Psych Explorations of 2009

“Finally, there are no more enemies, and there are no more heroes…just sound.”     

 -Wayne Coyne, February 1999     

PsychExFutureHeart’s culmination to our Martian Christmases at the Zoo Countdown last week was a playlist review of music from the last year of the first decade in the twenty-first century… no easy task!  We began just as 2009 had -with the opening tracks of Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion– and then we were off: from Yoko Ono to Karen O, David Bazan to Jeffrey Lewis, outdoor festivals to video games, monster collaborations to unlikely comebacks, documentaries to box sets…    

We’ve all heard young and old complain “there’s no good music anymore” and some saw 2009 as the (long-time coming) “E.N.D.” of “the album,” yet the diversity and quantity of albums championed last year is striking.  Many of these releases even crossed over from the talk and blog circles of music enthusiasts and critics to Billboard chart success.  It is endlessly debatable how much of 2009’s stand-out music was truly special or which is the “best” of it, but one thing music fans can mostly agree upon is there was no shortage of interesting music if you were willing to seek it out.  Complicating the picture further, not only is music fragmenting, recombining and evolving at an unprecedented pace, so is how we access it and how it plays into our lives…even how we conceptualize what “music” is (as a product, as a service, as a personal experience, its social function, etc).  With all this in mind, how can we make sense of the year in music?    

Arguably more so than ever before, the “best of” end-of-year lists from ’09 and the past few years have seemed passé.  With so much music exposed to so many people in so many different ways and a complete lack of any sense of “center” to it all, any redeeming value these lists might have once had –as a “year-book” type reminder or a guide to cuts you might have missed– has become virtually obsolete.  Paradoxically, in an era with so much music to consider and relatively obscure artists (i.e. Sleepy Sun, Lulu and the Lampshades, Cap Gun Coup) being just as accessible as Lady Gaga and the Black Eye Peas to anybody with an internet connection, a sweeping guide through some of the works, artists and stories ever-emerging has never been more convenient.   

That was the thinking behind posting Psych Explorations of 2009 last week anyway.  It was not to have a “list” per se (certainly not to rank an artist that prominently played into my 2009 over one that played into yours), and not even to signify the “best” necessarily, but to lay it out in a one-stop listen-and-watch review of the year.  The order is not reflective of “quality” or critical consensus but at hinting a vaguely thematic arc of music that emerged throughout the year (i.e. “Hard to Be” through “Hallelujah,” Lesh and Weir into the Magik Markers, “Watching the Planets” collides with “Lessons Learned,” Britney disagrees with Sonic Youth, etc).  In short, it’s designed to take an insightful and – like culture itself but unlike its portrayal by these lists – untidy journey back through the year with the ebb and flow of a mix-tape.  It’s meant to cover as much territory as possible within the constraints of 200 clips… but without forcing the issue for some sake of inclusiveness.  It’s as the name says, “Explorations of 2009,”  or simply put:    

  • sounds and sights,
  • in the mind and heart,
  • for better or worse,
  • from 2009.

This playlist emphasizes the visual and sonic ideas presented in music videos and live performances.  Additionally, a second playlist (coming soon) focuses on listening to album tracks.    

To watch and listen to all 200 clips from this playlist: or     

Recommended: click on “autoplay,” set to full screen mode and watch it like you would a movie.    

Below is the complete playlist (as titled by their YouTube uploaders- consequently with inconsistent artist name/ song title/ setting/ etc formatting):     

Comments on who and what was left out are welcome.  Don’t bother mentioning U2, Bruce or Green Day though.  That’s fodder for lists like those by Rolling Stone– exactly what this playlist aims to not be.  And yes, “The Fear” was technically released in December 2008 (likewise several artists here –Cage the Elephant, Pains of Being Pure at Heart among them- gained attention in 2009 with music released earlier).   

Make sure to phrase all comments in the form of “How could you include “3” but not  …”      

…a first suggestion of who was left out (he even played with Wilco’s Nels Cline!):    




Psych Explorations of the Future Heart is an interactive, multi-media publication and detailed discussion about life, rock n’ roll, pop culture and The Flaming Lips.  Find out more at  E-mail the subject “Yes Yes Yes” to to be added to the PsychExFutureHeart mailing list and keep updated on the forthcoming publication.

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