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best of 2009

Pop Fools and Cool Kids: The Best Music of 2009

We’d preface this look back at the year in music with an attempt to connect it to the wider world, but frankly, we’re not well-versed enough in our Greil Marcus to fake it. (Someone more clever than us can draw the proper parallels between Lady Gaga and President Obama.) Surely no reminder of the record label death spiral is needed, although it’s worth noting that, even against this backdrop, music remains super-abundant, and fresh stars keep strutting into our lives. If it wasn’t a terrifically exciting year, that probably owes to the fact that in rap, the most fertile form of music for as long as Justin Bieber can remember, the up-and-comers simply lacked swagger. (Having Kanye West as a spiritual-leader-by-default isn’t helping hip hop.) Narrowing to ten our already short list* of important artists — not best per se , but somehow key to 2009’s musical landscape — proved a special challenge of a parlor game, in any case. Here’s a ranking of the artists New York’s music folks — Hugo Lindgren, Lizzy Goodman, Amos Barshad , and myself — found most memorable. If it pleases you, imagine these selections as some left-liberal commentary on war and/or health care.

*Runners-up: Adam Lambert, Animal Collective, Blk Jks, Built to Spill, Bill Callahan, Clipse, Eminem, Florence & the Machine, Grizzly Bear, Jarvis Cocker, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, Justin Bieber, Keith Urban, Kid Cudi, Kings of Leon, Mariah Carey, Maxwell, Miranda Lambert, Owl City (just kidding), Paramore, Passion Pit, Pearl Jam, Darius Rucker (who won a new artist of the year CMA in November), Raekwon, Susan Boyle, Wilco, Yo La Tengo, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the xx.

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