Music faves from 2009

It seems that 2009 is the year when I shift­ed my atten­tion back to rock and pop music. Dub­step still holds my atten­tion but not to the extent that it did back in 2006 when it took over my brain. Here are the things I enjoyed most in 2009, in no par­tic­u­lar order.

Best Albums

Thanks to my friend, Tony, who first men­tioned this band to me. The XX are a young bunch who make lean pop music con­sist­ing of boy/girl vocals, hand-played drum machines and per­fect­ly placed gui­tar lines. This album quick­ly became a habit.

The XX — Islands:

The XX — Night Time:

mosdefecstaticMos Def — The Ecsta­t­ic
Mos Def has nev­er quite deliv­ered a stu­dio album to match his great cameos and col­lab­o­ra­tions. There are no radio-wor­thy hits here, but this is his most con­sis­tent­ly inter­est­ing album in years. The com­bo of Mos Def with Madlib is very very sat­is­fy­ing.

Mos Def — Audi­to­ri­um ft. Slick Rick:

Mos Def — Rev­e­la­tions:

kingmidassoundKing Midas Sound — Wait­ing for You
At the meet­ing point of dub­step and Lovers Rock this full-length from King Midas Sound expands on the ideas put forth on their hand­ful of sin­gles. Atmos­pher­ic yet heavy. The weight of the bass lends phys­i­cal­i­ty to each track, anchor­ing down the gen­tly float­ing falset­to.

King Midas Sound — Cool Out:

King Midas Sound — Dahlin’:

timheckerimaginaryTim Heck­er — An Imag­i­nary Coun­try
Mas­ter­ful ambi­ent drone tex­ture explo­rations. Per­fect bal­ance of gen­tle and abra­sive son­ic tim­bres. This work man­ages to seem emp­ty and emo­tion­al simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.

Tim Heck­er — The Inner Shore:

tortoisebeaconsTor­toise — Bea­cons of Ances­tor­ship
“Post-rock” stal­warts Tor­toise expand­ed their sound once again while retain­ing their core strength of polyrhyth­mic elas­tic­i­ty. Tor­toise came fuzzi­er in 2009.

Tor­toise — High Class Slim Came Float­in’ In:

Tor­toise — North­ern Some­thing:

flaminglipsembryonicThe Flam­ing Lips — Embry­on­ic
The Flam­ing Lips also came fuzzi­er in 2009. Grit­ty, over­driv­en drum sounds gave a low rent haze to the album. Sound­ing almost like a rehearsal tape some­times, Embry­on­ic remind­ed me of Six Fin­ger Satel­lite cir­ca Severe Expo­sure and Miles Davis’ Bitch­es Brew with a dash of Can’s Tago Mago or ear­ly Pink Floyd. But buried in the fuzz is Wayne Coyne’s dreamy earnest­ness which floats up out of the muck to hook your heart and keep you afloat.

The Flam­ing Lips — The Spar­row Looks Up at the Machine:

fatherdivinerequiemFather Divine — Requiem for Intel­lect
Here’s what I wrote in my ama­zon review:

Dis­clo­sure: I played in a band with Joe Fer­rara from 1992–1995.

My friend­ship with the singer/songwriter/creative force behind Father Divine may indi­cate poten­tial bias to some, but I think the asso­ci­a­tion is far enough in the past to give me some crit­i­cal dis­tance.

The music of Requiem for Intel­lect is a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward from Great Amer­i­can Pas­time. While still styl­is­ti­cal­ly rec­og­niz­able as the same musi­cal mind at work, there is added tex­tur­al and rhyth­mic den­si­ty in the new music. And it gets heavy when it needs to.

This is music informed by every­thing from Big Black to Daz­zlingkill­men to 90s down­town NYC jazz skro­nk. And yet, melody still stands front-and-cen­ter. Intel­li­gent, unpre­dictable, uncon­ven­tion­al, chal­leng­ing. But these are SONGS.

The album is son­i­cal­ly fan­tas­tic, as well. The gui­tar tones are espe­cial­ly note­wor­thy. I bought the mp3s so I am miss­ing out on some fideli­ty but there is a great lev­el of detail to the pro­duc­tion and mix­ing that real­ly lends the songs depth and lay­ers with­out get­ting in the way.

Bra­vo, padre.

Father Divine — Idyll for a Botched Fron­tier:

Father Divine — Vox Lupine:
Father Divine — Don’t Know Mind (It Means Noth­ing):

shlomoshunShlo­mo — Shlo­moshun
Yes, yet anoth­er apple fall­en from the Dil­la tree… reminds me of Fly­ing Lotus, Samiyam, Ras G, etc. but I went back to this more than I went back to Nosaj Thing’s album. Not ground­break­ing, I’ll admit, but I like the songs.

Shlo­mo — Ghosts:

Shlo­mo — Hot Box­ing the Cock­pit:

grizzlybearveckGriz­zly Bear — Veck­a­timest
I did­n’t pay much atten­tion to this band before this year, but my ears have been opened. Lush arrange­ments, inter­est­ing vocal har­monies, unusu­al chord changes… this is like pop music played by a pro­gres­sive rock band. Slight­ly psy­che­del­ic at times, but decid­ed­ly pop­py always. Quite enjoy­able.

Griz­zly Bear — Two Weeks:

mikavainiovandalMika Vainio — Van­dal
Itchy pound­ing elec­tron­ics from Mika Vainio. More akin to Pan Son­ic than to his oth­er solo releas­es.

Mika Vainio — Teu­tons:

Best Compilation

hyperdub55: 5 Years of Hyper­dub
A five year ret­ro­spec­tive release from Kode9’s Hyper­dub label. This dou­ble album con­tains one album of past releas­es and one album of new mate­r­i­al. A new track from Bur­ial is a high­light, but there is great music across the whole col­lec­tion.

Bur­ial — Fos­ter­care:

L.V. — Turn Away:

Best Mixtapes

wileyraceagainsttimeWiley — Race Against Time
“The most unusu­al star on the plan­et…” con­tin­ues to hold my fas­ci­na­tion. I am not very fond of the club­by songs, but a few of these tracks are jaw­drop­pers for their sheer lyri­cal den­si­ty.

Wiley — Off the Radar:

Wiley — Hum­mer Activ­i­ty:

theniyat_raxusprimeThe Niy­at — Raxus Prime
Snap — Snap­page Vol­ume 1
Two mix­tapes from Hous­ton-based rap­pers. Snap is a part of The Niy­at, so there is some over­lap of mate­r­i­al. There is some out­stand­ing stuff in here that war­rants fur­ther explo­ration.
Down­load Raxus Prime
Down­load Snap­page Vol­ume 1

The Niy­at — Aintcha:

Snap — Fly Away:
Snap — Vul­gar Spit:

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