2009 was an extraordinary year for music. From crazy electro-pop to electrifying indie rock, we were treated to some truly breathtaking stuff as the decade ended. This year, however, is a different story. It’s not necessarily that the music has been worse, but, so far anyway, it has been much less groundbreaking. Take a look at three of the best albums of the year to this point: ‘Teen Dream’ by Beach House, ‘How I Got Over’ by the Roots, and ‘The Wild Hunt’ by The Tallest Man on Earth. At their most creative, each improves on an existing sound – it doesn’t invent new ones. Beach House puts a wonderful spin on the relatively standard indie rock formula of clean, colorful guitar lines and a distant rhythm section. The edge on this record comes from Victoria Legrand’s vocals, but they aren’t enough to make ‘Dream’ revolutionary. The Roots perfect jazz-hop on their latest release, but it’s not the first time we’ve heard this sound. Actually, it’s not even the first time we’ve heard the Roots play this way. The Tallest Man on Earth writes soulful, clever ditties and accompanies them with very fine acoustic guitar playing. This is certainly his best outing yet, but it isn’t innovative. If anything, it reminds us that there’s still a place for the acoustic songwriter in the pop lexicon.
There are a few months for 2010 to change the way we think about music, but the odds don’t look good. We may have to settle for a year of albums that were great listens but didn’t provide new frontiers of sound.
- Jesse Javna