Friday, December 11, 2009

I succumb

So here I find myself surrendering to one of the dumbest conventions of the cyber age: sticking a list of favorite songs on my blog. Next up for me, online dating.

And speaking of dating, I date the list phenomenon back to a 1987 issue of Rolling Stone that ranked the 100 best albums of the past 20 years. Such cut and dried canonizing was a new concept then: while there had already been a few "desert-island disk" exercises out there, those had an undeniable parlor-game feel to them and held no real sway. The RS list's rankings, most of which I remember to this day, seared themselves into my young, as yet untouched-by-lists mind. That list obviously made an impression on a few others as well, for the following decade, in which we RS-fed kids grew up and assumed media jobs, saw a complete overdose of lists. Everybody does them now, whether it's sports writers with their "power rankings," VH1's sexiest celebrity pets lists, or even Rolling Stone itself, which time passed by long ago but which continues to crank this shit out.

And now you don't even need to be a magazine or a network to have a list; you can just be a regular old schmuck with a blog. Like hanging an Egon Schiele print on your dorm wall, such lists are one of the most expedient ways to grab some quick cred for yourself—as if recognizing some artifact's quality is the next best thing to having created it. (Artists themselves are not immune to such associations. I recently saw Muse, who came onstage to Prokofiev's admittedly thrilling "Dance of the Knights"; and, while this definitely lent Muse themselves some grandness, the fact is it was written by an odd and gifted Soviet composer who died over half a century ago. What an effect, though. After a few seconds, it didn't even matter who'd written it, because it belonged to Muse.)

So go ahead and make a list: assert your taste, impress/baffle your friends ("The Ting Tings? Where's he come up with this stuff?"), or just remind yourself what you like—because sometimes you forget. Anyway, here, in no particular order, are my favorites from this decade, which has only a few weeks of life left.

"Reckoner," Radiohead
"I Thought," Bryan Ferry with Brian Eno
"John Wayne Gacy, Jr." Sufjan Stevens
"Diamonds of Sierra Leone," Kanye West
"The Rip," Portishead
"A Love You Can't Survive," Richard Thompson
"White Chalk," PJ Harvey
"Phantom Other," Department of Eagles
"Weekend Wars," MGMT
"I Feel Like Dying," Lil Wayne
"The Island," Decemberists
"Saint Simon," The Shins
"Triangle Walks," Fever Ray
"Comet," Wire
"Revelator," Gillian Welch
"The Modern Age," The Strokes
"Agoraphobia," Deerhunter
"A Good Man Is Hard to Find," Tom Waits
"North American Scum," LCD Soundsystem
"In the Flowers," Animal Collective
"Frontier Psychiatrist," Avalanches
"Gila," Beach House
"Paper Planes," M.I.A.
"I Love My Car," Belle & Sebastian
"Ready, Able," Grizzly Bear
"Cato as a Pun," Of Montreal
"Flume," Bon Iver
"How Kind of You," Paul McCartney
"13 Months in 6 Minutes," The Wrens
"How It Ends," Devotchka
"Things I Miss the Most," Steely Dan
"Analyse," Thom Yorke
"Sunday," David Bowie
"The Crown of Love," Arcade Fire
"Paparazzi," Lady Gaga
"Sunday," David Bowie
"My Rights versus Yours," New Pornographers
"Horse to Water," R.E.M.
"Oxford Comma," Vampire Weekend
"Little One," Beck
"Wolf Like Me," TV on the Radio
"Animal Midnight," Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
"Xanax and Wine," U2
"Disconnection Notice," Sonic Youth
"The Union Forever," White Stripes
"Crystalised," The xx
"This Tornado Loves You," Neko Case
"Fatal," Pearl Jam
"That's Not My Name," Ting Tings
"Tiger Mountain Peasant Song," Fleet Foxes
"Like Spinning Plates (Live)," Radiohead

My list of the decade's best albums can be found on this blog's younger, crueler sibling.

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