As you peruse this list of 2009’s Top 100 albums, you may ask yourself how you arrived here in the first place. After all, this wasn’t an easy decade to get through. Hey, it’s almost mind boggling how we survived 2009! But, looking back (God knows I have played the last ten years over and over again in my head like an iPod endlessly streaming Britney Spear’s “Gimme More”.), it’s clear. The music is what “kept our shit together” — the good stuff and the bad stuff. You see, music is a lot like a dancing penguin — sometimes you just want to go Grand Theft Walrus and shoot the “bejeebus” out of it for Relapse-ing into insurmountable stupidity, other times you slowly begin dancing along as you regain footing and shed your hipster cynicism, singing, “I’m Yours”.
But music cuts you deep. Very deep. In more ways than one, music helps you connect ideas, or themes, on life. Sometimes you get those “once in a blue moon” cheerful memories. For me, it’s that fateful day in 2002 when Nirvana’s “You Know You’re Right” debuted on 99.7 WXNR alongside Pearl Jam’s “I Am Mine”, cementing the final echoes of true 90’s alternative to a new generation. If I dig deeper in that year, and even on the same subject, I’ll remember it’s around the same time as Layne Staley’s death… yet also coincidentally when I graduated high school. Point is, music shapes and bookmarks our life, even if we’re not pushing play. You might not remember half the dates you went on with your second girlfriend, but odds are you’ll remember at least one if you attended a show, bought an album, or heard a particular song. Music is just funny that way… and oddly enough, sometimes it’s cyclical. Even now, it occurs to me as I revisit 2009 that parallels can be drawn between this decade’s final year and the respective bookend, 1999. Observe:
- Trent Reznor comes off of five-year hiatus with NIN’s The Fragile to critical acclaim (’99); NIN announces final tour before retiring from touring altogether (’09).
- Britney Spears and Eminem release their debuts (Baby, One More Time and The Slim Shady LP) and hit the pop charts with “Baby, One More Time” and “My Name Is…” (’99); Britney Spears makes proper come back and embarks on world tour for Circus, Eminem re-emerges and releases pop single “We Made You” (’09).
- Slipknot releases eponymous major-label debut (’99); Slipknot re-releases eponymous major label debut (’09).
- Limp Bizkit and Creed are still touring.
But each year, music brings its share of surprises, and 2009 is no exception. This year…
- Jay-Z built The Blueprint into a highly-respectable trilogy.
- Animal Collective and Vampire Weekend continue to be all the rage.
- Thrash metal made a triumphant comeback
- Green Day delivered another concept album for both fathers and sons, mothers and daughters to enjoy.
- U2 sold a shitload of concert seats and Bono is still everyone’s favorite philanthropic douche who rocks arenas like nobody’s business.
- Harvey Danger went out with a bang, BMG Music certainly did not, and the Zune most likely will not.
Apologies. I still haven’t answered the question: How did we survive 2009? Truth is, we almost didn’t, but the last 365 days have presented us with little lifeboats to clutch onto with all our might. For starters, Pearl Jam finally released a “happy” album for the acquitted grunge kids. Like it or not, Wal-Mart remains the evil corporation to warmly trust in hard times. It took eight years, but the Bush Administration eventually waved goodbye. And all along the madness and chaos, Josh Homme still got paid for melting our brains and staying true to his stoner rock roots, a place he’s always meant to be. So, that’s 2009 in a nutshell for you. Just think of this way, we’ve retread this lovely annual nostalgia without an Obama, Tiger Woods, or Jacko pun — yes, we can get you off the wall!
– David Lee Buchanan, CoS Senior Staff Writer
Note: We’ve included streams for each of our 100 choices. But, there’s a catch — you’ll have to register at Lala. Don’t fret, it only takes 20 seconds. Then, the rest is on us.