In the five years since we started doing this feature, changes in the music world that were set in motion almost a decade ago really started to take hold. The wholesale move away from critiquing the things that are actually happening in an art form and toward simply trying to predict what's going to happen next became firmly ensconced in how we do business. It's tied to the nature of hype and the internet and blogs and the death of print and all that stuff people are always blabbering about, to the point where even mentioning it seems hopelessly trite. When it comes down to it, though, it's still happening. And it's still depressing.
And we're as guilty of it as anyone, I guess. When Rolling Stone decides that a band you wrote about two years ago is "breaking," you want to gloat, even if just for a moment. When a band playing Saturday Night Live appeared in a feature you wrote three years earlier, it's hard not to make a joke about it. I don't think I've ever let the perceived potential for future boasting ever play too big a part in the choices we've made, but it'd be disingenuous to say it doesn't cross my mind. Being right begets credibility, which begets pageviews, which begets ad dollars, which begets a raise for me, maybe, which begets, I dunno, happiness?
But this year, I made a concerted effort to think as little as possible about that sort of stuff because, aside from it being a rat-race in which I see practically no critical value whatsoever, I also know that I couldn't even begin to guess what will be popular six months from now, let alone three years from now. If you'd asked me 18 months ago what would be happening in Brooklyn in 2010, I never in a million years would have guessed we'd still be struggling to get beyond the tyranny of careless and, more importantly, tuneless lo-fi, or that so much of our city would be shamelessly trying to re-make Merriweather Post Pavilion. That's exactly where we're at, though, and it has me extremely worried. Or it had me worried, anyway.
Every time we've done this feature, I've been genuinely surprised by the quality of the bands that make the final list, which is to say nothing of the countless great bands we've had to leave out over the years. And yet, when it came time to start work on this year's feature, I genuinely had no idea if I'd be able to do it. But for every, let's say, six or eight bands that forced me to get up from my desk and angrily walk outside, only to remember that, fuck, I quit smoking eight months ago, there was one that consoled me: North Highlands for their beautifully rickety take on classic indie rock, Ball of Flame Shoot Fire for their deep, abiding strangeness, Ava Luna for their inventive arrangements and huge, sneaky hooks, Nohow On for their refreshing, almost single-minded respect for melody. And so on.
Now that it's done, I might be more pleased with this year's list than I've been with any other, and it's a heartwarming testament to the city's character that, even when you fear the worst, a couple dead-end trends don't stand a chance against the spirit of creativity that's always been so plentiful here, especially in the face of adversity. Not even, it turns out, when the adversity is coming from within. -- Mike Conklin
Catching up with the Class of '09
Mar 31, 2010