Kathy: The Mixtape
Aside from actual music publications and sites and podcasts and the like putting out their top however many whatevers of the year, I know a decent number of people who write their own best of lists. These are even better because 1. my friends have interesting taste in music and 2. it’ s like looking in their diaries. Have you ever gone through someone’s iPod? It’s more personal than picking through their garbage.
I was thinking about doing the same thing myself, but then I realized that no one cares about my top albums of the year because I am not a music critic. This is a theory that I could extend t0 this here digital venture but will not for sanity’s sake. So, rather than sum up the year in some kind of "this is good music, this is bad music, thus spaketh Kathy" fashion, I thought maybe I’d pull together the fifteen songs that will forever remind me of 2009.
Certain songs are rubber glued to particular times in my head; many of these songs have no distinguishing merit beyond their attached memories. Remember Boy Kill Boy? That song “Suzie”? No? Exactly. But that song is November of 2005 to me, the soundtrack to my first awkwardly attired and overly accessorized foray into New York nightlife. October 2007, driving to Foodswings with Brad and Jes is “Apologize” by OneRepublic. There are good ones too; “Under Pressure,” for example, is May 2004.
So, in no particular order, here’s Kathy circa 2009. Kind of a personal historical mixtape for life-archiving purposes.
1. Ghost Town DJs – My Boo
If 2008 was a year where I started doing a whole bunch of different things, 2009 was the year of becoming a regular. My bartenders know my name and my drink, and I have progressed so far as to be phone-number-friends with one of them. The bouncer at Enid’s balks if I try to show him my ID on Saturday nights when this particular jam is in heavy rotation. I’m not much of a dancer, but sometimes I want to jump around like a fuckhead to something and this happened on many occasions throughout 2009 at Enid’s with Robynn and Jes. This song tastes like Miller High Life and smells like sweaty flannel.
2. Slow Club – Giving Up On Love
On a day when it is so freezing cold I accidentally cried on the way to the subway, I wanted to put my beginning of the summer song way up toward the top of the list. I heard this for the first time when it was warm enough to leave my cardigan at work and take off on Friday with bare arms and I did a lot of aimless and generally cheerful walking around with these two singing in my headphones. I’ll never be able to hear this song and not think of South Street Seaport with the tall ships in the background. But more than that, this song got me at a time when I was excited about a boy. That was immediately followed by being confused about a boy. This shuttled me through both emotions with a good measure of summertime just-don't-give-a-fuckery.
3. Frightened Rabbit – Keep Yourself Warm
I don’t think I stopped listening to this song for an entire week in June. I’ve mentioned here before that, during my adolescence, I was kind of a perfect storm of unfuckability. Don’t despair: I managed to live one entire teenager’s-worth of shit in fast forward during the first six months of 2009. I stayed out way too late, I drank hard, I made dubious decisions that not infrequently involved making out in bathrooms. However, come summer, I was starting to feel pointlessness as the novelty of being reckless wore off. Still, when I heard this song I responded in the most adolescent fashion possible—by feeling convinced it was written directly for me. It made being full of doubt sound really pretty.
4. Pitbull – I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)
I don’t like this song. I don’t dislike this song. All I’m saying by including this on my list is that in 2009 I moved to Bushwick and my bedroom windows face the street.
5. Iron Maiden – Run to the Hills
In June, metal infected my life like motherfucking H1N1. I suddenly found myself surrounded by dude friends who, while watching the Planet Earth series, evaluated each species against a set of rigorous criteria to decide which was “most metal.” I will never hear this song again without being reminded of one incredibly rainy night with that bunch of people at Welcome to the Johnson’s and a fervent sing-along.
7. Temple of the Dog – Hunger Strike
8. Better than Ezra – Good
9. Offspring – Self Esteem
There was so much music from my childhood that I’d forgotten and found again in 2009, probably because I spent the whole first half being so thoroughly childish around a lot of people who never progressed past 1997, at least style-wise. Beanies. Skateboards. You get the drift. It felt nice, though, to listen to songs like these that were never actual favorites of mine, just big radio hits that play in the in the background of teenage scenes I remember from middle school. In that way, they’re more immersive. The power they had during 2009 to make both my friends and I nostalgic explains a lot about why I listened to them so much. Now “Hunger Strike” is also inextricable from my friend Robynn and a night we spent at Savalas fending off strange Italians who told me I look like Sharon Stone (untrue, patently untrue); Better than Ezra and Offspring are at once wandering around Yorktown looking for something to do at 13 and singing with Jes in the car with the windows open at 26, driving down Bedford toward Vinnie’s.
10. The xx – VCR
The xx felt like the secret everyone discovered at once this year. I had just found them and was listening to this song nonstop when Brad sent me an urgent text to get their album, stat. I fear for this band, that in a few years I’ll hear this song and immediately think about September of 2009 but wonder whatever happened to them. Bands that receive all this blog adulation have the curse of burning bright but quick and I hope for my sake that they last. This was a song I loved to listen to by myself, mostly on the subway late at night.
11. Japandroids - Sovereignty
12. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Everything With You
I was so late on the Japandroids boat I basically had to jump from the dock and swim for it in October. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart I found in the early spring but they didn't really sink in until the summertime. Regardless, I just plain love these songs. Like with the xx, I listened to these a lot at night, particularly after work and walking over the Williamsburg bridge. These are the kinds of songs that make me feel really excited. Like the night is splitting at the seams with chances. The reason why I like these two is that I can just listen and feel that way instead of fumbling around for words to describe that feeling that aren't completely cheeseball. I have not succeded.
13. Brad Walsh - I Don't Want U 2 Go
I've been able to measure the passage of time in my life for the better apart of the decade by Brad's musical doodlings. I've got bits and pieces of Destiny's Child remixes that are years old on discs somewhere that he would probably kill me in order to destroy. I've been impressed by everything he's done, but this song is the one that caught me viscerally from the first time I heard it in a way that was 100% seperate from Brad the Guy Who I've Known For A Billion Years Who Watches The Simpsons In Homer Pajama Pants. I love this song, period. I would love this song if he wasn't singing it.
14. Superchunk - Detroit Has a Skyline
Every year has its bummer jam and I'm happy to report that 2009's bummer jam is a markedly chipper one. Considering past years have seen me listening to "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" ad actual nauseum, I'm proud that this is an uptempo pop jam that merely makes reference to a crush not working out and listening to a song over and over again. I had a lot of crushes this year. Some were as quick as a couple of hours. Some are enduring right through this very second. None of them have worked out (and you know what, I'm gonna put a "yet" on that). But me and Superchunk, we spent a few nights drinking our sleep from a can and felt better. Meet us again, maybe a year from now.
15. Earth, Wind & Fire - September
The counterpart to a bummer jam is one's aural Prozac and, lo and behold, I'm as surprised as anyone to find it is a wedding band staple. I can't help but be in a rabidly wonderful mood while listening to this song and this was a fact I learned sometime in the early spring. It's come in handy more times than I can count since then.
The Lemonheads - The Outdoor Type (Lost since I was a kid and found again in the spring.)
The Wrens - Ex-Girl Collection (I listened to this a lot this year, like every year, but this year I saw them play live.)
Taylor Swift - Love Story (Just love it, and her. It cannot be helped.)