All year long, weve been hearing about the death of the LP, the demise of 10-song-at-a-time collections of new material that music consumers have come to expect since the late 1950s. But although its too soon to start shoveling dirt on the coffin yet, artists once tethered to an annual release schedule are slowly wandering away from the template. To hasten this demise, L.A. Weekly offers some of the most intriguing songs of the year, escaped from the tyranny of the full-length. We want songs, and we want to play them over and over again. What follows are some that you should track down pronto.
Axel Willner, a.k.a. the Field, transformed a doo-wop sample. (Click to enlarge)
Lil Mama: What you know about me? What you know? (Click to enlarge)
From Here We Go Sublime, The Field (Kompakt Records)
Think of From Here We Go Sublime, the title track from Swedish techno producer Axel Willners debut full-length, as the Field, as the antithesis of the anthem. There are no words that will inevitably transform into annoying catch phrases, no beat to beckon the world to dance. The piece is built around the Flamingos 1959 hit I Only Have Eyes for You, a doo-wop snippet that sounds beamed from a dust-encrusted 45 hidden underneath piles of old prom dresses. The tracks ambient intro leads to the loop, which Willner speeds up, slows down and otherwise distorts. In the club, From Here We Go Sublime is the perfect bridge, a blissed-out interlude providing a breather between peak-hour crescendos. At least thats how it functioned when the Field performed at Santa Monicas Mor Bar last summer. At home, through your headphones, youll be forced to play and replay the track, peeling apart the layers and wondering why it couldnt be just a little longer. Sometimes, four minutes and 10 seconds isnt enough time to sink into the sublime.
Someone Great, LCD Soundsystem (DFA Records)
LCD Soundsystems James Murphy has made a career out of crafting songs that reveal a life much cooler than yours: Daft Punk plays at his house, he was at the first Can show in Cologne, etc. What Mr. DFA hadnt revealed thus far was his sensitive side. Turns out its his best feature. Someone Great strips away the superficial storytelling and replaces frenetic knife-stab guitars with midtempo, throbbing ambient blips. Beginning with a quietly undulating synth-wave, the track gains its footing as hushed, reverb-soaked robot patter, a soft acid bass line and staccato synth programming join the fray. Murphy uses his indoor voice to actually sing this tune, an intimate and personal reflection on the loss of a lover or friend or relative... Im not entirely sure what its about, but it doesnt really matter. Performed and programmed by Murphy, Someone Great may inspire you to shelve your Daft Punk records forever. The song provides an unexpected moment of electronic pathos; once you find sad music like this to dance to, happy vocoder electro-pop feels like such a drag.
Lip Gloss, Lil' Mama (Jive Records)
This was the jam of everyones summertime. You hate? I dont, even if its rhymes stink. Know why? Its pop music stuck in my head. The beat, the hook go well with a true tale: lip gloss a drag but when 16, something to make work as talisman. YouTube, the site, has the video: Mams mom, outside, gives girl wisdom. To Mam, whos shy, glossed up dances down the hall, quite changed. She sings to the cool kids, What you know bout me? What you know? With shield, she speaks and boys all dance or fall in line. Of course, not lips but for her fierce young brain. Shes fun, writes songs and shares her wisdom. What more, I mean, shes a teen? Oh yeah, she proves she can be a friendly foe: Like B (but modestly), she wants to upgrade ya in a way obtainable, not with a silk-lined blazer. Makeup, thats it, that truly is so third wave! They say, pleasures not superfluous, it is main. Lip gloss, first step, and then well end war. Like pop, lip gloss can potentially be something more. Or not.
Valerie, Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse (RCA Records)
Listen to Amy Winehouses fine debut CD, Frank, and you hear a young woman flitting capably but self-consciously from influence to influence (Sarah Vaughan, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill), haphazardly trying on other womens styles in winning fashion. By this years girl-group/vintage R&B homage Back to Black, shes clearly coming into her own (as songwriter as well as singer), and the vision not only of what she currently is but of what she might yet become is mesmerizing. Its on Mark Ronsons Valerie, though, that Winehouse finally synthesizes all incoming streams and really makes them her own. Ronson orchestrates a vaguely Motown-ish bass line and some vintage soul-man horns into a groove that completely overhauls the original Zutons version of the song, creating a comfort zone for the troubled Ms. Winehouse to both nod heavily toward and yet transcend the templates shes drawn on before. The debate sparked about how much white skin has greased her path to success is still a valid one; the controversies around her drug use and increasingly outta control antics create a familiar (if not tired) cliffhanger to her future. Those peripheral issues resonate so much because, as shown on Valerie, Winehouses talent is absolutely undeniable.