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Eight Steps to a Better 2009 

Wednesday, Jan 7 2009
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We hate to be the critic who laments the present, but it must be said: The music zeitgeist is suffering through its own recession these days. After 2008 hit with the thud of a throwaway track on an overlong CD, we're thrilled to have made it to the next song in this new year.

Though critics might not want to admit it, the signature band of these past 12 months wasn't TV on the Radio or Fleet Foxes, but Coldplay. With a sense of whimsy borrowed from the guards at Buckingham Palace, the band was most indicative of the sound shooting around listeners' cortexes. On the pop front, the most striking development was Katy Perry, not for the pseudocontroversy stirred by her massive hit, "I Kissed a Girl," but for the extent to which she dumbed down the game of pop provocation. Her phony bi-curiosity was plodding enough to make Britney's late-inning rally look sophisticated by comparison — Britney's nudie video absolutely withstanding.

So here we are — it's 2009, and we're eager to re-engage with another year in music. So eager, in fact, that we've assembled this can't-miss plan for our next trip around the sun. If we all do our part and stick to the script (that means you, Axl), we guarantee this will be the best 365 days in song since the last one where Oasis didn't put a record out. Which brings us to step one:

1) Oasis doesn't put a record out
After more than 40 years in the vaults, the Beatles' legendary opus "Carnival of Light" is finally released. The 14-minute work is so awful that Oasis changes allegiance and begins ripping off Manfred Mann instead. It takes at least 12 months for the Gallagher brothers to retool their oeuvre. In the meantime, we check music blogs without our usual trepidation.

2) Brandon Flowers comes clean
On the arena-rock front, Killers' frontman Brandon Flowers comes out of the closet as dull. He apologizes for the feathers and eyeliner he'd been wearing to distract us from the fact that he has no personal charisma.

3) The industry tanks
In 2009, CD sales see a further decline, sealing their fate as an obsolete format. Surprisingly, MP3s also fade as many top bands offer their services directly to fans for weddings, bat mitzvahs, and lawn care. 

4) Lil' Wayne is human after all
With millions in sales, Lil' Wayne proves for a second year in a row that he's recession-proof — though after a 12-date tour of the Midwest, Weezy finds he's not syphilis-proof.

5) The Smiths reform, sort of
The recent trend of blockbuster reunions steps into an even higher gear as a number of sorely missed bands — and Creed — reunite. After years of prodding, the Smiths are finally coaxed to headline Coachella. However, since Morrissey and Johnny Marr sit out this round, Patti Smith takes up vocals, while Robert Smith fills in on guitar. Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce, the Smiths' original rhythm section, are replaced by Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, who shakes Elliott Smith's urn in time to Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It." At year's end, nostalgia once again gets the best of the editors at Q magazine, who vote these Smiths as runners-up in their Best Band poll. For a miraculous 16th year in a row, first place goes to Wings.

6) Katy Perry puts her mouth where her money is
Never to be outdone is shock-songstress Perry, who finally kisses a girl only to find it tastes less like cherry ChapStick and more like homemade curry.

7) Axl Rose repents
In an attempt to right his wrongs from 2008, Rose dissolves Guns N' Roses and joins Velvet Revolver, taking over cowbell and MySpace admin duties.

8) Grunge returns
The biggest story of 2009 is the resurgence of grunge, which steals the spotlight from grime. But neither genre puts up much of a fight against a dash of Comet and some vinegar, which rule the charts throughout the summer, delighting nervous record executives and finicky house guests alike.

About The Author

Andrew Stout

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Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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