No real intro for this one, kids. It makes me sad to think about it for too long…
10. The rise of Nicky Minaj
Now, when I first heard her on the Drake album, I thought it was fine. Needed a female rapper and Da Brat was busy. But then she started popping up everywhere. I couldn’t turn around without hearing a track that was featuring Nicky Minaj. And now she has her solo album, Pink Friday. I had assumed that since Jennifer Lopez fell out of the spotlight a bit, America’s obsession with semi-talented musicians with larger than normal posteriors was over, but I guess I was wrong. Also, Nicky thinks she’s the Baddest Bitch when we all know — and have for years — that Trina is the Baddest Bitch!
9. The National riding their laurels to accolades
Is it just me, or do other people think that High Violet is a lesser album than Boxer? I mean, Boxer is a really strong album, so I was surprised when High Violet came out and was getting ridiculous reviews. Does this mean that The National are the new Spoon? Where every album they put out, regardless of quality, automatically gets an 80 or higher? A lot of the songs on High Violet got played when we saw them last year at First Ave in Minneapolis, and the concert was terrible, save for one bright shining moment at the end when they played “Mr. November.” How many people here REALLY love the new album by The National? I’m guessing not many.
8. The Passion Pit concert in DeKalb
Obviously NIU is not a party school. I’ve never seen a more morose crowd at a concert that should have been a really good time. After really good sets by K Slay and Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, all the energy seemed to escape through the ceiling. Maybe it’s because the security guards were acting as camera Nazis and confiscating people’s stuff. Or maybe it was just that the concert didn’t sound that great. With the exception of “Sleepyhead” and “The Reeling,” I don’t think anyone was even excited to be there. People just bobbed their heads like we were at a James Taylor show when they should have been jumping up and down and shaking their tailfeathers (a dated term? I’m not sure, but I think Nelly still uses it, so I will too).
7. Having to endure 45 minutes of Best Coast
Chicago, do you ever get that feeling where something might happen, and you get super excited with the anticipation and such? Well, that happened to me when the cops appeared on stage before Best Coast took the stage. I thought, “My God… is it possible that they got caught with drugs or something, and won’t be able to take the stage?” It was one of those moments when you are just truly and simply happy. And then that feeling was stolen from me when it was announced that next up will be Best Coast! Now, lots of people like Best Coast, and that’s fine. I’m not here to judge you (but, seriously, what’s wrong with you?) Lots of people like the Dave Matthews Band, too. And I haven’t murdered any of them yet. There’s just something about Beth Cosentino that I can NOT stand. The guy in the band, whose name I don’t know, was actually pretty good. A decent voice and a serviceable guitar player. If you love songs about cats and ex-boyfriends, by all means run out and get a copy of Crazy For You… if not, avoid at all costs.
6. Band of Horses at the Riviera Theatre
Having seen Band of Horses three times in the previous 12 months or so, there’s a certain degree of expectation. You kind of know what songs they will play. Sometimes you even know that if they play this one here, they’ll play this next. And that’s fine. Their music is good, so I don’t mind hearing the same songs every time. What I DO mind, is the complete lack of energy and fun coming from the stage. If you guys aren’t having fun, how is the audience supposed to? I was also a bit irked about the audience at this show, as I made it quite clear in my review. I won’t link to that here, becuase I come off as a bit of a grinch, and it’s Christmas time now. Seriously, though. If you’ve ever been to a show by one of your favorite bands, only to be completely disappointed, I feel your pain. And it sucks.
5. Brandon Flowers’ solo album
Flamingo is kind of a silly, hopefully a one-off solo effort by the lead singer of The Killers. Other guys from bands that I have an intense love for have gone off and done this. Most notably was Julian Casablancas’ record Phrazes For The Young, which I actually liked quite a bit. Flowers attempt here is terribly miscalculated. He seems to be at once staying true to The Killers formula, and also trying to distance himself from the band. It’s a confusing listen. He wears his Springsteen influence on his sleeve, though, which I think helps this record. Unfortunately, Springsteen is an amazingly talented songwriter, and my favorite Killers song is a cover of Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet.”
4. The Thermals
Both on record and on stage, The Thermals let me down at every turn. Personal Life, their newest release, lacks any of the power or message of their previous works. On stage they seemed to be a bit aloof about the fact that there were people who paid money to see them play. I give credit to their drummer, who was taking every possible break in his duties on the set to try to get the crowd pumped up. His efforts were wasted on us, though. If they wanted to pump up the crowd, they should have just played “Pillar of Salt” over and over again for 90 minutes. That song and “Returning to the Fold” were the only times the energy in the room went up instead of down.
3. No new Wilco album in 2010
Trying to get over another disappointment, 2009’s Wilco (The Album), has not been easy. Having to wait until sometime in 2011 for the next release doesn’t make it easier. I understand Jeff went off to make Mavis Staples famous again (and it is a really good record), but The Autumn Defense putting out a release doesn’t make up for anything. I need me some Wilco, dammit!
2. Reggie’s Music Joint
The idea for this list was inspired by our trip down to Reggie’s last weekend. What an embarrassment. I didn’t even mention in my review that I could hear the band playing next door through the walls — OVER the musicians on stage. I know that one of the points of Chicago Tunes is to support the local music scene and not speak ill of people or institutions (one of the golden rules, I think), but I seriously wonder if the Chicago music scene wouldn’t be better off without this place. But then, where would those aging hipsters go to get their groove on? Well, they’d end up in establishments that I like to go to, so I say we keep Reggie’s around. If nothing else, you can always say, “Well, at least we aren’t at Reggie’s.” Or maybe we could start a Sally Struthers-type fund where everyone donates 60 cents a day and then at the end Reggie’s could put some insulation in the walls, and then extend the concert area a bit so more than 30 people can fit back there without having 600 people knock into each other for a couple hours.
1. Kanye West — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kanye has gone off the tracks so many times, that it isn’t really news anymore. His new album is a lot about Kanye, and little else. His music has taken a turn toward Synecdoche, NY territory. The guy has gone so far into his own head, that I doubt he knows the way out right now. And I can get over that part of it. Hell, I love Tom Cruise as an actor. I don’t care that he’s completely insane. What makes it even worse is that Kanye had me. He HAD me. The opening track is so good. I defy anyone to not like it. Big soaring hooks, good wordplay, excellent flow. Then the problems start. First of all, how many guest artists do you need? And not just the number of guests, but the quality. Normally you bring someone in to help out on a track, but here Kanye gets outshone by EVERY single one of his guests. Even the lowly Nicky Minaj is able to out-MC Chicago’s supposed answer to Jay-Z on “Monster.” The only thing that Kanye really accomplished with this record is that I now hate Bon Iver even more than I did before. Maybe for his next album he can get Fleet Foxes to do something so I can become infuriated to the point I’ll need one of those shots that Dexter gives to his victims just to bring me back to normal.
There it is, Chicago. My New Year’s Resolution is to bitch less. So hopefully next year this list won’t be necessary. But, it was fun to write, so I may do it anyway.