Atlanta Music Roundtable 2010 :: Day 1, Part 1 presented by Wholly Roller

Atlanta Music Roundtable 2010 :: Day 1, Part 1 presented by Wholly Roller

Alright, before I get started here let me introduce you all to by friends and fellow bloggers: Davy of Ohm Park, Moe of Latest Disgrace, Rube of Atlanta’s A-List, Denton of Little Advances, Tim of I’m a Bear! Etc., Chuck of Dead Journalist, and Nadia of The Moon and Pluto. Back in November Denton presented us with this awesome idea that basically involved all of us talking about our favorite local and national music related releases, acts, and events that happened in 2010.

Over the next four days we will all post a part. And here’s the schedule of posts:
Monday, December 20 :: Day One :: Part 1 presented by Wholly Roller, Part 2 presented by Ohm Park
Tuesday, December 21 :: Day Two :: Part 3 presented by Latest Disgrace, Part 4 presented by Atlanta’s A-List
Wednesday, December 22 :: Day Three :: Part 5 presented by Little Advances, Part 6 presented by I’m a Bear! Etc.
Thursday, December 23 :: Day Four :: Part 7 presented by Dead Journalist, Part 8 presented by The Moon and Pluto

Well, here it is. This is day 1, part 1 of the conversation.

First of all, I want to thank everybody for participating.  I think we’ve got a great group of bloggers that collectively cover a broad swath of the Atlanta music scene.  This should be fun.

I guess to get things going it might be appropriate to make some general remarks about the year in music.  I think that 2010 has been a good year overall, if not quite a great one.  It’s been a strong year for Atlanta releases, too.  There were big national raves for high profile artists like Deerhunter, Janelle Monae, and Big Boi, but there were also plenty of great records by smaller, more “local” bands.  Albums by Oryx and Crake, Qurious, Abby Go Go, The Back Pockets, and more would have caught my ears regardless of where they came from.

It might be worth noting that none of those 4 bands mentioned above sound alike.

What have you guys been listening to this year, both nationally and locally?

I guess my take will probably be a little different than the rest of you because, of everyone, I’m the least active in the live music scene these days.

I spent most of yesterday doing some housecleaning, literally. Part of that meant going though CDs that have collected in and around my desk since this time last year. It struck me how many fantastic albums came out early in 2010. From Beach House, Surfer Blood, Local Natives, etc., it seems like week-after week there were top-10 caliber albums hitting.

But this is 2010, and just like the first year of any decade, it’s a transitional year musically.  The last of the “Indie” bands of the 2000’s have either crossed-over or have become “mom and dad’s music” so the voices of the next wave of 18-24 year olds are beginning to take hold.

This generation of musicians are also the first to really expand their market based on placement in advertising. When the Nissan Altima was remodeled in 2001, it had an ad campaign that was completely different in targeting its market musically. The song that it initially featured – and the song that made me whip around to look at the TV the first time I heard it was “How Soon Is Now” by The Smiths. Even then, it was a song that was almost 15 years old.

Now, thanks in large part to Apple’s iPod commercials six years ago, musicians can use advertising as their big break or to expand their audience. Right now, every time I turn on the TV I hear The Drums or Vampire Weekend (yuck).

Think about social networking as well. While I like the Best Coast album, would they be anywhere near as popular as they are if they didn’t get a huge following on Twitter? Every couple of years technology has closed the gap so that an audience can know artist (or anyone) as intimately as their own friends.

I’m curious to see who is still standing in a few years. Remember the four month fad that was Chillwave?

Locally, The Black Lips, Deerhunter and Cee-Lo are all at their peak, nationally. It will be interesting to see if Atlanta can sustain the growth and relevance it’s had in the last decade. I think we all go on the Oryx and Crake bandwagon. I’ve heard what I’ve liked from The Back Pockets as well. The Coathangers don’t seem to get the press as a few other locals, but I really liked several tracks from their last album. I’ve also like a track or two from Small Reactions.

Oh, that Nissan ad worked. I bought that damn Altima. Music is power.

Looking at that little counter on the bottom of iTunes, it tells me I’m clocking in at over 3500 tracks from 2010 in my library. I’m unclear if I’ve actually made it through every single track in this list, but one thing I’m sure of is that it was a landmark year in music for myself. About this time last year leaks of early 2010 albums were making their way graciously onto the interwebs. It was hard to ignore early buzz of Yeasayer and Beach House and the refreshing sounds going in and out of my ears. It felt like a little peak into the decade ahead and also a look back at old sounds.

We all knew there were going to be landmark new records from indie-gods The National, Spoon and The Radio Dept. but who could have predicted the onslaught of surprises like Local Natives, Surfer Blood and The Morning Benders? I remember the day I went into Criminal Records and purchased Los Campesinos! Romance is Boring on vinyl. Immediately after the first listen, I flipped it back over again and listened all the way through. I did the same with The National’s High Violet. These are records that felt like Best Of The Year records after a first listen, and we hadn’t even reached June yet.

There’s been so many records that have had serious staying power on my record player this year. There are hooks and standouts in every record I’ve gotten my hands on this year. Moments such as the sing-along ballad from Titus Andronicus in which Jen Wasner joins on vocals during “To Old Friends and New”, the firecrackers opening Fang Island’s spectacular debut, Quinn’s falsetto on Sucker’s opener “Save Your Love For me” and the pure sensuality of Gayngs “Gaudy Side of Town” are permanently stamped on 2010. South By Southwest ushered in a new level of buzzband status for newcomers and continues to be a treasure trove for new acts as I got to experience the explosion of Sleigh Bells, Holly Miranda, and Smith Westerns among others.

Standouts in Atlanta music this year has to be newcomers Oryx and Crake, Deerhunter’s “Halcyon Digest” (and for the matter, 2010 has given us much more reason to nominate Bradford Cox as MVP for Atlanta music), Mermaids and Venice is Sinking. A scene that has been called sporadic and lacking any real identity has begun to form into something in 2010 and I’m thrilled to be along to help share these new sounds that are coming out of Atlanta.

Oh and someone give Kristian Matsson a gold medal for having two releases as The Tallest Man on Earth that are leagues better than most of the records released this year or any years in recent memory.

I would say that there are two primary currents in the world of music this year. The first, is that in terms of quantity of music being produced, I think we’re in a historically unprecedented renaissance. I would guess about 1 in 5 people in the Western world are somehow involved in the music business right now, and there is literally so much music being made that no one can make sense of it all. No mater what your tastes, there is a ton of music out there that you can enjoy. And while Atlanta may not be the epicenter of this, it is certainly the poster child. There is hardly a single genre one could imagine that isn’t being represented heavily by quality artists in this city.

The second major trend is that what is popular continues to rush toward the lowest common denominator. The most popular music of today is as devoid of artistic integrity as it has ever been. Bands now rise and fall based on personality, style, gimmicks, connections, back-stories or getting a blessing from one of the more influential publications. If a new indie band doesn’t create music that could be used in a commercial, there’s very little chance that band is going to become financially successful in the music biz. Not that this isn’t sort of how the music business has always been, but there was a window open for less mainstream bands to come into prominence over the last half a decade, and now that window is closing fast because it is extremely difficult for a new band to emerge as vastly popular without aid from some factor outside of their music.  For instance, I wonder if anyone would have cared about The Morning Benders record if it hadn’t been produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. Music as art is ironically becoming as obscure in the age of information overload as it was in pre-Internet times, despite more of it existing now than ever before.

Head on over to Ohm Park for part 2 of Day 1!