Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Best of: 1996

This was my first year as Entertainment Editor for my college paper, the La Salle Collegian. For album of the year, I chose Aimee Mann’s I’m With Stupid (Geffen). This is still a really great album: fuzz guitars, hooks a’plenty, smartly pointed lyrics, classic Jon Brion production quirks. One of these days, I’ll submit Brion and Mann as one of the great unsung partnerships in music. But I no longer think I’m With Stupid is the best album of 1996. That would be Wilco’s Being There (Reprise).

Being There was the first Wilco album I ever heard and at the time, it seemed half-filler. Before long, however, it began making more and more sense. For a while, I was obsessed with trying to tangle the album’s timeline. It seemed to begin at ultimate disillusion before spinning back to youthful exuberance and making its way back to the present; and all this without succumbing to concept album’s clichés, without trying to impose a “storyline” in a medium that simply has no need for one. Just when my literature and film classes had gotten me thinking about the structure of art, Being There arrived, having its way with the structure of a rock album. And this vaguely post-modern structure managed to co-exist within a pretty conventional rock-to-roots-rock format, dominated by guitars, drums and piano/organ, plus pedal steel, banjo, mandolin, etc. The days of overt atonal weirdness and intense studio doctoring had not yet arrived for this band. But the stage was set.


Blogger frankenslade said...

So you changed your vote for Best Album of 1996. I'm With Stupid was my pick then, and it still holds that spot today. Being There is the one Wilco album I've still yet to hear from start to finish!

2:39 AM  

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