BEST OF THE BEST OF 2011: GREG KOT, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, NPR’S "SOUND OPINIONS"
1. Wild Flag, “Wild Flag” (Merge): Fans of Wild Flag might also enjoy: Best Coast, White Fence, Youth Lagoon, Future Islands, Gold Panda, High Places, Idle Times, Wild Beasts, Warm Ghost, Royal Bangs, Big Troubles, Girls Names, Cold Cave, Brilliant Colors, Wet Hair, Deep Pets, Dumb Bird, Long Wall, Good Kick, Hard Bard, Slim Tush, Mute Mule, Teen Pope, Huge Tube, Big Gulp, and Cold Play.
2. The Roots, “Undun” (Def Jam): The Roots are like the Chicago of hip hop. Apparently Greg Kot really likes Roots 17. (That’s the one with "Hard Habit To Break" on it.)
3. Tune-Yards, “Whokill” (4AD): Uh, it’s pronounced "tUnE-YarDs," as in "you actually LIKE this band? What are you, tUnE-YarDed?"
4. Van Hunt, “What Were You Hoping For?” (Godless Hotspot): I looked this up because I didn’t know what it was, and this guy got real pissy about being dropped from his major label deal 4 years ago. That’s hilarious.
5. F— Up, “David Comes to Life” (Matador): The best thing about this band is how people like Greg Kot have to say they’re fans of "F’ed Up." Somebody should start a band called "F’ed Up." It’s a better band name anyway. And also probably a better band.
6. Feelies, “Here Before” (Bar/None): It’s weird when people are just like "I have decided I like this band" and they just keep on buying everything that band puts out forever and ever and then end up discussing it to bored other people as if it’s perfectly natural to wait with baited breath for the new Mission of Burma album even though you and all their other fans are 40+ years old, and whenever they rumble their way to a conclusion about the new album, it’s "they still got it." I mean sure, The Feelies, good band, but if you’re saying "still got it" about somebody else and you mean it, what you’re really saying is "I still got it." And when you’re not kidding when you say that, it makes everybody else sad because you’re too old to still keep track of who had what when and the pointlessness of that reminds us we’re all going to die.
7. Raphael Saadiq, “Stone Rollin’ ” (Columbia): I was gonna run and go look this up real quick to make sure I didn’t make an ass out of myself by making fun of something that’s actually great, but then I realized I’m already an ass and also the reason I know about this in the first place is because Greg Kot told me about it. I guess Raphael Saadiq is a nu-soul singer and according to himself he is "Stone Rollin.’"
8. The Bewitched Hands, “Birds & Drums” (Look Mum No Hands): Look at that label name again. Stare at it. Soak it in. "Debut album available now on Look Mum No Hands!" Which sounds to me (I’m not investigating) like it’s probably a download-only label. Actually, I want that to be the case. I want Greg Kot to think he’s really up on the next big thing because he’s totally in touch with what’s going on at all the download-only labels. He’s gonna discover the next Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Ok, I’m curious. Turns out they’re really on Sony, which pretty much is a giant download-only label.
9. Das Racist, “Relax” (Greedhead): Greg Kot says "If anyone emerges as the new Millennium’s answer to De La Soul, this combo has the inside track." I hope to God he is right because SOMEBODY BETTER HAVE AN ANSWER TO DE LA SOUL SOON. IT’S 2012, YOU GUYS, AND THE WORLD IS GOING TO END WITHOUT ANSWERING TO DE LA SOUL. STAKES IS HIGH.
10. Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues” (Sub Pop): I heard these guys are gonna get together with The Shins and Sufjan Stevens for a "Monsters of Soft Cock Rock" Tour, and I’m fucking amped. Dude, have you heard that song "I Want Your Limp Dick In Me"? It’s the Soft Cock Rock song of the century. I can’t even listen to that thing without cranking it all the way down.
11. Lydia Loveless, “Indestructible Machine” (Bloodshot): Not the famous movie star with the similar name, but it does also suck. Kudos to the artists involved for the extremely descriptive album cover. It depicts the exact feeling you get when you see somebody on a $40,000 custom motorcycle, or watch one of those reality shows about the people who get really dramatic about working in a tattoo parlor, or go alone to a bar in the suburbs because it’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving at your Girlfriend’s parents house and you end up talking to the unblinking meth head bartender about Aerosmith for 25 straight minutes. In case you’re wondering, Bloodshot is the Chicago "local indie" label for the remaining non-Wilco constellation of lesser dad rock stars, and this selection is a stab at "local indie" cred for the Chicago-based Kot.
12. TV on the Radio, “Nine Types of Light” (Interscope): This is my new favorite URL address of all time.
13. Sam Phillips, “Solid State: Songs from the Long Play” (Littlebox): I am astounded that anybody who makes music for a living would call themselves Sam Phillips and not be Sam Phillips or discover Elvis even a little bit.
14. St. Vincent, “Strange Mercy” (4AD): There’s a whole subgenre of music I don’t like called "I love her voice," where everybody who’s into it says "I love her voice" and shakes their head like they’re sipping a fine wine and want you to know they understand how good it is. These people also love Prius commercials, athletic-style baby strollers, and those Starbucks rewards cards that they can swipe at the register so they don’t have to say their painfully specific coffee order out loud because "they always get it wrong" but also because "I secretly hate it when I talk as much as everybody else does."
15. Tom Waits, “Bad as Me” (Anti): I sometimes wonder if there’s ever going to be nostalgia for 90’s design. Remember those things that you crossed your eyes and then a vaguely dog-like outline popped out of the paper? Those made me nauseous. They’re due for a comeback. The cover art on this Tom Waits album from 2011 looks like it’s a Candlebox album from 1996.
16. Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi, “Rome” (Capitol): Apparently this is also "Starring Jack White and Norah Jones." People talk about how bad things are in the music industry, but bloated douchebag artists like this are still getting huge, huge amounts of money to make something that nobody gives a shit about (at the #16 slot, even Greg Kot is having a hard time pretending) so things can’t be all that bad. This is the type of horseshit that they invent a new Grammy category for just so it can get a Grammy.
17. Anna Calvi, “Anna Calvi” (Domino): See also: St. Vincent, except this time when people say "I love her voice" they mean her artistic voice. They clarify this distinction because they want to make sure you know they’re a fuckwad.
18. Cymbals Eat Guitars, “Lenses Alien” (Barsuk): Am I almost done with this list yet?
19. Le Butcherettes, “Sin Sin Sin” (Rodriguez Lopez): Garbage. The band. Remember Garbage the band? They were also garbage the garbage.
20. Low, “C’Mon” (Sub Pop): It’s always great when a boring band has been together being boring for so long that their boring songs really have that boring lived-in feel, you know? When you hear it, you just know that the depth of boring is just there without any boring effort, and you don’t need to waste boring words on how boring it is, you can just sit back and feel the boredom. It’s like catching up with an old boring friend. No matter how long you’ve been apart, everything just falls right back into its boring place.