Category Archives: records

This is what we talk about when we talk about “Best Of.”

I posted this on OTD yesterday:

We were gonna post a Journey video but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it.

Oh, listmania, you’re like Paris Hilton holding a plate of Oreos: contradictory, slightly off-putting, and yet fascinatingly addictive. Just when we think we’re listed out, we find ourselves reading another one, and nodding enthusiastically or wondering why anyone thinks the new Band of Horses album is Top 10-worthy. The best list-related reading of the week is undoubtedly Slate’s ongoing documentation of a musical conversation between Robert Christgau, Jody Rosen, and Ann Powers. If you’ve got an hour, it’s worth reading through, but if not, here’s our favorite part: On Sunday Rosen praised Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” as the song of the year, thanks to boosts from The Sopranos and drunken karaoke-ing college kids across the US (Rosen notes that “Don’t Stop Believin’” wasn’t critically acclaimed in 1981, leading him to deduce “There’s a “Don’t Stop Believin'” of 2007 out there somewhere; it’s probably some Nickelback song. Or maybe it’s Mims”). Powers agreed (“Journey is so relevant now”), and just our heads began to spin Christgau verbally smacked some sense into everyone, via his post on Monday: “Journey sucks. They sucked in 1981, they’ll suck in 2033, and they suck now. Who gives a fuck what Tony Soprano thinks?” Xgau, we love you, even though we have no idea how Soulja Boy’s Souljaboytellumdotcom ended up on your Top 30 albums of ‘07 list.

List-related blog item #2: Flipping through our roommate’s copy of Blender recently and we spotted Animal Collective’s Strawberry Jam at number 90 of the mag’s list of the 100 Greatest Indie-Rock albums Ever. “Way to go AC!” we thought. We might’ve picked Feels instead, but whatevs. Then we checked out Blender’s Best 25 Albums of 2007 and, amazingly, Animal Collective is not on there. Like, at all. WTF? Is Strawberry Jam so great and influential that we’re supposed to just feel it’s presence on there? Or is this a reality check that these lists – all of them, not just Blender’s – are kinda BS because (duh) it’s all a matter of (sometimes dissenting, even at the same publication) opinion. We’re not pointing fingers here – we just put the finishing touches on our best album lists, look for ‘em on the Internets soonish – but maybe Slate’s got the right idea in turning listmania into a friendly debate about musical happenings within the past year, rather than a set-in-stone, these are the best albums period, kind of thing. Or maybe that’s what Idolator’s comment section is for.

So now, my own best of list, which is in no way set in stone – in fact, I spent weeks debating it, and am still not positive about my choices. But, deadlines demanded I make a decision – you can also find the list, along with other Phoenix-contributor Top 10’s, here.

A few stipulations: 1) These are not in any order, 2) I’m counting Peter Bjorn and John’s Writer’s Block as 2006, even though Rolling Stone doesn’t think so, and 3) I would’ve put Grizzly Bear’s Friend EP, which I simply adore, on the list in a heartbeat if EPs were allowed.


M.I.A. – Kala
Deerhoof – Friend Opportunity
Radiohead – In Rainbows
Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals
Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer?
Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends
The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes A re the Dark Horse
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha

It’s a bird, etc.

Photo by prawnpie from SALT graffiti on Flickr.
On the west coast for a few days, so posts may be less frequent – in the meantime, read about the incredible shrinking album cover.

Happy backwards day.

Goldenstash flick by bluesocks78.

According to today’s papers, the music industry is moving backwards. First, the good news: This guy in Nashville is on a personal mission to keep vinyl alive, and to be “the last vinyl plant standing, no matter what.” Sweet news for someone who recently acquired a record player (read: stole from my parents’ house, along with most of their record collection. Minus the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack – eek). Says another Nashville-based, determined vinyl savior: “You hear people use adjectives like ‘warmer’ and ‘more round.’ And there are other things beside sound quality. People know what the song titles are. It’s not like, ‘I like track 5.’ You put the needle on and let it play through — not jump around. You have more of an intimate relationship with the music.” Word.

Over in greedy major label-land, the scheming music execs and has-been artists (Wang Chung, I may or may not be talking about you) have joined forces for their latest scam: re-record old songs and resell them! But wait, wasn’t Nickelback already doing that? Zing! Says one of the desperate-for-attention artists: “To re-record our back catalog is a way of empowering ourselves.” The euphemistic blathering continues – even Prince is joining the club. “Prince, for example, has re-recorded significant portions of his catalog that — thanks partly to technological advances — may rival the original versions, according to one person close to him.” (Note: The “person close to him” is definitely Prince himself.-Ed.)

There’s no denying the long, genre-spanning list of excellent re-recordings out there – jazz music as a whole depends partially on reworkings of its evergreen standards. But usually the new version is enjoyable because the old one was. “You’re Beautiful,” for example, will never be a good song, no matter how many times James Blunt re-records it Or, hell, even if Thom Yorke, Jeff Tweedy and Ted Leo teamed up to cover it, it still wouldn’t be good. That would be amazing though.

However, re: using pop music in commercials, a new trend in the world of independent music as well – see Of Montreal’s Outback Steakhouse commercial, and was that a New Pornographers song I heard on another commercial recently? – I half-heartedly support it. Sure, it makes me feel slightly sick to hear Led Zeppelin classics accompany ads for environmentally unfriendly car companies, but what about the smaller bands? I recently chatted with some friends in a local band about this, and the general consensus was that they’d happily sell their tunes for commercial purposes – if only to make enough money to quit their day jobs and finally record that second album, not to mention spread their sound across living rooms nationwide.

But I’m still not buying anything marginally related to Wang Chung.

In other, unrelated news, VH1 Classic, aka the best TV station EVER is now replaying Pop-Up Videos, in addition to the enthrallingly awesome Classic Albums series. Let the learning begin – did you know that Jimmy Page played guitar on the original 1964 version of “The Crying Game,” or that Tracy Chapman’s high school classmates said that she was destined to marry her guitar?

Final note: Apparently David Day caught me at the Klaxons show.