Friday, December 18, 2009

My favs of 2009: Part I.

It's December, so that must mean that every critic in the world is publishing their "Best of" lists for 2009. And this year, we're also getting "Best of the Decade!" lists! Oh joy! Look, I don't know what the best is [I'm not a critic in real life, I just play one this blog], I just know what my favorites were. My favorites probably aren't the best, considering I blog mostly about Gossip Girl. So with that in mind, I'm just going to do two lists mainly based on the stuff I blog most about on here - my favorite songs, and my favorite TV episodes. [I don't go to the movies that often, and when I do my friend DL has the tendency to chose terrible movies to see, so I'm not gonna bother blogging about those even though movies would complete the "Best of" trifecta.]
2009 was a pretty shitty year by all accounts, but some good things came out of it. Shakira howled like a wolf, someone got run over by a tractor on Mad Men, and Lady Gaga wore everything ridiculous under the sun. Let's discuss - in two parts, with music first - shall we?

Part I - My Favorite Songs of 2009:

1. Empire State of Mind - Jay Z and Alicia Keys
This is everyone's favorite song of 2009, right? Even if you don't live in New York it's impossible not to get swept up in the "If I can make here, I can make it anywhere" sentiment when Alicia hits that soaring chorus, and even if the verses aren't Jay's best rhymes ever they still hit some high points - my favorite is that "Yo momma's just like a bus route, errybody ride 'er" joke. [That "welcome to the melting pot/ corners where we sell pot" line is pretty uh, dope too, if you'll pardon the pun.] When Pitchfork wrote this song up on their own Best Of 2009 list, they described it as "schmaltz, but transcendent schmaltz," and I think that's pretty accurate. Considering 2009 basically sucked for everyone, singing along with this anthem about that magical city where dreams can still come true was probably what we all needed.

2. Summertime Clothes - Animal Collective
This is my personal favorite from Merriweather Post Pavilion, the album that came out six days into 2009 and then owned every album that had the audacity to come out after it. [Considering people have been saying since last January that MPP is the album of 2009, its cliched by now to sing its praises. But damn, considering the frequency with which I still listen to it, it's just fucking good.] Even though it features AC's trademarked wall of noises and static this song can't help but remind me of simpler times - of "sweet summer nights" spent wandering the close knit neighborhood I grew up in, where people waved at me from front porches, boys honked and yelled from car windows and my best friend and I went to the corner store for ice cream. And considering AC features a dude who goes by the name "Panda Bear," I guess I have good reason to feel all warm and fuzzy.

3. Bad Romance - Lady Gaga
For a long time I wasn't sure how I felt about Lady Gaga, but I think I am finally starting to warm to her. Before, for all her talk about "art," I never thought her songs were anything to exactly write home about - they were ridiculously catchy sure, but not necessarily as game changing as she [and her lap dog Perez Hilton] claimed. But with this song her music finally caught up with her aesthetics; I think Gaga is the only person who could have a song that has "Gaga Gaga oh la la" as a chorus, wear a flaming polar bear rug as a cape in its video, and still have it be a monster hit. Then she sang this song on Gossip Girl which automatically endeared her to my heart, and then she released that Christmas Tree song which walks the fine line between stupid and stupid genius. Now if only Perez would just stfu about her, maybe I would be a full fledged Gaga fan.

4. 1901 - Phoenix
I never really listened to Phoenix until I happened to catch them on an episode of Saturday Night Live last spring, and suddenly, like the rest of America I was sold. There are songs that may take a listen or two or five to get you on board, but then there are songs that you love instantly and 1901 was one of those. Sometimes when watching a band live, especially for the first time and with a unfamiliar song, its hard to get into the performance. But the first time I heard 1901 it sounded just like the recording I would later download - and I mean that as a vast compliment. It only proved that Phoenix were such competent live performers watching them was like some sort of chastisement saying so, why haven't you listened to us before? But now I do thanks to 1901, a song which I can only describe as joyous, the kind that makes me smile because "past and present they don't matter, now that the future's sorted out."

5. Never Forget You - The Noisettes

This song isn't exactly earth shattering, it's still sort of riding the wave of throwback sound from the UK made famous by Winehouse/Duffy/Adele, but that doesn't mean its not good. Growing up in Detroit Motown has a special place in my heart, and more than any song by the W/D/A triumvirate I can imagine The Noisettes coming across my television screen in black and white circa 1963 on American Bandstand with this song. Plus, any song that opens with the question "What you drinking?" is totally fine by me. Also, can we discuss Shingai Shoniwa's gravity defying hair?!

6. Stillness Is The Move - The Dirty Projectors/ Solange
Basically all you need to know about the original Dirty Projectors version of this song is that it has lots of crazy high notes, the music video features a llama, wolves, and girls dancing in harem pants and most importantly, in the words of my brother, it has a beat that is "deck." Basically all you need to know about the Solange cover is that it too has lots of crazy high notes, it throws in a Erykah Badu sample for good measure, and after listening to it you'll never know this song wasn't meant to be a slow jam. And basically all you need to know about both? They're awesome.

7. Beyond Here Lies Nothin' - Bob Dylan
In this day and age all you have to do is be mildly successful for about a year or two or appear on American Idol and people will start bandying the word "icon" about to describe you. But my boy Bob has been around for five [FIVE!!] decades, and is about to enter his sixth showing no signs of calling it quits. Of course he ended this decade on a wacky note, releasing an album of Santa themed polkas essentially, but when you've been around for 50 years I think you've earned the right to pull some ridiculous shit. But earlier in the year he released Together Through Life with this as its first single, a sort of crazy accordion jam that makes me think of little cafes on the Mexican border and warm sun on my face. But in typical Dylan fashion the lyrics are bleak, a contrast which makes me think this song would be the perfect theme to a movie adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy Border Trilogy book. All The Pretty Horses was already ruined with Matt Damon, but I read somewhere once that a version of Blood Meridian was in the works. Now seeing as Blood Meridian is one of my favoritest books ever, I am sure I will decry whatever version comes out as inadequate, but having this song in it would probably help.

8. Treat Me Like Your Mother - The Dead Weather
Jack White has always had a fascination with the familial, incestuous and Oedipal - there was after all that whole situation where everyone though Meg White was his sister, but turns out she was his ex-wife [oops!]. The un-honed and cacophonous sound of the White Stripes merely re-enforced the illusion that Jack and Meg were just kids banging on pots and pans in the kitchen, so did the fact that they released playground ready anthems like We're Going To Be Friends. But its actually this song he recorded with his side project that might be the culmination of all of that - its a duet between Jack and Alison Mosshart, with Mosshart chastising him for lying, basically saying if you can't look your mother in the eye and lie, you shouldn't be able to do the same with me. And if that wasn't Oedipal enough, the video features the pair mowing each other down with shot guns. Creepy? Yes. But creepy in a rocking way? Also yes.
Also, their "surprise" concert I caught over the summer was awesome [Honestly, it was a ton better than I thought it would be after hearing their first single] ; but then can you beat front row with PBR in hand at a Jack White concert in a Detroit dive?

9. Ambling Alp - Yeasayer

What's an "Ambling Alp"? Hell if I know. But I do know this song is awesome, trippy, and strangely inspiring. In the song's music video nearly every face is somehow distorted, reinforcing the idea that the only people with real identities are those who follow the maxim "Stick up for yourself son/ Never mind what anybody else done." And considering 2009 was a knock out, drag down year its something we could all hear - especially since the song further encourages us to "Raise your head and wear your wounds with pride." It's like the dudes of Yeasayer dropped some acid [which let's be honest, they did], watched some uplifting WWII movie, and decided to write a song about it. They also could have read some Tolkien, seeing as the video features a psychedelic Ringwraith and Mount Doom [No for real, it was filmed on a volcano]. There's also yellow goop. Excellent.

10. She Wolf - Shakira
I actually like the idea of werewolves as allegories for the parts of our Selves that are Other, whether it be tendencies towards animalistic violence and forbidden sex, or a fascination with the supernatural and death itself. I also like it when Warren Zevon sings about them in London. I don't like them when they become nothing more than an excuse for that ripped 13 year old named Taylor Whathisface to run about the Pacific Northwest wearing only denim cutoffs. But lucky for us, this song is more Angela Carter and The Company Of Wolves than Twilight; more about releasing the fierce wolf like power within than succumbing to the lupine sex appeal of some scruffy shirtless guy [Not that that never happens, even to the best of us]. Plus, its kind of insane that this song became a huge hit - Shakira uses a word as big as "lycanthropy," makes a complex metaphor involving a coffee machine, and she howls. And as if that wasn't enough, in the video she pulls a Grace Jones and dances/contorts in a golden cage with a snazzy "Do Not Feed The Animal" sign behind her. In other words, thanks for reclaiming werewolves from the sanitized teen set Shakira. Someone had to do it.

Runners up:

Heavy Cross - Gossip
Earthquake - Little Boots
Good Girls Go Bad - Cobra Starship ft. Leighton Meester

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