Friday, April 3

Best of 2009


Jeremy Lu / Daily Bruin


Christine Danner
Universal Pictures
YouTube
Universal Music
WARNER BROS. RECORDS
Emi Records
INTERSCOPE RECORDS
American Movie Classics

It’s hard to imagine a year when one of the most legendary pop icons of all time dies, some crazy lady pops out eight minions, and everyone and their mom lines up to see sparkly, blood-sucking tween icons practice abstinence. Aside from all this hoopla, a lot of great TV shows, albums and films were released. A&E staff has compiled our picks for 2009’s most redeeming moments:

Blockbusters

This was the year of “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen,” a sure sign of the intellectual apocalypse, so it would be easy to overlook the fact that is was also the year Nora Ephron made box-office gold with a joyous movie about food, and viewers of all ages were touched by Disney’s latest heart-warmer. Or that audiences likewise responded to “District 9,” Neill Blomkamp’s smart, poignant sci-fi thriller. Elsewhere, the Harry Potter franchise saw its best installment yet, Spike Jonze piloted an imaginative adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are,” and J.J. Abrams exceeded all expectations with a spunky new “Star Trek” film.

10. “Friday the 13th”
9. “I Love You, Man”
8. “Watchmen”
7. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”
6. “The Hangover”
5. “Up”
4. “Where the Wild Things Are”
3. “Julie & Julia”
2. “District 9″
1. “Star Trek”

TV shows

This fall television season produced several promising new shows, led by the unapologetic exuberance of “Glee” and the self-referential silliness of “Community.” “Lie To Me” and “The Mentalist” are both in the midst of strong second seasons, setting themselves apart from the mass of network dramas. Still in a class of its own, though, is the consistently stunning “Mad Men,” with smarter writing, more nuanced acting and more meticulous set designs than most Oscar-worthy films.

10. “The Big Bang Theory”
9. “The Office”
8. “Californication”
7. “Community”
6. “The Mentalist”
5. “The Colbert Report”
4. “The Daily Show”
3. “Glee”
2. “Lie To Me”
1. “Mad Men”

Pop

A precursory glance at the year in pop releases suggests “business as usual,” with Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga assuming the roles of the dueling powerhouses in a crowded, predominately female market. Yet if the structure of pop music remains largely unchanged, then an influx of eclectic styles has begun to expand what was once a distinctively conventional sound.
British band La Roux laced electro synth pop with piercing vocals, while fellow British imports Mika and Lily Allen seamlessly struck a balance between smart and catchy with their respective albums. Shakira and Cobra Starship roused dance parties, yet no one better exemplified dance floor music in 2009 than the wildly extravagant and fashion-forward Lady Gaga.

10. Cobra Starship ““ “Hot Mess”
9. Mandy Moore ““ “Amanda Leigh”
8. Leona Lewis ““ “Echo”
7. Lily Allen ““ “It’s Not Me, It’s You”
6. La Roux ““ “La Roux”
5. Rihanna ““ “Rated R”
4. Shakira ““ “She Wolf”
3. Mika ““ “The Boy Who Knew Too Much”
2. Taylor Swift ““ “Fearless (Platinum Edition)”
1. Lady Gaga ““ “The Fame Monster”

Dramas

To be honest, it was hard to fill this list with 10 truly excellent films, yet there were still several dramas that managed to wrench our hearts (and our guts). Quentin Tarantino directed the best film of 2009 with his stylish, violent Nazi-killing epic “Inglorious Basterds,” while “The Road” horrifically and awesomely portrayed a cannibalistic postapocalyptic world. Even “Funny People,” directed by funny man Judd Apatow, had more poignant, dramatic moments than laughs. “Sin Nombre” also came out on top with a tragic story depicting the violent realities of Mexican gang life.

9. “Moon”
8. “Tyson”
7. “Public Enemies”
6. “The Road”
5. “The Hurt Locker”
4. “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call, New Orleans”
3. “Up”
2. “Sin Nombre”
1. “Inglorious Basterds”

Online

As far as online videos go, this year has been one of dancing babies, wedding entrances, musical performances, celebrities caught at their worst (ahem, Christian Bale) and weird cats.
Some such videos have quality filmmaking on their side or the good old wow factor, and others are little more than a home video shot by, for instance, an aspiring stage dad in a minivan a la “David After Dentist.”
If for nothing else, Web sites like YouTube deserve props for giving videos ““ of, say, a cat jumping into a box ““ the artistic outlet they (might) deserve.

10. “Baby Dancing to Beyonce”
9. “Sound of Music | Central Station Antwerp (Belgium)”
8. “Big Box and Maru”
7. Susan Boyle’s debut on “Britain’s Got Talent”
6. “Michael Jackson Medley” by Sam Tsui
5. “Evian Roller Babies international version”
4. “JK Wedding Entrance Dance”
3. The Lonely Island ““ “I’m On A Boat”
2. “Christian Bale Rant”
1. “David After Dentist”

Hip-Hop Albums

Hip-hop has had an interesting and productive year. Big-name artists like Jay-Z topped the charts yet again, Mos Def managed to completely reinvigorate his flow, newcomers like Wale and Fashawn both showed more than enough promise on their excellent debuts, and Lil Wayne released yet another mixtape. Even the Wu-Tang Clan made a comeback of sorts, with an underground mixtape mashing up their songs with remixes by various Dubstep producers.
But the best album of the year came from one of the Wu-Tang Clan’s ex-members, Raekwon, who finally made a proper follow-up to his classic ’90s debut. To quote a line from the album, with “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II,” Raekwon isn’t saving hip-hop ““ he’s bringing the streets back.

10. Doom ““ Born Like This
9. Jay-Z ““ The Blueprint 3
8. Wale ““ Attention Deficit
7. Brother Ali ““ Us
6. Lil Wayne ““ No Ceilings
5. DJ Quik & Kurupt ““ Blaqkout
4. Mos Def ““ The Ecstatic
3. Fashawn ““ Boy Meets World
2. Wu-Tang Clan ““ Wu-Tang Clan Meets the Indie Underground, Vol. 2: Enter The Dubstep
1. Raekwon ““ Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II

Albums

If 2008 left you “looking for something else” (“Lisztomania”), then 2009 surely delivered it.
This year we finally came within arm’s length of satiating our hunger for amplified guitars and resonating lyrics that impacted a generation, with the release of Nirvana’s “Live at Reading.”
Noteworthy accomplishments spanned from tightly structured feel-good at its finest, via Phoenix’s “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” to one of alternative country’s most achieved bands, Wilco, taking a step back and laying its 15-year run on the table with “Wilco (The Album).”
Some added more fuel to the fire, such as Brand New with “Daisy.” Some preferred the minimalist approach, such as Grizzly Bear with “Veckatimest.” Some were so dangerously good that they made you feel bad (Lady Gaga, “The Fame Monster”).
But it was the attention to the ordinary and the uninhibited approach to song structure streaming from Animal Collective’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion” that picked us up from our desks and dropped us “In the Flowers.”

10. Lady Gaga ““ “The Fame Monster”
9. The Swell Season ““ “Low Rising”
8. Grizzly Bear ““ “Veckatimest”
7. Brand New ““ “Daisy”
6. Yo La Tengo ““ “Popular Songs”
5. Wilco ““ “Wilco (The Album)”
4. Nirvana ““ “Live at Reading”
3. Phoenix ““ “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”
2. The Flaming Lips ““ “Embryonic”
1. Animal Collective ““ “Merriweather Post Pavilion”

Independent Albums

The alternative music scene of 2009 produced albums ranging from successful new efforts by well-established bands to surprise hits from new blood.
Some albums were pulled into the spotlight by explosive hit singles, played incessantly on the radio ““ notably Phoenix’s “1901.” Others, like Julian Casablancas and Coconut Records, released quality, lower-key solo efforts.
The year also indicated a trend of individually acclaimed musicians temporarily breaking away from their main projects to create new supergroup collaborations (The Dead Weather, Monsters of Folk), bringing the fans of their respective bands with them. Among the most notable of this year’s releases was Cage the Elephant’s eponymous debut, which brought a refreshing new sound and attitude to the alternative genre.
Lastly, Muse, often pegged by some as being too pretentious, nevertheless wowed with its powerful symphonic new album and stood out among the year’s best.

10. Grizzly Bear ““ “Veckatimest”
9. Coconut Records ““ “Davy”
8. Franz Ferdinand ““ “Tonight: Franz Ferdinand”
7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs ““ “It’s Blitz!”
6. Julian Casablancas ““ “Phrazes For The Young”
5. The Dead Weather ““ “Horehound”
4. Monsters Of Folk ““ “Monsters Of Folk”
3. Phoenix ““ “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”
2. Cage the Elephant ““ “Cage the Elephant”
1. Muse ““ “The Resistance”

Compiled by Devon McReynolds, Paige Parker, Shelley Brown, Gillian Glover, Christopher Robinson, Naz Papen, Alex Goodman, Jeremy Lu, A&E senior staff.


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