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Another Reason To Hate The Holidays

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I realize that it's trite and cliché to bash the holiday season, and I
usually refrain from doing so. I've learned to compromise with most
holiday situations. I'll wear my iPod while shopping for gifts, lest I
hear the same holiday music piped into Macy's that I hear all day on
Lite FM and all night on ads for department stores and car companies.
I've also accepted the cheerful wishes of "happy holidays" from
strangers because, well, you know you're becoming a cynical shell of a
human being when friendly gestures cause you annoyance. I've even
accepted those gigantic inflatable snowmen and globes that pop up all
over my neighborhood, rendering the streets into something like
gigantic Toys R Us aisles.

But there are still certain things about the season that bother me immensely.

For one, I fear change. The end of the year has, since childhood,
always loaded me with a sense of dread. Cable channels will all recap
the year gone by with fast-paced, tightly edited montages and quirky
commentary. I'll think about all those months that flew by, months I
spent sitting at my office desk when I could have been out romping in
the fields. I'll think of all the whirling weekends and the bleary,
hungover Sundays and a tinge of nostalgia rises inside. Then there's
the specter of the year ahead. Cold, distant 2008, what have you in
store for me? This could be the year I finally get food poisoning from
undercooked shellfish. This could be the year that I meet Bo Jackson,
my childhood sports idol, at a crowded bar. Anything could happen. I
find it terrifying.

And then there are those pesky year-end lists. The Best Music Of
2007
, The Best Movies Of 2007, and so on. They were once
intriguing, tracing way back to when maybe Spin or Time or MTV had
them, and I was too young to really know better than to follow what
was foisted on me by commercial radio. Back in, say, 1992, it was a
Best Of list that told me Pavement's Slanted And Enchanted had
been released. Otherwise, I would surely have been oblivious to the
group until later years.

But it seems that in these roaring years of internet growth, along
with the proliferation of Facebook pages and Livejournals and blogs
come seemingly millions of Best Of lists. Everyone has an opinion, and
I respect that. That doesn't mean some of them can't escape reproach,
however.

For example, there is the phenomenon of the Uber-Hipster Year End
List. I find these while perusing sites like Pitchfork or any other
supposed purveyor of music cool. It betrays the desperate act of
ironically including awful popular music into a Best Of context to
gain some perception of diversity and "ear to the ground" credibility.
I had only gone through a few such lists this year before I became
disgusted with the disingenuity of them--I mean come on, you
really think Sean Kingston's " href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=Lt6o8NlrbHg">Beautiful Girls" and
Britney Spears' href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackout_%28Britney_Spears_album%29">Blackout
were two of the most impressive musical outings of the year?
You, of the neo-folk, garage-influenced, post-punk revival band? I
don't think so, buddy.

Equally infuriating are the lists that include incredibly obscure and
decidedly awful albums. It's fine to like some out-there or
under-represented artists or genres. One of the best acts I heard this
year was Bag Raiders, a dance music group from Sydney, virtually
unknown outside of the U.K. and Australia. But again, when you litter
your Top 10 with Czech Ambient solo work, a compilation of Icelandic
found recordings and a Brazilian Cock Rock/Baile Funk fusion outfit,
I'm going to assume you're stacking the deck. What, you can't admit
you like Interpol?
It's okay, we'll still understand that you have varied and eclectic
tastes.

Speaking of Interpol, I've noticed a rather disturbing disparity
between the number of records released after summer and those before
when it comes to appearances on critics' collections of favorites. I
fear there might be a degree of amnesia that coincides with the
holidays. For every mention of M.I.A. (who put out a terrific record,
don't get me wrong) and Radiohead, I'm not seeing any mention of Bloc
Party, Klaxons, Lily Allen or Modest Mouse. All had impressive
outings, with href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Weekend_In_The_City">A Weekend
In The City
being my personal favorite.

It makes me wonder if record labels should start re-thinking their
release schedules. I might be paranoid but it seems like some
latter-year albums might be overshadowed by all of these year-end
retrospectives. Lupe
Fiasco
, for example, drops one of the more brilliant hip-hop
records in history on December 18th, The Cool. Seeing such an
intelligent and sonically rich contribution overshadowed would
certainly make my Worst of 2007 list.