Thursday, July 02, 2009
Best of 2009 (So Far)
You won't see any of the best reviewed albums of the year on this list. Some of them I'm just not that into (Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, St. Vincent) and some of them I really haven't spent enough time with (The Dirty Projectors, Japandroids, Sunn O))), Phoenix, Bill Callahan, Amadou & Mariam). So take this for what it is, a chance to talk about what I have been listening to.....
Top 10 (Most Listened T0) Records of 2009 (listed in alphabetical order):
Andrew Bird: Noble Beast (Fat Possum) – I’m generally not a fan of the precious, adult contemporary indie rock that provides the soundtrack for coffee shops around the country. Before I heard Andrew Bird, I assumed he was another one of those. Yes the songs are a little wordy, and the subject matter borders on pretentious, but his amazing talent trumps all that. At the Greek Theatre on July 10th (and I’ve got some tickets to give away).
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears: Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is (Lost Highway) – These Stax-loving Austinites have released the party record of the year. Joe’s lyrics would probably make nine out of ten politically correct college professors shit their pants, but that’s part of the fun. The arrangements are fleshed out by an eight-piece band (including a horn section). The instrumental “Humpin’” has an organ solo that would make Booker T. smile. Produced by Jim Eno of Spoon. At the Troubadour on 8/31/09.
Dinosaur Jr.: Farm (Jagjaguwar) – As a huge fan of post-Lou Barlow Dinosaur Jr. (Green Mind and Where You Been all the way), I wasn’t that excited when Barlow rejoined the band. I enjoyed the reunion show at Spaceland, but was indifferent to new material. The first comeback record was pretty good, but they really seem to hit their stride on Farm. The highlight of the record is J. Mascis’ guitar (although Murph and Lou sound great too). Even when the songs stretch out to eight minutes, there are enough surprises in the arrangements to keep it cool. Lou contributes two songs too. (Now let’s try to get Lou and Jason Lowenstein to do a Bakesale tour). At the House of Blues Sunset on 11/5/09.
Frankel: Anonymity Is the New Fame (Autumn Tone) – One of the most overlooked/best kept secrets in the LA scene is Frankel. Michael Orendy doesn’t play out much (unless he’s touring with Earlimart) so people tend to quietly discover him on their own. Following up 2007’s excellent Lullaby for the Passerby couldn’t have been easy, but Orendy does it in a big way. The songwriting is timeless and the production sounds like vintage Elliott Smith. Fans of literate singer-songwriters need to pick this up.
Jason Lytle: Your’s Truly, the Commuter (Anti-) – I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Jason Lytle solo record. Fortunately this is (would be) my favorite Grandaddy record since 2000’s The Sophtware Slump. The arrangements are as full as anything Grandaddy ever did and Lytle’s still writing the lyrics. The songs are about dead pets, unfulfilled dreams, going home alone and suicidal kids who love birds. Some of it is a little melancholy but it’s not overwhelming. Some Madison Avenue exec will probably license “It’s the Weekend” for a car commercial by the time I finish typing this.
The Minor Canon: Emptiness Is the New Form (self-released) – This morning I woke up with “The Solution” in my head and it just now went away. Shit, it’s back (and it’s not even one of my favorite songs on the record). Front man Paul Larson has had a rough couple of years and he lays it all down on this record. We’re talking some seriously raw, sad sack shit here. Many of the arrangements start with piano or acoustic guitar, before building to a crescendo of horns, drums and electric guitars. These are the kind of love songs that uber-music fan Rob Fleming spent too much time obsessing over in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. At the Silverlake Lounge on 7/9/09.
Phosphorescent: To Willie (Dead Oceans) – Phosphorescent’s tribute to Willie Nelson is the best covers album I’ve heard in a very long time. Matthew Houck’s relaxed vocal delivery serves the songs extremely well. It’s done in a respectful, but not overly reverential way. Great job my friends.
Rodriguez: Coming From Reality (Light In the Attic) – Originally released in 1971, Coming From Reality manages to be totally anti-establishment without being corny. My girlfriend put it best, “Rodriguez is so good, I wonder how I lived so long without him.” Big thanks to the Light In the Attic label for introducing me to this enormously talented, forgotten artist.
Sonic Youth: The Eternal (Matador) – It’s somewhat ironic that Sonic Youth finally left their major label and got their highest chart debut of all time. And deservedly so, it’s a really good record. At the Wiltern on 9/29/09.
Neil Young: Neil Young Archives, Vol. 1 1963-1972 (Reprise) – It’s unfair to include such a massive, expensive ($230 on Blu-Ray through Deep Discount) career retrospective on a best of the year list. This set is so massive that I still haven’t explored all the nuances of it. Fans already own a lot of this stuff, but buying it on a new format makes it a little more palatable. The exercise of sitting down and staring at your television while the songs play forces you to think about and contextualize them. The biggest bummer is that, as you flip trough the photos/lyrics/mementos that accompany the tracks, there’s a small, distracting hiccup in the audio. I’d hold off on this investment until you have a Blu-Ray player.
Other records I’ve spent a chunk of time listening to: Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Silversun Pickups, Iron & Wine, Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse, The Parson Red Heads EP, BLK JKS EP, Le Switch EP