10 Best Albums of 2010

6. Weezer: Hurley

Ok… now here’s the one very unusual selection that will undoubtedly discredit my list among all other “respectable” music bloggers [read: “snobs”] out there.

The casual Strong Odors reader (or personal acquaintance) might expect me to always include a Weezer release in my top ten, simply out of sheer loyalty, but I take my lists pretty seriously, and I wouldn’t put anything in here that I didn’t really believe in.

Even if it was my own record. (which would be rap and also awesome, by the way)

The fact is that nothing Weezer’s done in the past decade has come anywhere close to the top 10 at the end of its respective year and that really won’t change for Hurley this year. In fact I’m sure you won’t see it in the top 50 in any of the most critical reviews.

And as much as I’ve enjoyed rocking out to Hurley since September and even had a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun with “Weezer Week” this album wasn’t on my Top 10 radar until a couple weeks ago when I heard it in a new way for the first time.

Because Pinkerton re-released.

The album universally maligned by critics and fans (Rolling Stone readers voted it “Second Worst” in 1996) is now universally praised as one of the best and most important records of my generation. Pinkerton’s 2010 “deluxe edition” re-release garnered the super-rare rating of “10” from ultra-snobs at Pitchfork and also holds an unprecedented score of 100 from metacritic

Not too shabby.

But the reviews surrounding Pinkerton’s re-release reminded me of (1) my own feeling upon hearing it for the first time and wondering why it wasn’t more like the blue album and (2) the critical abuse the record suffered.

And I realized that the original gut reactions to Pinkerton are very similar to those surrounding Hurley.

Of course I don’t jump to the conclusion that every maligned album will go on to infamy…

But what has made Pinkerton special has had less to do with the music itself (no matter how great) and more to do with timing and culture. It has grown to what it is because we needed it at that moment.

And this is what is making Hurley marvelous to me this week.

As much as the blue album rescued me during the awkwardness of adolescence, and Pinkerton gave me an honest framework for the fear and emotion and inner conflict that I was experiencing coming-of-age in the late 90s, Hurley has the potential to do the same for me in middle-age.

Just as the early albums offered the possibility of a sense of humor around my grief, Hurley allows me a sense of adventure about the hum-drum-ness typical of the 35-50 demographic.

Instead of a story of girlfriends and unrequited love and repressed sexuality, this is a story of one who’s found himself in the midst of nothing (and lost himself in the process).

Our lives (like his) become a different type of death…. one in which you are alive, but not really living…

Where your Saturdays are spent at Bed, Bath and Beyond; your Sundays sitting on your fat butt watching football and your weekdays (also on your fat butt) in the office wasting as much time as possible on Facebook.

Often (like in Hurley’s story) it unfortunately takes tragedy to rescue us from this death. It comes in the form of transgressions, bankruptcy, divorce, loss and sometimes literal death.

But if you persevere… the future is waiting… and it is wide open.

So this is why Hurley is in my Top 10… it’s inclusion may cost me your respect, but whatever. It’s a pretty bold move to say it has the potential to be another Pinkerton, but bold moves are just one prescription when facing the death of middle age.