Click the tape to download my mix! Or just click here.Based on what I've gathered from reading year end lists and year end list criticism thus far, the consensus opinion is that 2008 was largely a lackluster year for new music. Maybe it's nothing more than a down year after an incredible 2007. Or maybe we'll look back in a few years and see 2008 as the year that the 21st century "indie" bubble, and the critical consensus that accompanied it, finally burst. Or maybe there has been a lot of great music out this year, but I just haven't heard it, or I have heard it, but I've been reading too many negative nellies who've led me to believe it's not even good, much less great. Whatever the reason, I've been having some trouble organizing my favorite albums and songs into a reasonable format that I'd feel honest sharing. I have neither the desire nor ability to create some sort of ranked list, since I'm not hearing a clear upper tier. In the case of songs, compare this to last year, when it was pretty clear by the year's 4th quarter that MIA, LCD Soundsystem, and Panda Bear put out tracks that were going to be in just about everyone's top 5. MIA and LCD made mine, and with tracks that could ultimately prove to be some of the decade's best. Trying to get a feel for the possible consensus favorites this year, I turned to the song list on Pitchfork's reader poll, which I'm assuming largely telegraphs the songs that will make their way to the site's own year end list. Combing through the list, and limiting my purview to bands who could conceivably be tagged "indie", I found only 2 acts who put out songs that I could see as consensus favorites: Fleet Foxes ("White Winter Hymnal") and Vampire Weekend ("Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" and/or "A-Punk" [I think]). These are certainly good songs, particularly the VW tracks (I'm iffy on Fleet Foxes), but it's also not at all unthinkable that, in a year's time, they could be entirely absent from the collective "indie" consciousness. In a tier just below VW and FF, I would put offerings from Beach House, No Age, and Deerhunter, but I could say the same for them. Considering the Pitchfork list as a whole, the only songs that I could really see placing highly on a majority of lists were selections by Beyonce, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne - certainly not indie acts, not even rock acts.
Of the three possibilities I offered above regarding my perception of 2008 as a disappointing year - and I think there is some truth to each - I think the main development we are seeing is the end of the indie/blog/Pitchfork (call it what you want) consensus of the past five or so years. Indie became too big to support itself convincingly as a single genre; the cycle of hype, the Brooklyn Vegan commenter mentality, and other assorted nonsense started to haunt the blogs; and Pitchfork is always creeping closer and closer to becoming "mainstream." (LOL THEY MADE A BOOK. OMG DID YOU SEE THEY HAD BEYONCE IN THEIR VIDEO LIST??) Meanwhile, indie bands are increasingly burrowing into sub-genre ghettos, making music that is accessible to fewer and fewer people, as if this is the avenue to authenticity in art. I acknowledge that that statement may be entirely unsubstantiated, but I level that charge (almost) wholly at LO-FI. I heard way too much self-consciously shitty sounding music this year (I see this as part of a larger decline in musicianship overall within the indie realm, part of why Nat Baldwin is my #1 fav of the year). Whatever charm I may have found in Times New Viking 8 months ago has completely worn off. Vivian Girls are boring poseurs. I really do enjoy No Age's music, but they need to get off of their "we're authentic we came from The Smell" kick. Etc. Don't we all read Hipster Runoff now? Don't we realize that thinking about authenticity in this way is absolutely ridiculous?
But then, this is all a matter of course. A popular genre takes hold, peaks, and begins to collapse under its own weight. It's cyclical, and nothing to particularly lament or be alarmed about. It's certainly been an interesting ride, and I think it may be even more interesting to see what happens next.
ANYway, linked in the image at the top of the post is how I decided to present some of my favorite songs of the year, in a 2008 Year End Mix (presented as one contiguous mp3, 192kbps). Full disclosure: I stole this idea entirely from Eric Harvey @ Marathon Packs, who's been doing it longer and undoubtedly much, much better. My mix is by no means inclusive of all of my favorites from the past year, but I think it's a pretty representative sample. I mentioned above that I was having trouble thinking of an honest way to present my favorite tracks, a ranked list would have felt completely arbitrary, and even an unranked list would have felt compulsory: like something I had to do, though I'd take little joy from its creation. I had a lot of fun putting this mix together; I think they're all great songs, if not necessarily as special as some of my favorites from years past, and I really enjoy listening to it, as I have many times already. Even if no one out there likes it nearly as much as I do, it's already been worth the effort.
Download: We Eat What We Like Year End Mix 2008
Click HERE to see the playlist.