A Best of the Decade List From Someone with a “Fucking Garbage Taste in Music”

Hello there! It’s me, Aso! I write for and act as editor-in-chief of Reflective Surface Mag.  You know, we have a lot of fun sitting here writing out reviews and lists and news and whatnot. Sometimes we write about great records and we have nothing but nice things to say! Other times, not so much. We try our best to give honest and thoughtful feedback to local music, and sometimes those thoughts are negative, or at the very least are critical of emerging bands and artists. We understand that it’s frustrating to be told by strangers on the internet that the work you’ve poured yourself into isn’t very good, and we do try out best to respect and appreciate that. And we also can respect the ire it spawns back at us. Specifically, I’m reminded of a time earlier this 2019, in which a loose acquaintance informs me at a function that my reviews are indicative of “a fucking garbage taste in music”. Ouchy! That can’t be true, can it? I mean, we’re no The Key, but we’ve got some good stuff going on! At least the drummer of Dr. Dog likes our site! Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it could absolutely be true. Maybe I do have a fucking garbage taste in music. Therefore, I wanted to go over the albums of the 2010s that meant the most to me, while acknowledging that my musical taste is absolutely abhorrent, the true characterization of the kind of person who starts a website thinking they know shit about music. From numbers 10 to 1, let’s examine my shitbag taste!

  1. Neon Indian – Vega INTL. Night School (2015)
    2015’s Vega INTL. Night School finds Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo turning out the lights and turning up the squelchy electronic synthesis, equally dialing up his consummate nostalgic brand towards the 80s peak it was always meant to reach. Punctually resigning the “chillwave” label he had stuck with throughout his career, the album is a motorcycle ride through the seedy streets of a techno-driven west coast dream date. However, it’s worth remembering that I have absolutely trash opinions. This album might be unlistenable garbage and I wouldn’t know the difference. Whatever I say about an album, take it with the largest grain of salt available. Utter bullshit.
  1. Jai Paul – Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones) (2013/2019)
    One of the great musical tragedies of the 2010s is the theft of Jai Paul’s early career. When the laptop containing the demos that would make up this unfinished album was stolen, Jai Paul was robbed the opportunity to finish and release these tracks on his own terms. Inspired by the culture of London, video games, Indian music, and even featuring samples from Gossip Girl and Harry Potter, Jai Paul’s musical gumbo serves as the perfect example of how the Internet has enabled music to become a synthesis of big ideas. It’s also probably a noisy, overblown mess by a kid whose crowning achievement was being sampled by Drake once. Idk, the fuck do I know?
  1. Ariel Pink – Dedicated to Bobby Jameson (2017)
    Over the decade, Ariel Pink has worn several different hats and identities. In the beginning, he emerged as a quasi-icon of the weirdo rock of days gone by. The middle found him as an almost indie-rock pariah, as though he were the embodiment of the sleazy Beverly Hills underbelly that serves as the backdrop and inspiration for many of his most renowned songs. Now, at the end, is he the weirdo rock of days gone by? Dedicated to Bobby Jameson finds him reflecting on his life and his body of work using the namesake of a musician who famously never lived up to his perceived potential. The result is a body of work that dashes between chaotic rock and tender acoustic ballads, expertly characterizing the internal identity struggle Ariel Pink has been enduring for decades. That being said, Ariel Pink has been embroiled in a mess of controversies for a number of reasons and is quite possibly a certifiable dirtbag. Much like me, a little goblin person!
  1. Tune-Yards – Nikki Nak (2014)
    Arguably the peak of her experiment that began in 2009 when Merrill Garbus first started her project utilizing a distorted ukulele and her imitable vocals, Nikki Nak represents the finest songwriting she has offered to date. The sing-songy, often fairytale-like instrumentals mingle with her soaring voice to create some of the most memorable songs of the decade. It’s also an album for babies. I am a dumb stupid baby. Don’t listen to what I have to say.
  1. Animal Collective – Centipede Hz. (2012)
    Following up 2009’s monumental Merriweather Post Pavilion seems like an insurmountable task, but Animal Collective rises to the occasion with a new crop of psych-pop jams that feel as though they’re taking radio signals from aliens and translating them into something undeniably human. It’s also just noise, all of it. God help us all.
  1. U.S. Girls – In A Poem Unlimited (2018)
    Meg Remy has spent the decade redefining herself and the sound her project has established. Though she was at one point a Philadelphian, the project’s name now carries a bit of irony, as she is now a Canadian citizen. The peak of her experimentation is realized on the bold, jazzy, often devastating In A Poem Unlimited. I’m sure it’s also bad – blah blah insert punch line here.
  1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)
    I don’t expect a lot of pushback on this one.
  1. The Avalanches – Wildflower (2016)
    It’s worth noting here that I don’t particularly like Frank Ocean’s Blonde, so absolutely none of my opinions about music should be taken seriously. If Pitchfork says it’s the album of the decade, who am I to argue? All hail mighty Pitchfork, purveyor of correct opinions. Channel Orange rules tho.
  1. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening (2011)
    This month represents the end of the first full year of Reflective Surface as an active mag. In such time, we’ve published some really great and some really not great reviews, talked about a lot of shows, and talked to some very cool people. A bunch of people have written for the site, and we’ve heard a shit ton of music that’s been submitted. Some of it has been really good and we’ve had a lot to say about, others, meh. When there’s not much to say, there’s not much to say. We’re often asked: “What qualifies you to review other people’s music?” Truth is: nothing in particular. We’ve all got diverse tastes, have some formal education in music and/or music history, and have firm opinions on things, but how does that necessarily qualify anybody to look at music from a critical lens? It can’t just be that we have a website with a fancy theme and an editor with a strong jaw and a great ass.
  1. Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz (2010)
    I guess it’s really all subjective, isn’t it? There are sets of critical guidelines through which you can judge and grade any work of art, but ultimately everyone is going to feel differently about something. You can be angry that I’ve placed Age of Adz at the top of my list without Carrie & Lowell even making an appearance, and that’s perfectly fine. All music is good. All music is bad. There’s no such thing as “good taste” or “bad taste”. Your musical proclivities are informed by your own experiences, and there’s no right or wrong way to be a person because being a person is impossible. Realizing this, we’ll make an effort to take things less seriously across the board as well. We’re not gonna slouch in giving you honest and critical opinions about the work submitted to us (a review site should be a review site, @ nobody in particular), but we are going to be more thoughtful about the human experience and personal taste that goes into making music. All taste is good taste. Smoke your weed, listen to American Football, record music into Garageband, it doesn’t matter. We’ll see you in the new decade with open ears and a fresh attitude.

Thank you all for reading and sticking with us!

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