1. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

2. Dan Deacon - Bromst
3. Micachu and the Shapes - Jewellery

4. Tortoise - Beacons of Anscestorship
5. Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild‚ Set 'Em Free

I've never much identified with the title "music critic"--opting‚ I suppose‚ for something in the way of "cheerleader‚" a role that stresses the proliferation of excitement and enjoyment before the yea/nay adjudication of an artist's work--but‚ this year‚ I pulled the most pretentious rock critic move in the book and attempted to coin a genre. Sometime around this time last year I saw the documentary Kill Your Idols about the No Wave movement of the late '70s. In a way‚ No Wave bands like DNA‚ Static‚ Swans‚ and Lydia Lunch marked a terminal point in rock and roll. A totally reactionary brand of punk‚ it was experimental to the point of being a type of anti-art‚ defined more by what it was resisting than what it was offering. The movie follows No Wave's influence to the early part of this decade with New York bands like Sonic Youth‚ Black Dice and (to an extent) the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Near the end‚ Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz describes No Wave as a type of nihilism and that the only place to go from there is toward a kind of "yes" wave--highly experimental‚ challenging music that reflects the contemporary world in all its contradictions but rides an element of belief and positivity.
Yes Wave. It's kind of goofy‚ but it's also kind of beautiful. More importantly‚ to me‚ it seemed to tie a pretty little ribbon around the kind of music that excited me in 2008 and 2009. Less a description of sound‚ it seemed like a philosophical credo that could effectively lump artists like Animal Collective‚ Dan Deacon‚ Akron/Family‚ the Boredoms‚ Black Dice‚ Man Man‚ Ponytail‚ and countless other freak folk‚ noise rock‚ free jazz‚ collagist electronic acts into one sympathetic movement. The risk‚ of course‚ is that a title--any title--can reduce the nuances and vagaries of an artist down to a bumper-sticker slogan‚ compartmentalize their work and so offer a listener grounds for categorical dismissal. However‚ like jazz‚ Yes Wave seems to defy this risk with a built-in ethos of change‚ experimentation‚ and authentic‚ in-the-moment connection with audience‚ these elements offering a perfect antidote to the fleeting fads and flash-in-the-pan heroics of indie rock in the internet age.
All this said‚ Yes Wave has existed mostly as my own little in-joke‚ but if it sounds useful‚ try it on for size. Ultimately‚ it's not what you call music or how you classify it that matters‚ it's what it does to you in a very real vibration-on-body way that becomes meaningful. The abundance of these kinds of artists is proof that listeners are beginning to understand this again. Which might be why‚ as a friend said this summer in joyful disbelief‚ "2009 is the year Phish was cool again." This‚ of course‚ is the subject of another whole essay‚ but I'd be remiss if I didn't somewhat forcibly insert Phish into this ecstatic company. Positivity and an adventurous spirit always prevail‚ it seems‚ and‚ maybe Hell just froze over‚ but I think I just watched an interview on Pitchfork with Vampire Weekend celebrating Phish's return.