Earlier this evening, the results of this year's so-called "Pazz & Jop Poll"--the yearly survey of the world's most astute music critics--were revealed, and I couldn't be happier!
For those who don't know, the distinguished Village Voice periodical, a print newsweekly, regularly asks the world's 9,554 most respected music critics to vote for what they consider to be each year's best new releases and--incredibly--they do!
Though I wasn't able to publish my choices for 2010's best albums at Y! Music this year--unexpectedly, I was buying a protein bar at my neighborhood 7/11 that week--I did manage to supply the Voice with my long-awaited ballot, and it can be found here!
Predictably, within the last hour or so, I've received roughly 5,000 apologetic missives from my fellow music critics, most of which offer up tired excuses for "overlooking" my keen selections--"how the heck do you do it?" asked the latest and most typical, received a scant two minutes ago--and subtly hint that "personal tutoring" is a possibility they'd like to explore, God willing!
As always, however, I must decline all such offers to enlighten my peers as regards what makes today's music good, bad, or otherwise! While I'd love to help--though I suspect some abilities one is merely born with and cannot teach--I received a fantastic hairbrush this Christmas and have little free time to do much more than look in the mirror and use it repeatedly!
Maybe next year!
Gregg Allman: Low Country Blues (Rounder) What better way to start the new year than by purchasing the new album by Gregg Allman--the famed Allman brother whose last solo set appeared 14 years ago--and thus giving him enough money for, at the very least, cab fare back home after a misguided cover photo session apparently inspired by Eminem because, as many have noted, he's quite popular? Produced by well known famous producer T Bone Burnett, the producer, Low Country Blues features covers of classics by Bobby Bland, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King, among others, and as its title indicates, is thematically devoted to the Netherlands and its fascinating windmills! A marvelous album driving home the point that past musical heroes were often offered record deals for the unlikely reason that they apparently had some degree of musical skill, this set lacks only a cover of "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" to match this year's Pazz & Jop winner Kanye West for raw musical audacity! Still, as artists, they're equally photogenic!
The Decemberists: The King Is Dead (Capitol) In many ways like an American version of the Smiths' The Queen Is Dead--but decidedly more masculine--this great new album by highly skilled Northwest music vets the Decemberists is a stunning 180-degree turn away from where they were previously headed--that of being an art-rock version of the Incredible String Band--and an unapologetic embracing of their "alternative rock" roots! Which means that they sort of sound like they're trying to ape R.E.M. and a host of other bands who once sounded vaguely interesting melodically but, well, sort of lost their way once misguided public acclaim adversely affected their sound and in retrospect now seem disappointingly ordinary! Still, the band's bold embracing of the month of December--as we all know, the year's final and least important month--indicates they still may have more up their sleeves! And I suspect a fine set of mittens may be involved!
Roomful Of The Blues: Hook, Line & Sinker (Alligator) Like many of my fellow rock critics, I was drawn to this album purely because its cover art reminded me of the nasty magazines I used to see at newsstands when I was an adolescent! Plus, the band's name reminds me of another band whose albums I've been getting in the mail since 1977 or so! They couldn't possibly be the same guys, could they? Though loaded to the gills with enjoyable R&B flavored tunes, this record--at least by my count--is likely most thoroughly enjoyed by walking around with it at your workplace, showing it to your female co-workers and saying, "Hey, check this out" and watching their reactions! Later, over coffee, you both can laugh about your former sexism and maybe catch Sex In The City on cable!
White Lies: Ritual (Fiction) Though they may seem just one in a parade of British bands that seem mildly fashionable for a moment or two and then inexplicably fade away, the White Lies are actually quite charming and at their peak offer up a musical hint here and there of the UK's fabulous Teardrop Explodes--a spectacularly great, still-underrated outfit--which thus means they are worthy of your attention! Still, it wouldn't be the 21st century if the so-called "ritual" the title alludes to, as explained in the liner notes, didn't involve something mildly distasteful--and finding a pair of twins whose hair can be braided together so the newly-conjoined duo might be stripped to their underthings and hurled to the peak of the Eiffel tower and left there shivering and whimpering certainly qualifies! No, wait--I dreamed that!
Social Distortion: Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes (Epitath) You'd really have to live out here in LA to get a grasp of how some bands--like, I don't know, Oingo Boingo from a few years ago--have been locally ascribed a degree of importance that, well, to be nice, really doesn't translate once you drive about 90 miles eastward! It's like, well, despite this guy's notable lack of distinguished technical skills, the depth of his meaning--his ability to convey the plight of the working man, etc.--and his ability to stay at it despite the by-now-obvious fact that mildly talented former punk outfits have an almost laughably short shelf-life--means that this is quality stuff! Earlier today I noticed that a Gavin DeGraw cover of "We Are The Champions" opened up a 2005 Hollywood Records tribute to Queen. Gavin DeGraw was once a singer!
Damon Fowler: Devil Got His Way (Blind Pig) One can't help but be impressed by the musical skills of guitarist Damon Fowler, a Floridian whose emphasis on lap-steel guitar and dobro may not seem the height of fashionability, but whose abilities leave most of his contemporaries far, far behind! Well-played, bluesy material pervades this set, and it would be my fervent hope that his track "Fruit Stand Lady" catches the ear of radio programmers everywhere--well, at least the guy that programs that computer that decides what everybody will be forced to hear--so that all of America's disc jockeys will have to back-announce "That was 'Fruit Stand Lady'" and maybe take a moment or two to rethink that Peace Corps option they once joked about before making it big in radio! "Damon" is a funny name!
The Script: Science & Faith (Columbia) Back with their second album, Irish band the Script returns with a stunning treatise regarding science, faith, epistemology, and the perils of the Lap-Band as preferred weight loss surgery! As Pascal himself noted, it's often to our benefit to have faith, since faith offers infinite rewards, while the rewards of rational man and science are by their very nature finite--but don't worry, the Script have got all that covered and more! Plus I bet they're into Ozzy!
Tennis: Cape Dory (Fat Possum) The more I look at this album cover, the guiltier I feel and I don't know why! Produced by married couple Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, this sounds like freakish merger of Kathy Young's "A Thousand Stars" and Rosie & The Originals "Angel Baby" and essentially posits that all music post-1963 has no meaning whatsoever! Still, Billy Paul and Survivor were pretty cool!
Daniel Martin Moore: In The Cool Of The Day (Sub Pop) As the co-creator of Dear Companion, one of last year's very best albums, Daniel Martin Moore has already proven his worth as a human! This new album--an intimate, gospel-infused recording of covers and originals--shows not only his musical skills but his ability at anagrams as well! "DiMartino Lamer One" indeed! But it's cool!