Monday, December 21, 2009

2009: Year of Lists - ATR

ATR used to be a COMO-ian. Then, his partner Monkey (who names their kid "Monkey?") decided to move off to Nebraska. Luckily, Lincoln is still in the central time zone. ATR teaches the children of the corn how to read and write. As you can tell from his review of the year's offerings that ATR knows a thing or three about the written word. So, those chil'en are probably in good hands. You may also notice that he is old (and he has the beard to prove it).

Once again, the views expressed below are ATR's, not mine. Although, like several of my contributors, I agree with many choices such as, well, all of them. Anyway, on with the list.


Who cares what I think? I have passed out of relevance, as I plow deeper into my forties in less than a month. I made it to all of six shows this year. I live in the honest-to-goodness hinterlands. I find it more difficult and less important to keep up with the latest in the world of music. Still, I managed to pick up a couple dozen releases this year, mostly from known quantities, like Clem Snide, Neko Case, Decemberists (none of which made my top ten). I still haven’t checked out Flaming Lips’ or Wilco’s “new” ones. Even so, for what it’s worth, here’s my pithy take on the year’s wealth.

10. Mastodon: Crack the Skye

Sure, the concept sounds like it was cooked up by a seventeen year old after a 2 AM bong hit, but the virtuosity is undeniable and the composition is unquestionably intelligent and mature. Oh, and it kicks ass, dude.

9.Mountain Goats: The Life of the World to Come

John Darnielle’s voice always reminds me of Jeff Heiskell’s. It is there that any comparison to Knoxville’s turn-of-the-century darlings Judybats ends. This is serious music. It’s beautiful. It’s literary. It’s ultimately not “a joyful noise.” Kind of like life.

8. Magnolia Electric Co.: Josephine

In 2012, as the world is crumbling around me, this might be the album I will choose to listen to. So, why is it only number eight? Ask me in 2013.

7. Heartless Bastards: The Mountain

Power chords, dark vocal tones, and polar bears. I can’t tell if I am in love or scared shitless. Oh, right, it’s the same thing.

6. Akron/Family: Set’Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free

It’s no Meek Warrior, but it still gets my ass moving pretty good. The harmonies are tight, and the jams are just plain fun. Even when the tempo is on the slow side, the songs are still captivating.

5. Bill Callahan: Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle

I have never been a fan of Leonard Cohen. I don’t know if that means I have a lack of taste, a genetic defect, or a mental imbalance, judging from some folks’ reactions. When I listen to Bill Callahan, on the other hand, he settles my heart, in a talky sort of way.

4. Sunset Rubdown: Dragonslayer

From first note to last, this album holds together better than anything I have heard from this project. While Dragonslayer is missing a solidly unique song, like “The Men Are Called Horsemen There,” the whole album is clever, layered, and more enjoyable as a whole than its predecessors.

3. Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest

I smell jazz (and Low) on this album, and I like it. It would be ranked higher, if I knew what the hell “veckatimest” meant. I stand corrected; I just looked it up. It’s still number three.

2. Atlas Sound: Logos

It’s 1969 and Syd Barrett, Lou Reed, and Brian Wilson have joined forces on a stellar disc. Oh wait, it’s 2009, and Atlas Sound has released an awesome new album. I will smiley smile as I play this recording at all tomorrow’s parties on this dark globe.

1. Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca

Each listen to this album confirms for me that it is a more melodious, twenty-first century cousin of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica. The biggest difference is that I have never hummed a bar of “When Big Joan Sets Up.”

Honorable Mentions: Tegan and Sara:
and Volcano Choir: Unmap

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