A very young and reckless part of me leapt for joy (ha!) when this was first released. Phish is back, bitches! Backwards Down The Number Line will forever be one of my favorite and most respected Birthday anthems. Which is significant if you consider that it replaced that other time honored, if not also a bit over-tired classic "Happy Birthday." That's like substituting "Cheesecake!" for an applause by hand clapping (non-Phish fans, you may not get this reference. Don't worry about it).
But more seriously, 2009 saw a lot of my favorite bands release new material. Dave Matthews and Ben Harper made a really strong showing with Groogrux and White Lies. Likewise, Pearl Jam reminded the forgetful with Backspacer that they wrote the book on alternative rock. I'm sure Cold War Kids will deliver.
Phish, though, was probably the BIGGEST surprise of 2009. Not that Round Room and Undermind were completely awful. But it was almost painful to see the Funky Four stumble on what was supposed to be their fabled Second (and Third) Coming. Compared to Lawn Boy, Rift and Billy Breathes, Round Room and Undermind were certainly weak sauce. Since Phish has released Joy, however, I'm willing to forget those other two albums ever happened. Welcome back to my CD player, guys. Happy happy oh my friend.
For those of you who've been living under a rock the past year, 2009 was a fairly important year in Copyright (v. Copyleft). Quite plainly, it is almost too easy to just take music (technically speaking of course. I'm sure at least a few Shanty folk find such a practice morally prohibitive). The Pirate Bay trials over in Sweden perhaps served as the climax of the Recording Industry's effort to squash P2P service providers globally. The the Industry got their judgment, but the Pirate Bay continues to operate (maybe more successfully then before) through a series of sleeper cell-like operations. Quite dramatic. Meanwhile, the poor Tenenbaum kid here at home, one of only a few file-sharers that decided to actually defend themselves against a suit measuring in the $100k's, tragically demonstrated that an all out indictment of the Industry still doesn't work. Still, practical solutions have emerged.
However, the Copyleft did score a major victory with the release of Feed the Animals. Composed almost entirely of unlicensed samples from other recording artists, the album functions as an expression of 21st century music consumption; we the listener also give meaning to the madness. Greg Gillis is the new Andy Warhol. It's that old school crap in that new school hit. Makes me wanna party.
Did anybody else pick up on the irony in My Girls? "I don't care for fancy things, or to take part in the freshest wave." It's exactly that type of disengaged commitment to the art that separates the greats. Rare talent meets with technological circumstance. Keep it real, keep it real shout out. Enough said.
I don't think this one really blipped on many radars, though it was on CONSTANT rotation in my car, my stereo and my earbuds. Raph Saadiq does big band like Buble can't. With soul. When it comes to Blues, R & B, Jazz and Soul, very few can top The Way I See It. Also, I'm nearly convinced that any reference to Sinatra made by the title isn't merely imagined. The Way I See It is an instant classic. Light me a smoke so I can sing some jazz.
This may of been the year of pop. Discussing this year's Billboard Top 25 Singles, DJ Earworm points out that "so many of the pop songs...seem to tell the same story: Yea, we've been through a lot, but right now we're gonna celebrate with music and dance, and it's gonna be OK." I can buy into that. Passion Pit certainly did (at least their debut album, though perhaps the same can't be said for their live performances). As a cultural indicator, Manners bottoms out my list of My Favorite Albums in 2009.
And though they didn't make the top 5, I wanted to at least mention a few of the runners up. Blakroc maybe arrived a bit too late to take a spot on the list, though I'm going to go ahead and say it.
Also, Monsters of Folk at least deserves mention, though for some unexplainable reason, I've yet to actually listen to it. OH! and let's not forget The Electric Dream Machine...
I mean, they perform better than Passion Pit, right?