Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Song of the Year 2009

So, before we get started, let's be clear about something that I realize you already know:

I ain't much of a music critic. In fact, I don't have a heck of a lot of use for most music critics because they seem to get a bigger charge out of panning records than praising them. I'm short on time these days; all I really want is for you to tell me what's good that I might have missed out on.

So, I'm a little apprehensive about doing my second "year end list" post. Shit, I'm not even that good at this, much less endowed with anything but that same snarky-ass music snob attitude that I completely abhor in others...

All of that having been said, I've been giving a little thought to what my personal song of the year is. And don't read anything else into that title; this basically is just a slightly less dorky way of saying "My Favorite Song This Year".

I didn't have any sort of methodology for determining this. I tired to make sure that all the songs were more or less from this calendar year (or close to it), but that was the only rule. Otherwise, this is just me subjectively trying to figure out which songs captivated me the most this year. Nothing else.

With that disclaimer out of the way, here goes.

Honorable Mention:
singles By The Kings of Leon

I know we all want to hate them, but you have to give it to Kings of Leon this year. Its easy to forget that they were a well-loved "indie" band for a good five years or so before they broke in 2009, and much as the radio saturation was a turn-off, the trio of "Notion", "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody" was one of those miracles of hit-writing that's on par with U2 or Morning Glory-era Oasis.

I'm not giving any of those three songs the nod, but you all should know that I gave it some thought. Because those are three absolutely excellent singles, and my head is not yet so far up my ass that I can't hear it in them.

Second Runner Up:
Zero - The Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I fully admit that I expected the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to blow their load after their ridiculously excellent debut album, but I've been proven wrong.

I wasn't entirely sure if I liked the whole idea of this track when I first heard it. I even admit that I kind of dismissed it as foolish dabbling outside of their area of specialty. (Dude, "Fever to Tell" is what Danzig would have sounded like if he was a half Korean girl and the rest of the band went to liberal arts colleges. To hear such a talented rock band make such an effort to go electronic sort of irked me.)

But this fucking song stayed with me for months, eventually resuting in a November iTunes purchase that totally skewed my value of this track just in time for the blog. And timing is everything. Congratulations, Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

(Dumb video, BTW....sorry).

Runner Up # 1:
1901 - Phoenix

Disco-pop, electro-clash, synth-rock.....I can't keep track of what you call this stuff anymore.

But I sure wish that it had been around when I was 24. Because this song reminds me of nothing quite so much as drunkenly dancing all night with some girl you just met two hours ago...condifent that you would go home with her, but knowing that you'd be greatful for nothing more than a kiss and a phone number and a chance to see her again.

Before I get carried away, let's back up....

There's plenty to hate about this kind of music. Sometimes the synths are overbearing. Often, the songs sound like they were written by the bass player. The drums frequently are not actually drums.

And we should also take a moment to remember that this genre is particularly beloved by coked-up jackass hipster kids.

But goddamned if this isn't one of the most infectious choruses I heard this year.

This song has been sitting on me all year long (not helped at all by the no-longer-controversial decision to feature it during a high-rotation automobile advertisement). And all year long it never really wore off. I'd be shocked if I wasn't still hearing that bouncy-jangly-yelpy thing in my head this time next year.

Song of the Year: 2009
Crooked Head - Fucked Up

Only a total asshole would choose a hardcore song as his song of the year. But Crooked Head put me on my ass this year.

I have always had an "emperor has no clothes" attitude towards hardcore - an unpopular opinion here in old D.C.

Regardless as to if it was the self-riteousness of Minor Threat or the homoerotic macho nonsense of the CroMags, I just never understood the big deal over a genre of music that is largely defined by shouting your balls off over thin arrangements and rudimentary songcraft.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I came across Fucked Up.

Perhaps not a hardcore band in the truest sense (whatever the hell that means), Fucked Up immediately impressed me not only with the majesty of their arrangements on "The Chemistry of Common Life", but also their good humor and their abundant intelligence - all done without sacrificing the power of loud drums, overdriven guitars, insane tempos, or German Shepherd-styled vocals.

Of course, because I'm a giant drama queen, there is naturally a deeper reason that this was my song this year.

This was a year what I found out what it's like to be on the outs in the corporate machine. And the truth is that it doesn't matter how much you tell yourself that you won't be defined by your job; when you get yourself in a situation where no one at work wants to put up with you anymore, its a lonely place to be.

And its a very worthless feeling to have.

And sometimes you have to take a nice long look at yourself and figure out who you are and what you're doing with yourself.

This song was a great comfort to me during those weeks in October and Novemeber, when I was trying to transform into the comeback kid. When I was trying to correct course. When I was working to earn back my spot as a part of the team.

But it also was a time when I looked around the office and made a few decisions about who I am as an individual, and what I did not want to become, and how I was going to try harder to strike that balance.

I pulled it out with something of a grand slam in late November, by the way. Something of a redemption, I don't mind telling you. And as good as that felt, I never forgot that they're all just dogs fighting over a bone.

And I'm going to live, and I'm going to leave it alone.

6 comments:

Neopolitan said...

great choice for #1. i saw fucked up this year in china. i requested crooked head and they played it! totally made my night. this album is killer.

love the blog. great idea.

t-o-n said...

Thanks for the comment! Where in China were you; I'm planning a trip to Shangai in 2010, but people keep telling me that the music is much better in Beijing.

Neopolitan said...

The scene is definitely more punk/rock up in Beijing. Shanghai has some punk groups, but they lean more toward the indie side of things. It's an interesting and burgeoning scene.

I'm in Shanghai. Feel free to email me directly if you have any questions.

t-o-n said...

I actually can't access your profile, but I definitely have a some questions for you!

Neopolitan said...

neil(dot)yeung(At)gmail

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