God, the Grammys are so gross. I make a lot of jokes about bad award shows, but this is the worst. Not only are all the nominees just really aggressively out-of-touch and terrible, but half of this crap came out in 2009. I could swear some of this same stuff was nominated last year. Plus, there are the oddities like Arcade Fire being nominated in the Album of the Year category but not in the Best Rock Album category. I don’t even understand what the rules are here. This is either going to be a lot of fun to laugh at or one of the longest nights of my life.
As always, my wife Johanna and I will be competing in a winner-picking competition. This should be an interesting one for us, because the list of nominees is so utterly bizarre that we’re guaranteed to not do what we usually do and pick the same people in every category. I’ve got to tell you, picking winners in this disaster was painful. It upset my stomach to have to decide between, like, Neil Young and Mumford and Sons. And not because they are both so good. [Update: Turns out Mumford and Sons = Not bad!] Johanna kept saying things like “Whatever, whatever, I don’t even care,” as she went over her ballot.
To help ease us through this living nightmare Johanna has whipped up an adult beverage consisting of vodka, cranberry juice, seltzer, and lime juice. She’s calling it “The Chris Brown” because it really smacks you in the face. YOU SHOULDN’T MAKE JOKES ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, JOHANNA.
Sigh. Are you all ready to be bored by Lady Gaga’s faux-edginess? To suffer through some performances by Bruno Mars or someone? To watch your grandparents’ favorite rockers take home some awards? Then let’s do this. In the words of Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, sit back, relax, and strap it down.
8:01 – This is weird. Doesn’t this usually start with a big musical number? Like, they just jump right into it? I know last year started with the Lady Gaga/Elton John/My Nightmares mashup. This year Ladies Love Cool James strolls out to introduce a menagerie of women to sing a tribute medley of Aretha Franklin songs.
I enjoyed making my list of favorite albums of the year more than this list, because it’s easier to think of things to say about an entire album than it is a single song, but this list is probably more appropriate for the times in which we live. It also allowed me to include some stuff that couldn’t make the albums list because it is from an EP or an otherwise unspectacular album.
A few notes: If the song was released as a single, I generally used the single’s release date, if only to get some great songs from albums released in 2009 on the list (notably the two Florence + the Machine songs near the top). Also, sorry that this takes a minute to load; I think I’m going to have to start breaking up these video-heavy entries up into multiple parts. As always, this is not a list of the best songs of the year, which I don’t necessarily feel qualified to write, and rather just a list of my favorites.
Remind to listen to some more hip hop in 2011. All that really made the list here is Kanye, and that doesn’t even completely sound like what I think of as hip hop anymore. I miss it.
40) MNDR – “I Go Away”
As I’ve said before, I’m very charmed by MNDR, even though normally someone with as many affectations as she obviously has would drive me crazy. OK, by “many affectations” I really just mean her crazy, unnecessary glasses. That’s pretty much all I know about her. Also, yes, I know it’s technically a duo, but c’mon, you know what I mean. Don’t be that person.
39) Active Child – “When Your Love Is Safe”
I was introduced to this band and several others on this list by this great post over at Stereogum, so props to them. This song sounds like it could have been an outtake from that Holland album Beirut put out under the name Realpeople. You know, falsetto vocals on top of pretty electronic music. Although, in the video below it isn’t electronic.
This was a really fun, interesting year in music, which is good because it was also a year in which I was particularly interested in listening to some new albums. I reached a breaking point with all of my old playlists and favorite artists and decided to dedicate myself to searching out a lot of new stuff this year, and I wasn’t disappointed. To be fair, there were a few great new albums from my old favorite artists as well.
As always, this is not a list of the best albums of the year, but a list of my favorites. Although, to be honest, I’ve listened to most of the stuff that is showing up on other best of 2010 lists, and I feel pretty good about this.
15) Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz (October 12th)
It would be wrong to say that I’m disappointed in this album; I actually like it quite a bit when I sit down and listen to it. The problem is that I rarely put it on. It was a pretty crowded year of music for me, and for some reason I’m always in the mood to listen to something else. For now it just barely makes the list, but I suspect that it when I get some more reps in it might climb.
14) Beach Fossils – Beach Fossils (May 25th)
Man, a lot of bands sounded like this band this year. Or this band sounded like a lot of bands. Whichever it is, this is definitely a good sampling of 2010 in sonic form. Beach Fossils stand out from the pack a bit, though; they’re slightly catchier than similar-sounding groups, and the guitar lines here are great. The guitar parts sound a little like Johnny Marr from the Smiths, except slower and hazier.
Best Coast – “Boyfriend”
Vodpod videos no longer available.
This is the second time I’ve posted a video from an artist while openly complaining that they hadn’t made a video for a different song that I prefer only to find a video of the preferred song in my RSS reader just in time for Music Video Monday! It’s like I control the internet!
Flying Lotus – “Kill Your Co-Workers”
I can’t get into Flying Lotus. I know he’s John Coltrane’s great-nephew and everybody thinks he’s a visionary and everything, but I’m just not feeling it. That said, this song serves as a pretty awesome soundtrack to a video about robots killing people during a parade.
As I said in my previous post, all of the videos I took at Lollapalooza were pretty terrible. I didn’t have my Flip or anything too fancy, so I was just taking them with my digital camera, which doesn’t allow me to zoom in or out once I start filming, and also doesn’t have the highest video quality. Plus, I’m pretty unwilling to stand with my camera in the air for the entirety of what were, in most cases, my favorite songs by whichever band I was watching. I’d get one chorus recorded for posterity and then turn the camera off and enjoy the rest of the song in the moment.
Some people, however, are much more prepared/professional/devoted than I am. YouTube is awash in Lollapalooza videos far, far superior to my own. For the entry that had all of my personal thoughts on the shows, I wanted to only use my own photos and videos. But as a follow-up, I thought it would be nice to pick out some better representations of the artists I saw.
The New Pornographers – “Challengers”
Dirty Projectors – “Cannibal Resource”
For the third year in a row Johanna and I attended Lollapalooza in Chicago. It’s become a tradition and a great excuse to return to a city we love. (As I type this, I’m watching My Boys on TBS. Yes, I love Chicago so much that I’ll even watch My Boys.)
I thought I would share my belated thoughts on the festival, along with some photos I took and a few terrible, shaky, fraction-of-the-full-song videos that I took. Because who doesn’t love terrible videos?
Friday, August 6th
4:00 – 5:00 The New Pornographers
During the first act of a music festival I’m always relatively distracted trying to get my bearings and people-watch, so it’s a shame that we started things off on Friday with The New Pornographers, a band that I actually like quite a bit. I don’t remember much from their set. I know Neko Case was wearing a big floppy hat, and I know that they played a nice version of “Challengers.” That’s about it.
5:00 – 5:50 Dirty Projectors
Reviews of this performance were pretty mixed, and seemed to be less about the performance and more about how much the individual reviewer actually likes Dirty Projectors. Well, I like Dirty Projectors and loved Bitte Orca, and I thought they were great. The tempo of the songs was even less stable live, and several seemed just about to collapse before Dave Longstreth pulled everything back together. The erratic nature added a nice bit of tension and seemed to snap me to attention, which was good since I’d been sleepwalking during the New Pornographers.
Johanna and I really enjoy this stage because it’s usually easy to get pretty close to the action, and also because we’ve seen some of our best afternoon/early evening shows here (Sharon Jones, Santigold, Band of Horses).
6:18 – Queen Latifah kicks off formal activities with “America the Beautiful.” When did we decide that we need to sing this in addition to “The Star-Spangled Banner”? Maybe we just all secretly think it’s a better song.
Anyway, the pizza Johanna and I ordered has arrived, so our spread is complete.
6:25 – Our first big commercial of the night, a remake of a classic. Dwight Howard and LeBron James are infinitely better at acting natural than Larry Bird and Michael Jordan were in the original.
I debated how to best represent the decade in music in list form. Eventually, I decided on songs over albums; it seemed more fitting in the era of iTunes.
This list shows that my musical tastes, like my politics, are pretty middle-of-the-road. I like the most mainstream and accessible indie rock and I’m a sucker for the occasional pop song.
I should also point out that I think this might be longer than anything I wrote in college. It’s entirely possible that the length of this will make it completely unreadable. But whatever, brevity has never been my strong suit. Here they are, my 150 favorite songs of the decade (music videos when I was able to easily find one that I liked that allowed embedding):
150) Cannibal Ox – “Iron Galaxy” (2001)
This album has such a singular sound that it’s weird hearing Vast Aire rapping over any other production. I think that’s why I could never really get into Look Mom…No Hands. The Vast Aire verse at the end of this song is sort of the end of the golden age of underground hip hop for me, a topic that will definitely be more thoroughly discussed if I ever do a list of my favorite songs of the 90s.
149) Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros – “Johnny Appleseed” (2001)
The best part of John from Cincinnati. Almost makes me want to check out the rest of Joe Strummer’s post-Clash career.
148) Air – “Universal Traveller” (2004)
The only song from Talkie Walkie that holds up for me. Really the only Air song that I listen to on a regular basis. Pops up on the occasional Rick Steves podcast, so that’s a plus.