2010: Did You Borrow My 2010 and Forget to Return It?
“My records are like my employees, but this is a generous, profit-sharing company.”

My greatest fear

When I was one-third the age I am now, my greatest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to beat enough of the video games out there. My friends all seemed to trot right through Blaster Master, but that shit was HARD.

When I was half the age I am now, my greatest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to make… sex with enough of the women out there. My friends all seemed to get girls, but that shit was awkward.

Now that I’m over 30, my greatest fear is that I won’t have time to listen to all the cool stuff I want to listen to. And I’m not talking about tonight; I’m talking about over the course of my LIFEtime. There’s too much out there; as I’ve suspected all along, there was a Joe Meek/Edmund de Deyster/Bobby Trimble working as a janitor at just about every high school in Idaho (or at least teaching wood shop), if the statistics are correct, and with all the reissues combined with all the great current stuff happening RIGHT UNDER OUR NOSES, how can a man sleep at night?

The deeper in I go, the more I realize I’m missing. There are people in Chicago who would cut my throat if they knew I hadn’t even cracked open my Saccharine Trust records, yet I just haven’t had time lately. And I find I’m starting to completely ignore the less-prurient music out there. I can talk tape labels and micro-vinyl till the cows come home, but if someone in a bar starts talking about Led Zeppelin, I start leaking, anally, and my blood-sugar levels dip like DQ fro-yo cones. Then come the sweats, bloating; I pass out and wake up in a puddle of piss and the dude is still talking Zeppelin, referencing that same Bonham solo I’ve been hearing about since I was 4. I can’t relate any more.

Then there’s the unwitting snootiness I pitch out there: Without even realizing the words were coming out of my mouth, I called someone out for not “appreciating” Blonde Redhead’s music yesterday. If situations such as these start popping up in your life like hopped-up prairie dogs, well, you’ll have the sickness you read about HERE to thank for the privilege.

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Inventing genres

Can there be some sort of official body that decides when/where/how genre names get invented? Not that I don’t mind basing a whole segment of the music population on ONE ARTICLE — not to mention a Myspace page; rape-gaze, anyone? — but there should be something more official in place so these weirdos who base their whole music-writing ego on “revealing” the Next Big Genre won’t be able to cook the books so thoroughly. This section of my year-end would seem to be aimed at Hypnagogic Pop, but it really, honestly isn’t (though that one definitely sprouted a life of its own and became ubiquitous). The same could go for Witch House or any micro-genre growth. I understand the need to label; I’m just saying there needs to be some sort of governmental body that rules on this shit, lest the indie world become overloaded by micro-micro-micro genres that don’t even make sense anymore.

We need to stop thinking with our music-cocks whenever a sexy potential genre wags its fanny in our faces. I propose a Genre Implementation Board, composed of a few, direly important members:

• Robert Christgau
• Greg Kot (or his exact opposite)
• Julian Cope
• Genesis P-Orridge (he just left his band, so I know he has time for this)
• Scott Walker (if you can’t get Walker, Eno)
• Gumshoe (am I cooking the books here? GOOD)
• Lester Bangs’ cryogenically frozen head (they didn’t… they didn’t freeze it? Balls)
Chunklet (so long as Chunklet is just a huge living, breathing magazine with cartoon legs and a Kool-Aid Guy smile, as it is in my dreams; no actual humans from Chunklet allowed)
• a randomly selected music fan that kinda likes Dirty Projectors
• you guessed it, Frank Stallone.

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Phrases/words/etc. that can no longer be used in music reviews as of … NOW

• skittering electronics
• “beats/guitars/vocals/etc. that sound like they were recorded in a ________ then processed through a ________”
• ADD-addled (I still remember using this phrase in a 311 review back in like 2001; I’m not saying the world’s reviewers are copying me, only that this is a much-too-common turn these days)
• “_____” isn’t great, but it’s still better than 99 percent of the “_____” out there.
• “____” is the new “______”
• “sell-out”
• “_____” isn’t without its _____, but it’s better ______ for _____ and _____ _____.
• _____-house
• _____-wave

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Pleasant surprises of 2010

Super-prolific bands: Some take umbrage with severely prolific artists, the ones who release a tape, a silk-screened 7-inch, a VHS tape in a mini-hopechest housing, and two 3-inches every few hours. I say, why despise the avalanche? If the artist is up to the task, let it flow. There are certainly those who take the frequent-flyer ideal oath in vain, but many of the higher quality manic musicians out there (Shearing Pinx, Wolf Eyes’ many tentacles, Yellow Swans, C. Spencer Yeh, Locrian, ex-Raccoo-oo-oon bands, the Talibam! fellas, for example) are putting a lot of legendary SLOP to tape, just as Sonic Youth always have. You don’t hate Sonic Youth, do you?

T-Rex: I realized I actually owned a T-Rex record or two a few years ago, and still, nothin’ doin’. It just wasn’t time. Lo and be-effin’-hold, I get a reissue of The Slider and it’s like “Blippety-Blippety-BLOP!!?!” I almost fainted, sickened yet slaked by the greasy, strangely gutteral glam-pop. Anyway, Fat Possum is heading up the reissue campaign — which is awesome; they’re really going for it these days — which means there’s never been a better time to Get… It… On. Hey, sometimes it takes decades to realize certain truths.

Physical formats HURRAH: If you think ACTUAL ALBUMS went the way of the dinosaur and that this whole physical-vs.-digital debate was over, you were… perhaps in the majority, but there are a lot of us left on this island of album packaging/artsy extras, and we’re not going anywhere. Cassettes, 3-inch discs, 12-/10-/7-inch records, pic discs, colored vinyl, records that run backward (thanks a lot Pregnant/Life’s Blood, for further complicating my listening life), foldout booklets, CD-Rs, accompanying comics, lyric sheets, pop-up gatefold LPs, box sets, micro-cassettes, handmade packaging, numbered editions, insufferably limited runs… As much as any other in recent memory, this was the Year that Music Got Physical; could it be that, as many satisfy themselves with personality-free MP3s, the rest of us will draw even closer together, hoarding our limited-run, physical products like in that recent movie starring the guy from Hidalgo, the one where he and a small boy, his son, have to survive in a post-apocalyptic war zone and only have each other to rely on? I’m just going to call this one right now: Yes.

How much hate bubbles on in the blogosphere: Wait, is this “pleasant surprises”? Wrong line…

The ever-expanding indie universe: It’s slowly happening: indie rock is becoming all-encompassing. It took awhile; lord knows we lost a few chances to make the transition earlier, but by god, we’re going to keep pushing the boundaries of this scene until there’s nothing left to be afraid of. As it was with, I’m sure, most readers of this site, three of my favorite artists of the last year-odd have been from completely disparate genres and parts of the world: That I would even have the opportunity to discover artists like Mason Lindhal (currently of Oakland; hushed solo acoustic with Fahey finger-lickin’ and Mount Eerie’s sense of atmosphere), Dead Raven Choir (from Krakow; haunted, lonely black-metal mayhem; just released their last 7-inch, ever, supposedly, yet their MySpace mentions two new albums; hmmm), and Babe, Terror (of Brazil; Panda Bear drowning in molasses and choo-choo noise slurry) is an example of just how much is possible in this era. Don’t be afraid.

Lots of great music writing: I anticipate that every single person that reads the heading for this selection will roll their eyes in disgust. I mean, hasn’t the blogwave been a terrible, terrible thing for everyone? I say, no. If you know how to Dig(dug) like Ondi Timoner, you’ll find the good stuff. I trust you to do so, honestly, so for you to NOT do it would be, well, jerky. Turkey.

Bobby Beausoleil, baby: Need I say more? The mystique lured me in, but the chambers of opium-dream ork-e-straw work sealed the deal. I wish all albums from Manson associates sounded this good. Four-LP box sets never hurt either.

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100,000 to 100

So I read a theory of sorts positing that 25 or so years ago, 100 bands could sell 100,000 records each, whereas now 100,000 bands sell 100 records. Each.

And I have to say, after knocking the idea of this around in the brain for a wee-bit: Isn’t this a good thing, the democratization of the music industry? This means more music, more bands, (hopefully) a better filtering process as far as which artists/acts rise to the top (not the Very Top, mind you; that’s always been controlled by forces we’ll never know), and, best of all, an increasing reliance on reviewers (heh heh); after all, who’s going to sift through the morass and tell people where to find the diamonds in the rough if not the music-writing moguls? I find it exciting.

If I’ve learned one thing from monitoring music like your heart rate — which is a tad slow, by the way; we’re going to have to run some blood tests — it’s that when bands quit their day jobs and start making day-job money when not on tour, their lives often drift out of control and music, sweet music, can become an afterthought in the rush to PROMOTE and SCRAPE and BURN a band’s name into the country’s bum like a hot brand. If there’s less money to be had in music, I realize some are going to have to make sacrifices, and that’s tough. But seeing as I work in newspapers, I have a hard time feeling sorry for those who feel that their industry is slipping away. Hey, a lot of great industries are slipping away, and as an extension of our duties as musicians/journalists/anyone-else-working-in-a-field-that-is-being-pirated-and-money-bled, we do what we have to do, right?

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An ode to my record collection

My Record Collection is my Permanent Record; it’s what I’d like to be judged by before and after I’m gone; it’s what I will leave to my wife and/or daughter to carry on when their extended female lives long surpass the duration of my own; it will be the one remnant of history I leave that cannot be erased or corrupted or simply forgotten, as it is too big, authentic, and PHYSical to simply be sold for peanuts or forgotten (Penny, if you’re reading thi— Penny, get off the counter and stop spilling your milk; Pen—… Penny, listen and listen good: Please don’t sell or junk my records someday, okay? Please… just don’t.). It is my gift to the world and my stand against the age of digital drudgery and lives lost with the click of a mouse. It is my legacy, and you will not find it on a hard drive. (Besides, my external hard drive crashed, HARD. I lost everything.) My records are like my employees, but this is a generous, profit-sharing company; they will reap the rewards of staying with me for most — or sometimes all — of their lives.

Your music community can be the best kind of co-op; embrace the art you feel in your deeeeep innards and support it by starting a collection of your own if you haven’t already. It’s never too late.

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And that’s my piece. Happy New Year all! Learn to embrace the holidays without the pressures, without the guilt. Life is great for those unburdened by self-imposed weights and limitations. By the time you read this, I’ll be in Texas, so if I don’t live to tell about it, mourn me.

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(Return to the 2010 year-end map)

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