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LAist Staff Picks 2009: Music
Recent Skies by Julius Metoyer
This list is in no particular order. I know that it's numbered, but that is only so I could keep track of my thoughts. It is in no way reflective of importance. They are all equal in my eyes. Each one of these albums have deserved a spot because I deeply and truly love them and more miraculously am still not sick of them. Hopefully, you all will enjoy them as much because that's what lists are all about. I mean, it's partially to recognize achievement, but mostly it's to introduce people to much that they may have missed. In the spirit of that, I've included a tune with each album, so you can check them out. Enjoy!
1. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
"Fitz & Dizzyspells"
2. Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Pains of Being Pure At Heart
"Everything With You"
3. Big Pink - A Brief History of Love
4. Metric - Fantasies
"Gold Guns Girls"
5. The Heavy - The House That Dirt Built
"How You Like Me Now?"
6. The Love Language - The Love Language
7. Crocodiles - Summer of Hate
"I Wanna Kill"
8. Harlem Shakes - Technicolor Health
9. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes
10. Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
11. Silversun Pickups - Swoon
12. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears - Tell 'Em What Your Name Is!
13. Black Lips - 200 Million Thousand
14. The Builders and the Butchers - Salvation Is A Deep Dark Well
"Hands Like Roots"
15. Frankel - Anonymity Is The New Fame
"Anonymity Is The New Fame"
16. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus
17. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
"Heads Will Roll"
18. The Voyeurs - A Well Known Drag
"Things People Say"
19. Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Elvis Perkins in Dearland
20. Old Canes - Feral Harmonic
"Little Bird Courage"
21. La Roux - La Roux
22. Sin Fang Bous - Clangour
"Advent In St. Ives"
23. The Generationals - Con Law
"Nobody Could Change Your Mind"
24. White Rabbits - It's Frightening
25. Fanfarlo - Reservoir
Now also this year there were a number of EPs and singles that were released by new bands that I listened to on repeat. I think it's unfair to discount them just because these artists didn't have a full album, so in the name of fairness I present:
Molly's Top 10 New Faces to Look For in 2010 (in no particular order):
Joe Pug - "I Do My Father's Drugs"
Lissie - "Little Lovin'"
Local Natives - "World News"
Avi Buffalo - "What's In It For?"
Surfer Blood - "Swim (To Reach The End)"
Magic Kids - "Hey Boy"
Toro Y Moi - "Blessa"
The Anasazis - "The Talk"
Little Fish - "Darling Dear"
Navajo Bixby - "Moonlighting"
Seven Saturdays "Secret Things" (Full disclosure: I manage this band and therefore am totally biased. Apologies.)
here's what's been floatin' my boat this year -
boston spaceships - zero to 99
boston spaceships - the planets are blasted
bon iver - blood bank ep
avi buffalo - echo residency album
breeders - fate to fatal ep
broadfield marchers - displayed in reflections
crystal antlers - tentacles
dinosaur jr. - farm
elvis costello - secret, profane and sugarcane
flaming lips - embryonic
grizzly bear - veckatimest
john doe & the sadies - country club
king khan & bbq show - invisible girl
kurt vile - god is saying this to you
no age - weirdo rippers
pissed jeans - king of jeans
robert pollard - the crawling distance
robert pollard - elephant jokes
sonic youth - the eternal
various - the dark night of the soul
various artists - SCORE! 20 years of merge
wilco - wilco (the album)
yo la tengo - popular songs
big star - keep an eye on the sky
neil young - archives
death - for the whole world to see
the jesus lizard - reissues
chris bell - i am the cosmos
rem - reckoning
nirvana - bleach
radiohead - kid a
beatles - remasters
Five from '09
(no particular order)
Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
Pardon me for being biased towards an L.A. band that signed and released their debut album across the pond. Frenchkiss done them good for 2010 though.
Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle
Sweet baritone Jesus.
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below
Can't stress enough how amazing their live shows are. My 'Feel Good Album of the Year.'
John Lee Hooker - I'm John Lee Hooker (1959)
Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children (1998)
Janis Joplin - I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! (1969)
Muddy Waters - Hard Again (1977)
Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose (2004)
Pavement - Slanted and Enchanted (1994)
Aphex Twin - ...I Care Because You Do (1995)
In no particular order...
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
the xx - The xx
The Temper Trap - Conditions
Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires
Pictureplane - Dark Rift
Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
Pretty Lights - Filling up the Skies
Fanfarlo - Reservoir
Bat for Lashes - Two Sons
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Say Hi - Oohs & Ahs
Pnuma Trio - Character
Scotland Yard Gospel Choir - …and the horse you rode in on
Mayer Hawthorne - A Strange Arrangement
Volcano Choir - Unmap
Ross A. Lincoln
1) La Roux - La Roux
What can one say about this brilliant band that hasn't already been said by everyone, including me. Their first single came out at this time last year, and since then they've enjoyed a remarkable string of successes, but none so remarkable as the practically flawless record they released last summer. You either love their debut album, or you clearly hate enjoyment of music. (I'm kidding Molly, I promise).
Coming off like a cross between Culture Club, Yazoo and a laptop band, they made one of the most original synth pop records in years, filled from start to finish with instantly hummable dance pop masterpieces, and added a very tall exclamation point to the end of a sentence that explains why the 00s (with a brief Strokes and White Stripes related divergence), was an exceptional decade for music.
"Bulletproof," which is the best song of 2009, period:
"In For The Kill":
2) Sally Shapiro - My Guilty Pleasure
Sally Shapiro has always been something of a mixed bag. They set out in the early years of this decade to basically recreate Italo-disco, and while I cannot possibly disagree with that goal, the result was great songs flanked infrequently by boring songs. All is now forgiven. My Guilty Pleasure is, basically, the most aesthetically pleasing record I've heard since 2001, when Röyksopp released Melody A.M., Fantastic Plastic Machine released Beautiful, and Zero 7 released Destiny. The album is icy, permeated by distance, isolation and loss, and yet is warm, comforting, uplifting. It is, in many ways about coming to grips with loss. Song after song about relationships that ended but by the end of it, you feel happy. It's the kind of catharsis you get when, after mourning a terrible breakup for several months, you finally realize the person who dumped you was kind of insane and you're much, much better off.
The only reason it isn't number one is that La Roux exists. Sorry about that guys. Also, I just want to add that I realize Zero 7 sucks, and large. I still love their first album though.
"Love In July"
3) Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
You don't need me to recommend this album. Everyone with an opinion loved it. I love it. Chances are you love it. If you haven't heard it, then I'm glad you have recovered from your coma. If you have heard it and don't like it, I'm sorry to hear of your recent head injury. Both of you need to stop reading this now and give it a listen, or, another listen. It's brilliant, and better with every repeat.
4) R. Kelly, featuring The Dream and Tyrese - "Pregnant"
Leave it to R. Kelly to end this decade with possibly the greatest moment of his entire career, the apotheosis of what being R. Kelly means. "Pregnant" is a song about thinking a woman is so hot that you want to ejaculate inside her without protection. You see, normally, the song's protagonists, R. Kelly and Tyrese, are players. They only hook it up with women who are already in relationships, not only because it makes them feel more on their game, but also because it keeps things uncomplicated due to the woman not wanting to leave her boyfriend for someone who wrote Trapped In The Closet or Signs Of Lovemaking. But then, they see someone walk into the club with like the greatest ass ever. No joke, it's actually said outright that she had an unbelievable booty. Apparently, that's all it takes for R. Kelly and Tyrese to realize this isn't just another anonymous sexual encounter that, hope hope, won't AIDS them up. No, this is TLF, with the unprotected sex, the white picket fences, the kept woman at home, dropping babies out Meaning Of Life style. Everything!
The point? This song is unbelievable. First, you wonder if it's a joke. Then you think it isn't but that R. Kelly is intentionally camping it up. Then you realize that he's probably completely serious, and that there's probably a pregnant woman or three listening to the song, right now, thinking "I can't believe I fell for that." I love this terrible, brilliant song more than words can say.
5) Pet Shop Boys - Yes
The first truly worthwhile Pet Shop Boys album since 1993's Very, Yes is not just a cliché but a tremendously good album in its own right. It didn't change the world - the days of the Pet Shop Boys' influence ended in the late 90s - but it's a remarkably beautiful record. Yes finds them regaining their grasp of great melody, and Neil Tennant's brilliant way with words. Better still, the overdone ironic detachment that has bogged the last 3 PSB albums down with drippy, sarcastic camp has been all but discarded. They're still very witty and fun, but it no longer feels like the joke has become the point. The result is a collection of touching songs about middle age, love and loss, and the decline of a civilization that is as danceable as it is erudite.
You can listen to "Love, Etc.", and other tracks from the album, here.
6) Calvin Harris - "Ready for the Weekend" and "Dance Wiv Me"
Calvin Harris has a problem - now 2 albums into his career, it seems the man has a knack for writing nearly perfect dance singles and then putting them on albums filled with bland, forgettable fluff. His first album, I Created Disco, had a perfect song, Acceptable In The 80s, and almost nothing else worth thinking about. Still, that one song was so good that you can't help but be very excited by new releases. His latest, Ready For The Weekend is an improvement over the first. For one thing, it has less forgettable fluff, though it's still there. However, it also has not one but two nearly perfect singles: the title track, a piano based toe tapper than gets better with every listen, and "Dance Wiv Me", a collaboration with Dizzy Rascal that was only added to the album for the American release - it's a Dizzy song in the UK. Both are, frankly, fucking brilliant. I've probably listening to each song 80 times since they were released. At the rate he's going, I predict Calvin Harris will finally release a truly good album sometime in 2015. In the meantime, I will continue to await his excellent singles with rapt anticipation.
"Ready for the Weekend"
"Dance Wiv Me"
7) Empire of The Sun - We Are The People
Empire of the Sun was released in Australia last year, but 2009 was really their year, so I'm including it. EOTS is a supergroup of sorts, an electro duo featuring Luke Steele of The Sleepy Jackson and Nick Littlemore of Pnau. The record, overall, is just so-so, but the lead single, We Are The People is the kind of song that crawls into your ears, buys a small but nice fixer-upper, and just lives there, becoming part of the neighborhood, gentrifying it and yet somehow managing not to ruin it in the process. Really just the perfect person to move next door. Sadly, the rest of the album is more like the rich dbags who move in a few years later, after they've heard from their underpaid assistant that the neighborhood is hip. They jack up the rents, enforce permit only parking, and justify a new Pink Berry franchise.
Even so, what a song!
"We Are The People"
8) Art Brut - Art Brut Vs Satan
I encourage you to listen to this album and decide for yourself how you feel - it's going to be an acquired taste for some. I personally love it though I think, at best, it's a close second to their brilliant debut. However, whatever flaws the album may or may not have are completely, totally erased by the fact that Art Brut is quite simply the current greatest live act in Rock. They played several LA shows in 2009 and every one of them was astoundingly great. The result is that I became obsessed with this album.
DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshakes:
9) Princeton - Bloomsbury
I reviewed Princeton back in March. My opinion has not changed. They are just wonderful.
10) Chairlift - Does You Inspire You
I reviewed Chairlift back in April. My opinion has also not changed.
10.5) Hey Champ - "Cold Dust Girl"
This is cheating but I didn't want to leave it out. I don't want to overdue the P-word, but this song is really just perfect.
1) Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
2) Frankel - Anonymity is the New Fame
3) Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
4) The Decemberists - he Hazards of Love
5) Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
6) Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
7) Builders and the Butchers - Salvation is a Deep Dark Well
8) Heartless Bastards - The Mountain
9) The Love Language - Self-titled
10) Hopewell - Good God Desperation
11) Great Northern - Remind Me Where The Light Is
Juliette Commagere - Queens Die Proudly
Ed Harcourt - Russian Roulette
Fisher - Water
Sara Watkins - Sara Watkins
Maria Taylor - LadyLuck
Ray Davies - The Kinks Choral Collection
Brandon Schott - Dandelion
Meaghan Smith - The Cricket’s Orchestra
The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra - Escapements
Hawksley Workman - Between the Beautifuls
Also worth a mention: My top two from 2008, The Rollo Treadway's self-titled debut and Lisa Hannigan's Sea Sew, continue to get better with every listen.
Stay tuned for your music editor's 'Top 100 Albums of 2009' ...