Friday, December 18, 2009

End of the Decade Review

Best of 2009

Biggest Hipster Happenings


1. Sonic Youth at Live on the Levee

The words SONIC YOUTH, ST. LOUIS and FREE seldom (read: never) appear together in the same sentence, so the local hipsterati shit a collective brick when it was announced near the start of summer that Thurston, Kim & Co. would be gracing our fine city with a show on the riverfront. As it turned out, my having shown up six hours in advance was wholly unnecessary, but it allowed me to stake out the perfect seat in direct eyeline of the stage, a vantage point from which I surveyed the impromptu Vintage Vinyl employee reunion which took place on the street below, enjoyed the spectacle that was the sound check, and even rubbed elbows with Mr. Steve Shelley during the opening act. The impossibly perfect weather provided an exquisite backdrop for the two-hour-plus performance, and even my long-held disdain for encores slunk away sheepishly when confronted by a medley of "Shadow of a Doubt" and "Death Valley '69". The sound tech drew immediate ire from the post-show crowd for having pulled the plug on the band's impromptu accompaniment of the fireworks display (in favor of Finger Eleven, no less), but there really could have been no more punk rock ending than SY's being cut off for making too much noise.

2. Leonard Cohen at the Fox

Those fortunate enough to see L. Cohen wear an old man's mask amidst the glorious trappings of the Fabulous Fox were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime event that secured them bragging rights for years to come. Despite suffering from a curiously hillbilly crowd, the music sounded more vibrant than ever, thanks to a peerless backing band and Leonard's own age-belying sprightliness. Three hours and countless encores later, the die-hards were satisfied, and those who had only come to hear "Hallelujah" had been converted, leaving the quintessential ladies’ man with nothing left but to tip his hat and skip back to his lonely bungalow atop the Tower of Song.

3. The Breeders at Blueberry Hill

Celebrating their recent appearance in the Breeders' "Fate to Fatal" video, the Arch Rival Roller Girls were out in force for this triumphant follow-up to the band's shindig last year at Pop's. Yet even the majority of the team only accounted for a small portion of the crowd, who packed the Duck Room to the rafters and screamed along with what amounted to at least 75% of Last Splash. After too many years of plasticine pop idols, it was a joy to see Kim and Kelley holding it down for beautiful real women everywhere.

4. Morrissey at the Pageant

You will never see a better stage backdrop. Ever.

5. Gogol Bordello at the Pageant

By all accounts, this was not only one of the best shows of the year, but one of the best shows the Pageant has ever seen. Alas, I was unable to partake, having worked that night at Suite 100 next door. Nonetheless, even my limited perspective treated me to one seizure, one broken ankle, and at least two security takedowns. The only show that came close was the backwater bonanza of Tech N9ne, but the difference with Gogol was that they actually rocked.

6. Girl Talk at the Pageant

Even if you didn't find your way onstage (or if you were standing still with your arms crossed, like your plucky reporter), you were nonetheless treated to the dance party of the year. A great gasping grope-a-thon that threatened to explode into an unfettered free-for-all at any moment, Gregg Gillis's adventures in AudioMulchland provided some much-needed heat in the dead of winter. The crowd was essentially what you'd find if Novak's didn't have an age limit, but any bacchanal that attracts more than one person dressed as Greenman from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is worth an elbow in the chest.

7. XX Merge

The finest label this side of 4AD celebrated its twentieth anniversary with a heart-stopping showcase featuring the likes of the Magnetic Fields, Arcade Fire, Spoon, Lambchop, M. Ward, and enough also-rans to satisfy even the surliest of record store clerks. The lineup was conducted in almost total secrecy, with the unspoken but understood goal that no one could know in advance when and where the Neutral Milk Hotel reunion would take place, lest all the other shows go unattended. Not a bad idea, but pity the poor Mangum-loving souls who had to settle for Superchunk.

8. Big Muddy Records Party at Jefferson Underground

Rooftop show + rockabilly bands + fire pit + BYOB. You do the math.

Everything Else:

1. Where the Wild Things Are

The film adaptation that no one was waiting for became the defining moment of Gen X/Y cinema, a May-September wedding of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and In the Night Kitchen, with Spike Jonze and Karen O packing the whimsy and Dave Eggers and Catherine Keener packing the cred. Somewhere, Michel Gondry is weeping.

2. The Weezer Snuggie

Either a staggeringly cynical promotional gimmick or a brilliantly stoopid gift for the fans -- either way, the most indie accessory since DIY sliced bread.

3. Dark Night of the Soul

Ridiculously overrated though I consider Danger Mouse to be, his collaboration with Sparklehorse and David Lynch was a stroke of genius on par with Jello Biafra's mayoral campaign. That the end result (a highly experimental and crushingly beautiful work that included a jaw-dropping lineup of indie rocker cameos) managed to exceed its own hype was no small miracle; throw in the fillip of the album's contentious release having relegated it to a shadowy online-only distribution, and you've got both the most mysterious record of the decade, and quite possibly the best.

4. I-64/40 Reopening

Contrary to their cheap-beer-swilling, MacBook-jocking reputation, hipsters love to exercise. In particular, they love to exercise with lots of other people; such is the appeal of the Fucking Bike Club, a freewheeling cadre of local fixie fanatics who revel in casual 38-mile treks around the bi-state area and rock their rolled-up pant legs as both a freak flag and a middle finger. It was therefore only natural that the announcement of Highway 40's long-awaited completion was met with tremendous anticipation in cafés and cycling shops, as it was well known that pedestrians and cyclists would be granted the first tread upon its virgin path. Alas, the grand unveiling of the retooled interstate attracted hundreds of like-minded rovers, whose intrepid journey along the concrete expanse gave them a privileged perspective of what their motorist friends would soon see whizzing by at a much higher speed.

5. The Flaming Lips ft. Stardeath and White Dwarfs – Dark Side of the Moon

I think my head just exploded.

6. The Edgar Allan Poe Postage Stamp

Well, it was a big deal for me, anyway. Also, for the record, the Joan Baez show was excellent.

Biggest Bummers of the Year

1. Michael Jackson dies on my birthday

Can you believe that? On my fucking birthday.

2. Jeff Smith indicted for electoral fraud

At which point Joan Bray became the last hope of progressive Missourians.

3. KFUO-FM sold to the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

When word got out at the beginning of fall that our beloved Classic 99 was under threat of being mutated into an all-religious format, the St. Louis intelligentsia responded in force. Shockingly, the subsequent flurry of idignant, needlessly verbose emails to the church wasn't enough to stop the deal from going through, and cultural watchdogs began counting down the days until Mozart was usurped by Michael McDonald.

4. Adam Yauch contracts cancer

No punchline here. I have friends who cried.

5. Classic literature/Twilight tie-ins

Actually, these were pretty ingenious. The dynamos at HarperCollins, always thinking around corners, saw the Twilight phenomenon as a chance to pander to the tween demographic by lending a hip, youthful edge to material that might otherwise carry the stigma of being assigned reading. Not a bad idea in theory; it worked for Baz Luhrmann. Unfortunately, Harper's folly was to release new trade paperback editions of Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Romeo and Juliet with florid Meyer-esque artwork and Twitard-friendly cover blurbs (e.g., "Bella & Edward's Favorite Book", "The Original Forbidden Love"). The end result had all the youth appeal of your hippie uncle wearing a Hootie shirt, and the kids saw through it immediately. But they all had a good laugh, and then they went through with their initial plan to use Mom's credit card to buy a copy of The Host.

6. Lady Gaga

The soundtrack to self-trepanation, with a hatchet haircut to boot.

7. Peanut butter recall

Why don't you just rip my heart right out of my body?

8. Hope and change endure a heavy sack beating

With the sun blocker in place and the town aghast, Obama was on top of the world. So he wanted to kick up his heels and indulge his sweet tooth. The GOP had thwarted his earlier attempt to take candy from a baby, but with them out of the picture, he was free to wallow in his own crapulence. But the old axiom was misleading: taking the candy proved exceedingly difficult. Stricken, he lurched forth in search of aid, but finding only slack-jawed gawkers, he gave up and collapsed on the sundial. Then, with his last ounce of strength, he sucked out his gold fillings and swallowed them. Those paramedics have sticky fingers.

9. Norman Borlaug dies

At the senseless age of 95.

Best Headlines of the Year

1. Ice skating bear kills Russian circus hand (

2. "Gollum-like" monster emerges from lake (

3. Glitch hits Visa users with $23 quadrillion charge (

4. Dentist accused of dropping tools down patient's throat before death (

5. Sex-starved Kenyan sues over boycott (

6. Chesterfield Hummer dealerships fights declining
sales with guns (

7. 120 degrees + 150 miles - toilet = fun (

8. 'Dr. Death' plans to plastinate King of Pop (

9. Urinating dog triggered argument resulting in 3 officers' deaths (

10. Two brothers in Pakistan earn millions making bondage products for the West (

Best of 2000-2009

Now, you're probably aware that I am exactly the kind of nerd who insists that each decade begins with a 1 and ends with a 0. But two of my top five albums came out in 2000, so...quiet.

Top 40 Albums / EPs

1. Arcade Fire - Funeral (Merge, 2004)
2. Doves - Lost Souls (Astralwerks, 2000)
3. The White Stripes - De Stijl (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 2000)
4. Joanna Newsom - The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City, 2004)
5. DeVotchKa - How It Ends (Anti-, 2004)
6. Radiohead - Amnesiac (Parlophone, 2001)
7. Circulatory System - S/T (Cloud, 2001)
8. Air - The Virgin Suicides (Astralwerks, 2000)
9. OutKast - The Love Below (Arista, 2003)
10. Apollo Sunshine - Shall Noise Upon (Headless Heroes, 2008)
11. Eels - Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (Vagrant, 2005)
12. Brazilian Girls - S/T (Verve Forecast, 2005)
13. David Holmes - Come Get It I Got It (13 Amp, 2002)
14. Sigur Rós - Agaetis Byrjun (FatCat, 2000)
15. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - S/T (Touch and Go, 2001)
16. DJ Shadow - The Private Press (MCA, 2002)
17. Benoît Charest - Belleville rendez-vous (Delabel, 2003)
18.The White Stripes - White Blood Cells (Sympathy for the Record Industry, 2001)
19. Jeffrey Lewis - It's the Ones Who've Cracked That the Light Shines Through (Rough Trade, 2003)
20. Radiohead - Kid A (Capitol, 2000)
21. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals (Illegal Art, 2008)
22. D'Angelo - Voodoo (Virgin, 2000)
23. M.I.A. – Kala (Interscope, 2007)
24. Cody Chestnutt – The Headphone Masterpiece (One Little Indian, 2002)
25. Yoko Ono - Yes, I'm a Witch (Astralwerks, 2007)
26. Grandaddy - The Sophtware Slump (V2, 2000)
27. Kono Michi - 9 Death Haiku (Shark Batter, 2009)
28. Queens of the Stone Age - Rated R (Interscope, 2000)
29. Tenacious D - S/T (Epic, 2001)
30. Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block (Wichita, 2006)
31. Fannypack - So Stylistic (Tommy Boy, 2003)
32. The Shins - Oh, Inverted World (Sub Pop, 2001)
33. Brian Eno & David Byrne – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Todomundo, 2008)
34. Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven! (Kranky, 2000)
35. The New Heaven and the New Earth - All Saints' Day (self-released, 2009)
36. Gorillaz - S/T (Virgin, 2001)
37. Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (Temporary Residence Limited, 2003)
38. Daft Punk - Discovery (Virgin, 2001)
39. Madvillain - Madvillainy (Stones Throw, 2004)
40. Rich Aucoin - Personal Publication (self-released, 2007)

Top 40 Songs

1. Arcade Fire - "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)"
2. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - "Home"
3. Radiohead - "The Amazing Sounds of Orgy"
4. The White Stripes - "Hotel Yorba"
5. Sigur Rós - "Viðrar vel tl loftárása"
6. Gary Jules - "Mad World"
7. DJ Shadow - "Blood on the Motorway"
8. Joanna Newsom - "This Side of the Blue"
9. M.I.A. - "Bird Flu"
10. Those Darlins - "Wild One"
11. Eels - "Souljacker part I"
12. Muse - "Take a Bow"
13. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse feat. David Lynch - "Dark Night of the Soul"
13. Deltron 3030 - "3030"
15. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Mystery Girl"
16. Tiger Army - "Wander Alone"
17. Radiohead - "Pyramid Song"
18. Apollo Sunshine - "Happiness"
19. Gorillaz - "Clint Eastwood"
20. OutKast - "Prototype"
21. Peter Bjorn and John - "Young Folks"
22. Doves - "Break Me Gently"
23. Shareef Ali - "Broken Record"
24. The Brian Jonestown Massacre - "Nevertheless"
25. DeVotchKa - "The Enemy Guns"
26. The White Stripes - "We're Going to Be Friends"
27. The Weepies - "World Spins Madly On"
28. The Pipettes - "Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me"
29. Elvis vs JXL - "A Little Less Conversation"
30. Radiohead - "15 Step"
31. Wyclef Jean - "If I Was President"
32. Dead Man's Bones - "Pa Pa Power"
33. Tenacious D - "Wonderboy"
34. OutKast - "B.O.B."
35. The Shins - "Caring Is Creepy"
36. Puscifer - "The Mission"
37. Jay-Z - "My 1st Song"
38. Bright Eyes - "First Day of My Life"
39. Portishead - "Deep Water"
40. The Strokes - "Last Nite"

Addendum: I recognize and regret my limited appreciation of hip-hop from the last decade, as I am presently stuck in an obsession with the New School. I promise to try harder to stay current in the future.

Top 100 Films

1. City of God (Miramax Films, 2002)
2. The Pianist (Studio Canal, 2003)
3. You Can Count on Me (Paramount Classics, 2000)
4. Adaptation (Columbia Pictures, 2002)
5. Lilo & Stitch (Walt Disney Pictures, 2002)
6. Sideways (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2004)
7. Transamerica (The Weinstein Company, 2005)
8. The Savages (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2007)
9. Bad Santa (Dimension Films, 2003)
10. Deliver Us From Evil (Lions Gate Films, 2006)
11. A History of Violence (New Line Cinema, 2005)
12. Rejected (Bitter Films, 2000)
13. Brick (Focus Features, 2005)
14. Spirited Away (Studio Ghibli, 2001)
15. Little Miss Sunshine (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2006)
16. Zodiac (Paramount Pictures, 2007)
17. Love Actually (Universal Pictures, 2003)
18. The Corporation (Zeitgeist Films, 2003)
19. The Prestige (Touchstone Pictures, 2006)
20. Tarnation (Wellspring Media, 2003)
21. The Eye (Palm Pictures, 2002)
22. The Host (Magnolia Magnet, 2006)
23. Rivers and Tides (Roxie Releasing, 2001)
24. When the Levees Broke (HBO, 2006)
25. Kill Bill (Miramax Films, 2003)
26. Bug (Curb Entertainment, 2002)
27. Good Night and Good Luck (Warner Independent Pictures, 2005)
28. Big Fish (Columbia Pictures, 2003)
29. Mystic River (Warner Bros. Pictures, 2003)
30. Maxed Out (Red Envelope Entertainment, 2006)
31. The Magdalene Sisters (Miramax Films, 2002)
32. Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features, 2005)
33. Wall-E (Pixar Animated Features, 2008)
34. Donnie Darko (Newmarket Films, 2001)
35. The Triplets of Belleville (Sony Pictures Classics, 2003)
36. Planet Earth (BBC, 2006)
37. Requiem for a Dream (Artisan Entertainment, 2000)
38. Jesus Camp (Magnolia Pictures, 2006)
39. A Mighty Wind (Warner Bros. Pictures, 2003)
40. Up (Walt Disney Pictures, 2009)
41. Sin City (Dimension Films, 2005)
42. DiG! (Palm Pictures, 2004)
43. Team America: World Police (Paramount Pictures, 2004)
44. Napoleon Dynamite (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2004)
45. High Fidelity (Buena Vista Pictures, 2000)
46. Almost Famous (Columbia Pictures, 2000)
47. Ghost World (United Artists, 2001)
48. The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (THINKFilm, 2002)
49. Inglourious Basterds (Universal Pictures, 2009)
50. King Corn (Balcony Releasing, 2007)
51. 28 Days Later (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2003)
52. L.I.E. (New Yorker Films, 2001)
53. Fear(s) of the Dark (IFC Films, 2008)
54. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Warner Bros. Pictures, 2005)
55. The Orphanage (Picturehouse Entertainment, 2008)
56. The Woodsman (Newmarket Films, 2004)
57. District 9 (TriStar Pictures, 2009)
58. Barbershop (MGM, 2002)
59. (500) Days of Summer (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2009)
60. Waking Life (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2001)
61. Freestyle (Palm Pictures, 2000)
62. With a Friend Like Harry... (Miramax Zoë, 2000)
63. Red Dragon (Universal Pictures, 2002)
64. Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns (Cowboy Pictures, 2002)
65. Shaun of the Dead (Focus Features, 2004)
66. The Incredibles (Buena Vista Pictures, 2004)
67. Hotel Rwanda (United Artists, 2004)
68. Hustle & Flow (Paramount Classics, 2005)
69. Bowling for Columbine (United Artists, 2002)
70. Hell House (Seventh Art Releasing, 2001)
71. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Universal Pictures, 2008)
72. Let the Right One In (Magnet Releasing, 2008)
73. The Butterfly Effect (New Line Cinema, 2004)
74. The Fearless Freaks (Shout Factory, 2005)
75. No Country for Old Men (Miramax Films, 2007)
76. The Aristocrats (THINKFilm, 2005)
77. Blue Car (Miramax Films, 2002)
78. Brotherhood of the Wolf (Universal Pictures, 2002)
79. There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage, 2007)
80. The Departed (Warner Bros. Pictures, 2006)
81. Precious (Lionsgate, 2009)
82. Superbad (Columbia Pictures, 2007)
83. Kinsey (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2004)
84. Bodysong (Channel, 2003)
85. Coffee and Cigarettes (United Artists, 2004)
86. End of the Century (Magnolia Pictures, 2003)
87. Trapped in the Closet (Jive Records, 2005)
88. Thirteen (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2003)
89. Scratch (Palm Pictures, 2001)
90. The Machinist (Paramount Classics, 2004)
91. Thumbsucker (Sony Pictures Classics, 2005)
92. Copy Shop (Sixpack Film, 2001)
93. Y Tu Mamá También (IFC Films, 2001)
94. Coraline (Focus Features, 2009)
95. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros. Pictures, 2008)
96. Kurt Cobain About a Son (Balcony Releasing, 2006)
97. Amélie (Miramax Films, 2001)
98. Far from Heaven (Focus Features, 2002)
99. Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2008)
100. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Focus Features, 2004)

Honorable Mentions (i.e., Films that I Didn't See but Which I Heard Were Extraordinary, in Chronological Order)

Amores Perros (Lions Gate Films, 2000)
Snatch (Columbia Pictures, 2000)
Timecode (Columbia Tristar, 2000)
The Believer (Fireworks Pictures, 2001)
Monsoon Wedding (IFC Productions, 2001)
The Royal Tenenbaums (Buena Vista Pictures, 2001)
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (Miramax Films, 2002)
Lost in La Mancha (IFC Films, 2002)
Spider (Sony Pictures Classics, 2002)
Finding Nemo (Walt Disney Pictures, 2003)
The Squid and the Whale (Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2005)
Syriana (Warner Bros. Pictures, 2005)
The Lives of Others (Sony Pictures Classics, 2006)
Pan's Labyrinth (New Line Cinema, 2006)
Into the Wild (Paramount Vantage, 2007)
Gran Torino (Warner Bros. Pictures, 2008)
Man on Wire (Discovery Films, 2008)
The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2008)

That's it for this decade. Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight.

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