Favorite, not best.
Did you know that movies generally take a year to come out on video? I always wondered why parents complained about never seeing the latest movie; obviously if they cared they could just watch them at home. But no, you'll be a year behind and it's hard to stay psyched and find the right moments. As a result I did watch Drive amidst interruptions, but have yet to find the motivation to watch Captain America. A result of this is that I'm going to have to drop my Top 5 favorite movies from the tradition. Concerts too, for more obvious reasons.
But music? Music was so fun this year. I've had a few people unhappy that in comparison to last years giants we'll have relatively tame lists, but I found myself much happier with music this year than years before. I felt obligated to include the Arcade Fire, obligated to mention The National, obligated to talk about how good Sufjan Stevens' new album was. This year though, I've found the ability to legitimately enjoy every moment of every album I've listened to on it's own merit, not because I should or because it's good but because I genuinely like it both right away and in the long term. My only qualm with music this year was that I had to really analyze some of my own prejudices. Did I only find the new Wilco album boring because it sounds like a Wilco album? If it had been some new band would it have been my favorite? Did I only like the new Ryan Adams album because it's Ryan Adams? These are hard questions to answer and it's difficult to put yourself outside of your own bubble. I did my best.
Top 5 Songs
5) Ashes and Fire - Ryan Adams
This was probably the hardest slot to decide on for both of my lists, but Ryan Adams makes it with my favorite album of his since Jacksonville certainly, maybe even since Gold. I can see how some, while waiting for Heartbreaker 2, could be disappointed; that is not what this album is. Instead, it's a nice, safe album that finds Adams in comfortable territory in touch with his roots and doing just fine. The title track just happens to be my favorite song of the bunch. I don't feel like he's trying to prove anything; he's just making good solid music.
4) Goshen - Beirut
I've developed a belief over the past few years that I'm in a place in my life where sad music doesn't make me sad anymore. It started with Counting Crows new album way back in 2008 when they released their new album; nothing stupid or different since they've always been predictable and sort of boring. The difference was me; I wasn't sad and their music couldn't make me sad. So when J. Mascis released his solo album, I loved it in theory but in application found myself a little unimpressed. Sure, it was beautiful and sad and earnest, all things I love in music, but it was also really sad and I just wasn't in that headspace. I didn't think music could put me there anymore.
Beirut proved me wrong. This song made me sad, and I found the whole album really touching in a personal way I didn't know I could feel anymore.
3) Towers - Bon Iver
This is my favorite song off the new Bon Iver album, an album that despite naysayers I can't help but love. This song in particular is wonderful, and it speaks to something really close to my heart; making an unromantic situation romantic by virtue of being young."Now you've added up to what you're from" is my favorite line of the whole album, maybe my favorite line of the year. The title itself is a reference to both Rapunzel's tower, a bee hive, and the dorm towers at UW that students call home.
2) Amor Fati - Washed Out
I liked this song before the video made it cool to like this song. It's simple but it's also simply beautiful, and I feel a sense of fuzzy happiness and wanderlust whenever I hear it. The whole Washed Out album is great, but this song brings the whole thing to another level; if you hear it and don't like it, don't bother listening to the album whole because it never gets better than this.
1) In My Time - Kurt Vile
I've heard a lot of people talk about other songs from the album being either their favorite or the most accessible; I think they're crazy. This song is at once the most accessible on the album, the best on the album, and at the same time captures the feeling of the album whole and summarizes it in a few sparse lines and notes. It's honest and sarcastic, happy and depressed, the summation of someone who's comfortable in the lifestyle they've carved for themselves by slacking off whenever and wherever possible. If you've ever been lazy and sort of content with that despite the obvious negative consequences lurking, you can't help but commiserate with this song and Kurt Vile.
On the Very First Day - Ron Sexsmith
This is better than #1 for me. It's an old Sesame Street song as covered by Ron Sexsmith in the mid-2000s. The first time I listened to it was shortly after we brought Elliott home from the hospital, and it made me cry. It makes me cry every time I listen to it. It just reminds me of my wonderful son, and his beautiful mother who loves him so, so much. It's more than I can handle.
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Top 5 Albums
5) Kaputt - Destroyer
This spot was probably going to go to someone else that was in fevered contention for the #5 slot, but when Cat neglected to put Destroyer on her Top 10, I gave it another listen to see why it might not have made the cut. At the time I was under the impression that, in my theoretical Top 10, it wouldn't have made the list (although I obviously liked the album an awful lot). Relistening to it after about six months of not, I realized just how much I loved this album. There are a handful of records I'll go back and throw on playlists after they've been out for years; this album has a wealth of songs I'm sure I'll do that to. Kaputt is just a magical album, and although I can't give Cat a backrub with it in the background while keeping a straight face, there's a lot more going on than some intentionally hilarious saxophone.
4) Bon Iver - Bon Iver
The prettiest album cover, to be sure, and some of the prettiest music packaged inside of it. I may have been off-mark by saying that I liked it more than his debut, but Justin Vernon's self titled was nonetheless beautiful. I'm also still not sure how off-the-mark Jon was when he made the assertion that it sounded like Coldplay, but I've come to a place where I'm okay with the way it sounds even if he's right; the album has enough redeeming qualities to more than compensate for the amount of backlash the Rosie O'Donnell's of the world dish out.
3) Metals - Feist
I wish I could say everything that makes Feist so personal to me, but I won't. The fact that this is so low at #3 is a testament to how important my Top 2 really are.
2) Hurry Up, We're Dreaming - M83
I really wanted this album to be good. Their last outing featured the insanely good "Kim and Jessie", a song that simply couldn't be matched by any of the others on the album. It showed their potential; could you imagine a whole album filled with "Kim and Jessie"s?
This album is not that. It's more consistent and coherent than their last, and while it doesn't have a "Kim and Jessie", it has a number of songs that come ever so close to being as good that it blows me away. I used to hope M83 would get better; I don't see how anyone could realistically hope they get any better than this.
1) The Rip Tide - Beirut
How M83 isn't my favorite album of the year is beyond me, but Beirut is just unquestionably closest to my heart. Recorded in 2009 but only released this year, The Rip Tide is an intensely personal endeavor and became something intensely personal for me. I don't know what I can say that would make you listen to it if you haven't or like it if you don't; it's my favorite album of the year and ever since I've come to that realization my list has been at something resembling peace. We have an understanding, this album and I.
Hooded Fang - Hooded Fang
This album was comforting to me midway through the year, when I was at a point where everything on my potential list was in disarray. No matter what, I knew I could safely put Hooded Fang somewhere in the middle of my list, with such awesome songs as "Laughing", and the awesome story about how I own $5 of their bass player's tattoo, it was a sure thing. That is, until Jon informed me it came out in 2010 and threw everything into disarray. Thanks Jon.