Pazz & Jop 2011: Seth Colter Walls On Craig Taborn, Matana Roberts, And Voting From The Fringe

To supplement this year's Pazz & Jop launch, Sound of the City asked a few critics to expand on the reasonings behind their voting. We'll start off the series with Seth Colter Walls of New York City, who has a constant itch to do the deep dive and find the single-voter albums out there. Find his ballot here.

Damn do I ever love voting in, and then reading, Pazz and Jop. All these serious music-listening people, expressing opinions, mostly with a high degree of sincerity: admit it, it's a nice break from the social media-enabled review cycle, in which a lot of people apparently feel obliged to sound off on topics about which they may only kinda sorta have an aesthetic stake. (Read: The Internet.)

Consumers (and/or voters) often look to the number ones, to talk about the consensus where it exists—me, I liked but did not love Merrill Garbus's poll-winning record, outside of the stunning tracks "Powa" and "Bizness"; I suspect her masterpiece as a composer may yet be written for forces larger than her multi-tracked self—but in times where a 10-vote album ballot feels ever more confining and statistically unrepresentative of broader listening habits, I'm always fascinated to look at the sheer number of lonely minority reports on this side of the poll.

Critics cited 1,734 different full-lengths this year; way more than half of those titles had only a single champion. Multiple votes for albums only start to occur with real consistency around poll position #341 (Gang of Four's Content). If you're a true Pazz freak you're gonna do the deep dive, and try to find something new in that glut of passions rebuffed (or ignored) by the hivemind. As in: wow, East River Pipe put out a record this year? I didn't know that. Same-ish thing goes for Brooklyn Rider and their disc of Philip Glass string quartets.

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Live: VH1 Brings Out The Divas At The Hammerstein Ballroom

via VH1
VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul
Hammerstein Ballroom
Sunday, December 18

Better than: Whatever Ryan Seacrest is going to cook up for VH1 Soul.

Last night's VH1 Divas taping existed both as a performance and self-contained, 24-hours-out advertising opportunity for its broadcast. (Tonight at 9 ET!) TV tapings are always strange to experience first-hand, given the way they're designed for after-the-fact consumption; there are lots of long lulls in the action for the purposes of commercial breaking/set redesigning, and in "let's all get together and put on a show" scenarios like this one there are TelePrompTers with lyrics ready to assist the under-rehearsed. Despite the breaks and assists, though, this taping didn't have the hermetically sealed feeling of ones I attended during the pre-social-media era—people were encouraged to tweet and Foursquare check-in and let their pals on social media know what they were experiencing via corporately provided hashtag. In the 21st century, after all, all publicity is.

The night's bent toward soul meant that most of the acts on the bill had pipes and cred—Chaka Khan, Mavis Staples, Martha Reeves, and Wanda Jackson represented for the pre-music-video era, while the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Ledisi, Jill Scott, and Jennifer Hudson were among the new-schoolers. Jessie J's tireless, apparently unending promotional campaign also continued here; her new party trick involves her stuttering out words instead of singing them in toto, a tic that serves to both illuminate the bleatiness of her voice and make her seem even more malleable and annoying. She's the opposite of a diva, her jet-black-dyed artifice doing a miserable job of covering up the void within; I expect either a turn to Christian rock or the "mysterious" leak of a sex tape within the next 12 months.

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Live: R. Kelly Does It His Way At The Prudential Center


R. Kelly w/Keyshia Cole, Marsha Ambrosius
Prudential Center
Thursday, June 30

Better than: A 45-minute R. Kelly show.

It's probably fitting that R. Kelly is opening his shows with a black-and-white film, starring him, one where he's at first bummed out while dressed to the nines and sitting at a bar—but then through the help of remembering his past glories, the tours that have taken him all over the world, he comes out of his funk and gets ready to show the world his performing bona fides.

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