PRINT December 2007


David Byrne


1 White Hats, Niobe (Tomlab) This “group” is actually just Yvonne Cornelius, a young woman who lives in Cologne and combines gentle electronic tracks with layered and manipulated vocals.

2 Caetano Veloso, (Nonesuch) Veloso’s divorce album. His previous few records were lush and romantic, but personal events prompted a shift in style. With the help of his son Moreno and friend Pedro Sá, Veloso has found a sparse, postrock beauty in which strange yet simple rock instrumentation is juxtaposed with softly seething vocals.

3 R. Kelly, Trapped in the Closet (Jive) Part two (chapters 13–22) came out on DVD recently. This is what should be on Broadway—a slightly silly, but perfectly constructed, daytime drama in song. A kooky bit of dramatized epic poetry that laughs at its own blatant outrageousness—but not too much.

4 Arcade Fire, Neon Bible (Merge) Holy shit, these guys went from supporting me at the Hollywood Bowl to headlining their own show there in just two years! Well, they are one of the few “rock” acts that seem sincere, ambitious, and happy to be making music. “My Body Is a Cage” is a great song, even if I think the lyrics are all backward.

5 Flight of the Conchords (HBO) Similar in some ways to the British comedy program Mighty Boosh, though not quite as far-out or surreal. This was a musical stand-up act that got expanded for television, so the duo of Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie had time to hone and polish their already hilarious songs.

6 Romance & Cigarettes John Turturro’s uproarious musical movie set in Queens begins where British TV series Pennies From Heaven left off. In Pennies, the characters lip-synched to 1930s songs, making explicit the way that pop tunes are often the sound tracks of our lives. In Turturro’s movie, the actors’ voices can be heard as well, singing along with Tom Jones as the neighbors chime in and garbagemen dance.

7 Jonathan Bepler’s scores When I recently saw Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation’s video Rape of the Sabine Women, 2006, and Matthew Barney’s filmic collaboration with Arto Lindsay, De Lama Lâmina (From Mud, a Blade), 2004, Bepler’s scores and sound design stole both shows. In each case, Bepler realized the common but challenging ambition of making ordinary sounds, speech, and environmental noises into music.

8 Vampire Weekend This band assemble a crazy mash-up of African guitar lines and to-the-point NYC lyrics and melodies. They are working on an album now for XL Recordings, due in January 2008.

9 The Blow, Paper Television (K. Records) The Blow, which formerly comprised Khaela Maricich and Jona Bechtolt (both collaborated on Paper Television; Bechtolt has since left), play supercatchy songs that deal bluntly with what life really feels like while avoiding almost all the clichés. Their live performances mix Ellen DeGeneres and Miranda July with some crazy shape-throwing.

10 Young@Heart Chorus An amazing choir from Northampton, Massachusetts, whose youngest member is seventy-two. I recently brought them to New York for my “How New Yorkers Ride Bikes” event at Town Hall (they sang Queen’s “Bicycle Race,” of course). The next day, at the Paris Bar, they did their own show of songs by the Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, and others—all of which seemed to take on completely new meanings.

David Byrne is an artist and musician. Arboretum, a collection of his tree drawings, was published by McSweeney’s in 2006. He is currently exhibiting at Hemphill Fine Arts in Washington, DC.