Music Box Report Card: Baker’s Dozen 2010 – The Beauties (…and the Beasts…)

When it comes to music – as well as other art forms – I often depend on trusted sources to enlighten me. Friends, of course, are key. I’ll also spelunk the internet, read music journalists I admire, and even browse iTunes – all to turn me on to something new and exciting. The fact that I receive hundreds of free CDs a year thanks to the field I work in doesn’t hurt either, naturally.

But I must be getting crotchety in my old age because 2010 was the second lightest listening year for me in a row. As in 2009, where I barely heard 100 new releases, the sum in 2010 hasn’t been much higher. I can’t explain the lack of enthusiasm, either,  other than that in this year, impetus became impotent – my lack of fervor grew as my impatience doubled and my frustrations tripled in what little seek-and-find transpired.

Why? Well, because while perusing – or, mostly, browsing (and there is a difference) – the musical blogosphere – as well as word-of-mouth recommendations from the aforementioned other sources, in 2010 I’ve been prescribed an overt quantity of self-indulgent, self-important, head-scratchers. A lot of which was, well…crap.

I mean, historically, my tastes in music never skewered toward anything other than, well, my tastes, which are seeped in diverse genres. I can’t loath an album – nor worship it – merely because it’s the hip thing to do., or because it reached #1 on Billboard.  That’s why I can’t ever really be a critic. Or, say, write for (hipster bible) Pitchfork. But then again, it’s never been my will or desire to adhere to a New Hipster Order, and if that explains my near-depleted motivation, so be it.

Perhaps I’m missing out, one might argue, by disallowing myself the openness and expansion of my musical mind and palate. Please – that’s a moot point because I don’t disallow myself from what is my aesthete.  My distaste can’t (always) be attributed to a Pitchfork recommendation. For example, their top CD of the year actually made MY very own Baker’s Dozen (Kanye), as well as another Top 10er (Vampire Weekend).

However, that only one other Top 20 “finalist” (Janelle Monae) made my list too is, sadly, indicative to my frustration. And I tried, really, I tried. But of the other 17 releases that landed on their Top 20 and the dozen or so I actually attempted, I could barely make it through half the tracks of each individual CD before I threw my hands up in the air in abstract awe and gave up (best not to mention the bulk of their Top 50…)

I know, I know – I’ve often repeated the mantra that a voice that touches a listener is a personal matter and any such listener shouldn’t be derided for their tastes. And what is ‘taste’ other than someone’s opinion? And who the hell am I – or, are you – to cancel out someone’s emotional connection? If I had a dollar for every Facebook post from one of my queenliest friends, boasting orgasmic adoration for artists I consider monumental earworms (Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, etc), well, I’d have enough money to buy Facebook from Mark Zuckerberg. Nope, all we have is our opinion (I’ve certainly got mine – and have been disparaged as a negative Nellie for it on Facebook because more-often-than-not, it’s the negative forces that push my passion).

One might surmise that I’m doing exactly what I deride against by my seeming disparagement of Pitchfork. But, that’s not my intent. For one, there was no objective to single out Pitchfork – I could have easily said Brooklyn Vegan or Music Snobbery or Stereogum or even the Village Voice – or any various other such music blogs. And I’m sure they’re all proud of their snooty reputations. To be honest, I’m too stupid to understand a helluva lot of what Pitchfork’s writers pontificate. Who knows…maybe I’m just getting too damned old to care anymore. Or too feeble to grasp.

However, not being one to give up tooooo easily, I decided to use an alternative barometer. They do, after all, collate thousands of reviews from countless sources, thus no agenda. And, I’ll be damned! I was surprised to find how much in common I actually indeed have with many “critics” – many titles that made the 2010 inventory of best-reviewed releases match more than just a few of my own!

Wow! Maybe I actually could be a critic if I so deemed!

I just can’t write for Pitchfork. Or Brooklyn Vegan. Or…oh, you get the idea.

So, here, in no particular order of importance or gratitude (save for WELDER), are my baker’s dozen – the most pleasurable times I’ve had this year immersed within my headphones (the Beauties…). Followed by the most painful (the Beasts)…


The Beauties…


…the Beasts…

Lee DeWyze | Live It Up
Christina Aguilera | Bionic
Lady Antebellum | Need You Now
Santana | Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time
Sarah McLachlan | Laws Of Illusion
Linkin Park | A Thousand Suns
Sting | Symphonicities
Toni Braxton | Pulse
MGMT | Congratulations
Susan Boyle | The Gift

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