Boat “Setting the Paces” [Magic Marker]
“Best of Lists” and award shows are invariably flawed. If we had a time machine, we’d undoubtedly go back to 1994 and take the “Best Film” Oscar away from “Forrest Gump” and give it to the more deserving “Shawshank Redemption” (or “Pulp Fiction” for that matter). If given the choice of watching one of these three movies tonight, I can guarantee that “Forrest Gump” wouldn’t be your first choice. But it is what it is. At the time, the world was caught up in”Forrest Gump” frenzy. We couldn’t have foreseen the staying power of “Shawshank”.
Another example of mis-guided awards occurred in 2006, when Dirk Nowitski won the NBA’s MVP award for leading his team to a 67-15 record. Mere weeks later, I’m sure those who voted for him begged to have a chance to change their vote due to Dirk’s epic collapse in the playoffs, losing in the first round to the eighth seed Warriors. Unfortunately, we can’t revise history. What happened, happened.
Which leads me to the quandary I’m currently in. Since beginning to write a yearly “Best Albums” list, I’ve found myself becoming more and more obsessed with hearing everything there is to hear in a given year in order to ensure that I’m fully educated before making my choices (it’s the equivalent of actually doing research on a Senate bill before making a judgment…looking at you Tea-Baggers). Unfortunately, I think that I once again missed the boat (pun intended). Over the past few months I’ve heard more and more great albums from last year that I didn’t know of back in 2009 (Charlotte Gainsbourg, Mincemeat vs. Tenspeed, The Amazing, etc, etc, etc).
But the best album I’ve discovered in post-2009 has to be Boat’s “Setting the Paces”. I first heard it while perusing some reviews online, and I instantly fell for its collage of stoner-pop songs, all soaked with wit and bubbling with joy. Soon after I purchased the album, I consistently found myself going back to it, again and again. I haven’t had puppy love for an album like this since high school when I’d play Weezer’s “Blue Album” ad nauseum until the tape finally broke. In my old age, I’ll usually listen to an album once, and then give it time to ferment before revisiting it. With “Setting the Paces”, I just couldn’t find the power to release it from my CD player. Songs like “100 Calorie Man” and “Prince of Tacoma” are just too damn funny and fetching to set aside for a rainy day.
I sing “Prince of Tacoma” around my apartment almost daily at this point, annoying my roommate to no end:
I now find myself questioning whether I should have placed “Setting the Paces” on my “Top 20 Albums of 2009” list. In the year of unemployment and financial instability, Boat’s every-man lyrics of “I’ll go to Citi-Bank to take out a loan”, “We can’t even pay the rent”, and “practice your math so you can pay your bills” seem more appropriate for 2009 than anything that Animal Collective released. Then again, “Setting the Paces” isn’t the work of art that most of my top album choices are. It’s simply a collection of great songs, which isn’t a bad thing.
Maybe it isn’t a best album contender, but surely the song “Lately (I’ve Been On My Back)” is a “Top Songs” choice. In fact, the song’s jittery guitar riff, cheery hand claps, and David Crane’s retro-90s-Stephen Malkmus imitation make it an easy top 5 choice on my list. The dry-humor alone will have you coming back for more. On the surface, lyrics about “nachos” and “Alaska” seem silly, yet you can’t deny the smile crawling across your face.
Even the album art begs to be considered for my top album covers list, but I digress. In the end, I can’t change a list from the past. Do I dare be the George Lucas of music critics, constantly going back and re-tweaking an old creation? Or do I accept my list as what it is: my opinion at that moment in time and the albums/songs that will always be associated with the highs and lows of that year. I’ll side with the latter.