Well, it’s near enough to the end of the year that some folks who write about music are starting to crap out their annual lists of the best music of 2011. While Pitchfork has yet to weigh in (I hear they’re in the midst of a terrible decimal shortage), the good people at Rolling Stone have declared, presumably on behalf of your parents, that Adele’s 21 is the best album of 2011. Now, I have nothing against Adele; I have heard “Rolling in the Deep” roughly 14,000 times this year and I kinda get why people like her. But I can’t shake the feeling that her success is a sad omen that middle class, middle-aged white people have found someone whose music allows them to say they like “soulful” music without ever having to listen to a black person again. Is that fair? Of course not. But if you want fair, watch baseball. This is the internet, dammit.
And what’s the fucking deal with listing the top 50 albums in a given year anyway? Isn’t that just a cheap way of keeping yourself from making hard decisions about ranking the music to which you listen? I’m all for not ranking your music, by the way; that’s why we here at Bollocks! have a proud tradition of openly mocking Pitchfork’s pretentious decimal system. If you can’t tell how I feel about an album by reading what I wrote, maybe you need to log a few hours in night school. And so what if some other asshole thinks Wild Flag’s totally amazing debut is only the 9th best album of 2011? I can still think it’s forever tied for first with TV On the Radio’s Nine Types of Light and the Handsome Furs’ Sound Kapital, two albums that don’t show up nearly enough on the year-end lists that I’ve read (TV On the Radio was #17 on Rolling Stone’s list and the Handsome Furs were not included).
So far this year, I haven’t seen the Onion A.V. Club’s list of the best music. But then, they don’t think any albums were important this year. Maybe that’s true. I don’t know. I don’t think you can always spot an important album when it first comes out. My beloved London Calling was panned by critics in the U.K. when it was released and I regard it is a very important album indeed. Then again, I think we all think differently about what albums are important; to some of the kids I work with, emo “music” is vitally important. No joke – it helps some kids feel like maybe they shouldn’t cut on themselves or try to die before they’re twenty. Now, I happen to think emo is almost hilariously bad music, but I’m not going to deny its importance to some needy kids, as long as they don’t try to convince me it’ll change my life.
Here’s another realization I’ve had in the last twelve months: Coldplay sucks. I know many people out there like Coldplay and that’s fine. Stop reading this if you think it’ll be upsetting. No one here is going to try to “fix you.”
I’m not saying Coldplay is the worst band I’ve ever heard. I just think they suck. And here, in a roundabout way, is what that means: since moving back to Portland, I’ve discovered that my favorite local radio station, 94.7 FM, has basically become just another repetitive, dull station that plays the same twenty songs over and over (excluding the occasional weekend programming that emphasizes a slightly wider variety of artists). That discovery was easy to make because I drive around a lot for work and have been kind of terrible about bringing CDs with me lately. So it happened, over the course of a day, that I heard the new Coldplay single like seven times (what’s it called? Something about paradise. Who cares?). Listening to it, I had the thought that Chris Martin and company probably own some decent albums and they clearly have some idea of what awesome music might sound like. But they are absolutely incapable of actually making awesome music. Even the melody for this stupid single is hackneyed as hell and Martin delivers it the way a gnat might deliver you a ton of bricks. It’s a clunky, forced affair and I can tune it out easily enough but lately, I have spent a good deal of time wondering how a band that bad at the act of playing music actually became famous. Say what you want about those emo bands some of my clients are into, but nothing I’ve heard from them is as monumentally stupid, lyrically speaking, as “Yellow.” Or “Fix You,” which is about as artful as a bottle of Nyquil.
I want to discuss more music that I liked from 2011 (because I liked a lot of music this year) and I will a little later. Zac, Justin, and I have started a promising email argument about the best music of the year and, while it will in no way end up as a countdown of the 50 best albums of the year, I think it will be pretty hilarious since, so far, it’s mostly been a fun excuse to call each other names and fully revel in the fact that, while a lot of stuff matters a lot, music criticism certainly doesn’t. So don’t sweat it if you like Coldplay or emo (or even “screamo”) – you can find plenty of people who agree with you and, as long as I’m around, at least one person who disagrees.