Saturday, November 29, 2008

Beginning to Wrap the Year in Music

Tomorrow (or later today, given the hour...), I'll be back here with the 10 Best Albums of 2008 for your reading pleasure and argument. But for now, it's the rest of the musical housekeeping for the year, where I write and blather about things I need to get off my chest:

Creed of the Year
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Nickelback. Let's go over the details to see... always on the radio? Check. Overly devoted fanbase that has decided that the folks who don't think Nickelback is the best band ever are dumb and must be converted? Check. Vaguely Christian lyrics that said fanbase will inflate to one step below Luke's gospel? Check. Heaven help us all.

Cover of the Year
The two contenders this year both involve Radiohead. While Prince's live cover of "Creep" at Coachella made all the news, I actually think one that went below the radar goes one better. I doubt Thom Yorke will ever pull a Dylan and go so far as to say "Reckoner" was written so Gnarls Barkley could perform it (a la Hendrix and "Watchtower"), but this is a bad-ass cover:

Pop Song That Needs To Be Killed
I think I speak for us all... "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry was, when you got right down to it, an atrocity. Aside from the fact that many years ago we had a "meh" alternative song by Jill Sobule on this same subject BEFORE Madonna and Britney swapped spit on MTV and the L Word was on the air... I guess I'm saying, whoopdeedoo... I'm shocked - SHOCKED - to hear that two girls might kiss. And like it. Go figure. And since the song kinda sucked on top of it, it was radio poison.

Pop Song That Needs To Take Over Radio
When I first saw the Pineapple Express trailer, I thought I was in some parallel universe where, suddenly, people got good music. B/c there was M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes." I'm sure this song annoys as many people as it pleases. And I am well aware this album actually came out LAST year, but by being featured in the movie trailer, it suddenly shot up every major singles chart we have from the Hot 100 to iTunes downloads. I knew this one had reached some critical mass when I saw a Facebook bumper sticker depicting the chorus: "All I wanna do is BANG BANG BANG BANG..."

Alarming Trend of the Year
David Cook. We've gone from Kelly Clarkson to this. And what's somewhat more alarming is the fact that good bands (read: Our Lady Peace) are lining up to help him write songs and follow on his coattails - in other words, deciding the best way to promote themselves is by joining up with an atrocity with better visibility.

Trend I can Deal With of the Year
Free music online. Radiohead made more money on the "free" release of In Rainbows than if they had released it traditionally. The Dandy Warhols are trying out a subscription-based model to get music and tickets into fans' hands. Nine Inch Nails and Matt Pond PA each posted fresh material gratis. The thing is, some bands are realizing that music is going to leak, people are going to seek it out and find it... why not just put it out there and try other revenue streams? In essence, it makes every band its own small business. If you have 100,000 fans and you can get each of them to get you $10 in a year... not too bad, huh? And you can get them to give you more... you see where this is going.

Trend I can Deal With of the Year (Runner Up)
The return of bands that I barely knew how much I missed. Well, I knew I missed Portishead and I don't care if I have to give up a pinky or what... I am going to do all I can to not have to wait 11 years for a new damn album from them again. But, Stone Temple Pilots? Did you know you missed them THAT much? I bet if you were at the concert with me, when they opened with "Big Empty" and went right into "Wicked Garden," you realized it then. No Doubt has just announced a new album and tour next year. Any chance we can get one more Soundgarden album?

Most Disappointing Albums of the Year
Next up will be the 10 best. Here are the ones that won't be on the list. It should be noted that this is not a compendium of bad albums. This takes expectations into account. All of the below are better to listen to than, say, the David Cook CD. But I expected to hate that one and therefore, it barely registers. These ones, I had a high bar for:

Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul - This is a shame. As one of the last standing American defenders of Oasis, I can fairly say this one fell flat. And I tried. But after making bombast sound so wonderfully easy a few years ago on Don't Believe the Truth, this one... I don't know. Felt like going through the motions to me. In a year where we needed as many good rock records as we could find, this one missed.

Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy - If you take this long, I mean, it had better be epic. It's like waiting 90 minutes for the new roller coaster only to find out that, while it offers some thrills, it doesn't make up for the wait. Not even close. This one runs out of gas about halfway through, if you ask me. If this were the first album by some new band, it would be one thing. But it's not and, therefore, it is judged more harshly.

Kanye West - 808s & Heartbreak - I really really tried. I tried to convince myself that the AutoTune would grow on me. I kept hoping the next song would be something better. I don't care what the latest reviews say... how the lyrics are deep, how he's putting his heart on his sleeve like never before... that doesn't make it worth listening to. Maybe I will acquire a taste for it over time. But, to be honest, I doubt it. Kanye may have a good story to tell on this disc, but he's not telling it the right way and, just like the guy who's bad at party conversation, you're going to go check out the bar while he blathers on. Hopefully, this is his record to deal with the death of his mom and he can get back to writing Good-Ass Job to complete his original four-year plan.

The good stuff next...

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