By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
Dethklok, Dethalbum II: Much to the dismay of purists, this is the bestselling death-metal album all time. More than a parody, it actually outsmarts the original and beats it at its own game. This album brings color and dimension to death metal like never before. It's kind of like how people are actually getting news now from The Daily Show, because it's so much more fun than actual news.
Bruce Springsteen's giant Orbison quaver is somehow more moving as it grows more unwieldy, and on tunes as funny, charming, catchy, and tongue-in-cheek as any he's ever written. The way the checkout beep becomes a heart monitor at the end of "Queen of the Supermarket" is as hilarious as it is movie-sweet.
Peter S. Scholtes
Shoot me: "That's Not My Name," the Ting Tings; "I Gotta Feeling," Black Eyed Peas; "I Do Not Hook Up," Kelly Clarkson; "Gives You Hell," All American Rejects. No, really. Implausibly catchy hooks that cannot be escaped, but only serve to drive one over the threshold of annoyance to a much darker place. If torture was to be turned into some kind of audible Red Shoes—the fairy tale of ballet slippers that dance the wearer to death—any one of these fine titles could serve as "madness-inducing" personified. For once one hears any of the above, there is no chance to shut it down—only to suffer the self-inflicted tape-loop of the 21st-century "Mickey." Death be not proud, because it is a bad pop song with a hook that won't stop.
Those who know me have heard the story a dozen times apiece. When the Strokes still played clubs right after Is This It? came out, I stood in the front row at the Casbah and got biffed in the bean by Julian Casablancas's microphone stand, producing an impressive golf-ball-size knot. Between the head injury and the revelation of hearing "Barely Legal" for the first time, I fell in love on the spot with what became one of my five favorite bands of the decade. Phrazes for the Young is the first time since Room on Fire that I felt a tingle in that phantom spot on my forehead.
I would argue that even Kiss—in their prime, I embroidered their logo on the back of a jean-jacket in junior high art class—has never rocked out as lustily, nastily, catchily, or insistently as the Eagles did that night. They truly put lead in my pencil, when it's much the fashion to dong-wilt, or at least gently emasculate to the sound of strings.
Can we please cut off the trend of straight dudes naming their bands Women, Girls, and the like? It's the indie-rock equivalent of having a man in drag play Lady Bracknell, except even less edgy. At least Men actually do gender-bend.
New York, NY
With axes increasingly losing out to synths these days (whither Nick Zinner?), it can seem like the only new heroes to be found are trapped in a Playstation somewhere in the Midwest. But 2009 did see the quiet (yet outrageously loud) emergence of an electric six-string warrior. Her name: Marissa Paternoster. Her band: Screaming Females, from that toxic hardcore swamp known as New Brunswick, New Jersey. At five-foot-nothing and positively transfixing in her bowl cut and Amish-style dress, Paternoster is a dash of Carrie Brownstein, a pinch of J Mascis, a dollop of Billy Corgan, and a heap of generally insane power-shredding. Think Marnie Stern with the purr of a panther and the gaze of a murderer.
As a displaced second-generation, it warmed my heart a bit to see legendary Indian film composer A.R. Rahman finally get his due in the States thanks to the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, the ensuing performance during the Grammy Awards broadcast, and, of course, that crucial assist from M.I.A.'s tidy soundbite referring to him as "the Indian Timbaland." It's a shame, however, that it took six years to come up with a suitable follow-up to Jay-Z championing Panjabi MC. Come on, second-most-populous country in the world, get your act together.
Did Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" have a lengthier run at #1 than "Boom Boom Pow"? Not sure—but I'm predicting that it'll be making people happy long after its predecessor's expert flash is relegated to the sidelines. "I Gotta Feeling" exists somewhere inside a November election–eve euphoria that never ended, a moment a world apart from Joe Lieberman, Orly Taitz, Glenn Beck, Sgt. Crowley, Matt Taibbi, and the, um, exigencies of governing that have made the past year such a prosaic slog.
Toronto, ON, Canada
Finally, I consider Rihanna's "Hard" my down payment on 2010—the song broke late this year, and yet feels like the sound of our gloomy, national geo-economic collapse: See her marching in fatigues and undies in the video, a battered woman firing a machine gun into what looks to be the dreary moonscape of Obama's Afghanistan. Gives me more goosebumps than Gucci Mane's jewelry.