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Friday, March 05, 2010

2009 Musical Review

Last year was a monumental year in our clan. We lost my grandmother, the original Tenacious McD, and then welcomed young Bay to help carry on her legacy of spunk (if hopefully not her politics, which was heavy on Rush and Glenn; she considered most of her loved ones "socialists," although only one actually was, her brother, who despite being crippled somehow garnered more than 12% of the vote for US Senate in VA in 1946, almost beating the Republican for second place!). I spent much of the year trying to keep up with two girls at home while parrying turf battles at work. So I listened to less music than usual, and what I listened to was generally old school. Not that I've ever had very cutting edge tastes, but I've definitely steered to comfort zone music this year. Overall, I'd say it was a mediocre year. There was nothing that really blew me away, although that may be more because of me than the tunes. So, without further ado, here's my top 10. As always, the rankings are metaphysically perfect.

1) Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, The Live Anthology. OK, this is cheating, since it's a four CD live set with hits, covers, and hidden gems from four decades. Still great, especially CD #4, which includes brilliant takes on "Square One," "Crawling Back To You," "Southern Accents," "The Waiting," and "I Won't Back Down" plus a few mega-hits that need no plug here. If there's ever been a better Dixie garage band I don't know who it is.

2) Wilco, Wilco: the Album

3) the Avett Brothers, I and Love and You. Did you ever wonder what a Billy Joel and Pure Prairie League mash up would sound like? Me neither. Harmony drenched, alt country piano ballads with mad hooks that stick in your brain for days. My only "new" band discovery this year.

4) Monsters of Folk, Monsters of Folk. Technically, not a new band but a "supergroup," merging Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket, and M. Ward. Everyone calls them the indie rock Traveling Wilburys. Who am I to argue?

5) U2, No Line on the Horizon

6) Elvis Costello, Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane. Not necessarily one of his classics, yet still quite good: his Nashville bluegrass record. "Sulphur to Sugarcane" is one of his funniest and filthiest tunes ever.

7) Levon Helm, Electric Dirt. Oldest guy on an old guy list. Formerly of the Band. Lang loves dancing around the house to his cover of the Dead's "Tennessee Jed."

8) M. Ward, Hold Time. They used him in a Budweiser ad. Cool. Odd.

9) Neko Case, Middle Cyclone. Not as good as Fox Confessor, but that's a high bar.

10) Dave Rawlings Machine, Friend of a Friend.

Honorable mentions this year to Bruce and to Phoenix. The latter put out a great record that's just not my natural brew: happy techno-punk. Here's my quibble with Springsteen's record, which is eminently enjoyable, if not quite the #2 record of the year Rolling Stone named it to be. The title, Working on a Dream, sucks. You don't "work" on "dreams." They come over you, envelop you, consume you on an unconscious level, etc. You do not get out your tools and manufacture them. I know, he's using "dream" in the sense of a "project" based in hope and aspiration, not the sleep variety. It's still a mismatched gerund phrase.

So that's 2009. Now I'm well into 2010. Listening to the new Spoon record a lot, and it's pretty good, but they always are. "Trouble Come Running," and "Writing in Reverse" are stand outs. I'm also hoping that this year is calmer than the last, although our house move seems to be working against that. Also, a big shout out to old friend, groomsman, and DKos-blogger extraordinaire, CSK, who has just awaken from two and a half weeks of medically induced coma. Sounds like all signs are positive. Welcome back, bro.


At 11:24 AM, Blogger fronesis said...

Great list, as always.

I listened to FAR TOO LITTLE music in 2009, even for me.

Your #3 would be my #1; your #5 would be my #2. I will now plan to purchase your #s 1, 7, 10.

Very pleased, of course, to see the u2 on your list. Having seen them live a couple of times with this album and now had a good chunk of time to live with the album, I feel it will continue to get better with age. In the long term I see it falling into their top 4 or 5 albums, and it's clearly better than anything they've done since Pop.

At 7:01 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Fro, I could easily have moved U2 up to #4--the 4/5 slot was my toughest call. I'd say it's their best since Achtung (although a close race with ATTYCLb).

The Avetts were a potential #1, I just got the album too late, so I had already heard a half-dozen songs. This may seem unfair and arbitrary, but, when that happens, I tend to hear the album as a mere venue for singles rather than as a synthetic whole. And since I've heard those half dozen songs a zillion times, I'm less inclined to put in the CD. Maybe in a couple of months I won't have the same feel for it. But that's likely why it finished where it did in my mind, a still not shabby #3).

Hope you like the Petty, Helm, and Rawlings. Helm's is a fun CD. It sounds like a party in New Orleans, one not haunted by memories of Katrina. Rawlings's is the opposite: subdued beauty that recalls the quieter moments of all those Gillian Welch and Ryan Adams records he's played on. Hence the perfection of his title (in contract to Springsteen's).


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