It sure is swell that "Rock" and "Alternative" get their own categories, since I believe musicians who rock and those who make their music with wine bottles and banging trash cans together should each have their own category. So you can imagine my dismay upon seeing that the alternative acts listed below play their music with conventional instruments. Why, back in my day…
But what really disturbs and saddens me is to see so many old people in the rock 'n' roll category. No wonder kids today think of rock as old people music. Every time I turn on my TV, I'm met with guys in their mid-40s through 70s recalling how much fun they used to have! Now, I remember back in the 1980s, when I would see Bob Dylan or Neil Young and because they were in their 40s, they were considered "old." In a twist of evil irony, I am now older than they were when I thought they were ready for the pasture. Except I'm still a spring chicken! Point is, young people in their 20s think they will never reach 30 -- or that it's a long way from now. If you want to reach them, you need to show them people their own age making the music that is rightfully theirs.
But we can thank the record industry for doing such a bang-up job promoting bands for the past thirty years. Imagine if grunge hadn't immediately sold any records, this list would be even older.
Best Rock Album
1) Jeff Beck -- Rock 'N' Roll Party Honoring Les Paul: Jeff Beck is a legacy artist, one of rock's finest guitar players, who had the misfortune of never sticking to anything long enough or consistently enough to make his career understandable to the average fan. His records lacked that knockout radio hit that fans crave. Here, he tributes one of the greatest guitar players of the 20th Century. A sentimental favorite for the Academy?
2) Foo Fighters -- Wasting Light: Dave Grohl seems like a really nice guy and I'm sure the Academy likes to work with people who are agreeable. It's easier than dealing with Grohl's old boss in Nirvana. Since the Foo Fighters are one of the few rock bands that get any promotional push at all -- having been grandfathered in by the grunge movement -- I'm in full support, regardless of how often I actually play them. Other people dig them and I dig other people, especially you. Can nice guys finish first?
3) Kings of Leon -- Come Around Sundown: The youngest band on this list, with several members still in their 20s, Kings of Leon have been changing up their sound in ways that have alienated old fans but won over new ones to replace them. Interestingly, their album went to #2 in the U.S., but #1 on the rock album and -- get this -- alternative album charts. Whoa, that's almost a crossover hit!
4) Red Hot Chili Peppers -- I'm With You: With new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer bringing youth to these approximately 50-year old rockers, Red Hot Chili Peppers are now classic rock, despite coming up through the college radio circuit. Let's hope they keep their shirts on.
5) Wilco -- The Whole Love: Critical faves who won a ton of fans by getting kicked off their record label, Wilco came back stronger than ever and continue to woo people who need their comfort food but want it spiked with a little surprise. They are sometimes considered "alt.country." They will definitely keep their shirts on.
Best Alternative Music
Looks to me like "Alternative Music" is just a way to fit more "rock" bands into the mix. But since rock bands often don't rock anymore, it's necessary to come up with somewhere else to put them.
1) Bon Iver -- Bon Iver: I've always maintained that choir music would make a comeback and it has with Bon Iver, who make the kind of heavenly sounds that mimic what it sounds like when clouds cry. Only band here who have recorded solely with independent labels and who are from the lovely state of Wisconsin! Eau Claire Rocks! Or they glacially rock. Chose the name Bon Iver because it sounded better than "The Justin Vernon Band."
2) Death Cab For Cutie -- Codes and Keys: Ben Gibbard and Zooey Deschanel have called it quits, so surely this polite young man (age: 35) is looking for the chance to tell her to go suck it. The band frequently gets nominated for Grammys. They just don't win them. Will this be their year?
3) Foster the People -- Torches: If you're looking for the youth vote, go with Foster the People, whose "Pumped Up Kicks" was hummed wherever humming young people go. This L.A.-based band are the only group here whose album is their debut. Will youth work for or against them? Ask yourself, should I stay or should I go?
4) My Morning Jacket -- Circuital: It's funny to think of this Louisville, Kentucky band as an "alternative" to anything. Sure, they use reverb and their sound can be slow and atmospheric, but it's always sounded like rock music. But I suppose rock music has become a boutique interest at this juncture in human history. It's like collecting stamps.
5) Radiohead -- The King of Limbs: Straight Outta the MOMA, Radiohead have the highest art-rep of any of the bands here and let's face it, they could fart in a bag and fans would fall over themselves to justify it. Plenty of art is what you can get away with and Radiohead get away with plenty. Fine by me. Is it fine by you?