Scott Creney

Scott Creney Looks Back At 2013

Scott Creney Looks Back At 2013
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By Scott Creney

Man, what a crazy goddamned year. Not the music, the music was great, it was better than great—it was fantastic. In alphabetical order, and this is just the albums:

Blanche Blanche Blanche, Body/Head, CocoRosie, Deerhunter, Dirty Beaches, Filthy Huns, Happy Jawbone Family Band (the 1st one—the 2nd one sucked), John Grant, Kanye West, King Krule, Lorde, My Dick, Pere Ubu, The New Sound Of Numbers, Ty Segall, Willis Earl Beal, Dot Wiggin Band, Laurel Halo, Hookworms, Sky Ferreira.

And those were just (in more or less alphabetical order) the ones I got around to writing about. M.I.A. put out a great one. Colin Stetson might have made the best one—imagine an Arthur Russell based around woodwinds instead of cello and you’re about halfway there. The Knife album was great. Holograms was great. Run the Jewels, Steve Gunn. All of these records made my life and my year a brighter, more interesting, deeper place. They’re records that I unequivocally, uncritically, flipped my shit for. And they’re all records I can imagine myself listening to 10 years from now. They’re my 2013.

Do we have enough for a Top 10 yet?

But yeah, a crazy year. In 2013, I received death threats—from fans of a Scandinavian punk band w/dubious politics and the head of a prominent US label (the 2nd one was kind of joking). A Guardian writer called me a sexist b/c a book by Karen Green meant more to me than an otherwise pretty much unanimously praised record by a band called Haim (and while we’re on the subject of great books in 2013, do yourself a favor and check out Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers—also better than Haim). The editor/founder of The Quietus compared my writing to a UK murderer b/c I wrote a negative review of the debut album by a band called Savages.

Funny story, when I saw his comment, “Scott Creney’s writing reminds me of ______” I initially got excited b/c I’d never heard of this guy, and I’m always excited to find new books to read. Then I Googled the name and found he had killed a bunch of policemen or something. This immediately raised the question, “Well did this guy write a book or something?” He hadn’t. Which leaves me still wondering how the editor at The Quietus knows what that guy writes like.

But when I substituted the opening chapter of my next book for an Arcade Fire review, nobody batted an eyelash. That’s how you know that the new Arcade Fire album really sucks.

Whatever. Life goes on. The only thing that bugs me is this idea that I spend all my energy shitting on artists. The vast majority of what I write is positive. The only joy I get in negativity is the satisfaction of finding the right words/ideas to articulate what bothers me about a piece of music. It’s not enough to say this sucks. You have to be able to say why it sucks. Or to be as accurate as possible, you need to say why you think this sucks.

Anyway, in an earlier draft I went off on a 2,000 word tangent about music journalism/criticism/writing and why all three of those slashed descriptors need to pretty much always be surrounded by quotes or possibly eliminated altogether in favor of the more descriptively accurate ‘shill’ (except for The Quietus, who all joking aside do some serious great work). But as Everett pointed out, it’s ultimately about the music. And the music was great. Those albums up there thrilled/excited/moved me in all kinds of deep & meaningful ways. They have very little in common aside from a uniqueness to their time. That is to say, to put it more simply, they couldn’t have been made 10 years ago (except for Deerhunter, probably).

I also notice that all of the singers sound aware that someone is listening to them, and they incorporate this listening into their lyrics (again, there’s one exception–HJFB). It’s what separates John Grant’s work from earlier singer-songwriters like Elliott Smith. In the latter’s music, it sounds like you’re eavesdropping. Grant’s songs feel like a performance–that he not only knows he’s being listened to, he’s allowed the act of listening to shape his art. Kanye West pulled this same trick over and over again on Yeezus. Because he knows you’re listening, he’s going to throw some bullshit out there along with the sincere stuff, to see if you can tell the difference, to clear out a little space for himself. In a year when the citizens of the western world learned that their governments were collecting information on them, to be stored, to be used or discarded as they saw fit–and that their e-mail providers, social media outlets, and the cameras on their personal laptops were complicit in this information gathering–the music of these artists felt like an act of defiance. In a world where everyone is listening, my music collection felt like an assemblage of Hamlets play-acting their way across the stage, feigning madness as necessary so they could unleash their true passions as they saw fit, so they could stay one step ahead of the eavesdroppers, so they could claim some freedom for themselves.

All art is a mirror held up to society, whether it’s good or not (the ‘it’ referring to both the art & society), but the best art leans out a little ahead of the culture. 20 years from now, the way we live is going to bear little resemblance to the way we live today. And the people who made my favorite albums of 2013 are going to look like fucking prophets. They showed how to turn the self-consciousness of being observed into something that looked a lot like freedom.

One Response to Scott Creney Looks Back At 2013

  1. Chester Whelks January 31, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    (Don’t mention that cantankerous bass player, he’s bad for business…)

    Presskit, Tunabunny: Kingdom Technology CD/LP (HHBTM Records)
    Release date: March 11, 2014

    Bio: Kingdom Technology is the sound a satellite makes as it revolves around the earth. It’s the sound of falling in love with your eavesdropper.

    For a band that’s already created quite a stir over the past several years, always moving forward, always learning, always searching, four albums in four years has brought Tunabunny here—a record so audacious it suggests the band can do anything.

    If Brigette Herron & Mary Jane Hassell are, as some UK critics have called them, ‘the female Lennon/McCartney,’ then Kingdom Technology is Tunabunny’s Revolver, fourteen songs rooted in the intersection between pop and the avant-garde, a kaleidoscope of sound anchored in melody—or is it a series of great songs being ripped apart and destroyed?

    The record is coated in ecstasy & death. It charges into the unknown, terrified and inflamed, anthemic & broken, empty & yearning, isolated & alive. You can dance to it or you can die to it. You can grieve to it or fall in love to it.

    Recorded in the band’s living rooms by drummer Jesse Stinnard on a slightly-damaged $2500 sound input device fished out of a University of Georgia dumpster by local artist Ted Kuhn, KT may be the first digitally-recorded album to retain the mysteries of lo-fi and analogue tape. Stinnard achieved this by foregrounding the electronic glitches and manipulations of sound, while utilizing a mix of natural warmth and artificial effects.

    The lyrics are a mix of poetry & slogans, razors & ointment, songs about asylums both loving & sinister. It’s about no one in the station to stop the glitch, to prevent the breakdown, delineations of power, both personal & political—what does it mean to be strong?

    It’s the missing link between Shulamith Firestone and Kylie Minogue.

    A triumph, majestic in its power, Kingdom Technology leaves everything they’ve done to this point in the dust. It makes theories about the demise of the album just seem quaint. They no longer sound like anyone except for themselves. At play in a universe of sound, Kingdom Technology runs the gamut from Abba to Alvin Lucier without even leaving the backyard.

    Here’s some of what they said about the last album:

    ‘I’ve spent over a year with this record and it never ceases to continue to surprise and amaze me. It’s difficult in places, challenging, beautiful, rewarding, and like most great pieces of art, will never be fully appreciated in its own time.’ – Three Imaginary Girls

    ‘Genius Fatigue is one of those records that demands to be listened to repeatedly. You have been warned.’ – Drowned In Sound

    ‘Tunabunny just keeps getting better and better.’ – The Big Takeover

    ‘Genius Fatigue is a swirling mix of handsome vocals and urgent guitar lines that buries itself in your head.’ – Gold Flake Paint

    ‘Tunabunny make a noise that is both liberating and fascinating.’ – Allmusic

    ‘Tunabunny makes skuzzy, effervescent basement pop…you’ll likely want to be friends with them too.’ – NPR

    ‘Pick up a guitar, a pen, a clue. Five Stars.’ – The Girls Are

    ‘By the end of 2013, Tunabunny will be on the cover of the seven publications you’ve heard of, and the other five will have closed down because they didn’t get in fast enough.’ – Everett True, Collapse Board.

    ‘We need a band to lead the revolution. Maybe, just maybe, Tunabunny are the band to lead the way.’ – The Line of Best Fit

    If the last one was a masterpiece, what the hell are they going to say about this one? Forget about the hype, forget about promotion, this record has the potential to change your life. With their fourth album, Tunabunny have made good on every promise they ever made. 20 days from now, or 20 years from now, Kingdom Technology will be recognized as a classic.

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