Monday, December 21, 2009
I owe my contemporary awareness entirely to my Sirius satellite radio service. One of my player's features allows me to skip back to the beginning of a song and play it again. Maybe again and again. Maybe again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again.
Most of the songs below were ones I fell in love with at first listen. For five of the nine, I'd never heard the band before. Nothing makes a music lover happier than that moment of discovery and infatuation. It gives us hope for the future, or at least the present.
These top 9 tunes are in chronological order rather than order of preference, although the last one is also my favorite. Everyone should go out (or stay in) and buy XX by XX. Show the recording industry that a truly original sound can succeed.
Below the playlist are some bonus videos and my rambly, amateur music appreciator thoughts.
1. Dead Confederate - "The Rat"
A bit of a cheat, since it actually came out in 2008. But it didn't start getting major play until early 2009. It's Nirvana meets R.E.M. You can hear the original song in all its grungy goodness on the playlist below. Here's a video of them doing it acoustically on a street corner in Amsterdam, courtesy of the Amsterdam Acoustic series:
2. Shiny Toy Guns - "Ghost Town"
Also technically released in late 2008, it started getting a lot of airplay in February or March. It's the only tune I've ever downloaded as a ring tone, before realizing I can never hear my phone ring in a crowded room unless it sounds like a freaking PHONE.
Click the link above to see the very cool animated official "Ghost Town" video (it won't let me embed it here).
3. Bouncing Souls - "Gasoline" (Jan)
This was the first of twelve singles released this year to celebrate their twentieth anniversary. I couldn't find a good video of it, so just listen to it on the playlist. I find it really captures the (dis)spirit of 2009, and of Generation Xers dragging our moshingly energetic self-loathing into middle age. I sing the chorus at maximum volume:
Sedate me with anything
So I don't have to live with me
Tell me, tell me that I'm free
Kill me with everything
Until there's nothing left of me
Tell me, tell me that I'm free
Give me some gasoline.
4. Death Cab for Cutie - "Little Bribes"
This one grew on me. It's off their Open Door EP, stuff that didn't fit on Narrow Stairs. They were right to leave this off--it's much more upbeat. The live performance video I linked to also features "Cath," one of the songs that totally fits the brilliant, somber, emotionally cohesive Narrow Stairs.
5. Silversun Pickups - "Panic Switch"
This bass line could eat a horse. Listen to it on the playlist for best sound, then come back and space out to the video.
6. Cocktail Slippers - "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" (4.28)
When I first heard this on Little Steven's Underground Garage station*, I only caught the last, I'm not joking, twenty seconds. I proceeded to play those twenty seconds over and over (you can only rewind the portion of the song that's been playing since you tuned into that station--if you switch stations, the playback memory is wiped).
I later found out that Steven Van Zandt produced this record after hearing the Slippers' first album. So it has his Official Stamp of Cool in more ways than one. Playlist.com didn't have "St. Valentine's Massacre," only their more popular "Give it to Me," which also rocks.
*This channel alone makes Sirius a worthwhile addition to any music lover's life. Cool songs from every era. Real rock 'n' roll, with DJs who actually know their stuff. And where else can you hear a former E Street Band member and fake mobster spin records?
7. Green Day - "East Jesus Nowhere"
I'll talk about this amazing concert in my "Top 9 Moments of '09," but I had to share this live clip of Billie Joe Armstrong "saving" a child at their Chicago show (listen to the playlist for the full song). In the earliest performances of the song, he would just have the kids dance, but by this point, they were doing something much cooler:
8. The Raveonettes - "Last Dance"
When I heard the first single off the new CD by my favorite band (as of 2008's Lust Lust Lust), I wasn't overly impressed. It lacked the brain-blasting distortion I've been such a fan of lately. But I bought the CD anyway the day it came out (something I rarely do) and soon found myself singing this song all around the house. Here's a video of the Raveonettes performing it acoustically in their native Denmark:
9. XX - "Crystalised"
Last but first, my favorite song of the year. I was entranced the moment I heard it. It's rare that a new artist comes along that sounds completely different from anything that's come before. The vocals and instrumentation wind around each other in a jaw-dropping, mesmerizing way.
When I first heard them, their self-titled debut CD wasn't even available on iTunes, so I ordered the physical CD as an import from Amazon. I had to wait six weeks, because it sold out that fast. It was worth the wait.
And as a bonus, here's their Amsterdam Acoustic session.
and my favorite song on the CD, "Infinity" (not a real video, just audio with an image). It always makes me stop, pull out the laptop cooler to reduce the background hum, close my eyes, and just listen. It's so good it almost hurts.
Come back tomorrow for my Top 9 Books Read in 2009. Thanks for listening!