Sure, I'm a little late to the game, but here are some of the songs that I really loved in 2009.
(7) "Scuby" - Little Wings. I came across this mild, mellow tune while listening to a terrific episode of All Songs Considered with Will Oldham as guest DJ
. I loved the gentle, whispery, lo-fi harmonies of this song, the meandering piano in the background, the hushed living room vibe. It was a perfect song to discover at the quiet beginning of last year.
(6) "Fiery Crash" - Andrew Bird. I know, I'm pulling a song from Andrew Bird's 2007 Armchair Apocrypha
album, when I should be paying homage to his 2009 Noble Beast
album. Somehow Armchair Apocrypha
slid past me when it was first released. But this was the year I rediscovered it. It is a very, very good album, and "Fiery Crash" is my favorite track. I love the spacey layers of strings, the driving tempo, and all the typical oddball Bird flourishes — jaunty whistles and cryptic lyrics about a passenger's last thoughts as their airplane goes down in flames.
(5) "Ahuvati" - Kaki King. This is probably the song on this list that none of my readers will have heard of. I encountered this gorgeous instrumental number in a podcast, and I liked it so much I had to find out what it was. This song became a quiet soundtrack to some of the more meditative moments of 2009. King is originally from Atlanta, and she is only 30 years old. I think she has years of good work ahead of her. If you like "Ahuvati," you may also enjoy "First Brain" off King's album ...Until We Felt Red.
This is beautiful, richly atmospheric music.
(4) "Down Low" - Teddy Thompson. Teddy Thompson is a fella who seems to have everything going for him. Son of folk music gods Richard and Linda Thompson, Teddy is young, talented, pedigreed and beautiful. He also collaborates frequently with my beloved Rufus Wainwright, which means I adore him by proxy. From 2007's Up Front and Down Low
album, this song evokes last call in a dusty roadhouse. The album is a solid collection of covers and country standards. I seem to be able to listen to this album on repeat without ever tiring of it. Even when Teddy is singing about heartbreak, he's doing it so beautifully that your faith in humanity is quietly restored.
(3) "Two Tongues" - The Swell Season. This was a big year for The Swell Season — their Strict Joy
album was released to great fanfare in October, triggering a string of sold-out performance dates across the country. "Two Tongues" really stood out for me on the album. Having been through a brief romance this year with someone I really enjoyed but did not trust, I was glad to encounter a song that reflected beautifully on that landscape.
(2) "Augustine" - Vienna Teng. Vienna Teng has a computer science degree from Stanford University. She is the only musician I am aware of who worked as a software engineer for Cisco before leaping into a full-time music career. That is impressive. This song, from her album Inland Territory,
thoroughly captivated me this year. I love its ringing open piano octaves and the big kick drums, and the lyrics, which hint at lost illusions and the pain that can accompany fresh starts.
(1) "Be Thankful For What You've Got" - William Devaughn. Released some 35 years ago, this is a beautiful, mellow, charming R&B song that has recently become a ghetto anthem.
Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac
Gangsta whitewalls, TV antennas in the back
You may not have a car at all
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall
Just be thankful for what you got.
In July, my brother's fiancée Ana gave me a magnificent mix CD that featured a glorious 7-minute version of this song. Over the July 4th holiday, I had the CD on constant play. The simple lyrics and Curtis Mayfield-esque groove of this song made it the most delightful discovery of 2009.
- - - - -
Here are some honorable mentions. (Maybe next year I'll work up the nerve to include the high-test pop/R&B/rap songs in the numbered list.)
"Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga. I have to mention this song here. Everyone is probably sick of hearing about Lady Gaga, but after really listening to this song, I started to appreciate the hype. There's something genuinely affecting about this song (not to mention the crazily brilliant video). Sure, it can be seen as song about domination and sadomasochism. In another sense, there's something haunting about the lyrics — is it profoundly authentic to tell a fresh new lover that I want "your love," "your ugly," "your disease"...? Isn't that what you end up getting, anyway?
"Daniel" - Bat for Lashes. The chord structure is lifted straight from Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon," but what a catchy number.
"Forever" - Chris Brown. Yes, I was one of hundreds of ignorant individuals who first discovered the song through the infamous wedding march video
. So infectious!
"Renegade" - Kings of Convenience. It's not the first time that Kings of Convenience has been mentioned in this year-end list. This song had me at the first line, "I'm letting go / to see if you hang on to me...." The rest of the album, Declaration of Dependence,
is all hushed harmonies and beautifully transparent guitar. If you've been desperately searching for Norway's answer to Simon & Garfunkel, search no more.
- - - - -
You know what's next - I hope you'll leave a comment telling me about the music you loved in 2009.
Labels: lists, music