Monday, December 17, 2007

BEST SONGS OF THE WORST YEAR

I wrote this at the office, so it might be more disjointed than usual:

So, was it the worst year in popular music ever? Yes.

I'd like to think that I'm just old and not with it. I'd also like to think that there have just been things that have slipped past me and everyone else that we'll all love in a few years. I'd like to think both these thoughts, but the sad truth is, I'd be lying to myself.

This was the year that completely lacked a defining single (was Umbrellas really the best there was?). This was the year a decade- plus hipster infatuation with disco reared its all-consuming head. This was the year when nearly all the old heads found their edges dulled to insignificance. This was the year that went out of it's way
to prove Nas' lamest prediction nearly true: hip hop might not be dead, but it needs some serious organ transplants at its top. This was the year the experimentalists finally lost their grips on the last tethers of reality. This was the year nostalgia went from being an influencing factor in new music and became a genre unto itself.

Pitchfork has their top 100 songs of the year http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/feature/47681-staff-list-
top-100-tracks-of-2007

I have 12 of these. Most of those are pretty good (Modest Mouse, The National, DJ Kaled, Aesop Rock, MIA), some are probably good but I'd need to listen to them to know which songs they are (Magic Markers, Liars, Dan Deacon, Battles, Radiohead) and one is I'm a Flirt, which I don't think anyone would acknowledge if it was R Kelly.

There are twelve tracks that surprised me. They surprised me because I realized I still haven't listened to some albums that would have been obvious listens a couple years ago. Jay Z? I still haven't listened to Kingdom Come, never mind American Gangster. Kanye West's Graduation? Deerhoof? UGK? LCD Soundsystem? Ted Leo? From looking at another list discovered that I missed a new El-P album. And I forgot
Talib Kweli had a new album. The El-P album could make this year seem better, but the rest? Do I even need another Ted Leo album? Probably not.

I think all the tracks listed have mp3/streaming links, and I found 23 write-ups that intrigued me enough to sample those songs. How many I listen to will depend on my tolerance of Indie Disco, it seems.

I suspect that that Pitchfork's albums list will make the year look a little better, but I don't think it will be a huge improvement. Of course, the years haven't been good to Pitchfork either. While you can't blame them for the quality of the music they cover, you can blame them for what they don't cover (nothing about the new Rob Sonic or Cafe Tacuba!), and you can blame them for championing albums/ styles that either don't stand up under scrutiny (even if the scrutiny one applies is just one of enjoyment), and you can blame them when they spend any time at all on the umpteenth reissue of the ultimate standbys. Unfortunately, I've yet to find any other site that attempts writing on a wide range of styles, with mostly competent writers, that looks as closely at the smallest of labels as it does the largest.

The ironic thing is, for me, the year has been a lot of fun, music-wise. I've rekindled my love of heavy metal thanks to the post-rock, prog-metal and thrash revivals of the past fifteen years (Windmills By the Ocean, Isis, Mastadon, Ahab, This Will destroy You, Rwake). I've heard a few new absolute standouts (Gojira, The National and Battles come immediately to mind) and some not brand-new acts (Boris, Sun 0)))))I've reconnected with old bands and albums I just hadn't listened to in a long while (Joy Division, Wu-Tang). I've discovered music I'm now embarrassed to have been so ignorant of in the past (Curtis Mayfield! Neurosis! Sepultura!). Some of my old favorites continued to please (Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, Modest Mouse, M.I.A.). There have been some disappointments (Modest Mouse managed to disappoint even if it was also good, Radiohead, Ghostface). And some of it's been unmemorable (I'm trying to remember anything about Bjork's Volta without listening to it). Oh, and Mozart. There's been a fair amount of Mozart listening.

So, with everything that's out there, it's hard for any year to seem all that bad, but it seems like we've reached a point when we're not at all interested in refreshing the stock. We're just rotating it, and letting thing get stale and moldy. Here's hoping next year is better!

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