Friday, January 15, 2010

My Top 10 of 2009

I am not a great listmaker because my consumption of music or books or films is limited by my budget, and spare time, since no one has felt the need to contact me and ask that I become a member of their press team. Oh, I would love to go to SXSW, Coachella, Pitchfork, advance screenings, advance galley copies, et. al on any company's dime, but we find ourselves in an incredibly fucked up situation, and only Tao Lin and the system of public libraries is willing to support me in my pursuit of critical professionalism.

If I had to name the best books of 2009, I would be hard-pressed, but I would put Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned on that list.

For movies, I would include Inglorious Basterds and Up, but I haven't seen anything else that approaches greatness. I suppose The Hurt Locker, the last movie reviewed on this blog and also the only advance screening I attended, deserves an honorable mention.

But music, I had bought more than ten albums this year, I think, and so here are my top 10:

#10: Atlas Sound - Logos
I do not think this was as good as Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel but there were at least three amazing songs--"An Orchid," "Walkabout," and "Quick Canal"--and that's good enough for me. And it's not like "Attic Lights" or the title track or "Washington School" are weak either. Overall, further proof that Bradford Cox is the most consistently great musical artist of the late aughts.

#9: Deerhunter - Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP
There were only five songs, but three of them--the title track, "Disappearing Ink," and "Circulation"--okay I don't want to repeat the previous entry. I put this above Atlas Sound because I prefer Deerhunter--they are louder, and they are tighter.

#8: Superchunk - Leaves in the Gutter EP
Criminally overlooked, as often happens to Superchunk. Though there are only five songs, and one of them is an acoustic version of another, further proof that Mac McCaughan is the most consistently great musical artist of the 1990's, and the aughts...that is, if you like their sound, which okay, not everyone wants energetic alternative pop-punk all the time, but I do. "Misfits & Mistakes" is as good as any other Superchunk song over the last twenty years. And this EP is so much better than Here's to Shutting Up that I had to include it. I really hope they do a full-length in 2010, and a proper full-scale tour. I like Portastatic, but it's not quite the same.

#7: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - S/T
I really don't think this is all that great, but it delivers on the hype, I think (in a way that the xx does not, for me). "Young Adult Friction" is a cool song. There are a few other good tracks, and a couple that are a bit annoying. But the sound is pure MBV, and while K. Shields & Co. may continue to dangle the promise of a new record--"it's a poor substitute at best," but it's good enough for now.

#6: Sonic Youth - The Eternal
Every year that Sonic Youth puts out a new album I will always put it in the top 10. And I do not think I am being unfair. This is one of their most fucked up records in recent years. It's so weird, and funny, and heavy, and accessible. Better than Rather Ripped, better than Sonic Nurse--on the basis of the first two tracks alone. Not that the rest of the album is any less inspiring.

#5: Jemina Pearl - Break it Up
Truthfully, this belongs closer to #10, as it wore me down after a couple weeks, but for those couple of weeks, it was the only thing I listened to. An incredibly consistent album--and probably better than the Be Your Own Pet swan song Get Awkward. The second half of this album is amazing. The first half is not too bad either. I would list all the great songs but it would be pointless because I would just list every song on the album, except for maybe two or three that grate on me a bit. Jemina can be a little annoying at times, but that is also what makes her great.

#4: Morrissey - Years of Refusal/Wavves - S/T (tie)
Two albums I bought on the same day back a long time ago at the beginning of 2009. The Morrissey was more immediately satisfying, but I rank it alongside Wavves because Wavves has the potential to be pretty awesome down the line. Morrissey turned 50 this year and continues to satisfy me by not backing down from his position that it is okay to be miserable and alone and sing songs about how horrible a serious adult existence can be--a true original, and one of the very few who has not lost the power he once wielded, some twenty-seven years on. Wavves turned 23 this year and satisfied me by singing songs about smoking pot and feeling bored and various fun things to do in California--like, I wish I had this album on a boombox, could go to a beach in SoCal, could light up a J, and then go for a swim, while getting a good tan. It may be fantasy, but Wavves proves that the dream of turning from nobody into the next big thing is still possible, and having much publicized festival meltdowns tends to help this cause.

#3: Girls - Album
Probably just on the basis of "Lust for Life," "Big Bad Mean Motherfucker," and "Morning Light." Those three songs are so awesome. I just think Girls are the most interesting new band to make their debut in 2009. The fact that they seem really messed up emotionally, but are also strangely wholesome, and sincere, is a combination that worked out very well for them on this album.

#2: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz
Now we get to the heavy hitters. Initially, I didn't see what was so great about this album. I loved "Zero," but I was like, "Why is the rest of this so somber? Why will you not kick the shit out of everyone, Karen O? This will not be fun to see live! Who cares?!" As time passed, and more listens gradually occurred, I realized this album is a masterpiece. Think "Maps" over and over, in various permutations.

#1: Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Once again, when I rated Sound of Silver the #1 album of 2007, I sided with the bandwagon jumpers, and now here, I will do the same with AC. I've been listening to them since Feels, and didn't really see what was so great about them. Strawberry Jam has proven to be an album that has really grown on me. But this album, which is now over a year old, is their first undisputed masterpiece. I never understood the appeal of AC until I gave this album a chance. This led me to recently purchase the Fall Be Kind EP, which does have one song that approaches the heights this album reaches, but overall, almost nothing can top this album. Okay so a couple places said Kid A was the album of the decade (after OK Computer was the album of the previous decade, or else Nevermind or Loveless)--and don't get me wrong, I love Radiohead as much as the next guy, but this album is so good it should have been hailed as the album of the decade. Kid A may have been gloomy, and portentous of things to come in American and global society (9/11, Bush, Iraq, Economic Hell)--but on the other end of the spectrum we have an album about leaving one's body for a night, forgetting everything awful about life and society at large, and just finding a little space where happiness can exist, if only for forty or forty-five minutes. Plus I didn't like Kid A as much as everyone else. So, all hail Animal Collective as the next Radiohead, even though it seems doubtful they will ever reach that degree of commercial popularity.

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