December 2011

A Very Unauthoritative List of Favorite Records from 2011

Rankers gotta rank
Ugh, I know. I just did this whole ranty thing about how year-end best-of lists are mostly stupid, yet here I am talking about the music I thought was the best of 2011. I can't help myself. I love lists, reading and writing them, and the sincere ones are great. I can't help being suspicious of most big blogs and their nearly identical top albums lists, but I also can't help compiling my own selection of favorites. So I'll preface this one with a big fat disclaimer: I got nowhere close to listening to all of the good music released in 2011. I didn't even cover the majority of the buzz bands that everyone else seems to be talking about. Also, there will be no Bon Iver on this list, so if you're in that camp, you'll probably be disappointed. Sorry.
 
That being said, here are some dudes I think did amazing things with this year of music. I feel pretty good about a lot of the records that happened in 2011, and here are the ones, in no particular order, that give me the nicest feelings inside.

Four Historical Bands with Utterly Confounding Names

Band names that only sound cool now because we've grown used to them

 

There comes a point in a band's lifetime where they get so famous that their name enters into the popular lexicon and nobody thinks much about how weird it sounds anymore. Even the weirdest, silliest, or most obvious monikers take on a life of their own once the music has gained enough momentum. Rarely do we look at them for what they are past that point, but at one instance or another a decision must have been made to adopt a title and keep it for good. While most famous bands pick good, solid names--you can't really argue with the logic behind The Beatles or The Who--some must have sounded awfully bizarre in those first few years before they got big. These are the ones I'm really curious about. These are the ones whose naming discussions I'd give anything to sit in on.

Dude Rock Bands from the '90s

The continuation.

The other day I started a post about alternative dude rock from the ‘90s that aren’t really popular anymore. My three examples didn’t even begin to cover the scope of these were-cool bands. Here’s the continuation.

Alternative dude rock was the thing in the ‘90s. The guys in these bands usually had long, stringy hair and wore flannel in-and-outside Seattle, singing songs about lost love or broken hearts or drugs. The songs were usually epic ballads, sung with lyrical simplicity on top of angst-ridden chords. We loved it.

But where did these bands go? Even the biggest of them seemed to fall to the wayside as soon as 2000 came around. And that’s saying nothing about the imitators and the one-hit wonders. Let’s take a look at some of the ‘90s biggest bands, their hits and what happened to them in the fateful ‘00s:

'90s Bands that lost their fame at the dawning of the '00s

Where are they now?

Alternative dude rock was the thing in the ‘90s. The guys in these band usually had long, stringy hair and wore flannel in-and-outside Seattle, singing songs about lost love or broken hearts or drugs. The songs were always epic ballads, sung with lyrical simplicity on top of angst-ridden chords. We loved it.

But where did these bands go? Even the biggest of them seemed to fall to the wayside as soon as 2000 came around. And that’s saying nothing about the imitators and the one-hit wonders. Let’s take a look at some of the ‘90s biggest bands, their hits and what happened to them in the fateful ‘00s:

Omaha's Gus and Call

 

 

 

I saw a great show last night at Slowdown, Omaha’s hip entertainment venue and bar. As a part of the December concert series, local band Gus and Call played their first CD release show at the beginning of the month. Now it seems, as if backed by popular demand, the band will continue to return every Thursday throughout the rest of the month and play additional concerts. 

The Problem with Year-end Top Albums Lists

It isn't meaningful to rank 50 buzz records in arbitrary orders
As 2011 creeps to a close, we'll see increasingly frantic holiday shoppers struggle to fill their gift lists. We'll see dropping temperatures and shortening daylight hours and giddier kids. In the music world, we'll see every kind of writer, from high-profile self-described critics writing for magazines to the self-made, near-anonymous bloggers, penning their lists of top albums of the year.
 
It's started already. Readers get excited like kids waiting for Santa. They want to know which of their favorite records scored the list, want to feel justified where their tastes line up with the top journalists and outraged where they diverged. Music writers know this. They know how people read these lists. I get the sneaking suspicion they construct them with subtly manipulative tactics in mind. It's their job to get people reading and talking, after all, not necessarily to evaluate the objectively best music released throughout the year. So some inclusions will be predictable, some will be out of left field. Some good records will be left off just so people can get upset about their omission. Largely, it's a fiasco. Largely, it's more akin to a VH1 countdown than actual music journalism.