Saturday, December 13, 2008

Year In Review...

So you may have noticed that I stopped posting entries back in April. I was writing at a pretty good clip up until then, and well, you know. Once you stop, you think of an excuse to let it go another day, then another, and before you know it…

…it’s December and you forgot to write a year-end best-of list, and you gotta get yours out before all the major publications do so you can “told-you-so” their faces off.

Never mind the fact that you listened to almost nothing new between mid-April and mid-June, you just had to play catch-up and download new releases onto your girlfriend’s laptop and transfer them to your iPod and delete it off her hard drive before she notices.


So I’ve had a ton of time to digest the hell out of 2008’s best music. And without further ado, here’s (a disclaimer of sorts to) The Musicologists' Year In Review, 2008 style.

Most of January and February was spent listening to all the “great” albums of ‘07 that I missed (Dirty ProjectorsRise Above, Holy Fuck’s LP, BattlesMirrored, LiarsLiars, Les Savy Fav’s Let’s Stay Friends, and No Age’s Weirdo Rippers), that is; when the weather was okay and I was out skating with the iPod. If I was home and it was raining, I was probably listening to jazz; an old habit I picked up from all those years delivering pizzas. For some reason I’ve always associated the sonance of gently falling rain with the easy rat-a-tat of 16th notes on a hi-hat; and the reflection of headlights and neon in a wet-black street seems to go right against sax and trumpet, and mud-stained sidewalks, concentric circles in puddles, the image of urban detritus melting into sewers underneath the city- carrying the murk down, down, like a fretless bass line.

Yes, I am a music geek…

I was still able to catch a lot of new releases (and some outside help on the reviews) from stellar writers like Keri Hope, Lee Henderson and Cicco (thanks, gang!) I even went to some concerts (Explosions In The Sky, The Mountain Goats, Vampire Weekend, Jose Gonzalez, Rilo Kiley, Killah Priest, Beirut and Carla Bozulich. How’s that for diversity?) But as the year went on and my employment situation changed, as did my lifestyle and living environs (shit; three different places this year, anyone do that, too?), I had to put music and writing way on the back burner; hell, I put it out back on the grill and forgot all about it…

So about a month ago I started putting this list all together, compiling stats like total listens, overall album feel, songs that I couldn’t stop listening to, trying to ignore other media outlets’ various and sundry lists (and laughing at all their crappy picks), which brings me to my first list of the year-end festivities. Let’s dive into the shallow end of this pool, see what we come up with, eh?

The Worst of 2008

First, the bad news: all the crap! The hardest albums to listen to, the most over-rated, and the just plain dumb. What’s the point of being a douchebag critic if you can’t slag people’s music tastes? That’s how I judge people- by what they listen to. I’m silently judging you based on the bands you claim allegiance to on your social networking profiles.

Let’s start with Death Cab For Cutie’s Narrow Stairs. Wow, this was pretty rotten- and I’m not talking about the “fake” album labeled as Narrow Stairs that Swedish dude leaked onto the internet, that was actually better than the real Death Cab album. Anyway, where do I begin with this record? Let’s start with the fact that they picked I Will Possess Your Heart (at 8-plus fucking minutes?) as their first single, a faux-prog rock mess in D-Major. There were a few okay songs, Cath… and Your New Twin Size Bed were serviceable as stand-alone tracks, but this wasn’t as much as an album as previous offerings, no cohesiveness at all.

Except for the overall vibe of suckiness. These guys want to be the American Coldplay so they can battle for world’s wussiest band. Now on to their album; Coldplay’s Viva La Vida or whatever (I think there’s more to the title…) I WOULDN’T LISTEN TO THIS BAND FOR ONE FUCKING SECOND.

There, that was easy.

Moving on, Of Montreal is quite possibly the most annoying band ever. I listened to Skeletal Lamping once and deleted it off my hard drive. Same with My Morning Jacket’s Evil Urges, you guys really shit the bed on this one. Whereas both of these band’s last albums were pretty fucking good, fame and notoriety plus inflated sense of self-worth obviously equals artistic license to start sucking. I’ll bet anyone a million dollars that Of Montreal signs a major-label deal next year.

Fleet Foxes- it didn’t suck at all, but I can’t feel all the hype around this album and quite frankly, I don’t understand it. I listened to it a lot, but to me it felt like background music. Stereogum readers picked it as their #1, Pitchfork readers' #2 while Britain’s Drowned In Sound put it at a deserved #45. That sounds about right, those folks across the pond are on to something, but the rest of that list is a joke. Like Cut Copy’s In Ghost Colors at #3? Really? In fact, the more I look at their list, the more I laugh...

…and regretfully, I have to say that Portishead’s album was also a mess.

What else was over-rated? (I’m only mad at these bands because they tricked me into downloading them, taking up valuable space on my already clogged hard drive): Times New Viking (worst production values ever, even John Darnielle has made better recordings on a Panasonic boombox), Fuck Buttons (with that name, I was hoping they’d be awesome, but alas; no dice), Gang Gang Dance (I really like “experimental” music, but I think the experiment was how to annoy the listener for 44 minutes), M83 (but only in England, no one cares about you over here) and Ra Ra Riot (ya ya no-way).

And for the 14th year in a row: I have no idea what’s going on in mainstream music and couldn’t care less.

Upset with anything I may have said? Here’s your chance to fight back! Leave a comment and get the dialog ball rolling…


*edo* said...

yo Jimmy Mac,it's Edo. here's my 2008 list of faves:
01. Deerhunter - Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
02. Atlas Sound - Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel
03. The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age of The Understatement
04. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
05. TV On The Radio - Dear Science
06. Santogold - Self titled
07. Diplo - Top Ranking Santogold: A Diplo Dub
08. Robert Pollard - Robert Pollard Is Off to Business
09. Stereolab - Chemical Chords
10. Barry Adamson - Back To The Cat

My Honorable Mentions:
The Raveonettes "Lust Lust Lust", "Wishing You A Rave Christmas"
Jenny Lewis "Acid Tongue"
The High Places " 03_07 - 09_07"
Dungen "4"
M83 "Saturdays=Youth"
Mogwai "The Hawk Is Howling"
Fujiya & Miyagi "Lightbulbs"
Friendly Fires
Boston Spaceships

ColdSoreSuperstar said...

I'll post something at greater length later, but I just wanted to say that I really didn't like Vampire Weekend as much as everyone else seems to. Maybe I need to listen to them again. Hmm.

(Mike I. here)

spencer said...

JM...about most things, including unicorns, we agree. But Portishead? I'm interested to hear why that was disappointing. Anything can always be better, and there were definitely tracks that didn't work, but I thought it was pretty great. Certainly took some risks.

Keri Hope said...

I can't believe your return post basically coincides with the start of my new blog; let me know if you still want reviews, i'm out of school for a few weeks and will actually have time!

ColdSoreSuperstar said...

Right on with Liars, though. I love those guys.

Got to see them when they toured for one of their first albums/EPs or whatever in this dingy club with like 15 people max. Epic performance. Loved 'em since.