Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The AV Club's 50 Best Albums of the Decade Are All Wrong: Introduction & Albums #50 - #31

Intro & The AV Club's #50 - #31The AV Club's #30-#11
The AV Club's Top 10 & AfterwordAlan Greenspan Presents Our Top 10


Few best-of lists that are not your own ever seem any good. Even if you cheer the inclusion of a few favorites and respect the probity of choices you wouldn't make, you still grit your teeth through the rest to keep from saying, "How the fuck could they pick that?" The AV Club's list of 50 albums deemed the "Best Music of the Decade" is no different, but its poorness seems as much institutional as it is personal.

The AV Club garnered mainstream attention as a semi-funny look at pop culture inside a funny newspaper. The name was self-aware, paying homage to the dorkiness of being a cinephile/audiophile or book wonk in high school. Even though it's still stuffed inside a funny paper, the AV Club is its own beast now. As well it should be, because continued name-association with a satirical paper would point up The Onion media group's commercial self-interest in not making fun of the AV Club almost constantly.

Its updates serve up enough deadly serious nerdbites for anyone to have a field day, with feints at comedy mainly coming as either token gestures or the stubborn persistency of staffers who cannot be fired. The AV Club now effects something between Gawker Media and Pitchfork. It's a self-aware machine that wants to have its fawning pop favorites and its twee enthusiasms — then eat them too, and have you clap your hands by your head in wonderment that they so deftly manage to avoid taking sides.

Nothing exemplifies this quite like "The Hater," a regular pop-culture column about hating on pop-culture figures and pop-culture coverage. It burrows into its meta-commentariat niche without any sense of understanding that it rips on gossip mongering and starfucking while employing the same lusty pageload-humping enthusiasm of a Gawker site without the pithiness. Gawker at least avoids pretensions to innocence, but the AV Club adds a few diffident sentences in the hopes of making you complicit in being self-consciously gossipy. This false modesty is standard procedure for their newswire links, which cut-and-paste press releases and try to dignify them with extra sentences, like there's a paragraph-to-link ratio that masks trading in the sort of celebutainment trash you'll ostentatiously deride as soon as it can fill column inches and Search Engine Optimization at the same time.

On the "aching sincerity" side of the pop-culture fence, nowhere is the lurch toward full-on mimicry more apparent than the AV Club music reviews, which initially tried to keep up a tongue-in-cheek tone as a means of creating a distance from the wonky DIY indie twerpiness of something like Pitchfork and the establishment bloviating of Rolling Stone. The result of years of this is a hybridized format just as entrenched as both, one that invokes indy buzzwords while also trying to sardonically eyeroll at them with establishment gravitas (and vice-versa), all within the same piece. "Oh, there go those kids with 'shredding distorted chords' followed by 'plangent chords' again. If only they knew neither was real rock, which is what you'll find from this new side project by... you guessed it... Jack White, who we just spoke to here [LINK PLEASE CLICK]."

The AV Club periodically makes a hobbled attempt to obfuscate sounding like everyone else by declaring their determination to do what everyone else does — while questioning its validity. How subversive. Hence the frequent gag of their [time period]-in-review pieces that poke fun at the silliness of trying to encapsulate a span of time with randomly selected pop-culture artifacts, then attempt to do the same. Why? Because no one is going to click on the same essay about why the AV Club won't publish lists, but people will click lists a shitload of times to argue about who or what is on them.

As said, this year the AV Club published a decade-in-review music piece without even bothering with a bit of frontloaded irony about it before plunging into the same thing they used try harder to be ironic about. They're now locked into a recursive loop of pop-cultural fawning and self-aware meta-commentary about their fawning that tries to sabotage it with a wryness that's hopefully just enough to seem exculpatory. Only they keep missing the mark, a fact almost impossible to hide in the blurb-length format of pop-culture lists, where even reading the piece while brutally shitfaced makes it painfully clear that it's the infection toying with the doctors and not the other way round.

Naturally, the AV Club's list of Best Music of the Decade sucks. What's interesting, though, is that it sucks completely. There are 50 entries on it, and every single band named, review written and posture taken is incorrect — comprehensively incorrect, obnoxiously incorrect... incorrect in the sort of way that hurts small kids and gives you brain damage if you read it in an unventilated room. Reading it sincerely twice makes the reader contract Nazi AIDS. And ass cancer. As a matter of fact, this list basically turns you into Glenn Beck.

Here, then, is the AV Club's list of the "Best Music of the Decade," with the lengthy paragraph explanations adjusted to correct for the AV Club's suck, a particularly trying endeavor, because of course every single part of it is wrong. We hope this list will be more immediately helpful for those looking to make holiday iTunes purchases for teenaged relatives who are ugly and like stupid bullshit. Please note that the photos to the left of every entry are hyperlinked to Youtubes featuring relevant songs from the albums in question.


50. Broken Social Scene, You Forgot It In People (2002)
Do you like Canada? Do you like it when people exhale? Then you have got a gem on your hands. It combines everything you like about Canada outside of hockey, pro-wrestlers, comics, Rush and Shatner with everything you like about rock music outside of awesome lyrics, cool singing and really kicking ass on guitar. What remains is a masterpiece of remainders, like if you went to a junkyard that was made out of really amazing broken shit.
Standout lyric:
Uhhhhhh, huhuhhh Television hmmm huhhh
Nahhh muhhh you commme uhuhhhuhhhh

Note: if you are not Canadian, and you know a Canadian, tell him you don't like Broken Social Scene and think it sucks. Given that his country has only exported like 20 cool things to the United States (individuals don't count), he will feel an obligation to like Broken Social Scene and increase that total to 21. (He probably follows curling for this same reason.) In this sense, Broken Social Scene could be construed as marginally a good band, because it will probably make Canadians with giant chips on their shoulders flip the fuck out, and it's always hilarious when Canadians do that because they keep interrupting themselves to apologize.

49. Drive-By Truckers, The Dirty South (2004)
Let's be honest, Drive-By Truckers is modern music for the type of Southern male who thinks Kid Rock is "too black," and Kings of Leon "too ragingly homosexual." That said, they're a serviceable replacement for Lynyrd Skynyrd, who have steadily lost fans in that demographic since releasing "The Ballad of Curtis Loew." Drive-By Truckers are yet another band that features a lineup of at least one extra person whose purpose you can only guess at — unless, in this case, the extra person is the second guitarist, whose job seems to be to try to play melodic rock solos that end up sounding like Sonny Sharrock's Space Ghost theme. Expect great things for them, especially since they'll probably never be rich enough to charter a plane.
Optional Delight: having a name that co-opts both urban gangs and southern people/southern vehicles.

48. Mclusky, Do Dallas (2002)
If you renamed this record "Songs About Fucking Yourself," you could pretty accurately convey the message of this record, as well as the style and sound the listener should expect to hear. Bonus points for choosing a band whose name sounds like a completely forgettable 1970s detective show that starred someone who went on to knife an ex-girlfriend in the mid-2000s. Mclusky aired Saturdays on ABC the week after Columbo and the week before MacMillan and Wife. Mclusky suspects someone planned this. This album didn't "drop" by accident: someone murdered music on purpose.

47. Girl Talk, Night Ripper (2006)
If you ever wanted to hear 150 songs in 30 minutes, have we found the record for you. Bonus! Marvel as your music-nerd friends (and even music-nerd strangers who just happened to hear what you were listening to) try to name them all and fail! Not that they won't congratulate themselves for the ones they do know, though. Absolutely THE album to listen to when Paul's Boutique isn't cred enough and Daft Punk just doesn't seem liberated enough for the girl in the room to give you a handjob. Have you ever wondered what the AIDS quilt would look like filtered through the musical taste of hipster nerd in his late 20's? NOW YOU CAN FIND OUT!

46. Midlake, The Trials Of Van Occupanther (2006)
Picture this title written on the CD-load tray of a giant sound system as a short fat kid leans on it with all his might trying to shove a limited-edition vinyl pressing into the player. (Note: the preceding sentence will now encompass the total Midlake knowledge of 99% of the people reading this article.)

45. The Thermals, The Body, The Blood, The Machine (2006)
A band with a two-word name comprised of an article and a pluralized noun? From Portland, Oregon??? Cut a hole in your pocket and touch yourself through your pants, because it's time for instantly disposable pop-punk fronted by a dude who can't sing! Also, their second album was mixed by a dude from Death Cab for Cutie, and this album was produced by a dude from Fugazi — so I guess this is sort of like finding a dead hooker's corpse that someone from Deep Blue Something, Better Than Ezra and Gin Blossoms each toasted a hot load onto. But, wait, check this shit out: there's a girl in it, and she's black. She's like Kim Dealeo or something. Fucking wild.

44. Devin The Dude, Waitin’ To Inhale (2007)
Honestly, there's really nothing wrong with Devin the Dude. There's a hell of a lot right about Devin the Dude. He's got an oddly laconic flow; he samples some smooth shit that you'd be happy to groove on by itself, and he writes weird-ass lyrics about his dick being so clean you could serve it with your broccoli cheese. On the other hand, how predictable is it to see him on this list? An underrated regional act who's described as "[genre of musician's] musician," who makes oddball almost-novelty songs? See, O Hip Devotees: he's far too talented to be successful—your safe listening awaits! And see, midwesterners? He's like a black Weird Al. Or Mark Russell! We should all go to one of his shows if we're in Houston sometime and have pictures taken of us standing with a cardboard cut-out of this rap personage.

43. Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca (2009)
What do you think when you hear the words "experimental rock band" and "low-fi production"? Is it someone whanging a triangle while someone else pumps an accordion that's ejecting human urine? Whatever it is, it's going to be more interesting than Dirty Projectors, a band that virtually defines the disconnect between thought and execution. They made a concept album about Don fucking Henley, which seems like the funniest goddamn thing in the world until you listen to five seconds of it. If you ever wanted to hear what all those concept bands that you and your friends thought up while drunk/stoned would have sounded like, then please, Tubbo, put in Bitte Orca to assure yourself that you and your buddies would have sounded like amplified rat shit. These people have worked with Björk, which I realize now could have been the first and only sentence of this review.

42. The Coup, Party Music (2001)
On the one hand: Marxist hip-hop? Oh my fucking God! How can I get you to stop talking to me???
On the other hand: that cunt Michelle Malkin hates them, so they've gotta be doing something pretty awesome. If somehow their entire music catalog were aimed at and listened to only by Republicans, forcing sweating fat predatory assfucks around this great country to shake back and forth like a Guantanamo detainee listening to A Perfect Circle or Maynard James Keenan being forced to go 48 hours without hearing the sound of his own voice, their whole schtick would be pretty much flawless.

41. The Killers, Hot Fuss (2004)
What a great sound! Hope you like everything you hear exactly like that. Speaking of which, would you like us to add anything to your coffee for just $1 extra? On our additive list, we have coffee, Javan coffee, Sumatran coffee, Kona coffee, Jamaican Blue coffee, Italian Roast coffee, New Guinea Highlands coffee, French Roast coffee, Sulawesi-Kalosi coffee (I think that's a type, but I can go in the back and ask my manager), Columbian coffee (it's legally fantastic!), Costa Rican coffee, Guatemalan coffee, Kenyan coffee (it's certified delicious!), Tanzanian coffee, Ethiopian coffee, Arabian coffee and of course "Espresso." It's all made by Yuban, though.

40. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings The Flood (2006)
Think country music is annoying as shit (you know, except for the Johnny Cash you discovered after he started making Trent Reznor videos and getting his leg fucked by music reviewers who like to buy filling station uniform shirts)? What if someone watered it down and added titties? Case transcended her humble origins of being mistaken for some sort of traveling contraption women use to store gimcracks, oddments and vagina-products in while on vacation only to achieve critical acclaim as a vagina product that might produce some vagina for you if you namedrop her a lot while sitting in a dorm room drinking shoplifted Arbor Mist. All you have to do is keep pouring while pretending this is country music, pretending the album title doesn't sound like a therapeutic children's story written by someone institutionalized for threatening to kill herself, and pretending you think Nina Simone and Janis Joplin had something better and more enduring than mere (scoff loudly here) physical beauty.
See also: Meshell Ndegeocello.

39. Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest (2009)
Take a band with a name about a bad-as-fuck animal like a grizzly bear, then make them so devoid of force that they sound less masculine than the larger hairier dude in a gay relationship. Grizzly Bear produces music so ignorable that you can start one of their songs on Youtube in one tab, flick to another tab and 25 minutes later realize your computer isn't making any noise anymore. Singling out something about these guys to indicate that they're awful suggests that there's something notable about them to begin with. They play acoustic guitars and keyboards and make pop they describe with the word psychedelic to suggest a "method" to making bad pop with weird elements that evoke nothing approaching pleasure or interest: it's an obscurantist appellation that instantly excuses being boring by insinuating that boredom occurs by design. If these people were from Helena, Montana rightfully no one in America would have ever fucking heard of them, but of course they're from Brooklyn, which means they'll be appearing on these lists for the next decade while pre-thirtysomethings force themselves to play this album over and over like it's their fault that nothing about it gives them the slightest joy or spark of interest. Also, speaking of obscurantist pop-psychedelic trash, Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood calls Grizzly Bear his "favorite band," which is a lot like picking up a book of non-provocatively shitty paintings in a bookstore and flipping it over to reveal that the back-cover blurb was written by John Wayne Gacy.

38. TV On The Radio, Return To Cookie Mountain (2006)
Heeeyyyyyyy! Guess who else is from Brooklyn and was inspired by Radiohead? These guys! Listening to TV on the Radio is like using a cephalopod for motion-picture telegraphy. Ahahaha, see, it's a play on the mixed-media framing of referencing music and the name of the band. Really makes you stop to think about the medium and messaging. If it's not getting through to you, try plugging in your guitar and playing an E chord over and over after fuzzing the shit out of it, then try to make every word sound like, "NYUUHHH NYEAAAH NYUHHHH YUHHHHH." Now you're TV on the Radio on your amplifier in your house with no friends.
Alternative-Name Suggestion for the Band: System of a Downs.

37. Justin Timberlake, Justified (2002)
Glorified Mousketeer Justin Timberlake releases an album trying to rehabilitate his image into that of a serious, mature musician despite being a precocious 4'10". Unfortunately, his questionable artistic decision to put his pixie face on the sleeve with full on thousand-yard Frodo-stare ruins any good will garnered from the musical whoredom displayed by his collaborators. (You thought Maroon-5 was a bad attempt at, well, everything? Wait'll you check this other white shit out.) Timberlake's attempt at something like artistic legitimacy seems especially peculiar in hindsight, as really no part of his "serious" reinvention has anything to do with what makes people like him so much now: being basically a walking Hulu clip about fucking MILFs and regifting your dong.

36. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
Ugh, rappers? Please. I have no interest in a bunch of self-absorbed narcissists who are, deep down, so afraid of how they appear to the world that they constantly reaffirm who they are and "front" and put up these facades. I don't care about tight pop beats and samples like Dr. Dre: that's just window dressing for the naming of products accreted around a small personality. But wait, you say the exact same thing is being done by a white person with the added angst and neuroses of white America? Quel artiste!!!! When he reaffirms that he's just "Marshall Mathers," he's really saying to the world, "I am a person who feels."
Additional Note:
*the hoop has been lowered to 7 feet*

35. Clinic, Internal Wrangler (2000)
About 10 years ago, there was an episode of Saturday Night Live where three of their fake commercials were for the Music from the Motion Picture Valentine album, where the voiceover would say, "Featuring songs by..." and then band name after band name would flash on the screen and disappear in time with the speech. At first (and sometimes interspersed in later lists), the band names were real, like Nine Inch Nails, The Deftones, Rob Zombie, etc. But then they became more absurd and included:
Wheelwright's Ghost
Grab The Jester
Skilled Homicide Harmony
Fall Creek Confederacy
The Frown Squad
Donkey Kong U.K.
All Your Blood
Bang The Skull Slowly
Gravel Fork
Brain Gorge
Brian Georg
Pi Eating Contest
Mr. Hameye
Marvin's Toes
Birmingham Sound Expedition
Stab The Bishop
Decimal Metaphor
Half of
5445 North Park Drive Community Vigilence & Restoration Committee
That "Clinic" is fucking dull interchangeable garage rock and belongs on the above list is all you need to know about Clinic.

34. Clipse, Lord Willin’ (2002)
*listens to 16 songs about coke*

Clipse's only real musical purpose is to allow exurban hipster white kids to feel proximity to a dangerous lifestyle that probably doesn't exist and one that in any case they wouldn't understand. To a certain extent, you could probably get away with calling them The Wire: The Musical if that didn't come dangerously close to suggesting that The Wire sucks. Which Clipse does. Aggressively, on an array of one-thousand and one variegated boners.

33. Death Cab For Cutie, Transatlanticism (2003)
"You ever listen to goddamn 'Passenger Seat'? Huh? This is the best song anyone ever wrote with nine notes in it. Billy Joel can only play this when he's so drunk that he's got to peck out each note with a single finger, otherwise he'll start playing chords and shit and fuck up the absolute mothershitting sublimity of THIS WHOLE SONG. Speaking of people playing keyboards, fuck you, Bach, you faggot. Eighty-eight keys on a piano? I gutfuck you, you wig-wearing she-male. I own your scrawny bitchass with NINE. NIIINE!!!!! That's all you need. Hang your head out the goddamn passenger seat and puke your jealous lungs out. When you were alive, were you driving the Pacific Northwest in the Ultimate Driving Machine? Fuck no. Motherfucker, you were too stupid and stuck living before the world got colorized to purchase yourself a fine piece of German craftsmanship like I did, off my album sales. Yeah, maybe you knocked up your wives like 16 times, but I guess that's what you have to do when you can't hug the roads in your BMW 760Li, at 50 mph, even on a tight curve cut out of a mountain, or soak music reviewers and fauxetry-spouting retards by playing music with acoustic guitars and choruses that sometimes have harmonies and be a fucking groundbreaking musician because you have just created polyphony and sound that's, like, together or something — invented all that bullshit like motherfucking THAT. Suck on my baaaaalllllllllzzzz."
Alternate summation: "Mr. Owl, how many notes does it take to be the most overrated band on earth? Only nine? Wow."

32. Fugazi, The Argument (2001)
Remember how people ignored the hell out of Minor Threat? Well this is Ian MacKaye's revenge. If you like tuneless noise you will like this record.

31. The Streets, Original Pirate Material (2002)
You're lucky we didn't stick Matisyahu on here. Suck it, music fans. Do they even have black people in Britannia except for that delightful Idris Elba who I recognize from The Wire and that guy from Oceans 11 (or was he faking the accent)? Hahaha, of course not. Just kidding. Enjoy a chav on ecstasy slurring his words over mediocre beats for a totally different sort of mushmouthed-Englishman sound than that mockney you've gotten so used to from the 50 bands that all sound like The Arctic Monkeys. Seriously, though, how fucking hardcore would it be to wear a do-rag made out of the Union Jack? Did Axl already beat everyone to that? If he didn't, now's the perfect time to rebel against mom and dad by combining your love of white rap and universal health care. Just keep saying the first S in "socialism" like you're spinning a record.

Intro & The AV Club's #50 - #31The AV Club's #30-#11
The AV Club's Top 10 & AfterwordAlan Greenspan Presents Our Top 10