Me again. Now that I’ve actually started doing the actual writing I just want to get it over and done with so I can retreat back to my usual routine of introversion and low self-esteem (one has to project confidence when tackling a project like this, after all). At the same time, now that we’re in the top half I’ll probably have more to say. Sigh.
20) The Hop – Radio Citizen featuring Bajka (2006)
Not on Lala. Link
You know this from our collaboration meeting. All I have to add is that in retrospect it is wonderfully pretentious to say, “Yes, she’s a spoken word artist from Germany”. I’m also thankful I never went out with a poet. God, that seems draining.
19) The xx – VCR (2009)
Musically, 2009 disappointed me more often than not. I was excited about new releases by Silversun Pickups and Metric, but both ended up being just alright. I don’t understand what post-rock even means, but to be fair barely understand the term post-modern either. I don’t like that Animal Collective is associated with stoners, because as a long-time stoner who gave them lots of chances it is my considered opinion that Animal Collective sucks. Dirty Projectors make me feel schizophrenic – I will like a song one time and want to kill it the next. Grizzly Bear is fine but sort of boring. I do think the new Arctic Monkeys gets better the more I hear it, and the new Phoenix was good. Up until October I thought the best disc of the year by far was the Dark Was The Night compilation, and there were about three or four songs considered for this list off of that.
To a larger point, I think my overall disappointment with the year has something to do with how I listened to music this decade. Internet radio, Pandora and the iPod made a 180 degree change in my habits. All my life I’ve been album driven. If I like a song or two, I’d go and either buy a disc and hope to like the rest of it, or then as CD’s became more common head somewhere like Silver Platters and listen before buying – but it was a complete unit, something you would listen to in its entirety.
All of a sudden, I could listen to stuff I’d never heard before on radioio, note it down and go to iTunes and download it (for the record, the first time this happened was after hearing No Children by the Mountain Goats). I became singles driven. A quarter of the songs on this list are by artists that I’ve never heard anything else by and really don’t care if I do…….because there are always more great songs out there to be found. That’s a paradigm switch for me, friends, and I really enjoy it.
But bandwidth costs money, and in a poor economy IT departments are not as open to letting my little 32K stream run all day because there are about 200 other folks doing the same thing. So in 2009 I had to revert back to buying albums. And after living in this holy grail new world of great individual songs, the filler in your average disc stands out as more disappointing than before. It's like Flowers for Algernon. Except incredibly overstated.
Then came The xx. I really love this whole disc. It’s like if you put Low, Cat Power and Portishead into a particle accelerator and smashed them together. And how can you not love a lyric like: “Watch things on VCR/With me and talk about Big Love/I think we’re superstars/You say you think we are the best thing/But you/You just know/You just do”. So while I hope to soon find another convenient outlet to get back to my song driven life, I’ll be buying their next release sight unseen.
18) The General Specific – Band of Horses (2007)
The toughest choice to make with the one artist rule (I should come up with a clever acronym for that term – OAR?) was between this song and Our Swords, and either one would rank right around this same spot. From the first time I heard this it seemed like an old favorite. That’s always cool.
17) St. Francis Dam Disaster – Frank Black and the Catholics (2001)
Surprisingly not on Lala. Link
Despite listening to this for eight years now I learned two things about it just recently – first, that it is based on a true story and secondly, that it happened in the US and not somewhere in Central America like I had supposed for, well, no real reason.
This is also the place to admit publicly that the Pixies never did much for me, but I do like Frank Black’s solo work. I’ll see myself out.
16) Chips Ahoy! – The Hold Steady (2006)
Before I met all of you I had exactly one friend that I talked music with, my old roommate Doc who now lives outside of Philly. With two young kids involved in all sorts of activities he doesn’t get the chance to listen to new stuff as much as he once did, but he gets total props for dragging me into alt-country against my will, turning me on to the likes of Marah (we call them Those Velvety Throated Teen Idol Sensations Marah, from a line from their first disc Let's Cut The Crap And Hook Up Later On Tonight, an all-time top 10 album title), Old 97’s and Whiskeytown, while getting back various and sundry detritus from me (though he’s never appreciated Beck, the bastard). On my one and only trip to New York City, Doc took the train down from Reading and stayed with me, club agendas in hand. We were lucky enough to have a true ‘experience’ while seeing a band you’ve never heard of, The Hangdogs, at the Rodeo Bar and Grill on the East Side (Where there is NEVER a cover!). I wish I would have let him talk me into seeing Alejandro Escovedo at a small club but I was tired from working all day. Such are the vagaries of life.
Doc has two main musical obsessions: Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. When I say obsessive, I mean just that – do not get into a discussion with him about either of these two artists without knowing what you are talking about. I was quite proud to see Deb more than hold her own regarding Bruce when the three of us met up in Austin a couple years ago, and have no doubt that Marcy will be able to do the same with Dylan should the chance arise.
Doc did not turn me on to The Hold Steady, but I am not at all surprised to know that despite wandering his current musical wilderness they are not merely on his radar, but he has also made it clear that the next time I am back east that we are going to see them live. I look forward to this.
As for my view, I’m not entirely sure how many songs one can write about the kids trying to get and stay high – but so far they’ve been pretty damn good. Honorable mention to Cattle and the Creeping Things, but the horse racing enthusiast in me cannot resist:
”She put nine hundred dollars/On the fifth horse/In the sixth race/I think its name was Chips Ahoy/Came in six lengths ahead/We spent the whole next week getting high”
15) Just A Dream – Great Northern (2007)
I did use this in one of our meetings, right? I think it was for the City theme. There are about four or five songs that I have in my pocket that I think can fit a bunch of different themes and this was one of them. Of course after this project I’m pretty much screwed in regard to club picks for the next couple years. Plus Eric used 23 Minutes in Brussels last time out.
14) The Staunton Lick – Lemon Jelly (2000)
Not on Lala. Link
Lemon Jelly was my happiest find of the decade, though I like the first two releases much better than the third (which is still pretty good). Wonderful sampling (here a basic guitar lesson) paired with really catchy and often beautiful melodies. There is not a song on the first two discs that I’ve grown tired of. Honorable mentions: Nice Weather For Ducks, Space Walk.
13) Struggle – Ringside (2005)
If you would have told me that Balthazar Getty would be half of a duo in my top 40 I would have told you that you were crazy. This is another that was in from the start.
12) Carmella – Beth Orton (2002)
Along the same lines as the Gomez pick, this is my favorite song off of the first disc that Deb bought me. Since it is on both our iPods, it is also number 4 in play counts for our entire music library with 84 plays. (since you asked, Struggle is number 5 with 81).
11) Mardy Bum – Arctic Monkeys (2005)
What a great debut that was. Honorable mention: A Certain Romance. The twenty-two year old in me remembers like it was yesterday the sort of frustration felt while learning the differences between men and women and relationships that is so nicely summed up in the following:
“And yeah I’m sorry I was late/But I missed the train and the traffic was a state/And I can’t be arsed to carry on in this debate/That reoccurs when you say I don’t care/But of course I do/I clearly do”
Wow, nearly 1,650 words. I’m workin’ it here, people. Sorry if I rambled.
Next: THE TOP 10!!
EDIT: I've got no idea why I've got different fonts for each installment. It seems like I'm doing everything the same way but obviously I am not.