Monday, December 19, 2005

Hella 'Band of Year'

Perfect Sound Forever editor and personal hero Jason Gross says this: "Lemme say one more time... anybody who cries about how there's isn't any good music anymore has their ears closed or is pitifully stuck in the past." Mr. Gross' point seems to me to be that, if you look hard enough, you will find good music (music you like) from any year of any decade, unless your mind is hopelessly closed off. This seems to me to be a reasonable proposition; I, however, would like to add to Mr. Gross observation this a corollary: it can be said that it was a good year for music based on how hard you had to look for good music (music you like). On this count, I found 2005 to be mediocre at best. Most of the big, well-hyped albums from the indie underground blew chunks (I didn't like them; I'm thinking of M83, The Go! Team, Bloc Party, Sufjan Stevens). Though I did not have time to listen to every entry to every critic's top ten list, I can tell you this: I think that, based on what I've heard and what I've read, that the indie rock of the 2000's, as whole, has not produced anything that I can really, solidly say is [1] mine and [2] awesome. The indie rock world seems to be just re-hashing post-punk from 1979, or other obscure record collector genre sounds (like psychedelic folk). Of the records that did smack of some originality, most seemed to me to just be adding some "cute" gimmick (like being based around the 50 states, or being cheerleaders) or some other assorted ironic bullshit to appeal to some escapist bourgeois daydream (animal consumes, rather cliché songs about chimney sweeps). The Gang of Four reformation this year, I think expressed one of the problems exactly; there's a lot of corpse fucking going on, and screwing somebody's leftovers is not as fun as going outside and getting some real love for yourself. I don't see that happening with The Decemberists, or LCD Soundsystem.

In terms of journalism, general thought and theory, indie rock flagship publication Pitchfork has really checked out in terms of being relevant or interesting and has become, at best, mildly amusing -- and Pitchfork's new music section is now taken as the de facto indie rock canon (Insound even gives discounts based on Pitchfork's numbers). I find this disturbing; especially when records that I really like (Fiery Furnaces' new one, fresh Anticon records &etc) get overlooked for records that are really boring (The Decemberists, Wilderness, M83). True, other lights shine: Tiny Mix Tapes and Dusted are good, but TMT mainly just does news with 400 word reviews as an afterthought, and Dusted lacks a coherent voice. Maybe I'm just getting more jaded as I get older, or maybe I'm listening to too much jazz. Whatever the thorn in my side is, I will probebly remember 2005 as having much to be desired.

Enough complaining; here's the stuff that's the exception to all that mumbo-jumbo I just spewed out all over the internet; the stuff I'll be listening to in another 5 years; the stuff I want to hear on the radio:

Anthony & The Johnsons -- I Am A Bird Now
Art Brut -- Art Brut
Boredoms -- Seadrum/House of Sun
Broadcast -- Tender Bottons
Dangerdoom -- The Mouse & The Mask
Deerhoof -- The Runners Four
The Fall -- Fall Heads Roll
Hella -- Church Gone Wild/Chirpin' Hard/Homeboy/Concentration Face
Hockey Night -- Keep Guessin'
Kanye West -- Late Registration
Lightning Bolt -- Hypermagic Mountan
Odd Nosdam -- Burner
Royksopp -- The Understanding
Spoon -- Gimmie Fiction
Why? -- Elephant Eyelash

My favorite would be Seadrum/House of Sun (it was technically recorded in 1998, and only released in the USA in 2005), but Hella was unquestionably Band of the Year, with a spectacular double album experience plus an amazing DVD/EP set. Their math-rock/almost free jazz fury and black-magic live show destoryed all comers, in my mind. I also thoroughly enjoyed both Kanye's new record, and his TV off script ad-libbing.

- nick


Blogger KRLX Joke said...

i would defend every album that you think "blew chunks." the gimmicks that you mention actually work as legitimate bases for good music. and if you look at a band like m83 in respects to electronic music and not indie music, it finds a better home. there are aesthetics and ideas being rehashed, but those were good sounds and good ideas. i'm never quite sure why people rush to be so critical of a band that sounds like [this popular 1970s band]. didn't you like that band in the first place?

12:50 AM  
Blogger KRLX Joke said...

When I look back and ask, "What did my generation give to the world?" I'm not going to be happy if the answer is "My generation rehashed ideas that other people came up with 20 years ago; also, we dressed in constumes." The folks who did this stuff in the 1970's can say that they started a large scale DIY movment; Andy Gill can say that he developed his own unique white-funk angular guitar style. What can the guys from the Rapture say? "We did a good job of sounding like G4 or the Bush Tetras, only in 2003? We wrote some songs that the G4 didn't get the first time around?"

My concern is that my generaion is eating the leftovers from a banquet prepared and mostly eaten by the folks from the 80's. I will not be content to pick the bones of other's labor, however good the scraps are. The boomers didn't just rehash the 50's rock, they had the Beatles and Dylan. The next generation had The Clash, G4, PiL &etc. The one after that had Nirvana. What do we have? The Arcade Fire?

To answer that last question; I did like that band the first time around. Now let's move on. There are some bands doing that, and there are some bands that are not, like there are in every generation. But I'm concerned that our generation's legacy will be full of ironic jokes and silly outfits that no one will care about 10 years on. Check the logs at KRLX. The #1 most played artist is the Beatles. They broke up some 35 years ago. Will we be forever in their shadow?

I'm aware that M83 is an electronic band, and I still think it's not that exiting. Gimmie Ultravisitor.

- nick

1:11 AM  
Blogger dave m. said...

1. Yes. They're the fucking Beatles; it's a pretty big shadow.
2. Rehashing ideas is practically the entirety of art. But, more than that, it's about synthesis of ideas. Dylan was rehashing Woody Guthrie et al. and adding Rimbaud. Picasso and Miles Davis stole almost everything from other people, but added bits and pieces and took the ideas further. I will agree with you that many bands sound like cheap imitations of old bands. What I don't agree with is the notion that nothing is being added. Is Animal Collective just based on the "obscure record collector genre sound" of psychedelic folk? Yes. But do really sound much like it, enough to call it rehashing? No. In the end, my real complaint is that artists are taking the wrong ideas to spring from (ENOUGH with the post-punk, I never liked it in the first place) and limiting their theft to a single genre instead of blending ideas from all over the place to come up with something really original. That could make for some good music.
3. Kanye West? The flow is garbage.

1:26 PM  

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