By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
JB: Well, that's almost impossible for me to answer because of the aesthetic atrophy. Because I'm so ingrained in my time — let's say 1985 through 1999, the 14 years between when I was 16 and 30 years old, when I was most active as a consumer of music. But the answer to your question would probably be no. There's no act today that's better than the originators — the biggest names in their genres, people like Elvis and the Stones and Ike Turner and Bo Diddley and Wanda Jackson and the Stooges — no one is doing anything today better than those people.
Now, are people today doing stuff better than the second tier of "rock greats"? Yeah, probably. Let's just say there's no record that I've heard this year that I would instantly put into my record collection as one of my favorites. I don't know if that's because of aesthetic atrophy or because that record is not out there.
What about you? Is Band of Horses really among your favorite records? Do you really think you'll be listening to that in 15 years?
Most played song on my iTunes: (tie) "Better Things" by Magnetic Fields and "Bad Blood" by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Favorite single of 2010: "Summer Nights Lakeside" by Gospel Claws
Favorite concert of 2010: Mike Watt and the Missingmen at the Rhythm Room
Favorite record of 1970: The Stooges' Fun House
Estimated amount of music I listened to in 2010: 192 hours of new music, or eight days' worth.
Ideal length of a record: 11 songs and/or 35 minutes. This really isn't debatable.
Favorite insult left on one of my posts: (tie) "You pile of old cock" and "You should just fucking die."
I was wrong about (good to bad): She & Him's Volume Two. I gave it an A-, saying "To call it indie pop would be an insult. It's pure pop." That was in March; now it just sounds cloying as hell. Also: Gorillaz' Plastic Beach. Another A-. I still like the song with The Fall's Mark E. Smith, but I can't even listen to this record now.
I was wrong about (bad to good): Foxy Shazam, which I initially gave a D. It's pure cheese served on a Queen-size platter, but few relatively unknown bands sound bigger than life so seemingly easily. Also: Best Coast. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I ripped Bethany Cosentino a new one for her simpering lyrics back in July, but I can't deny the bright spots on Crazy for You.
Biggest surprise: MGMT's Congratulations. Their first record was mall pop of the blandest variety, even though it was dressed up as Indie (yes, with a capital I). Turns out they were slumming all along, because Congratulations is very nearly a psychedelic rock tour de force — a challenging gem of a record that succeeded on its own retro terms.
Biggest disappointment: After releasing in 2008 the stellar Primary Colours, a record that Spoon declared as the biggest influence on their making the critically acclaimed Transference, the Aussie band Eddy Current Suppression Ring dropped the ball on what was supposed to their breakout, Rush to Relax. The formula hadn't changed between records, but the material wasn't too hot.
Biggest trend that I should've loved but grew weary of quickly: Lots of bands — from Strange Boys to Best Coast to Dum Dum Girls to countless others — combined 1960s melodicism with a reverb-laden sound that critics and fans alike wanted to desperately to call "lo-fi." Here's hoping in 2011 that all those highly paid producers and engineers put the faux-"lo-fi" production gimmick somewhere on their hard drives where they'll never find it.
Most offensive band of 2010: Sleigh Bells, whose Treats is a disgustingly vapid and crass sugar rush of a record. Somewhere, Le Tigre is rolling over in its grave.
I agreed most with Pitchfork on: OFF!, the L.A.-based revivalist act that is sort of like the Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings of punk. The difference is that half of OFF! (singer Keith Morris and bassist Steve McDonald) were there for the first go-round of SoCal punk in the late '70s and early '80s.
I disagreed most with Pitchfork on: Joanna Newsom, an extremely talented harpist/singer who released a three-disc record (even The Clash failed at that!) that was pure pretension and folly.
Best old-timers: Grinderman, Waylon Jennings, Neil Young, Steve Wynn, Devo, and Crowded House, of all things.
Worst old-timers: Chrissie Hynde, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, Glenn Danzig
Best local records: Tierra del Fuego, Man About a Dog, Automatic Erasers, Destruction Unit
After 12 months of expanding my horizons, I still don't "get" it: Kanye West and, sorry, hip-hop in general. Maybe that's the way it was supposed to work out.
Best hope for rock 'n' roll: The Soft Pack. In my eyes, the San Diego quartet did everything right on their self-titled record. The one "new" indie band whose exploits I will look forward to following in 2011.
The worst record of the year: Midlake's The Courage of Others. A record I listened to on January 20 unbelievably stood up as my most abysmal listening experience of 2010. I wrote, "There's a place for everything thing in this world, but a prog-folk revival? Let's hope it doesn't come to that." Amen, brother.Visit www.nothingnotnew.com for more on the project.
JB: With Kanye West's new one, no one is going to be listening to it this time next year.
MC: I still listen to his first record, so I think I will. I don't think this record is head and shoulders better than his first records. So when you talk about that 15-year thing, I think that's an interesting way to put it. Will I still listen to Band of Horses? I think so.
JB: That's cool, but you're also just under the age where aesthetic atrophy really hits you.
MC: So you're saying it's hopeless. After age 30, you're never going to hear a new record that will become one of your all-time favorites?
JB: I'd say it's unlikely. It's possible, but you might really have to search. Like the new OFF! record — it's so great. But five years from now? Eh, I might just gravitate back to the old Circle Jerks records. We'll just have to see.
MC: What's the takeaway for people from your generation — people now in their 40s — what would you tell them you learned from this project?
JB: Don't discount modern music just because you think you've already heard everything — because you haven't. Though I will submit that there are no acts that are topping the originators — The Beatles, Chuck Berry, The Who, The Kinks, Jerry Lee Lewis — there are still a lot of very, very good bands out there. And I'm glad I heard them.
MC: But, for the typical person, if it's not going to be as good, why bother? Why get a fast-food breakfast sandwich that isn't a McMuffin? Why eat a fucking Croissan'Wich from Burger King when you can have the original, the best?
JB: That's a good point. If you're reading my column, you're a music fan. If you're even reading our blog, you're more than just a casual music fan who buys one record a year that happens to be Katy Perry or Billy Joel's Greatest Hits. The people who are looking at our blog are people who are truly interested in music. So that's how I look at it when I'm writing — I don't care about Joe Blow who only listens to Toys in the Attic over and over.
MC: But is Joe Blow right when he says, "I listen to Toys in the Attic over and over because there's nothing as good coming out now"?
JB: For Joe Blow and his ilk, maybe, but not for serious music aficionados.
MC: So unless you're a buff, there's no reason to listen to current music?
JB: Yeah, maybe.
MC: That's a profound statement, to me. To say that unless you're a buff, the opportunity cost of seeking out new music isn't worth it. What is it that makes someone a buff?
JB: Well, that goes back to their youth, whether they maybe came from a musical family and their experiences with music. You can't generalize, obviously, because there are so many different kinds of people, but if people stop listening to new music at a certain age, usually it's because they get married or they get a job that forces them to work 50 or 60 hours a week or they find other things that are important to them. You know, their priorities and disposable time and disposable income change. Happens to everybody.
MC: But, at the same time, there's nothing really wrong with that. Unless people are really into music, they don't really need to listen to anything new. Current music is for completists only.
JB: I feel like they do, though I'm admitting they probably won't. It's all about growth. Even though no one's better than The Beatles, you can still gain something from an artist who's doing something a little bit different, within the scope of what's current right now. Do you think people need to listen to new stuff?
MC: Yes, I think there are people who are doing stuff better than anyone else before, but not a lot of them. Girl Talk is a perfect example; there never has been a better Girl Talk than Girl Talk.