A couple days ago, Information Leafblower revealed the compiled 2004 edition of what he's called the Top 40 Bands in America Today. And here's exactly what it is: The forty biggest vote getters among a bunch of random bloggers whose only connection is knowing ILB, and who have either pretty varied or way-too homogenous (or, as Amie would say, homo-genius!) tastes, depending on who's whining in the comments section.
35 people were invited, and 20 took part, myself included. I was glad to be asked, but had a really tough time pulling my own top ten together. Not just because there are way too many great American bands, but because I'm highly averse to judging bands against one another. It seems a pointless exercise, especially when my favorite band can change from day to day, depending on my mood, what's in my player, and what happened to get released that week. Still, I was game, and I figured it could spark some interesting discussions over at ILB. Boy, did it ever. Nearly 100 comments, and the post even showed up on the Blogdex RSS Feed. Nice.
For fun, and inspired by Blueroom, here's my take on the listed Top 40, with my own (and unnumbered) 40 best to follow...
TED LEO + PHARMACISTS - I wholeheartedly endorse this product and/or service, and he's one of only four (!) from my own submitted top ten that made this forty. Ted deserves every damn bit of praise he gets, and even though his latest record may not quite be his best (it's close), he continues to put forth some of the best live shows goin'.
WILCO - Uncle Tupelo fan here, but sorta stopped paying attention for awhile. When it comes to getting a country fix, I'm more of an Oldham man than a Tweedy one... but every time I hear another Wilco song, or even hear/read a new interview, I find something to love in it.
INTERPOL - Such a good band, if fairly derivative. But isn't everything, if you pick it apart enough? They get a pass because their songs are catchy as all get out, they avoided a sophomore slump, and they don't look like every other damn messy haired band tryin' to make it outta NYC. Plus, their bassist was so good in River's Edge.
GUIDED BY VOICES - No denying this one. Pollard's been writing a variation on the same couple songs over and over again for years, but lucky for him (and us), they're really amazing ones.
THE FIERY FURNACES - Pleading ignorance here. Some mp3s sit on my pc, but the time to listen has so far eluded me.
THE PIXIES - Well, yeah, sure. They woulda been way up in my top ten if they'd actually released an album in the last, oh, decade. They're not gonna jump in based on a nostalgic tour (one that I'm seein' in two weeks!), but let's see if an album follows. Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease.
BRIAN WILSON - Hmmmm. Everyone's obviously still on that Smile-induced high. I bought it, I like it a lot, but... well, it'll be in many top albums of the year, but give me another solid followup of not-as-old-as-I-am Wilson originals and we'll talk.
LUNA - I'm just a passive Luna fan (I've got Lunapark & Bewitched), but was a much bigger Galaxie 500 one. Wareham & co. just never quite packed the emotional punch I needed to get hooked in.
MODEST MOUSE - Never really got it, although a few years ago I certainly did try. Brock's voice... I just never found the music interesting enough to overcome how grating it was. That said, there are one or two solid songs on the latest record, helped muchly by him easing up on the whine. Saying it's my favorite Modest Mouse album isn't saying all that much.
SPOON - Amie loves 'em, but I could really take 'em or leave 'em. Girls Can Tell was too precious by far.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN - I sure do respect the man, Nebraska remains a work of genius, but... but... oh, nevermind. Not worth going into.
SONIC YOUTH - Totally understand this. The latest is their best in years, they put on a fine, fine show out in Northampton earlier this year. But is it all enough to make my own best of? Could be that their history works against them for me... since I know how brilliant they once were, the newer stuff gets automatically compared. If a brand new band had put out a disc as good as Sonic Nurse, maybe they'd have placed higher? Or maybe I'm just talkin' outta my ass.
THE MOUNTAIN GOATS - Every song I've heard has been good. All two of 'em. They're on the listen-to-queue.
RILO KILEY - Great band, deserved spot, and a super-catchy new record that I'm only now realizing doesn't have quite the staying power of their previous couple. I just don't find myself going back to it much... but I could just be burned out on it. Time will tell.
DAVID BYRNE - He had me at '...Buildings and Food', but lost me with the 'world music' obsession.
THE STROKES - Their overwhelming success confounds me. They're just alright, and got real old, real fast. A complete lack of depth makes 'em entirely dispensible... like cotton candy in yer mouth, tastes pretty good but disappears so quickly.
DRIVE BY TRUCKERS - Am I wrong to resist them because of their name? That policy worked perfectly with Hoobastank. I had a hard enough time checking out Dogs Die in Hot Cars. Glad I did, though. Hmmmm. A dilemma.
SUFJAN STEVENS - Sorry, who? Seen his name around, people I trust dig him, so it's time to go a'samplin.
THE DECEMBERISTS - Ah, now that's the stuff. I've yet to pick up their latest, but it's on the wishlist.
SCISSOR SISTERS - I loved early Elton John when I was, like, six years old.
ELLIOTT SMITH - Well, his still-shocking-me death sorta disqualified him from my list, although there's a good chance he would have been number one if he were still around. DAMMIT.
AMBULANCE LTD. - Very good band, but, uh... this high a showing based on their debut album alone? Don't get me wrong, I like 'em lots, but let's see how the follow-up sounds.
THE KILLERS - That single's alright. I'm assuming it's getting a lot of "alt-rock" radio airplay since Matt got sick of it so quick. Change that station, FutureDad!
EMINEM - An undeniable way with words, a pure pop artist, but one of the best 'bands/artists' in America? Come on now.
JAY-Z - Ok, unsurprising confession time: my long-ago affair with hip-hop started with the Furious Five and ended with Fear of a Black Planet. That's where it peaked for me, and there's just no goin' back.
THE POSTAL SERVICE - I know, I said one album wasn't enough to get Ambulance ranked so high. But for Postal Service? It was plenty.
THE WALKMEN - I gave them a shot, I really did. So much hype, so little behind it.
THE SHINS - For me, they're the ultimate mood band. Some bands can put me in a mood, but with bands like the Shins, I need to be in a particular place in order to 'get' them. First time I heard Chutes Too Narrow, I hated it. Next time I heard it, while nursing an after-work beer and reading the Phoenix at River Gods, I flat-out fell in love with it. So I'm a huge Shins fan... depending on how my day's going.
OUTKAST - Solid singles, but that's about all I've heard. Yes, I know that makes me uncool, but I'll live. Twilight Singers do a mean cover of "Hey Ya".
THE FLAMING LIPS - Much agreed. Pop soundscapes that transport me every time. Love 'em. They're America's version of Radiohead. Who woulda thought that the band who released 'Vaseline' would be innovating years later? Then again, what did you think the first time you heard 'Creep'?
SEA RAY - I know, I know. I'm on it! I feel like I might be missing out on something special here.
TV ON THE RADIO - Kinda like what I've heard so far, maybe I'll dig deeper.
METALLICA - You've gotta be kidding me. These guys died the day they met over-producer Bob Rock, and were buried after their spoiled little drummer started bitching about file sharing. Mansion big enough for your ego yet, Lars?
GOGOL BORDELLO - Life is so, so strange. Ten years ago I'm messing around on 'Kool Thing' with Eugene in my basement, and today his band's in a top forty list I'm commenting on. Crazy. "And now eet eez time for ze punk rock!"
LOW - Shoulda been higher, but hey, I'm just glad they're listed. Their upcoming album is a noiser (well, for Low anyway) work of art. Boston show in February, cannot wait.
LES SAVY FAV - Sorry, still not on board this boat either. Another one of those on the 'to listen to' list.
So there ya go.
And now, in no particular order, here are thirty or so American bands/artists that I love, all to varying degrees on varying days. The ten I submitted to ILB are buried in here somewhere...
Low, American Analog Set, Ida, The New Year, Ted Leo, Rilo Kiley, Greg Dulli / Twilight Singers, Album Leaf, Audio Learning Center, The Sixth Great Lake / Essex Green, Idaho, Walking Concert, Hot Snakes, Magnetic Fields, Death Cab For Cutie, Interpol, Silkworm, the Rachel's, Nada Surf, The Sea & Cake, Smog, Fugazi, Postal Service, Pedro the Lion, Mark Kozelek / Sun Kil Moon, Kristin Hersh / 50 Foot Wave, Built to Spill, Sparklehorse, Quasi, Yo La Tengo, Pilot to Gunner, Summer at Shatter Creek, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Sleater Kinney, Wilco, Guided By Voices, Sonic Youth, Calexico, the Decemberists, the Shins, East River Pipe, and Palace / Bonnie Prince Billy
I can only assume I missed a whole bunch, and I'm sure I'll discover new ones by the end of the year. Makes life worth living, don't it?