30 Years of Music: 2009

We’re five weeks away from the end of this fair column, and the Aughts’ closing year provides us with musical riches. My picks are rather indie-tastic this time around, punctuated by a couple of pop radio favorites. Join me:

Logo for 30 Years of Music: 2009


“Daylight” – Matt and Kim

I bet Matt and Kim are a lot of fun live. You’d almost have to be, if there were only two of you onstage, to make it seem like you occupy the same sonic space as four-plus band members. This video amuses me, what with all the cramming themselves in awkward spaces.

I haven’t paid a ton of attention to their music, apart from stumbling upon some songs here and there, but whenever I hear Matt and Kim, I’m pleased.

“Not Fair” – Lily Allen

This is one of the best mean songs ever. I am dying to hear someone cover it locally (so I can see the crowd’s reaction) or do it at karaoke.

Oh, I lie here in the wet patch in the middle of the bed
I’m feeling pretty damn hard done by, I spent ages giving head
Then I remember all the nice things that you ever said to me
Maybe I’m just overreacting, maybe you’re the one for me
There’s just one thing that’s getting in the way
When we go up to bed, you’re just no good, it’s such a shame
I look into your eyes, I want to get to know you
And then you make this noise and it’s apparent it’s all over

I’m also curious about what the estate of Porter Wagoner has to say about his likeness in this song.

“Dick in a Box” – The Lonely Island feat. Justin Timberlake

“Dick in Box” the Saturday Night Live short predates The Lonely Island’s album, of course, but since they included it, I’m adding it here. Its Color Me Badd-ness is hilarious.

“Winter Hill” – Doves

(I talked about “Winter Hill” from Doves’ Kingdom of Rust in Alphabet Soup: The Letter W. Here’s an excerpt:)

The feeling of carrying someone within you, no matter the circumstance? That’s the sort of thing I write about, the sort of attachment with which I’m well familiar. At times, music and people form this blurred relationship in my head and in my heart, and I want to curl right up in the headlong mix of vice and sweat and breath. I want to hold life right there because if there is a way for me to reach enlightenment, it is through art. It is through the people who make it.

Wherever you go, you will return safe 

And when you will walk, you’ll be walking with me

But if comes the day you meet someone new

You will be with them, but I’ll be thinking of you

“I’ve Got Friends” – Manchester Orchestra

Manchester Orchestra’s album Mean Everything to Nothing is incredibly good, but quite sad. It’s all addicts and loneliness and disaffection. I still really like it, and I loved this song immediately. No, they are neither from Manchester nor an Orchestra, but they are a great loud indie rock band.

Another favorite from them: “The Only One.” I very nearly picked that song over “I’ve Got Friends,” but just go on and click through for me, okay? Thanks, you’re a star.

“Actor Out of Work” – St. Vincent

File St. Vincent under “Music I Really Mean to Own But Listen to A Lot on Spotify and Then Feel Guilty About The Poor Payment Rates Artists Receive There.”

(What? I can’t be the only one who has musical designation like that.)

I don’t really have a lot to say about this song other than it’s a Good Tune.

“Dog Days are Over” – Florence and The Machine

Florence Welch, I love you.

I’m embedding the live bare bones version that I heard before the studio version. I’d heard of Florence and The Machine before then, but had yet to hear her until FILTER or some other site posted this video. From there, I became mildly obsessed. Her including the claps at the end is great.

Leave all your love and your longing behind
You can’t carry it with you if you want to survive

I bought Lungs shortly before a trip to Florida, so now whenever I listen to it, it makes me think of humidity and palm trees.

“West Ryder Silver Bullet” – Kasabian feat. Rosario Dawson

Did I pick this song because it features Rosario Dawson? You’re damn right I did.

Right, so the tune: The tune is woozy and wonderful. It sounds of another era, yet simultaneously from no one other than the Kasabian brain.

He’ll be the death of me
But that’s okay
I want your touch
Oh how I want you far too much

I bet this song is outstanding on headphones, and it’s sort of too bad that there isn’t a acid-trip video to go along with it, but I suppose one can always don the headphones and use their imagination.

“Alejandro” – Lady Gaga

So many songs from The Fame Monster would have been great to use here. “Bad Romance” almost made the cut, but I’ve always had a special fondness for “Alejandro.” The extended video is directed by Steven Klein, which is to say, it’s both beautiful and unsettling. The man loves his black and blue color motifs.

I love these lines dedicated to solitude:

Don’t want to kiss

Don’t want to touch

Just want my cigarette hush

A whole literary scene is contained within those words, and I love it.

I know people like to say, “Oh, Lady Gaga is just a Madonna rip-off,” but while I agree they share certain sensibilities, I still see them as different musicians. Madonna is in the business of Madonna. She cares about the advancement of herself, and I always get the impression (and maybe I’m wrong, but “¦) any sort of cause she supports is primarily in the service of promoting herself. That’s fine – we all do what we gotta do – but I think it’s important to note. Gaga, on the other hand, legitimately seems to care about the concept of theatre, of art, and the causes she promotes. Yes, it’s all subjective, but whatever. That’s the opinion of her I hold.

“Uprising” – Muse

As much as I can love simple, quiet music, I do still adore a big rock spectacle. And 2009 was certainly the year that Muse became a big rock spectacle. This is when they went from being a moderately known UK band to the stadium behemoths they are today.

I dig “Uprising” with all its 80s synths and the way the high-pitched “So come on!” reminds me of Blondie’s “Call Me.” The song is huge and anthemic, and I do not begrudge them a bit of their success. Good on them.

“Too Fake” – Hockey

I know them! Okay, not exactly, but Hockey used to live in Spokane, Washington when I also did. My husband took photos of one of their teensy-tiny gigs and still has the burned CD-R version of their album, Mind Chaos.

As many bands that are on top of their game do, they moved to Portland, Oregon. That’s fair – they were better able to do what they wanted to do from there. BBC Radio1 DJ Zane Lowe caught wind of their music and started promoting them, and soon a record deal and appearances on late night shows followed. They even had a song in a JC Penny commercial. Not bad. Not bad at all.

“In These Arms” – The Swell Season

Gaaah… Why have I not bought either album from The Swell Season? Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are magic together, even though they are no longer dating. The two paired up for the movie Once, which you may remember won them the “Best Song” Oscar.

If you stay with that arsehole
he’s going to do you wrong
there’s a voice singing loudly on the radio
just for you
and fortune will find him in the end
Maybe I was born to hold you
in these arms

I’ve been a big fan of Glen Hansard ever since some friends introduced me to his band The Frames, way back in 2001. (Do check out what I had to say about their song “Seven Day Mile,” in this installment of Alphabet Soup.) I have The Swell Season’s Daytrotter session downloaded, but I really need to get myself the full-on albums.

“Stop Crying Your Heart Out” – Leona Lewis

Okay, I’m not exactly a Leona Lewis fan. She can certainly sing, but her music is not something I’m ever really going to seek out. Still, I had to mention her cover of an Oasis song. (I’m bound by Fan Law or something, ha.) For me, it’s somewhat reminiscent of when Joss Stone covered The White Stripes.

Take what you need and be on your way
and stop crying your heart out

Though this was a widely-played Oasis single from Heathen Chemistry, she does it different enough to where it doesn’t just sound like the same song with a different voice. Well done.

“Daniel” – Bat For Lashes

My one and only iTunes album purchase is Bat For Lashes’ Two Suns. When you own a PC, iTunes is frustratingly glitchy and slow, which is probably their way of trying to get you to buy a Macbook. I once had a first generation iPod Touch that has since gone on to Tech-Heaven, and somewhere in my daughter’s pit of a room is an iPod Nano, but mostly, I don’t use the program.

However, once I traded a book for an iTunes giftcard, and so I came to own Two Suns. “Daniel” is such a lovely song, and Natasha Khan’s vocals are moody and consuming. The whole album, and her others, are outstanding.

“Hurricane” – 30 Seconds to Mars

This video didn’t come out until 2010, but the album was released in December 2009. Directed by Jared Leto under the pseudonym Bartholomew Cubbins, “Hurricane” was banned by MTV, which of course only gave it more publicity. The full length version is over twenty minutes long, involves bondage, violence, and Jared Leto’s ab-tacularness.

The song itself is an interesting take on storytelling, and what can be done with the mixture of literary leanings, psychology, film, and song. I like that 30 Seconds to Mars always have a distinct concept in mind when they go to make their albums. The songs are often meant to be consumed as a unit, and in the digital single age, I think that’s pretty great.

All right, friends – Wikipedia has changed how they are grouping album releases, so there are four separate links for you to peruse. Give them a peek, then tell me your favorites from 2009.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

12 replies on “30 Years of Music: 2009”

I stopped loving Gaga after The Fame Monster. Loved the album, So Happy I Could Die being my hands down favorite track but, she just got too weird and too COUNTRY for me afterwards.

Leona Lewis bores me to tears. I love Bleeding Love because the lyrics are beautiful and sings it like Whitney Houston but other than that? Snooze button.

LOVE Uprising. LOVE LOVE LOVE Hurricane but I can only enjoy about 4 or 5 songs from 30STM’s This Is War album as it starts getting really anti-Christian and I respect his right to sing about whatever the hell he wants, I just can’t hang.

The only Doves song I can recall is “The Man Who Told Everything”. (Thank you One Tree Hill for expanding my musical horizons!) Very pretty song. Don’t ask me what year it came out, though.

Wow. I love all of these songs. What a great year for music.

And Matt and Kim are AMAZING live. I saw them last October at the House of Blues. So much energy! Kim was crazy. And they’re so adorable together. Live or not, though, their music always puts me in a good mood. :)

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