Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dearest Clash Magazine, Cease and Desist. Love, Jim

Clash Magazine is a music and fashion magazine based out of the United Kingdom. It started in 2004, and has gotten relatively popular in the UK, but hasn't found the same amount of success in the United States, despite having events at South by Southwest.

So why am I bringing them up? Starting at the very end of March, they started uncovering a countdown, as music magazines are often inclined to do. The countdown was of the 50 Greatest Albums of the Last 5 Years, and since the past five years have been the most formative years of my music-listening, I was pretty interested in hearing what they had to say.

The list finally finished at the end of April, and it's a little bit confusing. Here it is:

50) The Killers - Hot Fuss
49) Kasabian - Kasabian
48) Deerhunter - Microcastle
47) Bat For Lashes - Fur and Gold
46) Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
45) MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
44) Portishead - Third
43) Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
42) Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
41) Santigold - Santigold
40) Late Of The Pier - Fantasy Black Channel
39) Sigur Rós - Takk...
38) Efterklang - Parades
37) Liars - Drum's Not Dead
36) The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan
35) Hot Chip - The Warning
34) Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
33) Benga - Diary Of An Afro Warrior
32) Feist - The Reminder
31) Broadcast - Tender Buttons
30) Battles - Mirrored
29) Klaxons - Myths Of The Near Future
28) Tunng - Mother's Daughter And Other Songs
27) The Libertines - The Libertines
26) Kanye West - The College Dropout
25) Apparat - Walls
24) Burial - Burial
23) Gallows - Orchestra Of Wolves
22) Caribou - The Milk Of Human Kindness
21) Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene
20) Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
19) Soulwax - Nite Versions
18) The Bug - London Zoo
17) Brian Wilson - SMiLE
16) Isolée - We Are Monster
15) My Morning Jacket - Z
14) Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
13) Joanna Newsom - Ys
12) Modeselektor - Hello Mom!
11) Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
10) Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
09) J Dilla - Donuts
08) Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
07) M.I.A. - Arular
06) LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem
05) The Knife - Silent Shout
04) TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
03) Kings Of Leon - Because Of The Times
02) Radiohead - In Rainbows
01) Arcade Fire - Funeral

I would put Clash's number one choice, undoubtedly, in my top two, which is why it's so baffling to me that my other pick is nowhere to be found on this list. Wolf Parade, just know that I'm unapologetic for loving Apologies so much.

At any rate, I may not necessarily be the most qualified person to be judging this list, as I haven't heard every single one of the albums listed above. In addition, I don't necessarily want to nitpick about individual artists on the list just because I have a varying opinion on the topic. Saying that I would put a different Animal Collective album on the list if I were going to put any on there at all doesn't really do anything.

With that said, the thing that I notice about this list is that it doesn't necessarily seem to be a list of the 50 greatest albums so much as a compilation of the 50 biggest buzz bands. The Killers, Vampire Weekend, MGMT, Santigold, Fleet Foxes, Franz Ferdinand, J Dilla, Arctic Monkeys? All of those albums are good, to be sure, but the thing unifying them more than anything else is that upon first release, they were gobbled up by seemingly everyone (with the notable exception of J Dilla, who found more acclaim after his death). The question is, are those albums on this list because they genuinely deserve to be there, or is it because of their canonization in trendy music libraries?

The most egregious example of this is the #3 album on Clash's list, Because of the Times by Kings of Leon. Between their second and third albums, the band changed their sound a bit, and suddenly got pretty big with this album, which was their first to go #1 in the UK. One thing that didn't change, however, was that Caleb Followhill's lyrics still rarely made sense. Ready? Here's "Charmer:"

"She's such a charmer, oh, no,
She's such a charmer, oh, no,
She's always looking at me
She's always looking at me
She's such a charmer, oh, no

She stole my karma, oh, no
Sold it to the farmer, oh, no
She's always looking at me
She's always looking at me
She's such a charmer, oh, no, oh, no

Born in West Virginia, oh, no
Married to the preacher, oh, no
She's always looking at me
She's always looking at me
She's such a charmer, oh, no, oh, no

She's always looking at me
She's always looking at me
She's such a charmer, oh, no, oh, no"

I actually typed that out. It was kind of frustrating. The point is, I question Clash's pick of this album (probably the Kings' third-best in the last five years, at least to me), and I think that they may have done it in order to justify putting the band on their cover... several times.

With that being said, have a Kings of Leon music video. While it isn't on the third-best album of the last five years, it kind of epitomizes what I liked about the band... and the video's well worth a watch.


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