Thursday, December 17, 2009

Best of 2009: Time warp

As has been my tradition the last couple of years, I wanted to do a post that highlighted some of the stuff that really became part of the soundtrack of the year while not having the good fortune of being released this year. Sometimes it's stuff that I've newly discovered, sometimes it's recently rediscovered - it really doesn't matter. The funny thing is that the list seems to keep shrinking - the first year I did it, it was 5 albums. Last year, it was 4 albums. This year, it's two songs and an album.

"Reverse Psychology" / Laura Branigan

I don't even remember how I happened upon this song. It's from the late Laura Branigan's self-titled 1990 album, an album that came long after Branigan had stopped having hits. The song is hopelessly dated and, as one reviewer pointed out, sounds like it could have played over the credits of any 80s romantic comedy. Both points are accurate, but they say them like they're a bad thing. This song went into incredibly heavy rotation on my iPod in late May/early June of this year. I was drawn in by the cheeseball late 80s synths and incredibly hooky chorus. (which you can hear for yourself in the iTunes snippet) And besides, any song that can use the words "reverse psychology" in the lyrics, let along use them as crucially as this song does, gets bonus points from me. It has enjoyed a year-end renaissance as well as it's usually the first song I listen to on my walk into work each day.

"What's He Got?" / Graham Coxon

I had no idea who Graham Coxon was the night that one of my friends from high school referred to a mutual friend as a "Graham-Coxon look alike" on Facebook. I had to go and find out if there really was a resemblance (there was), and much like "Reverse Psychology," exactly how I stumbled across this song I still can't quite recall. The thick British accent over witty lyrics is what does it for me on this song. I loved this song so much that I went through and listened to samples of other songs of Coxon's. To my great surprise, I have found no other song of his that I really like. All the songs I've heard appear to lack the playfulness and great melody present in "What's He Got?" Although I am warming a bit to "Sorrow's Army" from his latest album, it's no "What's He Got?"

Boston / Boston

I owe this year's fascination with Boston to my friend Matt, who is a pretty big Boston fan. He and his friend Lance do a weekly podcast and one of the topics early in the year was "Timestamp Songs" and he mentioned Boston's "Foreplay/Long Time" as one of his. One thing you should know about Matt is that even though both of us are passionate about music, we have maybe a 5% overlap in musical taste. This has actually been a good thing because he's gotten a chance to appreciate the finer points of Madonna's album tracks, and he's contributed pretty much every a cappella song in my iTunes library. Anyway, Boston has always existed for me much like it does for most people - we all know "More Than A Feeling," "Don't Look Back," and "Amanda." My biggest exposure to Boston was via KGGO radio when I went to Iowa State in the early 90s. It seemed like every other song was a Boston song. So when I finally got around to purchasing Boston's debut album this summer, it was almost as if I had heard the whole thing before. Having memories associated with songs you've never heard before can be a bit trippy.

For me, Boston typifies the whole KGGO/classic rock experience, one that I have a love/hate relationship with. I do really like a lot of it, but being 18 and having KGGO blaring out of every dorm room on the floor was one of the first moments in my life that I can recall thinking "hey, the music you like is not what most guys like!" It has taken me years to stop being embarrassed of my musical choices and even now there are still vestigial remnants of it in spite of my I-don't-give-a-shit attitude when it comes to what most people think.

Boston's place on this list was sealed on our trip west this summer. Nothing warmed my heart more than driving through the Rocky Mountains with Anna sitting next to me singing the chorus to "Rock & Roll Band" at the top of her lungs. (Heidi was in the back seat of the car trying not to freak out about the mountain roads.)

All three of these things speak to a big part of why I love pop music so much - it seems like every song reminds me of SOMETHING. There was one weekend at work during which we were listening to the radio and it seemed like every song that came on, I had a story for it. It's why I write about it so much, and why the oldies really do hold a firm grip on me.

But the rest of the lists will be about stuff from this year. I'm not old and crotchety yet!

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