Sharp Darts: Critics' Cage Match | Music Column | Chicago Reader

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Sharp Darts: Critics' Cage Match

Don't settle for another boring ten-best list.

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Miles and I not only share space in the Reader pretty much every week, we're also friends—friends with a long history (since the 90s!) of ruthlessly mocking each other's tastes. Using IM as our forum, we discussed and debated some of our top albums and songs of 2008 and hazarded a few predictions about what 2009 might hold—a two-critic roundtable that makes Sound Opinions look like a Brownie troop meeting.

And this is just a taste—our whole conversation is online at chicagoreader.com, along with our lists of 2008's top albums and songs. The excerpts below have been edited for length and to eliminate cross talk. —JH

JH I have selected Yelle's Pop-Up. You go first, hater.

MR I was all over "A Cause de Garcons" when that shit hit the blogs, but when her record came out I realized that I can't stand Yelle for more than three minutes or so.

JH 'Tevs, freedom fries. Pop-Up is like the first Madonna record. Plastic sounding. Invincible. The songs are dirtier and she has great outfits. She's in charge.

MR Really? I feel like she's the pretty face for some Parisian synth dudes. Like Uffie, but more obnoxious.

JH I can't believe you are even mentioning Uffie.

MR I am. I am mentioning her. I think that if Yelle wasn't French, people wouldn't like her so much.

JH Uffie is a perfect emblem of Cobrasnake cocaine culture, but Eurotrash.

MR So do you think Yelle's raunchiness is empowered or is she basically working the titillation factor?

JH Yelle is not someone I think of as abiding by the patriarchy.... And on that note, "Ce Jeu" is totally great and the best song with whistling this year. And last year.

MR Noted.

JH And the year before, because I think it originally came out in 2006.

MR That song is 27 in pop years.

JH It's in the Smithsonian exhibit of the blogosphere.

MR It can rent a car and it's thinking about home ownership.

JH OK. Next: Portishead's return. You loved this.

MR Fuuuuuuck. Record blew my mind. It stomped my mind grapes.

JH I remember you called it "violent."

MR At times, yeah. "Machine Gun" especially. I like that no one expected them to come back and absolutely no one expected them to step so hard.

JH You sound like you're talking about a Cormega mix tape.

MR Beth Gibbons is straight gangsta. She's scarier on the mike than any MC I heard this year. And yeah, I think the record sounds like the result of a freak-out. Their second album was so nitpicky and I think it drove them all nuts. Third comes at you from a pretty fucked-up angle, all paranoid and shit.

JH It's rich-people-going-bananas scary. It's elegiac. It's like an Updike story.

MR I think "Sour Times" is elegiac. I think the new one's demented. It's Howard Hughes scary.

JH I think it's a fuck-you-legacy record.

MR Agreed. Which is a balls-out move.

JH Not really though—Beth Gibbons singing "I'm just emotionally undone" is just way too purposeful.

MR Who comes out of retirement to piss all over their much beloved back catalog?

JH People who can afford to. Actual crazy is if she was in Joker makeup. Beth Gibbons sounds like she has manners.

MR I think it makes it all the more intense that she has manners.

JH Next: Deerhunter's Microcastle. Explain.

MR I was shocked to find myself putting that on the list.

JH I wasn't. You love jangly lo-fi drugs music!

MR I never liked Deerhunter. I liked Bradford Cox for being a freaky drama queen but I thought the music was ass. But "Nothing Ever Happened" was one of the few songs I heard this year that I really wished I had written.

JH I was looking up interviews with him and I found this great line: "This, coupled with a flippant, sometime pretentious-leaning temperament has spurned ridicule for both Cox and the group."

MR I like his pretentious leanings, although they're not really leanings as much as devotion. At least he stands for something.

JH Bradford has cultivated an enigmatic rock-star personality. Backstage at Pitchfork, dude was swarmed.

MR I think it helps that he has zero filters going.

JH He could be the most popular, cool virgin in America. He's the most famous adult virgin I can think of. Except maybe the pope.v

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