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12/29/2009

This Year In Songs - 2009

We're gonna do this one a little bit differently this year. Having already presented what I think is the best thing I’ve listened to that came out in 2009 yesterday, this here list is a more accurate representation of my real listening habits. There’s a lot of music out there, and a whole lot of what I listened to that defined by experience of the year didn’t come out this year. So I submit for your approval, the ten best songs and albums I listened to in the last twelve months, along with the dates they were added to my iTunes collection.

Animal Collective – My Girls (1/20)

A song to remind us of the importance of the simple things. Global recession zeitgeist-y, maybe, but also a good point.

Andrew Jackson Jihad – Powerplant (2/8)

Oh Just Download The Dang Thing Right Here. This song has one of the best and most simple metaphors for that real kind of essential love: it generates this world. While AJJ are definitely just a couple of punks who use four chords to write simple jams from the Kurt Vonnegut songbook, this is perhaps where they shine the most. One of two songs on this list that has a personal connection to a very traumatic / wonderful / painful part of my life.

New Order – Age of Consent (2/14)

I did a lot of growing up in the year two thousand nine, and this song perhaps provided the primary soundtrack for one of the central events surrounding it - breaking up with my high school sweetheart. The lyrical sentiment of the song has nothing to do inherently with the situation. It's not a breaking-up-is-hard-to-do kind of thing. But this song very specifically takes me back to a time and place, and that alone makes it worth recognizing. Jim and I, at a houseparty, on the evening before it all happened, drinking beer in the back of the house. Then we both hear that unmistakable bass line, and it is the greatest thing we have ever heard. And for five minutes we both just danced. I wouldn't call my first time hearing this song a spiritual moment, but there was definitely a kind of transcendence that occurred.

Dirty Projectors – Cannibal Resource (6/9)

Like Animal Collective, this one isn't strongly tied to a moment or emotion of twenty aught nine, it's just a solid freaking beginning to the best album of the year.

Paul Simon – The Boy in the Bubble (6/28)

One from an album my parents raised me on, at least in part, because I recognize so many of the songs. But this one took a dang long while to actually get into my life. First there was my high school choir director who played us Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes to introduce us to great singing and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Then there was making Hamentaschen with my roommate Ben while listening to this record. But it wasn't really until Sarah was telling me how her mom would sing her this song as a lullaby that it truly bit me. Another song-of-the-summer for the record books.

Michael Jackson – P.Y.T. (6/28)

Dorothy Gambrell summarizes my feelings on the death of Michael Jackson here. In my lifetime at least, a freak and media circus while living, and while dead, a saint of pop music. Gives me some hope about how we're all remembered when we die. So yes, this song by the most famous person to die since at least JPII, was a major part of my summer. Then there was that awesome email that Bryan Duff sent around about his first day as a real adult at real work and this song got stuck in his head. Sold.

The Feelies – Invitation (7/15)

Not going to lie, I first heard this song when I saw this YouTube video by a girl I dated in grade school. And it has stuck with me. Then a few weeks ago I rented a Jeff Daniels movie where this band was playing the band at a high school reunion. Feelies! You are following my life in accidental and curious ways!

El Ten Eleven – Connie (9/9)

Proof positive that Pandora works. Guys, this twenty first century thing is pretty scary. I was in the admissions office, writing something while listening to a Pandora Radio, and this song came on. I can't lie, I thought it was freaking fantastic. So then I went out and bought their album. See, Record Industry? Sometimes the idea works. Now excuse me while I go throw a blanket over the .mp3s I have torrented in my lifetime. Nothing to see here.

Taylor Swift – You Belong With Me (11/1)

The best pop song about the most earnestly true feelings of high school. I mean, if I could bottle this song and pour it on peoples' heads, I think it would turn them back into high schoolers. Whatever, I know an anthem when I hear one. But this one is more than that. Anthems somehow always feel removed and above the action. But Taylor Swift, foal* that she is, seems incredibly close to those feelings. It's more genuine than an anthem. It's just a complete jam.
*Foal is my mom's personal term for a young girl who is all legs.

The Books – Classy Penguin (11/18)

I'm a huge fan of the Books, and how they seamlessly toss in just the right sound-byte to punctuate their classically trained but experimentally geared guitar and cello. This song of theirs, which is criminally only available on DVD and not in any other purely audible format (unless you extract the sound file from the YouTube video, word to the wise), doesn't have that extraneous found-sound information. And it still works, so well.

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