Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009: The Year of Lists - Kristen

Kristen and I go way back, but we haven't really been able to get to know each other until the past couple of years or so. We met many years ago at a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion show. I approached Kristen and her friend because they were acquaintances of my roommate. We all had a nice time, but I spent the night wondering which woman I should ask out. Being the indecisive person I am, I never asked out either woman. Luckily, it all worked out for the best as I found R and they each found someone, respectively.

Today, Kristen lives in the ATL with her partner (whom I hear is rather cool in his own right) where she manages a shoe store. You could read her blog if she would ever post something, but you might have more luck following her on Twitter. She too submitted a list to my little project, demonstrating some insight into music not yet found at this URL. Sure, these aren't my opinions, but I wish they were.

It seems like I consumed a good deal of music in 2009, but I struggled to find ten albums that stood out as "must-haves." I consulted other "top 10" lists online, Pitchfork...that whole deal, but the albums that kept popping up on those lists (with the exception of maybe 1 or 2) just left me with the following reaction: a big fat "meh."

I said to myself "Why look at what others pick & why not just pick your own? After all, isn't that the point?" That said, I decided on the following metrics: Can I listen to this album on repeat? And: Can I listen to one or more songs on this album on repeat? If I found that to be the case, I had a winner. Here are the ten albums that made the cut.

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - "Up From Below"
This has to be one of my hands-down favorites of the year. Yes, you can call it a "hippie Arcade Fire," but I really think they're more than that. Songs like
40 Day Dream and Home fill me with pure joy, and I think any album that can do that in a year like 2009 is pretty darn amazing.
Song Worth a Repeat: 40 Day Dream and Home

Blakroc - "Blakroc"
This album is a late addition to the list, but I couldn't
not include it. Indie darlings Black Keys collaborating Roc-a-fella's Dame Dash? WIN. Add in Mos Def, Q-Tip, Jim Jones, Raekwon and NOE? Quadruple WIN. The mix of jangly psych-tinged guitars and stellar MCs works in a sleazy & utterly satisfying way. The album is fun all the way around. You can't help but dance. [Here's a hint, though: buy the album at your local indie record store. It comes with a great track,Coochie, featuring Ludacris & old Ol Dirty Bastard tracks that you can't get on the iTunes download. Bonus is helping out your local indie retailer.]
Song Worth a Repeat: Ain't Nothing Like You

White Denim - "Fits"
This album made the "can listen to the album on repeat 4 times over" metric like no other album on the list. Know why? It changes gears so many times it's more like listening to a great playlist rather than one album from one band. Eclectic and electric are two words I'd use to describe it. Come to think of it, "Fits" is a perfect title for a band that seems to suffer from Tourette's -- but totally in a good way. Psychedlia, sleaze, brooding bass a booty call you can keep going back to. Fun and different at every turn, but definitely not one to take home to mom.
Songs Worth a Repeat & a Spot on Speed-dial: Mirrored and Reverse and Syncn

Generationals - "Con Law"
Everyone and their mom will have the Girls "Album" album on their top 10s, and I agree -- it IS good. But I don't know....for 60s-style, twee-tinged bubblegum pop, I find the Generationals' "Con Law" album about ten times more satisfying. Plus, this album makes me shake my booty. Who could ask for more? It's a summer-soundtrack sort of album, and everyone needs one of those in his collection.
Songs Worth a Repeat & a Booty Shake: Nobody Could Change Your Mind and When They Fight, They Fight

Deastro - "Moondagger"
Put down the Animal Collective and Passion Pits albums, and pick this up...right now. Granted those are good; but seriously, this is one of the criminally overlooked records of 2009. Deastro is the alter-ego of 22-year old Detroit native Randolph Chabot. For someone from a town so downtrodden, these songs shimmer with sheer positivity. Its an electro-pop album that feels more like mini-symphonies than superficial hipster, soundtrack schlock.
Songs Worth a Repeat: Biophelia and Vermillion Plaza

The Horrors - "Primary Colours"
The Horrors' second album was an early contender for my 2009 top 10...perhaps too early, which is probably why it will escape a lot of other lists. Nevertheless, its a great album by the East Londoners. Yeah, they're hyped...yeah, they went through a not-so-successful garage stint in 2007...but this album is killer. It's tight. It's sensual and noisy and gothic without being gloomy. It's Joy Division-esque without being an obvious knockoff. Definitely an album to crank up in the car or while getting ready to go out at night.
Song Worth a Repeat: I Can't Control Myself

Malcolm Middleton - Waxing Gibbous
Former Arab Strap frontman, Aidan Moffat, comes back with a second solo album, and I love the result. He's still a cantakerous, irrascible Scotsman, but his latest effort seems less gloomy than past works. A few songs are positively perky! Fans of his Arab Strap works will love some of the slower songs on the album, while tracks like
Red Travellin Socks and Shadows will delight pop fans -- and perhaps conjure up a few Shins comparisons. Give it a listen...pretty soon it will be on repeat on your stereo, too. Guarantee it.
Song Worth About 10 Repeats in a Row: Subset of The World

Polvo - "In Prisms"

Personal disclaimer: I'm from Lousiville, KY. Post-rock/math-rock bands form the soundtrack to much of my teenage and adult life. It's in my blood. Therefore, a major band of the 1990s math-rock scene's reunion effort is more than likely going to end up on my "best of" list. It's an EASY PICKUP if it's as good as this one, too. I see Polvo's first album in over 11 years as not just a great reunion album, but a redefinition of their work into something even better than before. It also signals a real return to rock after a decade of electropunk, poppy dance bands, 80s throwbacks, and bearded neo-folk. I'm ready to rock again. How about you?
Song Worth A Repeat and a "Praise the Rock n Roll Gods, We're Back!!": Beggars Bowl

Phoenix - "Wolfgang Amadeus" I finally list one that's on a lot of other lists. (Most of them, actually.) I won't add a lot of commentary here, since everyone else probably summed up this album better than I can. I'll just say that I really like the album. I want to hate it since that Chrysler TV commercial featuring "1901" is on every other minute, but I just can't. I can't help but sing along to "Lizstomania" everytime it pops up on the ipod. (Just ignore the fact that I probably get half the lyrics wrong. Silly Frenchies.)
Song Worth a Repeat: Lizstomania and Fences

The Middle East "The Recordings of the Middle East - EP"

I know I knocked the bearded neo-folk subset earlier, but this EP stands outside of that criticism. I'm still ready for rock's return, but in the meantime this album fills a little niche in my heart. It's just five songs long, but it stands out as one of the strongest, meatiest albums of the year. I listened to it about six times in a row the other night, and it made the stress of this year just seem to melt away...if only for the couple of hours' worth of listen. If you do anything based on this list, make sure you check out this video for the song "Blood." A masterpiece...and oddly the most joyful song about death I've ever heard.

Song Worth Repeating: Blood

1 comment:

ks said...

Thanks for the nice words, Zac! It's funny..your intro made me laugh because I remember that show clearly. You made it into the entry for that show in my ticket stub journal. Next to the Newport ticket it reads: "...also, met Zac Early. Super nice guy and BEAUTIFUL blue eyes." Heh...oh to be 19 again. But yes, everything turned out for the best for all involved in the end. :)

Thanks again for the opportunity to guest-post. It was fun!