A New York Times article written by Jon Caramanica last week declared 2011 as the death of rock music, claiming the genre “is becoming a graveyard of aesthetic innovation and creativity”. This pisses me off. Rock music has changed, yes- but to say rock music is dead is a prime illustration of how contemporary highbrow music critics are completely out of touch with the mass.
2011 was a huge year for rock music. The term ‘rock’ no longer falls solely under the strict, narrow sounding category that is contingent on the four-guy, virile sounding format that has absorbed rock music ever since the Beatles era. When you think rock music, you think The Beatles, The Who, Velvet Underground, U2, Clash, Ramones, Doors, Queen, and Metallica (all by the way, consist of four male members).
But rock n’ roll extends so much further beyond the archetypal format nowadays. Bands have resided from simply imitating the layout of popular bands, and have fixated on ascertaining a totally new bravura.
*Woman-leading bands like Florence + the Machine, Warpaint, Phantogram and Wild Flag have prompted us to appreciate how mollifying female vocals sound.
*Solo artists like Kurt Vile, Gary Clark Jr., Panda Bear (Noah Lennox from Animal Collective) and St. Vincent have awesomely pressed the confines for upcoming individual, exceptional talents.
*Rock groups like Real Estate, Destroyer, White Denim and The Local Natives have ushered in the indie-hippie-ambient-groove epoch, which is a music genus that can satisfy essentially any and every fan of music.
Even more conventional rock bands like The Black Keys, Radiohead, Fleet Foxes and TV on the Radio all put out exceptional albums this year in which they marginally reinvented their preceding sounds.
Jon Caramanica was either living under a rock in 2011, or he’s just a whiny, bitter outcast that can’t acknowledge ‘good’ rock music can indeed come from women and dudes in thick-rimmed glasses.
To label rock as a “graveyard of aesthetic innovation and creativity” is affirming that Caramanica has indeed lost contact with the new culture of rock music, and has utterly resisted appreciating anything outside of what he considers to be ‘good’ rock music. Evaluating aesthetics in music (and any form of art) needs to be detached from personal taste. Aesthetics are never so much right-or-wrong, but an illustration of what our modern culture values. By neglecting that illustration and resorting to unfamiliarity with the culture Caramanica has let his personal tastes overtake his rational evaluation. The job of a critic isn’t to subside with whatever variety entices their taste the most, but to gauge all forms on the same level of analysis. Rock n’ roll is alive, and it will continue to survive until bands stop making music.
My top three:
Dawes, Nothing is Wrong
What fascinates me most about Dawes is the substance within their songs. The lyrics are so profound that it seems every line holds the weight of an intricately examined sentiment; like reconciling love as a bond of dependence rather than finding your destined soul mate, or realizing happiness isn’t found by relocating and pursuing, but by appreciating and reflecting. Deep shit, right? Nothing is Wrong finds the alley directly to the listeners’ heart, a pathway highlighted with flawless harmonies and pacifying organ sounds. Lead singer Taylor Goldsmith has been credited as Tom Petty-like and the collective grace of this album makes me believe this is the launch of a band that will one day be considered renowned.
Real Estate, Days
This album is driving a VW van through the back roads of unclouded California with your two best friends. Ten songs of undiluted serenity. Carelessness youth and the knack to illuminate the unearthing of amusement in your lackluster hometown is what this awesome band stands for.
Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues
The Fleet Foxes’ debut, Sun Giant, was a magnificent introduction to this impeccable harmonizing folk-rock group from Seattle, and their sophomore efforts came up even stronger. The fickle harmonic choruses on this album are comparable to no other band. Helplessness Blues is a musical narrative about dealing with realities of the past and maintaining optimism for the future, while never exemplifying self-indulgence.
The Decemberists, The King is Dead
Umphrey’s McGee, Death By Stereo
Coming soon: Best Hip-Hop of the year