Hello, and thanks for reading the first of what I hope will be billions upon billions of columns for Connect Savannah.
In an age of rising deficits, increased nuclear proliferation, sky-high gas prices, corrupt government and the perpetual threat of terrorism at the hands of religious extremists, I will use this space to talk about the things that matter most: movies, music, TV and maybe, just maybe the occasional book.
As an entertainment journalist, I love talking about entertainment journalism (except for Entertainment Tonight, which makes me break out into Kramer-like convulsions). And the best part of entertainment journalism is year-end top ten lists, where a critic’s allegiances can truly be ascertained.
Movie top ten lists are fun, but hold limited appeal, because almost all of them consist of the same nine movies in a slightly different order with one wild card thrown in. There were only about 500 movies released last year, and more than half of those were miniscule engagements in a single theater in New York or L.A. Music top ten lists, though, have endless possibilities.
There are tens of thousands of albums released every year in every genre imaginable, and hundreds of thousands of songs. So while there are some records that pop up on everyone’s lists (TV on the Radio’s Return To Cookie Mountain is pretty omnipresent), the overlaps are the exception instead of the norm, and the end result is as close to a media Rorschach test as you’re likely to find.
For example, the writers at Rolling Stone are a bunch of boring old fogies and the writers at The Onion AV Club are a bunch of pretentious hipsters. The average age of the top three artists on Rolling Stone’s list is 48, and while music need not be a young man’s game, the fact that all of your top spots belong to a generic musician born during the Eisenhower administration doesn’t bode well for your openness to new and different sounds.
And when they get to their #4, the aforementioned TV on the Radio, they like the record not because they’re unquestionably one of the best and most creative bands working today but because they “sound like the Bowie of Low – with a pair of Arthur Lees at the mike” (artists born during the Truman and FDR administrations, respectively, and that’s a really stupid analogy).
Their #1 is, what a shocker, Bob Dylan’s Modern Times. If Bob Dylan recorded a cover album of O-Town and 98 Degrees b-sides, Rolling Stone would name it album of the year and talk about how it was “a harbinger of truth.”
Modern Times is an awful record full of aimless shuffling drones that is frankly an embarrassment from the man who is America’s poet laureate as far as I’m concerned.
Only slightly better is their #2, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ frustrating Stadium Arcadium, which is 28 tracks of a talented band being smothered by the inane lyrics and ceaseless barking of Anthony Kiedis (sample: “The down turn brave / Little burncub bearcareless [sic] turnip snare rampages”).
But I think I’d rather be old and boring than young(-ish) and pompous. I’m a huge fan of The Onion AV Club, the straight-faced cousin to America’s finest fake news source, and their critics in particular are usually on point and rarely stoop to the stomach-churning hyperbole of their peers.
But like most hipster media, they aren’t immune to the hype surrounding boring bands like Cold War Kids and The Black Keys, or giving high honors to records like Ricardo Villalobos’ Fizheuer Zieheuer or Midlake’s The Trials Of Van Occupanther.
I read a dozen music reviews every day and have never for the life of me heard of either of those records, but I doubt I’m missing very much; Midlake’s entry “sounds a bit like The Eagles” and “tells lush tales about stonecutters”… yeah, not interested.
Indie culture is so obsessed with finding the next big thing (until it gets too big and then it sucks) that they completely ignore a great record by an old reliable like Morrissey, whose fine Ringleader of the Tormentors has been all but forgotten.
But obscurity shouldn’t necessarily be mocked, because the best part of a top 10 list is bringing people to things they haven’t heard before. So allow me to share some of my personal favorites that haven’t gotten more love during list season.
I’m most shocked that I haven’t seen Goldfrapp’s Supernature – an unparalleled song cycle that brought pop’s most progressive chanteuse to a mainstream audience – on a single list. Ditto for Spank Rock’s YoYoYoYoYo, the most original hip hop record in years.
Hot Chip’s The Warning is one of those albums that I think everyone could agree on. It’s fun, danceable and has fantastic melodies that will be stuck in your head for days. And Peter Bjorn & John’s Writer’s Block is a folk record that picks up the pace and floats in shimmery 60’s pop. ç