You know what I’m talking about. Those rundowns of, usually, one person’s subjective view of what were the best movies, TV shows, books, etc. released in the previous 12 months. We’ve all seen these in Time and the increasingly horrible Rolling Stone, which I used to read religiously, but have sworn off for years since, I swear, it once ranked Joan Jett higher than Eddie Van Halen on a list of Greatest All-Time Guitarists.
Of these types of lists, I think my favorite are those “Best Music Of The Year” compendiums. Music is so very personal that I find it amazingly interesting when I read what one person thinks is the best collection of sounds that hit the world’s ears during a year-long period. Especially when that list includes groups or solo artists such as M83, Kurt Vile or The Head And The Heart–musicians that I couldn’t tell the difference between if you blindly played me a song by each of them.
I used to listen almost exclusively to rock music. Then, like anyone who supposedly grows up, music began to pass me by. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a music fan. For example, I will buy and listen to anything from Rush, even if it’s just another live album/DVD/Blu-Ray disc from the latest tour meant to tide me over until the next-once-every-five-years-new-album comes out.
But discovering new music? That’s another matter entirely. Especially now that I have two young daughters that demand the majority of my non-working, waking hours. My older daughter, Maddo, is continuing on her huge DiegoanDora kick, and requires several episodes of that every day. And there just isn’t the time to cruise around iTunes, Pandora, Spotify or even the radio that much to find out what the kids are listening to these days.
Thankfully, there are podcasts such as the usually outstanding “Sound Opinions“, which is produced by WBEZ in Chicago and hosted by the Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis, whose resume seems to change by the week. This show is carried by one of my local public radio stations, KALW, on Sunday afternoons, but I rarely have that hour to myself to just put on the radio and listen to the show. Thus, I download the podcast and usually listen to it on Mondays, and it has pretty much proven to be my only exposure to new music from the likes of Van Hunt, Wild Flag and the terrible combination of Lou Reed and Metallica.
Still, I find that I don’t buy that much new music any more. In fact this year, I bought exactly five CDs. And this brings me to my own end-of-the-year list. It can’t be a “Top Five” list, because that would mean that I had more than five CDs this year to choose from. So, instead, here is what I call:
My Only Five CDs Of The Year…In No Particular Order:
–Fountains of Wayne: “Sky Full Of Holes”. I’ve been a fan of FoW since before I ever even heard them, back in 1996 when I read a review of their self-titled debut in the late, great Tower Records own magazine, “Pulse”. Now, these guys are on the other side of 40 and wondering how the hell they got here and what comes next. Much like myself. No one’s made getting drunk on a train sound as fun as FoW has on “Acela,” which also sounds like it could be a new brand of vodka as well as Amtrak’s East Coast commuter express line.
–The Decemberists: “The King Is Dead”. Until I picked up this album, I had never heard a note of The Decemberists’ music and was afraid of what it would be like when I saw it sold at Starbucks. The last thing I needed to hear was a guy version of Sheryl Crow. I needn’t have feared it. It also helps that Maddo, my older daughter, likes to sing along with “Don’t Carry It All” when we’re driving in my truck.
–F’ed Up: “David Comes To Life.” Normally, a band with members going by the names Pink Eyes, 10,000 Marbles and a girl bass player name Mustard Gas would deserve to be punished as a rip-off of Gwar. Luckily, this is not that band.
–Fleet Foxes: “Helplessness Blues”. This was the only CD I bought this year that I can honestly say sucked. Normally, I am a total cheerleader for anything from my hometown of Seattle. I would even praise Duff McKagan’s solo project, Loaded. But Fleet Foxes sound like they are auditioning to be the Lifetime network’s house band on this record. And that is not a good thing.
–Mastodon: “The Hunter”. With artwork apparently hermetically sealed in a bong by 1982-era Judas Priest-listening ninth grade stoners sitting in the back of woodshop, and song titles like “Blasteroid”, “Stargasm”, and “Octopus Has No Friends”, this Georgia band’s latest release is either the most stupidly awesome or awesomely stupid album I have heard this decade. I can’t get enough of it.
I have no idea what will be on my “Only XXX Number Of CDs” list for next year. But it will be five years since Rush last put out a studio album, and I am holding one spot open for that. And also for something that Maddo can sing along with when we’re rocking out in the truck.