Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007 in Review: The "Dance 'Til You Cry" Award

This award honors the most unambiguously depressing disco pop record of the year, which is undoubtedly:

There are certain bands and albums that are red herrings in my record collection. If I were someone else trying to recommend music to me, there's no way I'd recommend Of Montreal: there's too much synth, too much dancing, too many maddeningly obtuse song titles, and too much over-the-top androgyny. Especially in a year where I've gotten into so much garage rock, the idea that I would love a synth pop album this much is sort of ridiculous. But sometime in 2006, I got "The Party's Crashing Us" (from The Sunlandic Twins LP) stuck in my head . . . for about three straight months . . . and I've been hooked on Kevin Barnes ever since.

But despite the synth, androgyny, and catchy tunes, this isn't a bright and perky pop tune like The Sunlandic Twins. The best analogy I can really think up is if Prince decided to a very loosely interpreted reimagining of Blood on the Tracks. If you've ever been stricken with grief over something and tried to bury it under a night of reckless social and chemical hedonism, clawing your way towards ecstasy until the pain catches up with you and drags you back into the pit of sucking despair, this is the soundtrack. Kevin Barnes had to "keep his little click clicking at 130 bpm" or else he'd be forced to stop dancing and think about his life, which (at the time he wrote this album) pretty much sucked. "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" is a 12-minute swirling epic of pain, completely letting go of pop and going straight into emotion. The single, "She's a Rejecter," is the most venomous, bitter dance track I've ever heard, and you absolutely cannot resist it.

Taken out of context, I freely admit that this album probably wouldn't be one of my favorites of the year. There are some killer tunes, but as a piece of fluff, it's lacking. But there's so much ambition and heart in it that I end up marveling at it every single time.

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