2009 happened to be one of my best years, but I know that I’m one of the few who can say that these days.
For most, 2009 blew big chunks and I’m not surprised to see many sticking their heads under their pillows, wrapping their rosaries around their neck, and praying for it all to go away. Fast.
Personally, I don’t think 2009 was a particularly compelling year for music, but there are a few stand-outs. And btw, I’ve seen some of the other suggests from the music mags and I think most of them are reaching…trying to make stuff that was catchy-at-best appear larger than reality. Hey, we’ve all got blank space to fill, so I get it.
Alright, I’ll stop stalling and throw it at you. See what sticks as the earworm in your canal…
10. “How I Got Over,” (The Roots)
It’s unusual for me to feature a hip hop selection because I think most of the genre’s turned to shit. These guys are the exception. The Roots – out of Philly – really keep getting better. Can’t find this particular track on iTunes, but found it through SPIN magazine’s Top 20 list.
9. “Daniel,” (Bat for Lashes)
Everyone in the alternative music community went completely ape-shit over Bat for Lashes sophomore effort, Two Suns, this year. Rightfully so because Nastasha Khan is an ethereal, indie rock shaman. I had tickets for their DC concert at the 9:30 Club, but couldn’t go at the last minute. Sad thing is, I couldn’t give them away because no one’s really heard of them yet. Pity because she’s amazing. Think Goldfrapp with St. Vincent and you’re most of the way there…
8. “Laughter with a Mouth of Blood,” (St. Vincent)
Ok, so I know I’m twelve years old, but I love music mixes and no one fucking makes them anymore. Well, not for me anyways. There’s one exception and that’s my brother-from-another-mother, Chez Pazienza – from Deus Ex Malcontent dot com fame…he came to stay with us for five days earlier this year (leaving the toilet seat up every time) and I pestered him into making me a mix since I think his taste in music is infinitely better than mine.
This track was on there, and I think Annie Clark (St.Vincent) is a trip – sashaying her way through a song like soft pedaling it through an orchestral daisy field, but hits you with lyrics as dark as the tornado cloud sneaking up on your laissez-fare-loving ass.
By the way, do I ever get a mention on his blog? No. Nada. None. I’m just saying, some love and props would be nice.
7. “Misguided Ghosts,” (Paramore)
There are a lot of people my age afraid to admit they like Paramore – probably because their sophomore album was such a raucous hit amongst the kiddies, plus them being featured on the Twilight soundtracks. But fuck it because they’re awesome – a heart-pumping machiatto blend of Evanescence, Jimmy Eat World, and the early days of No Doubt. This is actually one of their quieter tracks, which flew under many other’s radar for 2009, but not mine.
6. “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” (Cage the Elephant)
This is a hot track, reminding me of The Black Crowes in their heyday. You can’t help but bob your head and slap your thigh when listening to this one.
5. “Just Breathe,” (Pearl Jam)
This should probably be number one, considering the year most have had, because how can you go wrong when Eddie Vedder reminds you to be grateful for what you have, and breathe on through the rest of the shit ’til it passes? Pearl Jam hasn’t lost a thing since they came out of Seattle in the early 90s. I’m so proud of these guys…
4. “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down.
God, I love this girl, and shame on me for not sharing that enough. Not only is she an amazing performer and songwriter, but Ms. Keyes is one of those rare artists truly comfortable in her own skin. And because of that, she’s got nothing to prove.
Maybe that’s why she keeps coming out with masterpieces such as ‘Empire State of Mind’ – which I consider on par with not only previous hits such as “No One” and “Fallin’ ” but should be part of the cannon of classics honoring New York City like Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York” and Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” It really is that good. Plus, she’s one of the few artists my baby girls’ and I agree on who rock.
3. “Furnace Room Lullaby,” Neko Case.
Hands down, Neko Case is the most powerful, sonorous vocalist you’ve probably never heard of. Change that immediately. Some want to label her as part of the singer/songwriter genre, others alt-country…but forget all that garbage. Like most women worth knowing and wooing, she’s beyond definition, so stop trying to box her in and enjoy the ride. Yeah.
2. “Hell,” (Tegan and Sara)
The best thing to come out of Canada since, well…anything. For those thinking of Mike Myers and Michael J. Fox, go home to your Back to the Future sheet-covered beds and get a life.
1. “1901,” (Phoenix)
It kills me a bit to put this one on there. Not just because this song is featured – I think – in a car commercial, although that’s a big part of it. Many bands took 2009 as an opportunity to time travel back to the 80s, to the best and worst of what the synthesizer-laden pop rock era had to offer. Jesus, if Lady Gaga isn’t the regurgitation of Missing Person’s Dale Bozzio, I don’t know what is. I personally don’t consider this to be an era of music worth emulating all that much, but if you’re going to do it, then capture the essence of what its pop scene was offering….flashy synthesizer work, a decent bass groove, and an undeniable hook. And that’s really about it.
So while Phoenix’s #1 single here isn’t necessarily the deepest or most soul-stirring selection I could have chosen, I think it’s the absolute, goddamn best of what everyone else was musically trying to do in 2009. And for those of you who want a touch more analysis here, let’s just hope the fascination with electronic keyboards-inspired escapism and Wall Street ‘greed is good’ ethos of the 1980s which infestated 2009 will be dumped in the rest of the ditch that was this year for so many.