Friday, December 30, 2011

Pazz and Jop 2011

My "tracks" ballot was a near-last minute composition, and in fact the main reason I submitted one at all is because I'm rather ideologically opposed to being one of those kinds of writers who only submits an albums ballot. I love how chart pop trends are moving away from R&B and toward club/rave music, and yet there weren't many hit pop singles that I found truly memorable this year. IOW, I liked the songs I heard on the radio, but I very rarely felt the need to listen to any of those songs on their own. So I had to make some unconventional choices. And yes, there are only nine tracks on the list.

I didn't follow music news as closely as I did in past years, so I didn't feel I had much to say about the state of music in 2011. Sure, I have plenty to say about the new music I like, but a snappy wordbite that the VV would see fit to publish in a year-in-review article? This year I'm not that guy. On that note, please excuse my fairly brief comments.

Seeing as M83 have fared amazing well in the year-end roundups thus far, I threw a few more points toward "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming", with hopes of giving it a little more help toward a high finish in the standings. I've always preferred a top-heavy ballot anyhow. I definitely didn't see this critical breakout coming for M83, I will have more to say about that in a future post.

My ballots:


M83, "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming", Naive, 25 points
PJ Harvey, "Let England Shake", Island Records, 17 points
Wolves in the Throne Room, "Celestial Lineage", Southern Lord, 13 points
The Caretaker, "An Empty Bliss Beyond This World", History Always Favours the Winners, 10 points
Death In Vegas, "Trans-Love Energies", Portobello Records, 7 points
Modeselektor, "Monkeytown", Monkeytown Records, 7 points
I Break Horses, "Hearts", Bella Union, 6 points
Tim Hecker, "Ravedeath, 1972", Kranky, 5 points
Surgeon, "Breaking the Frame", Dynamic Tension Records, 5 points
Mogwai, "Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will", Rock Action Records, 5 points


Britney Spears, "Till the World Ends", Jive
Lady Gaga, "Edge of Glory", Interscope
Low, "Try To Sleep", Sub Pop
Mogwai, "George Square Thatcher Death Party", Rock Action Records
Nicki Minaj, "Super Bass", Young Money
Patrice Baumel and Nuno Dos Santos, "360-may-2011-podcast-for-trouw", no label
Paul Woolford & Psychatron, "Stolen", Hotflush Recordings
Raveonettes, "Recharge and Revolt", Vice Records
William Basinski, "Disintegration Loops dlp 1.1 (orchestrated by Maxim Moston), no label

* note that these are listed alphabetically ... tracks ballots for P&J are unranked anyhow.


Twenty years have passed since the end of the 1980's, and the threat of communism dominating the world now seems more quaint and distant than people making records with huge gated drums and cornball synths. M83 want things to stay that way. If you can set up a mental block in front of all the unlikable things about the 80's while still longing for the days when everything on the radio sounded like "Midnight City", then you'll probably love "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming".

I used to be able to remember all the song titles from every album I bought. Now, something will be on the radio for six months, but one day I'll finally hear the song I.D. and say to myself "oh, this one is by Britney Spears"? This happens far more often than I'd like to admit. Maybe technology has made certain types of memory redundant (e.g. who remembers phone numbers anymore?) or maybe too many brain cells have decayed over the years. The second possibility is a scary thought. It means that one day I'll end up bedridden and won't remember anything about my past life other than the chorus to "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

Have we reached the point where podcasts tell us more about what's going through an artist's mind than singles or albums do? Is this why I look forward more to hearing podcasts (especially techno/club music) than albums a lot of the time?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top ten mixes/podcasts of 2011

This year I kept up with mixes and podcasts mainly by following the same mix/podcast series and news sites that I'd followed in past years. The volume of quality mixes out there continues to boggle the mind, but I have to say that I regret not investing the time to discover podcasts from a wider variety of ssources.

The Electric Deluxe podcast is still the best when it comes to consistency, creativity, variety, and trainspotting/track selection. I may not have been as diligent in keeping track of new podcasts as I was last year, but I still think they are the most effective way to sample the year's best music and keep track of the latest trends. In chronological order:

(Honourable mention) Midland, FACT 185, September 17, 2010 (link)

This one doesn't count because it was released in 2010, but it deserved a mention because I probably listened to it more than any other mix this year. The mix takes ages to properly develop, running through odd abstract and downtempo music, gradually upping the tempos before finally hitting its house stride about forty minutes in. It took a few listens to grasp where Midland was going with all this, i.e. to understand the story being told with the mix. This is why it didn't make my 2010 list, and didn't really register with me until the start of 2011.

(Honourable mention II) Dino Sabatini, Prologue Portefeuille Podcast 02, December 27, 2010 (link)

This was released in the final days of 2010 so it effectively counts toward this year. The concept here is fairly simple: one hour of atmospheric, deep, moody techno.

ASC, Deep Space Mix 19, January 20 (link)

This is my favourite type of ambient set -- warm, shimmery, angelic ambient music that just sort of floats by. I'm a bit envious because sometimes I try to make mixes like these and I always fail because I can't help but turn it into a horror/noise fest. For some reason I have the attention span to listen, but not to create a mix like this.

Animal Collective, ATP Animal Collective Mixtape, March 22 (link)

Animal Collective curated ATP this year and put together a promotional podcast featuring a number of the artists that were booked for the festival. This is two plus hours of weirdo science pop oddities, most of which I'd never heard of. I may be completely burned out on Animal Collective's music, but their taste in music still seems fresh and unpredictable.

Martyn, Impulsief mix for oki-ni, April 9 (link)

This is one of those mixes that proves you don't need to be a beatmatching wizard to be a great DJ (Martyn is a great technical DJ too, but that's not the main reason why this particular podcast is great). The mix flows from funk to classic house to synth pop and 90's techno (LA Synthesis!!), sometimes its beatmatched and sometimes not, and the flow couldn't be any more natural.

Patrice Baumel and Nuno dos Santos, Trouw Podcast May 2011 (link)

According to the description, the mix was made by extracting sound elements and beats from dozens of tracks and assembling them into a entirely new whole. This concept isn't new, Richie Hawtin's "Beats EFX and 909" and "DE9 Diversions" albums are probably the most well known mixes of this type. But the key part of the description here: "spacious soundscapes, track fragments, voices, echoes and reverberating pads float in and out." This might seem a bit OTT -- dozens of beats AND various elements appearing and disappearing? -- like a techno version of "Revolution 9". But it's not like that at all. It feels less like a mix than a long, slowly shape-changing track (which is why I listed it as a track on my P&J Ballot) where familiar sounding melodies float by like in an extended daydream. This mix is way more than the sum of its parts, and really must be heard to be believed. This was easily my favourite mix of 2011.

Psychatron, Electric Deluxe Episode 047 (David Holmes – Johnny Favourite – Exploding Plastic Ambience Mix), July 4 (link)

Filled with extended dub remixes (remember what "dub remix" used to mean when applied to 80's/90's dance music?) and classic 70's/80's style synth pop, this is the kind of alternative 80's dance party that I'd like to hear more of.

Prurient, FACT Mix 266, July 18 (link)

As far as truth in advertising goes, this is a spot-on preview of what you'd expect from the newer, less abrasive and extreme sound of Prurient. "Bermuda Drain" turned out to be pretty good too.

Diego, Electric Deluxe Episode 049 (Diego Hostettler presents his Shapes & Forms mix), July 31 (link)

Dub techno never seems to get old, but putting together a mix of mostly 90's Chain Reaction material is really tough without churning out a mix that sounds like something that we've heard a million times already. The mixing and sequencing is fantastic, perfect for getting effortlessly engulfed in the swampy dub goodness.

Diary of Musical Thoughts Podcast Episode 3 (The Sun In Eclipse Gathers Together More Mixes), August 17 (link)

If FACT can publish a end of year list with the 20 best FACT mixes of 2011, then I can promote myself a bit too. Only in my dreams do all my mixes turn out as good as this one.

Alva Noto, Resident Advisor Podcast 276, September 12 (link)

I love hearing mixes where they pack about 25 tracks into 50 minutes. But most of them don't criss-cross between left field experimental genres and dance music like this one does.

Giorgio Gigli and Obtane, Resident Advisor Podcast 282, October 24 (link)

I think my jaw hit the floor when I heard this podcast for the first time. It's like the Berghain sound drowned under a sea of heavy blankets. This is the kind of techno that appears in my dreams, something that virtually nobody ever tries to actually make, with shuddering, hazy beats and other assorted odd noises howling outside my window and getting swept aside by rivers of bass. Is this the kind of positive fallout that happened when the Gas boxset got released and everybody was reminded of how amazing those albums are?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Low, "C'Mon"

This just missed my top ten this year, actually, it would have been my #11 album of the year. There were four albums but only three spots (#8, 9, 10) and it was the odd one out after a fairly agonizing elimination process.

I didn't hear this album until the start of December, which makes no sense because Low have been one of the most reliable bands for me over the past ten years. I'm on their mailing list and was getting all the email reminders to watch the new video here, stream the new songs until the end of the week there, but somehow never got around to hearing anything. But no problem, I figured I'd hear the best parts of "C'mon" if I checked out a few live bootlegs. Other than the slow enveloping epic "Nothing But Heart", nothing really stood out.

December rolled around and I finally decided I couldn't let 2011 expire without hearing a new Low album that had already been out for nearly eight months. And that's when it hit me. About a week later, I became perhaps the last Low fan to know that they'd released a video where John Stamos sings a swimsuit model to sleep and then gets run over by a train. It's been that kind of year.

Low have been alternating "traditional" and "experimental" albums for the past decade. "Things We Lost In the Fire" is perhaps the apex of their slowcore period, afterward, their philosophy moved away from squeezing all they could out of their one trick. "Trust" upped the volume levels and its gritty intensity seemed to be drawn more from blues and metal than anything connected to indie rock at the time. "The Great Destroyer" was their polarizing masterpiece, to those who can't get enough of it (like me), it was refreshing to hear them get revved up and angry, to others it was a near sacrilege that played away from their established strengths. "Drums and Guns" tinkered heavily with electronics, changing up the formula yet again. "C'mon" is like "The Great Destroyer Lite", dominated by the guitar-heavy sound of that album but without the sense of frustration, anger and fury that made it special, as opposed to slowcore with a few screechy guitar solos. That sounds like a criticism, and in a way it is, because "The Great Destroyer" will be difficult to top. But "C'mon" isn't meant to be a carbon copy of it, it's a different kind of album. It's also lacking in "Drums and Guns"'s somnambulism, and that's a good thing.

The highs on "C'mon" aren't consistently high enough, there are a lot of very good songs on this album but not a lot of great ones. "Nothing But Heart" stands out because it's the eight minute epic, "Witches" is the crunchy, sort of sexy one, and $20$ is the one with a fractional BPM. But the all time classic is "Try to Sleep", which is a Low-ified version of Radiohead's "No Surprises", complete with glockenspiel, feather-light melody, and the lyrical sense of melancholy, resignation and giving up on this earthly world.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Top 10 Albums of 2011

And here we are again. For the past few years, I've been saying that when it comes to hearing new music, my habits have been getting more and more random. I'm so out of sync with music news cycles that I sometimes find myself discovering that someone's highly anticipated new release was released months earlier. Case in point, I had a leaked copy of my #1 album but didn't listen to it for about two months, partly because I was a bit underwhelmed (at the time) by the lead single. I listened to a decent amount of pop music this year, but I have no idea what my top singles of the year are because I can't remember the titles of anything.

Fortunately, I didn't have to look too hard to hear great music this year. This list contains a couple of great comeback records, entries from bands I'd never heard of one year ago, a fairly international flavour (seven nations represented), and you can even dance to some of it.


10. Mogwai, "Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will"

In the past few years, Mogwai envisioned themselves as a post-rock Sabbath and worked overtime to make the label stick. In 2011, they seem to have given up that dream, but whereas most directionless bands get stuck in a downward spiral toward eternal mediocrity, Mogwai were able to fall back into the myriad of styles they used to do so well. The result was a record that sounded like a career-in-review retrospective (not unlike Orbital's "Blue Album" in that respect), and an album that nearly deserved to make this list on the basis of its title and "George Square Thatcher Death Party" alone.

9. Surgeon, "Breaking the Frame"

Surgeon's tracks made up the best parts of Mike Huckaby's somewhat disappointing 20th Anniversary Mix for Tresor. Maurizio and Robert Hood best represent Tresor's past, but Surgeon captures their present and future better than anyone -- cavernous, grim, and punishing techno music.

8. Tim Hecker, "Ravedeath, 1972"

Tim Hecker's records might all sound the same, but he's one of the few artists who can turn his predictability into a badge of quality and reliability. And remember, Hecker is always at his best when he's at his harshest. This music was never meant to be too relaxed or too pretty.

7. I Break Horses, "Hearts"

I Break Horses aren't afraid of a few loud guitars and effects that resemble melting the tape as you're playing it back, which is what makes them a much better band than your average twee faux-shoegazers. This album would have finished higher if it wasn't for its Verve-like inconsistency in the second half.

6. Modeselektor, "Monkeytown"

There's no genre of electronic music that these guys won't touch, and they don't seem to be getting bored of trying out as many as possible. And it bears repeating that more artists should be making albums in the spirit of Orbital's bleepy genre-melting classic "Snivilisation".

5. Death In Vegas, "Trans-Love Energies"

Death In Vegas appear to be getting better as their music gets less and less commercial-sounding. They even took seven years off to really make people forget about them, helping to ensure that their newest album wouldn't sell. The big loser is Richard Fearless' bank account. The winners are fans of: obscure krautrock, scuzz rock, Martin Hannett's productions, and Cabaret Voltaire c. 1989-1990.

4. The Caretaker, "An Empty Bliss Beyond This World"

See, the simplest ideas really are the best ideas. How hard can it be to loop a few melodies from old ballroom 78's, add some hiss and static, pitch them down a bit, and call it an album?

3. Wolves In the Throne Room, "Celestial Lineage"

I don't even know how to describe this one, but who knew that psychedelic West Coast operatic black metal could be so good? The gloriously fuzzy guitars may only be the icing on the cake.

2. PJ Harvey, "Let England Shake"

It's probably safe to say that this is the best WWI concept album ever made, and should remain so for the forseeable future. PJ Harvey took her talent for writing "character" songs to a new level in a wholly unexpected direction, and her voice has never sounded this good.

1. M83, "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming"

Let's review how M83 and Spiritualized have followed the same career path over their first four albums. We'll need to ignore that M83's eponymous album was their debut, although I suppose we could still include it if we took the second half of S3's "Recurring" to be Spiritualized's debut album. But not right now.

"Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts", "Lazer Guided Melodies". Still hailed as their best album by those who still see this as being the embodiment of a "signature" style that they never bettered. Contains some of their most beloved songs that remained live staples for years even though the original recordings didn't fit with the evolving style of the band ("Run Into Flowers", "0078h"/"Shine a Light", "Take Your Time"). The last album where they could really be considered a band, rather than a group of musicians backing up a visionary frontman.

"Before the Dawn Heals Us"/"Pure Phase". The transition album. Not quite what they once were (when their former bandmates were around), not yet what they would become, but somewhere at the midway point in the redefinition process. Mostly instrumental, but with a few standout vocal tracks.

"Saturdays = Youth"/"Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space". A merging of dormant genres (shameless 80's fanboyism, free jazz and psychedelic skronk) with the music they were already known for, finally, the vision is complete and only their respective frontmen could have seen it coming. The vocals are emerging from the background and becoming more front and centre. Yet another album-of-the-year quality release, their combination of consistency and excellence can no longer be ignored.

"Hurry Up, We're Dreaming"/"Let It Come Down". The vocals, which used to be shyly emoted from somewhere deep in the mix, have taken on the role of a lead instrument. You could always sing along to their music, but never like this. Just when you thought they couldn't get more maximal, they did it.

Where do M83 go from here? Maybe they'll continue on like Spiritualized, scale back their music as a reaction to the dense and heavy sound of "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming", and begin their slow retreat from the head of the pack. Nobody can keep releasing albums this good forever, can they? In my pantheon, Orbital released three straight classics, as did Spiritualized, but nobody has ever released four in a row, not at this level.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Tony Bennett, "Tony Sings the Hits of Today!"

This album is supposed to be the absolute pits of Tony Bennett's career. His popularity had plummeted by the end of the 60's and someone (coughCliveDaviscough) thought he needed to sing contemporary material in order to revive his career. As the story goes, the results were the horrifically bad stuff of legend. Bennett hated making the album so much that he became physically ill while recording it. And unlike other legendarily bad albums (e.g. Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music"), this one never experienced a critical or popular renaissance of any sort. Bennett's fans still disown it, critics still hate it, it might as well have never existed.

I've never heard this album, in fact until a few weeks ago I didn't know a thing about it. But looking at the tracklist forty years after its release, I have to wonder where all the hate is coming from. Tony Bennett threw up because he had to cover songs by the Beatles and Stevie Wonder? "Here There and Everywhere" didn't move him in the slightest? And he might not have lived in the era of the "official" Great American Songbook, but who's more of a classic American songwriter than Burt Bacharach?

So let's listen and find out if Tony Bennett's "Tony Sings the Hits of Today!" is really as bad as advertised ... while reviewing the album in real time. (songwriters names appear in brackets)

1. "MacArthur Park" (Jimmy Webb). This song has been covered innumerable times, and yet you'd be hard pressed to find someone who likes it. In a 1993 survey, it was even crowned as the worst song ever. In short, "Macarthur Park" is the kryptonite that destroys even the best artists (e.g. Donna Summer). But Bennett's version isn't bad at all! It's a sweet and simple arrangement that does away with all of the lyrical silliness in the song about cakes melting in the rain, and leaves us with lines like "after all the loves of my life / I'll be thinking of you and wondering why". Cole Porter couldn't have written that? We're off to a decent start here.

2. "Something" (George Harrison). A serious misstep. Everything from the odd changes in tempo to Bennett's half-hearted attempt to emote during the refrain just don't mesh.

3. "The Look of Love" (Burt Bacharach, Hal David). Bacharach was the master of sweetness and light in pop. So who thought it was a good idea to get a Hal Blaine clone to play drums and rock the joint up a bit? It should have been a no-nonsense arrangement carried completely by the singer, instead, they tried to merge big band with a touch of pyschedelia. Someone spent too much time listening to "Good Vibrations" before entering the mixing studio.

4. "Here There and Everywhere" (John Lennon, Paul McCartney). And this ... why is this a midtempo swing tune? Did anyone bother to listen to the lyrics before recording it, or were they going for the ironic cover a couple of decades before that became a fad?

5. "Live for Life" (Norman Gimbel, Francis Lai). Perfectly acceptable pop balladry here, I think Bennett was actually trying with this one.

6. "Little Green Apples" (Bobby Russell). I'd never heard of this song, but "G-d didn't make little green apples and it doesn't rain in Indianapolis" is an awful lyric, so no wonder Bennett sings it like he's singing the weather report. There's no joy, humour, or pizzazz in his delivery at all. The only way to overcome the "qualities" of a song so charmingly dumb with lyrics this bad is with an overdose of all three. The big note at the end is haphazardly screamed, as if he just wanted it to be finally over. I concur, let's move on.

7. "Eleanor Rigby" (John Lennon, Paul McCartney). A quick check confirms that William Shatner's "The Transformed Man" predates this by two years. Shatner's attempt to act instead of sing his lyrics was at least authentic (i.e. it was all he was capable of doing, he put his heart into it, and the effort was genuine) and some of the arrangements were quirky and unpredictable (e.g. "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"). But Tony Bennett lowering himself to this kind of silly dramatic reading almost gave me sympathy vomit cramps, forty years after the fact.

8. "My Cherie Amour" (Henry Cosby, Sylvia Moy, Stevie Wonder). Another no-brainer -- just play it as a string-drenched ballad. And they do. This is rather lovely, it's a winner.

9. "Is That All There Is?" (Jerry Lieber, Mike Stoller). This song was very much in vogue in '69-'70, and had already been covered a few times by other adult contemporary artists in the two years previous. So it makes sense that Bennett's label would want him to record this. There's nothing technically wrong here, but maudlin black humour and Tony Bennett don't mix, although I think he could have communicated the dejected feelings of the song's narrator if he liked the song even a little bit.

10. "Here" (Gene Lees). The line "here I am all alone with a few faded pictures of you" is a heartbreaker, and this song slinks along, wallowing in its selfish misery not unlike Lou Reed's "The Bed". This is jaw droppingly great, no joke.

11. "Sunrise Sunset" (Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick). This would makes sense as an epic dramatic finishing song to an adult contemporary pop album ... but not on a Tony Bennett album. The man is many things, Broadway diva isn't one of them.

It goes without saying that any interpretive singer needs the right song with the right arrangement to succeed. Song choice is really everything for someone like Tony Bennett, especially with an experiment like this where he strays outside his comfort zone. In that respect, the album is obviously a failure. Sometimes a great singer can overcome an imperfect arrangement, but that doesn't happen even once here. I would expect that Bennett could have overcome sub-par arrangements at least once or twice on an eleven track album if he were motivated, which he obviously wasn't. It's also odd to think that there was a time when producers and bandleaders didn't "get" the Beatles and had no clue how to perform or interpret their work, look no further than this album for proof of that.

But is it the worst album ever, or even an abominable insult to human hearing, as it has been portrayed? There are at least three really good songs here, although the embarrassments do outnumber the winners. It definitely doesn't deserve to be unearthed as any kind of lost gem, but it's also not quite the disaster that I'd been led to believe it was. And I know I'll be in the minority on this, but I don't even mind the cover!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Sandro Perri, "Impossible Spaces"; Modeselektor, "Monkeytown"

These two artists are more similar than you think. They emerged as outsiders in their respective, widely hyped local underground scenes in the late 90's. They've been very active since, despite not having a large discography to show for it, largely thanks to a steady stream of live performances, remixes and collaborations. And both artists have been wizards when it comes to criss-crossing genre boundaries, often within the same track. Despite their oddly similar career paths, on their latest releases, they're heading in opposite directions creatively.

I can understand what Sandro Perri has been trying to do over the past few years, after all, wanting to shift from making mysterious, atmospheric techno while seated on a stage floor behind a mess of wires to being the singer/songwriter/frontman of your own band under your own name doesn't need much justification. After years spent paying my dues opening for other, bigger name artists, I probably wouldn't want to keep settling for being one of Toronto's best kept secrets either.

Even when his work as Polmo Polpo was derivative (i.e. Gas with twangy guitars), he was still miles ahead of all the other copycats, and with "Like Hearts Swelling" and "Kiss Me Again and Again" he came into his own with some of the most unique music of the 00's. But solo artist Sandro Perri has always strayed too close to generic alt-country artist territory, and "Impossible Spaces" doesn't do much to change that impression.

I've never cared much for Perri as a vocalist, he's capable but not commanding on the mic, and while he might sound more confident on "Impossible Spaces" than ever before, his vocals don't amount to much more than a forgettable backdrop to the music. As I would have expected, he's at his best when he goes epic and lets his songs breathe for seven minutes or more (e.g. "How Will I?", "Wolfman"). Songs have a way of starting out as stripped down indie ballads and wandering their way into a 70's prog record complete with bodacious synth solo, while featuring bits of electronic trickery along the way. Come to think of it, Super Furry Animals used to do this a lot. "Impossible Spaces" is sort of like a SFA album circa 2000, minus the mad hattery and OTT sonic bonkerism that made their albums so great. But the way these songs take their unexpected twists and turns still form the bulk of the highlights from the album.

There are still plenty of things I don't like about Modeselektor, like 90% of their songs when they try to channel Jamaica. The fact that they were genre whores, unafraid to try anything and everything with any big or small name vocalist, used to be their most interesting trait and their Achilles heel. They were simply too hit-and-miss, their records always had some gems on them but were too inconsistent to be great as a whole.

That changed with 2009's "Moderat" album (with Apparat). That's where they perfected the art of siphoning the best traits of their collaborators and adapting their style to mesh with that of the people they worked with. "Monkeytown" still can't shake some of the old bad habits -- their dips into ragga and hip hop on "Pretentious Friends" and "Humanized" are the weakest parts of the album. But "Evil Twin" and "German Clap" are top notch club techno, up there with the best they've done in that style, and they've produced a couple of absolute gems out of their two Thom Yorke collabs, especially "This". It's like a sequel to "Idioteque", something you could conceivably hear on a Radiohead album if they had a fraction of Modeselektor's talent*. They slice up Thom Yorke's voice into nearly indecipherable loops, smother it with brooding bass lines and snippets of late 90's Autechre-style skittery beats, resulting in a haunting track that's not quite of any genre they've attempted before.

All in all, "Monkeytown" is an impressive, varied listen where even the slight misses (like on "Moderat") work well in context.

* slight clarification: this seems like a weaselly comment so I should explain a bit more ... to Radiohead, going "electronic" in the faux-Autechre sense has always meant getting weird and abstract. The real Autechre were never just about that, the magic was always in the atmospheres they created and the odd sounds they came up with. When they were weird and abstract for the sake of being weird and abstract, they sucked too. For Modeselektor, specifically in the case of "This", channeling Autechre means trying to make them sound more like Orbital circa "Snivilisation". Huge difference.