The Best of 2009: Now Departing for Stockholm, Hawaii, New Orleans, and Points Inland

The end of 2009 is upon us, friends. It was a year that many of us didn’t look forward to, already knowing to expect financial woes and potential job losses (if not already realized ones) going into it – a year where the unexpected road ahead seemed to promise more hardship than exciting new possibilities to explore. but a poor year for the world was a rich year for music – either because artists channelled their angst into some of the best songs they’d ever written, or because more and more of them were jumping ship on the big labels and finding freedom to go where their imaginations would take them even if the audiences weren’t as big as a result. Some found artful ways to downsize while others played it as over-the-top as they could in defiance of expectations. In the end, it was a more exciting year than I could have anticipated, one that has left me with a lot to look forward to.

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Divad’s Soundtrack #83: November-December 2009

Here’s the best of what I was listening to as the previous decade closed out. While I definitely ended the 2000s in a much better place than I was at the beginning of that decade, there had definitely been some hard times toward the end of 2009, and we were looking forward to a year-end trip to visit family in Hawaii. I can tell looking back at a lot of these songs that I was really longing for some rest and recreation with a beautiful beach as the backdrop.

In with the New:
fun.

Out with the Old:
Rob Thomas

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Divad’s Soundtrack #82: November-December 2009

What was going on in my life back in the fall of 2009? I can remember going to a lot of concerts – at least four in the span of two months, if my math is correct. All of them rank among the most jaw-droppingly stellar performances I’ve ever seen from any live band – which includes the absolute largest concert I will probably ever attend, by a world-famous band that has been making music for as long as I have been alive. I can also remember the usual activities that I love to partake in most years at around this time, like going on a church retreat up in the mountains, and seeing fall colors and autumnal decorations at a nearby botanical garden. Beautiful places that sparked reactions of awe and admiration and a sense of peace. As I go through these songs I picked to represent the fall months of that year, I’m struck by how many of them also inspire a sense of awe, trying to express in the limited medium of sound what it would look like or feel like to approach heaven, eternity, the presence of God, etc. With that said, there’s also a lot of melancholy stuff here that deliberately contrasts upbeat and colorful musical performances with kinda depressing lyrics. What can I say – I’ve developed a weird affinity for that sort of songwriting, which has been true even in seasons of life where I would have considered myself relatively happy.

In with the New:
Muse

Out with the Old:
Pillar
The Elms

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Divad’s Soundtrack #81: July-August 2009

Our summer road trip for 2009, which was confined almost entirely to the state of California (and probably less than an hour in Nevada), may have seemed less ambitious than our 2008 trip encompassing the American Southwest, but I had made it my goal to visit a number of natural tourist spots in my home state that Christine had not yet seen, due to them being more than a day trip away from our home in SoCal. We managed to see the Humboldt Redwoods, Lake Shasta, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, and Mono Lake along that trip, as well as attending the wedding of a college friend in Oakland just a day after our own four-year wedding anniversary, and also visiting family and friends in Sacramento and Mammoth Lakes. This was probably more than we should have crammed into a single trip, but we made it work. That summer also marked a great technological leap forward for me, as I finally got around to joining Facebook after several years of resistance, and I had also bought an iPod for the first time in my life preceding our trip – a green 16 GB Nano. The sudden convenience of having all that music at my fingertips without having to haul a big book of CDs with us on our travels began to revolutionize the way I consumed music. Not needing a physical CD to enjoy an album in the car helped to diversify my listening habits and gave me that extra nudge to take chances on more artists I hadn’t listened to before. My soundtrack mixes had to stretch by a track on each disc to help accommodate some of these new interests – and even then, it didn’t feel like 17 songs on each side was nearly enough space to truly do it justice.

In with the New:
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The New Pornographers
Mew
Metric

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Divad’s Soundtrack #80: May-June 2009

If you were to listen to this mix that I made in the summer of 2009, and take the songs as literal indicators of what I was going through at the time, you might assume that I had gone on a post-apocalyptic road trip, gotten lost at sea, enlisted in a foreign war, and became very, very convinced that I was going to die soon. None of those things actually happened, but the music told such vivid stories that I felt intrigued, even downright moved, by what a lot of the characters in these songs were going through. I remember this as a generally happy phase of my life, and I’m immediately transported back to that happy vibe by the opening songs on Disc One. But I was having some issues with insomnia at the time, as well as a resulting loss of appetite and general malaise that followed it most mornings. The final songs on the second disc are the ones that most honestly address that feeling of knowing I wasn’t in the healthiest place physically, and wanting to reach out for help and make some genuine changes to keep it from getting worse.

In with the New:
Grizzly Bear
mewithoutYou

Out with the Old:
The Listening

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Divad’s Soundtrack #70: September-October 2007

Christine and I were just insatiable when it came to traveling in 2007. Perhaps it was the sense that we figured at the time we might start a family soon, and that we should get the exploring out of our systems while we still could. As it turned out, that goal was a lot further off than either of us could have anticipated at the time. We needed the time, not just to explore the grand sights and backroads of California together, but to more fully explore and understand each other, too.

In with the New:
The Polyphonic Spree

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