Life at an Intersection

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Favorite Music, 2009

It is the end of the year! Yes, yes, it is. For my year-end music list this year, I've decided to choose the top five artists that have carried me through this turbulent annum. My list of favorite songs for this year seems so inadequate, so scatter-shot, and an album list just wouldn't do justice to the depth of the work of these artists that I was introduced to or discovered or loved in the past twelve months.

#5 - Lucinda Williams

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Yeah, I've had a rough year, but this rock goddess helps me put it in perspective: it occurred to me the other day that no one on earth has probably written more songs about suicide than Lucinda Williams. I had the opportunity to attend a three-night concert event here in Chicago celebrating the 30th anniversary of her recording career back in October, and it was a huge highlight of the year for me. The first night especially, when she focused on performing songs from her earliest three records, singing songs that have fallen by the wayside over the years and are rarely performed any more, was sublime and will be memorable for such a long time to come. "Crescent City," "Sharp Cutting Wings," "The Night's Too Long," "Little Angel, Little Brother," "Sweet Old World" - magnificent. And hearing her sing "Learning How to Live" and "Everything Has Changed" from the West album was one of the most transcendent, healing moments of my year. Those three days, indeed.


#4 - The Avett Brothers

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Scott and Tami have been raving about these guys for a few years now, but I'd never made any moves towards checking them out until early this year when those generous Camerons gifted me the Emotionalism album. "All My Mistakes," "I Would Be Sad," "Die Die Die," "Shame" - perfect. Later this year, when I and Love and You was streaming on NPR, I became fully, completely smitten. I picked that one up right after it was released, and now those songs are the ones popping into my head at opportune times, the ones that I'm singing along to while washing the dishes. And I feel pretty good about the fact that the most discriminating 2 year-old music fan in the world, Asher Scott Cameron, and I have the same favorite song: "Kick Drum Heart." If I'm picking a best album of 2009, it is I and Love and You. Also, if I'm picking worst album cover art, it is that one, too. "Get Out!"

#3 - The Format

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I found out this year that I like people from Phoenix, Arizona; I should have known this already, because this band from Phoenix has been rocking my world with their prescient, perfect lyrics for a couple of years now. I don't have much more to say this year than I did last, when I picked Interventions and Lullabies as my favorite album of the year. The Format never came off of my mp3 player this year; maybe they never will.

#2 - The Weepies

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This husband and wife duo specialize in simplicity, melody, and heart-searing lyrics. I downloaded their most recent album, Hideaway, this past spring when it was the $1.99 daily deal at the Amazon mp3 Store (by the way, if you use iTunes, you are paying too much for your downloads). Just a few minutes of previews, and I knew that this was my kind of music. There's some really great break-up songs and a delicious mellowness to the album that were just what I wanted for wallowing in a bit of sorrow. There's "Can't Go Back Now" and "Lighting Candles" and "How You Survived the War" and "All Good Things (Come to an End)." Just the titles probably give you a sufficient idea. I met a nice boy named Zach a few months later, and we had The Weepies in common. He gave me a copy of their earlier album Say I Am You, which is equally awesome but with slightly more oblique titles like "Painting by Chagall," "Living in Twilight," and "Riga Girls." The best song title of 2009 for me? "Not Your Year." Yeah, I feel that. Thanks to The Weepies for, appropriately, some healthy tears and beautiful poetry.

#1 - Sun Kil Moon

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I am fully aware that this choice is drenched in irony. Kevin introduced me to the music of Mark Kozelek back in 2005; his former band was Red House Painters, sometimes he releases self-billed, and now he's performing under this name. I bought both April, his most recent release, and Ghosts of the Great Highway this year, and I am now firmly, resolutely convinced that no artist captures pain, despair, tragedy, loss, and unfulfilled longing more acutely, more perfectly in his voice and lyrics than Mark Kozelek. Of course, these are not necessarily emotions that you want to be reminded of on a daily basis, so this isn't everyday music. This is difficult, raw, often unpleasant stuff, but couched in such beauty, sometimes such ethereal, exquisite, delicate beauty. "Lost Verses" and "Tonight the Sky" are both 10-minute tracks on April, and such an incredible journey of 10 minutes it is. "Salvador Sanchez" is a brilliant, shimmering rocker on Ghosts and its twin "Pancho Villa" is a beautiful, stripped-down version. The bonus track cover of "Somewhere" from West Side Story teases with a bit of hope ("Someday, a place for us, somewhere a time for us...We'll find a way of living, we'll find a way of forgiving."), but also just enough melodic dissonance to make you wonder, really?

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Honorable mentions: Kris Allen, who made me truly, completely excited about "American Idol" - The Killers, who I think are actually wildly underrated for a popular band - Coldplay, who put on a fantastic live show for me and some friends up in Wisconsin this summer - Pink and Kelly Clarkson, whose albums this year were honest and awesome - Andrew Bird and St. Vincent, whose unique artistry is enjoyable, novel, and quirky.

Favorite Radio Artist to Love to Hate While Singing Along With - Taylor Swift

Favorite Dance Songs - Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance," Pink's "So What" and "Please Don't Leave Me," Shakira's "She Wolf"

Most Infectious Song - Miley Cyrus's "Party in the USA"

Most Eye-Rolling Lyrics of the Year (tie) -
Owl City's "Cave In" - Please take a long hard look through your text book /'Cause I'm history...Riding a dirtbike down a turnpike/Always takes its toll on me
Owl City's "Dental Care" - I've been to the dentist a thousand times / So I know the drill

Most Unfortunate Song Title to an Awesome Song - Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You"

Best Song That You've Never Heard - Miles Fisher's "This Must Be the Place"

Most Disappointing Albums - Conor Oberst et al's Outer South and Mindy Smith's Stupid Love

Favorite Fun, Profanity-Filled Song - Lily Allen's "F@#$ You"

Concert that I am Suddenly Thrilled that I Didn't Go To With the Hipster Boy that Invited Me - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros



3 comments:

Liza December 13, 2009 at 8:48 PM  

I think I say this every year, but why are you not writing reviews for a living? Seriously?

My heart is hurting a little bit. Stupid Love as one of the most disappointing albums of the year? I love that album. Mostly when I am sad, but I love it.

I'm devoting much more attention to 4 of these next year. Well, Lucinda will get some love too, but we're already well acquainted. The other 4 deserve much more time than I gave them this year.

scott December 18, 2009 at 10:19 AM  

Beautifully done!

I especially the "Get out!" at the end of review #4.

scott December 18, 2009 at 10:20 AM  

especially LIKE, especially LIKE

Twitter / Davie_St

Words That I'm Living By - 5/2/2010

Time, as I've known it
Doesn't take much time to pass by me
Minutes into days, turn into months
Turn into years, they hurry by me
But still I love to see the sun go down
And the world go around

Dreams full of promises
Hopes for the future, I've had many
Dreams I can't remember now
Hopes that I've forgotten,
faded memories
But still I love to see the sun go down
And the world go around

And I love to see the morning
as it steals across the sky
I love to remember and
I love to wonder why
And I hope that I'm around
so I can be there when I die
When I'm gone

I hope that you will think of me
In moments when you're happy and you're smiling
That the thought will comfort you
On cold and cloudy days
if you are crying
And that you'll love to see
the sun go down
And the world go around
And around and around

"Around and Around" by Mark Kozelek

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