I swore off all music magazines, because there’s a foreseeable future in which reading about music would cost more than the actual new music, but Louise brought me an Uncut, and i broke down to buy the other zines that i’ve skipped in the past couple of months. What did i miss? So far, it seems to be nothing. A few lists, an article that i rather dig that happens to be online in expanded form, some reviews that bug me with sloppiness (my own greatest fault, but i hold print to higher standards, as they are professionals, sort of) and some articles on artists that i have no interest in whatsoever. Reading about movies is more interesting in magazines these days.
Uncut’s year end music list baffles the hell out of me. I cannot believe anyone is that crazy about Americana/ alt-country yet would allow Bonnie Prince Billy to trickle in as an honorable mention. Idiosyncratic choices are great in a list, and it’s hard to begrudge someone his favorite record, but in trying to figure meaning into the order of the listing, i’m ready to throw up my hands and say that there’s been an error in the printer, and they meant to amend the intro with, “And now in no particular order, despite the fact that they are numbered…” but there’s still the Beta Band Hot Shots 2 (my favorite of 2001) shut out into the honorable mention category. Is it really that inferior to something like Zoot Woman? or Reveal? Or Le Tigre? Or all of that fire and brimstone Jesus apocalypse claptrap that would be a lot less funny and affecting if they had to live in the thick of people who accept this literally?
Like on the ILM thread of the Pitchfork Top 20 of 2001 list, someone pointed out that all lists made by committees suck. (Actually, i rather like the Pitchfork list, even though i don’t care for either the Microphones or Fennesz. Oddly, Prefuse 73 seems cool though. Perhaps it’s all in the beat? More on that meaningless distinction and that list later perhaps.) It might not even be the committee aspect that fucking up the Uncut list, because it feels like that in addition to writers with extremely disparate tastes worked their way to an ugly compromise, a lot of them forgot the first two-thirds of the year. A significant number of the albums were reviewed in just the previous issue, and have only three and a half stars and vague write-ups. To shoehorn pleasant, but lacklustre efforts by both ex-Pavement members to release albums in 2001 into the list, as well as a fistful of amendments to the legacies of ’80s bands seems…. diplomatic. Are Best of lists supposed to be exercises in diplomacy?
Uncut’s not being diplomatic in unabashedly proclaiming Ryan Adams is a genius and Gold makes him big enough to stand among giants. I genuinely like Ryan Adams, but this is bullshit. Grandly partisan proclaimations, and patronizing inclusionary tactics do not mix.
And it’s absolutely perverse for Uncut to pick some okay power-pop albums for their list, but to overlook completely Rings Around the World, not the best SFA album, but one that had some critical acclaim (even in their own magazine) and some singles that were rather well liked by some of the public. I’m also wondering where the hell is Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. (Yeah, i know. I forgot to put them on my lists too, but many of my recent albums are not in my possession right now. Stupid oversight.) Uncut adores many of those New Acoustic bands, so why not one that existed prior to the flush of that movement? Did they need the room to keep up appearances on the running infatuation with Shelby Lynne?
Also, it’s not that assuring to read proclaimations like N.E.R.D. In Search of… is “this year’s Stankonia” It puts me on guard that they are trying to get people to grab the one hip-hop album that they might have bought last year on the basis that it sounds the same, but it doesn’t make a case any innovation or quality that distinguishes it as unique. I’m still confused by the whole synth versus live instrument version of In Search of… Cannibal Ox, Missy Elliott, and Jay-Z seem to be on everyone else’s lists too. So where the hell is the new Mystikal? No, i still have only heard that one single, but it is too timid to wait to see what is on everyone else’s list to cherrypick which albums will wind up on the list of a magazine that doesn’t specialize in that branch of music.
Actually, i do see that it’s probably another problem, of Uncut being two music magazines, with Simon Reynolds versus nearly everyone else. Looking at his personal list, i feel like he’s the only one trying to pay attention on staff that is attempting to pay attention on what is going on in music in general, rather than fixating on micro-genres. A couple of his choices must have catapulted to the top when some others made grudging acknowledgements of the world outside the obsession of ’70 America. No, i still don’t want to get into his list, as it’s a lengthier read.
I want lists to mean more than this. If they let each writer pick his own three faves, it would feel a lot better of a read, and not a desperate effort to out-hip me with a long list of contrived leftfield picks passed off as definitive.
Skykicking reacts to the Simon Reynolds’s Best of 2001 list (i’m still reading it, and still have nothing coherent to say right now.) It’s the more recent piece about Mystikal and other post 9/11 songs that i’m more enthralled by, because “Bouncin’ Back” is still one of my favorite songs of 2001, no matter how little i identify with the blind patriotic fervor that 9/11 has evoked. It makes me cringe to acknowldge that the song’s sentiment is the same as fuckhead Dubya, as i want no identification with that twerp at all, but it’s hard to deny.
Somnolence is giving pop a try at year end. I forgot about that DJ Pied Piper song, quite strangely. I have to admit that i’m not fond of it either, as it reminds me of a commercial jingle for some reason.. particularly Burger King. Flame broiled greasy red meat and it just seem to go together.