Ok, I hate choosing favorites and I’m not a big fan of lists either, but you don’t really care about my personal problems, right? I’m also going to avoid any kind of pithy synopsis about what 2009 “meant” or how it “stacked up” musically. Let’s wait until the corpse is cold before we start making our diagnoses, eh?
As is increasingly true, I continue to listen to more and more music made in the past than is coming out during the present. So many delicious dance record nuggets I had yet to encounter! I was also involved in some popular music history classes (teaching and taking), so there was plenty of remedial jazz and rock ‘n’ roll listening to do as well. Nevertheless, 2009 had some contenders, listed below in no particular order.
- Jamie Foxx – Blame It [link]. Dreamy, catchy, funny pop that proves that while T-Pain’s rewards may be getting shallower, he’s still got some tricks up his sleeve. I had an intense, very drunken late-night argument over whether this song advocates date rape. I voted no.
- Shit Robot – Simple Things (Work It Out) [link]. DFA had a good year as usual, and this stood out for me — an evil acid house creeper in the Sleazy D tradition. And vocals about the anxiety of the modern condition (another acid staple) by Ian Svenonius!
- The Hasbeens – You & Me [link]. Even if Clone were only a reissue label, it’d be one of my favorites. Instead, they also release new acts that are seamless companions to their mission to excavate the weird dark edges of italo, electro, house, and techno, sans ironic winking. Great video too.
- A.B.A. – White Girl Clothes [link]. Jerk ain’t THAT special, although it’s got some good tracks and a lot of energy. This is one stands out in its flagrant playing with significations of whiteness that, for me, indelibly mark the genre.
- Uproot Andy – Brooklyn Cumbia. This boy’s got some chops! Great sax line, and an upkey piano riff that can kickstart any mixtape (including the second ZZK comp)
- Dam-Funk – Toeachizown. Excessive amounts of brittle icy synths, stiff idiosyncratic drums, and Prince fetishism. Yes, there is a lot of “eccentric drugged-out producer-hermit” baggage in the marketing of this, and it’s inconsistent, but it also seems so generous in its excesses that I can’t help loving it.
- Ghostface – Wizard of Poetry / Raekwon – OBFCL2. These guys are both so good at what they do, so comfortable and confident. Ghostface is increasingly drawn to R&B-flavored love stories, while Rae provides everyone the throwback they’ve been clamoring for for a decade.
- Azari & III – Hungry For the Power. But for the keyboards, I almost mistook this for vintage male-diva house. It’s not. It might be better.
- Gucci Mane feat. Plies – Wasted [link]. Everyone’s probably sick of this song by now, a fate I anticipated from the first time I heard this on Chicago’s Power 92. Gucci is funny and all, but is enough credit being given to his producers? This isn’t a beat that begs for attention like Timbaland or something, but it is some of the best, most anthemic dirty south trunk music I’ve ever heard.
- Gang Gang Dance – Bebey (DJ /Rupture and Matt Shadetek Mix) [link]. 2009 was the year I realized that DJ /Rupture wasn’t about musically connecting dots on a map. In the grand techno tradition, he wants to make sounds from other worlds. Last year he pulled it off better than he ever has — maybe 2009 was the year he realized it too?
- Black Meteoric Star – Black Meteoric Star [link]. Like John Carpenter making acid house. Which is of course a VERY GOOD THING.
- Mario feat. Gucci Mane & Sean Garrett – Break Up [link]. Weird, druggy, menacing, wrong-sounding. And a monster R&B hit. Kinda keeps my faith in America alive.
- Footwork [link]. The music is so inseparable from the culture of teenage dance battles that it’s almost impossible to find online outside a few scattered YouTubes and iMeems. Not on the radio, not on iTunes, not even really on mixtapes. Yet it’s world-rending power is so compelling I can’t believe I moved from Chicago without trying to track down a few of these kids.
- Lil Wayne – No Ceilings. Still the best, though the collabs drag this down a bit. Wayne needs a mixtape of him over the year’s best beats every year. There should be a national foundation for this operation.
- Black Point feat. Del Patio – Watagatapitusberry [link]. Dominicano post-reggaeton club music that became a Souljah-Boy-style treasure trove of video versions. Not sure how big this is, but could get a lot bigger.
- Wale – Pretty Girls [link]. I moved to DC in 2009, so I was fortunate that the hometown hero had a hot single out — equal doses ’70s power ballad and go-go polyrhythms. Easy on the synths, guys.
- A million mambo remixes of Michael Jackson. He died. Everyone mourned. Many made remixes. The merengue de calle ones were some of my favorites. This one is my number one.
- R. Kelly – Pregnant [link]. The R doing what he does best — singing an absurd conceptual seduction record completely straight-faced. There will always be a large place in my heart for this kind of thing.
Anything I miss?