Top Ten of ‘Ten, Then

This is the first year in the severals of years I’ve been in the business of making best-o-year music lists that it wasn’t a total fucking chore. Because I’ve grown as a person, and also been actively better at making my way through the piles of music land in my cubicle. Billboard’s Critics’ Picks list is an aggregate of all our staff votes, and overlapped with my personal list by only two albums (which is actually a record high). So, because I actually think this was a killer year for some new music, and because I AM NOT AFRAID OF YOU, here are my favorite albums of 2010 and an associated word (songs are still up in the air; those will be done for the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop ballot, at the last second before it’s due on Friday).

*Special kudos to Merge Records, who knocked it out of the park this year–four of my top ten came out of the label, and are not even Arcade Fire or Spoon.

1. Grinderman, “Grinderman 2” — Sex
2. Superchunk, “Majesty Shredding” — Endorphins
3. Versus, “On the Ones and Threes” — Melt
4. Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” — Bananas
5. Screaming Females, “Castle Talk” — Primordial
6. LCD Soundsystem, “This is Happening” – Carbonated
7. Devo, “Something for Everybody” — Corporate
8. Tracey Thorn, “Love and Its Opposite” — Creme Brulee
9. The Extra Lens, “Undercard” — Bromance
10. Mavis Staples, “You Are Not Alone” — Ecumenical

Runners up (in no particular order):
The Apples In Stereo, “Travellers in Space and Time” — Futurama
Yeasayer, “Odd Blood” — Globalist
Hot Chip, “One Life Stand” — Sparklekitty
Gogol Bordello, “Trans-Continental Hustle” — Aerobic
Editors, “In This Light and On This Evening” — Butterfly
Janelle Monae, “The ArchAndroid” — Animatronic
The Dead Weather, “Sea of Cowards” — Indigo
Big Boi, “Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty” — Shazam

Look Around

I spent this past weekend at the 2010 EMP Pop Conference in Seattle, a sort-of academic conference for writers, journalists, academics, musicians and other assorted folk to nerd out about pop music. People present 20-minute papers on a wide variety of topics, all loosely related to a theme–this year it was The Pop Machine: Music and Technology. I presented (and in fact attended) for the first time this year–my topic was contemporary a cappella music and basically why it sucks to everyone except the people who do it. If you know me, you know pretty well why I did this.

Anyway, I wouldn’t presume anyone outside of those walls would want to read my paper, but I thought I’d share the horrifying video mash-up I introduced the presentation with. “Enjoy”:

Are we not men?

As far as journalistic coups go, I’m not clearing space for the Pulitzer, but I’m pretty sure this is the first place you will read about Devo’s new hat color.

Also, watch this announcement from the band’s new COO. They’re doing this intentionally ironic ultra-corporate thing and it’s a little awesome.

Well. Hello.

Wow, huh. August? Is that what that says down there on that previous post? Fascinating. Boy, time, etc.

Yeah so, when we entered the new decade, I had ambitions to make this space SING–for example to post my list of 20 top albums of the 2000s that I submitted for Billboard’s Critics’ List, because the individual lists weren’t published and only one of mine was agreed-upon enough to make the aggregate. But now it’s almost February, and no one cares about all that listin’ anymore (or if they do they’re too busy arguing over the Pazz & Jop poll).

Then I thought “hey maybe I’ll make a Tumblr! Everyone’s doing that.” But I dropped that idea, even though I’m sure it would have made things totally different and more creative and topical and led to an instant book deal.

Then I actually visited this site and discovered that my old theme template on my seventeen-versions-ago version of WordPress was totally corrupted, and you couldn’t read anything. Ha, how long was it like that? We’ll never know! So now we’ve done a full upgrade, changed the template, made things less green (though don’t worry, Kermit tones still reign at until I find a few weeks of free time), and will consider adding something of value soon, which is not this.

In the mean time, as always, visit for your music needs, Awesomed By Comics for my weekly podcast and occasional blogging, and feel free to follow me on Twitter at @EvieN. Most common reply to my tweets: “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, but it sounds like it might be funny if I did.”

R.I.P. Teddy


1980 presidential primary, I guess I didn’t pound the pavement hard enough.

Winterspring in summer

So it’s taken, uh, some time since I announced the release of Aaron’s first full-length album, but there is finally a clever little video to go with the first single “Winterspring”. We worked with animator Maya Erdelyi to put together this claymation/puppety thingy, and I think it’s a right good time. So please to enjoy, and share, and all that good stuff (here’s the direct YouTube link). ALSO: If you have a Facebook account, please consider going to the Ampersands’ page and becoming a fan. There’s a minimum before you can get one o’ them slick usernames, and due to much promotional inactivity, we need to get on the stick. Millions of thanks!

Eulogy for Two Michaels

It’s Friday evening, a little more than 24 hours after Michael Jackson was pronounced dead in Los Angeles, and I am physically and emotionally exhausted from the loss. This is not a personal loss, mind you, as tempting as it is in these moments to take that tone—my extraordinary father died when I was eight, and I divorced my first love, and to compare this to either of those would be a lie of the highest order. No, I’m exhausted because our culture is starved for shared emotional experiences, and yesterday and today we fed. And because I’m a music journalist, and I work for Billboard magazine, which literally defined the metrics against which much of Michael’s enormous success has been and will be measured, which meant that last night was a blur of monumental chaos at my workplace. And lastly, because I was born in 1976, meaning that before I could even begin to articulate the slightest understanding of pop, soul, and performance genius, Michael was a god.

For the past, oh, ten to twenty years, most of my deliberate thoughts about Michael Jackson have revolved around the grotesque joke he has become–his preposterous physical transformation; his unconscionable alleged acts towards children; his bizarre public behavior in every form. But somehow, I was able to separate this extraterrestrial from the person I emulated when singing “I Want You Back” at elated karaoke sessions; the freedom fighter from countless viewings of Captain EO. These were not the same person. They WERE NOT. We’ve been having this conversation all along, yeah, but now we really have to man up and have it, because it’s That Time.

In the past 24 hours, people I love and respect have expressed disgust that such adoring tribute has been thrust upon a man who very likely inflicted sexual abuse on children—perhaps the worst evil a person can commit. I understand where these people are coming from. How can a few pop songs stand up for even a second against that? But at the same time, how is it that last night, when “Thriller” came across the jukebox at a bar, three of us simultaneously began dancing like zombies with a giddy enthusiasm? None of us have respected Michael Jackson as a contemporary musician or a moral human for years—where do we get off getting a high from his output? What kind of hypocrites are we?

But see, that’s just the thing. If I had been in that bar with those same people last week, and “Thriller” had come on, the exact. Same. Thing. Would have happened. Of this I have zero doubt. An entire generation of music lovers, probably two, has willfully colluded to allow Michael Jackson two distinct identities—that of ridiculous monster, and that of glorious pop royalty, because we cannot accept the alternative. We won’t relinquish the joy of hearing his unmatchable voice against that unrelenting rhythm; we can’t forget the awe of seeing him express emotions in song that no human of his age should have any concept of. It’s not wrong to remember him as a gift to the world, and it’s not wrong to hate him irreversibly for what he probably did. And while the people closest to Michael Jackson have to reconcile that he was one person, I do not. And I will appreciate that luxury and give thanks for it.

National Adjective Day Sidelined by Swine Flu

…Or, you know, because I was gone all day and sort of forgot. And because let’s face it, I’ve been slipping in my attention to a number of Day Old traditions, such as the cookie swap, quarterly poetry slam, and concept of regular posting. Anyway, I literally spent 8 hours both yesterday and today talking about almost nothing but parts of speech as part of a training, so my enthusiasm for adjectives is nearly depleted to absolute zero. The truth is that while I’m the first to admit that the idea itself is pretty lame, the execution had promise, so I still have a soft spot for the original holiday and its five exciting successive celebrations, so I encourage you to reminisce (even though several of them, I now realize, involve me apologizing for dropping the ball). At the moment the only adjectives I can think of are disinterested and uninterested, the distinction between which I actually had an organized, 15-minute group discussion about today. So, you can see what that might do to a person. Anyway, happy NAD.

If you can make it there…

Every time I start to grow weary of New York City, I will encounter something like this for no goddamned reason whatsoever, and remember why I’m here.


Carry a laser down the road that I must travel

Don’t mind me, just testing out today’s sinister theory that website traffic can be increased by titling posts with slightly wrong song lyrics. And for the record, these lyrics would be much better.