Best of the Best of 2012: The Onion’s A.V. Club

By Ben Johnson

 

The grim, ugly duty of making fun of everybody ever continues. I am strung out. I hate my life. I am a bitter man in a gas-heated hovel located on the dark side of the planet, Chicago, USA. I don’t sleep. I have not gotten an erection in at least four days. I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m only dimly aware that there was ever a time in my life when I liked myself. But: I have a job to do, and it’s my job that I gave to myself for no reason, and that job is making fun of every best of the year list in every major internet publication forever. It’s a grueling, pointless job, but nobody has to do it.

What exactly is my problem with these lists?

Is it that they don’t reaffirm my own jaded tastes in the pain-inducing noise I refer to as music? Is it that I am some elitist prick who gets his rocks off shitting on everything as if that elevates me to a higher status? Do I genuinely think that all of media, due to reliance on advertising revenue, now exists only to make people feel better about the decisions they’ve already arrived at about what’s good and what’s not, and real balls-having criticism has gone the way of the dodo in favor of rah-rah salesmanship? Am I of the opinion that we are going through a genuinely incredible period of rock music that is going virtually uncommented upon by larger media outlets? Do I think there’s a larger truth in music that all of these people are missing? Am I just trying to be funny? Am I opportunistically trying to exploit what I see as inefficiencies in the current content-generation landscape by drawing maximum attention to myself while making a very small sum of money on lazy, negative blog posts? Am I in general just a miserable chapped, bleeding asshole of a human being?

Yes to all, my friends. Yes to all.

The cretinous pud chuffers at the A.V. Club staff think these are the best albums of the year:

24. (tie) Pilot To Gunner, Guilty Guilty

The A.V. Club has a very complicated scoring system for these, and this one got one vote because it’s very clearly somebody’s cousin’s band.

24. (tie) Dion, Tank Full Of Blues 

This is not something you listen to on purpose. This is something you sit through because this year’s company picnic is your boss getting you drunk at Bluesfest. This is the soundtrack to pretending you need to go to the bathroom because you’d actually prefer to be in a port-o-john if that’s the price you have to pay to be alone for a few minutes.

23. Bob Dylan, Tempest

What good is this doing anybody?

22. Cat Power, Sun 

There is no retirement plan for musicians. The closest they have is 1. generate as many hardcore fans as possible, 2. keep pumping them for money until you die. The “hardcore” part of “hardcore fans” is even more imperative now in the internet age. You want people to feel guilty that they’re not paying you money. Does Cat Power have enough creative and performative juice to sustain as an adult contemporary and/or nostalgia act? It’s an interesting question, I’m just pretty sure it’s not the best anything of any time.

21. Sun Kil Moon, Among The Leaves

Speaking of hardcore fanbases for aging moody crooners. Sun Kil Moon is one of those acts where you’re like “what’s up with all the old people from the suburbs clogging the sidewalks” in the neighborhood around the venue, and then you see the marquee and you’re like “oh.” 

18. (tie) The Walkmen, Heaven

Speaking of speaking of hardcore fanbases for aging moody crooners...

18. (tie) Future Of The Left, The Plot Against Common Sense

One staff member voted maximum points for this overproduced spazzrock outfit that’s like a Mister Bungled version of System of a Down. This means that we can positively identify the A.V. Club staff member whose teeth smell the worst.

18. (tie) Field Music, Plumb

Keep it simple, stupid. Although if you overcomplicate something you might win a legion of awkward admirers who would rather flatter themselves that they “get” King Crimson than, you know, not have to listen to King Crimson. So you can keep it complicated too.

17. The Men, Open Your Heart

I liked the first album even though it stole a ton of riffs. This second album is full of stolen riffs from less obscure sources. At this rate the next one will be a one note off “Gimme Shelter” rip called “Gibby Lectures” and an “Iron Man” approximation called “The Avengers 2.”

16. Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas

The A.V. Club blurb for this mentions that Cohen is “still getting laid.” When you fuck a 78 year old man that’s called an “Old Idea.”

15. Rush, Clockwork Angels
Here’s concrete evidence that The A.V. Club is for nerds. Three staff members voted for this. It’s a Rush album. An album by Rush. The band Rush. Every single thing that happened this year that is not on this list got three fewer votes than a concept album released in the year 2012 by the band Rush about “a young man in a steampunk world reaching toward his destiny.” (Spoiler alert: that destiny is I.T. Manager for a nonprofit) This is as decided by The A.V. Club staff, a group of people paid to think and write about music. Don’t get me wrong, I like that there is such a thing as people who like Rush, I’d just prefer not to have them be the people who decide whether or not things are good.

14. Grizzly Bear, Shields 

Did we ever come up with an official nickname for the 2000’s decade? If not, I’d like to suggest “The 80’s Part 2.” Grizzly Bear plays the role of A-ha.

13. Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream

The A.V. Club seems to think that R&B is in the middle of a “creative renaissance.” I’m tempted to say that the genre is actually finally giving up on CD sales and entering the download age now, which means it’s lagging behind indie pop in its aesthetic reaction to the economic impact of technology. If I’m right, this means we’ll see more and more layering, cross-genre sampling, and overbuilt attention-getting wackadoodle singles coming from the R&B world, which will eventually give way to smaller less commercial partyrocking club acts that sound more like James Brown or Little Richard than the hyperglossy Mary J. Blige arrangements the genre has been stuck in for decades. I’m tempted to say that but it’s probably just wishful thinking combined with whatever degree of latent racism that taints anything a white man can ever say about anything black people do. I do know this, though: Miguel doesn’t sound like a creative renaissance to me. It sounds like a last desperate death rattle of outdated production modes.

12. Divine Fits, A Thing Called Divine Fits

This sounds like Spoon because it’s the guy from Spoon. And then there’s some songs by another guy that also sound like Spoon but with a different guy. So yeah. Liking Spoon is still a thing critics do. FYI.

11. Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City

I bet Kendrick Lamar is thrilled that his debut is four spots higher than the new Rush album. That’s how you know you’ve arrived.

10. P.O.S., We Don’t Even Live Here

This is the third album by a group of hip hop “anarchists.” There’s a song on here called “Fuck Your Stuff” that has a Macy’s ad attached to it on YouTube. I can’t tell if I love that or I hate that. I downloaded this illegally just on principal, but do not plan on listening to it ever. I like the idea of people telling other people they’re anarchists as if that’s a thing to be impressed by.

8. (tie) Titus Andronicus, Local Business 

Now that they’ve given up on pretending to rock, Titus Andronicus is finally a real band.

8. (tie) Bob Mould, Silver Age

Bob Mould has still got it. And by “it” I mean “being less good than The Replacements.”

7. Swans, The Seer

Just so we’re clear on the rules: you can get noticed for doing something interesting unless you’re old and super super serious and the interesting thing you’re doing is less interesting than it used to be.

6. Jack White, Blunderbuss

There’s this one record store in Chicago that’s never ever open. Like it’s only ever been open maybe one out of every fifteen times I’ve walked past it, which is a pain in the ass because it’s in this boring neighborhood I often have to kill time in and walking past this record store to see if it’s open is like 2 out of the 100 minutes I need to get through when it’d be a good 80 dead if the place was open.

Whenever I’ve been inside the selection is like a living museum of an alternate universe. There’s always a ton of stuff that’s left over from whatever dartboard of music trends this guy was looking at when he made his purchases throughout the years. Like you’ll see a ton of Pedro The Lion records in there and be like “when was the last time there was any demand for these?” and he’s selling them for $17. And then you talk to the old guy who runs the place, a nice earnest befuddled old time rock guy who looks like George Carlin, and he’s presenting his own private weird narrative of music where old time Rock just continued right straight through from 1967 leading to strange decisions like Dire Straits was the best band of the 80s.

Last time I was in there, dude was CRANKING Blunderbuss and loving every second of it. This is who digs Jack White the most: it’s the old rock and roll guys who at this point in their lives aren’t sure if they’re technically divorced or not. Jack White gives them another decade of tunes to keep on rollin’ to. That guy and his store are both the absolute worst and my absolute favorite at the same time, and I am deeply distrustful of Jack White because what if that’s me some day? It’s scary.

5. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel…

You know when you’re on the phone with your girlfriend and she’s super stressed out about something else and you’re just trying to figure out where to go for dinner and she starts yelling at you for no reason and you’re like, “Well great, this night already sucks and it hasn’t even started yet,” and you wish more than anything that you hadn’t blown off your friends to make it date night because what’s the point now that everybody’s angry at each other and nobody’s gonna get laid? That’s Fiona Apple. You can voluntarily put that on your stereo and listen to it.

4. Sharon Van Etten, Tramp

I hate it when anything shoots for being profound. Even if it succeeds.

3. Cloud Nothings, Attack On Memory

2. Japandroids, Celebration Rock

If these are the two best rock records of the year, I hate what that says about our values. Look at the two covers. Not a splash of color in sight. Bleak as the livelong day. Japandroid’s album is called Celebration Rock and yet it has a song on it called “Continuous Thunder” that is not a riff-driven blastoff so much as it’s a neo-emo boo hoo hoo about resolutely holding hands with somebody in the rain which opens with the lyric “heart’s terrain is never a prairie.” Cloud Nothings are more neo-grunge and purposefully negative with their actively simplistic lyrics, but a little more jubilant musically. Both records are produced with a compression-heavy pop bent that plateaus them at “Since You Been Gone” levels of rocking. So we get whiney and/or sentimental lyrics with an inoffensive sheen laid on top of all guitar sounds. In other words it’s a naked cash grab for suburban kid dollars, and the supposed full grown adults at The A.V. Club are one hundred percent behind it because those demographics cut both ways. Preteens are gullible as fuck, and there’s no advertising revenue like gullible as fuck advertising revenue.

1. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange

What do you guys want to do this year? Fuck it, let’s do Frank Ocean. I’m double parked.

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