Uncommon music criticized by the common man. (Or, exercises in futility masquerading as critical thought.)

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Saw this over at Travelers Diagram. Magnet is one of the few music magazines I pick up these days (others include Copper Press, Signal To Noise, and The Big Takeover). Interesting selections, though, rather limited in terms of genre. Then again, since the indie scene seems to be their bread and butter, I suppose that's to be expected. Not that they don't cover other genres; their back pages include sections on jazz and metal, among others.

Lists are useful in the sense that it's interesting to see what other people are listening to and value; that is, if you can filter through the ones that seem genuinely thought out, and the ones that are nothing more than a list of musical signifiers meant to enhance the compiler's hipness quotient. However, they are also very reductive (by their very nature, I reckon), trying to distill a year of music into 10 or 15 selections. Trying to sum up an entire decade in just five seems misguided and ultimately pointless. (NOTE: Their list is probably longer than 5; TD only listed the top 5 on their site. My bad.) Whatever (wait for it), that won't stop me from doing it, too. (Huzzah!) I'll expand to ten, just to be a bit more inclusive. (But I will stick with indie-alterna rock, since that has pretty much taken up most of my listening time the last ten years. I feel like a jackass for doing so, but I didn't listen to enough of any other genre--except maybe hip hop music--to feel like I could rank any releases with a semblance of credibility.)

In alphabetical order:

Flaming Lips - Clouds Taste Metallic
Fugazi - The Argument
godspeed you! black emperor - Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada
High Rise - Disallow
Nirvana - In Utero
Pavement - Wowee Zowee
Radiohead - OK Computer
Rodan - Rusty
Spiritualized - Let It Come Down
Superchunk - Foolish

A few notes on those selections:

I know a lot of people absolutely flipped over The Soft Bulletin, but frankly, I think the Lips (like kindred spirits Mercury Rev) are better suited for guitar storms than symphonic bombast. On Clouds Taste Metallic, I thought the Lips found the perfect balance between pop songwriting, noisy guitars, and psychedelic weirdness.

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain might be the more cohesive album, but Wowee Zowee is just overflowing with great ideas. Not all of them are fully realized, but the ones that are--like the country psych of "Half A Canyon," or the Sonic Youth via Galaxie 500 of "Grounded"--make up for any lack of coherent theme. This was their last great album.

I almost didn't include the Rodan selection, but I found it impossible to leave off an album with a song as great as "The Everyday World of Bodies." The rest of the album is solid, too, but "Bodies" is a sprawling masterpiece.

Anyway, there you have it. My contribution to meaningless musical journalism for the day.