Rolling Stone is wrong, but predictably so
Their Best Albums and Songs of 2009 is up, so you know I have to comment.
The readers’ poll: An excellent snapshot of the completely random streams in current American music fanship. Top Ten includes Grizzly Bear, Phoenix and Animal Collective, but also Gaga, Katy Perry, and Jay-Z. You might think this is a hipster rag, but then it’s obviously not. And #1 is Pearl Jam, which reminds you that we’re dealing with Rolling Stone. Where does America go when being pulled in such disparate directions? #3 and #5 are both by Kings of Leon. (That album came out in ’08.)
The Best Albums: I’m going to make a pronouncement here that I’m pretty sure will bear fruit. Music journalists tend to fill the best albums list with what everyone is agreeing is the best albums. A best songs list is used to slide in the guilty pleasures and the personal discoveries, the tracks they actually jam to in the shower. (If I’m wrong, there will be tons of overlap between the lists.) So!
Stuff I agree with from the list: #22 Franz Ferdinand, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. #3 Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (but don’t these albums both feel really old now?)
Stuff That Is Wrong: #1 U2, No Line on the Horizon. Dude. DUDE. I was willing to handwave when the whole world went mad about Elevation and it bumped higher in lists than it probably should have, but I will come over there and smack you if you think the best album produced this year was a U2 album that even U2 seems to have lost interest in. You know how when Coldplay puts out an album, the dinosaurs at the Grammys just give it all of the awards because they recognize the name? I once went to a Rolling Stone party where the employees all talked during new songs (and during the Gym Class Heroes performance) and then lost their collective minds any time Nirvana or Michael Jackson came on. They honestly didn’t seem to have any conception of music after 98. And that would be totally fine, unless they had some sort of job where they needed to keep up with popular music…
Stuff That Is Obvious: #24 Monsters of Folk (it’s Conor Oberst’s supergroup. It had a spot on here before it got recorded). #21 Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest (with no bearing on the actual quality of the album, I’m sick of seeing it on lists). #20 Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It’s Blitz (see above re: Monsters of Folk). #14 Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion (see above re: Grizzly Bear). EVERYTHING ELSE ON THE LIST. Bob Dylan at #18, Pearl Jam at #11, Springsteen at #2. The list is timeless in that it could have been submitted in any of the past 20 years.
Stuff That Is Not: Nothing. Nothing is not obvious. Except maybe Bat For Lashes, which came in at #19. And Mastodon, because I wasn’t sure if we were allowed to say that we liked Mastodon out loud without people assuming we were metal dorks.
The Best Songs: I am secretly praying that this list delights and surprises me, because my blood pressure is all up now.
#4 is Miley’s “Party in the USA.” I know everyone loves this song, but I still need a moment to shudder and weep. Here’s the thing: I like disposable pop as much as the next girl! But this song isn’t that great. It’s just an earworm. You think you like it because it’s always in your head, but most of music appreciation is familiarity. You listen to songs you like a lot, and then you like them more. You listen to songs you don’t like a lot, and then you like them more. All of which is just bluster to say that I think “Party in the USA” is way too slow to be a cultural phenomenon. Push the tempo, kid.
Speaking of tempo pushing, #14 is Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow.” They are America’s finest ad jingle outfit.
You know what, I don’t know if I have the energy to go on now. I went and got a Kit Kat bar so that I at least can say what I liked. Franz Ferdinand’s “Ulysses” made the list, as did Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Zero.” Both quality songs! And my friend Lana will be pleased to know that her beloved Avett Brothers made both lists. Also, did you know that there was new Peter, Bjorn and John this year? I think I still have PTSD from that summer when “Young Folks” was big.
I still dream about the whistling.