Rappers have been “giving away” mix tapes for years. Some are even better than In Rainbows. And they all have cooler cover art.
Like Miles Davis after his own late-’70s hiatus, Radiohead has been faulted for not creating a revolutionary new sound on every release. Instead, the band has consolidated the gains of their previous triumphs: the crunchy guitar anthems of the early work, the stunning cohesion of the middle-period masterpiece, and the defiant experimental period that followed.
I think I’m over Radiohead. And I think I’ve been over them since Kid A. And nothing post–OK Computer compares to it. There, I said it. I’d do my Hail Marys or whatever, but I’m Jewish.
InRainbows was the music-biz story of 2007, but it left me pondering the price instead of the music. Friends who’d paid $20 or absolutely nothing trumpeted their sure-footed symbolic gestures, while I wondered if the $5 I’d paid made me a cheapskate or a spendthrift. Perhaps, like coffee, there needs to be an independent commission certifying an album’s fair-trade price while taking into consideration wages for “workers,” production, distribution, and promotion costs, and projected sales in order to formulate an equitable price for a digital album, thereby alleviating consumer consternation and allowing us to go back to pondering the music.
Brooklyn, New York
“Umbrella” is all about the hi-hat, open on the one—an easy move, but underutilized, because people think the one has to go down. But umbrellas go up. So the beat is from GarageBand, so what? You didn’t use it, did you?
Jesse Fox Mayshark
About Feist—the war’s lost. If you love that album, as I unrepentantly do, and you’re faced every day with the withering dismissal of her by co-workers, lovers, and friends because of one goddamn iPod commercial that fucking Interscope sold to Jobs on some real meta-marketing shit, then the fight is over. You just need to sip your Earl Grey, pull up your argyles, and finish perusing Hilton Als’s blog on your iBook.
Feist’s playful “1234” starts off like a lullaby you’d sing to an infant, then turns into a pop gem that’s nearly as buoyant as Gwen Stefani’s “The Sweet Escape.” (Interscope is responsible for both: Read into that whatever you like.)
Brooklyn, New York
Five years ago, artists who sold their music for use in product commercials were vilified. Now commercials are a more reliable source of breaking music than radio. Would radio have been smart enough to toss “1234” out there for us? And even if they did . . . is anyone listening anyway?
Fairport, New York
When worlds collide, it often feels like marketing maximized by correlating demographics. Yet when cock-rocker Robert Plant teamed with bluegrass angel Alison Krauss for Raising Sand, what emerged was a seamless blending of styles. Not quite a hybrid, and certainly not easily distinguishable, it was the kinetics of performance that bridged the realms—and gave the Everlys’ “Gone Gone Gone” an urgency that was passion for each other reflected in full rut.
There were interesting parallels between the year’s arguably most acclaimed album (Kala) and novel (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao). Both shattered the myth of Third World dwellers as nobly staid and silent, dutifully genuflecting to tradition. M.I.A. and
Junot Díaz paint their Third Worlders with slang and showmanship, revealing sharp, savvy lives that thrive amid tumult.
Raleigh, North Carolina
When M.I.A. announced that she was traveling the world looking for unique producers, no one expected Kala to come out as a fibrous love letter to her strange adopter: indie rock. New Order, the Clash, the Pixies? The Modern Lovers? OK, OK, uncle—we promise to brush up on Third World politics and neon legwear.
“Paper Planes” makes me want to buy guns just for the sound effects.
Astoria, New York
M.I.A.’s best song is about a woman who gets high, walks around, commits burglary, and shoots people who don’t hand over their money. When “Paper Planes” plays at my house, I dance around in my bedroom with the shades drawn, shooting off rounds with my hands formed into guns.
Those who don’t listen closely hear even more of Kanye’s ego-tripping, but Graduation is about how fame, fashion, and girls are fun and all, but really, not that great.
Forest Hill, Maryland
To me, Late Registration is the sound of someone trying to be great. Graduation is the sound of someone trying to be famous.
Amy Winehouse: “Rehab.” Yes, yes, yes.
Cory Du Browa
Lake Oswego, Oregon
Producer Mark Ronson may be reprising his retro-work with Christina Aguilera here, but Back to Black is to Back to Basics what Let It Bleed was to Let It Be, a lifestyle rather than a stylistic exercise. So if Amy is a vocal magpie who can sound like Billie Holiday at last call or Ronnie Spector before she had a gun pulled on her, at least she sounds like she’s living the lifestyle and not playing dress-up. Except maybe for her use of the word “fuckery” on the bawdy “Me & Mr. Jones.” But who can fault a gal for watching Deadwood?
Sure, that edgy self-destructiveness adds to the music’s allure and its stunning vulnerability, but isn’t that “live fast, die young” credo so 20th-century? This may well be a one-shot flame-out, but you can’t deny what a glorious distillation of Brill Building girl-group pop, Spector, and modern hip-hop it is.
Woodland Hills, California
I can’t help it: I just think it’s so cool that the Keith Richards of her generation is a Jewish woman. And the whole “Rehab”-and-then-going-into-rehab thing—it’s like Lou Gehrig getting Lou Gehrig’s disease. I mean, shouldn’t she have seen that coming?
Hackensack, New Jersey
To be thin, tattooed, and heavily eye-linered is to never have to say when.