The Year in Song

Over at the New Yorker, John Donohue has posted a story called “The Year of the Songstress” in which he writes that “Dozens upon dozens of albums cross my desk every day. A few from this year that stand out share a common trait—they each have female vocalists.”
What is this, 1995? Have we just come down from our Liz Phair, early-Hole high and discovered that women can make music too? Sing to me Alanis, rock that guitar Meredith!

To me, Donohue’s post is as offensive as if he’d pointed out that several notable releases shared a common trait because they came from, you know, black people.

Idiot.

Moving cheerily along, I had a tough time coming up with my annual top 10 list this year and the one I threw together for the annual Pazz & Jop poll seems, in retrospect, a little half-assed and definitely half-hearted.

I’m not sure exactly where my apathy stems from. Perhaps I didn’t listen to as much new music this year — certainly leaving the Bee meant that less came my way. I felt as though I did make a point to seek out new artists or listen to new releases by old favorites but perhaps not as much in years past.

I think maybe it’s that as this year was so much about starting over that I simply found comfort in old music. There were old favorites by the likes of Whiskeytown, Yo La Tengo and Jeff Buckley.

There were plenty of decades-old tunes as well. I listened to a lot of Duke Ellington, Peggy Lee, Memphis Minnie, Etta Fitzgerald, Kay Starr, George Jones and Dolly Parton this year. That’s just what sounded right to my ears.

That said, here are my favorite albums of 2009, pared down from the Village Voice entry into a more enthusiastic Top 5 list

1. “Merriweather Post Pavilion” – Animal Collective

I’ve always been sort of on the fence with this group but this epic pop album sealed the deal.

2. “It’s Not You, It’s Me” – Lily Allen

I was worried Lily Allen would let me down after her debut album – a disc I thoroughly wore out with constant rotation – but this album is just as saucy, sassy and sarcastically fun.

3. “Wilco (The Album)” – Wilco

Another Wilco album, another favorite. What can I say? I like even their worst albums but thankfully this one proved to be a great one.

4. “Actor” – St. Vincent. Took me a long time to warm up to this one but once I did I was glad I gave it all those chances.

5.  “Hazards of Love” – The Decemberists. Epic album that finally fulfilled this band’s potential.

I also really like the new Raveonettes album but I just got it a week ago so it seems premature to declare it a 2009 favorite.

It was easier to pick out songs that I loved …

  1. “My Girls” – Animal Collective
  2. “Heavy Cross” – The Gossip
  3. “Fuck You” – Lily Allen
  4. “I’ll Fight” – Wilco
  5. “Nothing to Hide” – Yo La Tengo
  6. “”What We Know” – Sonic Youth
  7. “Led to the Sea” – Jenny Owens Young
  8. “”High Horses” – the Swell Season
  9. “”Laughing with a Mouth of Blood” – St. Vincent
  10. “Everytime I’m With You” – Sparklehorse, featuring Jason Lytle
  11. “The Gold” – Sea of Bees
  12. “Dull Life” – the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  13. “Palace of Bone” – Peter Doherty
  14. “Eager to Die” – Mike Hale
  15. “Hideaway” – Karen O. & the Kids
  16. “Voodoo” – Ganglians
  17. “Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer” – A.C. Newman
  18. “Primitive Man” – Fruit Bats
  19. “The Hazards of Love” – The Decemberists
  20. “Life’s a Dream” – Built to Spill
  21. “My Life Would Suck Without You” – Kelly Clarkson

Revolution Snuggie

Snuggies let me raise the roof
Raise the roof in your snuggie

Yikes, I didn’t realize it’d been so long since the last update; the last two weeks didn’t get away from me–they clobbered me. Papers to grade, holidays to hold, cover stories to write. It feels like I’m only just now coming up for air and still the semester isn’t even over yet. Anyone want to grade final papers for me? I’ll pay you in cookies (kidding LRCC, kidding…).

I’ve basically been in survival mode the last few weeks, grading and writing non-stop, not seeing much of friends, my only downtime coming late at night when I finally head to the couch and Cory pours me a glass of wine and I try to bring my breathing down to something normal, something that will let me approach sleep.

As it’s finally and blissfully cold, this ritual also includes the nightly donning of fleecy pants, hoodies and slippers (sexy, right?). Lately I’ve been joking about how I want a Snuggie— you know, the fleecy “blanket with sleeves.” It started when Cory and I were trying to figure out our Halloween costumes and nearly settled on the laziest costume of all time: Snuggies. Seriously, how rad would that have been? Well, I thought it would be anyway–cozy, drink-friendly, cheap and effortless.

That didn’t happen but, still I joked and then, spurred on by a suggestion from Becca, I decided to write my column about Snuggies.

I didn’t tell Cory this so imagine my surprise when he came home from work on Monday–just hours after I filed my column–with a gift: My very own forest green Snuggie!

I opened it that night all set to get as snuggie as possible….but ….

Well, here’s how the Snuggie web site tries to sell you on this fleecy invention:

The Snuggie is perfect for:

* Traveling in the Car
* Night Time Pub Crawls
* Chilly Office Buildings
* Sporting Events
* Cold Movie Theaters

Here’s what they don’t tell you about the Snuggie:

* It’s constructed for an NBA player – seriously it’s long enough for me to wear while standing on Beno Udrih’s shoulders
* It’s got extra long, baggy arms, it kind of looks like you’re wearing a Hogwarts robe — one constructed for Hagrid
* It looks like it was constructed in one of Kathie Lee Gifford’s sweatshops — yeah, it’s that bad.

And yet I wear it. I wear it on the couch, I wear it while typing, I wear it while I’m napping. So far, however, I think I have too much of a personal sense of shame to ever–ever–wear this damn thing in public. If I ever do, stick a fork in me, I’m done ….