On “best ofs” and yet-to-comes

I have had a few questions regarding my “best of ’08” list, and yes it’s ridiculously subjective. As are all such lists. I like lists, they play to my anal retentive side. But while fun to contemplate, they are still based on the varying tastes of its particular authors. Among the “big five or six” of the music papers I saw Duffy’s album on two “best of the year” lists” and on one “worst of the year”. I saw the Jonas Brothers on one of each. Same with Chinese Democracy What does any of it mean? Not a whole lot. Unless you are T.V. on the Radio, in which case you are universally beloved by mainstream music press and those who fashion themselves as more of the alternative variety. (Now I like TVotR too, but the collective hysteria over this album is disproportionate to how good the album actually is. It’s good. It is. It’s a fine, clever, well written, well produced album but except for a few stand out tracks it still strikes me as quite ordinary. Good-ordinary to be sure, but still ordinary. Nothing wrong with that but the “It’s as good as Pet Sounds/The While Album/Let it Bleed all rolled into one” wankfest has gone to a silly place. But there again, you have it. It’s so stupidly subjective that what means one thing to one listener means something altogether different to the next.) 

Take electronic music. I look through say, the best of list at Rolling Stone, or Spin, or EW, and where’s the electronic side of things? It’s in MGMT. And in the case of Rolling Stone, in Nine Inch Nails’ The Slip. And little else. I love The Slip, it’s one of my own best of the year and MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular would be on my top 15 were I to do one. Great albums both, but is someone who leans toward that style of music well served by the notion that they were the only electronic albums that mattered this year? Or insert same for fans of metal. Or easy-listening pop. Or any subgenre that gets grouped in to the pop/rock pantheon. Plus, we all know how subject to peer pressure those who write about music really are. One Fleet Foxes in a top ten begets many more just like it. The collective critic-speak will eventually come to the conclusion that a mediocre effort from Beck after years of inventiveness and bang-up albums, is among the best of ’08 but that doesn’t make it so. Take lists for what they are: some guy (not always, but usually a guy) showing off his cool cred in terms of what they believe are the consensus, street-approved goods for the year. Nothing wrong with that, I do it too, let’s just not pretend it’s anything approaching gospel. 

So with 2008 (almost) out of the way what does ’09 portend for the music world? For electro fans, quite a lot actually. To name just a few we are looking to be treated to new works from A Camp, Lily Allen (she said a while back her next album was “going to be really electronic” which many say but few follow up on, but damn if the early tracks aren’t just that including the sparkling lead off single, “The Fear”), And One, Apoptygma Berzerk, The Azoic (at least a remix album, but it counts), Client, Combichrist, Depeche Mode, Fischerspooner, Funker Vogt (live album), IAMX, Imogen Heap, In Strict Confidence, Kirlian Camera, Mobile Homes, Nitzer Ebb, Northern Kind, Sara Noxx, Prodigy, Project Pitchfork, Rezonance, Rupesh Cartel, and Zeromancer and Venus Hum are in the studio and may show up with new product in ’09. And that’s just off the top of the head, there’s lots more coming, much of which I’ve never heard of before. Some of it will suck and disappoint, but lots of good stuff on the horizon. I’ll try to share what I can of it here as the months go by…


Watch Apop Berserk, Apollo (Live on your T.V.):


One Response to “On “best ofs” and yet-to-comes”

  1. You know, if you’re going to criticize hyperbolic praise, doing so with such a ridiculous straw man as “It’s as good as Pet Sounds/The While Album/Let it Bleed all rolled into one” is a bit cute, don’t you think?

    And really, is the praise for Dear Science really all that crazy? Sure, it’s ranking highly on a lot of lists, but compared to other streamroller hipster records that have come out this decade (your Yankee Hotel Foxtrots, your Funerals, your Illinoises), I’d say it’s reception has been rather modest. All it takes is a few people to love a record, and a lot of people to like it, for it to end up high on a collaborative year-end list (especially in a year with many good records but few great ones).

    I’m writing a post for next week about the Pitchfork 500 and list culture in general, so I’ll have more to say then then, I reckon.

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