Monday, December 21, 2009

2009 Albums

This is a little late. Here is my list of albums in 2009 that have made a lasting impression.

Akron/Family-"Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free"
Listening to and Akron/Family album is like living inside a schizophrenic's head. The voices may be different, but they all come from the same entity. Although this album is tamer and more pop-sensible than previous offerings, it's none the less an excercise in abstract songwriting and avant garde Americana."River" is my favorite track on this album. The repeated chorus of "You and I and a flame makes three" sticks in my head like gum to a shoe. It's repeated spins in my car while driving have only served to strengthen the impression it has made on me.

Take white boy blues groove, stir in a range of hip-hop artists ranging from socially conscious to southern fried, and pepper in some soulful hooks. What you have is an album of "cuts". This is a combination effort from the Black Keys and such artists as Mos Def, Rza, Jim Jones, Nicole Wray, and Ludacris. It feels like a Bed-Stuy block party spilled over in to Williamsburg and everyone got along.

Bon Iver-"Blood Bank"
Justin Vernon's voice coupled with his music feels like a hug at a funeral. It's all-encompassing and pulls you in where it's warm. That being said, for me, this E.P. is like an extension of "For Emma, Forever Ago". It's somber lyrical content and emotional swells make for a beautifully chagrin album. I have been enamored with the title strack "Blood Bank". It is heartbreakingly good. It leaves me nearly speachless that a song referencing eating candybars has nearly brought me to tears on several occaisions. Just stellar.

Them Crooked Vultures-"Them Crooked Vultures"
Q:What do you say when Josh Homme, John Paul Jones, and Dave Grohl decide to start a band?

A:You don't say shit. You put gas in the car and go have a party in the desert, listening to Them Crooked Vultures.

David Bazan-"Curse Your Branches"
Aside from my borderline disinterest in the "Headphones" album, David Bazan,(or any of his pseudonyms) has never made an album that I didn't like. "Curse Your Branches" is no exception. Bazan hits heavily on his old standby of religion, or in this case lack-thereof, and does so with unabashed honesty. His personal revelations in "Curse Your Branches" has been suggested to be the musical counterpart to Christopher Hitchens "God Is Not Great". I have heard these songs live and on live recordings. While I would say a tiny bit of sincerity is lost in the production of an album, it is none-the-less, his most honest album to date.

Tom Waits-"Glitter and Doom Live"
Heavier than the hand of God. Tom Waits in all his raspy, beatnik glory. Tickets for this sold out in minutes. Give this album a listen and you will understand why.

Baroness-The Blue Album
Just as good, if not better than the Red Album.

Andrew Jackson Jihad-Can't Maintain
Cleverly titled folk-punk tracks are a sure way in to my heart. Phoenix natives, Andrew Jackson Jihad are a band I heard about due solely to constant e-mentions from Mike Dutkewych. He is not wrong in his praise for them. This album is perfect for those with short attention spans. At under half an hour for the entirety of 13 songs, it's not going to have enough time to bore you.

Great Lake Swimmers-Lost Channels
Lost Channels is the soundtrack to perfect, blissful slumber on a new Tempurpedic mattress. In the same vein as Bon Iver, Great Lake Swimmers offer simple, yet thought-provoking tunes that ebb and flow like a shores of the Lakes of their namesake. They cover a Carter Family song, which is alone worth a few spins. A filler-free quest for something more from an amazing Toronto band.

Honorable mentions: J. Tillman "Year in the Kingdom", St. Vincent "Actor".

Biggest dissapointment: The Avett Brothers "I and Love and You" (Unspeakably let down. Rick Rubin may be the one to blame for this, but seriously Avetts. Do better next time.)