you can’t even begin to know how many times i’ve told myself “i told you so”
At any rate, and without further ado, let’s see how 2009 stacked up.
You Can’t Even Begin to Know How Many Times I’ve Told Myself, “I Told You So”: 2009 In Review
Top Ten Albums of 2009, Chronologically
1. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (February 17)
Former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell’s second solo release was one hell of a notch above 2007’s Sirens of the Ditch. The perfect combination of Southern storytelling, whiskey-soaked blues, and brokenheartedness, this album rambles and unwinds with the laziest of Sunday afternoons.
Standout track: “Streetlights”
2. Bell x1, Blue Lights on the Runway (March 3)
“The Great Defector” hooked me the first time I heard it on the radio. It was part Talking Heads, part The Cars, and totally amazing. This album has techno-dance tracks, revisionist histories, and gorgeous romances. It’s a bit different from Bell x1’s older albums, but no less enjoyable.
Standout track: “Light Catches Your Face”
3. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Beware (March 17)
Will Oldham is rather a new addition to my musical library, and with his ever-changing monikers and his vast backlist, I didn’t really get into this album until a month or two ago. Will’s voice is scratchy and unpolished, like sandpaper on hardwood, but his melodies are lush and folky. Though he’s from Louisville, BPB sounds like the Nashville I know and adore.
Standout track: “I Don’t Belong to Anyone”
4. The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love (March 24)
When this album was released, I claimed it was going to be my album of the year. It damn near killed me the first time I heard it, and seeing it played live from start to finish pretty much finished me off. Yet, much as I still love it (and the band that recorded it), the rock opera schtick wore me out after the first dozen listens.
Standout track: “The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)”
5. Great Lake Swimmers, Lost Channels (March 31)
When Libby showed up at my apartment in May with a copy of this album, I remembered exactly why I used to listen to “Moving Pictures, Silent Films” over and over in high school. This album is by turns poppy and ethereal, but always beautiful. Tony Dekker’s voice is a ghost in a Canadian fog and his lyrics are the lighthouses on the shores of the Great Lakes–bright, eerie, and steady.
Standout track: “Unison Falling Into Harmony”
6. Passion Pit, Manners (May 17)
The first time I heard “Sleepyhead”, I told Libby that Passion Pit sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks ate MGMT. “I’m supposed to like this?” I asked. It took a few minutes, but when I finally got used to the bubble gum and the acid and the ridiculousness, I had to admit that I was inadvertently taken in by them. They might be the most incongruous band in my library, but they just make me so damn happy.
Standout track: “To Kingdom Come”
7. Pete Yorn, Back & Fourth (June 23)
Ah, Pete. His fourth studio album and he’s still the same sad, sweet songwriter he was on MusicForTheMorningAfter. So some of his lyrics might be contrived and so his chords are kind of generic, but something about Pete Yorn still tugs my heart. Back & Fourth was, if nothing else, a significant improvement over Nightcrawler.
Standout track: “Social Development Dance”
8. The Avett Brothers, I & Love & You (September 29)
Banjos! Brothers! Allusions to The Wizard of Oz! This North Carolina band does it all. And they do it with a perfect combination of country and punk, of folk and pop. Some tracks made me laugh, but a few of them made me cry. And my heart almost broke when their Halloween show in Nashville sold out.
Standout track: “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”
9.The Mountain Goats, The Life of the World to Come (October 6)
Jesus. (And I do mean that literally.) For an album based on 12 different verses of the Bible, TLOTWTC is surprisingly accessible. And frankly, it’s one of the most amazing records I’ve ever heard, not just in 2009. John Darnielle is a master of interpretation, bringing love, grief, self-destruction, and redemption to these verses without ever preaching. This album is both a struggle with and a hope in God, and Darnielle tackles both sides with grace and delicacy.
Standout track: “1 John 4:16”
10. The Swell Season, Strict Joy (October 27)
I doubt anything could come as a more perfect follow up to Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s Once soundtrack than this album. Strict Joy follows a couple through a rocky relationship and out of a breakup. Glen and Markéta’s voices both compliment and distract from each other’s, but theirs is a unique and undeniably beautiful sound. I’ve said it before, and I’m not ashamed to admit it now, but I’d make out with the sound of Glen Hansard’s voice if it were possible. I love this album in its entirety.
Standout track: “High Horses”
Best EP: Death Cab for Cutie, The Open Door EP
A very simple, but quintessentially Death Cab follow up to Narrow Stairs, this EP has demo versions of “Talking Bird” and “Grapevine Fires”, and the added benefit of four new, brilliant songs. Oh, Ben Gibbard.
Yr Book Sucked, Yr Movie Sucked, But Yr Soundtrack Was Damn Good: New Moon, The Original Soundtrack
Yes, I am admitting this. Why half the bands on this soundtrack agreed to contribute, I’m not sure. But it’s quite a good compilation. Standouts include Thom Yorke’s “Hearing Damage”, Eskimo Joe’s “Thunderclap”, and Bon Iver and St. Vincent’s “Roslyn”. (I’m a teenage girl on the inside.)
Best Collaboration: Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson, Breakup
This album was several years in the making, and when it finally came out, I was skeptical at first. I’m not big on the actresses-who-think-they-can-sing thing, so I didn’t want Scarlett Johansson messing around with one of my favorite musicians. But I was pleasantly surprised. Scarlett’s voice is smoky, and very 1920s-club-scene. The songs are fun and perky and, hell, if all break ups sounded like this album, they might not be such terrible things.
Standout track: “Wear and Tear”
Most Failarious Follow Up Album: Muse, The Resistance
I was not aware that Freddie Mercury had returned from the dead. This album sounds like…well, Muse. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing on its own, because they are quite creative and fun under normal circumstances. But the problem with The Resistance is that they’ve gone bipolar. Is this a political record? Or is this a tribute to Queen? I’ve yet to figure that out. Muse’s standard apocalypse-now stylings are still here, but it’s no longer two-lovers-against-the-world a la “Invincible”; this time, it’s all of us against the big, bad “United States of Eurasia”. And that is not nearly as sexy. Failarious or not, this follow up won’t stop me from seeing them in Nashville on March 15 next year. I’ve already bought tickets for my sister and me.
Best Rediscovery: Death Cab for Cutie, Transatlanticism (2003)
Seeing Death Cab in May reminded me that they weren’t always the band of “I Will Possess Your Heart”. Before that, they had another eight-minute song called “Transatlanticism” off an album that never gets old. I rediscovered that album this year, after letting it stay hidden under Plans and Narrow Stairs for far too long. Every single song on Transatlanticism is solid gold and classic Death Cab. Ben Gibbard was at his lyrical best; nothing he’s put out since has come close. After listening to it over and over again, it’s harder for me to appreciate who Death Cab has evolved into over the past six years.
Standout track: “Transatlanticism”
Most Shamelessly Nepotistic Musical Plug: The Minor Leagues, This Story is Old, I Know, But it Goes On
And you can read all about it here.
Standout track: “A Chance Encounter (In Cincinnati Tonight)”
Most Epic Musical Purchase: Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde on vinyl
This album is certainly on my top ten favorite albums of all time list, but it might just be my very favorite album of all time. And I found it in the new arrivals section at Grimey’s and snatched it up as fast as I could. I even went as Bob Dylan for Hallween because of it.
Feel-Good Song of the Year: Bell x1, “The Great Defector”
Hands down, the most consistently enjoyable song of the year.
Most Anticipated 2010 Release: Marah
Their as-yet-untitled, as-yet-unfinalized, as-yet-unofficially-happening album they’ve been claiming has been in the works since February. We’ve seen one single (“Put ‘Em in the Graveyard”) that may or may not be an actual single and not a peep otherwise. Dave Bielanko wrote earlier this year that there would be more banjo. I’m eagerly awaiting confirmation.
Best Gig of the Year: Marah Part I, The Basement, Nashville (February 21)
Part I of my four-part Marah roadtrip in 2009, in which I drank too much, danced on stage, kissed Dave Bielanko, and heard “Round Eye Blues” live for the first time.
Best Live Music Moment of the Year: The Gaslight Anthem, Bogarts, Cincinnati (September 9)
Seeing The Gaslight Anthem with my Scottish BFF at the venue where I spent most of my adolescence was damn near perfect. We screamed along to the lines we loved, but mostly, we came to dance with the girls with the stars in their eyes. And it was awesome.
Most Epic Live Music Meltdown: The Mountain Goats, Mercy Lounge, Nashville (November 21)
A combination of gin, wardrobe malfunctioning, and a bad day in general all led up to my most poignant and ridiculous meltdown of the year. The show was sold out, I was too short to see, and just about every song John Darnielle played was like taking a punch to the gut. There was “Genesis 30:3” and “Deuteronomy 2:10” and I heard “Love Love Love” for the first time. And then he played “This Year” and “No Children” back to back and that really did me in, because I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.
Gig of the Decade: The Decemberists, Ryman Auditorium, Nashville (September 27)
I have said all I can possibly say about this gig.
Band of the Year: The Decemberists
They released a new album, I tattooed them on my body, saw them live, and got to hear one of their new songs. Plus, Colin Meloy actually tried to read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.
What a long, strange year it’s been.
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Tags: 2009, albums, Cincinnati, gigs, lists, music, Nashville, year in review