Each year, DiS asks our staff to vote for their albums of the year. Our editor vaguely tots up the 'votes' and then contrasts and compares this with what's been written about, as well as what has been talked about all year on our boards. DiS then ends up compiling some sort of year-end list, which attempts to approximately sum up the year that was. And then lotsa people object and moan about their favourite record not being at number one...
However, each and every year, there are records which slip through the cracks, that individuals who write for the site absolutely adore, yet few others seem to even be aware of. To help highlight a few lost records, a few years ago we invented the Lost List, and ask individuals to write some words explaining why they love the album in question. Next up, New York-based Amanda Farah gets to grips with what Le Tigre's JD Samson did next...
Talk About Body
A couple of months ago, JD Samson, lately of MEN, previously of Le Tigre, wrote a much-criticised essay about her personal finances. It would seem that despite photo spreads in Vogue Homme and emails from young fans affirming her status as a queer role model, such cache is not enough to convince a landlord that he should rent you an apartment.
When MEN’s debut album, Talk About Body, was released in February, its most immediate quality was its commentary on the enduring economic crisis. What was, in February, still rarely trod territory has been covered extensively in subsequent months. The situation hasn’t changed. Rather than question the limited sympathies for a musician in cult bands who is willing to admit that keeping up with the Joneses isn’t terribly prudent, let’s examine the other, non-finance related ways MEN got things startlingly right.
I won’t argue that Talk About Body is the album that defines 2011, but it belongs to this year in ways that even MEN probably didn’t anticipate. Their dance punk, reminiscent of Samson’s previous band and derided by a public that has encouraged Bon Iver to be nominated for four Grammys, is not part of the trend of the droning synth bands but it is in keeping with the slow move away from guitar pop. Few artists have gone to such lengths to appeal to and alienate audiences as MEN have; their mid-tempo beats having been a saving grace of genuine fun amidst cynical analysis. It’s an album that’s meant to be danced to.
Mostly, though, Talk About Body managed to cover several hot button issues without being opportunistic. Its release was just days before the beginning of the Libyan civil war and NATO’s involvement, and the Arab Spring was clearly not what Samson was thinking of when she asked for a goat and a sewing machine instead of another war.
'Who Am I To Feel So Free' could easily be an anthem for pepper-sprayed protesters dragged from city parks in the middle of the night, but it speaks mostly to the women who amassed at Slut Walks around the world. Which is to say nothing of the unexpectedly contentious year it’s been for women’s health with repeated attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and other affiliated programs in the US and Nadine Dorries presenting her own version of American Republicanism in the UK.
Perhaps closest to the hearts of the band is the passing of marriage equality in their home state of New York, making it only the sixth of 50 states to make gay marriage legal in the US. It is almost as surprising that the law passed as it would have been if it didn’t pass (See: California’s Proposition 8). While marriage equality seemed a remote possibility at the beginning of the year, MEN were still brooding on the struggles of gay couples wanting to start families. 'Credit Card Babie$' very bluntly covers the often expensive options available to homosexual couples, including adoption and IVF. It’s not exactly the stuff of typical pop songs.
This may be why MEN slid under the radar. They have been intentionally esoteric in their references, from Orange Juice to Susan Sontag; it’s catchy, but it’s asking you to engage on intellectual and political levels. It’s asking you to take on causes. Maybe such au courant concepts will date Talk About Body in the coming years. But a crazy year needs a crazy soundtrack.