Music News

Top 12 Biggest Musical Letdowns of 2012

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Cody ChesnuTT, Landing on a Hundred

Cody ChesnuTT's 2002 double album The Headphone Masterpiece set the bar terribly high for a follow-up. The sprawling 36 tracks of that collection weren't perfect -- in fact most were crudely rendered in GBV-style lo-fidelity -- but the compact disc's case could barely contain the energy found within. It was a sprawling, unfocused blend of garage rock, R&B, neo-soul, and funk, and I thought it ruled.

ChesnuTT's 2012 effort, Landing on a Hundred, shares with Masterpiece its distinct voice and solid songwriting. ChesnuTT has matured, and staggeringly funky tracks like "That's Still Mama" and slinky "What Kind of Cool (Will We Think of Next)" are pitch perfect, gloriously retro encapsulations of '70s groove. Every sound is polished, and ChesnuTT's voice sounds immaculate. It's full of excellent songs, the kind that sound like they took 10 years to finish. Maybe that's my problem with it.

I want to hear the weirdo who made Masterpiece. I want another all- encompassing song like "Boylife in America" or synth bass-rattling "Batman Vs. Blackman." Is it wrong to ask an artist to not mature? Maybe. But it feels like ChesnuTT is subduing his inner freak, aiming to keep his offbeat ambitions deep inside.

It could be that I'm just not looking far enough into the record. After all, "Under the Spell of the Handout" is indeed a weird, weird song. Is it satire? Is it sincere?

I know I enjoy the hell out of it. And I know I can't find a single fault with Landing on a Hundred, but considering how much beauty ChesnuTT dragged out of the imperfections of The Headphone Masterpiece, I wonder if that's sort of a shame. -- Jason P. Woodbury

Bands on the Internet

This was a tough assignment, as I was rarely disappointed by music in 2012, even by stuff with astronomical expectations. Animal Collective's Centipede Hz wasn't as earth-shattering as predicted, but it was still a great continuation of their catalog. Deerhoof, my absolute favorite contemporary band, released what I found to be their least interesting album, Breakup Song, yet seeing them live for the umpteenth time earlier this year was as magical as ever. For a second, I thought my biggest personal letdown was my own distracted musical navigation. (Example: I read five essays about Lana Del Rey and listened to zero of her songs.)

What really let me down the most was digital music dissemination.

Spotify and Pandora got skewered for their microscopic royalty payments while Amanda Palmer officially signaled the Kickstarter hangover. While free services like Bandcamp and Soundcloud expanded their offerings, I saw neither exciting new means of music promotion nor any exciting uses of existing tools. The latter was particularly aggravating on Facebook: Well-meaning bands sending out endless event invites with ugly flyer templates, posting numerous annoying status updates begging people to attend, and linking to unflattering YouTube footage of their live show.

The video thing should be obvious, but I implore bands to either improve their Internet game or take things back to the 20th century. Design an interesting flyer (have a friend do it if you suck at visual art), print that shit out on the cheap at Copymax, and hand them out to real people they encounter at school or other shows. I promise the practice will not be hokey or embarrassingly self-promotional if you do it casually enough, plus it's a great excuse to approach a dreamy boy or babely girl, if you're into that whole analog love thing. -- Chase Kamp

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