Today in our best of 2009 blogger series, (Day 3 of 12), we have Matthew who curates Song, by Toad music blog and label (Song, by Toad Records) with his view of 2009 in music.Â Its more of a big picture effort.Â It may be bleak, it may be over analyzed and even more so, it just might be accurate – you decide. Â And leave it to him to find a band that I know absolutely nothing about (and can’t even find anything on them when I tried…).
2009 has been a shit year for albums. Bloody hell, it really has – stodgy, uninspired and disappointing. There were a ton of albums which could have been brilliant, but pretty much none of them excited me anything like I had been hoping they might have. There are plenty of albums out there which I had been looking forward to and which turned out to be quite good, some were even very good, but hardly any really got me excited. Bill Callahan, The Builders & the Butchers, Samantha Crain, Bombadil, George Pringle, Alela Diane, The Willard Grant Conspiracy, Richmond Fontaine, Casiotone – so much has just been solid rather than thrilling.
And yet, musically, 2009 has still been an immensely exciting year for some reason. Maybe that’s all down to participation, that great gift that the dominance of the digital and the increasing irrelevance of the major labels has given to the rest of us. You can actually chip in, now – you can help! – and that’s something which has made 2009 an incredible year from my point of view.
Increasingly, I have found myself able to watch it happen in front of my very eyes. I’ve seen bands record in our house, watched friends release their debut albums, argued with people over the sequencing of their records, hosted gigs, helped people with self-releases, and it’s been amazing. It doesn’t take much – put on a gig, let a promoter friend know that bands can sleep in your house if needed, help someone design a poster, start a blog, write guest posts for someone else’s, or just turn up at loads of stuff. Fuck it, it doesn’t take much, just enthusiasm and a willingness to help out.
I remember seeing the Billboard Chart for 2008 and seeing it dominated by infantile, laughable rubbish – Now 87 (or whatever), the Hannah Montana Soundtrack and shit like that – and being absolutely giddy with glee. That chart ignored download sales and independent labels, and it was hilarious. They have absolutely dropped the fucking ball, I thought. The big boys have no fucking idea what they’re doing, that chart does nothing at all except loudly announce their total cultural irrelevance, and if there was ever a time when the ball was squarely in our court, this is it.
These things don’t last long, of course. As any ecologist will tell you, any mass-extinction is pretty quickly followed by an incredibly nimble arms race to fill the vacated niche. Stereogum, Drowned in Sound and Pitchfork already hold a pretty scary dominance over online conversations and new entertainment entities (I won’t call them just labels, because they’ll need to be a lot more than that) will very quickly spring up to occupy the space vacated by the lumbering dinosaurs of the past. That won’t happen immediately of course and right now we have the chance to stake a claim to being a serious part of culture.
DIY and alternative movements are unlikely to ever be huge, of course. That’s the whole point of being alternative – it means not a lot of people are going to be into it. But because the audiences are spread so thin these days there is a lot of love to go around, and that’s the most inspiring thing I’ve noticed this year: that if you have the balls and the work ethic and the dogged persistence to really try and make something happen, there genuinely is an audience out there for you.
This is from the record which finished second in my Top Twenty Albums of the Year list: Bad Children by Navigator. The band have overloaded every mic and every channel, even in this relatively quiet, acoustic song. In the past how the hell would they have found even a shred of an audience. They’re from Salt Lake City, but I know of at least a dozen people in Edinburgh, Scotland who think their album is brilliant.