Best of the Best of 2011: Top 10 Grimy, Scuzzy, Noisy Indie Rock Albums of 2011 by David Malitz, Washington Post "Click Tracks" Blog
Holy fucking shit. It’s got more qualifiers than a credit card contract (I imagine an editor saying, "…and could you put ‘grimy’ in there too? Legal is worried about lawsuits by fretting Jewesses in Chevy Chase whose middle-school aged sons are deathly allergic to distortion"), it’s buried on some seldom seen blog-only wing of the website, and I disagree with maybe half of it, but here it is. Evidence that somebody at some kind of an actual reputable content provider has some semblance of an idea that there’s such a thing as rock music in 2011. I feel like I hit the lottery.
I mean, look at this. Press. For OBN IIIs. Sure, they’re not the best band in the world, but they’ve got to be equally not the best band in the world as Florence and the Machines, right? You’re gonna tell me that Florence and the Machines is as good as Billie fucking Holiday? Ok, so then they’re not the best. OBN IIIs? Also not the best. They’re probably closer to the original best of what they’re doing (The Stooges, natch) than Florence and the Machines is to Billie Holiday, but I guess that’s an argument that reasonable minds could disagree on. Saying Florence and the Machines is one of the top 10 best albums of 2011 is a little like saying that Rickie Lee Jones is one of the top 10 albums of 1979. It does nothing for anybody except make people say "Really? Nobody knew any better?" 20 years later. There have been an average of three exact Rickie Lee Joneses per year for the last 40 years.
For the record, my Top 10 Rickie Lee Joneses of 2011 are:
2. Florence and the Machines
3. St. Vincent
4. PJ Harvey
6. Rickie Lee Jones
7. Lykke Li
8. Gillian Welch
9. Tedeschi Trucks Band
10. I can’t believe I still have accurate additional options for this joke
Maybe my real beef is I’d like to see all of these lists as highly qualified as David Malitz’s. That’s the only thing that would make any sense. Rolling Stone can do the "Top 50 Major Label Releases That We Can Talk Ourselves Into Telling You We Like Because We Know What Side Our Bread Is Buttered On." Pitchfork can do the "Top 50 Victory Lap Cash-Ins By Us Of Promoting The Current Active Rosters Of Merge, Sub Pop, and Matador While Gladly Taking Their Ad Sales Money Because They Owe Us For Using The Internet To Tell People That Spoon Is A Good Band, And In Return We Get To Pretend To Still Be Technically ‘Indie’ Even Though Music Distribution Doesn’t Work That Way Anymore In The Post-Digital Era." The New York Times can do the "We Care So Little About This Shit We Put It In A Podcast Top Whatever Whatever Leave Us Alone Here’s A Check For $1,500." Chunklet can do "For Some Reason People Still Don’t Know That We’re Fucking Kidding And We’re Constantly Shocked That People React To Anything We Say Because We’re Just Regular Dudes Who Like Both Music And Joking Around About It And We’re Not Even A Real Thing And The Fact That We Can Get A Rise Out Of Anybody Means That People Need To Fucking Relax Top Nothings Of Forever." And that way everybody will know what they’re getting themselves into.
In the interest of full disclosure, here are my Top 10 Albums of Music I Liked In The Tiny, Tiny Subcategory Of Music I Actually Liked, The Noisier End Of Rock Because That’s What I Like And Not Because I’m Racist, And It’s Not As If I Expect Anybody In The Entire Universe To Give A Shit About My Opinion, 2011:
1. White Fence “White Fence Is Growing Faith” (Woodsist): January release on what appears from nomenclature to be another (more popular) band’s vanity label by a nondescript band name in the now ubiquitous “Adjective Singular Noun” tradition (Wild Flag) with forgettable album art. This poor fucker doesn’t have a chance in hell of winding up anybody else’s list but it’s the album I listened to most and enjoyed most in 2011, which is what these things should be all about, and I’m not sure it would have had the time and the space to marinate had it been rushed out during the October/November insanity. Let’s take back January, you guys.
2. Mikal Cronin “Mikal Cronin” (Trouble In Mind): A classic pop rock album that really got me thinking about the state of the music biz these days. It’s pretty effing weird indeed that an album as self-evidently enjoyable and “no reasonable person could have a bone to pick with it” as this one, basically “It’s A Shame About Ray Part 2” can just be completely bulldozed by the hullaballoo machine without so much as a backward glance. You know shit is jacked up when anybody, particularly me, thinks of 1994 as “the good old days.”
3. Divorced “Separation Anxiety” (Untapped Resources): I don’t ask for much, folks. Just some thunderous guitar sound and deadpan delivery of the most idiotic lyrics you can possibly come up with. I don’t know if that’s actually hard to do, but it sounds easy as fuck and I love it the MOST.
4. Thee Oh Sees “Carrion Crawler/The Dream” (In The Red): Finally the best band in America puts out an album that sounds like itself.
5. Royal Headache “Royal Headache” (R.I.P. Society): Apparently the guy (singer “Shogun”) hates this album, which I imagine is due to some arcane recording technique beef and not an actual content issue. Because album opener “Never Again” is as sure of a upbeat party destroyer as “A Town Called Malice,” except, you know, with balls attached. I would dance to it if dancing were not outlawed still for some reason.
6. Kitchens Floor “Look Forward To Nothing” (Siltbreeze): Very Nirvana-esque vibes here, except we’re dealing with one of those scary suicidal anti-depressant reactions instead of raw nerves, ghost ulcers, and heroin. Plus it’s deconstructed an extra layer. Just in case you might have been worried that the guy doesn’t know he might be coming off like a sad sack, he’ll revert to nonverbal grunting just to drive the point home that he’s sicker of himself than you could ever be. It’s so downer it transcends “downer” and becomes a heartbreaker.
7. Total Control “Henge Beat” (Iron Lung): Another total headscratcher of a "why isn’t everybody talking about this?" record. It’s a Joy Division energy recapture without the direct tonal thievery of an Interpol, and it’s getting NOTHING.
7. Apache Dropout “Apache Dropout” (Family Vineyard): There’s an 8-minute version of “What Goes On” on the VU Quine Tapes that I heard for the first time this year, and it’s Apache Dropout. This diminishes nothing from anybody, but: Holy Shit right? The Velvets, amirite? The fucking VELVETS, people. STILL. I’m cool with new permutations forever. Let’s do another 50 years after this one.
8. The Men “Leave Home” (Sacred Bones): I grew up around Washington DC, and in like 1997 every band on EARTH (i.e. Dischord) sounded like this, except not as good. Hearing it again now is like “what TOOK you so long?”
9. Obnox “I’m Bleeding Now” (Smog Veil): “Totalled” might be the best track of the year. It sounds like somebody blasted some Lenny Kravitz megasmash hit out of a clock radio, then loaded it into a canon and shot it into a vat of boiling lard, then set it on fire. Never has pop that pop been so thoroughly and willfully destroyed. It’s exhilirating.
10. Folded Shirt “F/S” (Fashionable Idiots): I can’t tell if this is the best thing ever or the worst thing ever, but I’m going to have to put it on here just in case. It’s so aggressively terrible it’s like it doesn’t even exist, and instead inhabits some other dimension of nonmusic where it is the exact spastic boneless vomiting Bo Diddley all the glue-huffing kids have been waiting for.