Tuesday, July 18, 2006


I don't believe in posting mid-year album report cards. Some mp3 bloggers do, and if you'd like to know what they think about the year half gone, you can read it here. Part of my aversion to this exercise is practical. I'm not given to hyperbole; when I recommend something, I mean it. It comes from a place of careful consideration and to assemble a list I'm prepared to support without my usual wink n' nod requires more thought and time that I have to give right now.

My other excuse is a little more complicated and drills to the heart of why I am, as a rule (though there are always exceptions), uneasy about albums. I'm a contented product of post-modernist thought; I'm happy taking responsibility for my own interpretation. I'm not that interested in authorial--or in this case, compositional--intent or an album's participation in some metanarrative. I get out of music what I put in it and what I put in it is an amalgam of the many people I am. Yes, I'm talking about gender, class, race, blah, blah, blah, but also the vagaries of chance that exposed me to certain things and not others at times when I was, or was not, going to be receptive to them. The same goes for other listeners and their complex processes of meaning-making.

And I'm comfortable with this somewhat unstable situation. I like chaos. But chaos takes time to like, if you know what I mean. It's not a matter of finding a key under a rock, unlocking the glass case and holding the pretty, useless object to the light to better admire its thematic unity. Instead, it's a never-ending process of picking and sifting, assimilation and rejection in a shifting constellation of connections and near and wide misses. (Apologies if there are some mixed metaphors in there.) Most of the connections I make are with untethered songs. That's just how it works out.

So does all this ramble mean no albums have moved me this year, that I have nothing to recommend? They have. I have. Though the record that's had the greatest emotional resonance for me lately--David Thomas Broughton's The Complete Guide To Insufficiency (US, UK)--was officially released last December. Not so much a steady grower as a nail-studded bomb on a delayed timer, I'd heard some of it earlier in the year, thought it intriguing, then promptly left it to simmer in my iTunes library. I heard it again this past weekend. And again. And again. It's a mad, transgressive record with a vulnerable, humanitarian underbelly, and makes me think of the best narrative thread of any film I saw last year: in shorthand, "back and forth ... forever." If you've seen Me and You and Everyone We Know, you know what I'm talking about and will understand why I point to Broughton's lyrics in "Execution,"

I wouldn't take her to an execution
I wouldn't take her to a live sex show

I wouldn't piss and shit on her
Cuz I love her so,

and regard them as a similar instance of scatology transformed. Transformed, in the case of the film, by wonder and discovery and in the song, by love. But there's also a larger alchemy at play, a series of iterations and gestures that conjure more than acoustic guitar and man with high, pretty voice (even one so incandescent) typically do. Excessive and often unbordered, the record has inexplicable moments (bells that come out of nowhere, infantile wood block percussion) and says uncanny things that don't fit in any small boxes I have lying around.

Execution - David Thomas Broughton

And needless to say, it's a rare event for me to post a song and regret that I couldn't post every track on the album. Though there are only five.


Blogger Caleb said...

Well said. I absolutely adore this album. One of my favorites of last year.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous avant/chicago said...

Mid-year best of's are lame!

7:36 PM  

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