Editor’s Note: Each of the writers from Aural States was given free-reign to make an optional year-end post, filled with lists, oped, whining, whatever…this is what one came up with:
2008 is on the books, and since we celebrate the passing of the calendar year on a certain upcoming day just about a week after the Winter solstice, it’s time to reflect on what has passed, to celebrate the good and make amends or at least clean the slate on what wasn’t so good. 2008 threw us some real curve balls, in my opinion, and I think I’ll always see it as a year of upheaval, some of it quite unpleasant. Hopefully 2009 will reap the benefits usually unearthed after such drastic change.
Self-Obsession: the blogosphere has always been a bit of a bizarre place but I think the narcissism really peaked in ’08. And whenever someone says blogging is inherently self-absorbed I always direct them here, to Aural States, where we hope to not let ourselves get carried away with ourselves. We’re not artists, we’re just a few folks with a hobby. Perhaps some people find it psychologically comforting to put their every move and thought on display for all the world to either admire or laugh at instead of taking care of your problems the old fashioned way with a bottle of liquor and a few Sebadoh records. But as far as the Twitters and Facebooks and MySpaces and the various linkages thereof, I’m really underwhelmed.
It seemed ok at first but I’ve officially retired from Facebook after receiving in one month three bits of really unhappy news delivered in unapologetically cold fashion. There’s no substitute for human interaction no matter how bad you may be at it.
In 2009, I predict a decrease in gratuitous broadcasting of personal information, as people remain committed to their inner monologues, but no longer feel the need to update the rest of us due to a general skepticism about the existence of other minds. Paul Westerberg echoes my frustrations, though his choice of imagery is now dated:
Selling-out: suddenly is cool. Artists no longer feel a need to reflect ambivalence about making money because none of them are making any more.
Record sales? Down about 20%.
Digital subscriptions? Completely stalled.
MTV’s biggest hit last year was a video game you may have heard of called Rock Band. Where MTV has failed, commercials have stepped up to fill the void. And the new format of flashy music videos perfectly sequenced for my 30 second attention span has given so much to so many deserving artists. Of Montreal, The Shins, Modest Mouse: I’m so glad my family members now associate various popular products with your songs without knowing one damn thing about you.
Naturally, it’s only a matter of time until the record industry cashes in, and 2009 will probably see a new format of digital rights management, in which the music you purchase comes pre-loaded with a video of all your favorite products, thereby ensuring that even the most relaxing and comforting pastimes in which you used to take comfort are now laden with the stamp of global commerce and you won’t be able to hear a single song you like without immediately thinking of a product which you really need to go out and buy immediately.
MP3: Grandaddy – A.M. 180
Ephemerality: perhaps it was there all along but 2008 was the year I really started to notice it.
Bands get hyped, release a CD, come through for one tour, and are never heard from again. Today’s Crystal Stilts are yesterday’s Klaxons. You usually get more than 15 minutes, maybe a month or two. Maybe you’ll peak in mid-March and burn through the whole summer festival season if you’re really cool. But ultimately, indie rockers are getting chewed up and spit out at an alarming rate and not a single one of them has had the staying power of the big radio-play acts. I mean, fuck, Nickelback has put out the same album six times over the last decade but at least those rockers with their long curly locks have put out six albums. Let’s hope in the years to come Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend can pull off more than one.
Baltimore: I hadn’t walked around here in a while. Five years ago when I left from college this city was devoid of good music and cool culture and now its pretty rad. There’s cool bars, cool clubs, cool abandoned warehouses, and most importantly, cool media.
If you grew up here you know how cool this feels, and if you didn’t, then I’m sorry. It can’t last, of course, because nothing can, but it should be enjoyed for now. Which is exactly why you should come to the Aural States Fest on January 30-31st.
Festivals: There were more than ever this year, and I finally went on a big cross-country hike to one. And other folks I know went to their first festivals too. I give the experience two thumbs up, but you need to realize how much money you inevitably spend.
Do you plan on drinking or eating things at the festival of your choice? You will pay dearly for these baser functions.
Do you drive a car to the show? Recall that gas, parking fees, and maintenance add up.
Do you plan to sleep in places other than rest stops and eat more than ramen noodles and PB&Js? Neeless to say, you may spend well more than you realize, so be prepared.
You can’t help but have a good time, but do try not to take too many drugs (remember the hot sun and the dehydration can add up) and do try not to come away with any STDs. Otherwise next year we’ll all just have big chillouts where we sit around listening to The Hold Steady and Counting Crows and reminiscing about the good old days where we were young and crazy. I’d like to think I still have four or five more good years in me until such time inevitably arrives.
Barack Obama: While I voted for him, and I think he’s easily the most charismatic presidential candidate in my lifetime, I’m really disappointed with how so many of my blogosphere friends have worshipped Barack.
He’s not a godsend. He’s not going to be able to change that much on his own, and if one was really looking, it would be easy to find aspects of his campaign face to poke fun at (the 60 Minutes piece which, as of tonight, has aired twice would be a good place to start). But people in my age group continue to adore him as though he were all four Beatles put together, and have undoubtedly voted in numbers previously unseen.
In large part this seems to be because as un- or under-employed recent college grads, they hold a grudge against the class of people who have done their best to use up all of the capital available on extravagant houses and cars and cruises instead of investing wisely and planning for the future.
Perhaps Barack Obama does not come from the same kind of upbringing as the average blue blood politician, but the attempts to black up his campaign were regrettable. I wish the president-elect the best. I also don’t expect any miracles.
Noise: If 1991 was the year punk broke, then perhaps 2008 will be seen as the year when noise rock cameback into the fold. Sick of pasty garage rockers and indie bands who are slowly morphing into the adult alternative format? Hate seeing your once cherished markers of insularity in your friend’s little sister’s CD colelction? 2008 featured a host of sweaty, amateurish bands who put the tape hiss back into rock music.
Indie rock in general seemed to get a big shot in the arm in terms of public acceptance in 2008, thanks to folks like Silversun Pickups, Kings of Leon, and Death Cab for Cutie getting major airtime. Even 98 Rock becomes Indie 97.9 for several hours every Saturday morning with tracks from your favorite used-to-be-on-the-underground artists (unfortunately they’ve hit the wrong time slot–more likely to be listening to the radio at that hour of Saturday morning are baby-boomer fans of the Deep Purple and Aerosmith set that 98 Rock hammers into your brain in 4/4 time the rest of the day.) 103.1 WRNR is also playing some excellent music if you catch them at the right time of day.
In 2009, disgusted with the turn his once pure art from has taken, Ben Gibbard will commit suicide, although Zooey Deschanel will be largely believed to be responsible for his death.
American Apparel: There was a time I used to only have to run into your ads on Pitchfork, but over the last couple years you’ve crept into so many of the blogs out there. And everybody’s gotta eat and that’s cool, but your barely clad folks prancing across my screen often distract me from downloading free music, which is the reason I sat down to my computer in the first place.
I like bright colors and tight-fitting pants as much as the next guy, but how do you get your models to look so sassy? And why is it I can’t go to a festival or concert in the area without running into so many of them? Not only do you tell us wanna-be hipsters how to dress, but I’m really glad you’re conscious of such trendy issues as immigration and fair trade. Maybe in 2009 you can support other such trendy causes as materialism, objectification of bodies, eating disorders, cultural imperialism, and other various collective neuroses. Oh wait, you already do? Thanks, American Apparel. You’ve done so much good.
Lists: Definitely a hit or miss year for lists. 2006 was big on best of holiday lists, perhaps reflecting a lack of events in the contemporary musical world. 2007 conversely featured so many bands who were called the best new band of the year that you needed a list at the end of the year to put them all together in one. I thought year-end lists would have been dead by now, but everybody seems to still be doing em, probably because it’s such a fun idea.
Cheers, happy 2009.
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