Tuesday, January 29, 2013


HA! playlist.

As with many other Liner Notes, the "HA!" theme came about from a couple songs I ended up not using: the Beach Boys' "Little Pad" and Oschino and Meek Mill's "Laughin' At 'Em." The Beach Boys cut is like most of Smiley Smile in that it feels tender, melancholy and damaged, which is probably why the laughter always stuck out as sounding alternately refreshing and sad. "Laughin' At 'Em" is an emotional departure for being a track of pure confidence and aggression. The combination of the two was enough to set me on a path of exploring laughter in pop.

The "Okeh Laughing Record" is an excellent starting point because it gives both context for the acceptability of laughter in music, as well as a bizarre reference point for how far we have come. The record was a "hit" in the early '20s--mind you, at a time when phonograms were only beginning to take hold in households. Add the fact that the recording industry was in its nascent stages at the time and the lack of an existing culture of purchasing and playing a recording at home for leisure, and this record becomes evermore fascinating. Over two-minutes of cheap vaudvellian humor--someone trying to start a song, but becoming overcome with fits of laughter instead--"The Okeh Laughing Record" is a marvel for delivering numerous novel ideas at the time: voice, music, and the combination of the two into a joke. This must have been the equivalent of the Pink Floyd light show at the Observatory at the time.

The fact that the record was a hit and spawned numerous knockoff recordings or "covers" (Nate noted that he knew the bit from a Looney Tunes cartoon; gotta look into that) is not so much of a concern here. Instead, it's interesting to see how laughter becomes incorporated into popular recordings. Charles Penrose's "Laughing Policeman" is a great example of a straightforward incorporation, where the laughter is both a part of the song's description of the protagonist, as well as a rhythmic device in the chorus. It's also fucking annoying by today's standards, but interesting to think how this might have been funny at one point.

Unsurprisingly, musicians soon tapped into the idea of laughter as an expression of both joy and pathos. Paul Evans' "Happy Go-Lucky Me" is a quintessential example of deep sadness masked with kids'-cough-syrup-sweet optimism. The hiccup of his "huh-ha" before every "happy go-lucky me" sounds so choked and forced, the listener can see the tears through which Evans must have sang.
Perhaps this is the bias of LINER NOTES, but it seems that every worthwhile musician quickly turns meta with any musical device, as we hear in Morrissey's "We Hate It..." While Moz deadpans the silly chorus, he lets the punchy power chords and shiny '90s production provide the ironic counterpoint. I mean, really, is the line between this and Kanye's brassy "Can't Tell Me Nothing" that long? Hardly. No surprise then that current media darling/punching bag Chief Keef is "Laughing to the Bank" in such a despondent way. Laughter in both cases is increasingly stripped of meaning and just turned into a device to color a song.

A fine counterpoint to this use is spontaneous or "real" laughter, accidentally caught on tape. On paper, Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" can seem like a timeless critique of urban over/underdevelopment, but it's those last seconds where Joni reaches down an octave to "put up a parking lot," then punctuates it with a breezy, soprano giggle that reshape the tone and meaning of the song. It sounds like an accident, but, regardless, it is a quality unique to that moment alone that fundamentally changes that recording.

Little surprise then that these varied uses of laughter find their way in numerous songs of several pop iconoclasts: The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Before the end, the Fab Four could actually find hilarity in the simple act of recording, as with the Anthology 2 version of "And Your Bird Can Sing." More often than not, laughter was yet another instrument or sound to provide commentary within a song, as with George Harrison's insistence on closing "Within You, Without You" with a laugh track. And then the group perhaps had both purposes in mind when tossing in a sample "ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha" in "Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da." Dylan, on the other hand, seems to simply enjoy the rhythmic (and sometimes melodic) serendipity of spontaneous laughter. One man's flubbed take, is Dylan's accidental gold discovery. So, it is with his "115th Dream," "All I Really Want To Do," "Ballad Of A Thin Man," "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," etc. His more recent chuckles, as heard on "My Wife's Home Town" and "It's All Good" are like all his contemporary vocals: creaking croaks that come off more cryptic and infectious, but at least the master seems to be having a good time.

Which is perhaps the quality I enjoy most about this theme. Music recording is as much a performance as playing live. I mean performance in the sense of wearing a mask. However, laughter is recognized as a peek behind the mask, a chink in the armor, an opportunity to drop the facade. Thank goodness for the artists that embrace these moments.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

I Don't (Not) Like

Considering how much I talk about not liking lists, you'd think I'd give this list-making a rest. Yet I still make lists. All the time. H/t to Summer for pointing out this trait to me and how it makes me a classic type A. So, keeping my inevitable heart disease in mind, here are some highlights of my year (FYI, I'm not linking to every album/song/etc., b/c, frankly, a lot of this has already been written up to the D and/or you can find this music easily; instead, I linked to the albums/songs that haven't been as widely discussed or are available through more independent outlets):

Albums released in 2012

Kendrick Lamar good kid, M.A.A.D. City
Too much ink on this kid and his record already (my rec is to check out Noz and Chang). I'm mostly enthralled by Lamar's storytelling, rapping ability, and funny voices. The album is one of the most cohesive of all the supposed "landmark" pop albums that plop down every year.

Patrice O’Neal Mr. P

I don't have an excuse for not seeing him perform more often. We went to his Elephant In The Room taping, which was absolutely stunning. His complete takedown of the loudmouth in center row was Patrice in his comfort zone, but that and a lot of other great asides were either heavily edited or taken out. Which is part of the reason why I chose Mr. P instead. I love this recording because of the intimacy and freedom with which he explores his thoughts. It's a conversational style that even Chappelle can't match, partly b/c Patrice is so much more precise and aggressive with his points, but also b/c he clearly loves talking with people.

Maria Bamford’s Special Special Special! 

Bamford's How to WIN! is one of my favorite comedy records and I find her work to generally be miles ahead of her peers. Special x3 is no different, though it is markedly darker. Never one to shy away from airing out her embarrassments, here she gets incredibly personal with some fucked up business, but comes away with some raw insights.

Flying Lotus Until The Quiet Comes

Even FlyLo calls this "beep boop, beep” music. It's in the kid's bedtime rotation.

Ab-Soul Control System
Really, the whole TDE camp did right this year, but Soulo is the member who rhymes closest to my abstract heroes of yore. And, really, who the fuck rhymes about pineal glands?

Killer Mike R.A.P. Music

H/t, once again, to Noz for pointing out the absurdity of the hullabaloo surrounding this record: "While it's nice to see Killer Mike finally get some recognition for being overtly political over El-P beats after years of being overtly political over beats that weren't produced by El-P..." I Pledge Allegiance To The Grind is still my favorite Killer Mike album. That said, R.A.P. Music is a harsh, crushing machine. Mike sounds great over El-P's angry angst. Nice to hear Mike rapping atop some confusing beats; need to give those undie kids something to chew on.

Nicolas Jaar Live at Sonar Lab
Hearing Theo Parrish perform remains an important DJ/music-going moment. Definitely interested to see/hear Jaar spin out; every mix of his I've heard has a similar care and patience.

Bill Burr You People Are All The Same

Similar to Bamford, Burr has some past bits, appearances and albums that remain my personal favorites ("nerd Jesus" Steve Jobs; his take on the media frenzy surrounding Tracy Morgan on Paul Provenza's Green Room; Why Do I Do This?). However, it's easy to get spoiled with Burr. His free, weekly Monday Morning Podcast (which has been the only podcast I've regularly "tuned into" for the past three or four years) is regularly filled with hilarious rants and observations that make most other comedians' albums and performances feel meek. So, it's no small wonder that YPAATS exceeds expectations. And, like Louis and Maria and Tig and Aziz's awesome works self-produced online works this year, it's only a measly $5. Go support this man or GFY.

Other 2012 Albums I liked, but don't have the time to fully write up
Frank Ocean Channel Orange

I think a few other places have sang this album's praises. I'm still not sold on John Mayer.
Future Pluto

At this point, Noz is the only hip-hop writer I follow regularly, so full credit to him for this and a lot of the hip-hop nods on this list. The album is filled with bangers and has little patience for filler, which is (sadly) a breath of fresh air. I still can't get with the overtly pop/R&B "Neva End" of "You Deserve It," but "Same Damn Time" and "Turn On The Lights" really sell this record.  

A Tribe Called Red s/t
I'm not a big fan of loud wobble, but there are some great noise elements to these guys' production.

Ty Segall Twins
Because I still like guitars.

Roc Marciano Reloaded
I'll be honest, I can't really tell you which song(s) I like on this or Marcberg b/c they all kinda blend into one another. Which I suppose makes this a good album, but in a sorta anonymous way.

Meek Mill Dreamchasers 2
Yes, I'll ride for "Amen." But I'll die for "The Ride." I guess you know my feelings on Drizzy now.  

Young Dro Ralph Lauren Reefa / Jay Ant + Iamsu! Stoopid
I know, these two tapes have nothing to do with each other. And I really should have wrote them up separately. Go snag 'em, they're brilliant.

Grizzly Bear Shields
Because I like NPR.

El-P Cure For Cancer

I like Killer Mike over El-P more than El-P over El-P. El-P over El-P is a good thing, don't get me wrong. I just prefer Bigga over El-Producto.
Non-2012 Albums That Got Spins In 2012   

Clams Casino Instrumental Mixtape 2
A lot of this material is pre-2012, but this instro tape didn’t come out tll this year. Eh, I’ll count it as old material. I did a lot of reading and writing this year. So, this was, hands down, my most-listened-to joint.

Charlie Rich Fabulous Charlie Rich
I think I first heard Charlie Rich on the Country Got Soul comp, but didn't think much of him until I heard "Life's Little Ups and Downs." What a devastating jawn. That song and "San Francisco is a Lonely Town" are amusingly some of the kid's favorites. 

Tammi Terrell Come On And See Me
Had no idea this amount of Tammi material existed. One of my favorite voices and now I get to revel in a couple hours of it.

Bobby Hutcherson and Herbie Hancock CBC Radio’s Jazz Beat Program 
Hutcherson is one of the meanest guys I've seen perform, so I'm always fiending for more. This brief performance is 100% aces. Bassist Scott Colley and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington round out the group.

Waka Flocka Flame Flockavelli / Gucci Mane The State v. Radric Davis 
Because I have been listening to these records for 2 and 3 years respectively that I have to give them their full propers. Absolute bangers.

Rain Parade Emergency Third Rail Power Trip
I've been on a Mazzy Star trip for a couple years now, but it took me a while to work my way back to David Roback's prior groups Opal a
nd Rain Parade. Credit goes to Rob Sheffield's Love Is A Mixtape (I think; or maybe it was Thurston Moore's Mix Tape?) for the passing mention that served as a reminder to me to check out these groups. Rain Parade's first record really apes that '60s psych vibe, but it's a cool record to relax to.

Flat Duo Jets Introducing the Flat Duo Jets
Louis and I talked about this group a few years back, but I never paid them much mind. Sadly, it was the break-up of the White Stripes and the uber-popularity of the Black Keys that made me realize: these guys had this big sound thing figured out a while ago. Sure, the songs are conservative/traditional in comparison, but the recordings are raw. Make me wanna go unhhh...

Laura Nyro And LaBelle Gonna Take a Miracle
A wedding find! H/t to Sarah and Jonathan of WSDIA for requesting some joints from this Justice-League-of-Superheroes-level album
. Winehouse (or white-girl-got-soul) fans should get familiar.

Minnie Riperton Come To My Garden 

Minnie's sexy-time records are ubiquitous, but I was always partial to her Rotary Connection/"Black Gold of the Sun" work. Her solo work is mostly solid R&B with hints of pop, but the eclectic Come To My Garden (along with Perfect Angel, to a lesser degree) best capture that former, weirdo-folk-soul vibe. "Les Fleur" for president, y'all.

The Pharcyde Labcabincalifornia 
Another one of those records that I periodically return to. My first memories about this are reading about it in Tower Records’ magazine Pulse and dreaming about finding an affordable used copy. Instead, I settled for going to Rhino repeatedly and listening to it over and over on the store’s listening station. The last quarter of the album, i.e. the solo cuts, really don’t hold up. Not that they were ever that good. Foreshadowing of the dark days ahead. But what a good vibe-out record.

Fleetwood Mac Tusk
My bad, I didn’t know this album existed.

Young Marble Giants Colossal Youth 
This and The Clean albums are pure twee. Cute stuff.

The Au Pairs Playing With a Different Sex
How have I never heard of this band? I watched Urgh! A Music War and was struck by the band. Did a quick search and came across this record. Solid and simple.

Jerry Stiller And Anne Meara Presenting America's New Comedy Sensations
Along with the Nichols/May LPs, this was another neat excursion. Essential listening.

Songs released in 2012

Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle” or “m.A.A.d. city
"m.A.A.d. city" is the better b/c of Eiht's performance which sells the song. That said, "Backseat" is a monster. I kinda want to go to Paris now.
Redman "White People Are Rioting"

I already spoke my piece on this: "BARS."
Lil Dev “I’m Perkins
Bmore ratchet!

Lil B “I Own Swag
Remain BASED, God.

Clyde Carson “Slow Down (Feat. The Team) (Prince Aries Blend)
Why didn't the original have a cruising beat? Thank you, Prince Aries Based God.

Earl Sweatshirt “Chum

If you're gonna be a glum teen, this is a suitable anthem.
Future “Same Damn Time
This year's "Hard In The Paint."

Mosca “What You Came For” (Feat. Katy B)
Is this song available on wax yet?

Jessie Ware “Wildest Moments
The video sells it, but at it's core it's a pretty pop song.

TNGHT’s “Goooo

E-40 “Function” (Feat. YG, IamSu and Problem)

Young Giftz “Nino” (Feat. Tree)

That was an unexpected sample.

Paul Westerberg “My Road Now

I love fuck-ups. And I love songs with fuck-ups.

King Louie “Val Venis (Remix)
Val Venis is after my time, but corny saxes are (sadly) in my blood.

DJ Melo “Carnavalito

The sample source is the real winner, but this will do for now.

Usher “Climax
Give the man credit for song selection, ok?
The 2 Bears “Be Strong”

I don't think it's meta when you just list artists that you like, but throw a bouncy beat underneath it and I'll swing.
Edit: Whoops, forgot this song from 2010 or 11.

Schoolboy Q “Druggys Wit Hoes Again (Feat. Ab-Soul)
Is it possible for one song to overpower an entire album?

Action Bronson and Riff Raff “Bird on a Wire
I think this was a moment in 2012.

Brother Ali and Jake One “Writer’s Block 

Increasingly familiar as I move into middle-age and family life.

Non-2012 Songs

The New York Community Choir “I'll Keep My Light In My Window
B/c I needed a replacement for “Stand on the Word” to end my sets.

P.P. Arnold and Rod Stewart “Come Home Baby
Does she still sing with the Stones? That would be a reason to go see 'em.

Lulu “Here Comes the Night
My, Lulu, I didn't know you had this in you.

Dusty Springfield “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
Eh, thank that Mad Men ep for this.

Doris Troy “Just One Look
I like this jaunty rhythm. Nice apperitif to Ray Charles' "You Be My Baby."

Wendy and Lisa “Always In My Dreams
I've got a music nerd crush on their tastes in music. And they weren't half-bad as songwriters, too. 

Prince “Mountains” / "Pop Life" (Extended Version) 
More joints to close out sets.

Noggin' Noddlers/Motion Man’s verse on Kool Keith’s “Clifton
"Bada-boom-bada-bing / Bada-bing-da-bing-bong / Yo, check it."

Ago “Trying Over
Every once in a while, Beat Electric comes through.

Mayer Hawthorne “No Strings
Kinda corny, kinda catchy, kinda better with Daryl Hall. Maybe that's saying something?

Pete Townshend and Raphael Rudd’s “Let My Love Open the Door” / The Beat’s “Save It For Later
Great, great songs. Also love the story of Townshend ringing Wakeling to figure out the tuning on "Save It For Later."
Mealticket “Heavy Heart
At this point, I’ve spent enough time away from Los Angeles that I associate the city more with my past than any tangible aspect of my current life. So, looking through my remaining music collection back at home is like peeking in a time capsule. This is the latest nugget to be recovered. Of the whole third wave ska scene in mid-’90s L.A., I loved these guys the most. H/T to Hannah Slama for crushing so hard on these guys that I drank the juice, too. Fuck if it wasn’t sweet, tho. Genai still sounds great and the songwriting is unbelievably hooky. Would love to hear them perform again.

The Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star
"That" moment in "that" Michelle Williams/Seth Rogen movie. 

Videos released in 2012

Dormtainment “Ass on the Internet
DIY til I die.

BjӧrkMutual Core

Eh, on the MoCA sponsorship, but the visuals...
Solange “Losing You 


Joey Ramone “New York City 

"I Love L.A." for New Yorkers.

Aimee Mann “Labrador 

When did Tom Scharpling become the best music video director?

Antwon “Living Every Dream 
Dreams of Betamax and the Box.

Danny Brown “Grown Up
Song is mad "Can I Kick It?" The video is mad cute.

Hot Chip “Night and Day
Need more
Serafinowicz in yr life?

Scissor Sisters “Shady Love” Feat. Azealia Banks
Yup, another video with kids pretending to be adults.

Flatbush ZOMBIES "Thug Waffle" 
Who doesn’t like waffles?

Ifan Dafydd "Treehouse"
2 Bears' downtempo cousin. 

Grimes "Nightmusic"
Ms. Clare had a number of good videos this year, but this one stuck.

I'll post playlists and the such later, but you get the drift.

EDIT (1/2/12): Loads more links and playlists above.