[David Foster] Wallace, the reader begins to sense, is probably the worst person to send on a journalistic assignment; he’s far too self-conscious to allow himself to be immersed in his subject. Rather, he opts to remain apart and strangely aloof, constantly imposing on himself this role of Observing Journalist. (It’s important to note that this role is self-imposed, an outgrowth of Wallace’s own feelings of incongruity and not-belonging. This is one of self-consciousness’ most ravaging aspects; it causes one to constantly second-guess one’s relationships to other people, and in doing so prevents real contact between individuals. No true human contact is possible without a certain amount of presumption, and these presumptions are precisely what self-consciousness, over time, whittles away at.)
Amazon customer review of A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, December 27, 1997. Emphasis mine. What’s amazing about that last parenthetical sentence, even leaving aside what level of profound truth you expect to find in an Amazon customer review, is that it reads a whole lot like the kind of thing David Foster Wallace himself might have written.
UPDATE: The type of thing he did write, actually; the more I think about it, the harder it is to imagine that thought isn’t highly informed by the beginning of “E unibus pluram,” in the very collection it’s talking about. (“Fiction writers as a species also tend to be terribly self-conscious… .”)
one of the reasons i love his music right now is that it feels very vibrant and fresh, traditional only in the sense that hip-hop used to feel vibrant and fresh all the time. Certainly more so than the crit-approved straightlaced gangster rap of Freddie Gibbs, Playboy Tre, Pill etc. All firmly accomplished & ultimately insular, choir-preaching rap music.
Gucci Mane raps like something is still at stake & matters beyond Zone 6 Atlanta, that Zone 6 Atlanta has something to say that speaks beyond its borders. This kind of outward-looking rap, rap with something at stake & interested in engaging in the wider world while simultaneously having a very strong local identity, is extremely rare at the moment.
Sometimes writers worry that invoking any kind of technology in their work is like inserting a ticking time bomb of obsolescence. Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) opens with the adulterous bond trader Sherman McCoy accidentally dialing his wife from a pay phone when he meant to dial his mistress. Having given himself away, he hangs up in a panic.
Sherman stood by the telephone, breathing rapidly, almost panting. What was he to do now? He felt so defeated…
He dug out another quarter and summoned up Maria’s number into his brain. He concentrated on it. He nailed it down. Then he dialed with a plodding deliberation, as if he were using this particular invention, the telephone, for the first time.
Ha ha, Tom Wolfe you retrograde sucker! Your book is barely twenty years old and most kids these days don’t even know what a pay phone is!
And yet it’s interesting… what he describes, misdialing from a pay phone, it’s actually a little hard to believe. Seven digits, dialed separately, is a lot of digits—about halfway through you’d probably sense that something was wrong. You’d sense you’d made a mistake and retrieve your quarter and start again. Whereas with a text message—that’s just one button. And no stopping it.
The technology is almost gone but with the technology that’s replaced it the danger has actually *increased*. Amazing. Wolfe wins again.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s last album but I really enjoy this. Her voice sounds similar to Trish Keenan of Broadcast and the production reminds me of later-Portishead or Beck (no surprise since he produced the song). I’m exctied to see how the rest of her album will advance her aesthetic.
Yeah Im feeling this too — sorta a ‘lady godiva’s operation’ vibe to it
Listening to the new Mariah Carey album - nice, but a little monolithically introspective for me. I’ll cherrypick it rather than go back to it as a whole, certainly.
One thing I do really like though is how comfortable she is with quoting other records where they seem appropriate to what she’s singing about - on “Inseparable” for instance she breaks for a couple of bars into Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” and then a little later does a really quick high fluting run grabbed from Minnie Riperton on “Loving You”. Neither snatch of song recurs at all (sometimes she’ll build songs around borrowed hooks, like “Candy Bling” does with Ahmad’s “Back In The Day”) and for me this is really…. realistic I guess, the kind of way a mind overstuffed with music actually works, trains of thought constantly interrupted with old songs or hooks.
(It’s how MY mind works anyway - normally my level of self-identification w/a Mariah record is not high so grant me this…)
Haven’t listened to the full LP yet, but I wonder how much of the quoting is The-Dream’s influence? That’s a big part of his approach (he has a song called “Kelly’s 12 Play”, for instance). I like both the new Mariah tracks I’ve heard all right but not as much as my favorite stuff from her last couple of albums, let alone from the 1990s. I used to be happy she was singing in a less showy range, but now I think she might be starting to lose sight of what draws people to her music to begin with— if it’s witty referentiality people want, are they really going to seek out Mariah? Then again, pop artists have to keep on changing, and I do like how she has continually evolved, starting with being one of the first pop/r&b divas to dabble with rap. We’ll see, like I said, still gotta hear the whole thing…
Its possibly the-dream’s influence, but she also did this on her biggest single of the decade with Babyface & Bobby Womack songs, so….
So Pitchfork’s end-of-decade articles & lists have all been published. Obviously, a lot of that stuff isn’t music I’m particularly into. & I don’t mean that as a judgment of those who are; it’s just that over the past decade I’ve been drawn to other music. When being absolutely honest with myself about the kinds of music I enjoyed & (as importantly, I think) the kinds of music I wanted to discuss, I was much more heavily involved with rap, R&B, dance, pop and jazz, the music that I grew up with.
I’m not particularly enamored of Pitchfork’s final albums list as a canon. I think the “Pitchfork canon” is frankly guilty of all kinds of biases & blind spots, that its continued centrality and ‘significance’ to wider music discussion is in some ways damaging, its treatment of other genres often arbitrary and skewed. It’s not so much something Pitchfork itself is guilty of; rather it’s the continued reverence to ‘indie’ as a primary trait of ‘quality’ in the wider discourse of popular music, the assumption that a truly discerning listener must or should be keyed in to this particular subculture’s aesthetic worldview. Indie can be an interesting window through which to experience culture; it can also be an oppressively limiting one.
Pitchfork is also home to some of the best music writing that I’ve ever read, and I feel honored to be able to write alongside guys like Scott & Mark, Tim Finney, Tom Ewing and a few others, because really there is no better venue to write and be read by a wide and engaged audience. Even if 70% of that audience only reads the number (ugh) or the ranking of a record, yr still talking about 30% who read for insight and discussion. So at any rate, here’s my not-particularly-strategic list of favorite albums released in the past decade.
More on some of these soon.
1 Avalanches Since I Left You 2 T.I. Trap Muzik 3 Beanie Sigel The B. Coming 4 The-Dream Love/Hate 5 Daft Punk Discovery 6 Ghostface Killah Supreme Clientele 7 Luomo Vocalcity 8 Three-6 Mafia Da Unbreakables 9 Kylie Minogue Fever 10 Andrew W.K. I Get Wet 11 Aaliyah Aaliyah 12 DJ Quik Trauma 13 UGK Underground Kingz 14 Madvillain Madvillainy 15 Shanks & Bigfoot Ayia Napa – The Album 16 D’Angelo Voodoo 17 Various Artists Get Physical - 2nd Anniversary Label Compilation 18 Basement Jaxx Rooty 19 Missy Elliott Miss E … So Addictive 20 Kaito Special Life 21 50 Cent Get Rich or Die Trying 22 Scarface The Fix 23 Devin the Dude Just Trying Ta Live 24 Ricardo Villalobos Alcochofa 25 Erykah Badu Mama’s Gun 26 Gucci Mane Back to the Trap House 27 Big Tymers I Got That Work 28 Common Like Water for Chocolate 29 Michael Mayer Immer 30 M.O.P. Warriorz 31 Richard “Humpty” Vission Big Floor Funk 32 Pastor Troy Face Off 33 Lil Boosie & Webbie Gangsta Musik 34 Jay-Z The Blueprint 35 Anthony Hamilton Comin from Where I’m From 36 DJ Green Lantern, DJ Vlad & DJ Harry Rap Phenomenon Part II: 2Pac 37 Luomo The Present Lover 38 Young Jeezy Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 39 DJ Harvey Sonic Disco #1 40 Killer Mike I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind 41 N.E.R.D. In Search Of… 42 DJ Shadow The Private Press 43 Lil Wayne The Carter 44 Various Artists Total 3 45 The Knife Silent Shout 46 Z-Ro Let the Truth Be Told 47 Res How I Do 48 Chemical Brothers Come With Us 49 Erykah Badu New Amerkyah Part 1 50 Cut Copy In Ghost Colours 51 Exploding Hearts Guitar Romantic 52 Juvenile Juve the Great 53 Brandy Full Moon 54 Lindstrom & Prins Thomas BBC Essential Mix 55 MRI All That Glitters 56 Big L The Big Picture 57 Justin Timberlake Futuresex/Lovesounds 58 Trick Daddy Thug Holiday 59 Teedra Moses Complex Simplicity 60 Theo Parrish These Days & Times 61 OG Ron C Fuck Action 40 62 Bubba Sparxx Deliverance 63 Vybz Kartel Up 2 Di Time 64 Trae Restless 65 Soulja Slim Years Later … A Few Months After 66 The Beatnuts Originators 67 Abdullah Ibrahim Cape Town Revisited 68 Young Dro Best Thang Smokin 69 Lil Scrappy/Trillville Lil Scrappy/Trillville 70 Maxwell BLACKsummers’night 71 Tha Dogg Pound Cali Iz Active 72 8Ball & MJG Living Legends 73 DJ Quik & Kurupt Blaqkout 74 T.I. King 75 Project Pat Mista Don’t Play 76 Suga Free The Features, Vol. 2 77 T-Rock Rock Solid/4:20 78 Diddy Press Play 79 Mariah Carey The Emancipation of Mimi 80 Simian Mobile Disco Attack, Delay, Sustain, Release 81 Queens of the Stone Age Songs for the Deaf 82 Al Kapone Memphis Drama Vol. 1 83 Ghostface Killah The Pretty Toney Album 84 Basement Jaxx Kish Kash 85 Logan Sama RWD AAA Mix 86 Mary J. Blige The Breakthrough 87 El-P Fantastic Damage 88 Coup Party Music 89 Sean Paul Dutty Rock 90 Monster Magnet God Says No 91 The Streets Original Pirate Material 92 Louis Logic Sin-A-Matic 93 Roisin Murphy Overpowered 94 Fabolous Street Dreams 95 Clipse Lord Willin 96 Shyne Shyne 97 I Self Divine Self Destruction 98 G-Ha & Olanski Sunkissed 99 T.O.K. Unknown Language 100 Diverse One A.M.
My latest post for Tuneage is on Richie Havens’ 1980 track “Going Back to My Roots” which I have been seriously obsessed with this past week. Okay, just listen to this while walking home from work as the sun is setting. It is the perfect walking jam. In my mind, I am gallivanting down the street triumphantly during the last five minutes of my heartfelt coming-of-age/twentysomething angsty film.
After conducting a little research, what is most surprising about this classic 80s club track is the fact that Richie Havens is better known as a folk musician. In fact, he opened Woodstock
One of the noticeable, and perhaps embarassing, trends of the late 70s and early 80s was the influx of rock musicians crossing over to the disco realm. The popularity of the genre seemed ubiquitous and neverending, and so it came as no surprise that many musicians attempted to transform at least one of their songs into something that would translate to the dancefloor.
What makes “Going Back to My Roots” (from Havens’ 1980 LP Connections) so fun and classic is the instrumentation and Havens’ voice. That repetitive piano chord that serves as the foundation of the song is fundamental to many contemporary house and post-punk musicians’ aesthetic. Immediately, tracks by LCD Soundsystem and The Juan MacLean, especially, have roots instead of just an overarching idea of “re-appropriation.” And Havens’ voice, surprisingly lush and warm, makes the track powerful and uplifting.
I’m more into the original version by Lamont Dozier — check it out here.