There comes a time every year when "Best Of" lists lead to such exclamations as "Fuck! I totally forgot about that!" Or "Wow! I'm way less in touch with 'the kids' than I thought!" Or "Should I file this with the recipe cards or throw it right into the 'to be burned' folder with my Walgreens receipts?" It's a special time of the year called new year. Herewith may I propose my humble contribution to the cacophony, with a reminder of good things in the year past and hoping for better things in the future? Thanks for reading on ...
BEST USE OF TUMBLR FOR THE SIDE OF GOOD:
Daniel Johnson — Johnson has been chronicling his recordings in real time via a tumblr blog. The various jams — both in-progress, finished and otherwise — appear as they're converted to digital format — and photos document their creation. But it's Johnson's straight-up chatty-craftsman style that wraps it all up in enlightened working-class humility.
Runner up: The return of whatevs.org (though that's no longer the URL) in an unhacked-by-the-Russians form and with the brimming confidence of Grambo's time served in NYC's media hothouse.
BEST MERGER TO CAUSE A BACKLASH BLOG:
When the big, backward-capped one, JRC, from fivethreedialtone, and the bag-headed cat, Jasper, from webvomit.com, joined forces to form eatthiscity.com, the 50 local people who religiously read those sites waited with bated breath. So far, it's been hit-or-miss. As with any bodily collision, there are unforeseen bruises — JRC doesn't have an unbroken string of digital bully-on-the-pulpit missives and Jasper has forced readers to interrupt the flow of his ironic (?) misogynistic blasts with excitable "Look what I found!!!" posts and bona fide insightful commentary on digital downloads. They may not have found their flow by uniting, but they have found a kind of nemesis in the digital tomfoolery that is Lazer Sharkz — that is, a blog dedicated to commenting on blogs. The new kid on the block is written by "sharks" like "Joan of Shark," "Great White" and "Tiger Shark." "Shark" rhymes with "snark," by the way, just in case you were wondering ...
BEST REASON TO GIVE TO NPR:
When Sleater-Kinney stopped working, guitarist-librarian Carrie Brownstein must have been at some kind of awesome loose ends. She started the instant-comedy duo ThunderAnt with Fred Armisen (thunderant.com). Arguably more importantly, though, she was given an NPR music blog called Monitor Mix. There, she consistently precedes the asking of good questions by spinning contextualizing personal and cultural yarns. She posts thematic blasts of YouTube vids that display super-solid Google-fu skills. What's more, her humanist, mildly personal, music-fanatic tone infects the whole proceedings with a combination of a talk radio host's mastery of form and a zine scribbler's zeal. Rock!
BEST LOCAL RECORD LABEL SITE:
Both of you who read this column have surely noticed that two area record labels do it totally fucking right when it comes to kicking out the online jams. The first, and closest geographically to my ZIP code is Suburban Sprawl. Whether it's previewing upcoming jams from their roster of bands, offering a glimpse into the back pages of roster band members' past musical lives (in MP3 form) or offering up full-on, fully-realized collections of music like Sea of Japan's free, online-only album, frantic and fantastic Instant Album Party releases or their annual Christmas collection (phew, that's a mouthful), SubSprawl! just kinda does shit perfectly — they have the hoochie coochie dance outside the tent refined enough to entice folks to walk in and buy the goods inside. It should be said that Suburban Sprawl is part of the digitally-savvy media mini-empire that is A2's Quack!Media.
The other pillar of digital awesomeness is Ann Arbor's Ghostly Int'l. This year they made available two of my absolutely favorite songs of 2008 via Michna's "Triple Chrome Dipped" and the Chap's "They Have a Name" (the latter from their fabulous, lo-fi, high-concept "coulda-kicked-myself-cuz-I-didn't-Top-Ten-it" album, Mega Breakfast).
The flow of free jams coming from the land of the Ghost keeps the flow of fans of the Ghost flowing — and that's just good business.
Randolph Chabot Jr. (aka Deastro...though that's now a band) proved (again) in 2008 that an artist can combine old-school DIY passion, precision and poetry with the wonders of networked technology to create a name among the criterati and open-eared fans alike with the free release via e-music of his Legends/Keepers set of jams. He's an open-sourced kid for the open-source era and let's hope his infectious music-making and nonstop live performance schedule spreads our city's name beyond the city limits like a sweet-meme for many years to come. Check two different sites for the latest and greatest (often daily) updates.
BIG PAPA AWARD:
Al "Explicit Lyric" Gore deserves some credit for inventing the Internet. Disgraced Alaska Senator Ted Stevens deserves some props for positing the idea that the Internet is a series of tubes through which unicorns and other things can be passed like so much gastrointestinal distress. And, finally, thank you to George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States of America, for coining the malapropism "Internets." Where would pseudo-hip lingophiles be without thee? Team America? Fuck Yeah! See you on the radio, er, Internet. And, again, happy new year.