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One from the archives: Best of 2009

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.

Emmy the Great, from the "Seattle" video

Emmy the Great, from the "Seattle" video

“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.

the color "maya blue"

the color "maya blue"

“Maya Blue” by Coltrane Motion

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.

1/2 of La Roux

1/2 of La Roux

“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 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.

almost 1/2 of The Minor Leagues

almost 1/2 of 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.

And the wind-down

11 December 2009

The Minor Leagues live, 11/14/2009

The Minor Leagues live, 11/14/2009

Ben over at Almost Four Stars was kind enough to post my ten song end of year roundup on Wednesday. Since that’s taken care of, here are my top six favorite live shows of 2009, listed in chronological order:

  • February 9th: The Pretenders at the Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor, MI
    Holy shit, Chrissie Hynde can still rock the fuck out.
  • March 31st: Morrissey at the Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor, MI
    He came out wearing a tuxedo and I almost fainted on the spot. I felt an electrical charge just from being in the same room as Morrissey. I don’t even know if I can describe what it was like to be sitting in the front row/center of the balcony, in the same theater where I’ve seen The Maltese Falcon and Sunset Boulevard, and see someone that I’ve spent countless hours staring at (photos, videos, youtube, books, dreams) standing in front of me, breathing the same air as me, whipping a microphone cord around. I feel so, so, so lucky that I could see him live in my lifetime.
  • Moz live in Columbus

    Moz live in Columbus

  • April 1st: Morrissey at the Palace Theatre, Columbus, OH
    This time I went with Hilly and Ben (met them halfway), and Shiv and Stacey were also there. Supremely magical. I won’t tell you which one of us cried, because you wouldn’t believe it. I wish I could carry this night forever in one of my cheek pouches, like a squirrel.
  • Exene Cervenka

    Exene Cervenka

  • June 17th: X at the Magic Stick, Detroit, MI
    Went with Jen and Gabe, two of the greatest friends a girl could have. It was supposed to be in the Majestic, which is huge, but there were few enough tickets sold that it was bumped to the Magic Stick, which is tiny. The stage is basically six inches off the floor. I was standing eighteen inches from Exene, and if I hadn’t been busy being jostled by every asshole punk boy in a 60 miles radius, I might have tried to kiss the hem of her garment. In love forever.
  • July 20th: Future of the Left at the Southgate House, Cincinnati, KY
    Probably my least favorite of these shows, but I’m super glad I got to see FOLT live. LIVING LEGENDS.
  • November 14th: The Minor Leagues at Mayday, Cincinnati, OH
    Smooshed right up against the stage with a handful of my favorite humans. Danced my ass off (I was sticky to the touch after, and my clothes were soaked through with sweat), screamed along to every word, and basically felt like my soul was aflame with refulgent splendor. You should consider seeing them live, if you get a chance.

And finally, a roundup of what I was listening to in 2009 that wasn’t new in 2009, but was new to me (or at least, in newly-heavy rotation): Scott Walker, Jacques Brel, The Wizard of Oz soundtrack, the Let the Right One In soundtrack, a lot of early Elvis, the Cocteau Twins (especially “Lorelei”), Margaret Leng Tan, Moondog, Sia, Young Marble Giants, Jo Stafford, Au Pairs, the 2008 Brideshead Revisited soundtrack, X, Emitt Rhodes, and Kronos Quarter Performs Philip Glass, to name the most prevalent. Phew. On to 2010!

It only takes one ni-i-i-ight

30 September 2009

My friends The Minor Leagues just released their latest (final? no one ever knows) album, This Story Is Old, I Know, But It Goes On (props for the Smiths reference!). I picked it up at their live show on Saturday night, but if you weren’t there or didn’t have the scratch, you’ll be able to get your own copy in November from datawaslost, their label.

This Story Is Old, I Know, But It Goes On

In the meantime, you can quell your sadness by listening to this jazzy track from it, “Little Angel”:

The Minor Leagues – “Little Angel”

Move over, Scott Walker, because there’s some great new pop rock out in the world name-dropping the Queen City (not this song specifically, but on the album, you see). This song is a great jazz duet (full disclosure: two of my favorite people are doing the dueting!), with a fantastic melody held together by a) bass, b) guitar, c) trumpet, and d) piano. It pulls off one of my favorite tricks in the book, sharing the bass line between the left hand of the piano and the bass guitar, lending the verses a full-throated sense of intrigue and impending misadventure.

I haven’t given the album more than a couple of listens so far, but I’m sure I’ll have more to say once it’s sunk in. In the meantime, try to find a copy of your own!