Monday, December 21, 2009

My Top 20 Albums of 2009

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
Though it may not seem like the most obvious choice for album of the year, It’s Blitz! delivered on so many levels that it simply couldn’t be denied. Progressive, dance inspiring and hopelessly chic, the YYY’s third showing is just as explosive and artfully askew as ever.

2. Cursive – Mama, I’m Swollen
Sure, it’s arguable that Cursive will never recapture the symphonic glory of 2003’s The Ugly Organ. Yet I suspect most fans keep coming back to eagerly ingest Tim Kasher’s latest batch of tortured, autobiographical lyrics—and one listen to Mama, I’m Swollen would satisfy even the most rabid acolyte.

3. Converge – Axe To Fall
For all its endearing attributes, the best part of Axe To Fall is its endless barrage of riffs—and the overall sense of controlled chaos it breeds throughout. It’s almost easy to forget that Converge has been scaring the mainstream since 1991.

4. Mastodon – Crack The Skye
Blah blah Mastodon blah blah, epic wonderment blah blah blah blah blah metal saviors blah blah blah blah prog-inspired blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah awesome.

5. Pissed Jeans – King Of Jeans
Within the first 35 seconds of “False Jesii Part 2,” King of Jeans’ opening salvo, I knew I'd love the PA-based noise rockers' belligerent sound. Sure enough, this Alex Newport-produced masterpiece turned out to be a study in brash, hearty and angry post-punk music.

6. The Gossip – Music For Men
The Gossip’s transition from soulful rockers to dance darlings has been a relatively smooth one—almost as if Beth Ditto & co. decided to create an homage to KISS’s Dynasty. If this disco-era analogy seems absurd, just check out Music For Men’s “2012” and its obvious nod to “I Was Made For Loving You.”

7. [tie] v/a New Tales To Tell: A Love & Rockets Tribute and Spin magazine’s Purplish Rain mixtape download
I've always had a thing for finding good, obscure cover songs performed by unlikely admirers, and these two tribute records supplied a bounty of treasures, including contributions from Flaming Lips, Mariachi El Bronx, Of Montreal and Blaqk Audio, plus worthwhile gems like A Place To Bury Strangers’ version of L&R’s “Light,” and The Twilight Singers’ take on “When Doves Cry,” featuring Apollonia.

8. Coalesce OX
Far more complex and multidimensional than your average “extreme” release, this comeback album from the Kansas City metalcore stalwarts soars with its smart interplay of vocal styles, wild tempo changes and textured harmonies.

9. Ace Frehley – Anomaly
Everyone knows that Ace Frehley’s was the best of the four solo KISS records—and Frehley’s Comet wasn’t so bad, either. Yet when word came down that Frehley would release his first solo album in over a decade, most critics instantly wrote him off. Such a shame as Anomaly captures the essence of what we’ve always loved about The Spaceman: chunky guitar riffs, ultra-melodic hooks and an otherworldly point of view.

10. Red Fang – s/t
Simply put, Red Fang put out the album that I’d hoped Big Business would this past year. But while the latter faltered, Red Fang were there to remind folks of what happens when heshers grow up listening to both Black Flag and Black Sabbath: pounding, stoner goodness.

11. Kowloon Walled City – Gambling On The Richter Scale
Somehow, Gambling on the Richter Scale seamlessly melds the influences of Jesus Lizard and a doomy Young Widows into an austere, note-bending noise rock epic. Big-ups to Brooklyn Vegan’s Fred P. for turning me on to this record.

12. Baroness – Blue Record
Generally more harmonious than Baroness’ previous Red Album, this blue endeavor begins with the galloping “The Sweetest Curse” and continues on to unveil track after track of stomping Southern-fried goodness.

13. A Place To Bury Strangers – Exploding Head
Though not nearly as noisy, there’s something about Exploding Head that reminds of My Bloody Valentine and all the anglophilic fetishism that comes with it. Fuzzy, atmospheric and bordering on psychedelic, it’s hard to believe these guys hail from Brooklyn.

14. Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II
This sequel to the Chef’s legendary album could have been a huge let-down—overwrought by C-level appearances, trendy gimmicks and (smh) auto-tune—but we all knew Rae would never go down like that. As expected, this record is a cinematic, soul-sample fueled affair worthy of its predecessor’s lofty moniker.

15. These Arms Are Snakes – Tail Swallower & Dove
Already unparalleled on stage, TAAS desperately tried to recreate their maniacal live magic in the studio for this album. And while Tail Swallower doesn’t quite succeed in capturing the glory, it still contains some rhapsodic standout tracks like “Red Line Season” and “Ethric Double,” which sound incredible in concert.

16. The Clipse – ’Til The Casket Drops
If I hadn’t looked at the credits, I would have thought The Neptunes fell back on their production duties, giving in to Pusha T and Malice’s rebellious growing pains. But sure enough, Pharrell & Chad are credited with eight out of the 13 tracks therein. Still, there’s a somber, subdued tone to Casket that resonates well in today's social climate.

17. Band of Skulls – Baby Darling Doll Face Honey
This British trio has a Zeppelin-meets-Verve thing about them that I really dig, and their switch-offs between male and female vocals on several bluesy numbers are always cleverly handled. Finally, a buzz band worthy of their hype.

18. Clutch – Strange Cousins From the West
"Can't stop, won't stop" might as well be Clutch's motto, as these electric lumberjacks can't seem to keep away from the stage nor recording studio. But why stop when you're still creating sinuous, jam-worthy harmonies like "50,000 Unstoppable Watts" and "Minotaur"?

19. Slayer – World Painted Blood
Perhaps it was because World Painted Blood made me nostalgic for ’90s-era Slayer, or it could be that the song "Americon" had me reeling for a week. Whatever the case, the world's preeminent metal mongers are back and scarier than ever.

20. Katatonia – Night is the New Day
Ever wonder what a talented but melancholy Swedish metal band would sound like if they listened to a steady stream of mopey shoegazer rock? Just listen to the atmospheric Night is the New Day and find out.


Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): 
Black Anvil - Time Insults The Mind
The Dead Weather - Horehound
16 - Bridges to Burn
La Roux - s/t
Behemoth - Evangelion
Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy
Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
Lucero - 1372 Overton Park
Black Dahlia Murder - Deflorate
Goatwhore - Carving Out The Eyes of God
Cable - The Failed Convict
Beanie Sigel - The Broad Street Bully
Bang Camaro - II
Demon Hunter - Live In Nashville
The Fall of Troy - In The Unlikely Event
Gallows - Grey Britain
Hull - Sole Lord
Light This City - The Hero Cycle
Krallice - Dimensional Bleedthrough
Revocation - Existence Is Futile
Silversun Pickups - Swoon

WTF Happened?
Big Business - Mind The Drift
Them Crooked Vultures - s/t
Depeche Mode - Sounds of the Universe 
AFI - Crash Love


Stop The Madness:
White Wizzard - High Speed GTO 
Chris Cornell - Scream 
Muse - The Resistance
Julian Plenti -Julian Plenti is Skyscraper
Dredg - The Pirate, The Parrot, The Delusion

1 comment:

Bunche said...

Intriguing list and very useful to me, a guy who used to keep up to date with new releases but who has in recent years delved backwards or further out into realms of musical obscura. That said, two comments:

1. I've never heard the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on an album, but I did see them live and I thought they were one of the worst live performances I've seen in nearly three decades of concertgoing. That shocked me because many people whose opinions I respect have touted them as great, so I hope their studio work is better than what I saw at Central park.

2. My pal Chris Weston loves Them Crooked Vultures and recommended them to me just last week, but I should not have been surprised by how unimpressed I was with them because Chris and I sometimes do not exactly see eye to eye on such things. About the only song on their album that I liked was "Mind Eraser, No Chaser."