Tuesday, July 19, 2005

And I Invented The Bottomless Peanut Bag
Sufjan Stevens' Come On Feel The Illinoise (officially, but less excitingly named, Illinois) is quite obviously a classic. Except that it's not.

It is probably the best record we've heard this year (this is not be confused with our favourite record of the year, that title probably belonging to Ladies & Gentlemen or the Nellie McKay record we haven't even heard yet). It is critically acclaimed. Already a collector's item because of some messy business with The Man. And potentially important to Midwest America's understanding of itself, both in terms of its romantically ideal, but ultimately dark past and in terms of a future when the offensive line on your high school football team might very well be a terrorist cell. Or something like that.

Anyway. If there haven't been already, there will soon be profiles in The New York Times, New Yorker and Entertainment Weekly. Illinois will probably get nominated for the Shortlist Prize. People you don't generally consider very cool will probably end up asking you at dinner parties if you've heard of this Soufjan fellow.

Maybe all of that will come to pass. Maybe none of it will. Regardless, Illinois will remain a great record.

But we won't be listening to it in 20 years.

We don't think.

Though we can't quite articulate why. It's not that Illinois isn't great. Or uniquely compelling. Or likely immune from the ravages of fashion and time which will certainly doom The Blue Man Group and 50 Cent.

It is probably all of those things. But we can't imagine any measureable amount of people playing his record (on whatever ear implant has replaced the iPod by then) in 20 years. Maybe because it's too conceptual. Or because, by then, we will be enjoying his 50th and final ode to the U.S. of A., a techno-funk investigation of Iowa. But probably for a lot of the same reasons no one listens to Gay Dad, the Strokes or Hawksley Workman anymore (though we did hear the latter on the radio the other day and quite liked it).

Which of course begs the question: What will we still be listening to in 20 years? This is not to be confused with: What should we be listening to in 2005? Our question is not as immediately relevant or remotely knowable. But more important. And fun.

Consider the last two and a half years. We have. At least briefly. Taking into account nostalgia, popularity, critical acclaim, timeliness, timelessness, personal taste, the inability to account for personal taste, association with narcotics, potential for future curiosity, current fan base, melody and smell.

This left us with ten, maybe eleven, albums. There are probably more. But in the interests of not devoting the rest of our month to this, we have opted to go with ten (or eleven). We are probably serious about half of them.

1) The White Stripes - Elephant
If Mojo still exists, its editors will demand that Elephant be discussed at length in its pages at least once every four months.
2) OutKast - Speakerboxx/The Love Below
If only for Track 9 on the second disc. And maybe Track 7.
3) Blink-182 - Blink-182
The closest the current generation has to Van Halen. At least four failed reunions are all but guaranteed.
4) Jay-Z - The Black Album
Sorry Kanye.
5) Foo Fighters - In Your Honour
The closest the previous generation has to both Van Halen (figuratively speaking) and Nirvana (practically speaking). Once, Dave Grohl nearly became Tom Petty's drummer. This also tells us he will probably forever be "respected."
6) Radiohead - Hail To The Thief
Will be studied seriously at 30% of all liberal arts universities on the American East Coast. Probably already is.
7) Bruce Springsteen - Devils & Dust
There will still be boomers. And they will need something to talk about. No really.
8) The Mars Volta - De-Loused In The Comatorium
Because every 38 seconds, ssomewhere on Earth, a teenage boy discovers Rush.
9) Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway or Gretchen Wilson - Here For The Party
Possibly both. Maybe neither.
10) Britney Spears - Greatest Hits

Usher should probably be on this list, but we'll never quite understand why. Alicia Keys will be on this list if her next album is half as good as we think it could be. People will probably still listen to Green Day. But probably not American Idiot. Some will still enjoy Avril Lavigne. But only vaguely. X&Y will be the one Coldplay record no one listens to. We want to believe we'll all still be listening to Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire. Eminem will be Dylan, Bowie, Madonna or Twisted Sister. John Mayer's television career as Conan O'Brien's replacement on the Tonight Show will have allowed us to forget about his music.

Darkhorse: 3 Doors Down, The Shins

No One Will Remember: Fountains of Wayne, Michelle Branch

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