Wednesday, December 3, 2008

future reflections

as another year draws near its close, wetter and far warmer than the last, a healthy dose of perspective is vital to comprehend 2008 as a music lover, and a registered american voter. the election overshadowed all else, and our optimism and hope foreshadowed the still-exhilarating phrase "president-elect obama." but even as it became slightly more tolerable to be an american citizen, the stateside music scene left little to choice but to shop the import section. brooklyn spewed forth another crop of aspiring scene queens, their local triumphs spearheaded by overzealous brooklynvegan commenters, but the best american album of the year was issued by some hip pop outcasts from the left coast; though yoni wolf's bitterness suited our collective national disgust from january to june, one hopes change has come to him as well. but president-elect obama's administration is too fresh for its successes to be rewritten as music, and the election cycle, though it dominated virtually everything else this year, is not much of a yardstick to evaluate music by.

so what, then, defines 2008 in music?

the internet continues to redefine our understanding and appreciation of music in ways that continues to send shockwaves through the industry (and its observers), from the FBI-sanctioned intervention in a leak of chinese democracy to the blogosphere's self-serving, endorsed explosion of bands like vampire weekend, for whom the backlash is hopefully just beginning. the virulence and dogmatism of chat room crusaders and anonymous respondents is certainly nothing new (though the depths to which the dialogue can sometime stoop still has the power to bewilder), but talking shit about a pretty sunset is what made the internet famous. though the reach of blogs and other democratic music promoters has grown longer since 2007, its weaknesses are nearly as numerous as its successes, which i realize is an odd statement if you're reading this. i turned away from reading music blogs (save the ever reliable BV) sometime soon after january, and found a less self-referential (and more exciting) font for new music in the form of the now-defunct album blog robin hood of indie music. facilitated by the loss of OiNK, album blogs are the new medium for serious piracy, and pose few of the dangers associated with torrenting or (god forbid) file sharers. for me, 2008 in music meant a literal cornucopia of new bands every day, new and old releases that radically reshaped my tastes simply by virtue of their availability.

in april, i was hired by a concert venue in what has become the undisputed best job of my (albeit short) life, but its implications were much further reaching than my happiness - it has altogether changed my perception of hearing music. reading a review earlier this year, i was struck by the author's claim that we rarely think about how music is made, and just appreciate the end result. since april, i have been learning about the process of music-making, and i'm not talking about the notes. which microphone to use, how guitar amps work, the best way to mic a snare drum (one on the top and one on the bottom), small details that add up to determining how we experience music, specifically in a live setting. why you're an idiot if you stand in the front row and complain about how bad the sound is. simple things for someone who plays music, or works with sound, but significant developments for a layman like me, though i don't think i can call myself a layman anymore.

i'm not sure how these two factors add up, album blogs and working at a nightclub, but the timing is proof enough of my ear's evolution, an unexpected and bold change of course. in just a couple months, i've discovered how wide the world of electronica really is, and immersed myself in its numerous pleasures. though i was not a stranger to its appeal, i have opened myself up to every corner of the genre in a much more dramatic fashion, appreciating artists as diverse as julien chaptal, venetian snares, and róisín murphy with equal vigor. in short, 2008 was a year for joyous aural exploration, and my favorite albums of the year reflect that. as with last year, i still have a problem with the word "best," and am shying away from that with a list of records that were important to me this year. without further ado, here they are, listed alphabetically.

camille - music hole
cut copy - in ghost colours
foals - antidotes
i am robot and proud - uphill city
iglomat - iglomat
mogwai - the hawk is howling
mr. scruff - ninja tuna
mutyumu - il y a
school of seven bells - alpinisms
slaraffenland - private cinema
spiritualized - songs in a & e
why? - alopecia
wild beasts - limbo, panto

provided i am blessed with enough time, i will do a short writeup for each album (of course with mp3s), so stay tuned.

1 comment:

Taylor said...

Thanks for writing, and thanks for the Mr Scruff! One objection:

How to mic a snare: three on top, two on bottom, with reverb all the way up! That's how Maiden did it, that's how America does it, and it's worked out pretty well so far.

This technique should also be used for cowbell.