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  • favorite musics v.2009

    22 Ene 2010, 22:34

    Here are my 20 favorite songs of 2009 (limit one per artist), arranged so as to flow nicely when played end-to-end. Italic emphasis has been given to songs of which I am especially fond.

    The Postmarks - My Lucky Charm
    Wye Oak - Siamese
    Alela Diane - Dry Grass & Shadows
    The Love Language - Sparxxx
    The Coathangers - 143

    Passion Pit - Folds in Your Hands
    Yo La Tengo - Periodically Double or Triple
    St. Vincent - Marrow
    Dirty Projectors - Stillness Is the Move
    The Flaming Lips - The Sparrow Looks Up at the Machine
    N.A.S.A. - Gifted
    Wilco - Bull Black Nova
    Andrew Bird - Masterswarm
    The Mountain Goats - Matthew 25:21
    Ghostface Killah - Paragraphs Of Love
    Neko Case - Red Tide
    The Clientele - I Wonder Who We Are
    Mayer Hawthorne - I Wish It Would Rain
    The Fiery Furnaces - Lost at Sea
    Animal Collective - Brother Sport


    A couple honorable mentions for albums: Jay-Z's third Blueprint is great for the first half, but takes such a dramatic nose dive that I can't possibly include it. Heartless Bastards (The Mountain), Dizzee Rascal (Tongue n' Cheek), and YACHT (See Mystery Lights) all put out music that I really enjoyed, but couldn't process fully in time to find an appropriate spot. As always, these rankings are somewhat arbitrary, and would probably look fairly different if I did them next week, let alone a year from now. But I believe they all contain music of noteworthy quality. Settle in; here we go.

    20 / Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle
    Bill Callahan sets a mood as well as anyone: airy, often dark, occasionally even kinetic on songs like "My Friend". And there's plenty of obtuse language for Literati types who are into self-projection.

    19 / Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
    A good candidate to rise in future iterations of this list. I haven't quite settled on a concrete opinion of Bitte Orca yet, with too many stretches of arty, noodly stuff that can't command my attention when I'm only half-listening. But at its best, it does soulful avant garde that sounds effortless even though only a handful have managed to do it so well previously.

    18 / Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
    Something called Wilco (The Album) kicked off with something called "Wilco (The Song)" could very well have been a disaster. But (The Song) pulls off an endearing meta, and although the energy sags in the second half, the band largely play to their strengths of solid musicianship and providing an aural arms open wide.

    17 / The Clientele - Bonfires On The Heath
    The Clientele don't mix things up much, but that's okay, because they've found a hell of a groove evoking a breathy, autumnal atmosphere replete with the tinges of darkness which color the edges of that season. More of the same from this band means another excellent record.

    16 / St. Vincent - Actor
    Actor may only be an incremental step from Annie Clark's 2007 debut, but it is an incremental step in the right direction. This, like her last, is a very good album of distinctive, offbeat, orchestral-ish pop, but it mostly just makes me more excited for what she's got in store for the future.

    15 / Built to Spill - There is No Enemy
    Yeah man, I love Built to Spill! Well, I love their old stuff. Their last few are okay, but they don't hold up against that run they had from '94-'99. Yeah, I'll check out their new one, I guess. I kinda feel like I owe it to them. Not expecting much though, to be honest. Best case scenario is they get some of the crunch back to the music and Doug seems like he's really feeling it, you know? But bands get old and get worse, so what are the odds of that?

    14 / Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
    I'm pretty sure it's just coincidence that Dinosaur Jr. and Built to Spill ended up back-to-back in my countdown about two months after I saw them play back-to-back at an awesome, ear-splitting show at the Diamond Ballroom, but I can't be certain. What I can confidently say is that Dinosaur Jr. may have pulled off the world's most unique, impressive reunion feat: they pissed each other off, took some time to each do their own thing, then got back together over ten years later and cranked out new music that sounded essentially identical to their original run, only it was pounding and vital and not just some cash-grab nostalgia trip. Kudos, sirs.

    13 / The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
    The Avetts do earnest without being mawkish or annoying: a monumental feat. This alone should make them worth your attention, but luckily there are herein plenty of great tunes and unhinged energy for to convince you quicker.

    12 / Ghostface Killah - Ghostdini: Wizard Of Poetry In Emerald City
    A series of peaks and valleys. The production on "Paragraphs of Love" is absolutely sparkling, and the high drama of "Guest House" ensures that people won't stop calling his joints "cinematic" any time soon. It's funny, it's gamey, it's occasionally boring. It's pretty typical Ghostface.

    11 / Passion Pit - Manners
    Here we have a joyous, candy-coated burst of falsetto and electronic noises. If that doesn't sound like your bag, you should probably stay away. The rest of us will dance and shout and sing along.

    10 / The Postmarks - Memoirs At The End Of The World
    I don't think the Postmarks are capable of greatness, but their best songs have a magnetism I can't deny. Their debut album was a well-crafted batch of dreamy bedroom pop, but the arrangements of Memoirs explode into a full-on James Bond soundtrack. The songs sound a whole lot bigger, even if they're really not. The way the brief intro of "My Lucky Charm" swoops into the bouncing chords of the song proper is one of the year's highlights.

    9 / Mayer Hawthorne - A Strange Arrangement
    Aside from his use of a drum machine, Mayer Hawthorne does a satisfyingly accurate approximation of classic soul music. In fact, it occasionally veers a bit too close to pastiche without the forward, personal spin of somebody like Jamie Lidell (whose last album would rate about 10-15 spots higher if I were to do the 2008 list today). But attention to detail (backup "oooohs" in "Make Her Mine" , similarly deployed horns in "The Ills") and outstanding tunes keep things more than enjoyable. And although he doesn't have Lidell's vocal chops, the falsetto stays effective and even masculine throughout.

    8 / Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
    It took me awhile to really "hear" this album, and then I was infatuated with it, and then I kind lost interest in it for a time. But let's be real: I may have been all over the place on Middle Cyclone, but Neko Case works in certain colors and tenors that don't change much from album to album. You're gonna get some stuff about nature reasserting herself, a murder or two, and a lot of cryptic passages sung in a voice of unfailing, striking clarity. I dig it.

    7 / The Fiery Furnaces - I'm Going Away
    I'll have to admit to not being overly familiar with the Fiery Furnaces' previous work. I liked some of it, but it was all a little too schizophrenic to keep me coming back. And there's plenty of their scatterbrain schtick going on here, to be sure, but the music was much quicker to reveal itself. It's almost as if there's a fog hanging over everything to dull the mania. "Drive to Dallas" is beautiful blues, "Lost At Sea" felt familiar the first time I heard it. Suddenly this band seems a lot more human.

    6 / The Mountain Goats - the Life of the World to Come
    I find The Life of the World to Come a little frustrating. The skeletal production allows for only touches of the beautiful string arrangements that Erik Friedlander comes up with for Mountain Goats albums. Using Bible verses for titles is interesting at first, but with only a fragile thematic tie-in, it comes off gimmicky. And it's all so quiet! But really, these are all fairly cosmetic issues, and the Mountain Goats have never been about cosmetics. It's hard to argue with more engaging stories and deceptively simple tunes from John Darnielle, who I think is the best writer working today.

    5 / Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
    I spent most of the year semi-ignoring Noble Beast. Andrew Bird had spent a few years as my favorite artist, and though I wasn't ready to admit it yet, my adoration was starting to fade. When this new album didn't bowl me over immediately, I wasn't ready to write it off, but I also didn't feel like listening to it much. Then, when I began listening through albums to form this list, the frequency with which Noble Beast is lovely and affecting surprised me. The Mysterious Production of Eggs was my first love, and I have a feeling that nothing else he does will surpass it in my eyes. But Bird has shown an ability to continually create music of consistently high quality, even if each new album does not become my favorite of all time.

    4 / Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
    You are not going to believe this, but Yo La Tengo put out a brilliant record this year. Everybody figured it would be brilliant, because Yo La Tengo albums are generally brilliant, and it's loaded it with a sound that is unmistakeably theirs but doesn't simply retread old ground. They did exactly what we thought they would, and we did not see it coming.

    3 / Wye Oak - The Knot
    The latest piece of evidence that Baltimore is making the best music per capita right now. The Knot is often dark and heavy, but it never slides into sludge. And there are moments of genuine beauty thanks to some outstanding string arrangements. Wye Oak have made a very good album here, but I am now expecting greatness from them, and soon.

    2 / The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
    Like most people, I had assumed that the Flaming Lips had reached a point where they would be content to crank out a pleasantly weird but ultimately forgettable album every few years. Early reports from people who heard the album sounded encouraging, but I was not prepared for this payload. Embryonic throbs with thundering drums, abrasive squelches, wonder, fear, cynicism, and adventure. It's not self-conscious and it's not bizarre for its own sake. It's a poignant exploration from a mature band who know the wonderful, terrible scope of possibility.

    1 / Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
    This feels a little bit like a cop out. I didn't listen to Animal Collective the most this year, and the fact that I'm going with a fairly popular pick for album of the year definitely hurts my street cred. But I didn't have a clear-cut favorite, and Merriweather Post Pavilion bridges the gap between personal attachment and broader appeal that I try to heed when making these lists. This and Embryonic were the only two albums from 2009 that I felt could be considered Great, even if they may not have been my "favorite" (and maybe one of them was; I really couldn't say). When it comes down to it, the emotional intensity of MPP's high points just edges out the glorious return to form of the Fearless Freaks. "Summertime Clothes" is an exhilarating ode to unbearable heat, "Bluish" is vulnerable and shimmering, and "Brother Sport" is an impossibly joyful pep talk to brother following the death of dad. Animal Collective fans are numerous and tend toward the rabid, and that's because of the fierce visceral connections the music makes with them. The band have expanded and magnified that ability to lock in with their listeners and created the best album of the year.