Original Soul

This time, it's personal: Our look back at an intimate year in music.

David Banner's screwed and chopped Mississippi
"Screwed and chopped" is a remixing style perfected by Houston's late DJ Screw, by which music receives the codeine cough syrup treatment -- slowed, stretched, darkened, distorted, unsettled. The result is supposed to be frightening. And yet the "screwed and chopped" version of David Banner's Mississippi: The Album is gorgeous. I love it. The harmonies grow more resonant; the horns melt like butter; the acoustic guitar tones sound more beautiful; and the rapper's alternating sociopathic misogyny ("Fuck you! Suck a dick, die, bitch!") and poignant discussion of racism's legacy sting with stunning power now that you understand what the growling MC is saying. -- C.O.

Broken Social Scene's "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl"
Since Lou Barlow lost his heartstring-tugging je ne sais quoi, indie anthems about love that aren't heavy-handed or ironically detached have been rare. Here's one by Canada's amoebic collective Broken Social Scene, a character study that stands out among the art-rock sing-alongs on the band's You Forgot It in People. Electronically altered singer Emily Haines whispers demands and disgusts cribbed from a high schooler's diary, repeating them over and over, as the band builds from a hush to an epic swoon. Chris Carraba only wishes he could write a soul song this good. -- P.O.

The decay of electroclash
Electroclash's coffin got its hotly anticipated nail this year when Rufus Wainwright sang about it on his Want One; "karaoke too," he called it. I'm not sure I agree, but it rhymes with "phone's on vibrate for you" anyway. Isn't the whole concept behind electroclash that not everybody can do it? That it requires lots of patience and a flair for the sadomasochistic? I admit to totally digging Fischerspooner the first time I saw them, but I also admit to not buying their CD. And also to preferring it to anything on Peaches' Fatherfucker. -- M.W.

Britney gets around, now, doesn't she?
Fred and Britney play he said, she said. Madonna and Britney kiss. Britney re-creates a famed Angie Dickinson shot -- but with a better ass -- for Esquire. Her new album In the Zonemoans like an orgy. From virgin to (almost) like a virgin, Britney let it all hang out this year. Actually, we'll take the Esquire photos for future enjoyment; the other shit is just amusing ephemera. The cover shot alone is worth the price of the magazine. Now, if only Britney had some 10-gauge barbells skewering her private parts. -- B.J.K.

Lost in Translation: The Soundtrack
Downcast movie eyes owe Sophia Coppola a Twizzler for provoking My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields out of retirement. Shields returns with four nimble-footed tracks on the year's best soundtrack. Soundtrack producer Brian Reitzell makes Shields, Death in Vegas, Squarepusher, and Air all sound like members of the same collective. But the standout song, amid all the atmospherica, is Happy End's "Kaze Wo Atsumete," which deftly punctures cultural stereotypes by proving the Japanese language beautifully suited to acoustic guitar and '60s organ. -- C.B.

Bright Eyes calls out Clear Channel
At the 3rd Annual Shortlist Awards at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on October 6, fo-mo hero (that's folk-emo, kids) Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes complained about Clear Channel, effectively calling the world's largest concert promoter of live entertainment out to the woodshed. "The only bummer about tonight is that we're helping to earn money for Clear Channel," Oberst spat. "If there's anyone who cares about music as an art form, now's the time to make a change. There will be no more real music anymore if we keep letting people shove it down our fucking throats." Later in Oberst's set, a young man jumped onstage and spit on Oberst's shoes. No telling if it was related to the nasty comment. -- B.J.K.

The commercial rise of crunk
A Southern club phenomenon for years, crunk music -- made with loud clapping drums, faint bass lines, spooky keys and little else -- is beginning to spread like cell phones thanks to the pop chart success of Lil Jon's absurdly catchy "Get Low." The next year, as a result, promises to be fruitful for artists like the Ying Yang Twins, Bonecrusher, and David Banner -- Banner's planning two new records for early in the year. Capitalizing on the trend, TVT, Jon's label, recently released Crunk & Disorderly, a comp that's part Christmas themed and part crudely horny filler. For holiday joy true to the booty-obsessed genre, I'll gladly take the Ying Yang Twins' "Ho! Ho!" -- C.O.

The Recording Industry Association of America. Need we say more?
The RIAA can congratulate itself for conducting the worst public relations campaign since the Spanish Inquisition. The major labels' chief muscle filed 261 lawsuits this year against people who download music off the Internet. And who were the first people they nabbed? A 12-year-old honors student and a 71-year-old man named Durwood Pickle, who was subpoenaed because his grandkids downloaded songs on his computer. Now, Durwood is vowing not to buy another Rudy Vallee shellac until this whole thing blows over. More recently, the RIAA was forced to drop a lawsuit against a 66-year-old woman, agreeing no sexagenarian could possibly download Trick Daddy's "I'm a Thug." -- S.D.

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