Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Every decade presents definitive stars and this one has been no different. For such a list, the main criteria was, obviously, musical excellence but other considerations are there. All these artists are highly influential, produced work that embodied this decade as well as combine critical and commercial success. For that is at the crux of their appeal. As I've stated before, the rise of blogs and YouTube means the distribution of music and visibility of musicians is forever changed. Look at M.I.A...she remains the best example of all the coalescence needed to break through to superstardom. Of course it helps that she's an attractive woman whereas others on this list would have (and still have) to wait and toil longer. Still, their perseverance has paid off. It took Kanye West a near-fatal crash and years of producing other people before his chance came. Animal Collective had been producing quirky yet flawed statements before they've landed into the spotlight. Spencer Krug and Bradford Cox are harder cases but their relentlessness and fine detail are obvious despite the many projects they sign up for. Here isdetails on the five personalities:
Being the creative genius behind a myriad of groups is but one of the luxuries afforded to that rare breed of musician to which Krug belong to. Like seriously, dude is in Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake and Frog Eyes. He is not alone is such hectic musical out-put but the quality of the music is another thing totally. Starting with Wolf Parade’s spectacular debut (Apologies to the Queen Mary) to Sunset Rubdown’s latest (Dragonslayer), Krug has remained a highly fanciful and intriguing product. Spawned from the early 00s indie Montreal scene, Krug has mastered his own mythological interests alongside playing the instruments needed to bear fruit upon our minds. Of course, he is a perfectionist and demands that same fanatical level from all around him. This decade has been the only one that could have birthed Krug, a man whose restlessness is matched only by the careful detail in his lyrics. Note the primeval howl that reverberates through You are a Runner and I am my Father’s Son or the sudden, melodic shift in tension on Apollo and the Buffallo and Anna Anna Anna Oh or even the sheer drums banging over repeated lines of Paper Lace. His genius is not to obfuscate but rather invite everyone to listen in to his thoughts even if the content explored is tautological. His labyrinthine style (starting slowly, only to unwind surely with melody) has started to influence other artists as they experiment with side-projects as well. It will be interesting to watch his progression next decade because his vision cannot be held into one setting or group or phase for too long and it promises to be a splendid ride.
Moving from producer to rapper is a dream for most (it didn’t quite work for Timbaland) but it is the unwavering reality now for Kanye West, a man whose destiny we have been following since 2004. His output as a producer alone is amazing: a drawback to the 1970s blues style suffused with a sudden, modern shift in modulation. It may be due to his upbringing but one suspects that it is more West trying to present a different bite to the hip/hop cherry. By producing work for the likes of Jay Z and Alicia Keys, the urge to be in the spotlight must have overpowered him. Given his ego, the stylistic flourishes that bookend The College Dropout could only have been sublime…and they were. Inspired by a near-fatal car accident, West emerged from the nay-saying to present the best hip/hop debut of the decade. All this done with the gangsta/thug imagery that almost every rapper was expected to project just to sell records. This would mark the first, but not the last time West would stand up for his expressions. Whereas other hip/hop artists use their music as a tool to front some useless claim of thuggery, West is more interested in parsing out life experiences into something fulfilling. His outrageous mid-show claims have become legendary but they ultimately add to his appeal.
The defining band of the decade...not for the hoopla that has surrounded the release of Merriweather Post Pavillion but more precisely because of the journey they’ve taken to land at such an exalted place. Starting out exactly at the start of the decade, the band (Avery Tare, Panda Bear, Deakin & Geologist) has moved from freak/folk minimalists to the apex of the movement itself. The online blog community and myriad of webzines that have watched apprehensively and nurtured their every step can now look back and marvel at the startling results. Even as recent as their Sung Tongs set, the band was still dawdling with abrasive sounds with the odd catchy effect. That changed with their next work, Feels and it’s been a career-defining trio of releases since then. The warm melodies of that effort would segue into the fuzzy, intricate musings of Strawberry Jam, where the roots of the current album depart. It’s an ever-evolving door of experimentation and credit must go for the band sticking through the immense expectation that now awaits them. Even with the various side projects involved, they have created possibilities for countless bands out there and set the template of following one’s heart.
Every decade needs a freaky-looking kid that makes us pay full attention and here’s our winner. Cox is of course lead singer behind the shoe-graze of Deerhunter and front of his other main group, Atlas Sound. Hailing from the same part of Georgia that gave us REM, Cox’s under-the-radar presence in the music landscape is deceptive. Cox is the premier shoe-gaze artist doing music now. With 2008’s Weird Era/ Microcastle and this year’s Logos, his manifesto of sound being crafted under the sparest of tools has become the standard. Given the trials of his life (suffering from Marfan syndrome, being sexually abused, ungaingly tall) it’s no wonder that music would become his refuge but without the glare of mainstream to contend with, Cox has been able to perfect his craft.
What else to say about this woman? The fact that MIA is now a major player in popular music was not by mistake. Starting from blog curiosity of a single ('Galang')to an engineered opus of a sound that was yet fully shaped, MIA stepped up to the proverbial plate with the world behind, in front and sideways just waiting. The gamble paid off with her debut ('Arular') but it was 'Kala' that transformed her forever into the cultural icon that she is now. Given her training in design, her pastiche style towards recorded music has documented a woman steady in footing and resolute in heart. More endearingly, the mantle heldso long by Bjork as the most innovative in pop music was won over. That signified a baton being passed on and, like Erykah Badu a decade earlier, she has forced everyone else to step up their game. If her gritty sound enales the streets to enter the studio then it is because she has always felt the need to push their relevance unto everyone else. As Stevie Wonder said decades ago....she's a bad mamma jamba.