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2008: Emerson Dameron

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Dusted’s Emerson Dameron shuns the standard rankings and reflects on a turbulent year in music.

2008: Emerson Dameron

Sometimes deadlines can sneak up on a motherfucker. I just realized that I’m supposed to write some sort of a year-end wrap-up, and, a few seconds later, realized that I hadn’t been paying much attention. Then I re-read my 2002 Top 10 list and realized that, in my last year of college, I sounded like a clogged asshole. A bitter young man, giving up before he’d really tasted struggle or misery or intimacy. I was so much older then – I’m younger than that now. Please send me the antidote before my pubes recede.

I’ll spare you most of my uninformed opinions. I still listen to that Nick Cave album a lot. I’ve started doing standup, and I probably listen to more comedy than music – that Andrew Daly record is, I think, fantastic. I still love the Nebraskan neo-R.E.M. cult-jangle band For Against, but I found Shade Side Sunny Side hookless and joyless. If you’re not falling asleep yet, I’m not sure why not. I have no problem with year-end lists as a sub-literary genre. After talking to a few baby-boomers, I realize that they have an impact on how relative outsiders (you know, people with money) perceive the musical zeitgeist. (A lot of your parents and supervisors bought Amy Winehouse, and that bullshit Sufjan record.) I’m just not sure why anyone would want my opinion.

Lessee… for the better part of a decade, I’ve been a professional loudmouth about music and its on-again-off-again fuck-buddy chemistry with sociology. At the beginning of the year, I moved to LA, to work on the dicey outskirts of the music industry. So I bought a car. A ‘91 Corolla. Burgandy. With the original factory stereo. Which would not play burns. Like most of the chattering class, I rarely buy media anymore, so my infinite commute restricted my major imprints to the backlist. I stand by all of my reviews on Dusted (2007-08, at least - I wish that timeless Decemberists rant would stop being my top Google hit, but that’s another whine for another time), and I liked some new shit. I did! But the bulk of it was stolen (Bun B would’ve wanted it that way) or in “digital promo” form (eat my ass in a supermax, Beggars Banquet – love that new Tindersticks!), which I couldn’t consume in my traffic-bound SoCal element. I listened to new shit on my iTunes, when I was writing, when I had other shit on my mind. When I was numbed-out and absorbent, I was listening to Sugar’s Copper Blue, Nathaniel Merriweather’s Loveage, Too $hort’s Cocktails, or some other irrelevant mid-’90’s plastic I grabbed on my way out the door. My Dusted colleagues (and a few readers) have turned me on to a few new jams that scratched my balls (The Hospitals! Fuck yes. Flying Lotus! Very cool. Ilyas Ahmed! Check that shit. Anything with a gamelan! Whoo!), but I’m short on articulate comments.

Let’s not get carried away. The music biz as we know it is, indeed, “scary-dead,” to quote one of my upper-level colleagues. The geniuses and hustlers are diversifying their portfolios PDQ. The rank-and-file is bitterly acclimating to the service industry. And that too-pure hot-shot of scorched-earth capitalism and Bush 43 Mussolini federalism has, barring some metaphysical intervention, laid low the land of opportunity I grew up in and assumed I had coming to me. But… it’s still, on any scale, one of earth’s most successful nations. There’s still a social safety net – you might not be working in the Hancock Tower, or making millions off your arch Kraftwerk samples, but you’re not going to starve or get leprosy, okay? Barockstar Obama is under major pressure to prove himself, which, I dunno, could be interesting. That’s the takeaway. Shit is going to be different. A lot different. Which could be interesting.

I’m not sure what we music nerds will be talking about in a year, or six months. But I know that people will keep making music. That’s been going on for a while, before Alan Freed or The Wall or Hit Men or American Idol. This year, LA’s most picked-up success story was No Age, a band that defied the long odds against saving the world again with punk rock by caring more about its pals than its options. This might be the best time in recent history to start a band. As long as there’s no chance of massive yuppie validation, there are infinite possibilities. Get a real job (at no time in history has there been so much work to be done) and bang some rocks together on evenings and weekends. A year from now, we may find ourselves in the same sort of intimidating, economically decimated playgrounds that inspired punk, disco, the blues, pretty much anything worthwhile. We might get mugged once a year, but think of that like taxes. Relish your health, physical and mental, and keep your head up.

By Emerson Dameron

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