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An important subplot in the decade’s pop music narrative was the evolution of technological vocal manipulation across the entire genre spectrum. Thom Yorke famously forced his choir-boy falsetto through a very sullen filter on “Kid A” in the queasy spirit of post-millenial tension. Auto-tune became ubiquitous in radio pop and hip-hop, a transparent manifestation of subtle bum-note tweaking that producers had been doing for ages. The robo-sound eventually became an aesthetic all its own, with no less an icon than Kanye West using his most raw, crestfallen record to test the limits of its nuance on 808s and Heartbreak. At the decade’s end, dozens of DIY upstarts cloaked their singing in all manner of sludge to distract from creaky pipes, or just to cop a disaffected pose. But nobody came close to the hallucinatory fun-house mirror effect that the Knife achieved with Silent Shout.
Fans who knew only basic biographical information about the Dreijers were sure to assume that both siblings had an active singing role on the record. Numerous tracks feature a high and feminine, though palpably unnatural, voice in concert with a separate, deeply intoned and equally unreal masculine counterpart. But every bit of singing on the record (as well as all those nightmarish lyrics) were supplied by Karin, and then fed through differing voice modulations. The way a listener interprets the singing is reflexively, falsely gender-colored, giving certain lines differently resonating meaning. When “We Share Our Mother’s Health” (even its title implies speaking for two) shifts to the lower register for the line “You say you like it/ you say you need it/ when you don’t”, it’s hard not to hear that as a chastising second perspective. It’s even more slippery in “Marble House” when Karin’s relatively un-fussed-with vocal tricks the ear into hearing the secondary voice, a couple octaves down, as similarly unmanipulated male singing. Seldom has the notion of authenticity and gender identity been so screwed with, especially within the confines of a single song. It again recalls the logic of dream analysis, where every distinct character in a particular nighttime vision is perhaps just another aspect of the dreamer.
Haha.. we were kidding about all those other ones. This is obviously, objectively, the best record
ever of the decade.
Dec 23, 2009
Breakup records should not be this good.
Dec 23, 2009
After five years and three albums spent building something, Wilco decided to tear it down and start fresh. The music industry did the same thing. But it didn't exactly have a choice.
Dec 22, 2009
With just ten songs, Arcade Fire successfully mourned the loss of multiple relatives, helped us discover a new way of dealing with adversity, and changed the face of indie-rock.
Dec 21, 2009
Once upon a time, the person we now know as the single most irritating figure in all of popular music was the most impressive artist the game had ever seen. It was fun while it lasted.
Dec 17, 2009
It was the most talked-about record of 2006, but when no one could quite make sense of it, they stopped trying. Doesn't make it less brilliant, but more.
Dec 16, 2009