The Top 100 Albums Of 2009
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Hello audience, I’m Evan. It’s time again for me to put effort into composing a blog entry. That’s right, today is the day you’ll get to read my year-end list devoted to the 100 best albums released in 2009. Like last year, I can’t possibly write 100 blurbs for all the albums on this list, so I’ve prepared about 25 mini-reviews to go along with song samples from about 25 of the albums. As far as I know, all these albums were released in 2009, but I am an imperfect human, so there might be an error or two. Instead of calling this to my attention and making me feel bad, simply nod slowly and smile. It helps me sustain my huge ego when you pretend I’m not a complete retard. Without any further ado, here’s the list. Let the name-calling and negative feedback commence!
The Top 100 Albums Of 2009 (2009 Edition!)
100. Black Heart Procession – Six (Temporary Residence)
99. The Bitter Tears – Jam Tarts In The Jakehouse (Carrot Top)
98. Pajo – Scream With Me (Black Tent Press) – An acoustic, bedroom-y covers album consisting entirely of Misfits covers? If anyone could pull it if with sincerity, it would have to be Dave Pajo. Beautiful artwork, limited edition, and a novel idea. [Listen to “Teenagers From Mars”]
97. Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle (Drag City)
96. Mono – Hymn To The Immortal Wind (Temporary Residence)
95. Simon Scott – Navigare (Miasmah)
94. The Residents – The Ughs! (MVD Audio) – As if a Residents record could be bad enough not to make any critics year end list. If you don’t appreciate this band even after thirty-plus years, you don’t get music. I’m amazed that a new Residents record could still be engaging and fun, and I hope to the feeling continues for a very long time. [Listen to “The Dancing Duck”]
93. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – White Lunar (Mute)
92. Pocahaunted – Passage (Troubleman Unlimited)
91. White Mice – Ganjahovahdose (20 Buck Spin)
90. Robedoor – Raiders (Not Not Fun)
89. Inca Ore – Silver Sea Surfer School (Not Not Fun) – Also known as Eva Saelens, Inca Ore is often lumped together with Grouper (AKA Liz Harris) as likeminded “lo-fi” experimental songwriters. While Silver Sea Surfer School does not hold a candle to Brute Nature Versus Wild Magic, I think it’s more than worthy of inclusion on this list. [Listen to “Shine On From The Heaven Above”]
88. Tortoise – Beacons Of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey) – I couldn’t have cared less when I heard that Tortoise had a new album coming out this past year. Then I went to see them at Troubadour with Erin. John McEntire and Co. renewed my faith in the band, and this is by far the band’s best effort since 2001’s Standards.
87. Matt Shoemaker – Erosion Of The Analogous Eye
86. Chihei Hatakeyama – Saunter (Room 40)
85. Saviours – Accelerated Living (Kemado)
84. MV & EE – Barn Nova (Ecstatic Peace)
83. Pulse Emitter – Oppressive Nature (Digitalis)
82. Various – Singapore A-Go-Go
81. Various – Mortika: Recordings From A Greek Underworld (Mississippi) – I have yet to be disappointed by any release on Mississippi Records. I struggled with including these kinds of compilations on the list, because obviously all these cuts were not recorded during the past 365 days. Still, they were released this year, and they’re so good they demand my respect as well as inclusion on this list. Mortika is filled with two LPs of Greek underground folk music. Amazing. [Listen to “Oh, Mother I Can’t Stand It”]
80. Harvey Milk – Live At Supersonic, July 12th, 2008 (Capsule) – Harvey Milk garnered the title of “Best Album of 2008” last year with Life…The Best Game In Town. This year they released a phenomenal self-titled album (previously known as the Bob Weston sessions) but for some reason I didn’t think that was eligible to be included in this list. I probably should have added it, as it is no different than any of the compilations in the sense that it was unavailable to the masses until this year. Oh well. Sorry, Harvey Milk!
79. James Ferraro – Citrac (Arbor)
78. Skullflower – Malediction (Second Layer)
77. Vladislav Delay – Tummaa (Leaf)
76. Polvo – In Prism (Merge) – I can’t get into any of these “indie” rock reunions. I hesitated to see Polvo when they toured the states for the first time in God know’s how long — but I eventually caved. They were crushing in a live setting, and In Prism is a logical progression in the band’s recording career. You will not be disappointed if you want to hear classic Polvo.
75. Troum – Eald-Ge-Streon / Abhijna (Beta-lactam Ring)
74. Richard Youngs – Beyond The Valley Of Ultrahits (Sonic Oyster)
73. Russian Circles – Geneva (Suicide Squeeze)
72. White Hills – No Kind Ending (Diagnosis…Don’t!)
71. Greg Davis – Mutually Arising (Kranky)
70. Six Organs Of Admittance – Luminous Light (Drag City) – As long as Ben Chasny continues creating music, he will most-likely have a spot on these lists. [Listen to “Anesthesia”]
69. Kuupuu – Lumen Tahden (Time-Lag)
68. Warhammer 48k – Ethereal Oracle (Permanent Records)
67. Maserati – Passages (Temporary Residence Ltd.)
66. Es – Kesamaan Lapset (Fonal)
65. Heavy Winged – Shaking, Waking (Aurora Borealis)
64. Leyland Kirby – Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was (History Always Favours The Winners) – What began as a single-disc release eventually transformed into a stunning four-hour sonic journey filled with over three hours of gorgeous ambient movements. Minimalist, experimental genius perfect for late and lonely nights. As mysterious and far-out as Jasper TX or Tim Hecker, but slightly more morose.
63. To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie – Marlone (Kranky)
62. Fabio Orsi / Valerio Cosi – Thoughts Melt In The Air (Preservation)
61. Windy & Carl – Instrumentals For The Broken Hearted (Blue Flea)
60. Bass Communion – Chiaroscuro (Headphone Dust)
59. Yellow Tears – Don’t Cry (Hospital Productions) –
58. Pan American – White Bird Release (Kranky) – Mark Nelson’s (ex-Labradford) best release to date as Pan American. No Bobby Donne? No problem. It holds up well alongside ’70s Kraut albums as well as some of the more modern glitchy electronic albums that have been released by Kranky or similar labels.
57. Wooden Shjips – Dos (Holy Mountain) – The groove established on Vol. 1 and their self-titled album continues here. Pure psychedelic joy that isn’t deeply rooted in the past — they manage to sound fuzzy and space-y without sounding like followers of countless bands that came before. [Listen to “Motorbike”]
56. Sons Of Otis – Exiled (Small Stone)
55. Various – Mata La Pena (Mississippi)
54. Marissa Nadler – Little Hells (Kemado)
53. Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound – When Sweet Sleep Returned (Tee Pee) – passes like a demented dream one might have after a few too many glasses of bourbon. Otherworldly creatures, mutant lovers, giant plush animals, a wicked rocketship chase scene. You awaken, heart racing, beads of sweat clinging to your brow, trying to make sense of the reality in which you were just present. Unraveling the mysterious places, people and things takes effort. It’s better not to think of such trivialities, and just accept the non-reality for what it is. Embrace the unconscious places your minds presents you with as your body rests. Maybe you’ll find yourself inspired to pen your own epic jam tomorrow. [Listen to “Two Stage Rocket”]
52. Steven R. Smith – Cities (Immune)
51. Lightning Bolt – Earthly Delights (Load) – Dude. Fucking Lightning Bolt. No explanation needed.
49. Khanate – Clean Hands Go Foul (Daymare Recordings)
48. Wolf Eyes – Always Wrong (Hospital Productions)
47. Various – Eccentric Soul: Smart’s Palace (Numero Group)
46. Thee Oh Sees – Help (In The Red Recordings) – Gone is the noise that John Dwyer relied on for the first few releases under this moniker and its variants (OCS, Ohsees). Help is an amazing garage pop album. Once I got this album I listened to it for weeks on end. Just a great, great record. I’d say it’s like this year’s answer to that Jay Reatard album everyone went crazy for a few years ago. Too bad it hasn’t gotten the critical acclaim it deserves.
45. Suishou No Fune – Phantom Of The Eternal Night (There)
44. Baja – Aether Obelisk (Other Electricities)
43. Circle – Triumph (Fourth Dimension)
42. Expo 70 – Psychosis (Peasant Magik)
41. On – Your Naked Ghost Comes Back At Night (Type) – The award for the best record label of 2009 has to go to either Type Records or Root Strata. Type is responsible for four albums on this list (including two in the top five!) and Root Strata is responsible for two (plus an amazing split 7″ between Grouper / Xela and a beautiful Tarentel DVD that did not make this list). Your Naked Ghost is filled with great ambient compositions in the vein of the aforementioned Xela. Also, it features Pan American percussionist Steven Hess.
40. Various – String Of Pearls: International 78s (Mississippi)
39. William Basinski – 92982 (Musex International) – Uh, I guess if you’ve heard one recording by Basinski you’ve heard them all, but this is still really good. Do not expect disintegrating tape sounds. Do expect the same soft, epic drones that will have you wondering why it took so long for these pieces to see the light of day (they were recorded in ’82, before I was even born!). Listen hard to hear the sirens, propellers and other sounds that leaked through the artist’s apartment window. [Listen to “92982.3”]
38. White Rainbow – New Clouds (Kranky)
37. Barn Owl – The Conjurer (Root Strata) – Amazing Morricone spaghetti western noise rock by way of Northern California.
36. Sunn O))) – Monoliths And Dimensions (Southern Lord)
35. BONG / Quttinirpaaq – Exhalation / Tonight We Will Pretend… (Blackest Rainbow)
34. Reigns – The House On The Causeway (Monotreme) – Reigns has appeared on my year-end lists twice before, scoring a top-ten finish in 2006 for We Lowered A Microphone Into The Ground. This one was originally released as a digital format only, but has since been pressed on both compact discs and vinyl. The concept here appears to be the exploration of a spooky environment where mystery hides around darkened corners. Post-rock grounded in electronic piano and sample drum loops. [Listen to “Bad Slate”]
33. Hjarnidaudi – Psyko:stare:void (MusicFearSatan) – One of the harshest noise acts ever returns with their first album since that Paradigms release (Pain:Noise:March). If you like buzzy feedback and crushing sludge, this is a band you will no doubt fall in love with. [Listen to “Part I”]
32. Nadja – Belles Betes (Beta-lactam Ring) – [Listen to “Sand Like Skin”]
30. Wolves In The Throne Room – Black Cascade (Southern Lord)
29. Kiila – Tuota Tuota (Fonal)
28. Andrew Chalk – The Cable House (Faraway Press)
27. Emeralds – Allegory Of Allergies (Weird Forest)
26. City Center – City Center (Type)
25. Sun Araw – Heavy Deeds (Not Not Fun) – Brilliant slow, churning solo guitar jams from the label that is responsible for releases by Pocahaunted, Robedoor, Heavy Winged, and Raccoo-oo-oon. Grooves as slow and as heavy as eyelids forced shut by too many painkillers. [Listen to “The Message”]
24. LSD March – Under Milk Wood (Important) – Japanese psychedelic Gods LSD March return with yet another slab of heavily experimental rock music. As good as Shinsuke Michishita has ever sounded. [Listen to “The Message”]
23. Psychic Ills – Mirror Eye (The Social Registry)
22. OM – God Is Good (Drag City)
21. Dragging An Ox Through Water – The Tropics Of Phenomenon (FreedomTo Spend) – I like the way Aquarius Records put it: Imagine the early pop-country side of Arthur Russell covering Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea with just a broken guitar, a dented tuba, a child’s steel drum and a busted Radio Shack electronics kit.” [Listen to Snowbank Treatment”]
20. Tim Hecker – An Imaginary Country (Kranky)
18. Amen Dunes – Dia (Locust Music) – One dude, Damon McMahon, recorded the stunning Dia in his house in the Catskill Mountains. This is some seriously noisy, psychedelic, wild, unpredictable, drugged out shit. You kind of have to hear it to believe it. [Listen to “In Caroline”]
17. Various – Local Customs: Downriver Revival (Numero Group)
16. Zu – Carboniferous (Ipecac) – I was turned onto this record by Vegan Nick, and once I had it in my evil grip I could not stop listening to it. It’s kind of like a combination of sludge metal and Mars or DNA. Hardcore jazz? I don’t know what the hell to call it, but it’s so damned good I will always be thanking Nick in the back of my mind when listening to it. [Listen to “Ostia”]
15. Emeralds – Emeralds (Wagon, Gneiss Things)
14. Expo 70 – Night Flights (Fedora Corpse)
13. Anduin + Jasper TX – The Bending of Light (SMTG Limited)
12. Ilyas Ahmed – Goner (Root Strata) – This is not the same late night acoustic druggy Ilyas Ahmed I’ve been listening to for years. This is a new beast, a rocking, blown out affair that is so vastly different from everything he’s recorded to date it took me months to get into it. If you’ve never heard his music before, start here and work backwards. [Listen to “Earn Your Blood”]
11. James Blackshaw – The Glass Bead Game (Young God) – Looking over this year’s list, The Glass Bead Game might be the record I most successfully turned my friends onto this year. I can think of at least a half dozen who now understand the joy of a James Blackshaw record. This might be the man’s finest yet, which would be a huge accomplishment for someone who consistently produces stellar albums. This one increases the orchestral instrumentation and piano introduced on his last album. Each movement, each painstaking moment, each song is just…otherworldly. The prettiest album of the year? I think so… [Listen to “Fix”]
10. Ancestors – Of Sound Mind (Tee Pee) – Headbangers delight, Ancestors released a new record this year, just in time for me to begin this list. They are likely the heaviest of the modern heavy space rock outfits. They nearly deafened me the first time I saw them live in ’07. This one adds some organ and crazy synthesizer parts that make this one of the most fucked up sounding, proggiest stoner rock records you’ll ever hear. [Listen to “Mother Animal”]
09. Aidan Baker – Gathering Blue (Equation Records)
08. Gregg Kowalsky – Tape Chants (Kranky) – The man is a God. You’re not going to understand how brilliant this album is just by hearing one silly MP3. You have to experience it as a whole. You will be hypnotized. You will be transported. You will lose yourself in the dark and foreboding world created by one of the finest modern composers in America. If you don’t wake up afterwards, don’t say I didn’t warn you. [Listen to “X-XI”]
07. White Hills – Dead (Thrill Jockey) – I was slightly nervous that by signing with Thrill Jockey something about White Hills might have changed. Instead, they recorded two more albums (technically one of ’em is a 3″ mini CD) this year that wound up on my list of the 100 best releases of the year. I’m so looking forward to what they have in store for 2010.
06. Jack Rose – The Black Dirt Sessions (Three Lobed Recordings) – In Jack Rose, the world lost one of the most talented, innovative men to ever pick up a guitar. This will go down as his last release (unless posthumous recordings are unearthed and shared), and it will forever stand as one of his best. His picking and strumming are unparalleled. His ability to take old folk or Appalachian or rag time tunes and construct them in a modernized way was something that no other solo guitarist of the era could ever touch. He will be missed so, so badly. [Listen to “Song For The Owl”]
05. Bong – Bong (Heidenwut Productions) – Now, I don’t smoke pot anymore…but if I ever get high again, I’d want it to be in the company of BONG. I’ve already worn down my copy of this record, and I’ve only owned it on vinyl for like, three months. That’s how great it is. Slow, slower, slowest. DOOM.
04. Starving Weirdos – Into An Energy (Bo’weavil Recordings) – This is one of those weird bands where, if I hear a new album has been released, I literally become giddy. I am unable to describe all the emotions (most of them joy-related) that pass through me when I listen to Starving Weirdos. I just know they are here, inside me, percolating and freaking out and loving every second of their albums. It definitely has to do with having experienced their live show before. What an equally fun and haunting experience. These drones are epic. Those distant field recordings are inspiring. I just like to close my eyes and try to picture it spreading out in the darkness before me, and let it take me far, far away. [Listen to “Pagan Unity Ritual”]
03. William Fowler Collins – Perdition Hill Radio (Type) – 2009 was a great year for Mr. Collins. He released his first album for Type Records, he played to a rapt audience in Los Angeles (where yours truly was in attendance), and he was interviewed for the prestigious WFMU Beware Of The Blog (also by yours truly!). From the moment I first closed my eyes and let this album engulf me, I was anticipating it would turn out to be one of my favorite records of the year. If you want to hear more about it, check out my review here. I’m so happy I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know William better this year, and I can’t wait to hear where he takes us next.
02. Zelienople – Give It Up (Type) – In 2006 Zelienople nearly claimed the coveted number one spot on my year-end best new music list. Stone Academy has held up better than some of those other albums I ranked ahead of it. This year, the band released Give It Up, and the first time I heard it I thought, “No fucking way. They actually recorded an album better than Stone Academy!” This is the kind of music I would want to make if I could put a band together. It’s dreamy, it’s drone-y, it mixes lightness and tenebrism perfectly. There’s so much here buried beneath the surface. Dim the lights. Lock the doors. Take some downers. Listen to this. You will never be the same. [Listen to “All I Want Is Calm”]
01. Emeralds – What Happened (No Fun Productions) – Three. Three albums by one band made the list this year. That’s unbelievable. There was no way Emeralds was going to lose out on being awarded the best album of 2009. The tough part was deciding which album to herald as the cream of the crop. I chose What Happened. Emeralds sounds like they were birthed alongside Cluster, or Klaus Schulze, or Ash Ra Tempel. Totally blissed out electronic greatness. Drones, fuzz, noise, kosmiche…whatever you call it, it’s maddeningly good. I like to say that Emeralds is a prettier, more-listenable version of Wolf Eyes. The fact that this album and Allegory Of Allergies were released within six months of each other is miraculous. You can pick or choose which release from 2009 you like more, the bottom line is that there is no doubt Emeralds owned this year. [Listen to “Disappearing Ink”]
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