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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Various Artists
The Naked Prey Original Soundtrack
Latitude Records

Rating: 8/10 ?

May 18, 2005
In 1966, Hollywood filmmaker Cornel Wilde released The Naked Prey, a retelling of the high school required reading standby, The Most Dangerous Game. The story involved a shipwrecked traveler and a maniacal rich man who forced the unfortunate journeyer to play the part of the pursued in a human game of fox and hound. For his reinterpretation, the filmmaker decided to set the story in sub-Saharan Africa, with a white safari leader running from a band of native hunters, and he decided that the only way to give his idea proper treatment was to film on location. The project proved to be quite the adventure - from rounding up actual Nguni tribespeople to act in the film to combating venomous snake bites, the crew had to overcome the difficulties and dangers inherent to engaging a foreign culture and living in a foreign jungle. Remarkably, they were able to do so without adopting a colonizer's demeanor; according to the liner notes, a deep sense of respect lied at the very heart of the project, and exploitation was the last thought on Wilde's mind.

Folkways Records originally released this soundtrack to coincide with the film's debut, and Locust Music subdivision Latitude has now brought it back into print. Wilde approached this recording similarly to his film, capturing natives in the act of ritual singing and community-wide celebration, always making genuine representation and exploration his goals rather than displaying a petty fascination with the people's "otherness."

Ten Nguni chant songs form the album's foundation. Aside from handclaps and occasional percussion, male voices alone drive these ten tracks. For any listener who doesn't understand the language being sung here, the disparity between the song's function for its singers and its function for us becomes the primary point of engagement. Judging from titles like "Courtship Song," "Puberty Song," and "Boasting Song of Men," these are folk songs centered around themes that have always been near to the heart of human experience; for anyone who can understand them, these songs very likely speak with the most familiar of tongues and resonate on the most fundamental level. To the outsider, however, they become just the opposite.

Without discernable lyrics, vocal meaning emerges on a purely musical level, existing in the men's weathered melody, the tension between high and low tones and the rhythms beneath it all. I hate to resort to the ol' "voice as instrument" cliché, but that's precisely what's going on here, and as a result, what exist as accessible folk songs for one group of people exist as textures for another; this music truly operates on entirely different levels for different listeners.

The remaining tracks prove engaging as well, though not as abundant with illuminations on the nature and function of language. "Village Work Songs: Meal and Corn Husking" is the most inspired of two recordings of full scale village jamborees, recalling the exuberant essentialism, cagey rhythms and celebratory uplift of Ornette Coleman's Dancing in Your Head. Wilde also includes three less musical offerings: one of villagers conversing, one of animal imitations and one of actual animal sounds. While these tracks don't merit as many listens as the rest of the album, they do provide an important sense of context and bring the listener a little bit closer to the communities Wilde sought so lovingly to represent.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan



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