With the benefit of hindsight I can see 2009 was a somewhat disappointing year in the music world. I found myself gravitating to more of what puts the "power" in pop, and less of the folk/indie stylings that's ostensibly everywhere these days. Not that I find it all uninteresting per se, it's just that the component that ties it all together, "the songwriting", seemed to be lacking and at times, was an embarrassing rehash. When I think of songcraft, I think of how it relates to succeeding at something three times. For example, in Hockey when one player scores three times, it's called the hat trick. What? Let me explain. When you have it, the hat trick of songwriting in any genre should consist of : (1) Good lyric with gravity and/or humour. (2) mellifluous and tuneful. (3) Sung & played well enough that creates a vibe and/or energy. Addendum to (3)- You can attain vibe and energy without, how can I say it, playing it not so cleverly. See (1977-1981) related artists for how this is done. I've always felt that the goal of every songwriter should be to display or exhibit some form of humanity, hence what it's like to be a human being.
So now it's now 2010 and I find myself lowering the bar "again" seeking some sort of fulfillment. Is all this because I have less of an expectation now or do they simply not write'em like they use to. Dunno. As for the hat trick theory, if two of three checkpoints are achieved, I'm pleased. Unfortunately most of the time, it's more like one or none.
As for this years list, my Top 20 does include a few stock Americana checkpoints in Tim Easton, Son Volt, Neko Case and The Dexateens as well as my professed love for all that is Pollardian. Some of the more ubiquitous releases this year (Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear ) I tried and tried and in the end simply resigned myself to the fact that they were just not for me. There were others (The Madd, Roman Candle, The Heartless Bastards, The Deep Vibration, Tony Cox, The Milk & Honey Band, The xx) I was intrigued by and actually liked quite a bit and could see with more plays the potential of making their way onto the list. Good stuff Maynard.
There were others that apart from a couple of good songs, I was disappointed in. (Wilco, Bob Dylan, Lucero, Justin Townes Earle, Hayden)
Now without further ado, I give you my favorite records of the year. The ones I reached for most during these troubled times, economic downturns, foreclosures, bailouts, the exploited and the downtrodden.
el goodo - coyote boston spaceships - zero to 99/planets are blasted reigning sound - love & curses roger klug - more help for your nerves son volt - american central dust neko case - middle cyclone tim easton - porcupine outrageous cherry - universal malcontents telekinesis - telekinesis dexateens - singlewide the resonars - that evil drone robert pollard - elephant jokes broadfield marchers - displayed in reflections reno bo - happenings and other things cheap star - speaking like an elephant vetiver - tight knit grant-lee phillips - little moon gidgets ga ga - the big bong fiasco bobby emmett - learning love richmond fontaine - we used to think the river sounded like a freeway