April 15, 2007

I imagine most of the people reading this have read Ian Cohen’s rarely updated Sexy Results blog at one time or another. And if you’re like me, you probably miss those halcyon days when Ian wasn’t taking over Hollywood and instead was focused on the infinitely less lucrative, but infinitely more valuable task of providing the Internet with a trenchant analysis of everything sports, hip-hop and indie rock related. But be forlorn no longer, as I’m proud to present the first in a hopefully continuing series of posts that Ian will be dropping here at the Passion.

Back when your boy thought blogging had a future, I used to bitch about how 2005 just couldn’t compete with 2004 in terms of albums. Granted, it wasn’t really a fair fight. To a certain extent, I evaluate music in terms of whether I have good memories of being drunk to it. For example, I’ll always love “Is This It?” because it was the great unifier for my friends before we used to go out and get stinko at Coupe’s. If an album can delineate a specific phase in my life, it’s probably a winner to me. You see, both Weiss and I think that Annuals are the result of a bizarre chemistry experiment involving Broken Social Scene and Rusted Root, but I bet he wasn’t in the process of spending a couple of weeks waiting for his job to start while living in the same apartment as a gay Republican for a month who would leave him alone while he drank Cisco and watched college football.

2004 was a year where I was susceptible to great music because it had more distinct phases than any year I can remember. There was the ill-considered relationship periods, my first series of law school finals, a summer where in order to get Georgia residency, teaching the LSAT in Athens was an acceptable job, my first UGA football season with a solidified set of friends and the baseball playoffs. I don’t mention that because I’m a Red Sox fan, but I have to admit that when they were winning the World Series, there was this strange feeling of possibility in the air. And then, bam- I meet Megan and she sticks with it despite the fact that my DipSet fandom had arguably reached its zenith.

Be Sure You Spell It Cam’ron not Cameron….This is permanent, right?

Whatever mood you were in, 2004 had a classic for it. “The College Dropout,” “The Pretty Toney Album,” “Sung Tongs,” “Faded Seaside Glamour” (start liking the Delays…really), “A Grand Don’t Come For Free,” “Madvillainy,” “Ta Det Lungt,” “Purple Haze,” motherfucking “Funeral,” and probably a bunch I forgot. Even Xiu Xiu made a decent album that year. Of course, Stylus ended up picking “Blueberry Boat” as its #1, but I still earmark eighty minutes every six months or so to figure out if it’s still shit. 2005 suffered because when I make my year end list, I think like the BCS: there can be a bunch of winners, but I want a clear-cut champ.

I ended up picking “Illinois” in my first contribution to Stylus, mostly because it felt like more of an event than its competitors, and moreover, I attributed it to a very specific time in my life (working in Atlanta for a non-profit law organization). But really, I can’t say for certain whether I think it’s truly better than “Z,” “Silent Alarm,” or “Twin Cinema.” At least since 1999, it was the first time where I didn’t have a stone cold Album of the Year.

However, I’m coming around to the fact that I really undersold 2005, and it’s for a couple of reasons. The first is a fact of life in the music industry: the typical two-year album cycle. At least during the beginning of the year, I was worried about my best of list being a complete duplicate of 2005 because all the MVPs of that year were coming back to kick some ass. The great albums of January and February were from guys like LCD Soundsystem, Bloc Party, Low, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Of Montreal and what fun was that?

Slow and Low, That is the Tempo

Also, if I were to turn in my top 20 again, I could come out with 20 albums that didn’t even make the list the first time around. Simply put, I wasn’t at Stylus and I didn’t have free access to a lot of shit like The Clientele, The National, Ladytron, etc. What I’m getting at goes to the core of the reader/music critic relationship. Do you wonder why people (myself included) get in a lather when Pitchfork tries to shove some shit band like I’m From Barcelona down our throat or Rob Sheffield (the Bill Simmons of music criticism) gives a four-star review to some band just because it allows him to make stupid jokes about never-weres from decades ago? All the blog space wasted on criticizing critics may seem like a colossal waste of time, but the anger is real. I don’t want to sound pompous, but the listening public has to trust the music critic because the music critic is often the filter which determines what discerning listeners are probably going to seek out. I think you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think that there are people out there who take their opinions from Pitchfork completely unfiltered. That’s how it works, right- you find a site whose opinions align with your own and you trust them to be honest. They were right about Broken Social Scene, The Wrens, M83, Madvillain, etc. so this Rich Boy album clearly has to be good if they gave it a 7.5, right? It’s not just a white guy using a producer as a way out of the whole nasty discussion about why he seems to only like rap that reinforces ugly black stereotypes, right?

This is where you might say, “oh, you shouldn’t listen to critics anyway, they dissed Led Zeppelin” or that you should go out and find your own favorite bands, but how’s that going to happen? The fucking radio? As a listener, one hyped album probably blocked out three cursory listens of other albums. And that’s not even taking into account the possibility of buying music. Like, I couldn’t give “The Witching Hour” a chance when I had to dedicate a couple of listens to make sure “Illinois” really was that good, and on my salary at that point, taking a chance on Ladytron certain didn’t warrant spending $15.

Really, that’s the problem- if there’s too much music for even the music critic to capably handle, no one else even stands a chance, so that’s why there has to be trust. Even now, I have to trust other critics because of time limitations. For example, I’m reviewing Sky Blue Sky and I’m not really sure how much I like it. To put it another way, I’m dedicating a decent deal of time to an album for reasons other than enjoyment, so I certainly don’t have the time to check out the new Blonde Redhead album…but, oh- we gave it an A? Maybe I should…oh, this is actually really damn good. Thank you, Liz Colville.


Blonde Redhead: They Have Neither Blondes Nor Redheads, Discuss

So really, 2005 was the kind of year that wasn’t built on big-hype events like 2004 or 2006. It was the kind of year that lent itself to discovery of great albums through year-end lists. Like, giving an album a B+ or 8.3 or whatever might not seem like a ringing endorsement in June, but it if comes in at the teens on the year-end list…Fittingly, 2007 feels a lot like 2005 in both senses. Plenty of home runs, but no grand slams yet. That Twilight Sad album that copped a B+? Don’t be surprised if it somehow ends up in our top ten. And while I’m sure you read Passion of the Weiss because you think it’s funny and his opinions are pretty much always on point, he simply doesn’t have the time to dedicate himself to giving you the lowdown on every album that comes down the pike. That’s where I come in.

First off, I’m a guest here because I didn’t want to get your hopes up for regular posting on Sexy Results! Secondly, Weiss will allow this because I don’t see too much that I’m going to say that will contradict other opinions of his. I’ll update every so often, so you’ve got that to look forward to.

MP3: Blonde Redhead-“23”

MP3: Rakim-“Guess Who’s Back”

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