the year in review (soundtrack version)

This year, to put it mildly, has not been my favorite. And as a final “Oh ha! Gotcha!” I’ve been writing this post and got a delightful message from WordPress that it had failed to save anything so it’s all gone and here I am, starting over. This makes me smile, because, well, it figures, really. Pretty good summary in a momentary glitch.

I think I’ve reviewed 2011 plenty — it’s been a year of pausing to think about what the hell was that, anyway. There’s been a lot of that, along with a fair amount of are-you-KIDDING-me and a peppery dash of oh-stop-it-already. But I’m not going to dwell, since it’s over now, and there’s really not any point in rehashing any of it. I spent a lot of time on my own, listening to albums (music, the great commiserator), and here is, I suppose, the soundtrack of my year. Sorta. I mean, if it were really accurate, it would be like a box set, but instead I just picked some songs that stick to moments or moods. Here we go (for the second time, though for you, it’s the first time), with no regard to when the songs were released or any real sense of chronological order, here’s my 2011:

Wilco – How To Fight Loneliness
I listened to “Summerteeth” a lot this past August, and it reminded me of January, particularly this song. Just smile all the time indeed.

Bon Iver – Skinny Love
I listened to For Emma, Forever Ago quite a lot during the first three months of this year. It’s a good winter album regardless, but it’s especially perfect for trudging through the nasty, icy hurt that we call February, carrying around a broken heart. It’s tied to standing alone at one of my bedroom windows, staring out in the dark at the baby spruce tree in my neighbors’ yard that was buried in snow almost to the top, thinking “You’re going to make it, tree. We both will.”

The Kills – Tape Song
Aside from the fact that Alison Mosshart occasionally makes me question my straightness (I’m not helping my argument any, am I), um, what? Sorry, I got distracted. The truth is that this song pretty much sums itself up and there’s not really a whole lot I can add.

The Duke Spirit – Cuts Across the Land
I randomly happened across this band earlier this year and I can’t remember how I did, but I downloaded Cuts Across the Land (of which this is obviously the title track) and immediately fell in love. I have another two albums by them now (Neptune and Bruiser, respectively), but this one is my favorite. I was looking for the song “Bottom of the Sea” to include, but didn’t find it, so here, have this one. I also like it a lot. Great album to listen to while driving, which I do so very much of these days.

The Black Keys – Lonely Boy
When El Camino came out, I read a lot of bitching online (The Internet: Where People Go To Complain About Stuff) that the album sure wasn’t one of the Keys’ previous albums, such as, say, Thickfreakness. It’s meant to be derisive, but it’s a fairly stupid argument, because if all a band’s albums sounded the same then everyone would complain that all their albums sound the same and why don’t they ever try anything new and you just can’t make people happy. But I like The Black Keys and I’m okay letting them make the music they want to make and I’ll enjoy it for as long as I do. I have a good time listening to El Camino and I think you’ll have a good time watching this video. If you can make it through the whole thing without at least cracking a smile once, then you are a much more sour person than I.

The Dead Weather – Treat Me Like Your Mother
Oh look, it’s Alison Mosshart again. Do you think she gives rockstar lessons? Also, what the hell is up with the audience? Do they not realize they’re at a live show? Anyway, this song has nothing to do with this, but I just remembered something from earlier this year. It’s kind of funny, in that “Oh Jamelah, you are quite possibly the most ridiculous person ever” sort of way. So, I was cleaning out my desk (which is a task that I always start, and then I get distracted by something and I never finish) and I found a scrap of paper with a phone number written on it. I couldn’t figure out whose phone number it was, so I did what any mature adult who didn’t really feel like cleaning out her desk and was maybe looking for a distraction would do: I decided to call the number and find out. So it rings a couple of times and this English woman answers. “Hello?” I said nothing while flipping through my mental Rolodex, trying to figure out who this person was and why I had her phone number written down and how I’d just called England by dialing a local number. “Hello?” And then my brain said “Oh right,” as all the pieces clicked into place. My ex’s mom. Skype-To-Go number. I called her once and left a somewhat awkward message on her answering machine. Dying inside, dying inside, must make it stop. “Oops!” I said, and hung up. And then I laughed to myself because seriously? What are the odds?

The Joy Formidable – Whirring
I heard this song on the radio not too long ago, but it was a different version that I didn’t like as well as I like this one. I like this band, and plus, their lead singer’s name is Ritzy. That’s just great.

Neko Case – Twist the Knife
In every way, just… ow. Which is how I felt for awhile, and then I felt better, and then it came back, worse than before. FYI, I guess. Plus, Neko Case is one of the musical loves of my life, and that love, at least, lasts forever.

Laura Marling – Sophia
For so many reasons, just… yes.

Radiohead – Codex
This year is full of Radiohead songs, and I could probably have done an entire list of them. The King of Limbs got a lot of flak, because it was short and only blind idiot fanboys like it, or, conversely, it’s like, the coolest Radiohead album EVER OF ALL TIME, depending on your perspective. (And then of course once the band released other material, like “Supercollider,” “The Butcher,” “Staircase” and “The Daily Mail” (man, I love “The Daily Mail”), people were all, “These tracks are way better than anything on the album, and I know way more than the band does about what they’re doing, so this should’ve been their track list,” etc. God, Radiohead fans are annoying.) For my part, I wound up liking it, but I’m not sure I would rank it as my favorite. I mean, I am sure. I wouldn’t rank it as my favorite. I have two favorite Radiohead songs — “Let Down” and “Reckoner” — and they both have the same effect on me, which is to say that listening to them always makes me feel like I’ve witnessed something amazing that I haven’t quite grasped all of, but my god, it was beautiful. Be that as it may, I’ve chosen this song to round things out, because for now, I think it feels like the perfect last breath and goodbye, 2011. I’m jumping into the next thing now, goodbye.


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