Critics Polls in the Time of Trump

The Pazz & Jop results are in.

Here’s my ballot.

Below are some dear faves that move me all the time.

Don’t skip Huerco S.

Don’t miss the Tate Talk on Bey and Bowie.

Mekons – Existenialism – The older you get, the more face palms you clock. Life disappoints with regularity, and from the Metal Box opening groove to the dire warning that fades into oblivion at the close, the graying punk circus once again drags us to Nostrodamus’ local pub for a dose of bleary laments and some woeful prognosticating. The future does look grim, we do shoot ourselves in the foot with too much regularity, and between Brexit and Trumpmania, we’re still our own worst enmies. Existentialism holds up a mirror up to our collective faces to see if we can stand what we’ve done.

Darcy James Argue – Real Enemies – Suspicion now has a soundtrack. Taking his cue from Kathryn Olmsted’s book of the same name, Brooklyn composer Argue built Real Enemies around the culture of doubt that drives conspiracy theories. The tick-tick-tick of a doomsday clock he visually referenced onstage when this extended suite premiered in 2015 can be heard in every note of his large ensemble’s swoops and crashes, and each is potent enough to conjure the sinister state of paranoia the composer sees surrounding us all as we hurdle towards the pernicious world that’s just around the bend.

Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN –  As I played and replayed, I dug the way she busted out of whatever limited artistic persona she crafted early on. Some of these tracks have a woozy cinematic sweep, others sound like punk-pop purging. Like, “Give It Up” could be the Slits singing a Buzzcocks song, which is a long way from that moody roots princess we were first introduced to in Strange Cacti. Drones, buzzes, keybs, and the kind of poesy that makes you believe purging is a mission statement – it adds up. With echoes of both Sky Ferreira and Neko Case floating in the air, Olsen turned a few corners, blew a few minds.

Margaret Glaspy – “You And I” – With some love affairs, the end starts about three seconds after the beginning – you know, a fait accompli that fucks with your head but not enough to truly flip the script and provide an immediate exit strategy. Glaspy’s purrs have a snarl at their edges; she strums that Telecaster like she’s picking at a scab. With each new chord, the woman who titled her album Emotions and Math runs the numbers on an inevitable breakup.

Solange – “Don’t Touch My Hair” – Otherness surrounds us all, and sometimes it has a positive slant, because pride and perseverance have a way of going hand in hand. With her butterfly warble up front and some classique R&B motifs in play, A Seat at the Table placed its bombshells on a comfy center. Ultimately a few snoozy moments bubbled up. But man, its message moments were not only many, but incisive, piercing and eloquent. And this is def one of ‘em – everything aligned.

A Tribe Called Quest – “We The People…” –  We blasted it at work and each time it came around again, the weight of Tip’s indictments – from the VH1 jibe to the gentrification quip to the ramen reality – got sharper and sharper. I would’ve accepted grooves and whimsy from them at this late date, but their truth to power moves sounded just as effective as their old-school frolic.

Lori McKenna – “Wreck You” – Sometimes we all push and shove, and hide our grace in our pockets, but this break-up anthem about relationship bruises is about the those seasons when it’s nothin’ but pushin’ and shovin’ and hidin’. And leavin’. McKenna is a deft enough singer to convey it all – and it’s a lot – with a shrug.

Singles Comments

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