Not every year-end Top 10 list has to be a strict list of the 10 best albums, nor does it have to be a scientific ranking of music by merit. Two years ago, I began assembling my year-end best list in the form of a 10-song soundtrack, in the hopes that it would reflect the way I experienced the year. Truth be told, 2009 marks the first time it's really worked.
I didn't realize it until I'd had the short list ready for trimming, but all of these songs in some way reflect on the concept of home. Sure, I can't be sure about the lyrics of the Touareg tribesmen in Terakaft, but as nomadic people, they seem to find a sense of home in their music.
During a year in which many Americans have lost their homes, I've felt doubly blessed to have a firm, loving base to share with my wife, and I feel inspired by the creative community in my adopted home of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Twenty-four years after leaving England, I find myself preparing to make the commitment to become a citizen of this country — a place I'm now proud to call home. I hope these songs do justice to that notion.
Optimist (We Are Not for Them)
Optimist (We Are Not for Them)
- from Never Better
- by P.O.S.
From a rapper who shares The Current's Twin Cities roots, P.O.S.'s "Optimist" helps remind listeners that hope springs from having a place to call home.
- from Merriweather Post Pavillion
- by Animal Collective
If you've got someone with whom to walk around your hometown, Animal Collective's "Summertime Clothes" suggests that you've got all you need.
- from Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
- by David Byrne/Brian Eno
Okay, this one's personal: Between Brian Eno's extraordinary interview for The Current and the time I spent reading David Byrne’s blog and book, these two gave me some of the real musical highlights of my year.
Help I'm Alive
Metric's Emily Haines knows how to write lyrics that are simple and precise, but with massive depth. This version of "Help I'm Alive" is from a session the band performed at The Current.
- from Blood of Man
- by Mason Jennings
An established local hero here in Minnesota, Mason Jennings sings poignantly about his old hometown and his youth.
- Song: The Rake's Song
- from Hazards of Love
- by The Decemberists
This one, from The Decemberists' ambitious "folk opera" The Hazards of Love, reminds me of my British roots -- even though the band's members live about as far as you can get from Europe and still reside in the U.S. It's the sort of folk music that can describe even the darkest stories with an undercurrent of mischief and joy.
- from Around the Well
- by Iron & Wine
Iron & Wine takes a beloved New Order song and covers it in a completely new way, which in turns makes the original even more beloved. How often does that happen?
- from Akh Issudar
- by Terakaft
Like the Brian Eno and David Byrne song above, Terakaft's "Djer Aman" technically came out late in 2008. But I couldn't pass it up: Music from the windswept Sahara, it speaks in a universally spiritual way.
From Brother Ali's stirring album Us, "Fresh Air" celebrates home and family and the Rhymesayers crew -- a group whose success has made me proud to be a Minnesotan.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out how this one fits into a theme of "home." Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros' sweet-natured gem has been The Current's No. 1 song for many weeks now -- a reminder that, as thankful as I am for home, it's great to have an amazing audience, too.