Best of the Best of 2012: Sound Opinions

Who wouldn’t want a nice cushy gig talking about music for a living, relying on a combination of freebies, industry chatter, and a listener base comprised of similarly pompous bloviators to clue you in to whatever’s going on?

Full disclosure: a majority of the negative feelings I have about Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis are fueled by jealousy. Who wouldn’t want a nice cushy gig talking about music for a living, relying on a combination of freebies, industry chatter, and a listener base comprised of similarly pompous bloviators to clue you in to whatever’s going on? These two don’t even have to leave the house, and all the raw material they need for building an entire living as sonic gatekeepers is laid at their feet. As I get older, I am increasingly realizing that not leaving the house is my great white whale. Hence the resentment.

It’s not as if these two haven’t paid their dues. Every once in a while when they’re blathering asinine opinions, you’ll catch snippets of quality research about which A&R guy is responsible for signing an act, or which tonal quality an album’s engineer is known for. That information can only come from years of music industry experience.

Unfortunately, it is also boring as fuck, and has no actual value outside industry circles. So the whole show is blathering asinine opinions on lazily cultivated source material, interspersed with smart-sounding tidbits of information that a self-important goober might try to pass of as his (always a him) own to impress others while launching unbidden into an extemporaneous discussion of the new 50 Cent album. I’m sure you know and/or have been cornered by the type.

Sound Opinions is ground zero for people talking about stupid shit as if acting like you’re a connoisseur of stupid shit makes the shit not stupid. Guys: ALL THIS SHIT IS STUPID. It’s just music. You listen to it, you like it, it makes your day better. Expressing an opinion about pop music that sounds learned and studied does not help you enjoy the music more, it only helps you enjoy the sound of your own voice.

But hey, if somebody wants to appoint me as King of the Squares, I’ll be waiting right by the phone. These two dudes have a pretty cherry gig going for themselves. They only barely have to get out of bed in the morning.

Here are their top ten lists. They specify that these are the albums they listened to and enjoyed most in 2012, rather than the albums they appreciated most from a critical and historical analysis standpoint, or whatever other bullshit criteria they’d have you believe they’re capable of deciding:

Greg Kot’s Top Ten of 2012

1. Frank Ocean, Channel ORANGE

Greg Kot listened to and enjoyed this Frank Ocean album more than any other thing that happened this year, which means one of two things: 1. Greg Kot is a bloated dinosaur taking full advantage of being in a position to succeed without trying too hard, 2. Greg Kot, a professional music critic in a position of great potential influence who has dutifully scoured the face of planet earth looking for the best music that our combined human effort has to offer, is genuinely more of a Frank Ocean fan than he is a fan of anything else that’s happening in the entire world. I’d prefer to believe the first scenario, because that’s the one where an idiot is not on the radio ruining everything.

2. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city

Is Greg Kot listening to this while he’s doing his dishes? Is he cranking it in his Pontiac Aztec on the way to get some emergency dog food at Wal-Mart? What purpose is this serving in Greg Kot’s life? I feel like a fly on the wall, and I’m dying of embarrassment.

3. Tame Impala, Lonerism
I like Tame Impala, but they’re teetering on the precipice of Flaming Lips territory. You know: when you kind of like something because it’s pretty close to great but you never really commit because you get the feeling it’s heading in the wrong direction. Like if you go on a couple of dates with somebody and have a good time but then lose touch, and then you run into them a couple of years later and it turns out they’re really into “circus arts” now, and you’re like “shoosh, dodged a bullet there.” Kot and DeRogatis are absolutely the kind of dudes who get stuck with that person, gamely limping along to a series of “indie” circus performances and perhaps not totally pretending to enjoy it. There but for the grace, fellas. Tame Impala is one album away from a punchline. This one’s pretty good, though, in a “who I was having sex with in October of 2012” way.

4. Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music
Do you think Greg Kot says the n-word out loud or just mouths it when he’s singing along? I think he might even be too afraid to mouth it. Even when he’s alone in the shower. Worst case scenario: he listens to the clean version for no more altruistic reason than because he works for the radio and that’s the version he got for free.

5. Kelly Hogan, I Like to Keep Myself in Pain
I used to think I’d never get into Yo La Tengo, but now everything of theirs I hear makes me perk up and go “who is THAT?” like a horny guy at summer’s first barbecue. I’m still trying my best to fight it, but the fact is I’m in my 30’s now and I’m therefore allowed/required to like Yo La Tengo. I’m learning to accept that. So maybe now I have a near-physical aversion to nihilistic Edie Brickell porch-swing philosophizing songwriter crooning pap like Kelly Hogan, but this kind of thing might be what awaits me in my 40’s and 50’s. If so, please kill me. Shoot me in the head and end my life. I’m serious. I’d rather spray paint the breakfast nook with my own gray matter than become a living Cialis commercial.

6. Japandroids, Celebration Rock
Does it scare the living shit out of anybody else that “kids these days” are apparently nostalgic for the late 90’s, or is that just me being an old man? If I’m a grumpy old man for thinking that way, what does this make Greg Kot? An even older man misguidedly trying to connect with young people? Or is he just confused and thinks this is a new Burning Airlines album? OR: is this not actually for “kids these days,” and actually it’s for Greg Kots these days, who get to listen to shitty 90’s emo AND discover a new band at the same time so it’s two birds with one stone?

7. El-P, Cancer 4 Cure
What kind of person really actually likes El-P and Japandroids AND Kelly Hogan? It’s like Kot wants to convince us he is pan-lazy. Whatever thing he can defend liking without embarrassing himself, he’s into it, and he doesn’t care WHAT it is. The man is lazy in all genres, a true renaissance lazy man.

8. Neneh Cherry, The Cherry Thing
Oh dude, I just had a gross thought. What if Neneh Cherry and Kelly Hogan are both on this list for the same penis-related reason? I know that’s ageist, sexist, completely uncalled for and totally unfair to everybody involved, much more so the female artists than the male critic giving them press, but that’s why it’s called a “gross thought.” If it makes it any easier, proceed as if I’m calling Kot a jerkoff rather than Cherry and/or Hogan a piece of meat. Assume the sexual motivation as a hypothetical. When the van’s a rocking, the over-45 set is a... Oh man oh jeez I’m gonna hork. Whatever, man. Whatever. Regardless of patent unfairness, I’m much more comfortable with 55 year old Kot hyping the 48 year old Neneh Cherry than I would be if he was fawning over Now, Now. Credit where credit is due here. Way to stay in your range, Greg Kot. Neneh Cherry is a… how do I put this delicately… highly fuckable 48 year old. If you don’t think that’s a compliment, you’re probably not a 48 year old woman.

9. The Coup, Sorry to Bother You
Does anybody else find it delicious that Greg Kot is really into a “radical” “political” hip hop act that’s been in existence for over 20 years? Way to both fight and be the establishment, you guys.

10. Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
Kot’s got to see through the fake studio chatter that bookends the album version of “Pussy Is Mine”, right? Or did he not even listen to this?


Jim DeRogatis’ Top Ten of 2011

1. Tame Impala, Lonerism
I’ve got a soft spot for DeRogatis because he wrote a Lester Bangs biography and managed to get it published. It’s a great read. DeRogatis has a soft spot too, and it’s everywhere on his body.

2. Kelly Hogan, I Like to Keep Myself in Pain
I am not above making the above joke. It’s roasty and mean and I don’t believe in making fun of people’s appearance, but I stand by it as a well constructed joke.

3. Frank Ocean, Channel ORANGE
I’d like to think Lester Bangs would approve of that joke, but he’d probably end up writing some boring self-righteous 15,000 word Village Voice essay on obesity in rock and roll. 1973-era Bangs would laugh, though. I’m sorry if this is boring to you, but I’d rather take a three paragraph victory lap for a devastating fat joke than try to come up with another thing to say about Frank fucking Ocean.

4. Melody’s Echo Chamber, Melody’s Echo Chamber
I had a thought the other day about Culprit Albums. You know, when everything sounds roughly the same for way too long and way too much. There’s usually a Culprit Album from before everything sounded like that. And I think Cornelius Fantasma (1998) has a lot to answer for.

5. Spiritualized, Sweet Heart Sweet Light

Listening to Spiritualized is like going to Japan and eating at a Spacemen 3 theme restaurant.

6. El-P, Cancer 4 Cure
Greg Kot only thought this album was the SEVENTH best. These guys must really get into it once they go off air. I admire their professionalism and flexibility for being able to put potentially friendship-destroying disagreements like this aside and continuing on jibbering at us. “Jibbering” is when you jabber gibberish.

7. Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory

DeRogatis thinks Cloud Nothings are a better shitty emo revival act than Japandroids. I’m inclined to agree, although I’m even more inclined not to listen to either of them. You know a good way to tell if somebody’s the worst? If they’ve graduated from middle school and still expressed the opinion that music would be better if it were more “serious.”

8. Aimee Mann, Charmer

I love how Aimee Mann is keeping her career alive by having a sense of humor about herself and being friends with funny people. I’m not a huge fan of the music, but I am a huge fan of that route.

9. Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1
If you were in a nightclub and Lupe Fiasco walked in, the crowd would go REASONABLE.

10. Bat for Lashes, The Haunted Man
This is like voting for herpes. You don’t need to vote for it. You just have it now.