A Rational Conversation Between Two Adults: 2008 Is Finally Over

December 19, 2008

For every A Rational Conversation Between Two Adults column, FADER deputy editor Eric Ducker gets on instant messenger and "discusses" a subject that's been on his mind with another member of our staff or a special guest. After the jump, in this special year end edition, read his condensed (and emoticon-free) conversation with online editor Peter Macia about what they thought of 2008 and what to look forward to 2009.

Peter Macia: Should I put some mood music on?

Eric Ducker: Yeah dude. I just put in Hercules & Love Affair.

PM: I'm gonna go with Likkle Wayne: The Artist of the Year (so says my dad's magazine subscriptions).

ED: He's not like you, he's like your dad's favorite Martian

PM: I've been trying to think of the last time someone as parentally unacceptable as Wayne has not only been the top seller of the year, but the Grammy nomination leader. I haven't come up with anything. Wayne's going to end up selling almost a million more copies than Coldplay. That's nuts. Last spring we were worried he was going to die of syrup overdose and now he's writing about soccer on ESPN.

ED: The Weird Era continues.

PM: It's amazing

ED: What did you think of 2008?

PM: I thought there weren't many albums that we'll look back on and say, “Wow that really changed popular music forever.” But at the same time, all of the artists whom The FADER cares about that are doing it on a major level came through with really great or interestingly not great albums: Wayne, Kanye, Hot Chip, My Morning Jacket, TV On The Radio… It seemed a little like a transition year. Just from the music we're hearing at the end of this year, I think I'm more excited about 2009 than I was 2008.

ED: On the whole, the artists that I hoped would put out good albums put out good albums: No Age, Deerhunter, Santogold, Cut Copy, etc. I wasn't too let down by the people who put out disappointing albums: Jenny Lewis, Bloc Party, N.E.R.D., etc. I saw those coming.

PM: When I look back on our covers this year, I'm still really listening to the shit out of Busy Signal, Esau Mwamwaya, BLK JKS, Santi, No Age, Tough Alliance, TVOTR, Brightblack, Kanye, which is a pretty good run. As far as trends of 2008, I could do without the song-a-day from Random Dude thing. Hopefully. Barack Obama will do something about that.

ED: He has a lot on his plate, but I think that will be an easy one to handle.

PM: Yeah, executive order: you are limited to twelve songs per year during fiscal 2009. They can be on an album or on your blog, but this shit is now about quality control. Though he sure does post a lot on change.gov. I've switched to Jeezy's album.

ED: I was listening to that in the car this morning. “Circulate” actually might be a song of the year.

PM: If I had to pick an album that I love in a way that I never thought I would, it would be The Recession, and I fully expected to love it. Jeezy separated himself with this one as a dude who can really talk about some shit without changing who he is. You know, on one hand you had Rawsss getting outed as a corrections officer but sticking to his dealer guns, while on the other you had Jeezy, who got less about rapping about dealing and more about why someone might deal. I thought it was probably the most anyone who complains about recent trends in rap could hope for from one of the dudes who's arguably been one of the recent trend's greatest perpetrators.

ED: Another aspect of that album that really works is that he really portrays dealing as a job. The Wire's co-creator David Simon often talks in interviews about how he wanted to make middle managers in Middle America relate with low level drug dealers in Baltimore like Bodie or D'Angelo—guys who kind of hate their job and hate their boss and hate their underlings, but it's the gig they're stuck in. A track like Jeezy's "Vacation" does that just as well.

PM: Okay, I'm going to drop some undergrad references here: don't get embarrassed. In Blink, Gladwell talks about this group of generals who were taken to the trading floor at NASDAQ or whatever to learn about real time decision making—war games shit—and then they took the traders out to Governors Island to play war games with the generals and the traders were really good at it. It turned out that soldiers and traders had all this stuff in common based on the requirements placed on them by their work environments: operating under intense pressure, risking money vs. risking humans. In other words, there's probably a lot more for people to identify with in music that is unfamiliar than they think. And here is where I would give you an example of that, but I think that's what is really ridiculous about people or publications who still only cover a certain lane. It's like, dawgs, Jay-Z and Chris Martin are not friends because they like each other's lyrics. They are friends because they spend A LOT of money in a year and have famous ass wives and probably cannot talk to many people and get much empathy

ED: I know you think this is a shoddy opinion, but I was really impressed with the nationwide click of bands in indie rock that don't have much in common musically, but really are forming a community through a shared something that no one has really been able to articulate: No Age, Deerhunter, High Places, Telepathe, Abe Vigoda… And it's not veganism that's bringing them together. Though it does help.

PM: It seems like they're tied together by a desire to make music with guitars (High Places excepted) that is not boring. At the same time, making music that is a little difficult or hard to listen to and not totally depressing

ED: I guess they like each other. And I guess that's a good reason to form a community.

PM: It's like anti-grunge I was talking to a friend the other night about Nirvana—that's right—and how they were credited with creating an opportunity for all those indie/underground bands to sign major deals, but the majors were probably more diverse before Nirvana. Post-Nirvana they just wanted more Nirvana. And now it seems like the bands signing bigger deals are actually pretty different again.

ED: But isn't that a cyclical trend? When nothing is catching on, labels throw whatever they can out there until something does catch on, then they sign a bunch of things that sounds like whatever caught on until no one wants to listen to that any more and then they sign whatever else is out there. (I don't know if that really true, I'm not Malcolm Gladwell)

PM: Yeah. So I guess we're in the sweet spot right now since there are a bunch of great bands that are selling 50-100 thousand records but not really getting over the hump. The two biggest crossovers in rock this year were who? Vampire Weekend and MGMT?

ED: Everyone writes about how no albums sell, but all that really seems to be preventing from coming out are rap albums on major labels, and considering the track record of rap albums over the past few years, I'm not really tripping.

PM: Vampire Weekend sold almost 400,000 copies to date. That's pretty good. More than Fleet Foxes and MGMT combined! Eat it, hippies!

ED: In a subject that I know is dear to your heart, why didn't more North Americans listen to Tough Alliance this year?

PM: Yeah, this is tough to talk about. I remember when iTunes gave them a single of the week and I went and read the comments. They ranged from “Hey this is great!” to “iTunes should stop giving away free music.” I think it's hard to sell a couple of Swedish dudes who might be taking the piss out of you, and also some people just don't like semi-fey synth pop. Those people probably also voted for McCain. But you know what? I'm willing to build bridges if people are willing to walk over to my side. The Tough Alliance are not going to go away is basically what I'm saying. They don't really have to make any money, and they don't really care if anyone likes them, which is ultimately what I like most about them other than the fact that they make the best summertime music since Jesus whistled on the shores of Galilee. (I fear that comment may have taken us out of the realm of Rational Conversations.) It also could've had something to do with the fact that Modular put their album out at the end of September, which is not summer at all

ED: Not even in Australia.

PM: I think they may have actually released on the autumnal equinox. Yes. Yes they did, September 23rd was the day after the autumnal equinox.

ED: That release date made sense for Brightblack Morning Light.

PM: It did, and sort of for Busy Signal, since none of the songs on his album were new to anyone who gives a shit about dancehall.

ED: As someone who tries to get give a shit about dancehall, that genre also seemed pretty lost this year.

PM: Yeah, the only stuff I really, really cared about was all from The Alliance: Busy, Serani, Mavado, Demarco, Erup. It would've been good to get some diversity, but Busy was, and remains, totally killing it. Was there any group or movement that you think advanced some really good ideas in 2008?

ED: I'm really excited about house influencing mainstream R&B, but I don't know if we already hit the zenith of that with Chris Brown's "Forever" and everything else will just be copycats. The return of rave seems to be the big story in "cool" dance music, but I don't really consider that the bee's knees. That being said I do like that BIG sounds are gaining traction in the mainstream and underground, while simultaneously lo-fi is also producing some great shit like Blank Dogs, Wavves, Nite Jewel, Jay Reatard and Ducktails. I hope rap albums become ten to twelve songs long, like Kanye's and Common's, though Common's was weak sauce. I like mature women making mature but fun music, like Santogold.

PM: Yeah, I don't know how you could get more housey with R&B and it be better than "Forever," unless like Booka Shade started making beats for Beyoncé or The-Dream started putting out nine-minute big room jams. As far as lo-fi, I don't even know what that means anymore now that you have Wavves doing what he does and Amazing Baby doing what they do, both on their computers in their bedrooms. And arguably, though I saw his set-up and it was not lo-fi, Kanye's album was lo-fi too. It's like lo-fi just means no filters to your expression.

ED: Intimate? Immediate?

PM: Sure, but not technically low fidelity. Though I guess Wavves, No Age and Blank Dogs sound pretty low fidelity as well.

ED: I think Stephen McGregor will do good things for dancehall in 2009. I think White Stripes will put out an album in 2009 and it will be really good. I think everyone is going to use whatever Bangladesh beats they have laying around and none of them will be "A Milli," though some of them will be "I Got Bass." People will complain more about Auto-Tune and I won't care.

PM: 2009 could be the first year that The White Stripes, The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs all put out albums since 2003. None of which will have Auto-Tune on them, hopefully.

Eric Ducker: I also fear an Interpol album in 2009.

PM: They would have to, just to maintain the ties. ARE Weapons should put one out too. Basically anyone who wore Chuck Taylors in Arlene's Grocery in 2001 needs to put an album out next year or they are done. They can just move to Jersey or some shit

ED: I would like to hear a new Spank Rock album in 2009. And a LCD Soundsystem album.

PM: Also, speaking of New York and LCD Soundsystem and going back to 2008, I want to apologize to Hercules & Love Affair for not playing "Blind" on our Best Of 2008 on The Let Out last Friday. That was a true oversight, but you know, it was hectic in there.

ED: I got "You Belong" in my set.

PM: Yeah, dude, "Blind" is so nuts though, best of the NYC disco revival by miles and miles

ED: What surprised you the most in 2008? Besides that shit got so bad, we were able to get the leader we need elected.

PM: New York housing getting cheaper. Musically, the most surprising thing was probably a tie between the absolute bizarreness of 808s and the mainstreaming of Lil Wayne. At the end of 2007 if you had given me the blind items asking "What high profile rapper will risk his career by singing on an album?" and "Which rapper will sell more records than any other musician?" I would've given you the opposite answers. What about you?

ED: That Pineapple Express was not my favorite movie of the year, but I still really liked it. Also that Santogold was tough enough of a cookie and so committed to her vision that she made Diplo wait to put out their mixtape until a few months after her album was out because she didn't think it was truly reflective of her tastes and thought it would affect people's perception of her. Was Kanye's show the best thing you saw in 2008, performance wise?

PM: Yes, without a doubt. Probably the best show I've seen, as far as a spectacle, since Daft Punk at Coachella. Plus, the most New Eras + Nikes + Skinny Jeans ever collected under one roof. Semi-terrifying.

ED: Speaking on Coachella, I didn't go this year, for the first time in six years. Aside from not seeing Prince, I wasn't that bummed.

PM: Yeah, it was my first absence in a few years too. Someone implied today that Britney might be there this year and I don't mean hanging out near the Port-o-Johns in VIP. I think shows made a big comeback in 2008. People wanted to see "a band" on "a stage" it seems. Actually, I want to go back and say that Ladyhawk at Union Hall in Brooklyn was almost as good as Kanye, because they played in a basement in front of mayyyybe 50 people and there was a lot of beer. In a way it was as apropos as Kanye standing alone on a fake planet. What about out in LA? Were there any mindblowers?

ED: My most memorable show moment was trying to go see Hercules & Love Affair at The Echo for their first LA show. I used to be able to walk there, so I forgot how bad parking can be. I refused to use valet because I thinking valet parking in Echo Park is fundamentally ridiculous, but by the time I got to the door after their set started, the bouncers wouldn't let me in, even though I was on the list. Also Deerhunter was rad.

PM: So it's kind of a depressing memory then.

ED: Just an unfortunate one. I didn't get out much this year. David Banner at The Fader Fort in Austin was great, as was the Spank Rock/Santogold back-to-back.

PM: Yes, and let me give propers to former Editor-in-Chief Alex Wagner's Get Weird series at the New Museum. This year where I saw Andrew WK be a hero, BLK JKS be everything every hippie band ever wanted to be and Growing just jam it out so hard I thought I was going to try to make out with one of them. And, as you well know, I want to take this opportunity to announce that in 2009 I will be joining Animal Collective as their resident Twitterer since my other dream of being Barack Obama's White House iPod selector fell on deaf angel ears.

ED: In 2009 I just want to have lots of reasons to give people high fives. That's what I'm looking for.

PM: Yeah, I will be high fiving Geologist constantly. It's going to be great.

ED: See you in the parking lot.

PM: Yeah man, bean burritos on me. Can you sum up 2008 in one word? You can't say "Obama."

ED: “Intense”

PM: Yeah. I'll go with “Long.” GOOD RIDDANCE. HELLO 2009.

Posted: December 19, 2008
A Rational Conversation Between Two Adults: 2008 Is Finally Over