The years of 2009 and 2010 were a blur. One minute, I am a chronic pain patient at some pain management group who first told me I was an addict, the next a new nurse practitioner order a CT-scan and discovers that I really did not have a fusion. Wow! It only took five physicians and three nurse practitioners to finally realize that I was NOT full of shit when I said my back felt unstable! Remain a couple of things about medicine here in the states. First, the docs are human, so they make human mistakes. However, many also come in with preconceptions that they should NEVER have when dealing with a new patient. Next, chronic pain sufferers are NOT addicts. Just because most of us look “normal,” do not use a wheelchair or cane/walker or have a cast, does NOT make us fakers and wimps. This shit is real. Finally, Americans are stupid with regards to pain. Everyone has had a twinge or two in certain areas in your body, and may have been done a couple of days because of it. But, your temporary pain is nowhere comparable to those experiencing chronic pain.
So, shortly after Michael Jackson died in the summer of 2009, I had my biggest surgery yet. This time I had an anterior fusion, meaning the surgeon move my abdominal sac containing my digestive system in order to see my spine. Then, he removed all the remnants of my former fusion attempt, insert a spacer, fill it up with a protein-based fusion substance that is like spackle and put a cage around three-quarters of the vertebrae and spackled that. He left the original rods and pins in my back from the posterior surgery for extra support.
Now, I was on a strict four-month recovery, during which I listened to music. The problem is that little of the new stuff out was relaxing to me. Right before I went back to school, my SCS began malfunctioning. That meant I had to have my second surgery in three months as that particular doctor did a revision.
Once again, after a good six months of healing, I was once again in pain and still experiencing back spasms at all hours of the day. So, all through 2010, I spent my time teaching and going to have test after test. I had massage therapy, which only aggravated my back spasms more. I had what are called trigger point injects, which are a steroid and pain killer injection directly into the points in my back muscles and ligaments in which those spasms were originating. The final big treatment that was attempted was to have Botox injections into those trigger points. The interesting thing about that procedure is that the office had a device that could amplify the sound of my back muscles as they spasmed. Usually, the doc has the volume up full blast. Mine were so violent that I damn near blew his speakers. He said that was the worst sounding spasms he had ever heard. Of course, the sounds were recorded for posterity. Oh, and the Botox injections made my back spasms worse! Now, we were officially out of options. I was in survival mode.
In the meantime, rock music seemed to finally be morphing into something that was appealing to me less and less. It seems I was reaching that point while in my late-forties where I realize that current popular music is not being made for my age group.
So, let’s take a look at the albums from 2009 and 2010.
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009). Due to this group’s eclectic musical influences, you might initially want to label Animal Collective as a Millennial’s Beastie Boys. And, their genre hopping within a song is reminiscent of the Boys’ best work. However, AC is rooted in EDM and not hip hop, and AC is not as culturally anchored as the Beasties. Still, this is a fine example of the cross pollination of genres can produce in rock.
Death – …For the Whole World to See (2009). Back in 1976, a trio of black men from Detroit got together and recorded a legendary batch of songs that was independently released. Over the years, this excellent take on American punk was passed from one hipster to another, first on cassette, then on CD. Finally, this group of songs got an official release, and thank goodness, since it reminded everyone how good these guys were with their Stooges-inspired punk. Unfortunately, the sociological lyrics of these songs still ring true in this age of Black Lives Matter.
Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3 (2009). By 2009, Jay-Z was beginning to transcend the hip hop world to become one of the biggest artists in the world. Now, with his collaboration with Alicia Keys, had created a timeless song honoring his NYC roots on “Empire State of Mind.” That song quickly became a NYC anthem up there with Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” And, the rest of the album is so good that Jay-Z became the undisputable king of rap.
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009). This French band briefly hit it big with the college crowd with their updated version of good old Eighties new wave dance music. The first two songs on the album, “Lisztomania” and “1901” could be heard everywhere at the time, including in several commercials. This was a fun album during a time that wasn’t much fun for me.
The xx – XX (2009). By this time, indie pop and alternative rock were indistinguishable. So, when The xx popped up, they were able to blur the lines between the two easily, especially because the trio’s two vocalists, Oliver Sim and Romy Madley’s deadpan vocals. This is a brilliant album that gives simultaneous nods to new wave, alt.rock, arena rock and electronica without favoring one over the other. Actually, they remind me of a modern day version of the original lineup of Roxy Music.
Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops & Hooligans (2010). I really want to hate Bruno Mars’ music, but I can’t because that little shit can just write some pretty catchy tunes. This is pure pop for people who love early Beatles, ABBA and Aqua equally as much. This is no guilty pleasure, it’s the real deal.
Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer (2010). Cee Lo was that guy from the Goodie Mob who sang lead on that terrific Gnarls Barkley song, “Crazy,” a few years ago. Now, he had created yet another earworm with his Motown homage “Fuck You,” or “Forget You” as the cleaned up version was known. Did you know that Bruno Mars was a co-writer on this song? It’s true! But, that song is NOT the only terrific one on this album. This album is a nearly perfect nod to the great soul music of the early Seventies, like a much better version of Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man. I really need to buy this one on vinyl soon.
Fitz & the Tantrums – Pickin’ Up the Pieces (2010). I discovered FATT on the local independent Adult Alternative Station we have here in Central Indiana, WTTS-FM. I was immediately taken by Michael Fitzpatrick’s Daryl Hall-like songwriting AND singing. And, the band consisted of a group of hot LA session players without a guitarist. And, their secret weapon is co-vocalist Noelle Scaggs who possesses one of those rare soul, barn-burning voices like Sharon Jones. All together, this band makes some terrific rock ‘n’ soul that reminds me of the best of Hall & Oates.
Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid (2010). Talk about one hell of another throwback album. Monáe threw away the notion of becoming the next Janet Jackson and swung for comparisons to Michael himself. Well, she sure succeeded as she one-upped the Jacksons on this magnificent album of soulful pop. Plus, I gotta admit that Janelle just might have a, dare I say it, better set of pipes than any of the Jacksons. What I cannot believe is that this album did not blow up in a huge way.
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010). This just might be the last truly brilliant album created before his ego, along with, unfortunately, his mental illness ran his genius into the ground. It seems that every artist has one of those album in which all of the music on it seems to be the confident culmination of every experiment they had attempted in the past. This is that album for West. He pulls off every weird production thought in a terrific manner, whether it is sampling diverse artists such as Black Sabbath, Gil Scott-Heron or Robert Fripp or collaborating with the likes of John Legend or Bon Iver. I honestly believe this album is Kanye’s masterpiece.
Katy Perry – Teenage Dream (2010). After years of her record company attempting to plug Perry’s vocals and looks into various genres, including Contemporary Christian Music, Katy finally found success with her mega-hit “I Kissed a Girl.” Well, on this album, according to the cynics and naysayers, Perry’s producers loaded her up with some terrific songs from the best songwriters around, and Perry did the rest. This album is loaded with hits and remains to this day, Katy Perry’s finest album.
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (2010). Whenever an artist has to follow up such a critically acclaimed album as LCD’s Sound of Silver, the creative minds have got to be feeling pressure. Honestly, James Murphy did not seemed to be bothered by the situation. He remained squarely in his band’s wheelhouse and created another winning mix of EDM and rock. Oh, sure, this album lacks the surprise brilliance of the previous one, yet it stills has a certain charm nonetheless.
Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement (2010). I’ll be honest and tell you that I learned of this album through a John Mayer tweet singing the album’s praises. Of course, I had to hear it. I was immediately taken aback by the wonderful throwback soul music and Hawthorne’s falsetto work, both of which reminded me of former Temptations Eddie Kendrick’s early-Seventies solo work. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Hawthorne, real name Andy Cohen, began creating his own Seventies soul music because, as a DJ, he could not afford the royalties to sample actual hits. So, a record executive caught wind of his music and signed him to a deal. And, the rest is history.
The Black Keys – Brothers (2010). I heard of The Black Keys throughout the first decade of the 21st century. My older son claimed they were nothing but a cheap rip-off of The White Stripes. Both bands were guitar/drum/vocal combos that were equally influenced by Sixties garage rock and punk as they were by the blues. But, the two diverge in their executions. The Black Keys were more grimy in their approach, while The White Stripes were artier. In the case of The Keys, it took them a little longer to catch on with the public. But, when this Akron duo put it all together, as they finally did on Brothers, there was no doubt that rock was alive and well.
Vampire Weekend – Contra (2010). VW struck while the iron was still hot by releasing their sophomore album in relatively short time, at least for this era. Once again, the band maintained their feet in the sounds of Paul Simon’s Graceland, but confidently began to incorporate other sounds, such as samples from M.I.A. and Toots & the Maytals. This was the sound of definite growth in one of the more exciting indie pop/rock bands of this era.
And, with one blog, we finished off two years.