Jesse Jarnow

pazz & jop 2007

Ballots for the Village Voice‘s annual Pazz & Jop poll were posted today. Mine is here. My full comments are below:

The other night Sancho and I were toasting the arrival of the Huns. His belief about the record industry’s collapse, which I support, is that it is wonderful that nobody can make a living playing music anymore, because then only people who really give a shit will try. I like it because it reaffirms the fact that everybody, it seems, does it anyway.

Granted, I write about music, and do so in Brooklyn, taboot, but I am optimistic that the glut is not local. I will have Sancho confirm this upon his annual return to Santo Domingo next week, but really, it seems that music is ephemeral again. The corporate bloodlettings — which greatly please Sancho’s North American Zoroastrian urges — are the final sign that the technologies for production and consumption are virtually interchangeable, a decidedly pre-modern balance.

Coupled with the pervasive and overwhelming data smog, one might even read the omnipresent desire to write/record/edit/curate music as culturally bred defense mechanism. Territorial pissing, more or less. Bodily fluids being what they are, this — needless to say — only exacerbates the issue. What is uncanny, though, are all the specific ways that music can make itself cut through, well, the crap. Sometimes it’s at least pretend-innovative, other times plain as day.

Released on a circular disc and judged strictly on its sonic youth, Radiohead’s In Rainbows would likely have been greeted as a songy disc by blokes reaching middle age. By selling it through ice cream trucks as they have, though, Radiohead has added a layer of (at least) temporary meaning to their work — ideally enough to get a listener listening long enough to really give the music a fair shake. (Which it’s worth. Really.)

Wilco (to use another example from the dwindling set of shared references) took a tried and true route: make it as plum pleasing as possible. Sancho thinks Jeff Tweedy is a stone shark-jumper (but that’s okay: more blood, potentially), though the shimmering guitars and dulcet tones of Sky Blue Sky wooed me endlessly.

There was just something I liked about the way it sounded, and couldn’t get enough of it for a while. Does that make it good? Dunno. I couldn’t really tell you what the songs are about, or even how I necessarily relate to anything beyond one or two lines, or — when it comes down to it — why I still consider it great even though I actually deleted the second half of the album from my iPod, cut out a plodding jam, substituted a live version of “What Light” and added some B-sides. Even with all of that, it holds up as a vessel, floating.

My enjoyment of the album is totally abetted by technology and its resultant lesson: the notion that music isn’t sacred. And it’s not even necessarily made by people with cool haircuts, righteous attitudes, or business sense. In the case of the latter, it sometimes just takes 40 years to reach who it needs to reach. Discovered anew, everything sounds current. Sometimes, everything current sounds old — like Vampire Weekend, who (on first listen) already sound like a band sucked into the hype grinder and spat out. I kind of hate myself for liking them. Sancho probably just hates them, though he’s got some theories about that, too.

“Start a blog,” I said.

“Bite me,” he said. “Then I’d have to write.”

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