Monday, December 15, 2008

In Gravity's Rainbows. That's the Best I could Come Up With Given Short Notice. No please, don't fire me from Mad Magazine--" ...Oh, it was a dream..

“Hey bonita muchacha / Don't-cha know that I want-cha.”

Surprisingly, this is not the only embarrassingly white attempt at an ode to.. Mexican-ness or something from this year. But, I have to say, at least Jonathan Richman sings in Spanish and risks embarrassing himself, which is more than I can say for Brian Wilson (who just embarrasses himself unintentionally). That being said, “Good Kind of Love,” from That Lucky Old Sun, is probably one of my favorite songs of the year. Minor tip of the hat to Bri.

This is about 2008. But first, a flashback to 2002 or thereabouts:


Scene: A pale, palsied teenager with long hair (although it would look a lot better if he acquiesced and got it cut in layers, he insists on maintaining the image he has of himself in his head, something to do with Joey Ramone, I still don’t know) sits curled up on a couch, headphones in his ears and a CD player resting in his lap. Two albums sit stacked on the end table next to him. The CDs, you ask (wait, this is a screenplay, not a narrative)? End of the Century by the Ramones and II by the Meat Puppets. Cue comet flying overhead outside the window, a thousand years pass by, and still this moment is magic.

Satirical digressions aside, I feel like I need to place this block of text in some sort of biographical context. That moment actually was the beginning of me as I know myself now—to get a little too sentimental. I was raised without a passion for music, so I know it’s not biological; but, through my own efforts, I’ve made it the very stitching of my core being, etc. Feel free to let this paragraph continue for several more lines in your head, all this sincerity is exhausting.

The point, though, is that I like music. A lot. But until 2008, I never bothered to care about the cavalcade of new music that floods the market each year. There are literally hundreds of bands forming and falling apart every year, and most of them can only be found on the RSS feed of some tiny blog that you can’t even search for on Google. I didn’t listen to them all, but I tried to listen to a good portion of the North American bands with white members. That’s a joke, but I listened to maybe a handful of new rap albums this year, a handful of European punk bands with white members, and (flavor of the week) some compilations of African stuff. Music journalism is a joke, and so are these End of the Yr. lists, but with people like Sasha-Frere Jones insisting on racial binaries and using terms like “miscegenation” to describe music, it looks like respectability will be beyond our reach for a long time. Not that I’m a music journalist. I just like music, and I like to write. Gah, feel free to scroll down to the list if you haven't already--you're not missing much. I’ve listened so many bands this year, and I can only remember enough to come up with a handful of great albums from this year before having to scroll through my iTunes library and remember that one 7” that kind of sounded like the Ramones, I think, at first listen, six months ago. Seriously, with the exception of #1 on my list, I didn’t listen to any of these albums more than a handful of times. A lot of them I only listened to once or twice. But I will say this: At Least I Did Not Put Fleet Foxes On My List. That alone should give me a modicum of credibility.

Stuff of the Yr. in which this was written:

1. Howlin’ Rain – Magnificent Fiend
Sounds like Traffic.

2. Earth – The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull

3. Oneida – Preteen Weaponry
Oneida do Don Caballero. Is that even right? I don’t know, I thought of that comparison months ago and stashed it in some mental niche, and just now it popped out. Have to fill this space somehow.

4. Nomo – Ghost Rock
White guys doing afrobeat. So, basically Vampire Weekend. Ahah.

5. Goslings – Occasion
Pitchfork would probably say something like “shoegaze metal.”

6. The Howling Hex – Earth Junk

7. Jay Reatard – Matador Singles ‘08
Controversial, but I liked this collection better than the first singles collection.

8. Grails – Take Refuge in Clean Living
In the same vein as Sun City Girls, if you can appreciate music outside of a rock context. “Atmospheric post-rock with Middle-Eastern touches.” –something I would probably say if I were a professional reviewer.

9. Cloudland Canyon – Lie in Light
Kraut. “You & I,” another potential song for someone’s crappy 2008 mix CD that no one will listen to.

10. Arthur Russel – Love is Overtaking Me
Yeah, posthumous, but “Nobody Wants a Lonely Heart” is too moving not to be on this guy’s crappy list.

11. Pumice – Quo
New Zealand lo-fi. New Zealand rules.

12. Wooden Shjips – Vol. 1
Three compilations on this list? They all deserve it, though. Oh, this band is distorted psych. That really doesn’t tell you much. Musicians nowadays really are fond of extended jams clouded in distortion.

12. Shit and Shine – Cherry
“The Rabbit Song” is the apotheosis of cool stoner psychedelic kraut noise rock. Nice, a bunch of adjectives.

13. Blank Dogs – On Two Sides
I could do an entire list full of the noisy lo-fi punk/pop bands from this year, because there were a lot for whatever reason. Blank Dogs come out ahead of the pack, though.

14. Sapat – Mortise and Tenon
Hats off to Siltbreeze for putting out so many good albums this year. Tied with Not Not Fun for Best Label of the Year According to Pale Guy Writing From His MacBook.

15. Islaja – Blaze Mountain Recordings
Paavoharju never clicked with me, but I liked most of the other Fonal Records albums from this year. This one especially.

16. AFCGT – S/T CD-r
A Frames playing with the Climax Golden Twins. I previously described “Old Spy” and “Young Spy” as “noise-surf.” Stupid, but I need to write something in this space.

17. Pocahaunted – Island Diamonds
These girls released a lot of albums this year, and I only listened to a few. This was the best of them, though.

18. Boston Spaceships – Brown Submarine
Robert Pollard’s new band. I could’ve seen them in town, but I was busy with homework. Heard they were good.

19. Jonathan Richman – Because Her Beauty is Raw and Wild
Song about Vermeer.

20. Headache City – Headache City
“Tearjerker” would be near the top of the 2008 song list if I had the energy to make one. Sounds like Television.

Bands I forgot: Eat Skull, Jacuzzi Boys, Vivian Girls, Burning Star Core, Birchville Cat Motel, Four Tet, Blue Sabbath Black Cheer, Boris, Sic Alps, Cheveu, Children’s Hospital, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Silver Jews, Sparks, Wire (really, the last two I tried to like, but they were decidedly subpar albums, at least compared to those artists’ best albums. Which is an awful way to judge an album, but what are you going to do?), Mudhoney, Stereolab, Static Static, Kim Phuc, Stnnng, Valet, Grouper, Wavves, U.S. Girls, other people, etc.

I probably should’ve put this at the top of the article, but Note to Readers: don’t ever try and keep up with a year’s worth of albums, because it isn’t worth it. I feel very tired, and music is little consolation, despite what some people would tell you (the same people who put Fleet Foxes in their list, no doubt). Art is useless and Good Guys Sit On the Couch & Watch Frasier Re-runs While Assholes Get The Girl.

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