3 December 2014
This was originally posted on my friend Ben’s blog Almost Four Stars, which is no longer online. For posterity, I’m posting it here, in its original form.
Looking back now, 2009 was a better year for me in music than I first remembered. Rather than ranking albums, I picked ten songs released in 2009 that for me, represent the shape and sound of the year’s musical landscape. I can pinpoint each of these tracks to a specific month (and often place). In fact, I’ll do just that:
“Seattle (Feat. Emmy the Great)” by the BPA
January & February, Ann Arbor YMCA, on the treadmill, at 6:30am. Still dark outside, with snow on the ground. Watching the news on ABC or ESPN and still feeling excited about Obama being in office. A sort of cautious, slow-blossoming optimism that I think really defined a lot of the 2009 sound is very present here.
“Fetal Horses” by John Vanderslice
Beginning of April, my apartment in Ann Arbor. Listening to WOXY on headphones on my tiny laptop, sitting under the skylight. Feeling despondent about my relationship, and loving the imagery in the chorus here: “Fetal horses gallop in the womb/seeding courses in an empty room.” I’m betting he got the idea from Oliver Sacks’s Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, which contains the sentence “fetal horses, for example, may gallop in the womb” (pg. 222).
“Something is Squeezing My Skull” by Morrissey
January through April, walking to and from work in Ann Arbor. This was one of the first albums I got in 2009, and I played the living shit out of it, especially leading up to and right after seeing Morrissey live twice (3/31 and 4/1). Years of Refusal feels like one of his strongest solo albums, and I love what he does with his voice on the chorus of this song. Fifty years old and he’s still improving his craft!
“Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell (Wallpaper Remix)” by Das Racist
August. Driving through OTR in Marla’s car, after dropping her off at work. A friend of Hilly’s put this on a mix that she passed along to me, and it was my end of summer JAM. And I still get excited as shit when I hear Hilly play it in a bar. This song is beautifully absurd, and eminently sing-along-able. And it will get stuck in your head EVERY TIME you drive by a Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, or combination thereof.
August through October (basically Indian summer). We had a mild summer, but the heat lasted extra long this year. The drone in this song was like a sympathetic resonance to the heat and humidity that hit in late September. I couldn’t stop listening to it. I think I topped out at thirteen times in one day.
“Boy Boy” by Lissy Trullie
September, staying up all night in my room applying for jobs and writing blog entries. There’s something magical about the “oooooh-oooh” chorus on this song that just blows me away and gets me excited. Also, she’s a lessssssssbian. Represent!
“This Tornado Loves You” by Neko Case
Late summer/early fall. Repeat after me: I don’t like Neko Case, I don’t like Neko Case. But I can’t help my love for this song. I had a LTR end at the cusp of spring/summer this year, and this song is the only thing that can so perfectly evoke the sadness and wistfulness I felt at the decay of that relationship. It’s easier for me to feel anger and relief about it ending, but when I hear this, I can somehow go back in time and remember the sweet parts too, and it makes me tear up every time.
“Bulletproof” by La Roux
August through November. My friend Josh told me to get their Quicksand EP at the beginning of the year, and I listened to the shit out of it on my workout mix. I couldn’t remember when I started to love “Bulletproof,” so I looked it up on my last.fm account, and discovered that I first listened to it on August 10th, but then got obsessed with it around November 10th. It took a whole month to sink in! I’ve listened to a lot of remixes of this song, but I think the album mix is actually the strongest. It’s so punchy and clicky and warm, and Jackson’s vocals are wall-to-wall attitude, with the chorus betraying a hint of vulnerability. It’s like your New Years Resolution as a song! Get on it!
“This Night Started Out Like Any Other Night” by The Minor Leagues
October & November. I have to plead bias, because I love a lot of the people in The Minor Leagues, but they’re also one of my favorite, favorite bands. I actively listened to their debut album, Be Kind to Beginners, on a CD in a boombox back in 2002, when it was released. You know, old school style. And still know most of the words to it (“Plate tectonics will bring you hooooome…”). This album I love especially much, and it was hard to choose a track, but I picked this one because I just love when Ben sings, “So I almost didn’t go, another shit local music show.” It’s a wonderfully meta-self-deprecating moment, with a subtle sublayer of affection and warmth and humor that, for me anyway, really just sums up The Minor Leagues.
“Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga
November and December. I’ll admit it, I came late to Lady Gaga. Everyone else in the known universe was dancing to “Let’s Dance,” and playing poker to “Poker Face,” and masturbating to “Paparazzi,” and I was sitting in my room, probably watching The Wizard of Oz and flossing. But then my friend Marla made me watch the video for “Paprazzi,” and I was sold. I’ve written some about why I love her on my blog, but suffice to say that a) I love it when anyone thinks that their own name is a suitable lyric, b) the line “I want your love and all your lovers’ revenge” is fucking brilliant, and c) the bridge where she breaks it down and sings, “I don’t want to be friends” like she’s dying is one of the fucking hottest moments in all of pop music.