Today we're going to give you a wrapup of 2004. Hopefully everybody learned something during this experiment. We should be done with 2005 just in time to start on 2006. We might even review some other albums in between.
Well, that was an adventure. The best thing I think we can see about Pitchfork's curating is that things did, on average, get better at the very tippy top. My main question after going through this process is: wouldn't a top 10 list have been just fine, under the circumstances? By opening up thing this much you let your standards get all over the place. And by what standards exactly does one compare something like Fennesz to something like Annie? Or Sufjan Stevens to William Basinski?
OK. Here, for all of you waiting with bated breath for my personal Top! Ten! of 2004!, hang on to your gussets. Pay little attention to the order:
With an honorable mention for M.I.A. and Diplo, just to piss Stephen off.
You may also notice that there's an album on there which we didn't review, and I do not for the life of me know why it didn't make it on the list given some of the crap we slogged through. Other albums that come to mind that could easily have made it onto the list in my universe are Deerhoof's "Milk Man" and Jim White's "Drill A Hole In The Substrate And Tell Me What You See", both of which are, at least, interesting.
Boy, hipsters are a really unpredictable lot. One of the things I noticed doing this is that you can never really use their own reasoning to figure out what other albums they may or may not like. They don't seem to be consistent.
The other thing I learned about hipsters is that they are apparently complete suckers for 5 to 20 seconds of an orchestra set on repeat. Just set up a loop tape of the London Philharmonic and they'll go nuts for "the inherent artistic beauty" and start comparing it to a fall breeze or sadness or unicorns or some other bullshit.
I learned a lot about hip-hop, too. I never thought that Kanye West would end up on a top 10 album list of mine.
Honorable mention goes to Cee-Lo and Joanna Newsom, because I have been listening to them more than I expected.
PS M.I.A and Diplo didn't really piss me off, it just seemed like such a non-album because it was thoroughly uninteresting to me.
ISAAC: It looks, conveniently enough, as if you could fill a neat little top 10 with the things we both agreed were buyable. Let's see what that would look like, preserving the original Pitchfork order:
My, what an eclectic and respectable list. It's diverse and consistent. We must be tasteful. I might give in on Kanye and Devendra, by the way.
STEPHEN: I think that Joanna Newsom could be worth it, too. Did you think Cee-Lo was better than the Kanye West album?
ISAAC: I think that Kanye might deserve Cee-Lo's place, even though I liked Cee-Lo more.
STEPHEN: I also think that the Modest Mouse and the Dungen deserve some kind of mention.
ISAAC: Well, I would veto the inclusion of the Modest Mouse album. The Dungen is vaguely possible.
STEPHEN: I just really think the modest mouse album is underrated because so many of the songs stand up to Moon & Antarctica. And some of it is taste, too, because I am not anti-happy.
ISAAC: Hey, I'm not anti-happy, I just don't think it suits him as well.
STEPHEN: It sounded like you were anti-happy from your Smile review.
ISAAC: That's lobotomized-happy. Admittedly, my list isn't super-cheerful, but it would be hard to like Joanna Newsom if I was anti-happy.
STEPHEN: You know, you're right. Theory destroyed. I'm slightly surprised not to see AC newman on your list.
ISAAC: The solo album ain't his best work. I really dig some of the songs on it, but it's pretty overshadowed by the other stuff.
STEPHEN: The opening song is really good.
ISAAC: Yes, and "Drink to me Babe, Then", and "Come Crash", and "Town Halo"....
STEPHEN: There were a few other artists that we both liked that didn't make it on the list. What about Air?
ISAAC: I don't think I could see Air on there, just because they led off their album with such an awful song.
STEPHEN: Yeah, it almost makes you think they made a decent album on accident.
ISAAC: It's their europeanness. It makes them weird. If everything were up to the standards of the best songs on there it would be bang in my top 10, though. So yeah, honorable mention to Air. I would also let The Go! Team on.
STEPHEN: That stuff should become video game music. I can definitely imagine rolling a katamari around to that.
ISAAC: Totally. "Get It Together" is just such an awesome song; it makes one to smile.
STEPHEN: I only know that as the "recorder song". I will start a new PBS show and build it around this album. You know who else does their drums like The Go! Team? The Pillows.
ISAAC: Ah, overdrive.
STEPHEN: Yeah, and mad compression. Anyway, we have Pitchfork's top 10 list order. Shall we reorder it?
ISAAC: Yeah, but let's just compare similar artists. One of the things I think we've shown is that you can't arbitrarily order artists that are nothing alike.
STEPHEN: So, I'll give it a shot: The Streets > Madvillain > Cee-lo > DJ/rupture.
ISAAC: Yep. That's the easy part. Futureheads > Arcade Fire > Franz Ferdinand?
STEPHEN: If you say so, because I feel increasingly like I have major bias for Futureheads. I certainly like them better than Arcade Fire.
ISAAC: Arcade Fire haven't put out their second album yet, so it is still potential, whereas the Futureheads' second really disappointed me. Also, the Futureheads' album is undeniably more consistent.
STEPHEN: And they display a quirkyness that not many bands today can pull off well. Now, Sufjan vs. Mirah.... man. There are more songs on Mirah's album I'd rather listen to, but some of Sufjan's songs are better.
ISAAC: I'd personally say Mirah > Sufjan, just because Sufjan's A-game has yet to be reviewed.
STEPHEN: The production T personally really enjoy, because I like that "recorded in a barn" feel. And I just noticed that Mirah doesn't play the "I'm a girl look at me" game, at least not that i noticed.
ISAAC: Nah, she doesn't need to. And that leaves the animal collective, which is like unto itself.
STEPHEN: Animal Collective > Animal Collective.
ISAAC: I look forward to hearing what you think of Feels. It is less jammy and inconsistent, but doesn't hit the same heights, I think.
STEPHEN: I might really enjoy it, because my biggest gripe was that they were all playing with toys and making weird noises, like they decided Radiohead's title track to "Kid A" was the best song on that album and needed to be 10 minutes longer.
STEPHEN: Looking at this, there are a lot of albums that dont deserve to be on this list at all.
ISAAC: I can't speak for the first seven, except Loretta Lynn, who I think does belong on the list and probably higher than she is. And Xiu Xiu belongs too, I think, just for pure weirdness.
STEPHEN: I might grudginly admit the Xiu Xiu, but man, it's just so emo goth livejournal: "I dont want to commit suicide now that I've met you", and that "Support the Troops" track I can't stand.
ISAAC: I admit it, but the actual music is a lot better than some others here.
STEPHEN: Fair enough. I actually liked a good amount of it. The rest of the bottom seven goes on the list. The Camera Obscura album seems like an exercise in making music without trying at all. I see bands in bars doing shit like Comets on Fire all the time. Max Richter is unique in that he makes different songs, but it's just another example of the garbage hipsters worship as modern composition these days. What does that leave us with?
ISAAC: There's Johann. Johann goes on the list. I am also tempted to put Morrissey on the "wtf is this doing here" list. I want to make clear that I don't mean any disrespect for Morrissey by that. Just wtf?
STEPHEN: I thought Johann was bad until I heard Basinski.
ISAAC: What else... Excepter at least tries. De La Soul goes on the list. 27-30 is tricky. Basinski goes. Junior Boys are at least ... good for bike riding. And I would punt Interpol.
STEPHEN: Get DFA out of there.
ISAAC: Bye-bye Foreign Exchange.
STEPHEN: That was another non-album. Fennesz should stay for being the best "noise" album.
ISAAC: Agreed. I think I will admit the rest of the list as being worthwhile, with Ghostface getting a pass because it's probably a very good example of a genre I don't like at all.
STEPHEN: Agreed, though it is a bit heavy on DJ mixes.
ISAAC: Yeah... I'm not sure if those should even be on here; if they are even eligible despite their merits and despite my fierce and inexplicable affection for the M.I.A./Diplo tracks. So that rather neatly gives us a bottom ten, unless you'd like to order it.
STEPHEN: No, they are all equally crappy in the eyes of God.
ISAAC: I want to point out that nobody on the bottom ten, with the exception of Basinski, brought me to such heights of aggravation as the DFA.
STEPHEN: I don't think anyone aggravated me as much as Basinski. His release after Disintegration Loops was a loop of him playing piano 30 years ago. He says of the track: "This theme, a melody made up of one of the most common chord changes in western music, to me, is one that evokes the Japanese concept of "mono no aware" which translates roughly to 'the sadness of things'."
STEPHEN: His latest trick is a piano loop that randomly slips to the other side of the tape, revealing an extraordinary counterpoint!
As a final note, here are some Things I Have Learned.
Things I have learned: