We do a lot of talking at Taintbrush. Sometimes we are wrong. Sometimes we are right. The latter is one of these times. These are some jams I liked a lot in 2009 and why. They are pretty typical and I am boring, but with respect blow me.
Best Absolutely Everything: Japandroids – self-titled
The No Age record of the year, which means it rocked really hard with two people. It’s loud and boisterous, has some great anthems, and is possessed with a fatalism in the songwriting that matches the intensity of the guitars, grabbing you and making you believe, Yes, who gives a fuck, because I’m in love with you tonight. You might also be thinking, Jeez, this record is a lot of romantic bullshit. Well, I am a romantic. I think it is the best record I heard all year, and there is not a song I disliked. It’s not better than Nouns, but who cares? I had 97 chances to see them in New York and didn’t go.
Best songs: “The Boys Are Leaving Town,” “Young Hearts Spark Fire,” “Sovreignty”
Best Black Music Dilemma: Dirty Projectors – Stillness Is The Move
Rough timeline: Dirty Projectors song and album, Bitte Orca, comes out. This album is either great because of its R&B leanings (because I’m a boring rockist who’s never listened to Mariah) or shitty because it shamelessly co-opts black music with an indie rock sheen for wussy Brooklyn crowds (because I am a pessimist). Then the Solange version of this song drops, and it’s either great because of its R&B leanings (because I am hip and Solange is urban enough to be without critical reproach) or it’s shitty because it’s boring and is too much R&B for my boring rockism (because I am a pessimist). Then I put both versions on a mix CD for a girl and either sleep with her (because I am hip) or don’t (because she sees my ruse and sleeps with the high school quarterback). Either way, I have lost.
Best Retro Outfit: The Raveonettes – In And Out of Control
Okay, so they haven’t really changed their sound since I started listening to them in high school: There was always lots of feedback, lots of hooks, lots of Jesus & Mary Chain ripping. I specifically wrote about their last album, Lust Lust Lust, that it was good but unoriginal, that all the shameless influence ripping was making me queasy. Well, this album did the same thing except by now I don’t care as much about innovation because I’m boring, so it was okay! Aside from the best rock song I heard all year in “Bang!”, an under-three minute garage stomper about dirty love, the Ravers also twirled into the abyss with the death-poetry of “Last Dance” and “D.R.U.G.S,” making it okay to still wish you were 15 and in love. Forget the awkward diatribes of “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed),” because every album has embarrassing PSA songs.
Most Secretly Depressed: Matt & Kim – Grand
Somewhere in between becoming the soundtrack for every University of Illinois dorm party and headlining the 2009 MTV Woodie Awards, Matt & Kim gained the reputation for being a “cute” band. Then Matt gave an interview where he said he’d been seriously depressed for the last 4 years. I feel like this is a coincidence. It wasn’t until the robo-beat of “Lessons Learned” and synthesized whine of “I’ll Take You Home” that I realized that jeez, maybe he really was depressed, what with all the lyrics about being romantic in the face of mediocrity and waving goodbye to your dying friends in a city you love a lot (maybe that’s not what the songs were about, but it’s after midnight). Then they played Pitchfork 09 and proved that amazingly, hipsters could mosh to “Yea Yeah” but they could skip the Jesus Lizard for being “too boring.” Sigh. The requisite cute song in “Daylight” was also pretty good.
Bloggiest: The xx – self-titled
I saw these guys play at Goldsmiths College when I studied there in the fall of 2008, at a party for freshmen students. They were alright, but the music didn’t fit the club atmosphere and I spent most of the time wondering when the DJ would be playing Nelly songs. And then I got kicked out for disregarding a rule I didn’t know existed. It was a shitty night! However, one of my best friends liked the band so much that he kept following them back in America, even seeing them play a small club and listening to them on Myspace and Hype Machine when he could. It was how you used to follow a band before you read about them, seeing them randomly and deciding you liked them enough to keep going. Anyways, when I visited NYC over the summer, the hype had finally built up to a “Best New Music” label from Pitchfork and undulation from the music press and blogosphere, culminating in a #1 spot on Hype Machine for “most listened.” My friend was upset – not because they were popular, or because he was first, but the hype meant that thousands of people would download the album, listen to it once, then glibly dismiss it as something they didn’t like, when he had spent months following and enjoying this band. When you like something, seeing people snarkily reject it is painful. 12 hours later, a friend of mine IMed me to ask me if I had heard their album. The moral: Being the first on something almost never pays off.
Most Kate Bush: Bat For Lashes – Daniel
Somewhere along the line, Natasha from Bat for Lashes gained this mystique for being an indie rock goddess, someone who wore funny makeup and made cryptic press statements and danced around a lot like Ian Curtis. Add in the foxiness, and the quotient for indie rock fetishization was sky-high. Does the craziness sound similar to another pop starlet in the early 80s? Because we don’t have Kate Bush to make music anymore, we have a Bat for Lashes to fill her void. This songs was things like “ethereal” and “haunting,” making it a great song to put on mix CDs for girls to appear “thoughtful” and “egalitarian.” The lyrics may also be about the Karate Kid. Regardless, that chorus syntax – “When / I / first / saw / you / Daniel” – is perfectly propulsive, and it’s fun enough to be Kate Bushy.
Best Dad Rock : Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs
No Dad, you shut up! Another consistently good album from the best trio of indie rock dads and moms in the business, shaming all other parents with their guitar heroics and solid rhythm sections, even if the funk on “Periodically Triple Or Double” makes you wince. The experimental fog of “Here To Fall” wades you through a sonic swamp, and songs like “Nothing to Hide” speed along with pop delight. I hope I’m still this good at age 50.
Best Album That I Ignored Out of Sexism: Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
My worst sexist trait is that I don’t trust anything that only women like. When this Phoenix album dropped, the only people I knew who were bumping “1901″ were girls who I didn’t like. This sounds pretty bad, but I figured the album couldn’t be that good and ignored it for a while. Then I picked it up and it was actually pretty good. I can’t always be right.
Second Most Kate Bushes: La Roux – self-titled
I saw Alexa Chung dancing along to “Bulletproof” in a NYC story, so La Roux must be doing something right, right? The angular rhythms of songs like “In For The Kill” and “I’m Not Your Toy” provided the best scoff faces to dance with in 2009, and I once referred to the lead singer’s hair as the “anti-Wavves” of music. Then I dove into a tar pit and swam until I couldn’t breathe.
Best Lyric Absolutely Ever: UGK – She Luv It
“Put my dick inside your mouth / Try and fit my whole dick and nuts inside your mouth” – RIP Pimp C
Worst Dad Rock: Dinosaur Jr. – Farm
Plodding and slow, and I couldn’t get through the album because I hated myself for it. Let’s just move on.
Best Reissues: R.E.M. – Murmur/Reckoning
If you haven’t downloaded these yet, please do so. They are the Rosetta Stones of indie rock. Hallelujah.
The Raveonettes – Bang!
The Dirty Projectors & David Byrne – Knotty Pine
Neko Case – This Tornado Loves You
The xx – Islands
Matt & Kim – Lessons Learned
Chris Brown – I Can Transform Ya
Phoenix – Lisztomania
Weezer – (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
It's a Wednesday night and I'm on a thirty minute bike ride so I can go play some videogames in ...
(photo via) A disclaimer: I originally wrote this essay as part of a creative nonfiction class, working from David Foster Wallace's ...
These are some jams I liked a lot in 2009 and why. They are pretty typical and I am boring, but with respect blow me.
Oh, this crowd. My roommate and I are here because she called into the radio station and won tickets, and ...