Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another Pointless List Post By Spike, Using The Word Pantheon Too Much

There was talk around these parts that 2010 was a pantheon year, in league with the 2001s, 1989s, 1967s, and other banner years yet to be explored by TBC. Only time will tell how that in-the-moment assessment fares. But it got me thinking. And by now you know that me thinking = lists.

This list? Well, it starts with this thought: I can’t remember the last year that had releases from so many acts I concurrently loved and anticipated like this year. Yes, there have been years with music that, at the time and later on, resonated more deeply or hit harder or even I liked better. But the same-year output of so many artists I love is pretty staggering, just from a pure "what are the chances?" standpoint (I will let Charlie handle the statistical answer to "what are the chances"). Let’s look at albums released in 2011 by bands that have Pantheon-level albums in my collection (new albums in bold, Pantheon album[s] in parentheses and italics). Yes, Pantheonability is arguable. But this is my blog. They are at least arguably Pantheon for me. And we start at the top, with an artist who has a lot of all-time entries for me.

Neil Young // A Treasure (After the Goldrush, Harvest, Tonight’s The Night, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, On The Beach, Freedom, Harvest Moon, Sleeps With Angels, Déjà vu, Ragged Glory, etc) This is a release of long-lost recordings, so it's not necessarily new and it might be a way of coping with the fact that Le Noise was better in concept than in execution. But the fact remains: this band was on fire and Neil was loving his life. It's not knocking on the door of the hall of fame. But it's a solid release.

Joe Henry // Reverie (Tiny Voices, Scar, Civilians, Trampoline, Blood From The Stars) Henry is calling it a ragged, all-acoustic affair. And I can't wait. While Blood From The Stars is, for me, his weakest recent album, one must also note that it still made the parenthetical italicized club, so that's saying something.

Gillian Welch // The Harrow & The Harvest (Time [The Revelator], Soul Journey, David Rawlings Machine) How dare I ignore her first two records? Well, how dare any fan gravitate towards a specific epicenter of an artists' career arc? The Harrow & The Harvest is to Time (The Revelator) as the album Ryan Adams' fans have been pining for is to Heartbreaker. They feel like brother/sister to me.

Megafaun // s/t (Gather, Form, & Fly) Their last EP Heretofore was quite good, but I think Megafaun is built for the long player so the songs have a bigger family, more room to breathe, a place to stretch their legs. I might be irrationally expecting too much.

Bon Iver // Bon Iver, Bon Iver (For Emma, Forever Ago) How do you follow up an instant classic? Well, if you want to do well on TBC, you throw out the template (see also: Swell Season, Kid A) and do something else. This record doesn't sound much like the much-adored For Emma, but for that voice (physical and literary) that is unmistakable and inescapable and undeniable.

Radiohead // King Of Limbs (OK Computer, The Bends, Kid A, Amnesiac, Hail To The Thief, In Rainbows) There's nothing new I can add to the Radiohead As Saviors Of Music pile or the Is The New Record Great Or Even Good pile or even the Did Radiohead Jump The Shark pile. Because we all have our questions and loyalties. I will continue to follow the boys. That is all.

Low // C’mon (Things We Lost In The Fire, Secret Name, The Great Destroyer) Alan Sparhawk has managed to have one of the best singles every year for the past, what, four years? And "Try To Sleep" is no different. Great record from a band that deserves a lot better.

Wilco // The Whole Love (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Mermaid Ave, Being There, Summerteeth, Sky Blue Sky) Another band that doesn't need more words dedicated to all its question marks. Again, I will follow until they give me reason not to.

Iron & Wine // Kiss Each Other Clean (The Creek Drank The Cradle, Our Endless Numbered Days) It bothers me that I have suddenly found myself sitting in Cliche Class on the I Liked Their Earlier Stuff Better row.

Steve Earle // I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (El Corazon, The Mountain, Transcendental Blues) Like with Elvis Costello, I am in the seemingly rare I Like His Mid-to-Late-Period Material Best camp, where a lot of loyalists fawn over the early records. This record, however, changed that dramatically. Best in years.

David Bazan // Strange Negotiations (Curse Your Branches, It’s Hard To Find A Friend, Achilles Heel) Honesty will take you a long way.

Lucinda Williams // Blessed (Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, Essence, World Without Tears) Like Earle, I have followed all of her records for a long time, but this is the best since WWT by quite a bit.

Foo Fighters // Wasting Light (The Colour And The Shape, maybe the next two…) Say what you will about the formula or Nirvana Was Better or boorrrring. But this record is tough. And that second album is full of amazing, whether or not you want to admit it because it sold well and had some hits.

Paul Simon // So Beautiful or So What (Graceland, The Rhythm of the Saints, You’re The One, plus S&G) Weird record, but I have always loved what Randy Newman said about Simon years ago (referring to Graceland), and this is paraphrasing, "What I love about Paul Simon is that he is still grasping for the cup, trying to blow people away, trying new things, killing it." Simon has kept searching rather than coast like many of his contemporaries.

Ron Sexsmith // Long Player Late Bloomer (Cobblestone Runway, Retriever) Afraid to say that one listen to the single got me a little gloss-averse. I will go back.

REM // Collapse In to Now (Life’s Rich Pageant, Document, Automatic For The People, Monster) Much has been made of the demise of REM, but Accelerate was a step in the right direction. Will they keep stepping?

The Strokes // Angles (Is This It, Room On Fire) The fact that the band, before it was even released, were talking about how they were excited for the next record was not promising.

See what I'm saying? Whether or not these new records are great or boring or interesting or retreads or revolutions, it is pretty amazing to me how many albums are coming out that have older brothers on Rushmore.

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