Steve and Townes

As Charles Durning’s character Henry Larson says in Home for the Holidays (perhaps the greatest holiday film of all time), “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.”

After sifting through a shitload of opinions (pun totally intended!) and lists over the last month or so, I’ve come to believe that truer words were never spoken. So, with that in mind, here are ten songs I loved in 2009 and five I think you’ll love in 2010.

01. Kings of Leon – “Use Somebody” (from Only By the Night)
JUST KIDDING! Oh man. You should have seen the look on your face!

Okay, seriously now.

01. Steve Earle – “Lungs” (from Townes)
It seems you either love or hate Tom Morello’s inclusion on this track from Earle’s stunning tribute to Townes Van Zandt. Given the position of the song and nature of the list, it should be pretty clear where I fall. Morello’s guitar does the screaming that no vocalist’s inflection could match and, as Townes himself mused once that the song ought better be screamed than sung, that seems pretty appropriate to me.

Steve Earle – Lungs

02. Matthew Ryan – “The World Is…” (from Dear Lover)
It is difficult choosing one stand-out track from Matthew Ryan’s beautiful album Dear Lover (which hit digital storefronts this year but won’t be on actual shelves until February 16, 2010), but “The World Is…” is a gracefully falling prayer; a summation of everything that makes Dear Lover such a gorgeous, haunting record.

03. Mos Def – “Quiet Dog” (from The Ecstatic)
The syncopated, vibrant single from Mos Def’s impressive new record marked the welcomed return of an artist whose artistic credibility, while never in jeopardy, had certainly taken a few hits thanks to three years’ worth of questionable film roles and one clearly phoned-in record. Please let that be the last creative hiatus, Mos. We need you.

04. Bob Dylan – “It’s All Good” (from Together Through Life)
Would have been the most wickedly funny thing Dylan did in 2009 but then he went and made that mindbending “Must Be Santa” video, which is sure to haunt my dreams for years to come. Thanks again, Bob.

05. Neko Case – “I’m An Animal” (from Middle Cyclone)
Everyone fawned over “People Got a Lotta Nerve” and rightfully so, but “I’m An Animal” is far and away my favorite track from the phenomenal Middle Cyclone.

Neko Case – I’m An Animal

06. The Low Anthem – “To Ohio (Reprise)” (from Oh My God, Charlie Darwin)
I’ve heard this song arranged five different ways, and each time though, “this is the one.” I guess when a song is this good, the arrangement is secondary.

07. Visqueen – “Beautiful Amnesia” (from Message to Garcia)
Rachel Flotard penned an entire album’s worth of anthems, but if I had to choose one song to represent the brilliant Message to Garcia (and, as luck would have it, I did), “Beautiful Amnesia” would be that song. I’m a sucker for a melody.

08. Son Volt – “Cocaine and Ashes” (from American Central Dust)
Anyone still wanna have the “Farrar’s writing has gotten lazy, he’s stretched himself too thin with asinine solo albums and side projects, he’ll never write anything as good as ‘Windfall’ again” conversation? I thought not.

09. The Swell Season – “Low Rising” (from Strict Joy)
It sounds a shitload like vintage Van Morrison but, y’know what? I fucking love vintage Van Morrison.

10. Will Hoge – “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” (from The Wreckage)
Also from the “sounds a shitload like” file (Tom Petty), but when a song is this good, you’ll get no complaint from me. There’s a reason Petty has written roughly 7,000 hits, and it’s this real simple formula: great verse melody, mammoth chorus, tasteful guitar and keys. Guess which Hoge employs for this anthemic mini-masterpiece? (Hint: All of ’em.)

Will Hoge – Even If It Breaks Your Heart

01. Kasey Anderson – “I Was A Photograph” (from Nowhere Nights, available February 16, 2010)
Yes, it’s my song and yes, I listed it first. I’m going to keep doing so until everyone I know, and everyone they know, knows about James Blake Miller.


02. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – “Even Heroes Have to Die” (from The Brutalist Bricks, available March 9, 2010)
Some jagbag referred to this song as “a John Melencamp jackoff party with the Cars.” I don’t hear it. What I do hear is Leo doing what he does best, blending influences from all over the map into one streamlined, sonic knockout punch. No need for hyperbole or euphemism, Ted Leo is really fucking good.


03. Spoon – “Written in Reverse” (from Transference, available January 19, 2010)
Sounds like a new Spoon single, alright. Which, for me, is always a good thing.

04. Chip Robinson – “Mylow” (from Mylow, available Spring 2010)
I don’t often speak in absolutes but if you don’t love this song, there’s something seriously wrong with you.


05. Joe Pug – “Not So Sure” (from Messenger, available Spring 2010)
If Joe Pug’s Nation of Heat EP didn’t knock you out, 1) what the hell is the matter with you? 2) his full-length debut, Messenger, will.



  1. Just go ahead and put “I was a photograph” at #1 for 2009 in my opinion, who cares about the official release date.

    Kasey can you fix your blog? I recently discovered the song-by-song write ups you did for the new record and enjoyed reading them and listening to the demos. The only problem is that the demos for week 1-5 don’t seem to be working.

  2. I’d never heard of Will Hoge until I saw an acoustic set at a local radio station. And The Swell Season, as well. They posted a video here if you want to look. Nice post, good list.

  3. lots of that stuff is unfamiliar to me, but not the #1 song. and I am exactly on the opposite side. worst song from the creative low point that Steve’s been heading towards for years. and I am a HUUUGE Townes fan (and, well, Steve also) and used to dream about a tribute CD by Steve, Guy, Rodney, Dobson & co…

    curious about Joe Pug! heard lots of good things about him, often from folks who saw him open for Steve in the UK!


  4. that will hoge song is great. as is yours, neko’s, and joe pug’s. i honestly cant get down with the rest of em. even matthew ryan, who i love, kinda bummed me out this time. then again, your taste is way more diverse than mine.

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