Monday, December 20, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - December 16/10

I was all set to write about how this funny little project takes the hatchet to a wide range of pop songs past and present, but then Lonely Island's "I Just Had Sex" dropped and arguably did an even better job of lampooning today's hottest hits. Its silly, positive spirit is more evocative of what sex is actually like than Katy's limp double-entendres and Xtina's bionic coochie music.

That video was a fitting way to end a year in which I spent more time listening to Top 30 pop music I don't like than ever before. Sure, I enjoy and play my fair share of pop music (if not usually chartbusters - except from Jamaica...), but it's part of my job to keep in touch with what's going on outside of the music I tend to write about. How can any self-respecting World Music 2.0 journalist write about the brave new sounds around the world without familiarity with how North American hip hop, dance and power pop influences travel throughout the globe? How can I write about jazz without acknowledging what the Bad Plus, Jamie Cullum and Vijay Iyer have done with contemporary pop songs as an update of the Miles and Trane transformations of Broadway standards in the 50s? More tellingly, how can I be taken seriously as a music critic if I high-handedly dismiss this era's "in da club" generation while lionizing previous ones?

I only wish that some of my professional peers would have the same courtesy to explore beyond their comfort zones as I have been trying to do for years since "poptimism" legitimized the scholarly analysis of pop music half a decade ago. But since there's no easy money writing about world music and experimental traditions around the world, I shouldn't be surprised. It still bugs me when the musical territory to which I gravitate most is dismissed out of hand as irrelevant (not enough hype, clicks n' cash behind it), when such criticism is coming from a fundamental lack of curiosity of what's going on in the wide world beyond pop and rock being produced in North America and the UK (to be fair, the editors I work with most frequently do not think this way). With the music industry in tremendous flux, sudden popularity can come from the most unlikely sources, and to dismiss genres and continents as irrelevant is simply bad journalism.

Anyways, I'm happy to have received Pop Massacre: a Christmas gift which combines freeform electronic exploration with hits from yesterday and today: I've always been Hooked On Plunderphonics. Last week's track "La Bamba" was once a radical reinvention of a world music classic, and this version by Mexicans With Guns accomplishes much the same thing more than 50 years later. Starting with a creaky, slowed down representation of the main guitar riff, it quickly collapses into a burbling mess of electronics and reconfigures itself into the Low End Theory glitch-shuffle that Friends of Friends have done such a great job of showcasing to the world this past year. By song's end, it's gone double time, getting into modern day nuevo-tropical beats at the cutting edge of 'global South' dance music. And so it goes elsewhere: the many, many hooks and cultural signposts of these songs are pureed into tongue and cheek remixes which nonetheless hold up for repeated listening. The best parts of Pop Massacre go several steps beyond Girl Talk's serial money-shot shtick, while still tickling those pop music taste buds. Here are empty calories and expert cuisine folded together then cooked until well done.

Save some room for Lonely Island's affectionate satire as dessert.


kifo - remmy ongala & orchestre super matimala (real world)
dr. j abuya - daniel owino misiani & shirati band (earthworks)
gborei adesai - psychedelic aliens (voodoo funk)
threeball jazz - yelram selectah (no label)
moon pupils - boxcutter (kinnego)
hot gyal - tnt rmx by bassanova (t & a)
get on downz - switch rmx by le freak selector (no label)
mountains to climb - jahdan blakkamoore (lustre kings)
let it up - empresarios (fort knox)
gusto a nada - les reyes del milanga rmx by teswuino & dj linterna (cabeza)
fulaninha - luisa maita rmx by maga bo (cumbancha)
silbando - los riberios rmx by grc (barbes)
herencia rumbera - roberto roena y su apollo sound (fania)
mr. freedom x - miles davis (columbia)
latin power - eero koivisitoinen (porter)
treehouse - peripheral vision (no label)
no rest for the wicked - a hawk and a hacksaw (lm duplication)
snakes at the euxine - rembetika hipsters (no label)
track 3 - french kiss orchestra (no label)
la bamba - richie valens rmx by mexicans with guns (friends of friends)
bandwagon - kotchy (done right)

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