Two Lists

Complaining about somebody else's "greatest" list is like complaining about rain on a Saturday or the price of beer at a sporting event/concert/New York bar. It's boring, commonplace, and expected. So I decided to write a whole piece about it!

Here is Rolling Stone Magazine's 50 Greatest Live Acts Right Now. It's moderately horrifying:

50. Fiona Apple

49. Taylor Swift

48. Green Day

47. Sigur Ros

46. Tool

45. Lady Gaga

44. Janelle Monae

43. Mumford and Sons

42. Skrillex

41. Tame Impala

40. Eric Church

39. Rush

38. Queens of the Stone Age

37. The National

36. Florence and the Machine

35. Bruno Mars

34. Foo Fighters

33. Beyonce

32. Sleigh Bells

31. David Byrne

30. Madonna

29. Muse

28. Patti Smith

27. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

26. Leonard Cohen

25. Phish

24. Dave Matthews Band

23. Pearl Jam

22. Tom Waits

21. Red Hot Chili Peppers

20. Kanye West

19. The Roots

18. Metallica

17. Nine Inch Nails

16. Alabama Shakes

15. Paul McCartney

14. The Black Keys

13. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

12. Wilco

11. U2

10. My Morning Jacket

09. Rage Against the Machine

08. Jack White

07. Radiohead

06. Jay Z

05. Neil Young

04. Arcade Fire

03. The Rolling Stones

02. Prince

01. Bruce Springsteen


Allow me to begin with a cut-and-pasted comment from the comments section of another music blog that posted this list (since we all know the comments section IS the internet): 

"Tool at 46? This is why I wouldn't even use Rolling Stone as toilet paper."

I believe there should be a few more important reasons one wouldn't use glossy magazine paper to clean one's anoose, but I concur, comment section commentor guy, Tool at 46 is yet another valid reason. 

Further perusal of the comments section reveals another sticking point for most readers of this list: Sigur Ros at 47. I typically think most human inhabitants of Earth are fully awash in dumbassity, so it disturbs me (or refreshes me if I've been drinking coffee) to find such common ground with the trolls of the www.

But don't worry, don't worry, I'm not gonna do what everyone thinks I'm gonna do, which is try to add in my Indie/local/obscure live band that's better than all these "mainstreamers." I'm not even going to re-order the list.

I'll simply point out the objective mistakes.

I'll start with the bands that are way too high (low numbers) on this list: 

6. rap usually sucks.  A lot of what most people love about rap happens in the studio, not on the stage. #6 is simply too high.

16. Alabama Shakes...Brittany Howard of A.S. was one of the voters.

32. Sleigh, just no. 

36. Florence and the Machine...I hate this band.. Objectively.

37. The National...The National is bad Morrissey. Morrissey is bad The Smiths. The Smiths are bad.

Now, bands that are too low (high numbers): 

47. Sigur Ros...if you've seen them, you know they're top 10. 

46. Tool...46. Really? 46. There are 46 and 2 reasons this is slap-worthy. 

43. Mumford & Sons...they're not my fav band, but they go hard (as the kids say). 

39. Rush...even if they turned off all the lights and just played their songs, the musicianship alone warrants higher than #39. 

34. Foo Fighters...not terribly far off, but Grohl is one of the last true rockstar front men.  He goes hard (as the kids say).

29. Muse...huge show, huge vocals, huge guitar, huge sell out huge arenas, hugely. 

25. Phish...can millions of white people ever be wrong? I haven't read a history book in a while.

24. Dave Matthews fun as it is for hipsters to hate DMB, their shows are on a level most bands will never reach. 

Those are the most glaring problems. The top 10 could be worse. They got some of it right, but when they were off, they were way off


I think I mentioned two lists. Well, I'm tired of lists for now, so here's Cliff's notes on the other list. 

-It is Rolling Stone Magazine's 10 Greatest Stoner Movies of All Time. 

-The Big Lebowski is #1

-They are correct (allegedly). 









Side-Projects, Supergroups, and Solo Albums



And now, the worst offender... 

The Insane Clown Posse, Jimmy Page and The Edge, Conan O'Brien, Alicia Keys, The Raconteurs (I always think of the word “bacon” to help me spell that band name. It works), Stephen Colbert, The Rolling Stones, Rome, Wanda Jackson(?), The Dead Weather, Loretta Lynn. Have you figured it out yet? 


Ok, one more: The White Stripes. 


Yep, this is a partial list (not including the all CAPS bands at the very top) of the (too) many Jack White collaborations/projects. Why the “(too),” you might ask… 

Because most of it sucks. 

And The White Stripes are awesome. 

Yeah, The Raconteurs had a few songs, and The Dead Weather can be pretty sweet at times, I suppose. But did we need them as much as we needed more White Stripes albums? Ooh, ooh, I'll take this one…NO. 

The fact (ahem, opinion) is, this sort of watering down of goodness, or perhaps greatness, happens all the time. And it's not new. And I will now armchair psychoanalyze it. It is an ego-based response to a hyper-confident state created by the massive success of an awesome original band. Couple that response with the fact that we're already dealing with a group of people (lead singers) who inherently have some of the most severe cases of the “look-at-me's” (sic) (I just sic'd myself) (sic) known to exist in the natural world, and the result is a bunch of shit music that delays the albums we all really want. 

Don't agree with me? You just LOVE all these side projects and supergroups? 

Fine. Here's a little quiz. 

If you answer “B” to any of the following questions, please cease reading the remainder of this piece. 

And probably this website. 

And also, anything else. 

Also, stop talking. 

To anyone. 

Because you're an idiot. 

Nobody likes you. 


Ok that was a little strong. 

I think I mentioned a quiz. 

Question 1: Would you have rather:  

• Woken up on 2/19/13 and purchased a new Tool album, or 

• Downloaded Puscifer, Donkey Punch the Night, only to discover it's a few originals, a few remixes of those originals, and a pretty faithful (which made it weird) rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody? 


Question 2: Is it better to: 

• Have My Morning Jacket shred your face like parmesan cheese into a pasta bowl of your most intense emotions during a live performance of “Dondante,” or 

• Discuss the virtues of hemp as a utilitarian fabric at a Monsters of Folk concert with a girl who hasn't bathed or shaved since her Occupy-Whatever-Is-Chic-To-Hate tent blew away 3 weeks ago? 


Question 3: What's badasser: 

• NIN, or 

• Trent Reznor and his wife pushing buttons on a laptop making ambient music under the moniker How To Destroy Angels? 


Question 4: Is one of the best and most creative bands ever assembled on our little blue-green planet named: 

• Radiohead, or 

• Atoms for Peace? 


OK, here are some straightforward and easy ones. 


Would you rather have another album from: 

• Stone Temple Pilots, or 

• Velvet Revolver? 


• Primus, or 

• Oysterhead? 


• Phish, or 

• Oysterhead? 


• Jane's Addiction, or 

• Porno for Pyros? 


Again, all “B” answerers, go suck a kite. Your soul might be broken. For the rest of us, how should we process this aggravating little situation? Unfortunately, I don't think it matters. It's going to happen, and I understand why. 

Super successful and talented lead singers meet super successful and talented musicians in other bands. They think: “I am successful. People love me. Whatever I do, people freak out and love because I'm me. You are successful. People love you. Whatever you do, people freak out and love because you're you. I'm me. You're you. People can only love whatever we might possibly do together.” 

And that thinking is approximately 30% correct. We do have love for these singers and musicians. And we do LIKE some of the side projects. We buy them, we listen. But what we really LOVE is the original band. We want that to be the focus. We are selfish. We consume. We judge. And…we stick with these people as they meander and merge and form and split and complain and soar, inspire, save, and irritate. 

But we want the original band. The original band is the reason you have the opportunity to put your electro-prog-polka-folk-horrorcore rap album out and have people actually buy it, Mr. Lead Singer man. We understand that you are a creative force. We know that no chef wants to create all their dishes from the same 4 ingredients. But we also know that if a chef wants to branch out and prepare lemur neck sandwiches, that process doesn't necessarily have to slow down the process of making the original dishes his/her patrons have come to love. But your collaboration with the amputee diabetic one-eyed children's choir of eastern Burundi is slowing down your creative output with the original band. 

And that's the real gripe here, isn't it? We don't begrudge these lead singers their overflowing talent or their desire to spread their creative wings. We don't have any problem with the solo albums, the supergroups, the collaborations, or the side projects they loathe calling side projects. We just see everything that isn't the original band as added water. As corn syrup. As a school zone. We understand its purpose, and we embrace its existence as part of the deal. We're just us . The consumers. The passive masses who don't have your talents. If we could make what you make, we would. And then people would write opinion pieces on how we should disseminate our creative products. 

But we can't make what you make. 

So let's make a deal, shall we? We, the consumers, the customers, the end-users, will continue to buy (stream) your music. We will buy concert tickets. We will buy t-shirts and hats and posters and coffee mugs, and wristbands and all the other trinkets on which you slap your logo. Hell, we'll even support your not-side project, just not at the price of a market saturated with mediocre off-shoots and a great album thrown in there every 4 years. 

Your talents have made you rich. They have provided you with a storybook life, should you choose to embrace it, but we the consumer are a large part of that equation. We voluntarily choose to support you, not out of altruism or some greater sense of supporting the arts for cultural advancement. It's selfish, like most things. The music enhances our lives. This relationship we have is fully symbiotic. It is good. But it could be great, and it's not up to us. 

So please, if you're a part of a highly successful and widely loved band (especially if you're the lead singer), and you find yourself in a recording studio with a session drummer, a choir, and a buddy of yours who happens to play a mean harmonica, do this: glance at a calendar and see how long it's been since your band, you know, the ORIGINAL BAND has done something great. If it has been greater than 3 years, do us all a huge favor, exit the studio you're in, find your band, and fling those talents of yours onto the canvas we all wish to see. 

Maynard, Danny, Adam, and Justin…it's been 7 years. I know you read this.


Top Albums, 2012

Confession: I was moderately close-minded on new music in 2012. 

It wasn't my fault. 

I blame the internet? I don't know what's occurring, but I'm starting to develop a theory that hints at an explanation as to why 70% of the new music I was exposed to last year sounded 70% the same. It has to do with the internet as a non-organic, non-spiritual, and soul-free collective consciousness that fosters some "relationships," but clouds, stifles, and standardizes most other creative pursuits. But that is probably a discussion for another day. This is going to be about music, and more specifically, 2012 music. According to me.

2012 was a shit year for music. This is a consensus I have reached with many of my musically informed friends. There have been a few who tried to resist this theory at first, but after requiring these wishful-rememberers to list their top albums of the year, they quickly relented.

It was by no means a lost year, there were some flashes of hope, but this low-tempo, electro retro '80s thing is getting to be a bit much. I get it, guitar-bass-drums music is so passe. So is talent and originality apparently. Why am I hearing Bill Walton's voice as I type this? I think I'm crotchety. 

So back to my original statement about my close-mindedness. I probably took a hard stance sometime around July or August on the state of music that could have potentially robbed me of a certain degree of musical enlightenment. But I doubt it. In 2012, my macro approach was most likely the correct path.

Nonetheless, a musical year unexamined is a musical year not worth...listening? Or something. So here we go... 

In lieu of the requisite Top 10 list, I decided to do a series of Top 5 lists in different categories. This is partially because I don't think I actually bought 10 albums this year (lame by me), and partially because as I forged the original list, I realized limiting my description of 2012 albums to "best" or "top" was handicapping my discontentment too much. 

Here's my recap:

Top 5 Albums 2012

1. Grizzly Bear – Shields 

2. Alt-J – An Awesome Wave 

3. Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods 

4. Muse – The 2nd Law 

5. Yeasayer – Fragrant World 

Top 5 Disappointments 2012

1. The Shins – Port of Morrow 

2. Jack White - Blunderbuss 

3. The Lumineers – The Lumineers 

4. The XX – Coexist 

5. Mumford and Sons – Babel 

Top 5 Spotify ruiners (the slept-on list)

1. Father John Misty – Fear Fun 

2. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel… 

3. Gary Clark, Jr. – Black and Blu 

4. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city 

5. Cat Power – Sun 

Top 5 Apathy list (Overrated & Misunderstood by me)

1. Japandroids – Celebration Rock 

2. Grimes – Visions 

3. Passion Pit – Gossamer 

4. Purity Ring - Shrines 

5. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes 

Ok, a few explanations, qualifications, justifications, and concessions... 

Top 5 Albums:

Grizzly Bear - Great album head to toe. This was highly anticipated by me, and much like Karl Malone and my actual mailman, it delivered. Fav songs: "Sleeping Ute", "Gun-Shy"

Alt-J - Only new band in my top 5. By far the best band of 2012 that I hadn't heard of before 2012. Fav songs: "Intro", "Bloodflood"

Silversun Pickups - If you like them, you'll like this. I like them. Fav song: "Gun-Shy Sunshine"

Muse - The first song, "Supremacy" makes you want to pull off one of your limbs, beat a stranger with it, pay his hospital bills, then buy him a tequila shot. And by "you," I probably just mean "me." Fav songs: "Supremacy", "The 2nd Law-Unsustainable"

Yeasayer - It makes little sense why I like this band. Art appreciation is full of inconsistencies, aberrations, and contradictions however, and thus, me + Yeasayer = happy. Fav songs: "Longevity", "Henrietta" 

Top 5 Disappointments:

The Shins - James Mercer fired most of The Shins. This album came out. Firing fail. This album is discovering tranny man dong where you though you'd not at all find tranny man dong. Shockingly disappointing. 

Jack White - I have a whole theory on frontmen watering themselves down, to be discussed at another time. 

The Lumineers - Other people ruined this one for me. Waaay over-hyped. And I can only go SO white on my music. This is just far too white. But not altogether bad. If expectation was a comet, and banjos were an asteroid, they collided (somewhere above Ireland I would guess), blocked out the sun for an extended period of time, and created a level of whiteness I don't know how to process. 

The XX - Do I even need to write this? Mr. Miyagi voice: "You. First album. Same-same." 

Mumford - See The XX 

Top 5 Spotify-Ruiners:

These five albums could easily wedge themselves into my top five, but I don't feel like I gave them a fair shake. Instead of just buying them like I would have a year or two ago, I streamed them in the background and suffering was the result, I'm sure. I'll probably end up buying most of these.

Top 5 Apathy list:

I tried. I've listened. Mostly on Sirius XMU. These bands grab me like a handcuffed T-Rex. I don't get it. 

So. That pretty much summarizes my intersection with music in 2012. I bet I have produced at least small amounts of anger due to omissions, opinions, and list order. Good. Refer to message board at the top of the page for comments.

Aloha Friday, friends...