Friday, December 26, 2008

My 2008 Submitted Pazz & Jop Comments

Who knows? Some of them may actually get published.

Mark my words: by 2011, cassette and vinyl will be the only safe formats left for purchasing non-major label music. Compact discs will be worthless, mp3s will be booby-trapped with killfiles, and you will happily plunk down $5 for the latest Hototogisu double-vinyl live masterpiece without batting an eyelash.

Coming soon to a theatre programme-thin alt-weekly near you: 10-word live show previews, 20-word album reviews, 200-word in-depth profiles of visiting acts, plus 50 ads directing you to the paper's web site, where the real action is.

So Tha Carter III's warm glow has dimmed a bit since the first dozen times I heard it, and the laziness I wanted to pretend I didn't sense therein jumps out and smacks me around everytime I throw the disc into the player. (God, doesn't that last phrase feel totally old dude-esque? It just comes out wrong, even typed.) But admit it: deep down inside, we - read: critics - caught the laziness at jump, but gave Weezy a pass because the zillion prior free-for-download mixtapes were so superior, right? This was payback, in the positive sense of that term, and a desperately-needed re-affirmation of the album-release-as-event concept. We needed this album to matter so that we'd matter; Wayne knew this, too.

The various publication/outlet/website '08 best-of lists I've come across in my surfing are neglecting Matmos something terrible. Which is a shame, because Supreme Balloon is unquestionably the duo's finest album to date: a United Colors of Benetton ad saturated with squeaky-synth clown balloons instead of bare limbs. The various sonic gimmicks MC Schmidt and Drew Daniels have traditionally relied upon have always made for good to really good albums, but it took the absence of conceptual sampling to make for something extraordinarily bouyant, helium airy, and outright orgasmic.

Kanye West probably didn't go into making 808s and Heartbreak intending to comment indirectly on the deepening recession - dude just wanted to lash out at his ex without rapping. But Yeezy's fourth album inadvertantly underlines the virtues of all-American self-reliance by shrugging off the usual cascade of too-familiar and somewhat-obscure samples to unleash a self-centered artistic statement so streamlined and cold that it's simultaneously impossible to turn away from and the most involving entry of his growing catalogue.

Every year, the Pazz & Jop Ballot entreaty asks voters to submit - in addition to albums and singles votes - contact information and publications we write for. Personally, I'm finding that the list of web sites, magazines, and newspapers keeps shrinking. It's not so much that outlets are folding so much as they're scaling back for economic reasons: this one's limiting itself to local music coverage only, that one's shelving reviews for months due to lower-than-ever page counts, and so on. It won't be long until everyone's just out on their own, blogging hard into our own echo chambers for comments and (hopefully) Adsense hits.

R.I.P. paperthinwalls. Not so much because I'm forced to bid adieu to yet another repository of sparkling crit wit and talent or because another stream of steady work's gone dry, but because now my excuse to pummel Whiney with babbling emails all day when I'm supposed to be working is no more.

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