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Evian Christ

Though he’s gone from Youtube unknown to Kanye West’s co-producer in just under three years, British producer Evian Christ has traversed plenty of ground in that time. From maximalist rap to desiccated rhythmic workouts indebted to footwork and trap, Christ’s polyglot interests shine in his DJ sets, where dollops of pop and straight R&B soften his usual preference for abrasion.

Wed., June 25, 10 p.m., 2014

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Future

Just as the human body is always naked under its clothes, the human voice is always bare, even when covered in thick layers of rasp and Auto-Tune. Taking cues from the rapper-turned-singer pantheon of T-Pain, Kanye, Wayne, Drake, and Akon, ATL’s Future often raps and sings “At the Same Damn Time,” in an cadence that turns the old field holler of the African-American South into a syrupy shout from the heart of the turn-up generation. Ballad- bangers like “Turn on the Lights” from 2012’s Pluto show exactly how Future can automate his voice without making it seem less human by using the pitch correction to emphasize the wide spectrum of emotion that resides in the gaps between pitch and timbre. This year’s Honest further highlights the timber of Future’s voice by dialing back on the Auto-Tune and trusting in the formula that says: a unique voice + slamming beats = hit music. For a rapper in 2014, that’s about as honest as you can get.

Tue., June 3, 8 p.m., 2014

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Kanye West

How quickly does the time fly by! It’s been 10 years since the release of The College Dropout, and one has to ask the following questions: How did we get from “Jesus Walks” to Yeezus in less than a decade? How does an artist progress from celebrating divinity as a source of personal strength to effectively claiming “I Am a God,” full stop? The answer is simple: fearless work and shameless dedication, plus the awareness that the world is listening. Kanye West is still the same artist who locked himself in a room doing five beats a day for three summers; it’s just that as he works now, we’re locked in the room with him, which can be kind of suffocating. Watch him clear the air at Nassau Coliseum for the final show of his Yeezus tour. Breathe in, breathe out.

Sun., Feb. 23, 8 p.m., 2014

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The Village Voice’s 2013 Pazz & Jop Critics’ Poll

We did it! We, the music writers and critics of the world, have confirmed for Kanye what he’s been telling us all along. He is a god. His album, Yeezus, dominated our 2013 Pazz & Jop critic’s poll, taking the top spot for Albums and several in the Singles category (though Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” won the latter). For anyone who’s paid attention to the music press over the previous year, the results of the poll aren’t quite that shocking.

About that poll: Each year we send ballots out to music writers across the globe, seeking consensus from the minds of the men and women who live and breathe this stuff, about what the best musical works of the previous year were. In this year’s Pazz & Jop poll, 457 critics voted, 160 of whom voted for Yeezus. In the Albums category, the critics are also asked to dish out points, those weighting the poll. Each voter is given 100 points to spread around in their top ten, with the strict instruction that no one album can receive more than 30 points or less than five. Singles are not awarded points, only votes.

From there, our stats guru Glenn McDonald can break down the poll using several different and fascinating criteria. You can drill down through the numbers and votes for hours at the poll, and McDonald does a great job parsing a lot of the broad stroke info gleaned from the poll in his tabulation notes, which you can find in the essay section.

Happy hunting.

— Brian McManus, music editor


ESSAYS

Yeezy Does It
For the fourth time in six albums, Kanye West takes the Pazz & Jop prize.
By Brian McManus

The Apostate
Kacey Musgraves makes country music you can use.
By Alan Scherstuhl

Piss and Jop
Why are people finally paying attention to R. Kelly’s many crimes?
By Jim Derogatis

The Return of the Backpacker
Many of the year’s most acclaimed hip-hop artists transcended a backpack past to make great music.
By Jeff Weiss

We Can’t Stop
Our year with Miley.
By Jessica Hopper

Bow Down
Beyoncé finally lets us in.
By Devon Maloney

Emo Is Back! Maybe. Probably Not. No, Totally.
Ignored by critics, the genre carries on.
By Luke O’Neil

The Guitar Will Never Die
Says Henry Rollins.
By Henry Rollins

The Dream of the ’90s
My Bloody Valentine, Mazzy Star, and the year in ’90s indie rock revivals
By Max Blau


HISTORY

Robert Christgau’s Five Favorite Pazz & Jop Essays


COMMENTS

Tabulation Notes
This is how critics voted in this year’s poll.
By Glenn McDonald

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TNGHT’S THE NGHT

Odds are, you know Hudson Mohawke best for his collaborations: 2012’s TNGHT, his EP with like-minded Canadian producer Lunice, was one of the most successful dance releases of the year, and his contributions to Kanye West’s “Mercy” helped make it the song of the summer. But tonight he alone performs his signature fusion of massive, shiny rave synths, and hard, fast hip-hop drums. Fear not! Before Mohawke began working behind the boards (or, more precisely, behind the laptop) he was a champion DJ who became the youngest-ever UK DMC finalist at age 15. With Kwes.

Thu., Dec. 5, 10 p.m., 2013

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KEEPING UP WITH KANYE

Has any 20-time Grammy winner ever been taken less seriously than Kanye West? Ignore the types — bloggers, Twitter trolls, late-night TV hosts — who consider his passionate accounts of racism and classism to be rants from a lunatic (all while complaining that pop stars these days aren’t as political as they used to be) and listen to the dude on his own terms: At his last New York show, West announced that his forthcoming Yeezus wouldn’t sound like what’s on the radio, and at this follow-up he displays the 
glorious results, songs that pop with 
elements of everything from trap to 
industrial to dancehall.

Tue., Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m., 2013

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PUT YOUR KAWS UP

The colorful work by New York artist KAWS can easily be described as bigger than life. His mammoth sculptures and large graphic paintings usually play off iconic cartoon characters, such as the Simpsons and Mickey Mouse (he briefly worked at Disney as a freelance animator), but always with his signature touch of large X’s over the eyes. His musical collaborations include designing Kanye West’s 2008 album, 808s & Heartbreak, and projects with Pharrell Williams; most recently, the Jersey-born creator reinvented MTV’s Moonman statuette. Now you can catch up on his new works at two solo shows, both opening today: Pass the Blame at Galerie Perrotin and Kaws at Mary Boone Gallery (541 West 24th Street, 212-752-2929)

Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m. Starts: Nov. 2. Continues through Dec. 21, 2013

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The Atrocity Exhibition

When one reads in the Bible that Joshua burned the city of Ai “and made it a heap forever” and “the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide,” the printed words help keep us at an abstract remove from the violence. A photograph of a lynching, however, creates more immediately visceral horror and empathy: There but for the grace of God go I. Yet is it really God’s grace that prevents us from becoming the victim — or perpetrator — of evil?

What better tome to encompass these mysteries — evil, grace, God, graven imagery — than the Holy Bible? Illustrated bibles are nothing new, but photographers Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin have overprinted the scriptures with photos of conflict, trickery, love, death, and perversion, not so much subverting the book as laying it bare.

The pair was inspired by a Bible of Bertolt Brecht’s, which he had filled with notes and collaged newspaper photos. The troublemaking genius dedicated to exposing theatrical artifice to audiences was also, as Chanarin notes in a Wired UK interview, “so suspicious of press images that he referred to them as hieroglyphics in need of deciphering or decoding.” Broomberg and Chanarin emphasize this ongoing dilemma through their use of unlabeled pictures culled from London’s Archive of Modern Conflict. Bizarre and wide-ranging, their selection of images comes as a genuine surprise when one opens the book, which appears to be a standard Bible, replete with faux-leather cover, red-ribbon bookmark, and gilt-edged pages.

The opening of Genesis has been illustrated with a negative image of a male photographer grasping a model’s chin, a comely woman with her hands clasped around her knees. At the bottom of the page, God’s declaration, “Let us make man in our image” is underlined. (“Woman,” as we know, had to await further developments.) Singling out selected phrases with red underlines is a tad obvious, but these ersatz captions chime poetically with the pictures. In Psalm 86, a snapshot of a young woman wearing a Star of David patch and a bright smile is placed opposite the highlighted phrase “delivered my soul from the lowest hell.” Was she in fact safe from the Nazis, or just unaware of her coming fate?

Throughout, photos of levitating magicians and circus performers challenge the credulity necessary to accept the Bible as literal truth. On one page, a picture of a man in a Hitler mask performing cunnilingus on his partner perhaps satirizes all the begetting, incest, and rape to be found within these hallowed verses. Chanarin points out that death permeates the Old Testament “on an epic scale and the victims hardly ever know what they have done to deserve such retribution.” The artists amplify this idea in Exodus by positioning what might be an ethnographic study collecting close-ups of Asian eyes opposite a photo of a mushroom cloud. This juxtaposition is a reminder that those who witnessed the atomic explosion over Hiroshima — even as they were being vaporized — had no comprehension of their role in the historic moment when humanity unleashed Godlike powers of destruction.

Although photography seems effortless today, with worldwide dissemination of the most banal or disgusting snapshot just a cellphone swipe away, talented provocateurs can still raise graphic hell. What, after all, was Kanye West doing at the 12-12-12 concert with that print of Caravaggio’s Deposition on his black hoodie other than consciously moving his musical conglomerate into some new, Baroque epoch? The spare stage set and stark lighting echoed the 17th-century painter’s vision of Christ being entombed, even as Kanye, a living, gyrating collage, seemed to be heralding his own second coming: It took more than three days to arrive, but Yeezus is finally among us.

Like Kanye, Broomberg and Chanarin appreciate that religion is the third rail of culture. Still, is it too easy for them to underline “worship the beast and his image” in the last pages of Revelation and then plaster the facing page with a photo of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center? Perhaps. But it is undoubtedly disturbing, after more than a decade of war driven by Islamic fundamentalism on one side and Bush’s “crusade” on the other, to realize that another underlined phrase — “victory over the beast, and over his image” — eternally eludes us.

This is disconcerting stuff, guaranteed to rile fundamentalists everywhere. But if you really want to plumb the limits of secular aesthetics?

Try doing this to the Koran.


‘Robert Motherwell: Early Collages’
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue
212-423-3500, guggenheim.org

Through January 5

In 1912, Pablo Picasso started an aesthetic revolution by gluing a piece of oilcloth printed with a chair-caning pattern onto a canvas. Hence “collage,” derived from the French coller, “to glue.” Although the protean Spaniard remained in Paris throughout World War II, many artists fled the conflict for New York, where a Columbia University art-history major who spoke French befriended a number of them.

Through these connections, Robert Motherwell (1915–1991) met Peggy Guggenheim, who in 1943 was preparing a show of European collage. This idea of simultaneously layering appropriated content and serendipitous form into a composition with a single, pasted gesture was still unfamiliar in America, and the heiress challenged Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, and William Baziotes to try their hands. Although his colleagues quickly soured on the technique, Motherwell became a lifelong devotee, likening his inaugural attempts to “making beautiful love for the first time.” Indeed, his untitled piece from that wartime exhibition is included here, a lovely concatenation of ink wash and gouache accents, ephemeral lines that emphasize rather than contain space, and — typical of the always refined Motherwell — a matchbook touting expensive Cuban cigars.

Subtleties abound here — note how green fragments of a printed topographical map in 1945’s View From a High Tower presage the sophistication of 1951’s 9th Street Exhibition, in which highlights along the upper edges of stacked paper discs drift imperceptibly into shadow along the bottom.

If you thought you knew Motherwell through the black eminences of his mature “Elegy” paintings or the still surprising élan of his late “Open” canvases, this sterling survey will be a revelation: a youth unabashedly in search of earthy elegance.

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Fashion Week: Kanye West Causes Frenzy at Hood by Air; Duckie Brown Reinvents the Manservant

As much as we love floral skirts, it’s the men’s fashion collections that are wildly entertaining and beyond brilliant this Fashion Week.

Sunday morning, while most of New York was deep in slumber, we headed off to Milk Studios for Hood by Air, the menswear collection led by creative director Shayne Oliver, which always puts a gender spin to the line that is beloved by rappers.

One artist in the front row who induced mass hysteria in photographers and fashion spectators alike was none other than Mr. Kanye West.

Hood by Air
Hood by Air

But before the frenzy ensued, what we found backstage in hair and makeup were beefy male models getting their faces bronzed, stylists applying and painting their nails, as well as attaching very long hair extensions.

Some dudes seemed like they were getting into it, while others just zoned out on their headphones. We saw one dude trying desperately to pick up his sagging pants without breaking his new acrylic nails.

Hair stylist Amy Farid told us that inspiration behind this look was Venus and Serena Williams and Forrest Gump. Yeah, that combo gave us a brain freeze, too.

Farid said she aimed to create a hairstyle as a response to New York’s new marriage equality rights. “If men can get married now, they deserve wedding hair.” For Farid, this included glittery barrettes attached to teased updos. The look was also paired with crazy Nike high-tops that resembled something more of a snow boot.

Although his emotionless expression didn’t change much, West seemed pleased with the overall looks of the new collection, titled Gump, which included beaded HBA necklaces, zipper jackets that attach to button-up shirts, and long shorts and skirts. And we all know Kanye knows how to pull off a mean skirt.

On Friday we ventured to the Meatpacking District for Duckie Brown’s Spring/Summer 2014 collection and were floored when we saw the men making their grand entrance in bowl haircuts and sporting long halter tops, aprons, lace hoodies, and collarless jackets.

Duckie Brown
Duckie Brown

We weren’t astonished because these garments aren’t typically considered menswear for the average guy, but because Duckie Brown designers Steven Cox and Daniel Silver presented the collection in an inventive manner that included the best soundtrack: Leikeli47’s “Miss America.”

The models, some covered in tattoos, really sold the clothes. Yes, we can see real men wearing these manservant outfits, and we’d be proud to walk alongside of them. This show is the epitome of what Fashion Week should look like: art!

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Kanye West Thinks He’s a God; He May Not be Wrong

Kanye West has become more powerful than anyone could have imagined. After seeing the man in the flesh two nights in a row last week—once at his triumphant, perhaps summer-defining headlining set at Governors Ball, and then at his bizarre, often disorienting Yeezus album listening party on Monday—I’m convinced the guy is not of this or any other world. He’s part Predator. His brain hovers on a different frequency.

At the listening party, held in a Chelsea loading dock, West’s introductory speech to Yeezus included a spiel about how he was “New Wave,” and an explanation of how at $300, his Air Yeezy sneakers weren’t egregiously expensive, but instead a nod to the proletariat (the shoe would have cost over $1,000 had he not fought to keep the price down). Part of true genius is being comfortable with revisionist history, of course, so when he said, “This album is about giving. This album is about giving . . . NO FUCKS AT ALL!” before shoulder-slamming the crowd with the bass of Yeezus‘s opening track, the actual number of fucks Kanye clearly gives (several) seemed to not matter at all.

There’s a reason behind everything Kanye West does. It is no coincidence that West held an ostensibly private listening party in a three-sided loading dock—a concrete cube missing one of its walls becomes a gigantic speaker when you start slinging around next-level loud vibrations inside of it. Here was West engaging in performance art farce, breaking the fourth wall of celebrity in the most overt and obvious way: holding a secret album listening session with a meticulously groomed guest list in a place anyone could stand outside of and hear the album anyway.

Inside the deafening loading dock, the scene could only be described as Deep Swag. Celebrities (Beyoncé, Jay-Z, DJ Khaled, et al.) peppered the area, as did models and the type of fashion-drunk dudes who manage to make wearing a skirt look menacing. Everyone was important, or trying to look like they were. Further adding to the distraction of the crowd were an open bar and a series of projections, some psychedelic and abstract, others—such as an image of a town being blown up—jarring and harrowing.

As for how Yeezus actually sounds, the best I could say after the party is “loud.” Kanye claims a Joy Division influence, as well as such touchstones as house and drill, the whirring, menacing sound of Chicago street rap. Though they played the 10-track album twice in the West’s self-styled sonic hell-chamber, anyone who left the dock with a concrete opinion on the record is clearly lying, both to you and themselves. We’re dealing with an album too caustic, too thematically complex, too endlessly analyzable to render judgment upon after two spins. It’s not Thriller.

Lots of people are going to hate it, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s punk, but in an expensive way. It’s no wonder Daft Punk, with their much-ballyhooed album-by-committee-of-the-most-talented-musicians-in-history approach to album-making, lent out their services to West for a few Yeezus tracks. (Other notable collaborators include Rick Rubin, Chief Keef, King Louie, and Kid Cudi.)

That you can’t fully comprehend Yeezus after two listens is the point. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was, in many ways, West beating the world over its head with his brilliance. After one listen, you were supposed to be in awe of his greatness. This time around, West doesn’t mind confusing his listeners. As someone who doesn’t mind getting experimental, political, and explicitly racial with his music, West is by far our most important rap star, the one whose legacy will endure a century from now. He’s less safe and more relevant than Jay-Z, smarter and more pointed than Lil Wayne, and less introverted—though no less brilliant—than Drake.

If you cut through the cacophony of the private listening party, two things became certain: Kanye West is a genius, and Kanye West really, really, really likes Yeezus. This was evident from his reaction to his own music as he bounced and bobbed along to the sounds he created, rapping along at times and head-banging at others. It was clear that he was having a good time, too. It was rare that West wasn’t flashing a grin.

At 36, he’s older than most of our pop stars. He’s short, too, and solid, like he could have played catcher for the Chicago Cubs. Never the Sox though, as Kanye’s the perennial underdog. Veins bulge out of his head, as if he’s intensely focused on the task at hand, even if that task is just standing around and vibing to his record. He is a man who, after years of ups and downs, is finally finding his center.