A Thousand Words on Reviewing 1,000 Records in 2009


Journalist Chris Weingarten has listened to more records than you this year. One thousand to be exact. With his trusty 1000TimesYes account on Twitter, Weingarten braved through the 140-character constraints and condensed each record into a bite size review with a ranking. Some take full advantage of this limit: “872)Kid Sister/Ultraviolet: When the cool kids invite you to their party and turn out to be as boring and talentless as you suspected.#1.5.” Others are beautifully concise: “981)Kevin Drumm/Imperial Horizon: Float on.#9.”

With the understanding that Weingarten knows more about the music of 2009 than — hypothetically — anyone, we decided to tap into his twittering mind in an interview. After the jump, we give you 1,000 of Weingarten’s words on ’09 condensed into neat, tweet-sized excerpts.

It’s hard to draw a wide swath picture of music in 2009. It’s easier to put up little trends and about 10 different things that have added up to a generally pretty unexciting year in music.

Everyone’s treating [chillwave] like this grand gesture that’s coming to rescue us from the shackles of boring guitar indie rock. But it’s just boring guitar indie rock on a shitty 4-track.

Then you’ve got the big art records. It’s starting to come to the point where you can spot them a mile away.

Like we did for Kid A – even if it’s a little more divisive than that – I think people are starting to miss the consensus feeling. If you look at a lot of the year end lists, the top three are Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, and Grizzly Bear in varying orders.

None of this is new. That’s the problem with 2009: There isn’t some big new thing for people; you’ve got shitty chillwave and a bunch of old things that are getting covered.

If you’re saying that the Phoenix record is one of the best records of the year, you haven’t heard enough records.

These records are all fine records. To call them the shining stars of the entire calendar year, where 300 albums are released per week, then you haven’t heard records – you’ve heard what people tell you about records.

The Hipster Runoff guy said it best, [Merriweather Post Pavilion] is the album we wanted to believe we made happen. It’s a victory for the people that champion kind of weird records. On a weird scale of 1 to 10, we championed a record that’s like a 7!

Everyone’s got an opinion, but they’re looking at everyone else’s worksheet to make that opinion happen.

I’m really feeling the Brad Paisley and Mariah Lambert records. They’ve crossed over to rock critics and pop critics in a very cool way.

There’s a sludge band called Yob and they’re making some of the most gorgeous, immaculate sludge. Gorgeous sludge metal and everyone’s missing it because of the way the indie rock cycle works in metal.

Real hip hop records have no chance in critical circles right now.

There’s nothing you can do. People can just release less records. There’s no solution except for expecting people to be active listeners and that’s a huge thing to ask.

Why isn’t the Pitchfork single’s list full of chart pop like it was other years? Not because there wasn’t great chart pop – there was plenty of great chart pop! It takes work to listen to chart pop now.

When is an indie rock critic going to listen to Brad Paisley or Shakira if they don’t have to?

The Shakira record is great.

That’s the irony of pop right now. Indie people have gotten so far up their own ass, that they’re missing chart pop and how good it can be.

A Mario album? Kinda dope.

There’s so many records, you can’t listen to everything. You have to wait for someone else to approve of it before you as a critic can listen to a record…it’s terrible.

It’s like going to this salad bar and someone tells you, “Hey man, some of the food in that salad bar is the best food you’ve ever tasted in your life.” And then you’ve never heard of any of the ingredients.

“I don’t even know if I’m going to take the time to download this.” That’s how jaded and overwhelmed with music we are. We can turn down the opportunity to hear music for free.

Sometimes a tweet is all that needs to be said about that record. I’ve always felt that the six paragraph essay on Langhorne Slim is not the way to appreciate that record.

A lot of times it’s nowhere near enough, especially with records you like.

If I had to only write in tweets, it would be the most maddening thing in the universe. If I had to solely exist in Twitter, I’d lose my mind.

I wish reviews were short. Reviews are too long.

Rock critics’ need to expound on records is way bigger than people’s interest in reading about it.

There’s a unique word count that every record deserves, and I think writers need to think of it in that way.

For the Pitchfork audience, Animal Collective is number one. That’s definitely the smartest look for them. I wouldn’t blame them as a business for putting Animal collective as number one, but at that point it all comes down to opinion.

In my opinion, Green Day made the best record of the year.

It’s something that indie rock writers have generally panned or ignored, but I think it’s great. Animal Collective probably sums on ’09 better because it was so awash with their rip-off bands.

I will say that, granted, [Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown] is lyrically a little bit of a mess. We live in a very politically confusing era right now in that we’re all coming off the hope thing into this “okay things are kinda crappy still” and it’s full of vague politics. [The record] is more about the idea of politics existing in a 15-year-old’s head. It’s very fuzzy and I think that fits the times very well.

It’s just a balls-out pop record in a year where people are afraid to make a balls-out pop record. It’s huge, it’s like Blank Generation meets Jesus Christ Superstar.

We’re so hung up on calling the mushy goop of chillwave confrontational to the status quo. We should be able to look at enormous pop in a critical circle that doesn’t always like enormous pop as confrontational. It’s pop as a weapon.

It shook me out of my indie rock cocoon. I get so hung up on TV On The Radio records and Liars records and these weirdo New York people that I love that sometimes I forget it’s really important to make enormous pop records.

I don’t think anyone made a record that was a 10 this year. I gave Green Day a 9.5.

Read Chris Weingarten’s archive of tweet reviews here and follow him on Twitter here.

Also, enjoy his speech at the 2009 Twitter Conference below: