matt’s top albums and tracks of 2009
5. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
It’s not always a compliment to say of an album or band “I have no idea whatsoever how to describe this sound.” It is in this case, though. I mean, who the hell are these guys? What is this? Where did they come from? Who do they sound like? Who cares?
4. Hold Time by M. Ward
So so solid. Even though it’s been out for a number of months now, I still have a tough time ranking my favorite songs on this album. And ranking songs on albums isn’t something I always do, but in this case I think it’s a result of there being about four songs that always make me say “Oh yeah, this one has got to be my favorite of the bunch.”
3. Dark Night of the Soul by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse
Gritty, twisted, dark and funny. I think I remember David Lynch telling Scott Simon that Sparklehorse had many of these songs tucked away but unrecorded because Mark Linkous felt he didn’t have the right voice for them. If that’s true, that the voices here fit so perfectly with the songs totally validates Sparklehorse’s thinking.
2. Merriweather Post Pavillion by Animal Collective
I brought a lot of baggage to this one. The little I knew about Animal Collective (not much, but mostly influenced by being bored to death by the last Panda Bear album) made me think this would be over-thought, pretentious art rock. And it was hyped, to boot. Before I had heard it, I think I actually read a review of this album as introducing an entirely “new kind of music.” Praise like that, when attached to a band name like this and all of the preconceived notions I had coming in, was admittedly enough to make me judge a book by its cover.
But then the 2:30 mark of “In The Flowers” happened.
1. Midnight at the Movies by Justin Townes Earle
HONORABLE MENTIONS Dark Was The Night by Various Artists, March of the Zapotec & Realpeople: Holland by Beirut, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by Phoenix, The Fall by Norah Jones
10. “Gentle Hour” by Yo La Tango – This band had always bored me. But this track (from the amazing Dark Was the Night compilation) jumped up on the earbuds as I walked to Georgetown to renew my driver’s license early one sunny morning. Slayed me.
9. “Up From Below” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
8. “Jailbird” by M. Ward
7. “Laundry Room” by the Avett Brothers
6. “Daddy’s Gone” by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse featuring Nina Persson – The sleeper track with the beautiful chorus that rewards you on about the 6th listen of the album.
5. “They Killed John Henry” by Justin Townes Earle
4. “Percussion Gun” by White Rabbits – Winner of “Best Air Drum Song of the Year”
3. “Summertime Clothes” by Animal Collective
2. “My Night With The Prostitute From Marseilles” by Beirut – I recommend listening to this one jetlagged and exhausted in a part of the world about which you have no knowledge or expectations. On the ferry from Piraeus to Naxos, Greece, say.
1. “I Dreamed of My Old Lover” by Elvis Costello – Still not over that standup bass. This one’s ranked #1 because, of all of these songs, I think it’s the most timeless.
(an incomplete playlist can be found here)
… and other good stuff from 2009
BOOK The Road by Cormac McCarthy – Finally read this at the beginning of the year and it gutted me. I’ve heard mixed reviews of the movie, but I think that’s because some people have a hard time seeing the redeeming parts of the story. Which is understandable given the, you know, hopeless post-apocalyptic setting of cannibalistic craziness, death and overall misery.
FOOD The annual OysterFest at Hank’s Oyster Bar – $60 for all you can eat and drink at my favorite DC restaurant. I tackled 34 raw oysters and the bliss was totally worth the monetary and gastrointestinal cost. And yes, we kept count.
TV Top Gear from the BBC – Bloody brilliant show of car reviews, challenges and auto-related cross-country adventures. I’d never seen it until my vacation in Ireland this past summer, when rain kept me and my brothers locked in to our rented shepherd’s cottage for a few days. I am far from a motorhead– I don’t know the first thing about cars or about their inner workings. But, as with any other excellent programming, it doesn’t matter because they present it so well– beautiful film work, spot-on humor, easy-to-understand language, the whole nine. Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond are all hilarious and have off-the-chart “I’d like to get a beer with that guy” ratings. Now one of my favorite TV shows.
COUNTRY Switzerland – It was even more amazing than in my fantasies of living in a ski chalet in Wengen and skiing through 18 inches of fresh powder to work at the beer and music factory every day.