Monday, January 19, 2009

My Year In Lists

So its 19 day's late, and much more than a dollar short, but I wouldn't be an annoying idiot with a penchant for overwrought analysis of popular culture if I didn't put out a year-end list.

and songsmith can only entertain me for so long

So here it is - My Year In Lists

Song of the Year
1. My Year In Lists - Los Campesinos.  You see what I did there? Just sit back and appreciate the irony of naming a song about not wanting to compile a new year list at the top of a new year list.
But happy coincidence aside, in 1 minute and 42 seconds, 7 precociously talented whippersnappers from Cardiff cram in enough great lyrics for Belle and Sebastian to build a career from, more glockenspeil taps than a Brunettes record, and the best boy/girl harmony since Ike and Tina or Lee and Nancy.

"I declined because I decided I do not believe in the new year any more"


2. Keep Me in Mind, Sweetheart - Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell

Mark Lanegan's gravelly baritone is a bit much on its lonesome, but on this highlight from his second collabaration with ex-Belle and Sebastian Yoko Isobel Campbell, it balances perfectly. There's a simplicity to it that brings to mind classic Johnny and June Cash, and proves that sometimes all you need is a melody, an acoustic guitar, and a couple of different voices.

Honorable mention to some of the stuff that Mark did with Greg Dulli, formerly of the Afghan Whigs as the Gutter Twins - which is also worth a look.

3.  The Hold Steady - Sequestered in Memphis

The genius of Craig Finn and the Hold Steady is that he can write barnstorming festival- and dive bar-rocking anthems, without failing to be literate, obscure, and unfailingly witty. The sight of a sun-drenched field of college-aged hipsters chanting "Subpoenaed in Texas - Sequestered in Memphis" was one of the most gratifying things I saw this year.

At their live show in Vancouver, Reggie Youngblood prefaced this number with the statement - "This is gonna be one of your mad jamz, yo", and he was pretty goddamn close to the truth. It stomps, stamps and doowops, totally unhindered by the silliest couplet of the year, and really hits its straps when it breaks down and the twin female vocalists take center stage and play the song out. I'm not sure if it's just because of the memory of watching them grin, sparkle and shimmy their way through a live show, but it always makes me feel good. 

5. I Know Your Girlfriend Hates Me - Annie.
Some may call it tokenism, and to a degree it is, but you can't fail but appreciate genius pop music. And in a year when Justin et al did nothing of note, the best pop song of the year came out of Norway. 

It's marginally less sugary than 2004 year-end favourite "Chewing Gum", but it still is classic Richard X production pop, that reminds of those heady days in the early 2000 when that ruled the airwaves. Rachel Stevens, anyone?

She's the norwegian Kylie, don't you know? and the wikipedia entry for this song says it is inspired by Prince's Kiss, which should be the inspiration for much more stuff.

6. Knots - Pete and the Pirates.

The bastard child of a C-86 Sarah Records twee pop band and the Clash, Pete and the Pirates are one-part charming, and two-parts energetic. Everything about this song is dead simple, but it rollicks through and is good enough to force me to stick an extra song onto my top 5.

Albums of the Year

1. Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, Silver Jews 
2. The Luxury of Hysteria, Tim Rogers
3. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
4. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
5. We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, Los Campesinos

Shows of the Year

1. Cadence Weapon, Vancouver
2. Jarvis Cocker, Pitchfork Festival, Chicago
3. Jonathan Richman, Vancouver
4. The Blakes, San Francisco
5. The Decemberists and Barack Obama, Portland

Five pieces of random culture that have re-entered my sphere of influence this year
1. The Thrills' So Much For The City
2. Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde
3. The Wombats' Let's Dance to Joy Division
4. Pavement's Brighten the Corners
5. Superchunk 

Five other things that are rattling my dags
1. Songsmith
2. Physics raps
4. The New York Times Crossword on Sundays
5. Entourage

more detail to follow...because I won't rest until this is at least 10,000 words