I don't know.
I think I really, really did try and write something out, like a regular essay that could almost be like, maybe published or something, and have it mean something and all that, but I've really failed to find the right language.
In a gracious act of self-love, I'll note that I may be the only writer in the world who could be described as Sherwood Anderson impersonating Holden Caulfield impersonating a caricature of how girls in California supposedly talked in, like, the 80s or whatever. Reverse chronology, too.
It's worthwhile to go back to the 2000s, briefly. Or maybe the 1990s. I dunno. I read somewhere once that it's better to think of musical decades as beginning somewhere around the 5s than the 0s, and maybe, well, it makes some sense. I won't even bother to look this up because I think that the Internet has done deleterious things to my memory already, but, ok, if I recall correctly, which I am typing out instead of abbreviating, if I remember correctly, there was some sort of wartime, that is World War Two, wartime rations that greatly reduced the pressing of vinyl records and so bebop, which had been developing for years in various clubs around New York, was barely recorded and released until, well, unsurprisingly, 1945, and I'm sure it must have been some sort of future shock for the kids coming back from the war and the thing is I really don't know enough to know if this all means anything for a few decades but somehow it makes sense. I actually don't want to go down this route. It's sort fo fun leaving these digressions up, like I'm just talking forever.
75-85- ish is punk and the gradual winding down of one million piece funk bands and the kids in the basement have guitars or synths or turntables or samplers but definitely four tracks and then really it all came to fruition between the mid-80s and the mid-90s and then it all sort of settled in and the mid-90s to the mid-00s were sort of a consolidation of all the advances and then really everything sort of starts anew for me, in a way, in the mid-2000s, only anew is not quite the right word; it's more like some sort of psychological break, or maybe something like it.
The not-quite-paradox of it all, well, it's like, the transition from what is the future to what was the future. There's a line between The Streets and Closer Musik and Burial that's a bit obscured, somehow, but it's there, the weird backwards-forwards motion of it all, the music still attached to a culture pushing the boat along even as the passengers are facing back into the wake and to the glittering lights of a shore receding. But 2005 ish to 2015 ish were different. Burial is the start, but then Fever Ray and Balam Acab and Chuck Person and Macintosh Plus and Ferraro and eventually, 2814. What was the future? The real shift from, like, the Streets to Burial to Chuck Person is the switch from a coherent subject appraising a consensual version of the past to the inability to recover that consensus and then a focus on the the mediating factors that create the hyper-subjectivity we all know and, um, love? I mean, part of the charm of the way in which various vaporware tracks stutter and seem to fall apart is the weird way in which it captures and inscribes the sound of technology failing in specific moments for specific people. Some varpowave track may sound the same to everyone who listens to it, but the sound of technology failing still feels very personal, doesn't it? I mean, no CD skips the same way twice, and the way in which your CD skips is different from the way that mine skips and if my CD skips a certain way in my CD player, it will skip differently if I bring my CD over to your place to play it on your CD player.
I'm gesturing towards something but if I was fucking Walter Benjamin I'd probably be doing better.
The last few years is when it all started to really fall apart, like, does anybody use the word "postmodern" anymore? It seems antiquated, but not because the state of affairs has changed, but rather because neither word means anything anymore. There is no Modern, so the post- becomes meaningless, like a road sign offering directions to a place that doesn't exist. It's all fully-internalized now.
So maybe this gets to some of what Simon is talking about here, this weird sort of world of masterpieces that are these weird sort of floating signifiers, deracinated from some sort of social context which produces them, nor some sort of coherent set of values by which importance could be judged. There's something really obnoxiously tautological about it all, it is because it is because it is, like popism has reached it's, well, rockist moment.
I mean, I was there, sort of, you know, just an observer, really, as I am now, but I remember it all going down right at the turn of the millennium, New York London Paris Munich, ILX, and all of that, like, how could you choose another competent Yo La Tengo records or the neo-neo-neo-neo-pastoralism of Elephant 6 over, like, Aaliyah? But it wasn't even that. I can't even remember, but probably someone, somewhere, thought they had to actually write about Rob Fucking Thomas from Matchbox Fucking Twenty like he was going to be, like, what, um, Adam Duritz? Who someone a few years before probably compared to, like, well, not QUITE Bob Dylan but I think you get it. And all the while, of course, Tricky and a million other things.
Somehow, it's the same shit now but it's even worse, if only because I don't feel the opposition on the horizon. I mean, what GROUNDS are there to say that Lana Del Ray is really Stephan Jenkins from Third Eye Blind? And what's waiting in the wings to displace it all, or to even provide a nice warm tent under which the deluge of empty praise can be observed from a comfortable safety?
What's odd now is that "we" won, and the victory seems to be the option of being on the inside of something just as empty as what brought this all about in the first place.
And did "we" win at all?
The scariest music I heard all decade is, well, don't search for it if you can all help it, but there are a lot of bands out there where there are four members and all the guys have long, unwashed hair and all the girls have long died hair and everyone looks like they could be cowering in the corner of an under-attended Lush gig circa 1993 only their whole "thing" is to play really pathetic copies of the American indie music of that year, with, of course, Jaguars and Jazzmasters and I can't even go on. I almost feel sorry for them, but really, jealousy, like, if I only I could waste my life with such conviction.
The other side of it is that I played Maxinquaye to some kids in a bar a few weeks back and they loved it, bless their hearts, opined that it still sounded new, but I secretly wished they would spit on me and play me something that would have me burning my jeans outside a store with a sensible range of khakis on offer.
Please antiquate me because I can't seem to get out of my own adolescence. It's not my fault I can't grow up because you have to make me old.
I'm gesturing towards something but if I was fucking Walter Benjamin I'd probably be doing better.
As I get older I keep watching all of the same mistakes being made over and over again, the same bones underneath changing flesh, and it makes me despair quite a bit.
I mean, like, in the 1990s, everyone told me the 80s were horrible and then I heard music from the 80s and I was like, well, wait, what? Which is to say that banal, unexamined consensus is the damn problem, not the object of that consensus. I mean, on some level, Lizzo is better than Motley Crue, but also, like, not at all, really. The product is somehow better, the machinery the same, and I only care about the machinery. I'm cranky because I'm being told the new flesh is the new bones and I want to coin the phrase the law of diminishing belief.
What's really funny to me, or sad, actually, heartbreaking, is basically the same thing. Read a few decade summaries and it's all about late capitalist hellscape and probably I could actually put quotes around "late capitalist hellscape" and attribute the phrase to multiple writers and yet, yet, fucking yet yet, underneath that cute little essay about all the things I hate will also be, verily, a fucking list of records that were supposed to be a reprieve from late capitalist hellscape and were also, well, late capitalist hellscape.
In the past three years, I've heard the most Sonny Rollins in:
1. My headphones
3. Possibly a pharmacy that has a few thousand locations nationwide
4. Literally nowhere else
I live in New York. And I don't really eat that many hot fudge sundaes, you must understand.
So here, in no particular order, and subject to change and update indefinitely:
Burial - Stolen Dog
Chuck Person - Nobody Here
Nothing Left To Talk About
Macintosh Plus - ???
Just What Is It That Makes Today's Computers So Different, So Appealing?
Kelela - All The Way Down
My brain is not a free-floating signifier
FKA Twigs - Lights On
The thing is, this sounds like it properly belongs on the soundtrack to The Fifth Element, a film which came out around twenty years before this song and set a few hundred years in the future, which creates all sorts of confusions, and this future already feels like its over based even on the second album by the same freakin' artist. To quote our Most Glorious Leader: sad.
Balam Acab - Apart
The ideology can't precede the idea. Which is to say, I wouldn't be a Modernist anymore if only other people didn't treat interesting ideas as fads. Witch house forever.
James Ferraro - Killer Nerd
I wrote some pseudo-intellectual blather about the specific mediations of hyper-subjectivity and if I knew what I meant, I could explain this better.
Corbin - Ice Boy
This doesn't fit in anywhere, like, the singer, I guess.
Kanye West - New Slaves
Close but a truck of Cuban cigars.
Daughters - Satan In The Wait (and others)
Surprisingly-welcomed recrudescence, the singer's failed attempt to vomit is actually a spectacular metaphor for everything.
2814 - Rain Temple
I want to leave you with something pretty because I love you.