Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Official Guide To The Top 50 Albums Of 2011, Reinterpreted As Short Stories

Official Guide To The Top 50 Albums Of 2011, Reinterpreted As Short Stories

Look, I am just one man. I have never claimed to be anything else, because I knew this one guy who claimed to be two people, and he was off his tits messed up.

But I think when it came down to my 5-part piece of writing called The Top 50 Albums Of 2011, Reinterpreted As Short Stories... I pushed this one man to the very limit. I could not have gone any further or worked any harder on anything (especially in the space of time I did) without popping a neuro blood vessel, and I challenge anyone to disagree. Hence why I decided, so many months later, to step back and explain exactly how such a gigantic project came to be. This is what went down, OH PLEASE BE IMPRESSED WITH ME.

The ball started rolling for this blog as early as September 2010. I had decided to make a Top 50 Albums list for the said year, and very quickly found out that there were many more highly regarded 2010 albums than I had the time to listen to. Frantically, I did my very best (which wasn’t bad), listening to up to 10 albums a day and taking notes on each one, eventually putting together quite a decent bit of researched writing. But when it was done, I swore that 2011 would be different. I would start the second the year began, and would listen to every album made. Ambition is one of my strong points.

So from January the 1st to February the 28th, I kept a nice little Google Spreadsheet of albums I had listened to, giving each one a quick rough review. I grew so proud of this that I even invited some decent friends to take a look if they wanted to, until it became obvious that this was a very popular idea. I realised had to go public with it, and so I did. Introducing: The Juice Nothing 2011 Album Charts.

How it worked was like this: every weekday I would listen to multiple albums released within 2011, and then sort them in some kind of an order, pretending I was a famous music critic with an opinion that mattered. I would keep rough notes open for the world to see, and even included the album cover and Spotify links! OMG WOW! Actually, it was pretty cool because I knew at least 5 people personally who used it every single day as their main music resource, and the hits it received reflected many more.

But even when you are critiquing things, people will critique you, which is an interesting concept. The one thing a few people loved to give me shit about was that fact that I had included how many times I had listened to each album. Very often (especially with new albums) I would write a rough review and place it in a position on the list from only one listen. Shock! Horror! Judging an album after only one listen!? Sacrilege! And yes, you fuckers who said that were absolutely right. One should never judge an album on first listen, that’s ridiculous.

What these whiny bitches failed to take note of, was that I was telling you how many times I had listened to each one for that exact reason. I did it by choice. I didn’t have to do that, did I? But I wanted you to know that, yes, maybe I was calling an album shite/the best thing ever, but it was based on FIRST IMPRESSIONS. I didn’t want to lie to people and bluff that I knew what I was saying when my opinion could change on the next listen, so I was open, and fuck you. Furthermore, you have to understand that even though I didn’t always listen to a full album many times, I did always save the tracks that struck my attention into this Spotify playlist here. And seeing as I still listen to that exact same playlist on random every single day on my way to work/home, I often hear songs off each of these albums on an almost weekly basis. Happy? I am. I’m glad I finally got to address this.

I digress. The point is, I had this list, and it was growing and growing and growing. And then when June rolled around, I suddenly hit panic mode. I realised that despite having listened to hundreds of albums already, I hardly knew any of them at all. What was the point? I was trying to get to know which albums I loved the most, and instead ended up skimming so many that I didn't know any of them on any sort of deeper level. So, besides listening to new albums everyday, I also went back at this point and re-listened from the beginning of January, as well as rewriting each review in a much neater form.

What I didn’t realise is that round about this point, I had started to achieve the exact opposite of my original plan. I had begun to stress about music again, only much worse than I did at the end of 2010.

However, it has to be said that by the time November rolled around, I was in a very unique and thorough vantage point. I challenge anyone to say that they knew 2011 music better than me, and I still wouldn’t believe them. In the end I had listened to 580 albums from the year, the vast majority more than once. So needless to say that when it came to compiling the Top 50, it was a relatively straightforward process. The only thing I will elaborate about my final choices, is that I didn’t necessarily pick the albums that were the best, but rather the ones that stuck with me. Some made the list that weren’t half as good as their peers, but they wouldn’t stop talking to me in my sleep, while some very solid and perfect albums faded into obscurity.

Ok, so I had my top 50, great. And I had begun the tedious task of reviewing each one. I did this by taking the short reviews I already had written, and then reading other professional reviews to learn more adjectives I agreed with. I got through 5 or so using this method, when I realised that with some of them, there was a fictional story brewing within. And that’s when I got the oh-so-great idea of not just reviewing these albums, but rather writing short stories based on each one. It was cool. I still had time.

They got bigger and bigger until the worst thing in the world happened: I clicked that a lot of these stories could be connected if done in the right way. At first, I figured it would be a cool mission to have subtle themes that ran through just some of the albums, well aware that most people wouldn’t pick it up. An in-joke with myself, so to say. But as I went on, the story began to reveal itself more and more, and I felt like I had to commit to making this essentially one long story, all connected, each album a different chapter rather than their own entity. It was such a great concept that I could not ignore it, but now I was faced with a much larger effort without much time to do it.

In the end, it became so large that I had to release it in 5 parts, and even worse, I couldn’t even finish it before 2012. The final 2 parts leaked over into January, but I had no choice. Because by now, I was losing my mind. The project was so epic that it was swallowing me, and I was very depressed throughout the process. So many times I wanted to back the fuck out of it, but I was too far down the pit to do any such thing. I'm actually amazed that I stuck it out to the end to be honest, but I did, and on the 31st of January, I clicked Publish on the final part, relieved and in tears that it was finally over.

The unfortunate thing is that, while it is one of the biggest and best things I’ve ever tackled, the execution could have been better. The whole idea turned into a pile of bloated wank and was completely ridiculous. Sure, one of the biggest music review sites on the internet named The Needle Drop happened to stumble upon it and then devoted a Tweet to it. And sure, the hits for those blogs are thousands more than most of my writings. But the thing is, I knew not many of my friends had the attention span to even bother with it, which sucks because it deserved the love. I deserved the love. Even worse is that any one who did read it (and I love you!), would have been faced with a confusing and cryptic experience at best. This is mainly because I didn’t change the order of the albums to better serve the story, I just wrote around the fact it was still a Best Of list. Hence why it seems to jump all over the place. And hence is why I felt the need to write this guide.

Which is a good point to introduce the next chapter: the full story in the fastest execution possible. I hope after reading it, more people will appreciate what I have done here, because by any means, this is one fucking gigantic monster. It’s so complicated that I doubt anyone could even make a movie out of it. Hell, I hardly even feel like I can take full credit for writing it, because the albums themselves have their own personalities and lead the story in their own way, totally out of my control. To me, that's the coolest thing: here is this story which simply could not have existed until right at the end of 2011. That’s quite special to me.

Anyways, if you would like to give it a shot before reading the summary, I totally urge you to do so here. Listen to the albums whilst you read the chapters, otherwise you might miss it. For everyone else, this is what I was on about:

The Top 50 Albums Of 2011 Summarized

In the beginning, The Creator watches all things. He creates this story for his own entertainment, as he always has, on infinite loop. The Prophecy begins once again (Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise).

As per said Prophecy, King West visits King Jay’s kingdom (Jay-Z and Kanye West - Watch The Throne) which results in a disagreement of who is the greater king. Because of this, King West organizes a witch to place a sleeping curse on Jay's daugher, Princess Kylie (When Saints Go Machine - Konkylie), a spell that can only be broken by The Chosen One. King West then makes a pact with Satan, and together with the army of hell and his own army, he attacks King Jay’s kingdom (Graveyard – Hisingen Blues). This army includes King West’s son, The Prince, who recently had a dream in which he was informed that he was The Chosen one, and needs to wake Kylie. He finds and kisses her, breaking the spell, but they both end up dying that same day anyway (The Dø - Both Ways Open Jaws). The kingdom falls to West and Satan, while King Jay escapes to speak to the Wise One on the mountain. It is here he is given information about The Prophecy, learning that there will always be an Eternal Couple and a war between earth and hell, destined to repeat for eternity, where no one ever really wins (Astronautalis - This Is Our Science).

Centuries later, a pale girl (later known as Erika) is born into a village (tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l), and is celebrated for her differences, living happily for many years. However, this birth signals the start of the new Prophecy cycle. This information reaches a race of aliens who watch our planet, and they send in The Beasties to try and intercept the whole process (Björk - Biophilia). However, something interferes with their plans, and their spaceship gets stuck in our atmosphere (The Psychic Paramount - II), where they are eventually captured by the Japanese government. Eventually they manage to escape, and attempt once again to fulfill their mission (Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact). At the same time, two Dragons with a similar idea build a robot and send it to try and alter The Prophecy themselves (Little Dragon - Ritual Union).

Many years later, Erika’s tribe is invaded by evil monkeys, and they slaughter everyone except for her. She endures torture at their hands, until The Robot catches up and frees her. This is witnessed by The Beasties, who decide to take the two of them to New York to escape (Modeselektor - Monkeytown). Once there, The Beasties take everyone to a party, where they meet a random girl and decide to fuck her (Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two), mistakenly leaving Erika and The Robot there all alone. They never find them again, and can’t seem make contact with the mothership anymore, so they opt to stay in New York under disguise, enjoying life on Earth (Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact). Similarly, The Robot also goes home to his dragon parents, who accept that one cannot meddle with The Prophecy after all (Little Dragon - Ritual Union).

In a different side of this story, a guy named Jimmy is living the good life (Foster the People - Torches) and ends up at that same party we spoke about earlier. He takes drugs, and then passes out. In this state, he experiences a vision where he meets The Wise Man on the mountain, who talks to him about The Prophecy and the role he has to play in it, ending off by instructing him to "help the girl" (Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx - We're New Here). Jimmy wakes up without remembering much of it, and then stumbles around the now empty party house, ending up having sex with some stranger (The Weeknd - House of Balloons). However, halfway through the act, he gets ditracted by a noise which he decides to investigate. It's here that he discovers a very lost and disorientated Erika (EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints). He doesn’t remember why, but he knows he needs to look after her.

After a while, it becomes obvious that Jimmy needs to make money to support himself and this girl who can’t even speak English. He gets involved with gang life (REKS - Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme) and starts to move up the ladder (The Roots - undun), earning more cash, respect and responsibility. Erika starts to learn English, and they fall deeper and deeper in love with each other, as well as developing an unhealthy smack addiction. It’s here that Jimmy devises a plan to scam his gang and take all of their money, escaping this terrible life once and for all (Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, Ultra).

Surprisingly, the plan works, and they move to his parent’s house next to a forest with a lot more money, get off the smack, and live a much better lifestyle. One day in the woods (Washed Out - Within and Without), the couple come across a a massive Mammoth, who reminds Jimmy about what The Wise one told him about The Prophecy. He blessed Jimmy with superpowers and instructions to go fight in the Ocean War, which is yet another attack from Hell on Earth (Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver). Jimmy gets euphoric after receiving the gift (Braids - Native Speaker), and changes his name to Buck Jacobs to reflect this new superhero persona.

Together, Erika and Jimmy/Buck move onto a boathouse closer to the ocean, fall even deeper in love, and become rich due to Buck’s new talents (Tennis - Cape Dory). He fights in the Ocean War and ends up defeating Hell, saving many people in the process and becoming a hero (Dumbo Gets Mad - Elephants at the Door), while Erika has fallen pregnant (Cults - Cults). However, in his new found fame, Buck ends up cheating with a girl named Lucy (Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin'), but upon finding out Erika is pregnant, he retires from herodom, and becomes a family man. Together they raise their daughter Gillian who also has superpowers of her own. Everything is perfect, until the day Erika receives a phonecall from Lucy who details the affair (The Black Keys - El Camino), which hurts her so badly that she packs her bags and runs away to the countryside. But being apart affects the couple very badly, to the degree that they both become very physically ill. Erika develops a bad tumour (Jessica Lea Mayfield - Tell Me) until she can’t take it anymore, and screams herself into non-existence, becoming nothing more than a marketable product, mass consumed but gone forever (Adele - 21). Buck, on the other hand, becomes a severe alcoholic and loses all his powers. He finds dealing with Gillian as a single parent very difficult, especially because it reminds him too much of his painful past. He changes his name to James and decides he needs to get rid of Gillian once and for all (Cage the Elephant - Thank You, Happy Birthday). He hires two men to take her away, who do so, and they put her up for auction to the highest bidding "orphanage for gifted kids". Needless to say, she fetches a very high price due to her super powers (Matana Roberts - Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens de Couleur Libres).

While all this has been going on, The Devil himself gets angry about losing The Ocean War. He puts the blame on his Mastodon, whose role is to give birth to special demons who will lead the wars. The Mastodon (sister of The Mammoth) then presents Satan with her latest creation, The Hunter, and they decide to initiate another war right away (Mastodon - The Hunter). They send this creature to Earth, where it is discovered in a junkyard by the Priest Giles. The Hunter bites him, which infects his mind and grants the demon full control over the man's actions (Tom Waits - Bad As Me). Giles then takes the creature back to the orphanage where he works, which is the same place that has recently acquired Gillian. That night, Gillian herself wakes up after a nightmare and decides to explore the building (Snowman - Absence), subsequently coming into contact with Giles and The Hunter. That’s the last we hear of her (Giles Corey - Giles Corey). After this, Giles (still under the command of The Hunter) gets hold of the British government to give them a long-lost code which he claims will open a portal they have long had in possession, but were unable to access (Frank Turner - England Keep My Bones). They do so, and it works, unfortunately opening a gateway to hell, unleashing Satan's army who invade Britain (Septic Flesh – The Great Mass). The effect on the world is peculiar and immediate, as the weather changes and animals begin to act strangely, all at the exact same time (Fink - Perfect Darkness). Children start rumours that Santa Clause was captured (Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi) and some human beings are tortured and turned into demons themselves (Chelsea Wolfe - Apokalypsis). The war has begun, despite The Devil receiving a visit from the angel St. Vincent, warning him that he will lose this round (St. Vincent – Strange Mercy).

Back to James, he is now in a much worse way, falling further into depression and alcohol addiction, as well as suffering from very strange dreams (Oh Land - Oh Land). After witnessing a vision in a puddle of Erika slow dancing with an unknown figure, he decides this is the last straw and he must kill himself (Jamie Woon - Mirrorwriting). He returns home to do the deed in his attic, where he discovers a letter that Erika has sent to him from beyond. She tells him not to kill himself but rather fight in the English War, as it is his destiny to do so (La Dispute – Wildlife). He does what it says, joining the battle (The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar) and accidentally shooting The Hunter in its eye, which in turn, wins the war against Hell. The country is still a massive mess even after the victory, but many humans have survived while all the monsters starve and die without leadership (PJ Harvey – Let England Shake). However, all the pain James has been endured has taken its toll, and he is destroyed mentally due to the loss of Erika and Gillian, as well as the horrors he was exposed to during the war. In the end, he decides to kill himself after all, and jumps in front of a train (Defeater - Empty Days and Sleepless Nights).

In death, Jimmy meets up with Erika and they slowdance in a ballroom. It is here Jimmy learns that the two of them were The Eternal Couple all along, not only in this lifetime, but also in the medieval lifetime, as well as an infinite amount of times before then. The Prophecy is destined to repeat forever, and they will always be cursed to live and die in complications and turmoil, but will meet back here afterwards, in love, forever more. They fade away in each other's arms, set to reborn once again. And the cycle continues (The Caretaker - An Empty Bliss Beyond This World).

The story ends back with the The Creator, who curses the story he made for his own entertainment, and mourns the pointless suffering just because he had nothing better to do. But despite all his self loathing, he starts the next Prophecy, once again (James Blake - James Blake).

The Bits Of The Top 50 Albums Of 2011 You May Have Missed

In the Graveyard chapter (#49), there is the line “A recent curse on his only daughter had left him weak, and the news must have spread to his enemies who had torn onto his land only days later, lead by a horse with wings made of fire.” This horse was one of the creatures birthed by The Mastodon, designed to lead that specific war. The monster itself being an obvious reference to Mastodon's 2002 album Remission which features said creature on the cover.

Also in the Graveyard chapter (#49), it ends with the line “A clatter of metal echoed not far from where they stood”, which was a deciding factor for King Jay to escape up the mountain, as he thought the enemy was closing in. However, this noise actually came from relatively harmless Prince trying to find Kylie, which was referenced in The Do’s chapter (#34) with the line “...knocking over piles of scrap metal which clattered and echoed in the hallways.”

Sticking to The Do’s chapter (#34), it mentions “a quaint white room, filled with assorted crafts and arty pottery” which is where Kylie slept in her spell. Decades later in Frank Ocean’s chapter (#27), the “reincarnate” of Kylie (Erika) is mentioned to also be into those crafts, when Jimmy suggests she could “could start selling [her] pottery”. Can’t actually remember if I did that on purpose, to be fair.

In Raphael Saadiq’s chapter (#41), Jimmy/Buck is very preoccupied when he is about to sleep with Lucy, “never once noticing his desperate cellphone ringing furiously in his back pocket”. That was Erika calling him from the Cults’ chapter (#22), trying to inform him she is pregnant with Gillian.

In the Dumbo Gets Mad chapter (#31), they talk of a boat “built out of the most indestructible wood on record, made from dragon trees”. Which seems like an obvious nod to the Little Dragon chapter (#2), surely.

Also in the Dumbo Gets Mad chapter (#31) (and much like the Graveyard chapter (#49)), there is mention of “a giant whale-like creature”, which was another creature birthed by The Mastodon to lead the war, and an obvious reference to Mastodon's 2004 album Leviathan which features said monster on the cover.

The “young adults [who] had romanticized about these fights in their imagination due to poetic stories from veterans at their local pubs” in PJ Harvey’s chapter (#3) were the same teenage boys from the pub in Frank Turner’s chapter (#39)

One of my favourite parts of the story. In Jamie Woon’s chapter (#11), Jimmy/James experiences a vision in a puddle of Erika waltzing with an unknown male figure. At one point, “the girl… turned her head and looked straight at James, as if looking right into the camera like they did on TV.” After he decides to kill himself, receives the letter, fights in the war, and then jumps in front of the train, Jimmy ends up waltzing with Erika in the afterlife in The Caretaker's chapter (#4). At some point during Jimmy’s questioning as to what was going on, “Erika opened her mouth to answer, but then quickly glanced up to the corner of the room, smiling at a camera like they were in some black-and-white film”. In case this doesn’t make sense, it proves that when Jimmy was looking into the puddle, he was actually watching his dead future self dancing with Erika. And when Jimmy was dead and slow dancing with Erika, she still smiles at the camera, making contact with the Jimmy in the past. I dunno, I feel like that was one of my best touches ever.

And finally, it is important to point out that this whole story (in particular: The Eternal Couple) actually ties into every Goat’s Nest story I have written so far. The evidence is also in The Caretakers chapter (#4), with the line “She reminded him of times even before then, times after then, and times beyond ordinary comprehension. Times when they were insects and times when they were bears. A time when he was a machine and she was a diseased little girl [You Don’t Have To Choose]. A time when they only knew each other for a small amount of minutes, both victims of a plane crash [The Art Of Enjoyable Flying]. Even a time when he was an inspired scarecrow and she was a humanoid fish-breed [The Poster Couple For Cross-Species Relationships].” All of this will make even more sense as more stories get released.

The Top 50 Albums Of 2011 Entries Reply

After the full article was finally completed, I did the obvious groupie thing and tried to get in contact with every single one of these artists. And it pretty awesome to actually get a few responses! They are as follows:

The Psychic Paramount (Chapter #46)
Guitarist Drew St. Ivany replied to my email, saying “Thanks Jared. We love it, especially how it starts with "Something had gone wrong..."

Giles Corey (Chapter #44)
I couldn’t find any contact details for this underground artist, so I tweeted their record label, who responded with “cool!”

Dumbo Gets Mad (Chapter #31)
I also found it hard to find any contact details for this awesome band, so I tweeted their label Bad Panda, who responded with “awesome Jared, thanks for the heads up!”. Even better, they started to follow me on Twitter, as well as contacting Dumbo Gets Mad themselves, who also started to follow me as a result. They both still follow me to this day. STOKED.

Fink (Chapter #16)
I tweeted them, and they responded with “quite a piece of work! might take us a while to read this...” :D :D :D

Matana Roberts (Chapter #13)
I tweeted her, and she responded with "thanks 4 the happy kudos+the lovely review! some ppl hated this record.tho $13,500? Is tht slave costs taking n account inflation?" Basically meaning, she totally fucking read it.

Little Dragon (Chapter #2)
These guys simply ReTweeted me when I told them about it. Which made my heart explode. I got a lot of extra hits because of them, and loads of celebrities follow their account, so who knows what actually came of this? I am such a huge fan, this alone made the whole project worth it to the max.

The Top 50 Albums Of 2011: Next 25

51. Battles - Gloss Drop
52. The Go! Team - Rolling Blackouts
53. The Horrors - Skying
54. Stateless - Matilda
55. Miles Kane - Colour Of The Trap
56. The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
57. The Naked And Famous - Passive Me, Aggressive You
58. Planningtorock - W
59. Suuns - Zeroes QC
60. Wagon Christ - Tomorrow
61. Alice Gold - Seven Rainbows
62. Cat’s Eyes - Cat’s Eyes
63. Yelle - Safari Disco Club
64. Lanu - Her 12 Faces
65. Joan As Police Woman - The Deep Field
66. Tapes ‘n Tapes - Outside
67. Lia Ices - Grown Unknown
68. Noel Gallagher - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
69. Radiohead - The King Of Limbs
70. Paul White - Rapping With Paul White
71. Dominik Eulberg - Diorama
72. WU LYF - Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
73. Seefeel - Seefeel
74. Amon Tobin - ISAM
75. Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math

The Top 50 Albums Of 2011 Conclusion

I think the funniest thing about this guide is that I constantly refer to the original short stories as a pile of wank. And then I went ahead and wrote another article dissecting the wank, so this is like a wank within a wank or something? Sounds kind of nice, actually.

Regardless (and as far as pure time and concentration goes) I think it is easy for anyone to see why this is probably my best work to date, in some ways. I mean, all things considered, I am extremely proud of the whole effort, and so if you didn't read it, I don't care too much. Just as long as when I die, someone says "hey, Jared did some stuff sometimes".

However, I do see the insanity and stupidity in the whole thing. And for that reason, I must apologise to anyone who actually enjoyed the stories more than they should have, because I will never ever do anything like this again. Music is not meant for such madness, and I totally destroyed my 2011 entertainment because of it. But now with this guide out the way, I can pretend everyone is happy that I cleared up a few of the finer details, and we can lay it to rest once and for all. I, for one, feel much better, thanks.

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