This year's Beukemix progressed a little strangely: I had an unusual number of candidate tracks before 2009 was even out. By the 5th of January, I already had seven tracks on the list -- one third of a typical mix. Not all of those songs made it on here, but the first quarter of the year is quite well-represented.
Here are liner notes! As usual, the links are to mostly-representative versions of each song, which may not be the exact version in the mix. Be forewarned.
(HS = Horn section. There weren't enough hand claps to justify a count this year, sadly.)
1. Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
I know, I know. It's played out. But it's such a good song. I intended to put this one at the end of the 2009 Beukemix, having first heard it on The Current on a morning commute, but I forgot it at compilation time last year. I will say this: I cannot handle watching video of the group performing this song. Too earnest. (HS)
2. Prisencolinensinainciusol – Adriano Celentano
Saw the hypnotic, almost disturbing video for this song late in December, was hooked. At the time, it was bouncing around the internet as "this is what American English sounds like to Italians." Seems that might not be true. Apparently, Celentano, a comedian, wrote the song in the 60s about the difficulty of modern communication. It's gibberish, but may not be intended as gibberenglish. The older, black & white video suggests a hellish Logans-Run-esque dystopia in which you must dance ... to live! (HS)
3. Take It In – Hot Chip
Speaking of vague menace, here comes this song. Heard it first on The Current.
4. Love and Happiness – Al Green
The Robinson Caruso Organization got this song ready for our January shows, and I fell in love with it. The post-chorus has my favorite horn part of any of the songs we play. Amazingly, the evening I set out to learn this song, I had NPR on, and they were replaying Fresh Air interviews with Al Green and producer Willie Mitchell on the occasion of the latter's death, and they played it. As I was putting the chart on the music stand. (HS)
5. You Keep Me Hanging On – Diana Ross and the Supremes
In January I caught up with Pitchfork's Top 200 songs of the 1960s, which is a great list. This was one of several Supremes cuts on the list, and it inspired me and Melissa to an impromptu dance party in our garage upon our return from a Super Bowl party. Holland, Dozier & Holland do good work. Instrumentally, it's terrific, especially the opening guitar chatter, which reminds me of a less disco-y 3-2-1 Contact. I also love that Ross' vocals are double-tracked, and the two takes they used are slightly different, and don't always line up (perhaps in suggestion of the used woman's mental anguish). (HS)
6. This Will Be Our Year (Mono version) – The Zombies
Also on the Pitchfork list. I was previously unfamiliar with it, but I thought it was a sweet and beautiful and hopeful message. And the song was right. It was our year. [Note: upon final compilation, I discovered that there were supposed to be horns in this song. During the 1997 stereo mixing of the album (Odyssey & Oracle)—the recording I had—they did not include the horn parts. WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT? So I found the mono version. Enjoy.] (HS)
7. Sixteen – The Heavy
Heard this first on the Current, and wondered why Screamin' Jay Hawkins was getting so much rotation. (HS -- sax choirs count)
8. Perfect Day – Lou Reed
Produced by Bowie! I heard a lot of this in February because of this commercial featuring US snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler that aired repeatedly during the Winter Olympics. It's the prettiest song that's maybe about heroin that you'll ever hear. (HS -- it's subtle)
9. Tightrope – Janelle Monae
2010's Number One Summer Jam first came to me by way of my college friend Robin. Accept no versions of the song that do not include the Classy Brass, the Funkiest Horn Section in Metropolis. As my brother notes, this is the first time his and my year-end mixes have overlapped. (HS)
10. Birdhouse in Your Soul – They Might Be Giants ft. Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band
A clip of this was in the TMBG documentary "Gigantic (a Tale of Two Johns)." For years I've wanted a recording. Thanks to the rippability of Youtube videos, now I have one! I can only imagine how incredibly mind-blowing this must have been to fans of the band in 1990. I carefully edited Jay Leno out of the copy on this mix. You're welcome. (HS)
11. Oh My God – Ida Maria
I love how, at the song's climax, the singer barely has control of her voice, and then finally lets go in a primal yell. Somebody in the liberal political blogosphere (ah, it was Matthew Yglesias) linked to this song in 2009, and I liked it. I next heard it this year upon the announcement of the track list for Rock Band 3. It took some effort to get a version without Iggy Pop clumsily shoehorned into it.
12. Strangers – The Kinks
On the 2007 Beukemix, I included the Kinks song from the Darjeeling Limited soundtrack that had most grabbed my attention, "Powerman." My attention has a short span, I guess, because "Strangers" really is the best of them. I was too blinkered to notice this error until Wye Oak covered the song for The AV Club's "Undercover" project this summer. This song is beautiful, especially the tom-tom heartbeat that is finally left, naked and alone, at the end.
13. Superfast Jellyfish – Gorillaz
Originally I was going to put "Stylo" on the mix, but I was a bit underwhelmed by it.* I got a copy of Plastic Beach, and was hopeful for something that would grab me like "Clint Eastwood," "Rock the House," or "Feel Good, Inc." Melissa and I were driving from Pismo Beach to Monterey, listening to the album, and when this one came on, I decided we had a winner. Still, every time De La Soul do a Gorillaz track, I miss Del. [*That said, do check out the wonderful and ridiculous video for Stylo.]
14. Never My Love – The Association
The Association are underrated; I offer the bass line of this sweet, gorgeous song as proof.
15. Bang Bang Bang – Mark Ronson & The Business Int'l ft. Q-Tip & MNDR
Every year there's at least one song that drops my jaw moments into the first time I hear it. This year, this is that song. The synthesizers remind me in a weird way of Alvin & The Chipmunks in the 80s. Q-Tip does a typically great job of making other people's songs awesome.
16. Georgia – Cee Lo Green
"Fuck You" is a great song, but it the internet's overenthusiasm made short work of its shelf life. Hilarious Grammy nomination aside, it's kind of a gimmick. I heard this one about the same time, and preferred it greatly. Soaring horns, a message of hometown gratitude, and Cee Lo singing his guts out. (HS)
17. Femme Fatale – Aloe Blacc
Robinson Caruso frontman James Rone linked to this one on Facebook a few months back. I was sold. (HS)
18. You're a Cad – The Bird & The Bee
Heard this in a California Pizza Kitchen where Melissa and I were having lunch and planning our baby shower after seeing The Social Network. Jotted down enough of the lyrics to google, and discovered that The Bird & The Bee would be making their return to the Beukemix.
19. Musica di Uscita (Per un Film) – Spaghetti Western String Company
This summer, Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls put together an EP of her ukulele covers of Radiohead. Exit Music (For a Film) jumped out at me, and I went back to the original, which I'd always liked, but now found emotionally devastating upon review. I planned to put that version on here. Then, the SWSC covered this at their final concert, bringing this already operatic song into opera's home language. I was going to put a rip of that live performance on here, but the band graciously put it on their farewall album (Farewell Verse), so here's a Minnesotan alt-bluegrass band covering Radiohead in Italian.
20. Palaces of Montezuma – Grinderman
I find this song very sweet, and enjoy the weird collection of literary and cultural allusions.
21. Whole Lotta Love – Tina Turner
The Current did a Thanksgiving Time Machine Weekend, and mistakenly lumped this cover in with 1969, the year of Zeppelin's original (a longtime favorite of mine). It's actually from 1975, but I forgive The Current, because they informed me of the existence of a cover of Whole Lotta Love by Tina Turner.
Horn Sections: 11 - a majority. Motion carries.
References to JFK's spinal cord: 1
Songs in Italian: 1
Songs in Italian gibberish: 1
Songs whose choruses accuse you of keeping me hanging on: 2