Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Year In Music (2009)

When the Internet was going mainstream and people started blogging all the time, everyone was touting how it was the new model for music. Forget record labels. Ordinary people could create buzz for a favorite artist on their personal blog or if they were a musician, they could post their songs on it and get people to listen as soon as they finished recording a song. As a concept, I liked the enthusiasm… and naiveté. The problem with that idea was that if there was no record label, how do you know which of the hundreds of thousands or millions of websites to check out? You could spend all day just looking for sites and sampling music. If you have no job, that sounds like fun but for other people that doesn’t seem practical. Now, I’m not a fan of record labels underpaying artists, keeping their copyrights, dropping them after one flop and muzzling their creativity, but I did like the fact that labels acted as a filter for the crap bands and songs and tried to promote what they felt people would like, and buy. If you didn’t like Warner Brothers’ mainstream pop acts you would buy stuff from the Sub Pop or Wax Trax labels. Nowadays, who knows where you should go, especially for undiscovered bands. Yeah, you can check out the music credits for teen-skewing shows like Gossip Girl, 90210 or Life Unexpected. You could listen to iTunes commercials or you could scour blogs and websites. Or you could just listen to me.

For the last ten years or so, I’ve been compiling a mix CD of my favorite songs of each year. Up until now I’ve just been sending the CD to some friends each year and have never put my opinions out into the wider blogosphere. Of course, the number of people reading this blog is probably much smaller than my circle of friends, which just confirms my record label lament above about the difficulty of finding a reliable source of good music. Still, I like the concept of sharing my favorites with other people so I’m posting the tracking listing for my 2009 CD and for the first time I’ll include some commentary about each track. This was inspired by Juliana Hatfield, who posted a song-by-song commentary about her newest CD. Granted it was four months in advance of the CD, which comes out this month, so I have no idea if the comments provide any insight into the songs but I like the idea of explaining why I enjoy a particular song. (Plus, I just did the blog-buzz thing and talked up an artist I like. I’m sure Juliana Hatfield will now become a major star- the next Colbie Caillat or Lily Allen.) So here are the songs I liked the most for 2009 (or at least the 22 songs that could fit onto the CD) followed by a list of my favorite albums of the year, the most disappointing albums, and all the CDs I listened to this year. So now you have an idea of what you should be listening to, at least according to my eclectic and sometimes questionable taste. Welcome to the new age of music promotion!

Little Boots- New In Town: After seeing this British singer Little Boots raved about in lots of music magazines, I downloaded a song using a free song credit that I had. I was enchanted from the first few seconds. (Since it is a British singer, I can use the word ‘enchanted’ in the description without sounding excessively fey.) The sound is a bit fuzzed out for a pop song and the chorus is a kind of chant-like. It reminded me a bit of Kylie Minogue and you can never hear too much Kylie, even if it isn’t really Kylie. I then bought the whole album and realized I had been subject to a little bait-and-switch. The first two songs, New In Town and Earthquake, were the only ones in the electro-pop style. The rest a more typical pop style songs but I liked them as well. Neither this song nor any others on the album were big hits in the U.S. although several should have been. I found myself humming the chorus to Mathematics and Symmetry for days and even weeks after hearing them. I started the CD with this one because it was unusual and fun but also because it couldn’t possibly follow the next song.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Zero: This song was mind-blowing. It was totally original, catchy and offbeat. You have likely heard this song on the radio so I don’t need to go into a lot of depth discussing it. I was surprised though that I liked it because I absolutely hated Maps, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs big breakthrough. It was dull and downbeat and ballad-y. So when it was on lots of critics best-of-the-year lists, I figured I’d never need to buy anything from the YYYs. Kind of the same way I figured I’d never need to buy any Coldplay after hearing the whiny, drippy boring song Yellow. But then Coldplay put out Speed Of Sound and a couple other good songs so I bought Viva La Vida and liked it and the YYYs put out Zero and I bought their album. For once, an acclaimed album deserves the praise. Zero was a great song and so were several others, like Heads Will Roll and Dragon Queen. This song is also proof that I’m not drawn to music by female performers because of their looks. I think Karen O is a bit gawky and plain. She’s no Tyler Swift. Then again, Tyler isn’t a real glamour-puss either. She looks like a cute vampire, or maybe Renee Zellwegger’s kid sister.

Lady Gaga- Summer Boy: By now everyone knows about Lady Gaga and has heard her big hits. When I do my CD, I don’t usually put on the big hits because everyone has already heard them and already gotten sick of them. I want to put on things that are good but mostly unknown so you can discover something new and exciting. This isn’t a “greatest hits” CD. It’s a “best of” CD, and that’s an important distinction. Sometimes the big hits suck and other songs are much more artistically successful. In this case though, I also loved her hits but I’m sick of hearing them right now so I declare a moratorium on them. Also I’m a bit irritated that she had four number one songs from the album- Poker Face, Just Dance, Paparazzi and Love Game. Lady Gaga has now had more number one songs than the Kinks. Does that seem fair? Think of all the great songs the Kinks have had- Lola, All Day And All Of The Night, Come Dancing, You Really Got Me, Sunny Afternoon. Guess how many of those hit # 1? Zero. Their biggest hit was the # 6 showing for Come Dancing.

That means Lady Gaga has an infinitely greater amount of #1s than the Kinks. That itself isn’t so bad since I like several of her songs and it’s okay that Madonna has 13 #1 songs, including the awful “Music”, but it also means that Milli Vanilli has more chart-toppers than the Kinks and that isn’t right. According to the public, “Blame It On the Rain” is better than “Tired Of Waiting For You” or “State Of Confusion”. Whitesnake has a number one song. Whitesnake. When they come up for eligibility in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, do you think the geniuses behind “Slow & Easy” and “Here I Go Again” will get voted in? No but they can claim they were bigger than the Kinks. Some other performers with a number one song are Jennifer Lopez (She has 4! Can you name any of them? Do you like more than two of them?), Puff Daddy (5), Bare Naked Ladies, Rick Dees (you know, “Disco Duck”), Bon Jovi (5), Sheena Easton, The Escape Club, Guns N Roses, Heart, Wham/George Michael (10 #1s. Yes, 10.), The Monkees (3), New Kids On The Block (3) and Michael Sembello (Who? Oh- the theme from Flashdance.) Speaking of The Who, their biggest hit was the #9 “I Can See For Miles”. Even though their SuperBowl show didn’t prove it, they deserve better too. (So did the Colts. That onsides kick by the Saints was an announcement that they couldn’t play the Colts straight up. They had to resort to sanctioned cheating.) “The Macarena” has spent more weeks at number one than The Kinks and The Who combined. Now you know why I sometimes weep spontaneously. It’s The Macarena and what it says about our country. I could live with it if it was just Whitesnake or the Monkees. At least The Monkees had songs written by Neil Diamond and Carole King.

That’s just from randomly flipping through my Top 40 hits book. No wonder some people argue that rock is dead. Heck, Jessica Simpson has a number three hit song so she also was more successful than the Kinks. Sigh… Luckily these days, I just pay attention to the music and not the charts otherwise I’d really get dejected. The public is good about finding some stupid hit and then repeating it until no one wants to hear it anymore. Have you listened to “Who Let The Dogs Out” lately? That’s why I put Summer Boy on this CD. You’ve heard all Gaga’s hits but not this breezy, fun little ditty from her debut album. It’s totally unlike her hits, which sound a bit robotic and edgy. I doubt you will ever hear it on the radio now because radio programmers are onto her next album, the Fame Monster EP which also has some good things. So no, I didn’t put on Just Dance or Poker Face, which are good songs but you know those by heart. Let’s give some other song a chance. I also have a feeling that next year I will be saying the same thing about Fame Monster’s song “Teeth”. Also, while I have your attention, go buy a Kinks greatest hits album. Something that covers them from the 60’s thru the 80’s.

Dean Martin- I Will: As soon as I got over the fact that Columbia House Records folded despite my two decades of my monetary support, the BMG music club decided to go belly-up as well. No more “8 CDs for a penny!” Before it folded though, I had a chance to redeem some of my accumulated points for free CDs. There weren’t too many things left to get that that I didn’t already own though so for the heck of it, I got a Dean Martin collection. I wanted to see if he deserved to be famous for something other than being Jerry Lewis’ movie foil or the drunken guy from Cannonball Run. I was impressed. The album had some good stuff. Of course the first song on the collection was That’s Amore, a song I hate (You know it. The lyrics are “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.”). From there though, it got a lot better, with Ain’t That A Kick In The Head, Mambo Italiano, Sway and the song included here- I Will. He gives an earnest, yearning performance that melts your heart. You know it has to be a great song because it’s a ballad and I like it.

Tony Orlando- To Wait For Love: I finally got the Burt Bacharach box set. It had been out for about eight years but I couldn’t convince myself to get it until now because it was $50 and most of the songs were things I had already but in versions by different people. See, Burt is mainly a songwriter. Every now and then, he’ll do the singing himself but it’s pretty excruciating when he does. It’s much better to hear Dionne Warwick sing “Walk On By” or have Tom Jones do “What’s New Pussycat”. His songs are so good though that lots of people have covered them. Think of the song I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself. What do you consider the definite version? The first person to perform it? That would be Tommy Hunt. The one who had the biggest success with it? That’s Jackie Deshannon. The one who had the most fun with it? That’s Cameron Diaz doing a karaoke version in My Best Friend’s Wedding. Others who covered it are Dionne Warwick, Elvis Costello and Smokey Robinson. How’s that for diversity? I finally found the box set on a used CD website for about $20 so I snapped it up. Some of the songs are revelations. As much as I’ve been talking up Bacharach, he had even more good songs than I realized. Who’d have thought that I’d love a Gene Pitney song or a Tony Orlando song that didn’t involve tying yellow ribbons or knocking three times? I never knew Orlando was a crooner. The lyrics are what get me though- it’s like he’s singing directly to me “To wait for love is just to waste your life away.” I’m feeling that way a lot these days. Yes, it’s a ballad but it’s about emotion, not about vocal gymnastics, and the lyrics by Hal David are touching although I’m not so fond of having Tony Orlando sing to me to “press your lips to mine”. Still, great song, great performance.

Burt Bacharach- Don't Go Breaking My Heart: I just love the tempo and mood of this song. Burt knows how to convey longing and heartbreak better than just about anyone. Burt can make heartache sound breathtakingly gorgeous, like he does on this song- one of the rare one’s he sang himself and done well on. As a kid, a Bacharach/David song actually gave me suicidal thoughts. In third grade, when I first heard “Windows Of The World” during the school play (I was “Soldier # 2”) the mood of the song and the bleakness of the lyrics made me wonder what was the point of life if there is so much heartbreak and sorrow ahead of me. Luckily, I got over that but ever since then, just thinking about the chorus “The windows of the world are covered with rain, where is the sunshine we once knew?” depresses me. That song was on this set and I listened to it and got depressed again. Luckily, the rest of the songs were less dangerous. I wept, I laughed and I hummed along through all three CDs and just wished there was more I could get. All three of these last songs are retro songs but they are good and deserve to be heard, even if they are “old.” It’s not like I was listening to these as a kid or teenager so it’s the old guy getting defensive about music from “my days”. Good music needs to be heard. Just don’t play it for third graders- they might not be able to handle it yet.

Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs- You're So Vain: I think these two feel the same way I do. Sweet and Hoffs (from the Bangles) have now done two collections of songs from the 60’s and 70’s. The first one covered lesser-known 60’s gems and this one covers 70’s songs. I don’t like this collection as much as the first. This one has more popular tunes, with fewer unknown treasures, so it was more of a karaoke album because they were fairly faithful to the original songs. I think the biggest problem was that I wanted different vocals on the songs. If a guy did the vocals on the original, I wanted Susanna Hoffs to sing on the cover. If it was a female singer, than Matthew Sweet should have done it. That would give a different take to the song and open it up a bit more. I especially didn’t want to hear Sweet sing on Hello It’s Me because he can’t do better than Todd Rundgren did- his voice isn’t good enough and he doesn’t do a radical revision of the arrangement. Hoffs would have brought something more interesting to it. If I was him though, I would want to do the lead vocals too because it is such a good song. The song I’m putting on this CD does violate this preference but Hoffs’ vocals give it an interesting sound and makes me momentarily forget about Carly Simon. I hope they do another Under The Covers album but would that be an 80’s album? What lost treasures could they pull from that era?

The Sleepy Jackson- You Needed More: I got their last album because I’d heard a great song on a compilation CD. When Tower Records was going out of business, their prices got marked down every week or two during their sell-off phase. I went to two different locations a couple of times to buy stuff and during their final month, I could pick up almost anything still in stock for about $3. For that price, I could take a chance on a lot of stuff so I picked up this album even though the previous one only had a couple good songs. Just this song alone was worth the price though. It’s quirky, moody and totally absorbs you. It doesn’t sound like anything on the radio right now. You are immersed in the sound. There are several other good songs on the Personality album as well. This is the stunner though.

John Legend- Satisfaction: I’ve used the word “mood” several times already when describing a song and here’s another one where it applies. John Legend is a smooth singer but his best songs work because of the songwriting and the atmosphere of the songs rather than his singing. The delivery of his words is more important than the technical aspects of the voice. Of course, he is talking about sex and romance, like he does in pretty much every song of his, but the way he sings it would seduce anyone.

Amy MacDonald- Mr. Rock & Roll: I heard this song on my XM/Sirius radio before the cigarette lighter power supply died and I went back commercial radio. I like the tempo of it- a jaunty mid-tempo- and the lyrics are a nice scathing examination of fame and narcissism. The rest of the album is more folk-y but on this song and two others, the style really works.

Beyonce- Single Ladies: Okay, here’s a big hit, finally. Even though I want to highlight undiscovered songs here, I had to put this on here because I love this song and so does everyone else in all of America. You couldn’t escape this song even though it came out last year. Not only was it all over the radio, it was in Glee and about a dozen other television shows and movies. It still sticks in my head each time I hear it, kind of a female version of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy. A great beat. Stupid lyrics but an infectious beat. I was going to follow this song with an old one by Was (Not Was) called “Shake Your Head” because it had equally stupid lyrics and the tempo of the song was comparable to Beyonce. Unfortunately, when I decided on the final CD track listing, it was four seconds longer than the 80 minutes of space available so something had to go. I deleted Was (Not Was) because it was a kitschy fun song rather than a hidden gem. It’s the same reason I didn’t include Men Without Hat’s Safety Dance even though I’ve been grooving to it all year. I still encourage you to listen to both of those songs though.

Franz Ferdinand- No You Girls: You don’t really need both these guys and the Killers- just do a combined album. They always put out albums around the same time as each other and their singles are often indistinguishable from each other. Quick- which of them did Ulysses and which did Spaceman? If you put together the best songs from each, you would have one excellent album instead of two okay albums. It’s not just them either. I had this same thought several times this year when I was listening to box sets and compilations from Poco, America, Steely Dan and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Aside from their hit singles they song exactly alike. I have no idea how that is possible because if you hear a Steely Dan song like Peg or The Fez, it sounds nothing like Horse With No Name or Ventura Highway by America. The singles have such a distinct sound. If you put on some of the album tracks though, like America’s Muskrat Love or Poco’s Indian Summer, they sound exactly like an album cut on a Steely Dan album. I never would have guessed that Steely Dan could have sounded like CS&N. Not only that, they aren’t very memorable either. There is a reason you don’t know many America songs that weren’t hits. The non-hits are pleasant muddles that sound like half-finished songs. I guess that explains why some bands are mostly known as singles artists- they can’t find the magic in every song. Franz Ferdinand found it on this one though- a throbbing, effervescent song.

Placebo- For What It's Worth: Placebo is one of my favorite bands but they only do an album every three or four years so I have high expectations every time they release something. The last one was pretty weak, for them, so it was nice to see that this new one was a bit of a comeback. This song is not a cover of the Buffalo Springfield song, by the way. It’s a driving change of pace for them. Whereas in the past, a lot of their songs worked because of their mood or an interesting guitar part, this one works because of the melody. They don’t go for their normal cacophonous drone and instead they write some catchy songs. You could actually (Dare I say it?) dance to some of these songs. It might be a bit of a mosh rather than a swing dance but for Placebo, that is a radical move. There are five or six comparable songs on the album. I am a bit disappointed that they stole a lyric from Juliana Hatfield though- “A heart that hurts is a heart that works”- and uses it as the basis for a whole song, but aside from that I was quite pleased with the album and this song in particular. Also, for this compilation CD, we are no longer in the past. The last few things have been fresh new songs and the rock stuff instead of the pop stuff. Which leads to…

Muse- Starlight: I actually heard this two years ago and kept waiting for either a follow-up song or for the album to be cheap enough to buy for possibly one song. I finally caved in this year after their next album came out. The rest of the album is good but this is the best song on it. There isn’t much to say about the song- it is a straightforward rock & roll song that lodges itself in your brain.

U2- Magnificent: I feel bad for U2. They are a great band and have done a lot of stuff I love but I wasn’t a fan of their latest album. It was too downbeat, too slow and not very memorable. It sounded like background music for when I did laundry rather than anthemic music for changing the world, which is what they usually deliver. I know they tried for something different here and I’ll admit that I didn’t “get” the album, partly because I don’t usually look at the lyrics too closely, but this particular song was worth excavating from the muddle. It has a good Edge guitar part, a melody worth singing along to and a good message as well.

The Lemonheads- Waiting Around To Die: This is a complete change of pace for the Lemonheads (just Evan Dando for the most part). You could perform this album in a coffeehouse with an acoustic guitar, drummer and backup singer but it works. All the songs are covers but you probably haven’t heard any of them before unless you are a fan of disparate cult favorites like GG Allin and Leonard Cohen. Sometimes you need to cleanse the palate of all the over-produced, Auto-Tuned songs on the airwaves. A lot of the songs on this collection sound like murder ballads so not only is the sound different, the lyrics are too. The Lemonheads are ready to start a new phase hopefully. Their last period was the “after Juliana Hatfield” phase, which came after their successful period- the “Juliana Hatfield” phase of three of four albums she appeared on. I don’t know if Dando can still write a good song though- this covers album is a dodge- showing his musical rather than his writing skills.

M Ward- Never Had Nobody Like You: I loved the She & Him album from last year and since Ward’s latest solo album got good reviews, I decided to buy it. It didn’t hurt that Zooey Deschanel also appears on one of the songs. This one in fact. It sounds like a lost track from She & Him. The rest of the album is just as good although slightly different in style- more like a 50’s rockabilly album. Now I might have to get the Monsters Of Folk album to see what else he can do. Full disclosure- I did buy the She & Him album originally because I adore Zooey Deschanel. She only plays three characters (1- Quirky romantic interest, 2- Spaced out, wide eyed prop, 3- Sarcastic, spunky best friend) but she nails them all, even though I hate character # 2 (for an example, see The Happening). So in this case I did get a female performers album because I liked the girl and the girl’s looks, but I’m glad I did it because it was an amazing and offbeat album, an anti-Britney album. If you like the M Ward song, get the She & Him album too.

Dandy Warhols- Now You Love Me: I think all my favorite artists have staged artistic comebacks this year. The Warhols had been in a slump lately but they finally started playing to their strengths and returning to their signature sound. I don’t need them to change styles- who needs another band that sound like Poco and Steely Dan album cuts? I need them to do what they do best- droning, groove-oriented rock. They find the essence of the song and play it until they’ve done everything they can do with it. I hope they build on this success for their next album instead of some other bizarre detour, like teaming up with Nick Taylor of Duran Duran. I love Duran Duran as well as the Dandys but the two didn’t go well together. That album had two good songs (the phenomenal “We Used To Be Friends” and the very good “Last High”) but the rest besmirched the names of both parties. This song, along with Mission Control, Wasp In The Lotus and Welcome To The Third World, has me holding my breathe for the next album. It’s going to be a long three or four years.

Weezer- The Girl Got Hot: They are still coasting from the magnificence (I suddenly hear the U2 song in my head) of their 3rd and fourth albums (the green one and Maladroit) but this is one of the highlights on their seventh album. The lyrics are stupid- typical Weezer in other words- but with a nice crunchy sound to it- typical Weezer in other words. When they are on, they really cook. This particular dish has extra spice. Now that Rivers Cuomo cracked his ribs in a bus accident, I’m not sure they will be putting out anything new anytime soon. See, that’s the reason I listen to so many different things in terms of style and quantity. If I liked only a few artists, I only get new albums every two years or so (Except Prince who does two a year it seems.) After I’ve played them to death, I would either have to stop listening to music or try something else. So maybe David Bowie hasn’t done anything in the last three years, but the “Bowie-approved” Placebo did. While I’m waiting for Interpol to get their shit together (What’s up with that last crap album?) I can listen to something similar like the Dandy Warhols. Life’s too short to limit your playlist to the 100 songs you loved in college.

Bootsy Collins- Play With Bootsy: Since I love Parliament Funkadelic, when I saw this in Tower for $3 I had to get it. Playing this song, the title track, I thought this was a reissue of an album from the 1970’s or 80’s but while listening to it I thumbed through the liner notes and saw some recent artists appearing on it. Turns out it is a 2002 album. It sounds like a throwback, definitely. Quite funky, which is what I was hoping for. This track also continues the faster pace of Muse and Weezer after the folk leaning songs of M Ward and the Lemonheads and the guitars are groovier so it helps the transition to the next song.

Ladyhawke- Dusk Till Dawn: I totally took a flyer on this one. I had only heard some general hype about this artist but the reviews on Amazon made it sound like the type of thing I might like, assuming the songs actually matched up with the descriptions from the reviews. On my first play-thru of the album, each song started out really weird. The intro starts out sounding like a cover of some 80’s artist, like Cyndi Lauper or Depeche Mode but then Ladyhawke (a solo female artist) strips the beat down to the basics and takes off from there, making the intro riff into a song of her own that might be slightly reminiscent of an earlier song but is totally distinct. For instance, when you listen to this song, see if the opening reminds you of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax”. It totally does but after about 30 seconds the song mutates into something completely different. I ended up putting five of her songs on my monthly mix CD. I picked this one for the year’s compilation because it’s the one that lodged in my brain the deepest. I love how the chorus is awkwardly phrased but still insanely catchy.

Tom Jones- If He Should Ever Leave You: I love the percussion on this and the brass too- sounds just like some of the Burt Bacharach hits even though this was done 40 years later. Not enough songs these days use brass. Done properly, it sounds terrific and adds an interesting layer of sound. The production makes this sound retro even (though this was done last year) but it still sounds amazing. The drumming is the backbone the song is built on. It charges right at you and keeps pounding away but it’s a middleweight attack, not a Dave Grohl, John Bonham sledge-hammer heavyweight sound. It’s more agile and nimble and allows Tom Jones to weave his vocals around the tune. The brass adds a punctuating flourish to the whole thing. Tom has a good time with this and adds to his collection of great performances. Once it is done I want to start it over and play it again. Then I want to go listen to more Tom Jones. He remains vital, with some songs that sound like Burt Bacharach then others that sound like modern day R&B o0r dance-pop. I remain amazed by Tom Jones. Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett may have gotten the cool cache from the media but Tom is still blowing the roof off the barn. Not only that, after 40 years in the business, he hasn’t started coasting. He puts out CDs that are interesting and modern. Last album he worked with Wyclef Jean and he actually co-wrote his songs. This time he continued that trend and collaborates with Bono and others, to make what are quintessential Tom Jones songs. Heck, how can you not love a guy who has his own theme song (“Tom Jones International”)? This throwback song is a fun way to finish this collection. It also brings things full-circle since I’ve talked a lot about older music. Here’s modern music that sounds old.

If anyone wants a copy of the CD, let me know and I’ll send you one. In fact, I have the yearly CDs from the last five years still sitting on my shelves. I hadn’t sent them out because I was going to do it in conjunction with my Year In Review booklet, which is long overdue. The last booklet was in 2004. I was going to do a 2005 thru 2009 cumulative one but I’m a bit behind on that and keep getting diverted by my blog (or work or movies or poker or social outings, etc…etc…). So if you want the CDs from prior years too, let me know and tell me where to send them. There are a couple of other songs that were good enough to go on this year’s CD but couldn’t due to time constraints so let me just mention those real quickly: Robyn- Dream On, Silversun Pickups- Panic Switch, Kanye West- Paranoid, Miley Cyrus- See You Again, Tears For Fears- Raoul And The Kings Of Spain, Phoenix- Fences, Sam Phillips- No Explanations, Most Serene Republic- Heavens To Purgatory, Dragonette- Pick up The Phone, Ace Frehley- Genghis Khan, Hockey- Work and Placebo- Ashtray Heart.

Now that I’ve talked about some of my favorite individual songs let me get into my favorite and my most disappointing full-length albums for the year. These are all things I listened to this year, not necessarily things were released this year. That’s why there are some old albums too. Also, these are in order by preference with the # 1 album being my favorite (or most disappointing) of the year. However, for the top seven or so, I kept going back and forth so if I happened to listen to number 6 again, I might rank it as the top since I heard it most recently. Just to clarify, an album on the most disappointing list doesn’t mean it’s horrible. It is likely a mediocre album but considering some of the artists involved or the hype behind the album, the end result was a massive let-down from what they are capable of. As of now, here are the lists:

Richard’s 20 Favorite Albums Of 2009

20) Tears For Fears- Raoul & Kings Of Spain
19) John Legend- Evolver
18) The Kinks- Ultimate Collection
17) Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
16) Jack Off Jill- Sexless Demons And Scars
15) Robyn- Robyn
14) Lemonheads- Varshons
13) Dean Martin- Dino: Essential Dean Martin
12) Per Gessle- Party Crasher
11) The Sleepy Jackson- Personality
10) Yeah Yeah Yeahs- It’s Blitz
9) Black Eyed Peas- The E.N.D
8) Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs- Under The Covers, Vol. 2
7) Dandy Warhols- Earth To The Dandys
6) Lady Gaga- The Fame
5) M Ward- Hold Time
4) Little Boots- Hands
3) Placebo- Battle For The Sun
2) Tom Jones- 24 Hours
1) Ladyhawke- Ladyhawke

Richard’s 10 Most Disappointing Albums

10) The Dials- Flex Time
9) Ice-T- Gangsta Rap
8) Imogen Heap- Speak For Yourself
7) Scarling- Sweet Heart Dealer
6) Catfish Haven- Tell Me
5) Fall Out Boy- Folie A Deux
4) Prince- Lotus Flower/MPL Sound/ Bria
3) Jarvis Cocker- Record
2) Ladytron- Velocifer
1) Nine Inch Nails- Year Zero

I have listened to quite a few other albums this year that fell somewhere in the middle of the pack so just for the sake of completion, I’m going to list everything I listened to this year. They are grouped into various categories so you know why I got them and have some idea if they are awful or not.

I Buy Anything They Do
Cult, The Born Into This (2007)
Dandy Warhols, The- Earth To The Dandy Warhols (2008)
Dave Stewart- Dave Stewart Songbook (2008)
David Bowie- Man Who Sold The World (1969)
Ice-T- Gangsta Rap (1996)
Kylie Minogue- Boombox: Remix Album 2000-2008 (2009)
Placebo- Battle For The Sun (2009)
Prince- Lotus Flower/MPL Sound/Bria Valente (2009)
Radiohead- In Rainbows (2008)
Revolting Cocks- Cocktail Mixx (2007); Sex-O Olympico (2009)
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand (2007)
Tom Jones- 24 Hours (2008)
U2- Best Of 1990-2000 & B-Sides (2002); No Line On The Horizon (2009)
Various Artists- Bee Gees Songbook (2004)
Weezer- Raditude (2009)

I Loved The Last Album/Love The Current Single So Let’s Risk It Again
Amy McDonald- This Is The Life (2007)
Ben Folds- Way To Normal (2008)
Black Eyed Peas, The- The E.N.D. (2009)
Jill Cuniff- City Beach (2007)
De Novo Dahl- Move Every Muscle Make Every Sound (2007)
Foo Fighters- Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007)
Franz Ferdinand- Tonight (2009)
John Legend- Evolver (2008)
Keane- Hopes & Fears (2004); Perfect Symmetry (2008)
Kevin Rudolph- In The City (2008)
Killers, The- Day And Age (2008)
Lemonheads, The- Varshons (2009)
Matthew Sweet- Sunshine Lies (2008)
Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs- Under The Covers Vol. 2 (2009)
Morningwood- Diamonds & Studs (2009)
Muse- Black Holes And Revelations (2006)
Music, The- Strength In Numbers (2008)
Pretty Things, The- Come See Me (Best Of) (2004)
Pussycat Dolls - Doll Domination (2008)
Robyn- Robyn (2008)
Sam Phillips- Don't Do Anything (2008)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs- It's Blitz (2009)

Impulse Purchase (Got positive reviews or was very cheap)
Ace Frehley- Anomaly (2009)
Al Green- Lay It Down (2008)
Belinda Carlisle- Viola (2007)
Bootsy Collins - Playing With Bootsy (2002)
Catfish Haven- Tell Me (2006)
Cobra Verde- Easy Listening (2003)
Creatures, The- Anima Animus (1999)
Cyndi Lauper- Bring Ya To The Brink (2008)
Dan Hartman- Keep The Fire Burnin' (1995)
Dean Martin- Dino- The Essential Dean Martin (2004)
Dials, The- Flex Time (2005)
DMX- Definition Of X: Pick Of The Litter (2007)
Duffy- I Love My Friends (1998)
Fall Out Boy- Folie A Deux (2008)
Hockey- Mind Chaos (2009)
Imogen Heap- Speak For Yourself (2005)
Jack Logan- Buzz Me In (1999)
Jack Off Jill- Sexless Demons And Scars (1997); Clear Hearts Grey Flowers (2000)
Lady Gaga- Fame, The (2008)
Ladyhawke- Ladyhawke (2008)
Little Boots- Hands (2009)
Lily Allen- It's Not Me, It's You (2009)
M Ward- Hold Time (2009)
Marnie Stern- This Is It And I Am It And You Are It… (2008)
Olivia Newton John & Friends- A Celebration In Song (2008)
Paul Stanley- Live To Win (2006)
Per Gessle- Party Crasher (2008); En Handig Man (2007); World According To Gessle (1997)
Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
Scarling- Sweet Heart Dealer (2003)
September- Dancing Shoes (2007)
Silversun Pickups- Swoon (2009)
Sleepy Jackson, The- Personality (2006)
Sounds, The- Crossing The Rubicon (2009)
Stella Starr- Harmonies For The Haunted (2005)
Tinted Windows- Tinted Windows (2009)
Veronicas, The- Hook Me Up (2007)
Virgins, The- Virgins, The (2008)
Whip, The- X Marks The Destination (2009)

Rounding Out My Collection (“Collect the whole set!”)
ABBA Visitors, The (1981); Voulez-Vous (1979); Waterloo (1974)
Beatles - Anthology #1 (1995)
Bee Gees- 1st (1967)
Benny Anderssons Orkester- BAO (2007)
Berlin w/ Terri Nunn All The Way In (2009) [I wish she would put out new songs though]
Big F, The- Patience Peregrine (EP) (1993)
Billy Joel- Stranger, The (Legacy 2-CD Edition) (1977)
Bob Segar- Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (2003)
Kinks, The- Low Budget (1996); The Ultimate Collection (2002)
Luscious Jackson- Greatest Hits (2007)
Madonna- Celebration (2009)
Marty Balin & Bodacious DF- Bodacious DF (1973)
Ministry- Rantology (2005); Sphinctour (2002); Cover Up (2008); Rio Grande Blood (2006) Moody Blues- Seventh Sojourn (1972); Every Good Boy Deserves Favor (1975); Question Of Balance, A- (1970)
My Bloody Valentine- Loveless (1991)
Offspring, The - Greatest Hits (2005)
Quincy Jones- Big Band Bossanova (1998)
Replacements, The- Hootenany (1983)
Sheila E- Romance 1600 (1985)
Styx- Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings (2005); Styx & Contemporary Youth Orchestra (2006)
Tanya Donnelly- Beauty Sleep (2001)
Tears For Fears- Raoul & The Kings Of Spain (1995); Elemental (1993)
Thompson Twins- Into The Gap (1984)
UB40- Greatest Hits (2008)
Various Artists- New Wave Gold (2007); Rock The First- Vol. Three (1992); Wicked Soundtrack By Al Jourgensen (2008); New Jack Swing Gold (2008); We're A Happy Family- Ramones Tribute (1993); Absolute Music # 51 (2005)
Voodoo Child [Moby]- Baby Monkey (2003)
Was (Not Was)- The Collection (2004)
Yes- Talk (1994)

On Thin Ice (If the next thing suck, I’ll stop buying them)
Jarvis Cocker- Record (2006)
Nine Inch Nails- Year Zero (2007); Every Day Is Exactly The Same (2006)- [This EP was good but Year Zero sucked.]

Never Again (The next thing did suck so no more money from me)
Ladytron- Velocifer (2008)

So this was my year in music for 2009. Did you have any favorites I don’t know about? Let me know- let’s make this peer recommendation thing work.


Chris said...

Dean Martin will always hold a spot in my heart, and I've been wearing out my copy of his greatest hits for the song "Standing on the Corner." My dad used to sing it and it reminds me of him.

I still have a lot to discover about Lady Gaga.

My favorite Tom Jones song was sung by Jordin Sparks in American Idol "I Who Have Nothing." I blush to admit I find her version more compelling than Mr. Jones.

Mimi Nowland said...

I was relieved when I read that you hadn't mailed out any CDs or year in review books lately. I thought maybe I had fallen off your list. If I had read that earlier I could've saved myself the trouble of writing down all the songs on your CD! Yes, I would love a copy.

Amy said...

I would love a copy, Richard! Think of me as a charity project -- you're supporting the musically challenged.