HEY YOU! NOGOODFORME.COM is now found at...NOGOODFORME.COM! You've stumbled upon our old mirror site instead. Please point your browsers to NOGOODFORME.COM instead and update your newsfeed to http://feeds.feedburner.com/nogoodforme/tYOS. Thanks and we shall see you at NOGOODFORME.COM!
Tuesday , December 14, 2010
nogoodforme ix: Our Favorite Records of the 2000s (So Far)
The Fiery Furnaces, Bitter Tea (2006)
"Benton Harbor Blues"-
My fifth-favourite thing about Bitter Tea by the Fiery Furnaces is the silly drone-voice they affect while telling us they are crazy cranes.
My fourth-favourite thing about Bitter Tea by the Fiery Furnaces is that the word "Citroen" is in it. Something I've NEVER TOLD A SINGLE SOUL is that, between the ages of eleven and nineteen, I half-existed in a made-up Universe inside my head wherein my last name was Citroen. I had three brothers: Buddy, who was oldest, Jack, who was youngest, and Jem, who was my twin. Together, we were the heirs to the Citroen fortune. The word "Citroen" is very important to me.
My third-favourite thing about Bitter Tea by the Fiery Furnaces is "Waiting To Know You," which is the third-most beautiful love song* I've ever heard.
My second-favourite thing about Bitter Tea by the Fiery Furnaces is a tie between how retarded it sounds when he sings in falsetto on "Whistle Rhapsody," the neo- Sgt. Pepper dog whistle part of "Whistle Rhapsody," and then the 1.5 minutes of "Whistle Rhapsody" that come after the dog whistle- a fragment of musical composition so stupidly, magnificently and supernaturally beautiful that it makes sitting through the retarded falsetto and ear-killing dog whistle entirely, totally worth it.
My favourite thing about Bitter Tea by the Fiery Furnaces is that "Benton Harbor Blues"** is on it. "Benton Harbor Blues" is my phantom limb and my ear-worm. It has been playing on a loop in the background of my life through every second of I've ever lived, in the ether or the nevers or the nowhere or the nix. And it will continue to do so, until the day I die.
If I could describe Bitter Tea by the Fiery Furnaces in one made-up adjective, it would be "Laura Jane-esque." (Laura Jane)
*#2 is "First Love Song" by Tim Hardin; #1 is the Anthology version of "Something" by the Beatles.
**And when I say "Benton Harbor Blues," I mean "Benton Harbor Blues," NOT "Benton Harbor Blues Again." "Benton Harbor Blues Again" is for WUSSY LITTLE BABIES who can't HANDLE "Benton Harbor Blues."
Mary Timony, The Golden Dove (2002)
"Musik and Charming Melodee"-
"Babes are the new dudes."
-Laura Jane Faulds, Autumn 2009.
My favourite thing about Mary Timony as an artist is how uniquely and aggressively female she is. She's never girly (like a slumber party), and she's rarely womanly (like a leopard-print shift dress), but she's always feminine- like drinking pink wine- in a really real way, like eating Starbucks "yogurt parfaits." And liking them.
The Golden Dove is absolutely my favourite solo-Mary offering- it's more "melodee"-driven than Mountains, but more "musik"-ally intricate than The Shapes We Make. It's soft-spoken and feathery, but also pretty tough and punchy in places, like when she says "You showed me pictures of your ex-girlfriend on the beach without her shirt on, and it made me sick"- such a classic "SCREW THE DUDES!" moment. Basically, The Golden Dove is a break-up record about animals. "A break-up record about animals?!?!" Sign me up.
But all animals and break-ups aside: my deepest emotional connection to Mary TImony of course stems from how Liz Barker put "I Fire Myself" (from Mountains) on the first mixtape she ever made me. I was fifteen, and Barker was younger than I am today. I remember being SO EXCITED to hear what Mary sounded like because Liz LOVED her and Oh my God Liz is the COOLEST PERSON IN THE WORLD and Oh my God I WANT TO BE JUST LIKE HER and then Oh my God I TOTALLY LOVE MARY TOO!!!
(I know. It's really adorable to think about.)
If I could describe The Golden Dove by Mary Timony in one made-up adjective, it would be "Elizabeth Barker-esque." (Laura Jane)
Beyonce, B'Day (2006)
Life would've been about a million times easier if I had put down Joanna Newsom's Ys as my third selection for this installment of nogoodformeix. That was my original plan, and it would've made writing this a piece of cake. After all, Ys is a justifiably awesome record: visionary, brave, memorable, unique, girly to the core and above all original. And it would've been so goddamn fun to write about Ys, because it meant I could string together some of my most favorite words in the English language, words like "asteroids" and "grandiloquent" and "gossamer." Except I had to face down one thing: according to Windows Media Player, the one album from 2006 that beat out Ys in terms of how many times I listened to it was B'Day.
This was a very strange thing to realize about myself and it really skewed my self-perception for a few days. What kind of person listens to an album that one can pronounce like "bidet"? (What kind of person listens to these two kinda unpronounceable records, really?) I had rarely if ever thought about Beyonce as an album artist. There's no denying that she has a knack for monstrously awesome singles. ("Crazy In Love," anyone?) Being considered a singles artist, though, is a bit like pegging someone as a cog in the wheel of gluttonous music consumption; they rarely get taken seriously as an auteur. So it was with great interest that I decided to listen to B'Day like it was a Radiohead album or something. And guess what? When you listen to it with that kind of sustained attention and respect, B'Day fucking rocks. In fact, I will venture to say that I like B'Day way more than most Radiohead records, especially the last four of them. (Come on, man -- who'd you rather take out for a drink? In Rainbows or B'Day? I'd rather have a rum-and-Coke with Beyonce any day!)
The truth is that B'Day is Beyonce's Rid of Me, the album she would've made with Steve Albini if Albini could hang with pop divas instead of anemic indie rockers. She had previously made Dangerously In Love, a super-polished, pristine R&B/pop crossover monster of a solo record, an album so perfect as a musical confection that it was simultaneously addicting and alienating. Every shimmering sonic surface on Dangerously In Love is so immaculate, precise and elegant -- Beyonce's not a Virgo for nothing, and it's a perfect reflection of her equally controlled, ladylike (yet just sexy enough) persona. By contrast, B'Day sounds much looser -- word is she made B'Day in a frantic two weeks, renting out an entire recording studio, installing teams of producers in each room around the clock. (You can imagine her rolling into each studio in that Beyonce way, yelling "Let's crank this shit out!" at the top of her lungs.) Haters complained that there was no second "Crazy In Love," that it was too short, that it was rushed-sounding. They're right: there's no immediately genius single like "Crazy In Love," it's not that long, and it sounds kind of rough and improvised, as much as a contemporary urban record can sound rough and improvised these days.
But this all works in Beyonce's favor: it's exactly this less-controlled quality that makes this Beyonce's most human set of songs, where moments of genuine untrammeled human emotion can happen and the warmer, more organic funk-influenced sounds can take over. The smaller scale makes it Beyonce's most thematically-focused effort, and she nails her theme of female empowerment and self-esteem on the head with an intensity that makes you wonder exactly what happened between her and Jay-Z the day she recorded some of these tracks. (When she lets loose on "Ring the Alarm," you kind of wish Beyonce was the original riot grrrl, that's how ferocious she is.) She bangs it out on the dance floor with thumping bass and aggressively festive horns ("Get Me Bodied"), she sweetens it up with pussycat-smooth ballads ("Kitty Kat"), she nails the perfect post-breakup track ("Irreplaceable"). She does it all, she's Beyonce! But above all, I love B'Day because it has "Upgrade U," probably one of Beyonce's most underrated, most sophisticated singles. If you look at only the lyrics of "Upgrade U," you'd think it was some retrograde anti-feminist drivel, a "woman taking care of a dude" type of ballad. But it's not a ballad -- it's a take-charge anthem sung from the perspective of a woman already on top, a slamming bass-tastic dance-floor rave-up complete with the kind of total vocal domination that makes it clear that Beyonce's wearing the pants, even if she's trying to (1) convince her dude that he does and (2) show him it's totally hot that she really does. Forget Liz Phair: "Upgrade U" is the total perfect post-feminist psychodrama embodied in song. Subtext is everything with "Upgrade U," and it's one of those musical instances that hints at the deeper complexities and cross-currents of the woman that is Beyonce Knowles -- diva since childhood, media supernova, ultimate Material Girl, the Michelle Obama of pop, wife of one of the most influential rap MCs in history, a legend in the making. It may not have monkeys and bears and unicorns and oceans, but it's moments like "Upgrade U" that make B'Day absolutely fucking visceral and riveting. (Kat)
Jay-Z, The Blueprint (2001)
God, it was so great of Jay-Z to make a record about the trials and tribs of being a late-20s/early-30s money-makin', no-guff-takin' "independent woman" in this fiercehearted City of Angels! The Blueprint never not picks me up when I'm down; I play "U Don't Know" and pretend Jay's my financial advisor/spiritual mentor; I play "Girls, Girls, Girls" while I'm getting ready for some hot date and pretend I'm cool as a Casanova cucumber too; I play "Takeover" a few months after the hot date and pretend I'm Jay and that loser's Nas; I walk into the sandwich shop at Malibu Country Mart and silently giggle at the Brody Jenner clone trying to rap along with "Izzo" on the radio, and then I buy myself an avocado sandwich, sit on the porch steps, and continue plotting nogoodforme.com's impending world domination. And if hip-hop records had taglines like movies, and I were in charge of writing them all, this one would totally go something like "The Blueprint: Because You Can't Listen To 'Piss Factory' All The Time." Right? (Liz)
The Walkmen, You and Me (2008)
"On the Water"
You & Me is basically the album that would be my ideal dude, if an ideal dude could be incarnated through song: nostalgic, night-oriented, sentimental, slightly dark, wry, and dapper as hell. Oh, and totally ape-shit romantic in a balls-out, slightly-soused grandiose way. He'd wear a suit like Hamilton Leithauser and play guitar like Paul Maroon, and of course he's from New York and writes novels full of offhand detail and wit, which is exactly what the lyrics of most Walkmen songs are like. In fact, if there's ever a dude that wants to stand underneath my window having his John Cusack-with-a-boombox moment, please don't play Peter Gabriel -- play this record instead. If you do, I will fall in love with you, and I'll never give you a pen if we break up. (Kat)
The Strokes, Is This It (2001)
"Trying Your Luck"-
The best breakup record, for when you're the one who's been broken up with, is Extraordinary Machine by Fiona Apple.
The second best breakup record, for when you're the one who's done the breaking, is Is This It by The Strokes.
The latter came into my life about five seconds after I'd cut loose from my boyfriend of two years, and for the next three or four months I listened to it twice in a row every single weekday morning while running* through the streets of Cambridge. Then sometimes I'd play it again later in the day, because it obsessed me, because the songs are all perfect, because it was the first time I'd ever felt like a record was made right from my heart but not in some beautiful golden glowy way. The boy of Is This It is kind of an asshole but kind of cares but kind of can't help himself; he's got a lot of fun going on but he's a little empty inside but never expects you to feel bad for him; he drinks too much/makes you drink just the same; and - my favorite part - this life is on his side. For three or four months in the fall of 2001, I was that boy! I was an emotionally unavailable, joyfully shallow, dashingly handsome 23-year-old proto-Chuck Bass**, and it was good. Now I'm trying to be all earnest and shit, and that's good too, but Is This It still sustains my inner Julian, which is something all us secretly scampish but still tenderhearted girls really need in our lives every now and again. (Liz)
**I mean the twinkle-eyed, scruffy-haired, getting-stoned-with-Archibald-in-Central-Park-before-class little rapscallion of GG S1, not the woefully un-Casablancas-esque stuffed shirt of today.
The Knife, Silent Shout (2006)
"We Share Our Mother's Health"
Awhile ago I took a Facebook quiz that was something like "What nationality are you?" I ended up being Swedish, which I think is really funny, because I'm physically the most non-Swedish person ever. However, I have always been interested in the dichotomy of Sweden -- that a country that could be responsible for ABBA, IKEA, ACNE and the Swedish chef on "The Muppet Show" could also give rise to Let The Right One In, various death metal bands and the Knife. (Maybe I am spiritually Swedish after all -- it could explain my own cozy, happy nature and inclination towards melancholy and sadness.) Scandinavian darkness is an especially austere, intellectual kind of aesthetic, and Silent Shout is an especially austere, intellectual album that nevertheless has some awesome beats to dance to, and for someone who grew up going out dancing at goth and industrial clubs in Chicago and then went to more than her share of raves in the middle of the mountains in college, it feels both deeply familiar and yet fresh and exciting. The whole album is a world in and of itself, like some apocalyptic forest sitting on top of a dark tundra at night, with a huge dance party going on inside -- if you're only brave enough to go. The sound of robot fairy tales gone underground indeed. (Kat)
John Frusciante, Shadows Collide With People (2004)
"Don't Forget Me" by Red Hot Chili Peppers-
And by "Shadows Collide With People" I mean "Shadows Collide With People, and By The Way and Stadium Arcadium by Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Automatic Writing and Automatic Writing II by Ataxia," all of which have John Frusciante's guitar and voice on them. Song for song, By The Way is my most beloved album of the aughts; it's the record my spiritual boyfriends* made after listening to the Beach Boys a lot and it's got the prettiest melodies and the ninth track is "Midnight," which is my third favorite song ever. When I hear it I'm 24-years-old, in L.A. for the first time, walking up a big hill to go buy a tin of violet candies at Laurel Canyon Country Store, and the world is my oyster (or: "my tin of violet candies"). But Shadows Collide With People's got my heart too - it's my second-fave CD by John Frusciante, who I like to joke "hates me" because he was a jerk to me once and never smiles back, but who actually really loves me a lot. John Frusciante takes good care of my heart that I gave him; he writes me clunky-lyric'd and earnest sci-fi pop songs like "Ricky,"** (which is secretly called "Liz" but we have this understanding because, truly, "Liz" is just a terrible name for a song). So I guess the next time I see John Frusciante around town I'll do this thing where I cover the top half of my face with my splayed-fingered right hand, give him the peace sign with my left, flash my killer-est goofy smile, and just keep on moving. IS THAT OKAY WITH YOU, JERKFACE FRUSCIANTE???? I hope so. I love you too, you know. (Liz)
*Meaning both that they're my boyfriends in spirit, and that they're my actual boyfriends who are very spiritual!
**Awww, hell: Here's "Ricky." I cheated.
Matthew Friedberger, Holy Ghost Language School (2006)
"First Day of School"-
Maybe being a writer is just "Metaphors Synaesthesia."
Here is what Holy Ghost Language School sounds like- or as- to me:
You look into the eyes of the man who murdered your mother, and you understand that you could love him. He is the most beautiful man you've ever seen, and you'll dream of kissing him forever. Does the guilt eventually drive you to suicide?
The coolest clock ticks, but it is counting down the seconds until you drown. It's an oil spill, and there are rainbows in the oil. They are the last things you will ever see, and also, the most beautiful.
All the women whose men went off to war and died there; all the people who electroshock therapy didn't work for.
Have you ever bitten someone else's teeth? It's the weirdest feeling.
"Grotesqueness." Hallowe'en. Thinking somebody's baby is ugly, getting drunk in the afternoon. Brown spots on bananas, giraffe-skin. Dogs. "What happened to all the toys I played with as a child?" Skeletons, mad scientists, DisneyWorld. Kissing a dude who just ate a Snickers bar. Beethoven went deaf and that is sad. You're about to pass out, and everything slows down. Endings, and beginnings. The word "dork."
S&M, sweating, senility. A stranger touching your bare skin. Glass-shards in your bedsheets, sniffling in the snow. Falling Forever. Wood. The scary person your childhood best friend grew up to be. The hollowness you feel upon waking up and realizing: it didn't happen. You travel to the house where you lived in a past life, and it is haunted by your own ghost. Pink-eye. The inside of Matthew Friedberger's brain? (Laura Jane)
Tags: animals, babes, Beyonce, Brody Jenner, Casanova cucumbers, Chuck Bass, Citroens, darkness, dudes, Eleanor Friedberger, Elizabeth Barker, femininity, feminism, Friedberger, heart, Holy Ghost Language School, Jay-Z, John Frusciante, Julian Casablancas, Laura Jane Faulds, Mary Timony, Metaphors Synaesthesia, my spiritual boyfriends, Patti Smith, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sweden, The Fiery Furnaces, the importance of being earnest, the Knife, The Strokes, the Walkmen
Share | | | |