If you don’t write an end of the year trendpiece, you are a total jerk. Because a year’s art starts on day one of the new year and if we don’t quantify it somehow by December, who are we as a people and what is our worth? Without lists and handy dandy encapsulation, on a scale of 1.0 to 10.0, we are, like, negative infinity.
With that in mind I have helpfully compiled some of the most important trends of 2013 for you. Because time is not a stream. It is a Lego. I put numbers in front of them so that it was a proper list. I spelled the numbers out so that it qualifies as a "thinkpiece."
First off: Kanye West. So far, so good. This summation racket is very pretty easy.
Secondly: Total bullshit that Perfect Pussy reached number one on the Billboard charts because the Illuminati (or as it’s most commonly referred to in Boston, “chix”) fooled all you fools into liking something you didn’t actually like. This is the Thomas Frank theory of music criticism. If only the heartland weren’t so credulous, we wouldn’t have to sit through multiple Perfect Pussy rock blocks on the radio (whatever that is).
Tertiary: Black Metal and shoegaze combined forces help put Rosemary’s Baby (and me) to sleep. I can only suppose that Satan is looking at the long game.
Fourth: Punk happened again, for the 46 year running. Punk is Susan Lucci in 1999, but forever.
Fieval: I thought I was really mad at faux-soul indie, but it turns out I just don’t like dudes with untucked shirts. I miss you Jonathan Fire*Eater.
Sixth of all: Arcade Fire became bearable. I like boring disco and asking people to dress up, sue me. Classist? Possibly. But you could make the same argument about expecting motherfuckers not to wear their pajamas on a plane. You think poor people can’t look sharp? Fuck you. Arcade Fire’s problem has always been that they were boring, arguably mean, and sounded like the worst of all possible worlds, a prog Talking Heads. James Murphy made them palatable. Plus they got dissed hard by an ex-member of Q Not U, a band whose album covers were so horrible that me and my friends used to make special trips to Sound & Fury on Orchard Street just to make fun of them (their music was fine btw). So I guess I’m on Arcade Fire’s side now. How do you make God laugh, right?
777: A number of things happened that I, as a pretty opinionated dude, have opinions on but that, as a white cis male, don’t have particularly relevant or interesting opinions on. These include but are not limited to: Katy Perry not calling herself a feminist, Miley calling herself a feminist, R Kelly (underage sex accusations not music), Lilly Allen’s video, Rihanna’s video, the Robin Thicke video, twerking, cultural appropriation, “high art and the rap world colliding,” and basically everything that someone white wrote a terrible Jezebel or Salon piece about. I have nothing to say that someone else more qualified by dint of background, sex and/or ethnicity couldn’t say better about any of it. However, if you have any questions about Death in June, Hunter Moore, and the oppressive corniness of that Marina Abramovic video…I’M YOUR GUY.
Eight(ly? Not really sure how it works at this point and I’d prefer not to date myself to the point of making an “Eight Is Enough” joke): 2013 was the year of the album rollout, which is actually a pretty sane response to leaks. If the promotion starts early and furiously, it’s less an issue that everybody already has the album a week before it goes on sale. That’s a theory I just came up with. Seems pretty solid.
(bridge)NINTH: Branding happened in 2013, guys, BRANDING. If only we could return to the halcyon days of cigarette ads and coerced sex trade profiles in the backpages. Fuck it, I wish we could go back to when people didn’t believe media and we therefore avoided fighting the Spanish American War because everybody was so goddamned smart. THE PAST WAS BETTER. I HATE NOT HAVING POLIO.
Tenthively: Thom York and some variations upon Thom York came out against Spotify. As both a kneejerk Radiohead hater AND a kneejerk hater of musicians not getting paid for things, I am still working on my opinion. I know “still working on my opinion” is not a popular stand to take on the internet but since Carl Newman (who I like and respect) is against Spotify and Billy Bragg (who I don’t know personally but is fucking BILLY BRAGG) is tentatively for Spotify…I’m still working on my opinion. I don’t know why I’m pretending you possibly care what my opinion is, but my mom always told me I was special, so here we are. Nice dream.
Eleventhdreamday: The Year In College Rock: A lot of twenty-year-olds confused their Dinosaur Jr. cover bands for punk bands because, once again, people just put too much positive emphasis on not tucking in one’s shirt. I get it; Kim Gordon seemed sad and everybody wanted to cheer her up by sounding like bands that hers was way better than in 1990 but, really, belts are so cool, why wouldn’t you want anyone to see your belt? Unless you’re a skinhead or a mixologist, in which case you’re wearing braces. But if that’s the case I fear/hate you anyway. Tuck in your shirt. Stop sounding like (post-Hate Your Friends) The Lemonheads. Ms. Gordon is fine. She put out an album that people smarter than me say is good, and her twerp of an ex-husband joined a metal band doomed to play Libertarian county fairs in hell.
Also in College Rock, The Replacements didn’t get back together. But some people thought they did.
Twelve: Speaking of Kanye West, as we always are/should be, I tweeted, “The pussies are running the sarcophagus” in 2013 and nobody cared. This, to me, is the exact thing that’s wrong with the internet. It doesn’t get me. When a white man in his thirties tweets a non-sequitur that references a line from one the 21st century's (so far) most important artists' three-year-old album and the world doesn’t rise up to applaud said white man, well, clearly something profound is broken. Now I know what it must have been like for Queen Elizabeth watching the sun set on the empire. I’m thinking of becoming a twitter hoaxer in 2014.
Thirteen: The confusion between the “underground” and “mainstream” continued to lead to much gnashing of teeth, as it has since Pearl Jam and before. Not sure why we’re still having this issue but every year there’s a band that is clearly a POP band that provisionally “indie” types either hate or love and feel the need to justify that hate or love by calling the band something they clearly are not. Best Coast and Vampire Weekend are both solid pop rock outfits that were put on this earth to be pretty OK and provide kissy-kissy background for the procreation of regs. Good for all involved. This year’s focus was Haim, a major label pop group raised from infancy to be a major label pop group. This posed some sort of problem for people who consider themselves “indie” or care how a band is marketed. I cared how a band was marketed too…when I was sixteen. Haim are a strong argument to abolish that wretched term “indie” (and while we’re at it, “guilty pleasure”) from the language once and for all. If you compare them to Sheryl Crow, they’re a delight, and that’s who their peers should be. If you like them, you should maybe give Sheryl Crow another shot. It’s OK. We can still be pals. I like terrible unpopular bands.
Fortean: On a positive note, the ‘90s style political correctness stylee of calling stuff out came roaring back in full swing and it was…glorious. Every time I heard a baby crying that everyone was too uptight and that political correctness was running amok and “witch hunt” this, or “twitter witch hunt” that, I knew some jerk was getting his or her comeuppance. Said jerk would survive and maybe we as a society would move a millimeter forward. The notion that the internet or identity politics have ruined ANYTHING is insane. People should be touchy, people should be irate, people should be called by their preferred term and those who stand on top of the food chain, whining about how they can’t make rape jokes or call people trannies or equate Islam with fascism as much as they’d like, can be devoured by those climbing up from below. Or at least get called racist nerds on social media. Baby steps in 2013 are still steps.
I’ve run out of numbers that I like. I think my end of year wrap-up was really good. I got a little snobby near the end there, but that’s OK.
Oh yeah, btw, Year-end wrap-ups are a waste of time. Attempting to cohere the wonderfully inchoate is a fuckwit’s errand. I only did it to clear out all my grievances of the year so I have room for the slights and heartache of 2014. Final thought? I’m glad Bill de Blasio is becoming mayor so working musicians won’t have to travel all the way Hudson to buy heroin. Kanye West (again). Bye.
Zachary Lipez wishes you a happy and hung over 2013. He's on Twitter - @ZacharyLipez