Tuesday, December 21, 2004

AKA Year in Review: The Music

This wasn’t easy. My tastes run towards the old skool, so for those expecting an exhaustive list of the good and great of 2004 are doomed to disappointment.

Yes, there were fine, fine albums this year from the Beastie Boys, De La Soul, Jill Scott and Prince. But they all have back catalogues full of fine albums, so no surprises there.

The closest we’re going to get to a musical retrospective is going to come from a glance at the stack getting the most play currently on the AKA Wheels of Steel. To wit:

Masters at Work Mastercuts – Kenny Dope – Disco Heat (2004) – OK, granted, this came out this year, but this is all predominantly late 70s stuff. Discs 2 and 3 are unexpurgated full tracks, but the real treat here is Disc 1, a DJ mix tape. Taking all the chunkiest slabs of funk and cutting the shit out of them, MAW man Dope strips the disco cheese out and only leaves the full phat.

Tom Waits – Foreign Affairs (1977) – Towards the tail end of his lounge lizard lothario era, and just before he embarked on the found sound alchemy of hitting dustbin lids, screaming down tubes and creating sonic marvels, this is Waits at his bruised and beautiful best, with that inimitable voice that sounds like bourbon and barbecue, gravel and gasoline, heartattack and vine.

David Holmes – Ocean’s Twelve OST (2004) – The Rat Pack stylings of the first film are tweaked for a more Eurocentric groove on another flawless package of retro concoctions from Holmes.

Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell – Beautiful (2003) – The Neptunes sterile soundscape twinned with the loping drawl of the Doggfather gives him his best single since those days with Dre.

Maxwell – Now (2001) – One for the Where Are They Now? file. Maxwell’s third album came out almost four years ago, and not a semi-quaver from him since. One of the artists at the vanguard of the Nu Soul movement of the mid-90s, Maxwell’s mixture of 60s vocals, lush 70s arrangements, and a splash of 80s rawness created a sound that sounded reassuringly familiar and sparklingly new at the same time.

Bobby Womack – Lookin For a Love (The Best of 1968–1976) – What can I tell you? It’s Bobby Womack. It’s great. He certainly doesn’t need me bigging him up. The music speaks for itself. Classic.

SINGLE OF 2004 - Twista – Slow Jamz – This would win purely for rhyming “Vandross” with “pants off”, but this valentine to the quiet storm soulsters of the 80s combined with furious wordplay from the ubiquitous Kanye West has been played regularly in the AKA crib for the whole year. We have a winner!

Other than that, I’ve been leaning on old standbys for most of the year, with lots of Joni Mitchell (Blue and The Hissing of Summer Lawns) Stevie Wonder (mostly Fulfillingness' First Finale) and Curtis Mayfield (mostly the Right Combination album he did with Linda Clifford).

A caution on a worrying trend I spied at the end of 2003, which has been maintaining a dangerous pace this year – The evils of Fogey Jazz. Yes, I do mean this hideous Jamie Cullum, Katie Melua, Michael Buble stuff we keep getting. Jazz, like hip-hop 20 years ago, always used to signify innovation and flexibility. Now, its just tired rehashes, and white folks doing black music without any of the flair or creativity. Just a bunch of unnecessary covers foisted on us with depressing regularity. If I hear Rod Fucking Stewart massacring another standard, I will break his beak, shave his spiky head, flay his fake-tan hide and feed him to a leopard. Where’s Courtney Pine when you need him?

Oh, and I loathe the Scissor Sisters. Stop lauding them. 'Tis shit.

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