Archive forDecember, 2005


    I’ll say it: 2005 was a good year for music. It was surprisingly hard limiting myself to just 10 singles and albums.

Narrowing down my favorite albums and singles of the year for the 2005 Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll, I was reminded of Robert Smigel.

Smigel is the comic writer-performer behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and the “TV Funhouse” segments that have been running on Saturday Night Live for nearly a decade. Two weeks ago, Smigel’s team debuted the best “TV Funhouse” segment in years, a Phil Spector homage called “Christmastime for the Jews.” Boasting uncannily accurate Rankin/Bass–style stop-motion puppetry, classic-looking black-and-white cinematography and, most amazingly, singer Darlene Love belting a ditty worthy of her work on Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You, “Christmastime for the Jews” blew me away. By all rights, it should have been the watercooler sensation of the holiday season.

And then, 10 minutes later in that same episode, SNL ran another pretaped segment: the wildly funny “Lazy Sunday (The CHRONICles of Narnia)” by would-be rappers Andy Samberg and Chris “Parns” Parnell – and Smigel’s sweet, snarky ditty was instantly swept into the cultural dustbin. The day after the show aired, “Lazy Sunday” was all over the web, and by Christmas weekend, both Slate and The New York Times had opined on the segment, their pundits crediting it with “making Saturday Night Live a cultural touchstone” again. Meanwhile, it took more than a week for anyone on the web even to get around to ripping “Christmastime for the Jews” for online distribution. It was as if Elvis Presley had broadcast his Comeback Special the same night the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan – Elvis who?

If you’d asked me back in June about my favorite records of 2005, I would have been able to give at least 10 favorite singles and a solid start on an albums list. That list would have been topped by Bloc Party’s first-rate debut Silent Alarm, followed by M.I.A.’s first-rate (but ever-so-slightly overhyped) Arular. Half a year later, as I submit my final votes to the Voice, Bloc Party squeaked onto my albums list at #7, pushed down by four albums that came out in the last three months of the year, one from mid-June and one that only got major distribution late last summer. Silent Alarm has become the “Christmastime for the Jews” of my music year. (M.I.A. didn’t make my Top 10 at all.)


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    Predictions about the albums and singles that will top the year-end charts, critics’ polls and awards.

December is a hectic month for critics. Movie pundits have been complaining for the last couple of weeks that they still haven’t had the chance to see all the buzzy Oscar bait before having to make their own best-of-the-year picks.

They think they’ve got it tough? They should try being rock critics at SPIN. In its effort to get a jump on the competition, every year SPIN runs its artist, albums and singles of the year in its January issue. Sounds reasonable, until you realize that said issue has to hit newsstands the first week of December – and that, magazine production schedules being what they are, the SPINsters have to start compiling the issue in mid-October. Imagine if the New York Film Critics Circle had to announce their awards with nearly a third of the year left to play out.

Anyway, we’ll be seeing that SPIN issue any day now, and next Tuesday night Fox broadcasts the Billboard Music Awards, which basically reveals the top sellers and radio hits of the year. (Billboard’s full year-end charts don’t hit newsstands till the week before Christmas.) So now’s as good a time as any to make some early predictions – which, I am happy to report, are a bit less predictable than usual this year.


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