WVAU Top Music of 2011: #8

Sean Meehan, Sharon Din

#8 Album: Fucked Up – David Comes to Life

There is hardly any aspect about the band Fucked Up that isn‰’t in some way polarizing or complicatedly multifaceted. Citing dysfunction as a source of their namesake, you can understand how seemingly self-contradictory concepts are often what build Fucked Up’s character. For instance, the band that was once described to me as “one hardcore kid and a bunch of librarians,‰” put out this year their third LP, David Comes to Life ‰ÛÒ a double length, 78-minute, conceptually charged behemoth of a “rock opera.‰Û

No one, not even the members of Fucked Up, seems to know the exact details of the 4-act piece‰’s plot. What‰’s important and what shines brightest about the storyline of love, tragedy, and an eventual overcoming acceptance is the feelings that the album artfully evokes. Sandy Miranda/Mustard Gas and Cults’ Madeline Follin sing in beautiful juxtaposition to Damian Abraham/Pink Eye‰’s gruff, raw vocals and deftly provide a sense of powerful desperation throughout the album. This, along with catchy refrains and anthemic choruses, catches you unexpectedly and viscerally resonates within you.

The instrumentals of the album, just as similarly, are far from standard hardcore protocol but still manage to nod to them, an goal Fucked Up has strived to achieve for some years now. The drum beat is brutal at all the right moments and adds that punch of urgency, while the numerous maximalist guitar layers build into an impressive wall of sound that together make you feel a moment of rush in the best sense.

David Comes to Life is the culmination of ten years of Fucked Up. Many have rejected it as self-indulgent or straying too far from its roots in overrated or contrived pretension, but despite its polished production and somewhat different sound, the truth is that the album is just an earnest, heartfelt, and honest expression of their need for growth and innovation that is truly inspiring.

By Sharon Din

#8 Song: tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness”

In a year when many artists were going back to basics, tUnE-yArDs‰’ “Bizness‰” broke from the pack by sounding different, and arguably better, than anything else recorded this year or ever. The four and a half minute song brings the listener to the brink of total afro-beat chaos, only to bring them back at the end to Merrill Garbus‰’s simple and sweet acapella.

Equipped only with a loop machine, drums, dual saxaphones and her own beautiful, soaring voice, Merrill crafts a song that captures the energy of an 80-piece afro-beat band. Like most of her songs, “Bizness” is driven almost entirely by Merrill‰’s incredibly dynamic voice, switching effortlessly between a tribal African-inspired yell to a soft, high-pitched croon, and often layering the two on top of each other. Merrill‰’s voice soars over a funky, Fela-esque dual saxophone riff which, at her live shows, stretches the song into a nearly ten minute chaotic exploration of the very limits of a saxophone‰’s capability.

In short, Merrill packages the best of afro-beat into an arrangement that only she could think of to create a song that has the energy and danceability of old school Fela, with the grace and beauty that only the most versatile voices could manage.

By Sean Meehan