Little aren't really concerned with refining technical skill or the best production; they're practically outside the game, some goofy guys from Philly simply having a good time. The rap equivalent of a Toronto bad band? I'm just happy there's a crew with "being funny" as its main goal that isn't soul-destroying nerdcore. Plus I'll always like any group who came up with this rhyme: "I like indie girls who say they like electro/ Clash, crash, that's cool, I like Fischerspooner too/ But nah, bitch, I don't bitch/ I like some Ice Cube."

DAT Politics, Turn My Brain Off
I took some speed for money recently (long story) and the first thing I did under the influence was play video games. It still paled a little in comparison to these guys. Sounds like Sega Genesis on crack. God willing, the inevitable 90s revivalists will take their influence from 16-bit and not Pearl Jam's Ten.

Final Fantasy, He Poos Clouds
Not the best song from my favourite album of the year; my head would go with the anguished vaudeville lament This Lamb Sells Condos or the quavering percussion that forms Song Song Song. But He Poos Clouds is my favourite, having become more personal than that tale of condo developer/wizard as an impotent, hubristic despoiler. It was, I think, during a late-night discussion of the song-in-progress that I actually met Carl for the first time, almost exactly a year ago. I heard this song at the first local show I ever went to. I was a nerdy kid, pretty solitary for much of my childhood and into the beginning of adolescence, and a young Owen Pallett taking skirt-wearing elf Link from the Legend of Zelda games to be his alternative gay icon makes perfect sense to me, just as the Final Fantasy series' fey, operatic melodrama lends itself beautifully to the name for all his work. 2006 was also the year Grant Morrison completed his brilliant, affecting forgotten-superhero epic Seven Soldiers (itself often concerned, like He Poos Clouds, with malevolent father figures and confronting mortality); the year in which the most universally-acclaimed film appears to be a fairy tale (the old kind, bloody and frightening) created by the director of Blade 2 and Hellboy. Gutter culture or folk culture, both ostracized in their own way, imbued with a modern sophistication and vital relevance to the present. So why not a meditation on loss, on the atheist dealing with death, that quotes Zelda and Narnia and Dungeons & Dragons in the musical language of a band geek? Inside so many nerds beats the bleeding heart of an emotional basket case.

In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, January 03 at 7:04 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

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Zoilus by Carl Wilson