Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The MRML Twenty-Two (Best of 2009)

What percentage of songs that came out this year in the Western world (to say nothing of the REST of the world) have you heard? Even for most music fanatics (takes one to read one), the number is not only single digit, it's probably a count-on-your-little-piggies digit. So the MRML Twenty-Two makes no claim to enumerate the GREATEST song of this calendar year, just ones I heard that shouldn't languish in that >95% mass of missed music.

The list is tightly bound by my taste for the punchy over the swishy, the pounding over the lilting, the catchy over the fancy and the relentless pursuit of relentlessness. When I say punchy, pounding, catchy and relentless, you'd think punk and you wouldn't be wrong but the lifeboat's got room for folk, country, power-pop, ska, the much-maligned (by me anyway) indie-rock and perhaps a 450 pound Royal Bengal tiger.

1. Manic Street Preachers "Jackie Collins Existential Question Time"
While Journal for Plague Lovers is not as immediate to me as Send Away the Tigers, this track with it's refrain of, "Oh, mommy, what's a Sex Pistol?" is as good of a smack-in-the-face as anything they've done.

2. Radio Faces "Slippin' Back With You
Milwaukee-ite Nato Coles 2nd best album of the year (see the next list) could be given a ridiculous genre like "bar-punk" or "honky-punk" but songs like this are just rough-hewn, mid-western rock n' roll played like the final closing time is nigh.
Listen here

3. Pugwash "Monorail"
If I was Australian (where this Irish band had a huge hit this year) I'd hate this song but since it's a novel obscurity with cool keyboards, a lyrical list and, befitting the album's name, Earworm, a chorus that slithers into your ear like Kahn's mind-controlling eels and just takes over it'll fit here.
See here

4. Teenage Bottlerocket "Skate or Die
The fact that Teenage Bottlerocket (and their kin, The Lillingtons) so often resemble an old-school hardcore band as much as a pop-punk band is their secret strength.

5. Classics of Love "Slow Car Crash"
I've a bit of weakness for survivors, like ex-Operation Ivy/Common Rider singer Jesse Michaels but he's still a all-out performer with a knack for wise, sharp-eyed lyrics and choruses that a crowd of sweaty kids can yell along to instantly.
Listen here
6. The Bomb "Space Age Love Song"
Despite the abundance of ripping rockers ( "Haver", "Integrity") on Speed is Everything that sees Chicago punk legend Jeff Pezzatti (of the fearsome Naked Raygun) giving the kids hell, I chose this mid-tempo, post-punk ballad because it hearkens back to "Holding You" a longing ballad from the neglected album Raygun, Naked Raygun.
Listen here

7. Two Hours Traffic "Territory"
The pride of Prince Edward dish out sprightly power-pop with a dollop of wussiness.
See here

8. Frank Turner "The Road"
Poetry of the Deed was a bit of a let-down but this song is not only a clear-eyed statement of Turner's philosophy of itinerance, it's also a grand, booming song whether played solo or with the band.
See here

9. Shonen Knife "Ramones Forever"
I'm a sucker for a heartfelt tributes to great bands and for Osaka's Shonen Knife.
Listen here

10. The Methadones "Gary Glitter"
I'm also a sucker for savage put-downs like this one from Dan Vapid formerly of Chicago's Kings of Pop-Punk, Screeching Weasel.
Listen here

11. Said the Whale "Camillo (the Magician)"
With "Camillo" Said the Whale prove that while there may be not be any good band names left to pick there's still a near-inexhaustible supply of power-pop hooks as yet uncast.
See here

12. Dear Landlord "I Live in Hell"
Pop-punk schleps Adam and Brett from Chicago's the Copyrights name their sideband after a Dylan song and rock like hell.
Listen here
13. Roman Candle "Why Modern Radio is A-OK With Me"
A little alt-country is good for what ails you, especially when it's astute, tuneful and not too studied.
See here

14. Carbon Silicon "What's Up Doc?"
While I wish that Mick Jones and Tony James would remember that songs can be over in 2 minutes fifty-nine, you gotta love a rip-snorting rocker like this:

15. Grant Hart "You're the Reflection of the Moon on the Water"
A hummable zen-noise-pop song from the former Husker Du man and members of Godspeed You Black Emperor.

16. Dr Frank "Bethlehem"
The doctor must need to write catchy pop-punk songs with clever lyrics and quirky bridges since he keeps recording music despite his massive literary success (calling the sequel to his best-seller King Dork, King Dork Approximately is a sly Dylan reference).
Listen here

17. Tinted Windows "Kind of a Girl"
Okay, the classic super-group paradox (the whole is less than the sum of the parts) kicked in for this Cheap-Trick-Smashing Pumpkins-Fountains-of-Wayne-Hanson aggregation but, fittingly, the single was a grand-scale pop song.
See here

18. Ida Maria "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked"
As I've said before, the hype, or lack thereof, is irrelevant, if the song (in this case one by a sexy Norwegian) makes you want to sing along or air drum than you've got a winner.

19. Jeffrey Lewis "Whistle Past the Graveyard"
New York cartoonist and anti-folk standard-bearer Lewis tries on his cow-punk boots then contemplates eternal life and zombies.
See here

20. Oak Ridge Boys "Seven Nation Army"
Stop using that word novelty like it's a bad thing, as if this White Stripes classic didn't always need some gnarly country veteran going bom-bom-bom-bom-bom in the background.
Listen here

21. Dan Magann "Tina’s Glorious Comeback"
As a singer and song-writer I'd slot Vancouver's Magann somewhere between the Violent Femme's Gordon Gano and the Weakerthan's John K. Sampson and while some of Nice, Nice Very Nice is occasionally a bit hushed or precious, when his cleverness and tunefulness come together it's impressive.
See here

22. Bob Dylan "It's All Good"
Together Trough Life was not a great record by any stretch but this song is one of those "Foot of Pride" style attacks on the world's ills that even a half-assed, strangulated Dylan pulls off well.
Listen here

(Bonus: Bryan Scary and the Shedding Tears will confuse the hell out of everyone with Queen-like piano-punk song, "Andromeda's Eyes".)

Okay, MRML Readers, leave us a comment on our choices and then tell us your picks for the great songs of '09
For the entire playlist click here and please remember to delete any material downloaded for education purposes from your computer within 48 hours.
And on a less legalistic note go to please got to Interpunk, Amazon or even (shuddder) iTunes and buy some music!


  1. What's a rock nerd without a list? Well, not a real rock nerd that's for sure!

    I was glad to see "Camillo" (a.k.a: "It's an indie rock song that's actually a real song! Like, it has a chorus and a melody and everything! Well, except maybe the rock part...") make your list and, you'll be happy to know, Tinted Windows made mine.

    The Grant Hart comes as a total shock. Especially in the company of Godspeed as I always took them to be mathrock in the dullest sense of those words. Guess I should pay more attention to What The Critics Are Saying Is Hip These Days (uh, circa the year 2000, that is).

    "What's Up Doc" would be awesome...at two minutes thirty seconds. Why they didn't let that raga drop is anybody's guess.

    And Teenage Bottlerockets punched me in the throat jus' like Major Burns asked them to. 'Nuff said.

    Looking forward to the full lengths list. Go Portal!


  2. great list. Loved the Dear Landlord and Skate or Die made me rekindle my love for pop punk this year! Looking back on my list I forgot about the Classics of Love album. Probably would have made the list even if it isnt amazing!

  3. Thanks for Camillo, it was on and off the list but finally I just decided it belonged. Glad you liked the TW.
    Yeah the Hart seems to have caught everyone off guard (except me - but that's just because I was just finishing those Hart posts when the album came out - weird coincidence!)
    Glad you liked the TB and the C/S.
    Looking forward to the first Rock Walk of this decade.

    The Classics seems like a good opening offer, hopefully once the band settles in we'll see things really kick in.
    The Steinways really rekindled my love of pop-punk a few years back. Last year was a bit of a down year for pop-punk but this year was pretty great.


Thanks for clicking the COMMENTS link.
Now that you're here,I should mentions that
without reader feedback blogs slowly wither and die