Notable Emissions for 2009…
No, I’m not talking about the carbon kind. Nor am I referring to that of the nocturnal variety.
Don't worry, that's not the nocturnal variety
Rather, I am now tackling my Notable Emissions (er… Omissions) of 2009, the music that couldn’t quite claw its way into my Top 10 but left an impression on me nonetheless. I will also tackle a handful of letdown releases and throw in my song of the year for good measure.
I’ll start by echoing the enthusiastic sentiment from my cousin, Caleb, with regards to the output of quality rock music in this decade. It surely was a Golden Age of sorts. I would also, though, like to complicate the issue by stating that mainstream rock music has been functioning at an all-time-low this decade with nu metal, generic Coldplay sound-alikes, and cheap rap-rock in the vein of Linkin Park. I believe that it is primarily in the underground that creativity has been flourishing, and much of that has been in reaction to the “overground.”
As for 2009 itself, I must admit to mixed feelings. On one hand, I was pleased as punch to see high-quality pop and rock records invading the Billboard charts, such as Phoenix, Metric, Grizzly Bear, and Silversun Pickups. At the same time, though, a handful of the ‘indie’ powerhouses disappointed me with their efforts this year–that means YOU, Decemberists and Antony and Neko and M. Ward and Camera Obscura and Andrew Bird! In some cases, it felt like overambition and for many, it felt more like underambition. It’s not that Andrew Bird or Neko Case necessarily took a big step back but, rather, one small, nearly unnoticeable, step to the side.
So, without further ado, here are tk’s Pre-Top-10 Categories.
SONG OF THE YEAR
HONORABLE MENTION: Number 11 through 20 in alphabetical order.
PROMISING RELEASES FROM UP AND COMING ARTISTS: Serving all of your needs for vicarious verbosity.
THE JURY IS STILL OUT: I’ve heard good things but haven’t spent enough QT with it yet.
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Panic Switch” by Silversun Pickups: For me, listening to KROQ in L.A. is like going to the dentist (no need for elaboration on that simile). However, during one of my trips to the dentist in April, Dr. Roq forewent the flouride procedure and pulled out a fine wine from behind the counter to share a glass with me. That’s right, “Panic Switch” invaded the radio in the spring-time and society as a whole has been better off because of it.
The Silversun Pickups: cooler than your Mom
Akron Family – Set Em Wild Set Em Free: The sound of a loose band getting tighter while still boldly exploring country, folk, and jam territory.
Balmorhea – All is Wild, All is Silent: An instrumental quintet from Austin, Texas, playing acoustic post-rock blended with classical sophistication.
Benjamin Gibbard – One Fast Move or I’m Gone: An overlooked, underrated tribute to Kerouac from an artist whose primary band (Death Cab for Cutie) has fallen into a rut. Place these songs next to Balmorhea’s in a playlist and you’ve got a perfect soundtrack to the landscape of the American West.
Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest: These boys may not be edgy or particularly groundbreaking, but it’s hard to deny the magic and charm infused in these tracks, as well as the vocal-trading finesse that serves to keep things interesting.
Knaan – Troubadour: A genuine, inspiring release from a genuine and inspiring singer/rapper from Somalia who NPR is calling the new Bob Marley.
Leslie and the Badgers – Roomful of Smoke: This debut from one of L.A’s numerous hipster-country outfits is more than just Laurel Canyon throwback hype–it’s chock full of timeless songs of heartbreak sung powerfully by Leslie Stevens.
Mew – No More Stories: An album pulsating with the kind of precious, dark, fantasy mystique that could only emerge from the depths of Scandinavia.
Morrissey – Years of Refusal: I’ll spare you yet another comment on how some old guy who thrived in a prior decade has still got it–instead, I’ll just say that this muscular release is quite possibly Morrissey’s best since 1994’s “Vauxhall and I” (despite a few too many moments of tired studio instrumentation).
Patrick Watson – Wooden Arms: His creative impulses are producing mostly positive results so far, though he can’t seem to build much of a fanbase around this brand of head-spinning baroque pop.
POS – Never Better: Punk-influenced rap (or is it rap-influenced punk?) from Minneapolis musician, Stefon Alexander, is dripping with a sense of urgency.
PROMISING RELEASES FROM UP AND COMING ARTISTS
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Family of the Year – Songbook
Here We Go Magic
The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
DISAPPOINTMENTS (that’s right… there’s 10! Ack!)
Air – Love 2
Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career
The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
Girls – Album
M. Ward – Hold Time
Mount Eerie – Wind’s Poem
Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
The Swell Season – Strict Joy
THE JURY IS STILL OUT
Bat for Lashes: Two Suns
Dry Spells: Too Soon for Flowers
Foreign Born: Person to Person
Kid Cudi: Man on the Moon
Noah & the Whale: The First Days of Spring