Here we are, a month into 2008. The Village Voice and Idolator 2007 critics polls were recently released, and it feels like it's probably time to wrap up our thoughts on the previous year in music. But rather than inflict my own opinions on you once again, I thought I'd turn to a less-pretentious source: my dad.
Larry Gill is a 67-year-old farmer who's spent most of his life in a small town in Nebraska and has no musical training to speak of (other than church choir). But his taste in music always surprises me: he's a big Coldplay fan and raves about the Zero 7 CD I got him for Christmas a few years back (and my mom assures me he really does listen to it all the time). So I wondered what he'd think about critics' picks for '07. I sent him a CD of some of the year's notable songs (along with a few of my own random picks) and we talked on the phone while he listened to it.
1. Dude n Nem "Watch My Feet"
He's silent through most of the intro, but when the second chorus arrives with its double-time stomp, he speaks up: "That's the most interesting part of the song right there, isn't it." He sings along for a second. "It's intriguing," he says, "probably if you're 55 years younger you'd be into it."
Dad rating: 3/10
2. Of Montreal "Heimsdalgate Like a Promethean Curse."
"I like this," he says almost immediately. "This is kind of weird, but it's cool, isn't it. Oh yeah, I like it." The chorus comes in, with its refrain of "oh, chemicals," but he's taken in by the music. "I don't know what they're saying, but I like the sound of it. Is that like an electronic organ?" I explain to him the lyrics' reference to the tyranny of brain chemistry and mood swings, and he says, "I can relate to that."
Dad rating: 9.5/10
3. Sinden & the Count of Monte Cristal "Beeper"
When the warbling bass notes come in, he laughs, and after a few moments says "I don't think this one'll fly. That electronic shotgun noise is kind of a turnoff. There's really not enough music here for me." From the background I hear my mom shout "this could be effective as torture!"
Dad rating: 2/10
4. Feist "1234"
"Oh, I've heard this, haven't I?" he says. I'm guessing he has. "I like her, very listenable. It's not 'jump out the window' for, but turn it down just a little bit and it'd be good at work."
Dad rating: 8/10
5. Caribou "Melody Day"
"That has a nice start, I like the way it flows." There's an echo-y flute solo and he says, "ah, and it just trills, like a waterfall." Is my dad smoking pot?
6. Kanye West "Stronger"
He laughs out loud at the Daft Punk robot voices, and after a moment explains, "I'm not into rap because I don't pay a lot of attention to lyrics. Here, the rap is kind of irritating, but I like the sound; if I could knock the rap part out I'd just listen to the music."
Dad Rating: Music 7/10, Rap 3/10
7. Lil Mama "Lip Gloss"
He looks at the tracklisting and says, "is this next one a little girly?" Yeah, a little. "I've heard this someplace. I'm not very fond of it. I think I saw a clip of a video, and the woman really turned me off. She's obviously very talented to make all those words come out like that."
Dad Rating: 3/10
8. Gui Boratto "The Blessing"
He's not interested in this. "It's like bongo drums or something," he says, then asks me to hold on a minute so he can take his pants off. "I'm getting hot."
9. Lil Wayne "I Feel Like Dying"
"It's not particularly an upper," he says, in the understatement of the year. "It's in a bad place. All that shit [drug references] scares me. I just don't like that. It's like, I don't like reading about child abuse."
Dad Rating: 0/10
10. Blonde Redhead "Spring and By Summer Fall"
"I like the tune, it's pleasing. The singer guy is kind of a flower that stands off to the side."
Dad Rating: 8/10
11. Dungen "Familj"
"Now this is a nice song," he says. "The vocal participates in the song at an equal level. It's a nice flowing stream. You can almost see the sunlight and the leaves floating down on top of the water." My dad is seriously stoned. "I love that kind of guitar," he says, singing along, "tinga-tinga-tinga."
Dad rating: 9.5/10
12. Rihanna "Umbrella"
"Boompa boompa boomp," he says, imitating the drums. "There's no music here. I'm not sure what that is. It's percussion, and then there's some tinkling around back there you might call musical notes. That's a real non-event vocal, too."
Dad rating: 2/10
13. LCD Soundsystem "Someone Great"
"When I hear something like this, I can imagine the Animusic guys playing," he says, referencing the public TV computer-animated musical shorts. But he's not impressed. "It's kind of heavy and dark, like an elephant plodding along: dum dum, dum."
Dad Rating: 4/10
14. Amy Winehouse "Rehab"
"I like the music, and I'm trying to figure out whether I like the vocal," he says, astutely. "It seems to be something about a drinking problem. Parts of it are nice, it's kind of in between." He sings along with the "no, no, no" part by the second chorus. "I'm not sure. This is kind of a mystery tune. It'd have to grow on me."
Dad Rating: 6/10.
I ask him about hip-hop in general, which he's rated lower than anything else on here. "I never have liked rap, although it seems to be evolving. How long has rap been around, 15 years? Once in a while now I hear something on the radio and it doesn't turn me off as much. I'm just not a rap man."
Well, it's pretty clear that despite the fact that I have a whole variety of internet platforms for my writing, my dad has far more interesting and witty things to say about popular music. Thanks for making me look bad, pops!! Okay, fine, I'll see what I can do about getting him a blog.