2013 marked quite a number of significant milestones but its also a year when I watched a lot, read a bit to much and probably exhausted my ear drums listening to too much. I am a nostalgic fuck, and have very little patience and admiration for modern things. So you will find most of my listening involved me pining over obscure psychedelic bands or blasting spiritual jazz albums by relatively unknown jazz collectives from the 1960s. As far as film is concerned its been a lot of the same, more pining for the past, as though i once lived there. So in the tradition of great blogosphere antics, i concocted a list of a hodgepodge of things i heard, read and listened too over the course of 2013 that were modern and left an indelible mark on how the year ended up for me.
12 years as a slave
I hate preachy films but then again most art films or indie films, suffer the disease of being too self aware and stylized. But something about Steve Mcqueens direction draws me into his often dark subject matter. His characters are always amidst the turmoil of an excruciating facet of the human condition. Mcqueens films manage to beautify even the ugliest facets of the human condition, and in this case the black skins manage to look like these blue-velvet canvases upon which mcqueen tries to examine the brutality of american slavery.
The look, feel and sound of this film make it something so enjoyable I had to watch it twice. I call films like this Mind-fucks, because they haunt you once they touch you. You are changed but do not necessarily know why. The film hints at all types of post-modern things like ecology, love, violence, interconnectivity and loss, while never directly referring to those things. Shane caruth is the most original director i have seen, he manages to mix the weird with doses of science fiction without letting dialog get in the way, his movies are very atmospheric and moving in that way
Blue is the warmest
A coming of age tale of attaining and losing love. A film thats well shot and kinda works well within the modern indie-film paradigm nothing mind blowing. But the kind of film thats so jam-packed with raw sensuality that you can’t help but be haunted by its emotional tone.
As a life-long Kung-fu fan, this to me was a return to the fundamental ideological premise of Kung-fu. Its a movie that using modern free flowing poetic cinematography combined with trance like acting, managed to boil down the fundamental story of what lies at the art of this age old tradition.
Woody Allen’s european excursions have been cute (meaning good but not game changing). Blue Jasmine was a sublime beauty and very dark in some spots. Held together by Cate Blanchett whose acting is flawless, we watch this delusional narcissistic lady spiral into literal madness as her world is unhinged by the financial crisis affecting the western nations. We watch her tornado spin out of control and suck in everyone around her pulling them ever deeper into her deep black hole of self-pity and narcissistic delusion.
The Act of Killing
Joshua Oppenheimer has two juggernauts in the documentary film game backing him so it was written in the stars that i would watch this movie. Once i saw it i was shook to my bones, it was equal parts disturbing, frightening and funny all rolled in one well engineered blunt. A film that explores moral complexity, murder, violence and societal decay, through one mans journey into his passed. We get to experience first hand the consequences of clandestine cold-war era politics, experienced on a human level. A must watch.
In the blogosphere lists have become a lazy mans way of expressing themselves without over-doing it. The act of list creating allows the lasseiz-faire reader to scheme through and the more intense reader to think deeply about the reasons why something is positioned somewhere on a list. So in this tradition I am sitting down legs crossed, exhausted after 2 hours of driving during a mid-western winter storm blasting, John Coltrane’s Africa Brass. Asking myself what music shook me in 2013 and was 2013 a milestone for me. I have made these lists before and often find I always leave something out, and I hope that will not be the case. The truth is 2013 was a year of jazz, jazz and more jazz, and as far as music by people that are alive and breathing the truth is not much. But I will force myself to force out 10 Albums and 10 Songs that shook me up in 2013. Albums
What is life without Yeezus Probably one of the most discussed albums of the year, my man Lou Reed liked it . By no means is this a paradigm shifting album like My Dark Twisted or 808’s. It’s a worthy attempt but one that falls short, not because this album is not great. But I have heard far more radical ideas sonically and ideologically this year.
2. Run the jewels:
Run the jewels EL-P & Killer Mike are a formidable tag team, match up the dissonant orweillian sounds of my man EL-P with the black sociopolitical fury of killer mike and you have a concoction necessary for Illuminati scale world take overs. These two rhyme like conjoint twins with an uncanny ability to complete as well as complement each other’s ideas. They are both paranoid-apocalyptic emcees with profoundly unnerving senses of humor, that have mastered the art of making our Orwellian world sound excitingly funny and hauntingly frightening at the same time.
3. Fuzz: Fuzz I have been on a Psych meets punk meets noisey guitar rock kick lately and this album has been a gift that has not stopped giving.
4. Earl Sweatshirt: Doris What can anyone say about this child prodigy whose father is a lion of an African poet. The kid stacks these dense pieces of esoteric wordplay delivered in a spoken word style that is as formidable as a Coltrane jazz solo. The kids wordplay borders on sublime and ventures into fun explorations of how rap manages to reconstitute and bend the rules of language often to his own devices. The album manages to be ultra-personal and ridiculously self-effacing and honest. The sonics are a range of everything from boom-bap to strange atonal jazz vamping that sounds more like Kraut-rock than rap beats.
5. Janelle Monae: The Electric Lady Janelle Monae created an album that is steeped in the deep mud of black tradition, while always staying true to her fascination with the afro-futurism that was at the heart of Sun-Ra, Earth Wind and Fire and cats like Outkast. The album is parts funky and immediate and in parts folksy and contemplative. It’s a multi-faceted exploration of an artist who in today’s hoochie mama era stands in stark contrast to most stereotypes about black women.
6. Spiritual Jazz 4 Jazzman Gerald compiles these records in a way that allows them to carefully reflect music created at a certain geography and by a certain people in a specific time period. In this record he returns to Europe and this time returns to black musicians creating avant-garde jazz in Europe in the 1960s. He hits on big names like Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy and also touches on smaller artists like Sahib Shahib. Black artists who found the refreshing ears of europeans to be liberating to their music.
7. Albert Einstein: Prodigy of Mobb Deep has managed to remain relevant in an era of one hit wonders and clichéd backpackers. In this album he and my man alchemist create a cold New York album that’s murderously beautiful. Built on beautiful boom-bap samples that are not steeped in nostalgia but are forward pushing in the shear brilliance that alchemist gives the production. Alchemists soundscapes are equal parts polished and dusty, creating a soundscape that allows prodigies grating vocals to remain front and center. Prodigy’s cold monotone is colder than ever, yet is embibbed with a youthful buoyancy that makes him sound almost like a new rapper.
8. Pusha –T: Pusha T literally pushes a brand of street music, which makes no apologies and is uncompromising in how it’s unaware of itself. What makes Pusha stand out is his precise no-holds bar delivery accompanied by a penchant for eerie metaphors that could easily push the most moralistic person to abandon all sanity and start selling drugs.
9. Mac Miller: Were was I when this annoying backpack romantaciser evolved into a self-aware and interesting rapper. His new style and delivery is dense like sweatshirts but has a wit that makes it all his own. His album navigates the modern rap sounds by alluding to everything from the trap sound to the more esoteric spaced-out sounds of flying lotus. Its a pure exercise in carelessly arranged lose wordplay thats as far-out as any Sun-Ra jam i ever heard.
10. Disclosure: Fun fun and more fun, easy to listen to but still jam-packed with enough little hints at UK-garage, disco, soul, and hip hop to keep it sounding inventive.
11. Danny Brown: Old was his return to pre-xxx form but also him pushing his post-xxx schizophrenic drug fueled agenda. Its a darker more mature album, steeped in street paranoia and far less stoner-druggy hipster crap.
That was my 2013 in a nut-shell scared of what 2014 has in store for me