Daily readers of the blog will find this week’s column familiar since it’s a rehashing and expansion of the Jan. 4 blog entry about top-10 lists, Pitchfork and Creek. There are some new comments there, but not much. I always turn to the blog on deadline when I don’t have anything else cooking for the column. In these cases, I probably shouldn’t post the rewrite, but here it is for posterity’s sake…
Column 59: On (and off) The List
The final word on ’05…Why do critics find it necessary to put their thumbprint on the year gone by with their list of “the best” records, films, books, everything? Why can’t they let go of the past without somehow defining it in their own beady little eyes via a ridiculous numbered testament carefully considered for your benefit (certainly not theirs)? End-of-year lists are the very definition of critical egocentricity.They’re also a lot of fun to read (and write).Now knee deep into January, seems like every music publication — both online and off — continues to create these endless lists. They go on and on and on, constantly looking over their shoulders in introspection while the rest of us gaze courageously into the future searching frantically for the music, film and literature that’ll wind up on our best-of ’06 lists.Before putting ’05 to bed, I considered compiling a convenient compendium (that’s a lot of alliteration) of all these lists, coming up with the most-common 10 “best releases” of the pack. But that’s way too much work. That said, after reading every single one of them (or at least, most of them), something tells me the list would have looked kinda like this:Sleater-Kinney’s The Woods — Easily one of the most lauded indie rock releases of ’05 that I’ve never been able to enjoy. Sorry folks, I’m not hearing it.M.I.A.’s’ Arular — A hip combination of electronica, hip-hop and dancehall that’s risen to the national consciousness strictly through word of mouth and NPR.My Morning Jacket’s Z — An homage to a macho lifestyle that went away with sideburns and muscle cars, drenched in reverb it only gets better and better with each listen.Kanye West’s Late Registration — An MC who’s unafraid to give the president a piece of his mind, Kanye is universally accepted (and revered) by the indie elite.The Hold Steady’s Separation Sunday — These guys have made more than one trip to the heartland, and I admit to still having never heard a note from them.Beck’s Guero — What can I say, it made my “best of” list, too.Antony and the Johnsons’ I Am A Bird Now — Try as I might, I can’t get over the Tiny Tim vocals. Didn’t this originally come out in ’04? Guess not.New Pornographers’ Twin Cinema — More of the usual retro-pop a la The Shins and Elephant 6 bands. This style has held on longer than anyone expected.The White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan — Despite being hailed above ground for its under ground appeal, the husband/wife/sister duo still screams novelty to me. Blame them for the rise of guitar-and-drum bands.And, of course, Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. But one of the more whispered-about surprises around town was how Wide Awake — along with the rest of the ’05 Saddle Creek releases — didn’t make it onto Pitchfork‘s coveted top-10 list. Heck, they didn’t make into the top-50. The lack of inclusion is significant when you consider that Pitchfork is easily the most important online music publication in the indie universe. Some point to Pitchfork for single-handedly breaking acts, like ’04 best-of list fodder The Arcade Fire.So was the lack of inclusion on their year-end list a mere oversight? Unlikely. Pitchfork, along with most of the above-ground press, threw bouquets at Wide Awake when it was released last January along with Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. Wide Awake received a staggering 8.7 on Pitchfork‘s 10-point scale, saying the record “was made to be loved, to be obsessed over by some but remembered by everybody…” LCD Soundsystem, No. 8 on Pitchfork‘s list, received a mere 8.2.But a year later and Bright Eyes seems to have been pushed off Pitchfork‘s cool-kids’ bus along with the rest of the Creekers, replaced by haughty acts like Wolf Parade (You’re good, sir, but you’re no Arcade Fire), Sufjan Stevens (who deserves the back seat with the rest of the rowdies) and the usual clutter of obscurities (Cam’ron? Animal Collective? Huh?).Somehow it feels like Bright Eyes is being treated with the same disdain meted out to bands that have bolted to major labels. Death Cab for Cutie comes to mind (though DCFC’s latest album does, in fact, sound like it was pasteurized for radio play by order of The Suits in Charge). Say what you will about his music, but Oberst never sold out in the face of ever-rising popularity and visibility.Meanwhile, I’ve already begun to draft my ’06 list, which will include the new one by Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, Rabbit Fur Coat, slated for release Jan. 24. If it’s any indication, this could be a very good year, indeed.
Former Lazy-i intern Matt Whipkey informs me that Anonymous American will be playing at The Ozone tonight with Sarah Benck and The Robbers. The Ozone is somewhere inside Anthony’s steakhouse on south 72nd St. (right near ‘F’ St., look for the giant cow). Admission is free, and the show starts at 8:30. Anthony’s should do a little cross-promotion and pass out steak snacks to the audience between sets.
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