The Top 5 things I didn’t get to in 2013
New Year’s is a time for reflection and aspiration, but these are fueled by fruitful regret! Over the next week or so, we’ll be looking back longingly at art, comics, books and music I should have paid more public attention to in the 12 months just past — and pledging to make all our cultural appreciation immediate and immortal!
Human Gain by Stairs to Korea
Do not maladjust your set, Human Gain will seize your satellite playlist and make you feel as good about life as possible while convincing you that you can be better. Like a renegade self-aware social-network server that opens into the parts of your life you leave unposted, this album uploads your foibles for all to see and your joys for you to remember. “All of Your Friends” is the epitaph-update for self-conscious hipsters who might like to outlive the moment, and “Rabbit Years” is a headlong wedding-vow from people too preoccupied enjoying life to record it. But Stairs to Korea have registered it all, in glittery tones of icy electronics that come in multiple candy-syrup flavors; the sound-palette is like a careening ghost-taxi high-speed-haunting the radio and deck of every car it astrally crashes through, from bouncy Liverpudlian pop to Prince-like big-band gymnastics. Songwriter Will Vaughn’s wit is unsparing and generous at the same time, one of many paradoxes that dynamic harmonies hum between. The self-doubters of “She’s a Waste of Time” and the all-access haters of “Guy Fawkes” jostle past each other and try to avoid that taxi, but the hits keep on coming in the most fatally infectious parade of pop confectionary and Wilde-ian wise/assery of 2013 or any year this century. The vibrant cultural tangle and infectious ease of post-imperial Britain texture and illuminate this tuneful, attuned work, from the crazy unafraid tone and tempo shifts of “Paid Position” to the moody sinewave tide of “Rome Beware,” both of them delivering messages that make you think twice or at least once, and the latter mocking its own synthesized grandeur while ascending on the updraft of its well-earned ambition. When humans gain, that doesn’t leave any of us out, and if when music hits you feel no pain, Stairs to Korea’s truth can never hurt.
[Revolution on sale: http://tapealarm.bandcamp.com/album/human-gain]