Happy 2009, y'all. I probably should have spent December updating you on all the exciting things I've been doing, but I didn't, partly because I was doing exciting things and partly because... well, you know how it is with this blog. I think you'd all get nervous if I updated too often.
But if you're looking some new years reading with a 2008 flavor, why not check out Metal Lungies' Beat Drop feature, which has a bunch of excellent writers picking their favorite Pimp C beats? If you really need to be sold on it, not only does it include a few hurriedly thrown together (but still undeniably brilliant, of course) contributions from myself. Even more enticingly, Bun-B, Pimp C's partner in Underground Kingery, shows up to pick and comment on his favorite Pimp C productions. And, if after that you still can't get enough of Pimp C's beatmaking (and if you are satiated, smoke something bitch and get ready for round two, huh?), go over to Cocaine Blunts, where Noz, who also contributed to the Metal Lungies write-up, has compiled a big zip file of Pimp C production.
I've also been writing about some of the best music of 2008 for The Passion of the Weiss. There's a good chance I'll be writing other things there over this coming year, see keep an eye on it. For The Passion's Top 50 Albums of '08 list, I discussed The Black Keys' Strange Times (#35), The Hold Steady's Stay Positive (#23), Cut Copy's In Ghost Colours (#14) and The Kills' Midnight Boom (#13). Go there for MP3s and great writing from even people who are not me.
Also at the Passion, I wrote about The Veronicas' "Untouched," as part of The Best 25 Non-Hip Hop Songs of 2008 (M-Z edition). The A-L list is good too, even though I'm not writing about anything in it. (Fuck the first half of the alphabet.) And because I write about hip-hop too, if you go take a look at The Passion's Best 25 Hip Hop Songs of 2008 list, you'll find my thoughts on The Game's "My Life" (#24) and B.O.B.'s "Fuck You" (#21, though it's my favorite song of the year) Each of those lists is also up on the L.A. Weekly's Play Blog, so I guess I'm part of the Los Angeles media industry now? I can't wait for my first Hollywood party. I'm holding auditions for my Entourage as we speak. There is a good chance I'm actually the Turtle of my own entourage.
And finally, at the now deceased What Was It Anyway, I argue that No Age's Nouns is quite enjoyable and Portishead's Third really isn't. Anyone who disagrees with me, including the other writers in that article, is wrong.
And now, in case you still haven't got enough of reading about what I did and thought in December, let's talk about this:
I saw The Mountain Goats play the Manning Bar quite a while back now; it was actually the night before I saw Kanye West and Nas. But I held my review off, trying to get it published somewhere that would pay me, something which never happened. And then I got caught up in writing all that stuff I've linked to above. But if we all pretend that I've dug out a highly sought-after rarity from my archives, it's not going to matter that I'm putting up a review of a show that happened more than a month ago. Besides, if you behave yourselves and read this without complaint, I may consider writing up the Santogold/Sharon Jones/Grace Jones shows I'm going to tomorrow night.
The Mountain Goats
December 5, 2008
Not quite ready for his close-up
On Friday night at the University of Sydney’s Manning Bar, one of John Darnielle’s fans was unhappy. Darnielle, the singer, song-writer, and at times, sole member of indie rock group the Mountain Goats had just announced he would play a love song.
“Hush,” Darnielle defended himself. Love songs are lovely. Besides, he explained, the lovers in this song are doomed. “If it’s any consolation.”
The audience cheered, satisfied at this, and the Mountain Goats began “Dinu Lipatti’s Bones,” a song with such romantic sentiments as “[we] treated the days as though they’d kill us if they could.”
Doom is a common state for Darnielle’s characters. Drug addicted, outcast or mentally ill, they teeter on the brink of ruin. But Mountain Goats’ songs are characterised by vitality, not misery; for Darnielle, disaster and liberation are not only closely tied, they are inseparable.
On “Dance Music,” a rousing tune refashioned tonight with a slight calypso lilt, he sings of retreating from fear and violence into his record collection. “You’re the last best thing I got going,” he begs a lover, and the audience finished his plea with charged morbidity: “And I don’t want to die alone!”
“Let me down gently,” the singer continued, anything but downtrodden.
Darnielle began the Mountain Goats as a solo project, recording his music live to cassette tape, and although today he makes his albums in studios and tours with a full band, his tunes still retain their ramshackle origins. As usual, he had arranged the set list for that night only hours before, which at one point caused him to express surprise at his own choice. He usually played “You or Your Memory” with a full band, he explained. What had he been thinking? Despite his doubts, he performed the contemplative tune adeptly.
The Mountain Goats split their set between a solo portion for Darnielle and acoustic full-band and electric sections, but each consisted of the same spare elements: Darnielle’s clear, ringing vocal and driving guitar chords. His voice has two styles: a hushed recitation and an exhilarated holler. When he launches into the latter, he sounds caught halfway between pain and overpowering joy.
Darnielle details his songs with complete narratives and multi-faceted characters. That attentiveness came through in his performance. His take on the old “Hello Sydney” rock ‘n’ roll trick was to re-write one song, “Pigs that Ran Straightaway Into the Water, Triumph Of” to include a local suburb: “I come from Newtown, so all your threats are empty,” he sang at that tune’s close, to an appreciative roar from his audience.
In glasses and with conservatively-cut dark hair, Darnielle is slightly reminiscent of the American parody talk show host Stephen Colbert, and like Colbert, on stage, the Mountain Goat has a humour and ease not suggested by his bookish looks. Clad in suit jacket and an open collar, he joked about his Catholicism, bantered with the audience about his ostensibly severe, though, by all measures unapparent, jet lag, and gave tips for betting on boxing. (Manny Pacquiao will defeat Oscar De La Hoya, he said, but cautions that he is not putting money on such an outcome.) His patter, like his lyrics, was conversational, and his shaggy dog stories could have almost been actual songs had they been accompanied by instrumentation.
The show ended with a quintessential Mountain Goats tune, and thanks to frequent Triple J play, something close to a local hit. In “This Year,” about growing up with an abusive parent, Darnielle sings of driving home drunk, “picturing the look on my step father’s face, waiting for the bad things to come.” The audience joined him for the chorus. “I am gonna make it through this year,” they shouted ecstatically, then added the characteristic Mountain Goats clause: “If it kills me.”
Labels: Break a leg, some things