By Chris Moore:
In April 2009, I decided to put together a playlist for a friend, one which would represent my favorite music that I had discovered since I began paying close attention to new music, as well as expanding my range of interests. This had all started in the middle of my first year of teaching; now that I made a regular salary, I realized I could budget out enough money for regular music purchases. So, it all started in January 2008 with Ringo Starr’s Liverpool 8. I would have bought that album anyway, but I went on to buy albums that I never would have paid much attention to in the past. Some, like R.E.M.’s Accelerate, are albums that I consider to be among the best of all time.
I’m glad I didn’t miss them!
Now, of course, there were many mediocre (and worse) albums along the way, but in the end, this decision has been fruitful. I look forward with excitement to each “New Music Tuesday,” waiting to receive the Newbury Comics newsletter in my inbox. Many weeks, there is music that piques my interest, and I set off on the journey to pick it up and listen.
I will feature this first playlist of 2008 music on next week’s edition of “Playlists on Parade,” but I felt the strong urge to start with my latest playlist. This is a collection of songs that I discovered in 2009, either because they were released that year, were recommended to me, or I stumbled upon them. I hope you enjoy the brief liner notes and consider picking some of these up!
1) “Got Some” – Pearl Jam
This is the song I thought should have been the lead-off track on their 2009 album Backspacer. I first heard it performed live on the first-ever Late Night with Conan O’Brien show, and I was head-over-heels for it from the first snare shots. The studio version didn’t disappoint, and thus, it’s the lead-off track for this playlist.
2) “Wilco (the song)” – Wilco
I’ll admit it: I laughed when I first heard this song performed live on the Colbert Report, but I simply fell in love with the album version. The band is clearly so comfortable with themselves that this very direct, very cheesy statement comes across as consoling and encouraging. I needed it last year, and I continue to sing along every time.
3) “Help Me, Suzanne” – Rhett Miller
I vividly remember hearing this song for the first time on Mike Fusco’s iPhone. He was playing this because it was a song he had to share. He had heard it on the Hollister store soundtrack, and I was surprised by just how good it was. How could such excellent music slip by unnoticed? Well, Mike noticed it, and I picked up the album shortly after. There are a couple other great songs, but although the album is enjoyable, there’s no song that competes with this gem.
4) “Singing Joy to the World” – The Fruit Bats
This is one of the most stripped down performances on the Fruit Bats’ brilliant 2009 album The Ruminant Band. You just don’t hear too many ballads like this one, and I’m hooked on the lyrics and melody every time I listen.
5) “Part of It” – Relient K
Why this song wasn’t released as a single from 2009’s Forget and Not Slow Down, I’ll never know. It is easily one of the best performances on the album, and it is one of my favorite Relient K songs of all time. My favorite line? Gotta be: “I’m the Cusack on the lawn of your heart.” Now THAT is a metaphor for the ages!
6) “Jonathon Fisk” – Spoon
Mentioned in an email by former student Geoff Troup less than a month before the New Year, I set out to hear Spoon’s Kill the Moonlight before their scheduled 2010 release of Transference (which is fantastic, by the way). I realized I did know “That’s the Way We Get By,” probably from watching The O.C. with my sister. (Did I just admit that in an official post? Wow.) The album was a bit odd to me at first, but after a few listens, I couldn’t get enough of their unique style. “Jonathon Fisk” is among the best, and I hold a special place in my heart for this track since I learned it for a recent Laptop Session.
7) “The Mob Goes Wild” – Clutch
Clutch came highly recommended by my colleague Dan O’Brien, and although I liked Blast Tyrant very much (so much that it just missed charting on my favorite 50 albums of the decade list), “The Mob Goes Wild” immediately stood out from the rest. It is one of those songs for which you feel compelled to learn the lyrics so you can competently sing along. It also adds a nice, harder edge to this playlist that balances out the quieter tracks.
8) “Cornerstone” – The Arctic Monkeys
Like “Singing Joy to the World,” I instantly fell in love with the story told in this song. Not only did I listen with rapt attention that first listen, but I was fascinated by the instrumental and vocal blend. “Cornerstone” is a wonderfully quirky, hauntingly skeevy, and addictively entertaining track, one that softened my distaste for the Arctic Monkeys,’ an opinion I had based on their early work.
9) “Life of a Thousand Crimes” – Echo & the Bunnymen
If you believed the critics that write for the major music magazines, you would have ignored the 2009 release (The Fountain) that yielded this Echo & the Bunnymen gem. McCulloch’s vocals are in gritty, perfect form for leading this upbeat romp.
10) “Peacemaker” – Green Day
There were so many standout tracks on Green Day’s 2009 album 21st Century Breakdown that it was difficult to choose just one for this playlist. Overall, though, “Peacemaker” is one of the most instrumentally and vocally interesting, not to mention one of the catchiest. When I recorded my Laptop Session cover song version of this track, it certainly gave me a workout as I figured out how to fit in all the vocals and still breathe!
11) “Cream and Bastards Rise” – Harvey Danger
Remember “Flagpole Sitta”? Well, it seems that this is about the only Harvey Danger song that anyone remembers. And it’s a shame because 2005’s Little by Little… is an outstanding disc, one that featured this catchy, killer performance of their lead single. (And, sadly, they’re so right!)
12) “Jocelyn” – Kevin Hearn & Thin Buckle
If you liked the hidden track on the Barenaked Ladies’ 2000 album Maroon, then Kevin Hearn and Thin Buckle are for you. This, as you may have guessed, is Hearn’s side project, and their second album (2004’s Night Light) yielded this beautiful little song. After the frenetic buildup of “Peacemaker” and “Cream and Bastards Rise,” I thought this was the perfect track to relax on before “Got Some” returns again for another go-round.