Monday, December 21, 2009

The Musically Inclined Top 10 Finds of 2009

End of the decade. End of the year. It's a list-making bonanza! TMI is here to add yet another one to the mix.

2009 was an alright year for music. Once we got out from under the freak out over Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion, 2009 couldn't commit to being an indie kind of year (The Avett Brothers gathered some major steam and the Decemberists did us proud again) or a not-so-indie kind of year (Bruce. U2. Need I say more?).

So, what did happen? Kanye interrupted people. Green Day released another rock opera. T-Pain took to the water. Lady Gaga... I don't know. I'm still trying to figure that one out. We kept our earbuds plugged in and refused to admit that The Black-Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" is our new Friday night anthem. (Wait, did I just write that out loud?)Oh, and somehow The Beatles managed to bring in big bucks 40 years after breaking up.

That said, here are The Musically Inclined's Top 10 Finds of 2009. In an effort to keep things fresh, I made up some rules that dictate who can make it on the list.

1. It can be any artist or band that was unheard by TMI before January '09.
2. Songs have to be good. Catchy? Bouncy? Quirky? Yes, but mostly they just have to be solid. Doesn't hurt to be fun and mildly screwy, either. (See #4).

That's all. These tunes just had to survive my music turn over rate, and survive they did! I included YouTube links. Happy exploring.

1. Anonanimal : Andrew Bird

The shift to the breakdown towards the middle of the song alone would have earned Bird the top spot on the list. Noble Beast is a fine record-- unusual in its intricacy and beautiful in its instrumentation. It was the best I heard all year, and to think it came out in January. Listen

2. Auto-Tune the News #5 / Butter on My Roll : The Gregory Brothers

Miles away from the no. 1 entry, The Gregory Brothers have found fame by auto-tuning news clips and turning the boring punditry of Sunday mornings into catchy hip/hop/pop ditties that will have you singing the strangest phrases on loop. ("It's the smooooke!"). Yet further exploration revealed that The Gregory Brothers also have a brand of really cool, soulful tunes that and some killer voices that are far from needing auto-tune. For this Jekyll and Hyde of a band, TMI selected a song from each mode. The Gregory Brothers win the longevity award this year, as months have passed and I still can't shake Katie Couric singing about Fidel Castro. Listen / Listen

3. Blue Skies : Noah and the Whale

The National and Andrew Bird had a love child. True story. Found these guys thanks to a minor road trip and a friend with exceptional taste. It was hard to pick out just one track from the album, The First Days of Spring, but this represents the band pretty well. Listen

4. Meet Me in the Garden : Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele

So bad it's good? So weird you can't look away? Maybe. TMI was intrigued by this over the top tongue-in-cheek (I hope) crooner. See for yourself why Dent couldn't have been left off the list. Listen

5. Cable TV : Fol Chen

Synthesized beats, blips, buzzes, sort of bored-sounding (or are they alluring, hmmm?) vocals-- that sort of thing. This song is just so cool and strange. Fol Chen is on the cryptic, mysterious side, covering their faces in photographs and the like. In any case, the video for this song fits so perfectly, it's ridiculous. Listen

6. When She's Near : Fiction Family

One part Nickel Creek, one part Switchfoot-- what a fantastic side project. Fiction Family has a warm folksiness that pervades the entire album. Think brightly colored fall leaves. This group is like the smart grandchild of the kind of music people used to play on their front porches-- aware of its roots but not consumed by them. Listen

7. The Crook of My Good Arm : Pale Young Gentlemen

Wisconsin. Eastern Europe. It works. Wrote up these folks in early January after finding them on a Paste Magazine Sampler CD. I think I used the term "gypsy rock" at the time. Yeah. Still works. A smidgen of Gogol Bordello. Unique without sounding gimmicky. Also still applies. Or you can just click here to read the entirety of what I originally wrote. Listen

8. My Girls : Animal Collective

Remember what I said about being catchy? Totally applies in an off beat way. Do we care what adobe slats have to do with anything? No. Listen

9. Worry About it Later : Brakes

Besides being a solid motto for how to live your life, this short, fast-paced little number goes by so quick you just have to back up and listen to it again. And again. Listen

10. Mimizan : Beirut

Oddly enough, this is the second Eastern Europe- channeling entry on this year's list. I first heard of Beirut in 2008 from a friend while sitting at my kitchen table, but it wasn't until I got the Dark Was the Night compilation that I actually heard them. The song sounds like it was put made by carnival folk, or put together from sounds off a merry-go-round. And somehow they pull it off. Listen

No comments: