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Monday, January 2nd, 2006

Last Year's Man

Stereogum has gotten around to compiling the XY-chromosonal edition of his 2005 indie hotties of 2005 poll. I understand it took longer than the female one because, well, every other submission was for “that guy” or “that dude”. The results prove what I’ve always suspected, and that the ladies love the sensitive, banjo-plucking Christian boys with a lisp because Sufjan Stevens ran away with half the votes. So combine this honour with the fact that agree or disagree, Sufjan’s Illinois was pretty much the concensus pick as top album of the year and it’s pretty much safe to say that 2005 was the year of the Sufjan. I’m pretty sure he took the title for most posts and links in my blog for last year anyway (and I think 2004 was the year of Wilco… I should keep track of this stuff). And with that in mind, I declare that this will be the first – and last – Sufjan Stevens-led post I make in 2006. Unless he does something especially noteworthy, like bring peace to the Middle East, eat a school busload of babies or release another album. Go on vacation, Sufjan. Go to Deleware, or Wyoming or something (or maybe California, as most Stereogum readers recommend).

And using that as a leaping off point, I’m going to make a bit of a New Year’s declaration/resolution here – I will endeavour to include more coverage of new/up-and-coming artists in this here site. That means listening to more of the stuff I’m sent out of the blue (which isn’t necessarily a solicitation for more stuff to be sent to me out of the blue, but whatever). One consequence of this could be an increase in the snark quotient of my Sunday Cleaning columns, since the stuff I actually like will probably be getting regular posts of their own. We’ll see, I haven’t decided yet. That said, my overriding mandate will still be to simply write about the stuff I like or find interesting. I subscribe to the philosophy The Big Takeover’s Jack Rabid puts forth in an interview in their latest issue – “If I’m going to stay in this business, I have to have time to listen to the stuff that I like. I can’t be kept from listening to the stuff that I like out of some sense of requirement. And I can’t ignore and punish people because I’ve written about them before”. Which means that when Wilco releases their new album later this year, expect the full court press… but I will try to balance that out with other stuff. Really.

I don’t know how you spent your New Year’s Eve, but I would think the Fox Theater in Boulder, Colorado would have been a damn fine place to be, ringing in 2006 with Drive-By Truckers and Centro-Matic. Both have new albums out this year – DBT’s A Blessing And A Curse is due out in April-ish and CM’s Fort Recovery is out March 7 – and the first preview MP3s are now online.

MP3: Drive-By Truckers – “Feb 14”
MP3: Centro-Matic – “Triggers And Trash Heaps”

The Centro-Matic song is also the title track from a teaser EP coming out February 7. And I said I was done with year-end lists, but Patterson Hood wants to share. And you can’t say no to Patterson.

And since I’ve already backslid on my “no lists” policy, I want to point out News OK’s list of the best graphic novels of 2005. Pleased to see local comic Scott Pilgrim Vs The World rocking the top spot. The third volume, Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness, was supposed to be out at the end of December but has been pushed back until January 25. Book four, Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together, is also slated to come out in 2006. Link via Largehearted Boy.

Oh look, I lost another awards poll thingee. Congrats to fellow covers fetishist Copy, Right? on the win. You know, when I made this post almost two years ago, I had no idea how prescient I was being…

I’m trying to write up my submission for eye’s 2005 music critics poll, for which I’m honoured to finally be included, but am finding I’m fresh out of ways to talk about why I liked the albums I did last year. The horse is beaten.

np – Six By Seven / :04

By : Frank Yang at 8:55 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. suckingalemon says:

    i spent my newyears with the sadies and pick up a flyer with this here information:

    Febuary 3rd & 4th
    Lee’s Palace
    the sadies live album recording with:
    the good brothers
    neko case
    blue rodeo
    rick white
    heavy trash (jon spencer & matt verta ray)
    jon langford
    kelly hogan
    gary louris
    steve albini

    cheers

  2. palmyra says:

    I like the sunday cleaning thing because I can trust you that this band I haven’t heard of is probably worth hearing. just don’t end up like You Ain’t no Picasso and feature all these lame twee/pop bands with all stupid style and no substance.

  3. Brad O. says:

    I’m sometimes amazed at the amount of for enthusiasim that Stevens is getting for Illinois. The album is sonically beautiful and the arrangements are extremely interesting. And it is as fresh of sounding disk as I have heard in a long time…(say 20 years)

    I amazed beacuse of how few reviewers have mentioned the most obvious glaring influences of Philip Glass that permeates Steven’s music. It was so much so I had to question if he didn’t actually lift entire passages and plop them into his music. So much so I had to go back and listen to Glass’s 1986 work – Songs from liquid Days. Glass typically approached music form a classical viewpoint and diverted in this album by tackling "songs" with help from David Byrne, Laurie Anderson and the Kronos Quartet.

    When you listen to those tracks one gets the feeling that Stevens did not simply extended Glass’s work by injecting contemporary indie pop-rock sensibility but actually lifted the droning rythmic textures right from Glass almost note for note instrument for instrument.

    Certainly I don’t want not to downplay the significance of that. But lets give some credit to where it is due…to Philip Glass.

    Sufjan’s work, for me, makes Glass, Laurie Anderson and David Byrne and other early 80’s experimental music all that more important.

    I think people need to take some time and look deeper into what makes Sufjan’s music tick. When you do you might just find that he is not really the pioneer many people believe him to be but a very intelligent musician with an extensive aural memory and ear for constructing pieces borrowing from a vast array of influences.

    I think his best work is yet to come.

  4. mike says:

    Brad O., a thoughtful comment, but I think there’s a generational gap at hand with regards to reviewers’ lack of mention of the experimental music artists(spec. Phillip Glass) you mentioned above in relation to Sufjan Stevens’ music. My assumption is that many reviewers today are fairly young(between 25 and 35 years of age) and aren’t familiar with experimental music. I think that’s the reason for much of the homogenity in tastes in indie rock circles; the 25 to 35 year old music fan’s(including myself) frame of reference is relatively limited.

  5. Frank says:

    I’ve heard the Philip Glass comparison before, but not been in any position to comment on it one way or another because, as Mike points out, I know nothing about modern classical music. I just smile and nod. And just to be clear, I’ve never claimed Sufjan’s work is groundbreaking (except for maybe the 50 states concept). Quite the contrary, it sounds very familiar in a classical/orchestral sense – maybe that’s new to the indie kid, but I don’t think anyone would claim that it’s a new sound that Stevens has created. Me, I just think it’s a really pretty record.

  6. Brad O. says:

    I figured the generation gap was certainly part of the issue with many reviewers not quite understanding where Stevens work grew from. (PF’s review is one example.)

    CDReviews on the other hand did mention Philip Glass and eluded to the experimental pop art-rock genre that disappeared from the public eye in early ninties.

    Stevens stuff is quite outstanding in the aspect that there simply are very few artists/composers working in this arena today.

    What will happen I think is that Stevens will quickly be absorbed by the mainstream media and will find that soundtrack and producing work will quickly take up his talent and probably be just as rewarding creativly in addition to being more lucrative.

    Sad for those of us who really enjoy his take on indie pop music but it is likley that once he is given a huge budget with insane resources found in big media and as much creative license to create we will see him more in the sound-track bin and in liner notes as producer in the future.

    I agree it is a beautiful record.

    The music generation gap is something I run into all the time. (comes from being a geezer that likes new music) I wish that more people of my generation still retained the same enthusiasim for music as they had when they were in their twenties. Trying to get people beyond the age of 30 to a show of new original music is like pulling teeth with rusty pliars.

    What we are seeing is really the first "Rock and Roll" generation gap. Late boomers (’62) like myself were the first generation to grow up listening to album rock and we are jaded with this soundtrack that has been playing into our heads for over 40 years. (It never goes away….GAAAAAA!!)

    One thing for certain music is more interesting than it ever has been…..Thanks to cheap digital technology to a savvy younger generation that has great communications skills and tools like no other generation had before.

    Sometimes I get a little down wishing that what I have available to me at this stage in my music career was there at the beginning. But…in some ways I do…I get to follow my daughter’s progress and hope that someday my generation stops watching TV and really listens to music for a change. (we are really just plain lazy)

    Keeping that fresh viewpoint gets harder and harder the older one gets as everything starts cycling back onto itself. So I am glad that you guys are here.

    thanks for the banter.

    p.s. Frank you said "record"…

  7. Frank says:

    I say "record" all the time. It’s short for "recording", so regardless of the medium, it’s a correct term. And I buy LPs, too.

    Record record record.

    Thank YOU for the banter, Brad. Nice to have some stimulating discourse in these here comments. I’m hoping Gary chimes in here – I think he’s the one who made the first Philip Glass comparison I heard.

  8. Gary Campbell says:

    Chiming in… While I think the Phillip Glass comparison is quite apt, I think Spin got it right in citing Glass’s composer contemporary John Adams. "Stevens sounds as informed by middle-American community theater, church choirs, and John Adams’ American operas as any canonical "folk rock" it may resemble. [Jul 2005, p.102]" (via Metacritic).

    Though many of the songs on Illinoise resemble the work of modern minimalist classical composers like John Adams or Phillip Glass, Sufjan’s made them more "pop." I’d still hesitate to send an Illinoise fan off to listen to the John Adams opera "I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky" because, well, it’s still opera, (and still classical music) but they’d definitely hear some of those Sufjan moments.

    The same argument could be made that early Phillip Glass classical drone experiments of the 60’s were an influence on the Velvet Underground — heck, they both hung out in the same New York lofts, but it’s a rarely discussed connection. Mostly because classical music is listened to by older classical music fans and indie pop/rock by indie kids. Never the twain shall meet.

    Still, I’m glad Sufjan has found a rich treasury of music to mine… and he’s used it to create a beautiful new pop sound. And it did prompt me to (if only briefly) dig out some of my modern classical music recordings for re-listening.

  9. Brad O. says:

    Interesting comment over on Stereogum about Sufjan…

    Kinda reiterates what I suspected about his genius. Sounds like he gets bored easily and looks for new challenges.