25. Florence + the Machine "Ceremonial": One time this summer when I was super hungover, my girlfriend and I watched some cut rate post-Lollapalooza series of promotional interviews show on one of those regular-TV channels that’s only possible when you don’t have cable, like "NBC 3" or something. I think it was the same one as all the snowboarding things. I don’t have cable because I don’t want to pay extra money just to be able to pretend that the "better" TV shows aren’t still fucking awful. Regular TV is way better at being fucking awful anyway, and that’s what TV is for. Anyway, on this interview show there were all these bands that looked like Abercrombie catalogs and they were being treated like some kind of actual existing attention-worthy thing by the payola-bot interviewers, and I was like "wow, I’ve never heard of any of these bands, and apparently according to this show they’re real real famous." One was this band. The name sounds fake, and I think there’s a guy who looks like David Byrne crossed with the Gary Oldman character from Fifth Element crossed with the second guy from Cheaters. Based on no information but that which I am creating in my own brain from one half-remembered shitty TV show, I think they have a full-time violin player, which means they suck.
24. Washed Out "Within and Without": There was a ton of promo material for this, and there was a piece with the nine letters of "Washed Out" arranged in a box. "Was Hed Out." I can’t remember a single person (not even a stupid person) talking about this album all year. As far as I’m concerned it was just a poster.
23. Britney Spears "Femme Fatale": I’m sure it’s great.
22. Saigon "The Greatest Story Never Told": This is where these lists come in pretty handy. I don’t care enough about hip hop to do anything but take people’s word on the top one or two releases of the year, and then it’s usually like, "ok, guys, this is pretty good, but I’m still embarrassed about enjoying it because I’m 32 years old." Hip Hop is in real bad shape right now. Maybe not in general, but to me. It could be in an international golden age and I wouldn’t know or care. I’m 32 years old.
21. Iceage "New Brigade": It’s strange that this is the "weird/underground punk" group that got all the hype this year. The party line on this is it’s like four teenage boys from Denmark, right? I actually listened to this one all the way through at one point. I don’t remember anything about it. I do know that there are at least 15 better 2011 albums than this that tickle the same exact pleasure centers, but I guess "four teenage boys from Denmark" captures the popular imagination as a hip-seeming thing to say about a band you like. You tell people that information and some obscure adolescent dopamine-receptor starts buzzing because that knowledge fools the world into thinking like your ear is so close to the ground you personally go to church basement punk shows in Copenhagen instead of just reading about things on the internet like everybody else.
20. Telekinesis "12 Desperate Straight Lines": I hadn’t even heard of this. I read the review and it made me gag. "Singing drummer Michael Lerner teamed up with Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla to make Lines, an unabashedly catchy record about a soul-crushing breakup." That description sounds like it’s a blog that nobody reads instead of an album. Oh poor poor singing drummer Michael Lerner. His soul is crushed. Why the fuck is everything so confessional these days? Haven’t people caught on that "baring your soul" doesn’t work as an attention-grabbing technique? What happened to good old-fashioned shame? I don’t give a fuck about this guy’s crushed soul. Matter of fact, I hope she left him for an F-to-M tranny because "I wanted to be with a real man."
19. Cloud Nothings "Cloud Nothings": No really, that’s what you’re calling your "music project?" Fuck off.
18. Destroyer "Kaputt": Oh right, he did an album this year. Is it just me, or does Dan Bejar seem a little "handsy?"
17. Wild Flag "Wild Flag": Haven’t actually listened to it because it’s more fun that way. It’s like in 1997 being the one person who hasn’t seen Titanic and people are like "wait, you haven’t seen ‘Titanic’?!" And you’re like "yeah, they fall in love but the boat sinks anyway because it’s the fucking Titanic, and they go to the tip of the boat and spread their arms and Celine Dion screams a high note, I get it." And now 15 years later nobody can really believe that everybody was so insane over that movie at the time. But: this could actually be great for all I know. I think it’s probably not great, but at least a step in the right direction, and it’s always good when ladies get some rockin’ done. I like how it’s a rock-chick supergroup with that one lady from The Minders. The Minders were underrated.
16. Yuck "Yuck": I was kind of wondering what the deal is with this band, and apparently they’re British guys going for a shoegaze reheat. There’s surprisingly a lot of interest in reviving the genre these days. I’m glad for anything with loud guitars in it, but do not have good associations with the word "shoegaze." It was an insult that somebody came up with as a euphemism for "boring," and got appropriated and run with. And this is attempting a generational-dilution reboot, which means it’s original boring plus fashion boring.
15. Frank Ocean "Nostalgia, Ultra": Oh, he’s one of the Odd Future guys. I don’t understand much about the Odd Future phenomenon. I think they’re supposed to be like the Wavves of hip hop. In other words the Beastie Boys. Which is maybe great. If I could be in any band ever I’d be a Beastie Boy. Those guys have spent their entire lives just doing fucking NOTHING.
14. Paul Simon "So Beautiful Or So What": Boring, but he’s on the Mt. Rushmore of boring. He’s got a right.
13. Drake "Take Care": Hey, is there an R&B singer named David Justice, or in that a mashup of two different dudes names that my brain is forcing me to think about because of the baseball player? I bet Halle Berry is fucking batshit crazy and that "sex addict" guy (not David Justice) cheated on her because she was a hassle and a half. Wait, was David Justice married to Halle Berry? What about that time Left Eye from TLC burned down Andre Rison’s house and then died? She’s dead, right? Shhh. You guys. Pretend I just said something interesting about Drake.
12. Tom Waits "Bad As Me": Tom Waits has a rabid fanbase, and he’s reissuing all his older material on vinyl for like $30 an LP, which is actually more than the originals cost if you’re patient and know where to look. I don’t blame Waits for this because his fans are collectively the one guy who you absolutely don’t want to get stuck talking to at any given party on Earth. He should make those reissue LPs cost like $50 and then reissue them again five years later for like $8 a piece just for fun.
11. TV On The Radio "Nine Types Of Life": This band does nothing for me. I saw them play a few years ago and couldn’t figure out why exactly they weren’t doing it for me, and I basically came up with "because I’m a racist." Nice. Thanks a lot, guys. Your songs are boring enough that they send me into a shame spiral because I’ve got nothing better to do with my braintime.
10. The Decembrists "The King Is Dead": Saw them by accident in like 2002 and I was cry-yawning.
9. Jay-Z and Kanye West "Watch The Throne": The amount of money and critical success these guys rake in at all times seems to not make any sense. They’re like the 2007 subprime mortgage bond market of human beings. That’s what fame is like these days: completely untethered to reality, buoyed by some weird derivatives (Vodka sponsorship) that nobody really understands, and "too big to fail."
8. St. Vincent "Strange Mercy": What’s the story with her? She’s like PJ Harvey 2.0, right? Or can she sing?
7. Real Estate "Days": Everybody who wrote anything about this album listened to it, right? All the way through? I find that totally impossible to believe.
6. Weekend "House of Balloons": Dillinger had it right. The only way to make good music when you’re on coke is to make the music about being on coke. And even that’s not a sure thing. I’m not going to listen to this. Not worth it.
5. Wilco "The Whole Love": zzzzzzzz
4. Low "C’mon": zzzzzzzzz
3. Bon Iver "Bon Iver": ZZZZZZZZZ!!!!
2. Fucked Up "David Comes To Life": Why do we have to sneak rock into our popular music intake like booze into a movie theater? Like teenagers dry humping in the backseat of the car while it’s still in the garage. It’s ok, you guys. We can all just rock. We don’t have to pretend it’s pretty or be polite about it. We’re adults, we can do whatever we want. We don’t have to play fucking Apples to Apples with Aunt Barb anymore.
1. Wye Oak "Civilian": Probably another total zzzzzz-er, but like a snoozer with a mild case of cred that I am sensing for some reason. Why? I don’t know. I want this to end now.
(by Ben Johnson)