In review: the year and decade in music
The song is king. And if a tune doesn’t grab you (and your $ on iTunes) quickly, forget it. Thankfully, this decade had some great songs, and I’ll start with this year’s crop:
Animal Collective (pr photo)
Best songs of 2009:
1. Animal Collective: “Brother Sport”
A feast for the ears. It’s 1980s, it’s modern, it’s funky, it’s nonsensical, it’s complex, it’s melodic, it’s repetitive, and it’s so full of keyboards, it will drive you crazy. And here I thought these guys were sort of a neo-hippie outfit. CAN’T. STOP. LISTENING!
2. Bruce Springsteen: “Kingdom of Days”
Nothing new about this – except that the Boss rarely goes for such a straight ballad, and this one is a sweeping, melodic beauty. I’m a little biased, because it was recorded here in my town, but I love it when Bruce gets mellow.
3. Carolina Liar: “Show Me What I’m Looking For”
An unforgettable, if calculated, chorus from a band by way of Sweden and South Carolina. Technically, this was released in 2008, but is catchiness was so pervasive on every satellite music channel in every grocery store (and obligingly, in my car), I had to include it.
4. Florence and the Machine: “Cosmic Love”
Harp. Drums. Butterflies and angel wings. And vocals with an ever-so-slightly Stevie Nicks-meets-Ann Wilson-meets-Sinead O’Connor tinge, but in the coolest of ways. Need I say more? I think this is the sound that Evanescence thought they were making (or wanted to make) but couldn’t achieve, perhaps based on birthright alone. Arkansas will never be as ethereal as London.
Not the best track off No Line on the Horizon (that would be “Moment of Surrender”) but my pick due to its singability. Only love can leave such a mark. I love u2!
6. Chrisette Michele: “Mr. Right”
I’m a sucker for old-school R&B throwbacks, and god forbid I should use the word “jazzy” to describe her voice, but one listen to Chrisette, and you’ll know what I mean. Just say the words “backup singers” and I’m in!
7. Mindy Smith: “If I Didn’t Know Any Better”
Spare, gorgeous vocals, and a haunting, wistful refrain that never loses that tiny glimmer of optimism. And, as far as I know, Mindy keeps her boobs in her shirt and doesn’t wear strange hybrids of capes and hot pants in her performances. PLUS: Banjo! Now this is the kind of country music I can get into.
I still can’t believe this fey ditty climbed the charts like wildfire. It reminds me so much of the happy synth-pop my friend named Chucc Sanfilippo used to make (mixed in with a little Michael Franks, whose old Dragonfly Summer album is at times eerily similar). It just goes to show you, when we thought society had gone to hell in a handbasket, a simple song about insomnia and insects suddenly makes the world feel like a better place.
9. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: “Stay Alive”
You know that feeling you get when you watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (bear with me, young folks) and they’re in the museum while the Dream Academy’s cover of The Smith’s “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” plays? That’s the exact feeling you’ll get when you hear this song. Like a new millennium version of shoegazer jangle, it’s oh-so-pretty, with just enough garage crackle to keep it from sounding girly. Perfect. (Oh, and it’s not a Bee Gees cover, contrary to the proximity of its title to a certain old hit.)
10. Petra Haden: “Let Your Love Flow”
I know, it’s a travesty to use the Prius car commercial song as an example of the year’s best. But this track’s brilliance lies not in its harmony-filled a capella arrangement, but in the fact that it took a hokey Bellamy Brothers song and shone light on a perky, apt lyric in a year when so much of everything around us felt dismal. If you like her, check out her version of The Who’s “Tattoo.”
I’m not a Wilco aficianado, but when I hear this song, I know what my husband loves about them: that casual feeling, with an undercurrent of genius that’s never obvious or showy. And, of course, I love the time signatures and the 1970s guitar solos.
Barbra Streisand: “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning”
OK, I know what you’re thinking. An old chick and an even older song. But Babs’ Love is the Answer, no matter how Oprah-fied its release was, is a magnificent collection of standards. It’s so lush, you may have to remove the buttah from your earbuds halfway through this delicious track. I highly recommend the piano version vs. the orchestra one.
BONUS: Stevie Wonder’s new take on his “They Won’t Go When I Go” from Fulfillingness’ First Finale at MJ’s funeral slayed me. That piano, whew. Definitely worth revisiting if you haven’t heard it in a few decades.
And, rounding out my top choices of 2009, in no particular order:
All songs by Tinted Windows
“Before the Worst” The Script
“My Love Is Better” Annie
“Already Gone” Kelly Clarkson
“Defying Gravity (Glee Cast Version)” Glee Cast
“All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye” John Mayer
“I Gotta Feeling” Black Eyed Peas
“Words & Music” Sondre Lerche
“Time Flies” Porcupine Tree
All songs by Phoenix
All songs by Maxwell
“Fel del Av Gården” Movits!
“The Lost Get Found” Britt Nicole
“Going Up the Country” Daisy, Kitty & Lewis
“At the Mall” Drake
“All the Streets Are Gold” Leaves
“You’re In My Eyes (Discosong)” Jarvis Cocker
“Action/Reaction” Choir of Young Believers
“I Live With You” Grizzly Bear
“Cities Burning Down” Howling Bells
“Sleep a Year: Other Girls
“Loud As Hope” Iron & Wine
“Pearls” India.Arie & Dobet Gnahore
“The Day Summer Fell” The Sand Pebbles
“Wantin’ Her Again” Ben Kweller
“Pulling On a Line” Great Lake Swimmers
“(Just Like) Starting Over” Kat Edmonson
“Flashing Red Light Means Go” The Boxer Rebellion
“Empire State of Mind (feat. Alicia Keys)” Jay-Z
“What Have I Done” Anna Ternheim
“Beating My Heart” Jon McLaughlin
(Stay tuned for the best of the rest of the 2000s, coming to this space soon!)
Best songs of the 2000s
1. U2: “Beautiful Day”
2. The Swell Season: “When Your Mind’s Made Up”
3. Coldplay: “Yellow” and “Viva La Vida”
4. Outkast: “Hey Ya”
5. Fountains of Wayne: “Valley Winter Song”
6. John Mayer: “Clarity”
7. Razorlight: “America”
8. Elbow: “One Day Like This”
9. Radiohead: “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”
10. Keane: “Somewhere Only We Know”
India Arie’s remake of “Pearls”
John Mellencamp: “Longest Days”
Ben Kweller: “In Other Words”
Gnarls Barkley: “Crazy”
Adele: “Hometown Glory”
Reverie Sound Revue: “One Marathon”
The Shins:”Know Your Onion”
Alicia Keys: “No One”
Kelly Clarkson: “Because of You”
Paul McCartney: “Dance Tonight”
Hanson: “Great Divide”
Colin Devlin: “Refuge”
Zero 7: “Crosses”
Aimee Mann: “Red Vines”
John Legend: “Ordinary People”
The Postal Service: “We will Become Silhouettes”
Ryan Adams: “New York”
Kanye West: “Stronger” (hate the sexism, love the beat)
Black Eyed Peas: “I Gotta Feeling”
Pink: “Who Knew”
Take That: “Patience”
I also LOVED the Strokes, the Kooks, Annie Lennox’s “Sing,”Crowded House’s return, Beth Orton, Jakob Dylan’s solo outing, Raphael Saadiq, The Killers, Molly Bancroft, Rufus Wainwright, Stars, Ivy, Tahiti 80, Cyndi Lauper’s dance album and classic standards … and so many more!