Day 9 arrives on the Best of 2009 Blogger crew and it brings with it a Friday post with Battery In Your Leg. Sean from BIYL finds that an issue that many bloggers toss around this time of year, that is the whole purpose (and process) of the “best of” list in the first place. I think he “gets it” personally: lists are always a great thing but you also need to know they are rarely finite and often subjective and even worth a bit of inner turmoil. But I think this list might be all the above and possibly even….fun, interesting and informative? I think so.
I have no idea how to approach all this. When Sandy first asked me to participate in this collective best of, I was pretty damn excited and enthusiastic. About 5 minutes later I began to experience panic and dread, as I realized exactly what it was I’d committed myself to. How do you go about summarizing a year? I’ve tried it in the past and it always felt half-assed and incomplete. After all, how can you have any perspective on something that’s just happened? Ask me in 10 years what the best record of 2009 was and I could speak with greater authority. Well, I’d speak more confidently, at any rate.
I looked back at my Best of 2008, and aside from being poorly written, I still felt pretty comfortable with the choices. But then I looked back at my Best of 2007 when I wrote for Rock Sellout, and it was quite the shit pile. Of course, I think part of that was related to the fact that we had so many writers on staff, and weren’t allowed to overlap with our choices. Thus, a lot of second string records ended up being my top picks. Plus, I know for a fact that I put about 10 minutes thought into it. I actually found myself arguing with my own choices. In a way I guess that means I succeeded; after all, isn’t the purpose of these lists to provoke conversation and debate? Probably not with yourself, but I’ll ask for a bit of leeway there.
I have never laid claim to being a writer or a critic (both should be obvious by reading my blog). I think critics have a need for bands to innovate, to dazzle, to astound with every sampling, whereas all I really need a band to do is make something that speaks to me. The method they use doesn’t matter much, whether it’s via traditional, well-worn routes or experimental, avant-garde magic. Just make something good, and I’m happy. Either critics have excessive expectations or I have too few, I haven’t quite figured it out yet. This all may naturally lead to the question “Why do you write a blog, then?” And that’s a good question. I don’t really have a good answer, unfortunately, other than “Because I enjoy it”. But that seems as good a reason as any.
This whole state of affairs had me thinking about the purpose of lists, which I either hate or love depending on my mood and the time of day. My friend Casey who writes my favorite Tumblr – more on that later – recently posted this quote from Umberto Eco (he wrote a novel called The Name of the Rose which became a movie with Sean Connery that no one but my mom apparently likes, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there) on the purpose of lists that seems to put them in the right context:
“The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte. We also have completely practical lists — the shopping list, the will, the menu — that are also cultural achievements in their own right.”
It’s hard for me to equate a list of ‘Best Music I Heard This Year’ from an unknown blogger with an exhibition in The Louvre, but point taken. This is me trying to comprehend infinity and contribute to culture. Sure, why not? I may not be successful, but it’s always better to try. It’s still hard for me to label something as ‘the best’ without being a little waggish about it, so this list is less a best of and more a haphazard, less than profound and slightly sarcastic yet miraculously sincere appreciation list – the bands, blogs and events of 2009 that managed to consistently entertain or educate me this year.
Band people were too cool to realize was totally kick ass
Band that deserves way more recognition than they get
Best record based on multiple personality disorder
Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
Band I missed the most this year
The Retrosexuals RIP
The Grandaddy Award for adorable songs about robots
Favorite musician that constantly sounds
on the verge of a nervous breakdown
Best model turned musician
Best girl in her bedroom making avant-electro with GarageBand
Best revival of 60s girl pop
Best foreplay band
Best haircut of 2009
Best dance album that it seems no one listened to
Best comeback from a band I wasn’t sure would come back
Best comeback from a band that made us wonder
if they were really a different band
Best Podcasting duo
Proof that online radio isn’t dead
Best remixes that should make a lot of other remixers realize
they’re doing it all wrong
The xx – Crystalised (Rory Phillips Remix)
Fever Ray – Seven (The Twelves Remix)
Burns – First Move (Fred Falke Remix)
Best soundtrack that wasn’t exactly a soundtrack
2 great blogs to discover new music you’d otherwise never hear
(and the songs I found there)
Blog that makes you feel smarter just by reading it
The blogosphere’s greatest musical archeologist
Best Cinematic Moment of 2009