Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pazz and Jop 2009: quick thoughts

So far, there's been plenty of shock and horror over this year's P&J results. The top of both the singles and albums list are packed with indie rock, and some people are outraged over P&J turning into Pitchfork. None of this is too surprising ... P&J results have been getting more and more predictable over the last few years, and this list is certainly no less predictable than last year's was.

Animal Collective at the top was completely expected, but I'm not sure that any of this signifies a dramatic shift toward indie rock. Bands like Animal Collective, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Phoenix were this year's convenient token indie picks -- I voted for two of those three and I'm certainly not part of the indie hivemind. They appealed to a wide spectrum of voters, and typically only a handful of albums manage that in a given year. Note that on the album list, the number of mentions basically falls off a cliff after #8 (Raekwon), which is about the same as most years. So, albums #1-8 had "broad appeal", and the rest is more or less the usual noise spectrum of genres bubbling underneath. This year, indie was the token pick. When "Speakerboxx/The Love Below" was #1 on P&J in 2003, there was a storm of discussion about how it was the fashionable choice for non-rap fans. It certainly didn't signify some kind of meaningful critical shift toward hip-hop. I think it's dangerous to generalize about genre placements in the top ten of a large international poll like P&J -- I think that consensus picks are largely immune to strict genre boundaries. In the pre-internet days, when critics could be neatly divided into categories (e.g. "classic rock" vs "alternative") then it was a different story. Chuck Eddy wrote an essay that expresses most of this better than I can.

Techno (and dance music in general) got screwed as usual, and as usual there will be plenty of voices who complain about the lack of rap, metal, country, etc. while the techno crowd will sit back and say nothing for the most part. Past critical flashes-in-the-pan like the Field, Gui Boratto and even Annie were buried in the multi-100's. I didn't expect that six other people would vote for Shackleton, and was tremendously surprised and disappointed that Moderat's self-titled album garnered just one other vote. However, Joy Orbison's "Hyph Mngo" finished at #20 on the singles list and could anyone have predicted that (on Pitchfork's top 20, sure, but P&J)?? Dance critics unite?!?

I finished in the top half of Glenn McDonald's critical alignment ratings for the first time ever, at number 286 out of 692. That's what I get for voting for two of the top four albums ...

Mike Powell's essay brilliantly captures all the things to like about Animal Collective this year, and the range of different reactions people have to hearing their music.

Only one vote for "Chase the Tear" (mine)? Did nobody notice it because it was released too late in the year (and with very little fanfare, being a charity single)?

No comments: