By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
JB: You're right, Girl Talk is at the pinnacle of what he does. He seems to have perfected the mash-up genre — which is weird because I thought mash-ups were dead, a bygone novelty.
MC: I don't think of Girl Talk as being a mash-up artist. He's a collage artist. He's the best collage artist in the history of popular music — there's no one that's ever done it better. So to me, I look at it and I say, "You've gotta hear Girl Talk because you've never heard anyone do this better."
But what's the takeaway for the kids? What would you tell music lovers in their 20s?
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: What I would tell anyone in their 20s: You don't know as much as you think you do. I didn't in my 20s, even though I thought I did. And I would say this to just about anybody: Listen to the originators. It's not all about everything that's brand new.
I'm a big believer in listening to what the artists you like say they listen to — that's how you find the really good music. That's how I found some of the best music in my collection: I found what my current favorite was inspired by. It may wind up being really underground, but it's almost always the stuff that changed everything.
MC: The big and unanswerable question: How does the popular music made today stack up against the music from the golden age of the '60s or '70s?
JB: I will say this, and it may sound contradictory: While acknowledging that there are no bands improving upon the greats from those decades, the overall volume of good-to-great music is comparable. Good? Yes. Lasting? I don't know.
Pop music is disposable anyway, so why not just enjoy it for what it is in the three or four years of its shelf life? Like Scissor Sisters' "Night Work" — no one's going to listen to that in 10 years, but for now, it's a cool song. The stuff from Beach House and Best Coast — no one's going to listen to those records in 10 years, but for right now, they hit the mark.
MC: So what's the first album you plan to listen to in 2011?
JB: I'm going down to Revolver Records, and I'm going to get that new deluxe Exile on Main St. re-issue. I've had my eye on it. Every time I go into the record store, I see it and I think, "I want that in 2011."
MC: Looking back at the first record you wrote about in 2010 — Scanners' Submarine — does anything strike you as different? Do you relate to that record differently after a year in this experiment?
JB: Yeah, I graded it too high. It's very average. It's one of dozens of records that sounded a lot like it this year. It's nothing special.
MC: Are you glad you did Nothing Not New?
JB: Definitely, because it got me back into the habit of actively pursuing and consuming information about music and actually listening to new music. Admittedly, that had waned a bit. I'm into it now. There are some things from this year that I'm definitely going to continue playing next year. And I'm going to continue listening to new stuff in 2011 — maybe not stuff I know I won't like, but a lot of stuff I'd be willing to take a chance on.