Monday, December 30, 2013

The 24th Annual RT 20

The 24th Annual (And Probably Final)

Reynolds Top 20 List


2013: I Hate Music, What Is It Worth?
So, as you’re looking at this you’re probably wondering a couple of things:

1) Why is this year’s RT20 so short? And why are there no pithy comments with each album and single?

2) How come you didn’t mail it this year?

3) Most importantly, what do you mean probably final?!??

Let me answer them point by point.

1) My ability to write lengthy copy like I did 5 to 10 years ago has seemingly disappeared. It could be the fact that I wrote close to 4000 items that were 125 words or less for my day job this year and that has robbed me of the brain muscle to go much further beyond that length. Or it could be used up all my creative juices editing (and then promoting) Fan Interference, the baseball book I co-edited with my friend Mike Faloon. We spent a lot of brain power in the late winter and early spring finalizing the manuscript. Then we spent a healthy portion of our summer getting the word out about the book. It was totally awesome to see this project finally come out after years of working on it and meeting great people in virtually every town where we did a reading. But I have to admit it was very taxing mentally and physically. (I tore the meniscus in my left knee in the spring, so that added to the physical and mental stress.)

2) The amount of mailing I did for Fan Interference and both issues of Zisk, the baseball zine that inspired the book, probably put enough money in the coffers of the US Postal Service to delay a first class stamp increase until early next year. (The piles of receipts I collected filled up two legal size envelopes.) There was no way I was going to mail 100 plus copies of anything in December. I’d rather mail myself to Florida (still number-one on my list of worst states in the union, 24 years running!) than go through that.

3) I touched upon it in last year’s list--I found myself listening to more and more podcasts and less new music. That trend continued this year. The albums I enjoyed (say anything from number-four on down on this year’s Top 20) I probably listened to three to four times at the most. (The top three got many, many more listens than that.) I found people discussing their lives, career, their fictional lives, telling engrossing stories or reacting to bizarre video clips infinitely more engaging to me than hearing almost anyone’s album.

Now that could always change in 2014. It would be the 25th edition of this list, and that might be the best time to send off this project that has consumed each late fall for more than half of my life. And I’m a sucker for acknowledging a big anniversary (which you well know if you were a reader in 1999, 2004 or 2009).

Oh, and there was one more reason why I just didn’t feel compelled to write down my music and pop culture rantings--I read too many crappy examples of music and pop culture writings this year. A good 40-percent of these types of stories I came across were lists. I mean, once a year is fine for a doing a list. But doing it over and over and over again just to get quick page views? Blergh. It makes me want to completely unplug from the Internet for a long while and just read that 900 page Beatles book that’s been looking at me from my desk at the home office. Heck, that still might happen in January (well, except for when I have to work, I suppose).

I could point you to a ton of “listicles” that have sucked my soul clean, but I’d rather direct you to an article that offended not only my creative side but offended the way I approach my job as well. It ran, sadly, on the Village Voice’s website, ending any pretense that the one great paper was worth pay attention to anymore. The piece was titled “I Pissed Off Megadeth, My (Former) Favorite Band.” Click here to read it. I’ll wait at the next paragraph.

In case you didn’t read it, let me sum it up -- the author talks about their love of the band, gets the assignment to preview the band’s upcoming show, isn’t able to schedule an interview until two days before the show and then laments the fact that he has less than 24 hours to prepare for it, cancels, then reschedules, then gets miffed when the bass player calls at the original time allotted for the interview the next day and then basically calls out the band’s publicist. It’s rare that I’ve wanted to punch someone for what they’ve written, but the fucking gall of this guy overwhelmed me with anger. If you can’t prep for a 15 minute phoner with a band you’ve loved all your life, you probably shouldn’t be writing about fucking music. After reading it I thought, “Why bother even doing this any more?” If this asshole can get paid (not much, I’m certain) for writing such a bullshit “me me me” piece, then I don’t want to bother any more. I mean, that article was posted in September and here we are in late December and I’m still getting violently angry.

(Pardon me. I need to go cool down for a second.)

(Okay, this iced tea is making things better.)

I took the title for this essay from the opening line to Superchunk’s “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo.” The next part of the line is, “Can’t bring anyone back to this earth.” That combo sounds as if it would be a total downer, but it’s not. It’s a song that somehow captures deep loss, wonderful memories of youth and how we process music as middle aged adults – all in the space of two minutes. It’s simply amazing. And the rest of the album lives up to that song’s high water mark. Many of the tracks on I Hate Music were inspired by the death in 2012 of a close friend of the band. I can’t imagine a greater tribute to a dear friend than this piece of work. It’s a high point in Superchunk’s career, which is stunning to think they’ve been around for almost 25 years.

Fan Interference wouldn’t have been published without some Kickstarter support, and that trend of people getting involving on the ground floor of a project is pretty exhilarating. My friends in The Gravel Pit used Pledge Music to pay for their new album (the first in 13 years) that’s due out in early 2014. I felt so honored to be able to give the band some cash to support their art. I felt the same way when Bill Janovitz of Buffalo Tom announced he was doing a solo project in 2012 and accepted donations to help fund the project (which later turned into a full Pledge Music campaign). He posted demos with lengthy notes about each as he was working on Walt Whitman Mall, and it was fascinating to be able to hear this project take shape as Janovitz crafted a loose concept about his youth in Long Island. It’s some of the best songwriting in his career, which isn’t too bad for a guy whose first album was released over 25 years ago.

Superchunk and Bill Janovitz gave me hope that people of my age will continue to figure out a way to age gracefully through their music. Neil Young and Bob Dylan found ways to make compelling, adult-minded albums in their mid-40 through mid-50s (and beyond), so it can be done. Perhaps I can figure out a way to have this list age gracefully as well. Maybe I’ll start selling it in a Starbucks?

One more note: if you’re really interested in hearing my specific take on one or any of these albums, songs or reissues (or need to know why a Katy Perry single is in the Top 10) email me. I’ll probably be able to dash off a quick reason you should purchase one of them. But give them a listen yourself. There’s a reason they’re on this list--I like them and they’re worth owning. Have I steered you wrong before? (Okay, don’t answer that.)


Top 20 Albums of 2013

20) Dead Trend - False Positive (Cut the Shit!)

17) The Avett Brothers - Magpie and the Dandelion (American/Universal)

14) (tie) Pete Donnelly - Face the Bird (PD)
14) (tie) Mike Gent - The Rapid Shave (Stomper Music)

12) Dawes - Stories Don’t End (HUB Records)

10) Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks (Halo/Nothing/Columbia)

  9) Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt (Monkeywrench/Republic)

  8) David Bowie - The Next Day (ISO/Columbia)

  7) Minor Alps - Get There (Barsuk Records)

  6) BOAT - Pretend to Be Brave (Magic Marker)

  4) Tired Pony - The Ghost of the Mountain (Heaneyville)

  3) Telekinesis - Domarion (Merge)

  2) Bill Janovitz - Walt Whitman Mall (Janoclair Music)

  1) Superchunk - I Hate Music (Merge)

Top 20 Singles of 2013

20) Peter Gabriel - “Courage” (Real World)

19) Foxygen - “San Francisco” (Jagjaguwar)

18) The Lone Bellow - “You Never Need Nobody” (Descendant Records)

17) The Dismemberment Plan - “Daddy Was a Real Good Dancer” (Partisan Records)
16) Neko Case - “Man” (Anti)

15) Paul McCartney - “New” (Hear Music/MPL/CMG)

14) Pet Shop Boys - “The Last to Die” (Kobalt)

13) Electric Six - “Show Me What Your Lights Mean” (Metropolis Records)

12) Mike Gent - “Last Boat to Japan” (Stomper Music)

11) Young Fresh Fellows - “Loud, Loud, Loud Guitars” (New West)

10) Pearl Jam - “Sirens” (Monkeywrench/Republic)

  9) Katy Perry - “Roar” (Capital)

  8) Prince - “Breakfast Can Wait” (Purple Music)

  7) Belinda Carlisle - “Sun” (Geffen)

  6) Superchunk - “FOH” (Merge Records)

  5) Daft Punk - “Get Lucky” (Columbia)

  4) Capital Cities - “Safe and Sound” (Capitol)

  3) Phoenix - “Trying to Be Cool” (Glassnote)

  2) Justin Timberlake - “Mirrors” (Just In Time/RCA)

  1) Superchunk - “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo” (Merge Records)

Reissues, Compilations, Etc

10) Various Artists - Songs for Slim: Rocking Here Tonight (New West)

  9) The Worlds End Soundtrack (ABKCO)

  8) Nirvana - In Utero: 20th Anniversary Edition (DGC/UME)

  7) The Breeders - LSXX (4ad)

  6) The Alan Parsons Project - I Robot (Legacy Edition) (Arista/Legacy)

  5) Charlie Chesterman - Solid Gold Electric Chestnut Dispenser (Bandcamp)
  4) Belle and Sebastian - Third Eye Centre (Matador)

  3) Mike Viola - Ghoul (GMMR)

  2) Bottle Rockets - Bottle Rockets/The Brooklyn Side (Bloodshot)

  1) The Figgs - The Figgs Anthology: 1000 People Grinning (Stomper Music)


10) Jedidiah Parish & The Spokespersons, Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY 8/2
  9) Guster, Beacon Theater, New York, NY 11/30

  8) They Might be Giants, Celebrate Brooklyn, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY 8/10

  7) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Beacon Theater, New York, NY 5/21

  6) Wilco, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Zilker Park, Austin, TX 10/5

  5) Pearl Jam, Barclay’s Center, Brooklyn 10/18

  4) Phoenix, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Zilker Park, Austin, TX 10/6

  3) Bob Mould, Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY 2/26

  2) Superchunk, Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY 9/27

  1) Superchunk, Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY 9/28


Top 5 TV Shows

5) Person of Interest (CBS)

4) Brooklyn 9-9 (FOX)

3) Bob’s Burgers (FOX)

2) Parks and Recreation (NBC)

1) Masters of Sex (Showtime)

Top 5 Podcasts

5) Tell the Bartender

4) Ronna & Beverly

3) Harmontown

2) WTF with Marc Maron

1) The Fogelnest Files with Jake Folgenest

Other good stuff from ’13: “I’d like to order pancakes for the table,” Nightingale 9’s opening night, heavy metal BBQ, covering “Cut Your Hair” at a wedding, Seinfeld in the booth with Gary, Keith and Ron, The World’s End, Premier League on NBCSN, the return of Keith Olbermann to ESPN, Okkervil River’s cover of “Give Me the Night.”

No comments: