The Runners-Up!

But wait, there’s more! Of course there were runners-up — twenty, as a matter of fact — that, depending on the time of day or the way the sun streams through a window, could have made this top 15 (+1). And now to put my obsessive-compulsiveness to rest.

My Favorite Songs of 2009:

1. Mos Def, “Quiet Dog” (2009)
2. The Sea and Cake, “On a Letter” (2008)
3. Pinback, “Loro” (2008)
4. Quantic and His Combo Bárbaro, “Linda Morena” (2009)
5. Passion Pit, “Folds in Your Hands” (2009)
6. Ximena Sariñana, “Vidas Paralelas” (2008)
7. Thomas Tantrum, “Work It” (2008)
8. The Zombies, “I Want Her She Wants Me” (1968)
9. Ben Kweller, “Old Hat” (2009)
10. Ida Maria, “Oh My God” (2007)
11. Anna Fermin’s Trigger Gospel, “How Do You Judge Me” (2003)
12. The Phenomenal Handclap Band, “15 to 20” (2009)
13. Speech Debelle, “The Key” (2009)
14. ComaR, “I Want You D.A.N.C.E.” (2008)
15. Michael Jackson, “Happy” (1973)
16. Wonder Girls, “Nobody” (2008)


My 15 Favorite Songs of 2008.

Austin, March 2008.

Every December or January, in a yearly ritual that somehow became more and more of a chore, I do a roundup of my favorite albums I heard throughout the year. Last year’s sorry excuse for a list was the result of writing exhaustion: what else could I really write about Boxer or Sound of Silver that hadn’t already been written?

Unlike the real critics, though, I included everything, old and new, in my year-end list — for the simple reason that musical excavation was a lot easier (and many times a lot more rewarding) than trying to keep up with new releases. I don’t get free advance CDs, after all. 2008 was the year I plunged deeply into irrationally different discographies: Led Zeppelin, Wilco, Ricardo Villalobos, Broken Social Scene, Arab Strap, and almost every compilation of ’70s African music (especially the wonderful Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Nigerian Blues 1970-6) I could get my hands on.

This year it seemed even harder to write up a list because my musical consumption, and perhaps my attention span as well, had been downsized. I had caught up, finally, with the iPod Generation, and succumbed to the sonic implications of the shuffle function, my beloved MusicIP Mixer, the Genius Playlist,, and downloadable tracks from iTunes and Amazon — all features designed, it seems, to be at cross-purposes with the overarching framework of an album.

Such features make it easier to subvert and/or disrespect the artist’s intentions somehow. Surely Radiohead, for instance, wanted you to hear “All I Need”, a total stunner of a track, between “Weird Fishes / Arpeggi” and “Faust Arp”. But random playlists and shuffles also work in the service of a song. One might say that the shuffle liberates a song from the confines of the album, recontextualizes it, and makes it new. Stateless’ “Bloodstream” popped up that way (on a Radio station based on Clara Hill), and Captain Audio’s “Lemon” came bubbling out of the speakers on an Austin radio station like some long-lost Liz Phair track.

Hearing songs in different contexts played a huge part of my musical listening in 2008. My iTunes statistics tell a different story from the list later below: my most-played songs were the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps”, OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” (really — with 42 and a half million views on YouTube, you don’t even have to click the link), and Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So” — and you players of Rock Band know why. Jill Scott’s “Golden”, a total declaration of independence, was one of my favorite songs this year since I saw strippers ironically dancing to it… in Grand Theft Auto IV.

So was Antony and the Johnsons’ “Hope There’s Someone”, from an album that didn’t make much of an impression on me until I heard the song at the conclusion of Wayne Wang’s The Princess of Nebraska. (Here’s my review, by the way.) Casiotone for the Painfully Alone’s “New Year’s Kiss” plays during the opening credits of Barry Jenkins’ Medicine for Melancholy (another quick review here). And yes, also Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend”, from “Harvest Moon” — an album I always thought of as being all about the gorgeous title track — because Tunde Adebimpe sings it a cappella in Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married.

Which is not to say that there weren’t any albums I played all the way through until I wore out the grooves — oh wait, I haven’t done that since “Dark Side of the Moon”. Little Dragon‘s 2007 debut album was, hands down, my favorite album of the year (you all need to watch the video for “Test”), as were a couple albums noted below, and two older albums — Houses of the Holy and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot — which I had listened to back in the day, but only really clicked this year.

But here, nonetheless, is a sweet surrender to the joys of song, all released in 2008 for real (with the exception of the Vampire Weekend track, which Pitchfork cognoscenti probably found out about in 2007). They’re actually ranked in order, too, which is something I’ve never attempted before. As it is, the order will probably change (as I type this, Point Juncture WA‘s “Melon Bird” is threatening to crack the top 15).



When Did I Become Such A Music Fanboy?

this damned war

More on Kanye West's Comments.

Just to put some of Kanye West’s comments in context:

We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way.

From the St. Louis-Dispatch (reprinted in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, via Daily Kos):

Currently, members of the Guard and Reserves make up four of every 10 military personnel in Iraq. It’s the largest long-term deployment of the nation’s reserves in 50 years. And their casualties reflect that.

Men and women who just months ago held jobs such as truck driver, accountant and teacher now make up nearly one of every four servicemen and women being killed in the war.

In no state have those deaths registered more than in Louisiana. Louisiana, along with New York, has lost more guardsmen and reservists — 23 as of July 24 — than any state in the nation, and all but one of those deaths have come in the last eight months.

And posted August 1, from ABC News 26 in New Orleans:

When members of the Louisiana National Guard left for Iraq in October, they took a lot [of] equipment with them. Dozens of high water vehicles, humvees, refuelers and generators are now abroad, and in the event of a major natural disaster that, could be a problem.

“The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission,” said Lt. Colonel Pete Schneider with the LA National Guard.

Col. Schneider says the state has enough equipment to get by, and if Louisiana were to get hit by a major hurricane, the neighboring states of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have all agreed to help.

Kanye again:

And now they’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us.

You just have to love this Brigadier-General Gary Jones, who clearly knows how to talk to the press:

“This place is going to look like Little Somalia,” Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging area outside the Louisiana Superdome. “We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.”

They were, after all, given “shoot-to-kill” orders.

[Update: More on Bush’s tour of New Orleans as a massive photo opportunity. There’s also a link to the apparently now-infamous Geraldo Rivera / Shepard Smith video where they lose it on air on Fox News — yes, on Fox News.]


"George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People."

Just in case you haven’t heard about it:

A celebrity telethon for Hurricane Katrina survivors took an unexpected turn when outspoken rapper Kanye West went off script during the live broadcast, declaring America is set up “to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off as slow as possible.”

And there’s more:

…West began a rant by saying, “I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says they’re looting. See a white family, it says they’re looking for food.”

While allowing that “the Red Cross is doing everything they can,” West… declared that government authorities are intentionally dragging their feet on aid to the Gulf Coast. Without getting specific, he added, “They’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us.”

After he stated, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” the camera cut away to comedian Chris Tucker.

The video is right here. (And perhaps the icing on the cake: his comments were actually censored when the telethon was broadcast on the West Coast.)

Is this the Month (or Year) of Ye or what? Last week he drops an album — yeah, I preordered the limited edition digipak with the poster and the T-shirt — that is likely going to be on my favorites of the year (and will certainly end up on many others’ lists as well), and then this. The man deserves a medal.