Long live rock, I need it every night

Friday, December 19, 2008

Obligatory Best of 2008 List

We're not doing our annual end-of-year Thorkelsons Awards anymore. Two reasons: (1) Potsy always gives curt, one word descriptors for his nominees, and (2) Sacklunch usually submits his choices in March of the following year. Fuck that shit. Every year I tell them, submit your best of list, and please accompany each choice with a pithy comment. The only one who obeys is Jumbo Slice.

Imagine, for a moment, you are an editor at Us Magazine, in charge of the "Fashion Police" feature. You have this photo of Jennifer Lopez (oh man, call the fashion police...whoo, whoo, whoo (whoo = sound of siren on fashion policeman's police car)). You gather your staff for a meeting. Listen up, staff--give me a good comment on J-Lo's dress.

So obviously the thing that stands out about that dress is, there's maze running from her left tibia up to her left titty. Many jokes come to mind: McDonald's placemats, Pac Man, Tom Cruise in Labyrinth, etc. Here are the comments you would get from Potsy and Sacklunch:

Potsy: that dress is stupid
Sacklunch: I have no comments on this outfit, but I would like to talk about the dress she wore to the Oscars in 2002, if you have the time.

So no more Thorkelsons. I'm splitting out and doing my own list. Here we go:

Best Live Performances

Okay, so the point of this website is for us to get out of our houses, away from our hectoring wives and sniveling children and needy dogs, and see live music. So in this area I feel like my choices are somewhat informed, as opposed to other categories, which as you'll see are mostly dominated by shit I first heard about 10 minutes ago. Best shows of 2008 were:

  • Bon Iver (Black Cat, 8-1-08). You could also file this under biggest surprise of the year. I thought these guys were pretty gay and didn't have high hopes for the show. One of the more ridiculous moments in local rock history was a post on craigslist that offered a free ticket to the show to whichever nadless guy or cat-loving woman wrote the best essay on "what moved you most about the album For Emma, Forever Ago." I'm kicking myself for not saving that because I can't find it now to properly mock it. Plus there was the irritating backstory about Justin Vernon and his depression and cabin, to the point where I started having flashbacks to the 1995 Jewel-living-in-her-car-in-Alaska-got-gangbanged-by-a-pack-of-renegade-Inuit hype. And yet, the show was excellent. Vernon bypassed the (predictable) spare, acoustic, folky route, and instead accentuated drums and bass. I swear it nearly sounded like ambient techno in parts. A cool move that made for some nice arrangements on songs that I was sick of hearing. Plus there was a stout gentleman in the audience next to us who came back from the bathroom with toiletpaper stuck to his show, which was fun.
  • The Hives (9:30, 3-8-08). You can't beat the showmanship. Made even better by the contrast with openers the Donnas, which is like the contrast between a nice day out at Kings Dominion, versus a few years in Belsen.
  • Holy Fuck (Black Cat, 3-19-08). March was a good month--in addition to Holy Fuck and the Hives, we also caught the Black Lips. This show featured the first time I'd seen someone use a 1930s stockticker as a musical instrument. It also featured our first acquaintance with local blind indie show guy Ahmed, who we've run into a few times since.
Best of the Rest: Kix/Z02 (Jaxx, 9-12-08), Blonde Redhead (9:30, 1-17-08), the Delta Spirit (9:30, 12-5-08).

Dept. of Of Course I Fucking Missed It: Sacklunch tells me Eagles of Death Metal (9:30, 11-20-08) was his top pick of the year and I have no reason to doubt him.

Biggest Letdowns: I had high hopes for both Super Furry Animals as well as Elbow. The SFA show lacked the freneticism, as well as cool video backdrop and wookie outfits, that I had witnessed at previous shows. Elbow were good, but it's the sort of music that Liam Neeson's character in Love, Actually would sit at home and listen to--oh, me wife's gone an died on me, let me pour a glass of sherry and listen to this soothing, soulful adult contemporary, to keep me from toppin' myself, and leavin' me dear moppet son an orphan. Keep clear.

Have you heard Seldom Scene Kid? I can burn it for you. Yer ma's nae feckin' coming back, though, so wipe that grin off yer face.

Best Albums

I'm on shaky ground here because I don't buy a lot of albums. Exhibit A: in January I heard two new awesome songs from Helio Sequence ("Keep Your Eyes Ahead" and "Can't Say No"). I buy album. I listen to album. Two cool songs, and a bunch of filler. I want to take the CD and throw it at the Helio Sequence like I'm Odd Job and the CD cuts off their heads. I'd have been better off just downloading the songs and leaving it at that, and that's what I usually do. Fuck your concept albums and rock operas, just give me the good stuff.

Nevertheless, here are a couple of good ones from 2008.

  • Santogold, Santogold. Four knockout tracks on here: "L.E.S. Artistes," "Lights Out," "Shove It," and "Creator."
  • Modern Guilt, Beck. I'm not a Beck uber-fan but the man's Thetans were firing on full blast this time around. Wait, Thetans are bad, right? Whatever. "Gamma Ray," "Profanity Prayers," "Chemtrails," "Modern Guilt" and "Profanity Prayers" are all first rate.
Best of the Rest: Songs in A&E, Spiritualized; In Rainbows, Radiohead

Best Songs

Lots of good shit for the mixtapes this year. Here are my favorites:

  • "Ark"/"The Old Days," Dr. Dog
  • "No One Does It Like You," Department of Eagles
  • "L.E.S. Artistes," Santogold
  • "This Is Not a Test," She and Him. Very catchy Mamas & the Papas throwback. It would be interesting to see Zooey Deschanel gain 100 pounds as an homage to Mama Cass.
  • "The Arm," Islands. Apparently this album sucks. This is a good song. Just goes to show, don't buy albums.
  • "Pot Kettle Black," Tilly and the Wall
  • "Never Miss a Beat," Kaiser Chiefs. I love this one. Are we supposed to hate this band? I only know what I'm told. Just let me know because otherwise I'll form my own opinion.
  • "Oh Man!" Sybris
  • "Language City," Wolf Parade
  • "Anything 'Cept The Truth"/"Wannabe in LA," Eagles of Death Metal. EODM will pummel your sack like a boxer working a speedbag. It's the UCLA grad student meth.
  • "Being Here," The Stills
  • "Fernando," Jenny Lewis. I really used to hate her, based soley on "Portions for Foxes," which is a terrible song. But this one's good, and "Acid Tongue" and "Next Messiah" are catchy as well.
  • "A Children's Crusade on Acid," Margot and the Nuclear So and So's
  • "Rigor Mortis," Wussy. Not entirely sure if this is 2008 but fuck it, it's a great song. An excellent in-car singalong moment when Lisa Walker belts out "here's a cure for rigor mortis/here's a place that you call home":

American Culture: Cheers & Jeers

I wanted to add a category where I could just pass judgment on everyone and everything under the sun without someone saying, how is this music related? Fuck you. And surprise, surprise--I found more things to complain about in 2008 than to laud.

First, the good.
Cheers to Homer Simpson for all his recent charity work!
  • New black people on Curb Your Enthusiasm. I never thought they could top Krazy Eyez Killa, or Wanda. But when God closes a door, he also opens a window, and Leon Black entered our world through that open window. Basically CYE is funniest when Larry interacts with Afro Americans and inadvertently says or does something racist. Not since Three's Company has any show so adeptly used the misunderstanding.
Umm, yeah. That's about it. Now on to the jeers!

Jeers to this rusty tailgate
  • Neo-Hippyism. Fleet Foxes, Blizten Trapper, Band of Horses...when's it ever gonna stop? Shave your beards and cut your hair.
  • Al Davis. You're insane. I wouldn't wish death on anyone but you're fucking testing me, man.
  • The Demise of the Thorkelsons. Peter Tork's publicist is gonna be pissed. Sack and Potsy, let this sin be upon you and your children.
  • FAIL/"Really?" The Jerk Store called, and they're running out of catchphrases.
  • Los Campesinos. I wish you would die.
  • ScarJo/Jonas Brothers backlash. Scarlett's Tom Waits covers weren't any shittier than 90% of what I heard on the radio this year. Leave her and her beautiful sweater puppets alone, now. Also I saw about 20 minutes of "Camp Rock" while I was waiting at the dentist's office and it was sort of gripping. Can anyone tell me how it ended? Did an uptight counselor get short-sheeted? Was there a Jonas-led panty raid?
  • Dan Bejar's voice. Talk about a weak link. A.C. Newman's the guts of that band and you know it's true.
Okay, that's all I've got. Sound off in comments if you care that much but be advised that I will delete any comment that disagrees with even a scintilla of what I wrote. But other than that, have at it, chums.


JetAgeEric said...

Fuck you, fucking the concept albums and rock operas. I keep almost buying the Helio Sequence record based on a couple of great tracks; thanks for the cautionary tale. -E

Jimbromski said...

you're a naughty one
Saucy Jack

Saucy Jack
you're a haughty one

--"Saucy Jack", Spinal Tap

Anonymous said...

You are so wrong on the rock opera/concept album, Jimbromski. Exhibit #A: "Operation: Mindcrime" by Queensryche
Exhibit #2: "Kilroy Was Here" by Styx

"Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto"--it says it all there, man!!

JetAgeEric said...

Are you suggesting that a fleshed out "Saucy Jack" WOULDN'T kick ass?

And, Rick, using Queensryche to make the point that something sucks is too easy, rendering your point moot. If I were to say "Rock music is great" and you said, "Yeah, like that band Queensryche," the immediate implication is that ALL rock sucks, which, obviously, isn't the case. Just 'cause Queensryche makes crap records that tell stories doesn't mean everyone who makes a record that tells a story(the Who, the Kinks, the Hold Steady) has made a crap record. -E

Jimbromski said...

you're biased because you wrote one. yours was the best sort of rock opera, the 35 minute long kind.

just joking around, I like a good r-opera. I think this topic deserves its own post, I'll get something up soon on this and we'll throw it open to the world.

Anonymous said...

To me "rock opera" is an oxymoron. Concept album (related themes, characters, stories--examples: Zen Arcade, Astral Weeks) do not equal rock opera (bloated, pretentious, pompous semi-stories--examples: Tommy, Quadrophenia, Kilroy Was Here).

Eric, do you think your record is a rock opera, concept album, or something else entirely? Where does a record like OK Computer fit in to the whole concept album/rock opera thing?

Jumbo Slice said...

So much to comment on:

- You are correct in publically shaming Sack and Potsy for killing the Thorkelsons Awards.
- I know you don't follow albums much but you did the exact thing you cursed Sack for doing. In Rainbows was released in 2007, not this year.
- I was shocked Bon Iver was your top show but you explained it well.
- Under "Dept. of Of Course I Fucking Missed It:" you should add Frightened Rabbit. They're my band of the year.
- Love the Cheers and Jeers section. For your Xmas present, I'm praying Al Davis has a massive heart attack. You're welcome.

JetAgeEric said...

Rick, I can't agree to the terms of the debate, because a) I think you've got it backwards and b) Quadrophenia is the greatest record ever made. A rock opera, to me, is any record that tells a story. Opera's tell stories about charaters via songs. If you're telling a story via songs, it's agoddamn rock opera. If it's SEMI-stories THEN maybe it's a concept album (not to be confused with nonsensical stories; still rock opera). I guess if the story is VAGUE enough, it's a concept album, but calling Quadrophenia a concept album is selling it short; it's pretty concrete in a lot of ways. It's a, uh, short story album?

Arthur by the Kinks was intended (I think) to accompany a script, so that's a tough one.

Astral Weeks has been called a song cycle, and since I don't know what that means, and Van doesn't know what the songs on Astral Weeks are about, I guess I'll have to go with that.

The Moody Blues and Pink Floyd made concept albums. ("This record is about space travel." "This record is about going nuts.")

I think "OK Computer" is just a record by a miserable bastard. :)

I tried to cover my ass on our record by pretending it was an "orginial cast recording." I did toy with the idea of adding a few snippets of dialog to suggest there was an actual scipt, which would make it a musical. However, I never actually wrote a script, so you can call bullshit.

I'm genuinely not offended by anybody who (wrongly)thinks such ideas are stupid; all my indignant comments were made with tongue in cheek.

Thoughts? -E

Anonymous said...

Very excited to see the mention of The Fashion Police here! Would love more of that.

I like rock operas...which is bad news for those of you who also like rock operas. I have notoriously poor musical taste, as has been documented here.