Ah yes, I love this time of year. You know, when we all look back on the music we’ve listened to over the past twelve months, attempt to define and evaluate pieces of art in relation to one another, hoping to construct a hierarchy of albums or songs that represents a year in summation. Alright, so only some of us engage in this somewhat masochistic act. Before I constructed such a list, it always seemed particularly daunting, but I’ve found that it’s also an extremely rewarding process… listening to albums comparatively can help reveal what elements really make a record strong by forcing you to internally defend what you like about it. That being said, some things inevitably get left behind in the list-making process because you don’t get to them or because they fall outside of your list guidelines. Reissues, compilations, 7-inches, and the like are often looked over even by the most comprehensive of year-end lists, so I figured I’d give mention to some of these odds and ends that I enjoyed this year. Look for part two (7-inches) soon!
Sir Victor Uwaifo – Guitar Boy Superstar (1970-76)
This compilation of songs from Nigerian Renaissance Man Sir Victor Uwaifo is easily my favorite reissued collection from this year… and why wouldn’t it be? At any other time this would be an obscure and delightful find for most Western listeners (even if the man holds a dozen or so gold records), but in 2008 this record is particularly relevant. While the flood of Caribbean and African rhythms and melodies are immediately perceptible, there are also distinctly American guitar influences in Uwaifo’s music, most notably from the blues, funk and psych-rock schools. But, now a large pocket of music in the West seems to be reflecting his style and sound, from the Afropop-via-Ivy League guitar work of Vampire Weekend to the Africa-tinged, psychedelic calypso-pop of El Guincho. The bombastic opening of “Igboroho (Ekassa 5)” feels like it’s already been sampled by the latter (and if it hasn’t, it definitely should be), while album opener “Kirikisi (Ekassa 24)” reeks of Vampire Weekend’s Graceland-like fusion of musical worlds. To be honest, much of the album is reminiscent of Ezra Koenig and crew, at least enough for an overly accusatory Tiny Mix Tapes reviewer to refer to them as “smirking poachers”. Whatever your level of cynicism, there’s no doubt that Victor Uwaifo is a force to be felt… even today. And for a first taste of this African guitar god, Guitar Boy Superstar is near perfect, even if it leaves out some of his essential tracks.
Download: Sir Victor Uwaifo – Kirikisi (Ekassa 24)
Download: Sir Victor Uwaifo – Igboroho (Ekassa 5)
Other reissues/compilations I enjoyed this year:
Faraquet – Anthology 1997-1998
Compilation from mostly-disbanded mathy post-hardcore band Faraquet that features remixed and remastered hard-to-find songs from singles and an EP, plus an unreleased track (“Conversations”) and an alternate take (“Sea Song”). If you’ve been relying on The View From This Tower for all of your Faraquet fixes, do yourself a huge favor and pick this up. And if you’ve somehow missed this band all together, but dig complex rock with lots of intricate guitar play, start-stop dynamics, explosive energy, and in-your-face riffage, don’t hesitate to get into to this crucial band from the Dischord catalog.
Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump (Original Heavyweight Afrobeat, Highlife & Afro-Funk)
As I’ve said before, it’s been quite the year for African and other non-western music. Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump is an excellent collection of music from the exploding Lagos scene during the 1970s. Though Fela Kuti was the monumental figure that primarily helmed Nigerian Afrobeat, this record focuses on the many other groups and artists from the early period of Nigerian independence that united under the common calling of towering funk and political change. Essential listening.
I’ve also started to get into Arthur Russell‘s Love Is Overtaking Me and Dennis Wilson‘s Pacific Ocean Blue / Bambu (The Caribou Sessions), though I’m not sure I’ve processed them enough to give them a fair entry here. But, both are certainly worth your attention. You can listen to some tracks at each respective link.