Wednesday, June 9, 2010

FP Top 5: Throwback Albums

In a key scene in the film Crazy Heart, a washed-up country singer (Jeff Bridges) strums a guitar in bed as he writes a new song. His muse (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is shocked to learn the tune is not a classic. "That's the way it is with good ones," Bridges says. "You're sure you've heard 'em before."

We agree. Some of our favorite records are throwbacks: derivative music that somehow satisfies. For contemporary examples, see FP's reviews this week of the latest records from Dr. Dog, Tame Impala and The Drums.  Below, we present our Top 5 Throwback albums of the last decade.

5. Slum Village, Fantastic Vol. 2  (2000)
Detroit's Slum Village have a smoothness that would work at a cocktail party, afterparty, or block party. The jazz-soul sensibility and laid-back rhymes recall classic records by A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets and the Roots.  No surprise then, that Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Pete Rock and  D'Angelo all make guest appearance on Fantastic Vol. 2. But the party didn't last long. Legendary founding member J Dilla died in 2006, followed by fellow-founder Baatin in 2009. Back in February, the survivors released the Villa Manifesto EP,  now streaming on Myspace.

Slum Village, Jealousy

4. JET, Get Born (2003)The debut record from Aussie rockers JET distills the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and, well, every classic rock album between 1965 and 1975 in a way that would make the Black Crowes blush. "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" is basically "Lust for Life." "Roll Over DJ" updates "Roll Over Beethoven." And "Look What You've Done" is "Sexy Sadie," right down to the stolen lyric "You've made a fool of everyone." Yet despite the derivativeness, the songs rock, as evidenced by their ubiquity in bars, shops, and even Yankee Stadium. No offense to Miley Cyrus, but maybe Nick Johnson should switch his walk-up music from "Party in the USA" to "Cold Hard Bitch."

JET, Cold Hard Bitch

3. Crystal Stilts, Alight of Night (2008)
New York's Crystal Stilts are a throwback to the kind of post-punk discussed in FP's celebration of 1979. On their only full-length record to date, the band channels the drone and buzz of Joy Division, with reverb-drenched vocals, guitars, and tambourines that echo the Velvet Underground, whose imitators may never cease and desist. The band also joins the never-ending ranks of Americans who sing with British accents.

Crystal Stilts, Bright Night

2. Surfer Blood, Astro Coast (2010)
 This band is basically Weezer. Their debut album features melodic guitar lines, plaintive vocals, and distorted-guitar melancholy that recalls the tortured genius of Rivers Cuomo and friends.  Add a bit of Beach Boys on songs like "Swim" and voilĂ : Old whine in new bottles.

Surfer Blood, Fast Jabroni

Surfer Blood, Swim


1. The Strokes, Is This It? (2000)
The Strokes have been called everything from the saviors of rock and roll to rich kid poseurs. Despite the vacillations in their reputation, their debut record endures, from the languid title track to the uptempo plea "Someday" to the anthemic single "Last Nite," yet another appropriation of "Lust for Life" (see above).  Julian Casablancas sings like a man on the edge of ruin and complements the pop sensibility of the rhythm section, especially guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. whose solo album Yours to Keep (2006) is among our Top 5 Albums by Sidemen.  More recently, Casablancas has released a solo record Phrazes for the Young (2009). And later Strokes songs like "Reptilia" and "Heart in a Cage" have received the bluegrass treatment from FP Favorites Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers.

The Strokes, Someday


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