Sunday, September 13, 2009

It's starting to feel a lot like the 90's (and the 80's ...)

Every once in a while, I remember that it's 2009 and I'm supposed to be working on some kind of splashy best-of-the-decade thingy, complete with charts compiled using a ranking/calculation scheme that makes sense only to me. That chart would take shape over several months, as I stare at more or less the same shortlist of albums every day, glacially evolving the rankings by performing the most mundane changes, such as switching M83 and Bardo Pond at #15 and #16 after thirty minutes of pondering, coming away with a feeling of complete satisfaction that I did indeed accomplish something meaningful today.

So, yeah, I've been basically forgetting to do all of that stuff. I've got the shortlist, but every time I look at it, it looks incomplete, as if I'm forgetting about a bunch of classics. It doesn't help that 2000-2002 feels like a million years ago, and how is it possible that the second half of the decade passed twice as quickly as the first half (I mean, doesn't it seem that way to you too)?

Actually, 2000-2002 might as well have happened a million years ago. Those were the days when I still purchased all my music in stores, and generally heard things for the first time in a store or at home by physically picking up a black or silver disc-like object and pressing "play" on some sort of standalone playback device. The bands I was listening to during those years were mainly holdovers from the 90's, although calling them "holdovers" would be selling them far short, because many of them produced the best music of their careers during the first couple of years of the decade. But afterward, those bands just seemed to disappear, and didn't fit into the rest of the decade's narrative.

Strangely enough, everything I wrote in the previous paragraph seems to apply to 90's music as well (or at least, the 90's music I was listening to).

Then came 2003-2005, which are the years that featured all the best music of the decade. The most memorable pop hits were released during these years. And in general, the "sound" of the decade seems much better defined by the music released from 2000-2004 than that released during the second half, 2005-2009.

I'd say the same was true for the 90's as well.

Then came 2006, which was a bit shit (not sure why), but 2007-8 were quite a bit better, but 2009 is confusing because I haven't heard a slam-dunk classic album that no Top 30 or 50 of the decade could be without, and I basically don't have a clue how much of this year's music will still be bragged about in ten years.

In the 90's, 1996 was crap, 1997 was quite a bit better, but 1998 was horrific (this is the one serious divergence from the expected pattern), and 1999 is mainly an interesting exercise for seeing who ended up being major players over the next decade, and who faded away despite slam-dunk expectations. Britney and Justin are two of the biggest mega-stars that the business has ever seen -- who saw that coming? Orbital, Suede, GYBE! -- gone, all of them. Mogwai did a bit of burning brightly, and bit of burning out. Which album will drop later this fall and be the "69 Love Songs" of the 00's, i.e. the album that was released too late to factor in anybody's lists but will retroactively get slotted in in a few years time (and due to it's unusual release date, will never really feel like it's identified with any one decade)?

Oddly enough, I think most of this template could apply to the 80's as well -- 1980-1984 "defined the decade", the second half was a slow decay in comparison (albeit with some awesome peaks and valleys); 1980-1982 contained some extremely creative work, which was somewhat washed away by the megapeak of pop (accompanied by the rise of a game-changing technology, in this case MTV) that occurred from 1983-1985, and so on.

Like I was saying, I have a list to compile, and I think I'll be compiling it mostly on instinct this time. Which means that the final ordering will likely be decided upon in a quick, and mostly visceral way.

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