Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Year vs. Yours (Pitchfork Edition)

As I did last year, I'd like to put my 100 Songs for 2009 list in perspective by comparing it to the lists of other luminaries of the blogosphere. Where we agree, my opinions will be validated. Where we don't, it will prove nothing. Absolutely ... nothing.

And, more importantly, with these new posts, I'm experimenting with primitive MP3 linking thanks to our friends at ZShare (see links at the bottom). Let me know if the downloads work. Thanks.

So let's take a look at Pitchfork's Top 100 Tracks of 2009.

Songs Included on Both Lists (my ranking in parentheses)

1. Animal Collective - My Girls (76)
2. Dirty Projectors - Stillness is the Move (8)
3. Phoenix - 1901 (5)
4. Bat for Lashes - Daniel (74)
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Zero (90)
7. Big Boi - Shine Blockas (17)
8. Phoenix - Lisztomania (70)
9. Girls - Lust for Life (96)
16. The xx - Crystalized (92)
30. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Young Adult Friction (88)
32. The Very Best - Warm Heart of Africa (2)
43. Camera Obscura - French Navy (97)
57. Sleigh Bells - Crown on the Ground (31)
70. Discovery - Orange Shirt (77)
72. Matt & Kim - Daylight (53)
80. YACHT - Psychic City (Voodoo City) (10)
84. Junior Boys - Parallel Lines (94)
88. Passion Pit - Moth's Wings (16)
92. Cam'ron - I Hate My Job (51)
95. Thermals - Now We Can See (7)

Songs on Pitchfork's List Included in my 101-150 "Just Missed" List

5. Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks
12. Grizzly Bear - While You Wait for the Others
18. Big Pink - Dominos
24. Basement Jaxx - Raindrops
36. Fever Ray - When I Grow Up
58. Fever Ray - If I Had a Heart
64. Annie - Songs Remind Me of You
66. Julian Casablancas - 11th Dimension

Artists Appearing on Both Lists, but with Different Songs

11. Animal Collective - What Would I Want? Sky
15. Girls - Hellhole Ratrace
23. Animal Collective - Brother Sport
29. jj - Ecstasy
47. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll
53. The xx - Islands
55. Bat for Lashes - Glass
69. Taylor Swift - You Belong with Me

Songs that Absolutely, Inexcusably, Should Have Been on My List

Last year, I think I made a two-disc mix of all the great songs on Pitchfork's list but not on mine. This year ... six. Five I had never heard, and one I just couldn't bring myself to admit I liked. Here's Pitchfork's thoughts on the songs, and the first-ever Tip of Your Tongue, Top of My Lungs MP3 downloads.

20. Japandroids - Young Hearts Spark Fire

Even in a year when indie bands sang about the simplest of pleasures-- adobe slabs, pizzas, and bottles of wine-- Vancouver's Japandroids made ogling girls sound subversive, like a call to arms for all young hearts. "We used to dream! Now we worry about dying," Brian King and David Prowse shout, lamenting either their own age or the crumbling economy but sounding like men who've been robbed of something crucial. So when they finally get around to singing, "I don't want to worry about dying," in that rushed cadence, it's a relief: After all, at its heart, this is a soundtrack for doing stupid shit on a Friday night

26. Bon Iver - Blood Bank

What is it with Justin Vernon and winter? Even disregarding the backstory behind Bon Iver's debut, there's snow all over the cover to the Blood Bank EP as well as side project Volcano Choir. Vernon uses that winter setting on "Blood Bank" to turn in evocative fragments of images that carry tremendous emotional weight, such as a couple rubbing their hands together in a car-- to keep them warm, of course. Many of Bon Iver's songs creak with a certain kind of hope, but the simple chords of the chorus keep descending here. Especially after paring down to a heartbeat rhythm before its clamorous outro, "Blood Bank" becomes one of Bon Iver's most somber tracks, seeming like the thaw might be a long way away.

39. Lady Gaga - Bad Romance

In theory, she was an artist you want to root for-- all these ideas about art and celebrity and a flair for the dramatic. But the first few singles made the Lady Gaga project feel so presumptuous, her artsy entitlement overwhelming her songs' occasional strengths. "Bad Romance" was the moment where the music didn't just live up to the (self-inflated) hype, but surpassed it. The track is epic in construction-- by the time she gets to the bridge, more than three minutes in, the realization that there are hooks yet to come is thrilling. It helps that RedOne's production matches the songwriting's torrential drama; the churning, earth-shifting low-frequency synths are a programmatic reflection of the singer's unsteady, perhaps unwise, infatuation. But it's Gaga's performance, the wholly unapologetic fools-rush-in carnal energy, that commitment to emotional bravery in a context of increasingly twee chart pop, that makes "Bad Romance" feel so necessary.

73. Woods - Rain On

"Rain On" is a sad song that turns on one major point: It hardly feels like a sad song at all. There's just something in the way that its obliging verses sit with its downtrodden refrain over smeary, spindly guitars that makes it such a harrowing tune, but like the emotion the song conveys, the reason for its success is complicated. There's vocalist Jeremy Earl's gaunt falsetto, the band's sneaky little smears of rusty, Crazy Horse-tranquilizer feedback, and the wistful verse lyrics. But the chorus, "Oh, how the days will rain on you," is sung with a sort of optimism, and you kinda feel like he shouldn't sound so OK with the sentiment. It's a creaky triumph of stoney resolve and compositional reserve.

77. Frida Hyvonen - Jesus Was a Cross Maker

Judee Sill is the kind of tragic pop figure-- a troubled singer and songwriter who released two tough, mesmerizing folk records, fell into obscurity, and eventually died of a drug overdose in North Hollywood in 1979-- that attracts intense, cultish adulation. Her 1971 single, the Graham Nash-produced "Jesus Was a Crossmaker", is a classic piece of lush, Laurel Canyon songwriting, and Frida Hyvönen's stunning rendition-- recorded for Crayon Angel: A Tribute to the Music of Judee Sill-- comes awfully close to topping the original. Hyvönen's voice, augmented with a tiny bit of reverb, feels fragile and near-unhinged compared to Sill's quicker, more controlled performance, and her arrangement is sparser and gentler, almost celestial. When Hyvönen sings of betrayal a final time-- "And when I turned, he was gone/ Blinding me, his song remains reminding me/ He's a bandit and a heartbreaker"-- she sounds raw and slighted, angry on behalf of Sill, angry on behalf of all of us.

98. Future of the Left - Arming Eritrea

Pity poor Rick, the subject of Andrew Falkous' mysterious rage in "Arming Eritrea". Did anyone suffer a more brutal browbeating in all of pop music in 2009? Each line of the verses begins with Falkous screaming "C'mon RICK!" with an intensity that is at once maniacal and hilarious. Who is Rick? Why does he deserve severe contempt? Though Rick's literal or metaphorical connection to Eritrea is unclear, the root of Falkous' fury is obvious and universal: He cannot stand this man's condescension, and must insist that he is an adult. Though berating one's enemies is not typically a hallmark of maturity, the song expresses an exasperated disgust that is bitterly familiar to anyone who has ever felt a bit too old to be treated like an idiot kid. The details don't really matter here, because we've all had to deal with a Rick at some point or another, if not every day of our lives. So, actually, you know what? Fuck Rick. He totally had this coming.

1 comment:

  1. Should be in for Phoenix, AFI, Magnetic Feilds, and Rogue Wave if you are getting a group together. Let me know when tickets go on sale/ have already/ details (shockingly I am notoriously lazy with this sort of thing).

    If we are lucky the Magnetic Feilds concert may have a Gothic Archies set. (for some reason I have this veiw of the lower east side of Manhattan that involves at least one in every four people being conected to a stephen marit side project in some manner)