The Year in Music: 2009


From The Year in Music: 2008: “Hopefully, in 2009 I’ll be able get onto iTunes on a more regular basis.”


Nope. It’s getting worse every year. Getting onto iTunes, I mean. In 2008, I only added nineteen songs to my collection, which was an incredibly huge drop-off from the 105 that I added in 2007. And that was a huge drop-off from the 218 that I added in 2006. And I added at least a hundred in 2005.


This year, the drop-off wasn’t as drastic, but that was only because it’s pretty hard to add less than nineteen songs when you love music more than you love most things in the world (more than nearly all things in the world) and you spend nearly all of your non-factory time in front of your rig working and listening to music.


The drop-off total? One song, which means that I only downloaded eighteen songs during 2009. During the last two years I did add music to my rig by transferring songs from CDs, so it’s not like I’m not getting to new music. Just not through iTunes.And I’ve already gotten fifteen CDs in since the 5 July 2009 New Additions, with more CDsto come as soon as I comb through the year-end best of 2009 lists.


Code Key:

L: I love this song.
•: I like this song, a lot.
C: A cover of a song that I had already liked or that I had already  loved.



Code, If Any -- Song Title  --  Artist  --  Album  --  Play Count


L -- The Way I Are -- Timbaland -- Shock Value -- 30

• C -- Didn't We -- Astrud Gilberto -- Astrud Gilberto: Gold -- 30

L -- Reckless Burning -- Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter -- Reckless Burning -- 29

L -- 23 -- Blonde Redhead -- 23 -- 20

L C -- Lump Sum -- Eau Claire Memorial Jazz I -- A Decade With Duke (feat. Justin Vernon) -- 19

L -- Chasing Pavements -- Adele -- 19 -- 13

L -- Mein Herz brennt -- Rammstein -- Mutter -- 8

-- Fine Without You -- Armin van Buuren -- Imagine -- 7

• C -- Sweet Child o' Mine -- Taken By Trees -- Sweet Child o' Mine/Above You - Single -- 5

-- In and Out of Love -- Armin van Buuren -- Imagine -- 5

-- He Stopped Loving Her Today -- George Jones -- George Jones: 16 Biggest Hits -- 5

-- Cold Night for Alligators -- Roky Erickson -- Gremlins Have Pictures -- 5

-- One Million Miles Away -- J. Ralph -- The Illusionary Movements of Geraldine and Nazu -- 4

-- All About Our Love -- Sade -- Lovers Rock -- 4

-- Whirlwind -- Broder Daniel -- No Time for Us 1989-2004 -- 3

-- You're Welcome, Stop On By -- Bobby Womack -- Anthology -- 2

C -- For Emma -- Eau Claire Memorial Jazz I -- A Decade With Duke (feat. Justin Vernon) -- 1

C -- Everlasting Love -- Chaka Khan & Rufus -- Heart of Soul Classics 2 -- 1



Song of the Year: I should start by saying that the play counts for this year’s new iTunes purchases sometimes don’t match up to the actual amount of times that they were played, or with how much I loved a particular song.


(What happened was that when I switched from my old rig to my new one at the end of the summer, all of the play counts reset to zero. So not only are those 2009 play counts not accurate, but all of my other play counts were also wiped out of the historical record. There were certain songs that I had played hundreds of times that ended up with play counts that made it seem as I had never played them that much, or at all. For some reason [probably having to do with memory {with my need for it to be perfect <because keeping alive our memories is one of the ways that we fight against death and loss>}and with how time strips memory and us down to nothing and to nothingness], that’s been hard to deal with.)


In years past, the Song of the Year had tended to be the one that had the highest play count (because the more I love a song, the more I play it), but, again, the play counts are boned, so this years’s Song of the Year isn’t going to be the one with the highest play count.


Song of the Year: Blonde Redhead’s 23, the song from the album of the same name. I first became aware of 23 when it made Metacritic’s list of the best releases of 2007. Every year, I go through that list and see which albums I should add to my collection. I’ll be honest and say that, even though the CD got really good reviews, I never got past this band’s name, so I didn’t give that CD a second thought.


Then I saw this and I thought, Goddamn, that’s beautiful. Within minutes, I downloaded the song and started playing the hell out of it. Shortly thereafter, I Amazoned the album and then it became my driving CD for months and months.


But it all started with this song. There’s just something automatically beautiful about a female voice plaintively singing long notes over a great beat. (For another example of this, listen to the above-listed Timbaland track, starting at about the 2:23 mark.)


At first, I couldn’t really understand the words that Kazu Makino was singing, but that wasn’t important enough to concern me. They’re just words, so who gives? It didn’t take me long, however, to figure out that the first two lines were twenty-three seconds / all things we love will die, and you can’t argue with that. It’s going to leave you destroyed, because it’s true, but you can’t argue with that. Not the twenty-three seconds part, because I've no clue what it means, but the thing about the love and the dying. And then there’s stuff about he was from a mercurial god/he was the son of God, which I just don’t get, so I’m just going to let that go. Later, there’s more twenty-three seconds stuff, but now it’s followed by in you, I see a chance, and that I get entirely.


Musical Moment of the Year In a Song That Was Not the Song of the Year: I’m already on the record as saying that I love Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. That album’s an art object of the highest order and the songs themselves are art objects of the highest order.


A great way to help you decide if a new song is truly great is to ask yourself if you think that other artists will eventually cover it and if those covers will be any good. What do I mean? The ten-jillion covers of Yesterday is what I mean. Or all of the covers of Let  It Be (by far, a much better song) is what I mean. And then there’s a song like Simon & Garfunkel’s The Boxer, one of my favorite songs. There haven’t been very many covers, as far as I can figure, but two of those, Bob Dylan’s and Emmylou Harris’, are really amazing. And it’s a song that should be covered much more.


And I just recently discovered the existence of covers of two of Bon Iver’s songs, recorded on 19 April 2009, and officially released on 9 December 2009.


(In the past few weeks, I’ve been putting together a list of music to which I need to soon pay attention, so I've been checking various websites, and  I ended up at The Onion’s A.V. Club, where I found an article that led to an album that included these two songs.)


Who did those covers? The Eau Claire Memorial Jazz Ensemble 1. If you’ve never heard of them, it’s because it’s a high school jazz band from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.


Why is a high school jazz band all over Bon Iver? Because Justin Vernon, the artist who records as Bon Iver, was in that same jazz band when he was in high school. And to make the whole deal even cooler, Vernon actually played with the band on those covers, and on other songs, too, as part of that 19 April 2009 recording, which took place during a concert to fund a trip for them in order to perform at New York City’s Lincoln Center during the  Essentially Ellington competition.


Musical Moment of the Year In a Song That Was Not Song of the Year: The flute solo in The Eau Claire Memorial Jazz Ensemble 1’s cover of Bon Iver’s Lump Sum.


After reading the above-mentioned A.V. Club article, I listened to the thirty-second snippets of those two songs on iTunes, decided that they were worthy of being purchased, and downloaded the songs without too much thought, all of this happening on 28 December 2009. It was only during the first playing of Lump Sum that I discovered that there was a flute solo that started at the 4:10 mark and that lasted for the last 2:15 of the song.


I’m already also on the record as saying that I like a good flute solo, so finding a great one at the end of one of the songs from one of my favorite albums ever was amazing. Breathtaking. I don’t know who had the idea for the solo—You know what would be cool right here? A badass flute solo.—but whoever it was might be a genius.


In a video that somebody in the audience recorded of the actual concert, the flute player stands up at the 2:05 mark to take his solo, as well he should have so that everybody could see him as he delivered the pain. I don’t know if he knew when he stood up how beautiful his solo was going to be, how it might make the audience ache, but that kid doesn’t have to do anything else for the rest of his life.


Most people don’t make one beautiful thing in their lives, can’t make one beautiful thing in their lives, but he clearly did, and, no matter what, no matter how his life does or doesn’t come together, he has that one accomplishment that he can look back on.


He played a great solo in the middle of a great song. It was the sound of the soul and the heart in distress, in crisis, of longing and loneliness. And it was lovely.