As I mentioned yesterday, my attention this year, as far as music goes, has been diverted in a variety of ways. Doing a 2009 playlist seemed to miss the thrust of what my year was all about (and probably redundant with every other blog out there); doing a collection of old yet new-to-me stuff would have missed all the music that wasn't new to me that I spent so much time with. So instead I offer this: a 75-track playlist that comes as close as I can to giving some impression of what my listening year has really been like.
The playlist is really meant to speak for itself—though I can't resist tossing in a few comments here and there, if you want to read a few scattered thoughts as you scroll down the list. This adds up to a bit more than four hours of music, so I recommend you click on the play button (it's down in the lower-left corner), minimize this screen, and let me be your soundtrack as you go about your day today. I can promise it's going to go in a lot of different directions, some of which you may or may not expect, so despite my rambling I'm sort of hoping you'll ignore all this talk and just let the music play.
The way I see it there were about five different narratives driving my listening time this year:
- The Slint book. I spent a lot of time hunting down albums from the 80s that I knew the guys I'm writing about were into at the time (based on various interviews I'd read), or that were just in the air in that era. In an effort to get into the proper headspace, I sought out a bunch of old punk and classic indie stuff--some of it I'd never heard, most of it I knew but just didn't own. So, Hüsker Dü, Bad Brains, Big Black, Meat Puppets, Dinosaur Jr. Other stuff. Also stuff that happened concurrently or not long after, like Bastro, Bitch Magnet, Galaxie 500; and post-Slint stuff like the For Carnation and Papa M.
- Nostalgia. Overlapping but not exactly the same, my revisiting Slint so intensely sparked a nostalgia in me for all the shit I was listening to around the time of my discovery of Spiderland, which I found accidentally back in 1994. This put me on a big ol' 90s kick, taking me back to high school and college and working in a indie record store and booking shows and all that. So, Jesus Lizard. Karp. Fugazi. Other stuff.
- 2009! Yes, I still tried to keep up.
- Filling in more musical blind spots. My continued desire to fill in my krautrock collection, to buy more Byrds and Byrds-related stuff, to simply continue educating myself about the many great albums that I've yet to hear.
- Country music. Midway through the year a little angel dropped about 500 classic country songs (circa 1925–1985) into my inbox, and I've been trying to process them ever since. It's been a treasure trove of amazingness; many songs I've always known, many that were totally new to me.
So, what does that all add up to? Brand new shit. 80s and 90s punk/indie. Classic country. Krautrock. And a handful of other things sprinkled throughout. Somehow that all made perfect sense to me this year. (As I've said many times: there's a reason this blog is called Pretty Goes with Pretty.) This playlist is intended to be listened to in the order I've presented, in hopes that you'll hear some of the resonances that I have even when jumping from Seefeel to Big Black or from George Jones to the 13th Floor Elevators. Enjoy.
- Slint: Ron (1989)
- Amon Düül II: Wolf City (1972)
- Tortoise: Yinxianghechengqi (2009)
- Harlem Shakes: Strictly Game (2009)
If I were making a strict list of favorite songs from 2009, this would definitely be in there, along with the John Vanderslice track below.
- Dr. Dog: Uncovering The Old (2008)
Dr. Dog's Fate was one of my favorite albums of 08, but I think I listened to it even more this year than last. If I were remaking last year's list today, this would probably be #1.
- John Vanderslice: Too Much Time (2009)
- Kraftwerk: The Model (1978)
- Seefeel: Starethrough (1994)
- Big Black: Steelworker (1982)
- Akron/Family: River (2009)
- Animal Collective: What Would I Want? Sky (2009)
- Engineers: Sometimes I Realise (2009)
- Neu!: Neuschnee (1973)
- Scratch Acid: Owner's Lament (1984)
- The Fall: Jawbone and the Air-Rifle (1982)
- Wavves: No Hope Kids (2009)
- GodheadSilo: Multiple Organic (1995)
I've mentioned it before but when I first heard Wavves earlier this year I immediately heard a kinship with GodheadSilo. There's a kind of suburban punk mentality that permeates both bands' material. Making a lot of noise—a lot of noise—about important issues like the ability to drive. Compare, for instance, "Got no car / Got no money" vs "Under 18 and I just got my permit / I need a licensed driver on the passenger side!"
- Milkmine: Breathe (1994)
- Jesus Lizard: Gladiator (1992)
- Jaks: Dumbwaiter (1994)
The above four tracks—from GodheadSilo to Jaks—are a good representation of my intense bout of nostalgia for the days when I first fell into the bottomless pit that is my love of indie. My conversion took place some time in 1994, and all of these bands were among the first I stumbled into. Revisiting them now, I just wanna say I think Jaks especially is due a little revisionism. Their complete discography is available on eMusic and is worth discovering.
- Del Shannon: The Swiss Maid (1962)
- Karp: We Ate Sand (1997)
- Faust: Giggy Smile (1973)
- Moon Mullican: I'll Sail My Ship Alone (1950)
- The Shelton Brothers: Just Because (1935)
- Iron & Wine: Each Coming Night (2004)
- Papa M: Napoleon (1995)
- The National: Green Gloves (2007)
- Andrew Bird: Oh No (2009)
- Kings Of Convenience: Boat Behind (2009)
- Hank Snow: I Don't Hurt Anymore (1954)
- Ernest Tubb: Thanks A Lot (1963)
- Bad Brains: Big Takeover (1982)
- Hüsker Dü: The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill (1985)
Generally speaking I'm really not a big fan of Hüsker Dü. This song, though, is pretty great.
- Squirrel Bait: Tape From California (1986)
Man did I listen to a lot of Squirrel Bait this year. More than is healthy, I think. This is the last song from their second album (and a Phil Ochs cover, no less!). I dig it though overall I prefer their first, self-titled album.
- La Düsseldorf: White Overalls (1978)
- Minutemen: Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want The Truth (1984)
- Slint: Nosferatu Man (1991)
- Fugazi: Fell, Destroyed (1995)
- Bitch Magnet: Douglas Leader (1989)
Bands sounded "Slinty" before Slint did. Minutemen did for one song, at least. And Bitch Magnet's first full length, Umber, pre-dates Spiderland by a couple years (though what really came first is a bit more complicated than looking at an album's release date... something I may touch on very briefly in the book.) Also, I've always been a little amused by how much "Fell, Destroyed" went for that sound.
- Mission of Burma: Dead Pool (1982)
- Wye Oak: Tattoo (2009)
I feel like I'm the only guy who listened to Wye Oak this year and thought "Motherfucking 90s!" Seriously, put this band on a mixtape full of bands like Rex and June of 44 and Victory at Sea and I swear you won't think it came out in 2009.
- Grateful Dead: High Time (1970)
- Emitt Rhodes: With My Face On The Floor (1970)
- Glen Campbell: Gentle On My Mind (1967)
- The Byrds: Ballad Of Easy Rider (1969)
- Meat Puppets: We're Here (1983)
- US Maple: Breeze, It's Your High School (1999)
- Animal Collective: Winters Love (2004)
- Karen Dalton: Something On Your Mind (1971)
- Neko Case: Magpie To The Morning (2009)
No one dropped an F-bomb better this year than Neko, on this song.
- Brightblack Morning Light: Everybody Daylight (2006)
I had dismissed this band when I heard them back in 2006, but some time this year my brilliant wife brought their self-titled album home and we've been under its spell ever since. I can't say I'm very familiar with the album's second half; we tend to put the album on at night and we're both out cold by about the third or fourth track. But I mean that in an incredibly positive way.
- Low: Laser Beam (2001)
Probably my favorite thing I wrote all year was my weeklong series on Low, most of which was posted at my short-lived Do You Compute blog. Now that that blog is kaput I've been meaning to gather all those posts and re-compose them here, if for no other reason than posterity. In the meantime, this post is a good place to start if you missed them.
- Big Mama Thornton: Guide Me Home (2004)
- Ray Charles: Busted (1963)
- Yo La Tengo: If It's True (2009)
- Margaret Whiting & Jimmy Wakely: The Gods Were Angry With Me (1950)
- George Jones and Brenda Carter: Milwaukee Here I Come (1968)
- 13th Floor Elevators: Levitation (1967)
- The Seeds: No Escape (1966)
- Bedhead: More Than Ever (1998)
- Cass McCombs: Lionkiller Got Married (2009)
- The For Carnation: I Wear The Gold (1996)
- The Sea & Cake: Parasol (1995)
I hadn't listened to "Parasol" in I don't know how many years, though it's always been in my mind as Sam Prekop's best moment. Hearing it again all these years later, I still hold that opinion. This song is just beautiful.
- R.E.M.: Aftermath (2004)
Earlier this year when I did a post that presumed to make one great album from the good songs on the last two R.E.M. albums, this is the number that I think benefited the most. Somehow I'd just never really heard "Aftermath" before. It's a great tune.
- The Wooden Birds: Sugar (2009)
- Bastro: Recidivist II (1990)
- Fugazi: Smallpox Champion (1993)
- Bastro: Recidivist I (1990)
- The Feelies: Crazy Rhythms (1980)
- Galaxie 500: Temperature's Rising (1988)
- Fennesz: Year in a Minute (2006)
- Phoenix: Love Like a Sunset (2009)
- Animal Collective: Also Frightened (2009)
- The Blue Sky Boys: Down On The Banks Of The Ohio (1936)