well, another year has ended and so another addition to the tome of life is added. What has become of us this past year?
This year music was largely dominated by the death of Michael Jackson and more recently, the death of "The Rev" (i am by no means an a7x fan, but i offer my condolences to those who are) and others.
Let us not be pessimistic all the time, below are 10 albums that stood their ground and emerged themselves into becoming the masterpieces of 2009.
10. Monsters of Folk
- Monsters of Folk
M.”i'm not the guy from Avenged Sevenfold” Ward , Mike “Omaha scene legend” Mogis, Jim “My Morning Jacket and my hair looks cool” James and Conor “RIP Bright Eyes 2010” Oberst.
Sounds like the ultimate match in heaven, what with four indie folk overlords rotating instruments and vocals in a 12 track LP and all. But with that said, the word “Folk” kind of goes out of context there a bit as the album itself possesses several elements of trip-hop, alt-country and surprisingly others. But these small observations are seemingly overshadowed by the fact that most songs still fit the Folk enamor, what with the befitting lyrics and the plots that can relate to the average MOF fan.
It’s a surprise that Indonesia does not have a strong or thriving postmetal scene. While the sister genre post rock thrive strongly in the undergound, one can forget the service that post metal has given to the music world and the similar connections it has with its sister genre. Enter Ghaust, with their haunting sludgy reverbs and distorted stoner rock melodies. The instrumental duo from Jakarta seems to have expansive knowledge of the effect and distortion pedals really well, as they use them as if they are driving a stick shift (manual) car. Try thinking of Isis, Boris, Neurosis, Mastodon and Those who tell the truth-era Explosions In The Sky trying to shove and leave out of the same door.. musically of course.
- Brand New
Brand New has officially gone the Thrice path of progression. Meaning, every continuing album they release would veer way off of their usual course.
Thrice started as a post hardcore group who liked to do occasional proggy tapping solos, who then evolve themselves into the direction of experimental, post-rock influenced art-rock… who also occasionally liked to do proggy tapping solos.
Brand New’s evolution went from depressed pop-punks to the second coming of The Smiths to transformation into Radiohead then ending currently at something similar to conor oberst side project Desaparecidos (seems like an odd turn, but alright). In fact, Jesse Lacey could be any emo icon he wanted to be whether it be his fellating obsession Morrissey, or he could be a more optimistic Thom Yorke.
In Daisy, they took on the post-hardcore sound while still holding on to those Smiths-friendly lyrics. It is also a somewhat macabre album as the progression between songs are never the same. It also borderlines their Deja Entendu days as well as being something completely contrasting to that. It may not be exactly the Thrice path, but theyre on the right track nonetheless.
7. Hertz Dyslexia
- The S.I.G.I.T
By now the hard work that the SIGIT put into their music, especially in this EP, should be recognized worldwide.
I mean, come on, they rock as hard as (maybe more than) Wolfmother and are as innovative as Sigur Ros. Whats not to be fascinated by?
Adding to that, their live shows are amazing. When they usually open for international artists here in shows in Indonesia, they often end up upstaging the headlining band (Case in point: when they opened for Franz Ferdinand in a Jakarta show on November 2009.. at least from my point of view).
Quite possibly the only Indonesian garage-rock, Zeppelin-based-hardrock-sounding band to play SXSW (a feat achieved by fellow scene allies White Shoes And The Couples Company the previous year), it should be no doubt that Hertz Dyslexia should get the recognition it deserves.
Entering with the riff-chugging intro of Money Making, ending with the psych-based ambient outro of Midnight Mosque Song, added with a Neil Young cover somewhere in the middle, it seems to be SIGITs most experimental release yet.
6. The Hazards of Love
- The Decemberists
With a macabre storyline with colorful characters and abstract events, it’s no wonder that Hazards is being made into a children’s storybook. I mean, what could be more child-friendly than the depiction of a drowning infant in a bathtub?
Hazards pretty much is the Decemberists’ entry into the territory of the rock opera, and it tells us of a tale of how a woman falls in love with a forest dweller, added with the occasional speed bump of villains and conflicts. It seemed to bring out the Decemberists’ classic rock influences with sort of progressive elements- Jethro Tull style (but not much of the flute) and the musical ambience emitted usually by other late 60s to early 70s prog rock bands. It is incredibly innovative, even for Meloy and the gang. Furthermore, I never thought the overuse of a harpsichord could be something good.
5. Hymn to the Immortal Wind
I'm willing to bet that no one that heard the record had dry eyes or didn’t have metaphoric wings by the end of the last track.
What separates Mono from most post rock bands is that they have the uncanny ability to grab a hold of their listeners emotions with ambient distorted-shoegazey melodies and take them up to the Mono heavens with their independent, symmetrical guitar work and signature post rock elements. In other words, they can make the listener “feel”. Hymn to the Immortal Wind could be the best example of this metaphor since Walking Cloud, Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined.
The record starts with Ashes in the Snow, an incredibly emotional and uplifting orchestratic instrumental and ends with a piano laden outro of Everlasting Light which steadily grows into a majestic instrumental, nostalgically recalling the path of You Are There’s closer Moonlight.
Its like the experience of a dandelion blooming, and then slowly losing its petals to the wind and dying (add slow motion effect for maximum euphoria).
4. Kamar Gelap
- Efek Rumah Kaca
During the reign of Suharto, not much rock bands seemed to voice their opinions on social, domestic and world issues. Even if they did, it would be somewhat in a form of a protest song. Tyrants like Suharto suppressed the Indonesian voice of reason and the development of creativity.
now under a new "democratic" regime, freedom of speech has expanded somewhat more diversely on the Indonesian independent scene. Efek Rumah Kaca (Indonesian for “greenhouse effect”) seems to be one of those artists who embrace that freedom well enough. It was amazing that one particular band seemed to continue the spirit of famed Indonesian folk-artist and political activist Iwan Fals to the young crowd. I've always wondered if Iwan Fals were still in his 20s today, will his musical direction be similar to Efek Rumah Kaca’s?
Kamar Gelap (Dark Room) notably tackles the domestic topics which many Indonesians have either forgotten or ignored such as the literacy rate and censorship of information (outlined in what I feel is the record’s best track, “Jangan Bakar Buku” - Don’t Burn Books), air pollution and global warming (“Banyak Asap Di Sana”, which means “There’s a Lot of Smoke over there”) and the progressively degrading nature of Indonesians themselves (in “Menjadi Indonesia”, which means “Being Indonesia”). That said, the trio aren’t always social minded as they also have their personal desires and pleasures (notably sung in “Kau dan Aku Menuju Ruang Hampa” – You and Me Heading for the Empty Space).
These tracks are blurted and put forward with Radiohead-ish melodies, Sufjan Stevens and Iwan Fals-ish song structures, and the energy like that of Muse and… the sentimentality of Jeff Buckley.
One should also check out the abstract images and photographs that come in the album’s package, which consists of real (but for satirical purposes) individual photographs of a dead mouse, a beggar and an empty, dark motel swimming pool. Try to figure what they mean.
3. Merriweather Post Pavilion
- Animal Collective
Naming Merriweather Post Pavilion the best album of 2009 or one of the best albums of 2009 has somewhat become a cliché.
I can also say that the record did convert a few outsider types late to the Animal Collective party. It’s just the impact and vibes given out by the record is so strong, it can be used for musical aromatherapy.
But probably due to it receiving the reception and the acclaim it did, it must mean that it did the music world pretty damn good.
Merriweather really did prove itself worthy to the masses, by boasting out neo-psychadelic pop experimental sounds churned with bluesy african beats mixed with their signature freak folkish indie pop. Merriweather also seemed like the Neon Bible of 2009, by bringing the scene further into the unsuspecting masses of semi-mainstream. AC however released another (brilliant) EP this year, to more positive acclaim, which seemed to prove that the world is still high on Animal Collective since Merriweather first came out.
On another note, on what I have observed, “My Girls” seems to have lyrics contradicting last year’ s most preferred indiepop song, MGMT’s “Time to Pretend”. You’ll just have to hear that one out for yerself.
- Grizzly Bear
The second of the two freak folk acts and albums who took the indie world by storm this year. Grizzly Bear have certainly caught the eye of all living hipsters with Veckatimest (also along with Merriweather Post Pavilion) and shoved their brand of freakfolk and Modest Mouse-y indie rock down every hipster throat.
It certainly is an accomplishment, what with the critical acclaim brought in by the likes of Pitchfork (duh) ranging even to Jay-Z and you know you’re worth something when you are publically praised by a gangsta rapper… who attended your show.
The album itself is seemingly different from their previous releases, notably being more ambient, rhythmically diverse and atmospheric. It also consists of beautiful tracks, including the mesmerizing single Two Weeks (with an intro which sounds like a little child effortlessly playing dissonant chords on a keyboard), the sway-friendly “Ready Able”, the math-rockematical While You wait for the others and Veckatimest’s uplifting entrance, Southern Point.
From what I’ve heard, however, most people cannot get past the thrill of Two Weeks enough for them to listen to the entire record. If one song can be that good, then the record should be somewhat of an orgasm. Right?
- The Flaming Lips
Imagine yourself carried away by a rocket into space, going to Mars and probably spending your Christmas there. On the way, you will see many odd entities that were expecting you, which include talking eyeballs, exploding suns, 170 watt stars, a floating wishing well and a mess of colors. To the average burnout, hippie or spacey, this may be the idea of the 7th heaven. For Flaming Lips fans and aficionados, it’s probably something beyond god’s penthouse. For Wayne Coyne and the Lips, it’s just part of their daily commute.
It may not be Dark Side of The Moon, but it’s eerily close. With more acid trips than any other release this year, Embryonic deserves the top spot on my personal albums of 2009.
At first I had my predictions of the album whilst downloading it. I guessed it could be something of At War With the Mystics, because I felt that that’s how evolution works nowadays. Once evolved, it will stay at that state for a period of time before moving on. At War was an example of the process of speciation, similar to the evolution process when humans started to grow noses or develop opposable thumbs. The Lips however went through premature music evolution, with positive consequences Which is a good thing.
Embryonic reveals itself as a double-disc fantasy world where anything is possible. You can watch the planets with Karen O, while she becomes a frog. You can visit Worm Mountain with the boys of MGMT, or you can just simply experience an Aquarius Sabotage or be convinced of hexes with a kilo of acid.
Embryonic harkens back to the days of Futurama, where dreams of frequent space travel and alien brotherhood were fulfilled.
It was a fantasy laden end to the year and decade as we can now celebrate the fact that we are no longer at war with the mystics. Honorable Mentions
: (albums that were also great in 2009, but didnt make the big 10)
- Axe to Fall
Converge goes back to their hardcore punk sound, similar to Coalesce.
- Dinosaur Jr.
it was worth the fucking wait. "Fucking" and "Wait" are underlined.
- Volcano Choir
- Crack the Skye
Mastodon is still the best example of "Neurosisity" to this day. ask me what that word means.
- Nowhere To Go
- Endah N Rhesa
one of Indonesia's best acoustic folk duos... ever.
- Earthly Delights
- Lightning Bolt
yeah, definitely, probably, maybe. its destructive.
- No More Stories
One of my friends is going to kill me if i dont at least mention this release.
oh come on. its not THAT bad.
art is everywhere, especially in music, so keep at it!
enjoy the new year.