The story you are about to read is true, give or take. No names have been changed to protect the innocent. Tuesday, December 4. A balmy night in San Fernando Valley and I'm working the night watch at the Hit And Miss Division over at the Devonshire Station. My partner's name is Bill Gannon. The boss is Kyla Fairchild, Chief of Detectives. My name is Easy. Easy Ed.
Oh yes...its that of time of year for fun and frivolity folks. A list for this; a list for that. It's the end of the year...and we know it. And I feel fine. Do you? I just got over 235,000,000 hits on the Google search term "year-end lists" and it seems there are more stories about lists than there are of lists themselves.
Here at No Depression we will have lots and lots of bloggers blogging about their favorite albums and artists, and some will bestow upon us not just what they like, but rather what have determined to be the best. THE BEST! Holy Thursday, Friday. How do they pull that one out of their hat?
I think it's a slick trick to come up with anything you can call a "best of" without fumbling the ball somewhere along the way because...here's the rub...it's only YOUR OPINION. Got it? There is no quantitative measure for the "best" album or book or film or photo or artwork unless you want to use sales metrics, in which case Justin Bieber and James Patterson win and we can all go marching off to hell.
But wait...I think I have discovered some catagories that we can apply the term "best of" to that won't be disputed. Oh...maybe there will be a curmudgeon here or there who might take offense, but really, I think I have the list of all lists. And if nothing else, it might be very, very short.
BEST ALBUM WITH AWFUL COVER ART FROM A SEPTUAGENARIAN: Bob Dylan's Tempest is a damn good recording with some fine songs and one awful looking cover. One can only imagine that his line of reasoning is that there ain't no record stores left and it'll be so small on the iPod that nobody will even notice. But really, do we think he puts much thought into it anymore? And the art director at the label...laid off in the recession. By the way, a sub-category "best of" Dylan quote from 1986 is "I'm only Bob Dylan when I have to be."
BEST FREE AND LEGAL LIVE ALBUM FROM REAL OLD GENUINE HIPPIES: This is a tough category because there are just so many artists who give away music for free these days, but nobody does it like the Grateful Dead. They even have their own tab on Live Archive with oodles and oodles of shows posted for the taking, and many with the best sound quality possible. But this past month they did their annual 30 Days of The Dead with a new track every day...about 250-300 minutes of live dead. And album cover art too. As of this moment, they are all still posted on the site here. Blink and they'll be gone.
BEST NEW ALBUM FROM ARTIST WHOSE ALBUMS ALL SOUND THE SAME: It's been 20 years that Mark Kozelek first began releasing records with the Red House Painters and later with Sun Kil Moon, which quite often isn't much more than him and a guitar. I love everything I've collected from this guy, even all the solo work I picked up along the way, and the latest album Among The Leaves doesn't disappoint. Look...he's an acquired taste. Sort of like a quiet, Sunday morning Quaalude...see High Times reference below. There's not many of us who can take five notes and build a seven minute song out of it, and then turn around and take the same five notes and do it again, and it sounds sort of different but at the end you're so confused to what you're hearing you just don't care. Love him. Or them. Whatever.
BEST BALLSY AMERICANA AWARD TO AN ENGLISHMAN: I have loved Richard Thompson since I was a mere child and was fortunate to see him with Fairport Convention in the late sixties, and to meet him later in the nineties when he recorded at Capitol. When the Americana Music Association awarded him the Lifetime Achievement award this year I thought there might have been a mistake. But a quick check of the old Wikipedia put it all straight. Thompson was born April 3, 1949 in Leland, West Virginia as Hargus McCoy, and at barely one years old was captured and kidnapped by a pack of wild wolves who over a period of three years raised him while moving him across the great northern plains, over the Baring Straits and into Eastern Russian. Found abandoned by a scientific expedition of British scholars, he was smuggled into the UK and raised by the family of Dr. Nigel Thompson of Notting Hill. And that's why the AMA claimed that his music is now classified as Americana.
BEST ELECTION OUTCOME: Thanks to Donald Trump for footing the bill and putting a team of crack investigators on the job, for we now know (with reasonable certainty) that our president was indeed born in this country. That is, if you consider Hawaii one of the real fifty states. You been there? I have. I mean, they smoke ganja and listen to reggae a lot. Oh wait a minute, that's Jamaica. Same thing. By the way, isn't it odd that Newsweek stops publishing but High Times is still going strong? But the point being, you may be one of those Republicans, but statistically speaking, the majority of us who supported Obama are pretty happy and thinking this is the best outcome we could have had. Go Big O.
BEST HOSTILE AUDIENCE REACTION: Opening weekend for The Master at the Greenburgh Multiplex Cinemas in Elmsford, New York. The sold out theater of well-heeled, mid-sixties date night couples screamed, yelled and boo'd when the lights came on, and threw empty boxes of popcorn at the screen. Almost as good as the film itself and the elderly woman in a wheelchair who yelled "piece of shit" should get an Oscar for Best Adaptation of Irate Customer.
BEST LIST EVER: NPR'S 20 UNHAPPIEST PEOPLE YOU MEET IN THE COMMENTS SECTIONS OF YEAR-END LISTS (CLICK HERE)
Hoped you clicked on that last one. Now to get to the real meat and potatoes of this post....my list of favorite albums from this year. As a frequent molester and mangler of words, I was asked to submit a top ten of faves, which I have done to Miss Kim. I also went a bit deeper and deeper and deeper. I wish I could say it was total and complete, but I'm sure I've missed something here or there.
And more to the point, there is no way I or you or anyone else could possibly be exposed to everything. There are an average of 100,000 new releases each year. About 2,500 of those sell 5,000 albums or more. The majority of those are either on major labels or distributed by the "indie" distributors that are owned by the majors. True independent and DIY musicians struggle to stay afloat. So...support them when you can. Go to their shows, and if you would like to buy their music, try and do it from them direct or on their websites. They get to keep more money in their pockets that way.
Here we go....