I realized a few weeks ago that some of my favorite music this year wasn’t even from 2009. As so many of us have done, I discovered songs and albums and artists from years past and kicked myself for not knowing them sooner. I would do anything to go back to last year so I could include some of these new discoveries in my lists. Then I realized – why not? I can just write another blog post that basically says “My bad, y’all” and highlight the new old stuff. Thus, the Hindsight Award was created.
Hindsight Award for 2008: Song
Rosi Golan and William Fitzsimmons – “Hazy“
Dueling guitars and a practically nonexistent piano are the only instrumentation in this sparse piece that focuses almost entirely on the voices of the protagonists. Golan and Fitzsimmons portray a couple either deeply in love, on the verge of a breakup, or both – the intrinsic ambiguity is brilliant. In a classic form of duets, they sing the same verse separately, with Golan taking the first chorus and Fitzsimmons joining her for the second. Her voice is as clear as a bell, and his tenor is perfect for the material. The song is so clean, so devoid of bells and whistles, that it lets you observe real artistry and emotion at work. “If I forgot who I am/Would you please remind me/Oh, ’cause without you things go hazy” is one of the truest expressions of love that I’ve ever heard.
Hindsight Award for 2008: Album
Noah and the Whale – Peaceful the World Lays Me Down
It’s not easy to describe the boisterous energy that jumps out of the speakers when you play tracks like “5 Years Time” and “Shape of My Heart” from this album, a marked difference from the sophomore album, The First Days of Spring. Whistles, the triangle, and – could it be? the pennywhistle? -open the summery, youthful anthem “5 Years Time.” A viola, recorder, and ukelele follow, with the juxtaposition of lines like “Where you go/There’ll be love, love, love” and “In five years time/I might not know you/In five years time/We might not speak” exposing the cynicism of a generation. Bouncing drums and aggressive guitars join Charlie Fink’s genteel, soothing voice while it showcases his inner turmoil in “Shape of My Heart.” The emotional core of the album, however, is arguably on “Give a Little Love,” the fifth track that relies on driving bass, hand claps, and subdued drums taking the forefront. As the song builds to climax, a viola emerges, adding more texture to the point “If you give a little love/You can get a little love of your own/Don’t break his heart.” The bridge seals the deal for the audience, reverting to simplistic beats and lyrics like “And if you share (with your heart)/Yeah you give (with your heart)/What you share with the world/Is what it keeps of you.” The album deals with a certain jaded viewpoint – there’s plenty of exuberance here, but not without a healthy dose of skepticism and wariness. In a certain sense, I think that exemplifies my generation. We’re perfectly happy being happy, but we’re always waiting for twist that will screw us over. Peaceful the World Lays Me Down captures that mentality perfectly, and really should have received more attention last year, even if it was just from me.
Highlights: “Give a Little Love,” “Shape of My Heart,” “5 Years Time,” “Rocks and Daggers,” “2 Atoms in a Molecule”