The end of the year is not a good time for me
Because loads and loads and loads of top ten, five, twenty lists of albums come out, and I go crazy. I am a sucker for music criticism. I read about an album and I believe everything the critic says and I get all excited. It's sure to be my favorite new band--hey, I liked Franz Ferdinand, too! Oh boy oh boy!
Problem is that rock critics and I have divergent tastes. For instance, thought-provoking, sensitive, gentle indie rock makes me want to barf, as a general rule. (I also have little patience for indie films by sensitive young men who love women but find them a mystery.) Apparently, rock critics fuck to it or something, because they tend to reserve their highest praise for it. Emo in particular can kiss my ass. (Another emo band name: I Like Lipstick But I Can't Find the Right Shade.) So, when perusing record reviews and top ten lists for new bands to check out, I have determined a casual code that at least narrows down the baloney I find myself sitting through.
For instant, the word "infectious" gets me all excited. Infectious means that someone actually bothered to put a riff worth grooving to on a song or two. And now that critics are begrudgingly coming around to enjoying the retro revival, bands that sound like bands I like from The Cure to Gang of Four are actually worming their way onto top ten lists. (My new rule when someone says that I'll like a band 'cause they sound retro is to ask if you can dance to it.)
On the other hand, "thoughtful" puts me off my lunch. If I ever see the word "groovy" I am so there. The word "pop" means melodic and the word "melodic" means boring. I continue holding out hope that when a guitar is describing as "crunching", it actually will be.
I continue to fall for the trick where a band is compared to Joy Division, The Cure, The Ramones, The Buzzcocks, David Byrne (never the Talking Heads) or Gang of Four that they will actually sound remotely as cool, but I keep getting burned. However, I still give such albums a listen because it's clear that the reviewer was reminded of something cool, and often while the album sounds nothing like the referenced band, it still sounds good. Getting compared to the biggies is something reviewers don't do all that lightly.
Mainly, reading top ten lists again this year I am irritated at how the male-dominated critics' circles keep pushing male-dominated music over and over again. Even though it made my (albeit amateurish) top ten list, I really like Le Tigre's new album. But critics dismissed it as too mainstream, an epithet that signals nothing so much as the reviewer's snobbery and laziness.
Despite my issues with music criticism in general, it's still a great resource. It's just too bad that all these end of the year lists get me all wound up like it's Christmas all over again.