My 2009 in music

This is a personal list, a retrospective, not an attempt at a best-of. I can’t say that this was particularly a year of new music for me. Not in the sense that the music was produced or released in this year. (Well, some of it was.) But this is the music that moved me, that held me, that I fell into in 2009. (And, yes, those tactile metaphors are deliberate. Music-as-overwhelming-physical-sensation, that thing that makes me bang on the steering wheel as I drive to and from work, you know?)

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Pandora doesn’t read my mind.

I like using Pandora Radio for some things. Classical music, especially, or sometime if I am searching for new music. But I find that Pandora misses some of the essential qualities of the music I like. The reason that I listen to a song or artist. And, missing that thing, it doesn’t add recommendations that make sense to me.

For example:

Britney Spears’ “If You Seek Amy”. I like this song because of the portrait it paints of a certain moment while out, clubbing. I remember being much younger and going to Metro to meet friends. And there’s this sense of frenetic isolation that happens if you are in a crowded club, looking for one other person. The noise and lights drown out all subtlety. Yet — because you are focused on identifying people, on searching for a particular person — everyone’s face jumps out with a weird clarity. Pressing your way through a crowd, scanning across a packed dance floor, it’s ever-increasingly isolating — unless/until you find your friend. Spears manages to convey that feeling in the midst of a song about being clever enough to get around the FCC restrictions on profanity. Eff-u-see-kay-me.

For example:

Silversun Pickups’ “Future Foe Scenarios”. What I like about this song is the way the singer sounds like she’s at the end of her rope. I have no idea what she is singing about. But I understand that she sings like her message is vital. Like her message is desperately important and she has been telling people, telling everyone, forever. And no one is listening, and no one cares. But she’s still telling it. Still saying what she has to say. Mostly she sings in what sounds like an emotional monotone, but one punctuated by bursts of rage and frustration.

For example:

Katy Perry’s “Fingerprints”. What I like about this song is the way it denies age and maturity and wisdom and insists that youth and arrogance, and, yes, forward momentum will change one’s self and one’s course. That past performance is not an indication of future expectations. That will and imagination will win out over a pre-determined path. I like the way Katy snarls the line “toetag generation full of regrets.” I like the anthem, the call to arms to not be forgettable, to leave a mark.

To be seen, to be heard, to leave a mark. Somehow, Pandora Radio misses that quality in its recommendations.