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Best Of 2009

Well it's that time again, time to rate my favorite releases of the year. Hope you enjoy..



25. Julian Plenti – Julian Plenti is Skyscraper

This one took me a few listens to appreciate and to separate my previous expectations. It’s not Interpol nor is it meant to be. This is Paul Bank’s playing around by himself seeing what he is capable of. The mood is much lighter; the Joy Division influences are gone replaced by a gritty indie rock experience.




24. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

Bye bye garage rock, hello cleanly produced indie dance rock. The screeching vocals and disjointed, ear piercing guitars are gone; instead keyboards and thick synthpop envelop Karen O’s vocals. It’s nice to see the band branch out and Karen does an amazing job singing in this new manner. The songs are fun and listenable something earlier songs were not. I don’t see it as a sell out; the Kills progressed in the same way which opened the doors to a wider range of style.




23. Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johannson – Breakup

I am not a huge Pete Yorn fan, I find him quite boring but when he recorded with Scarlett Johannson I couldn’t ignore. Scarlett’s first release, a cover of Tom Wait’s songs was very good; her unique voice captured the music perfectly. This time around, Scarlett is paired with Pete playing off of each other with a sixties summer sound. It’s not She and Him, instead it’s a basement record between two former lovers.




22. Kasabian – The West Rider Pauper Lunatic Asylum

When it comes to emulating the best of the 90s Brit Rock scene, Kasabian come out on top. By their 3rd release the band strives to create a new sound while paying homage to those before them. Unfortunately this new direction doesn’t surface until the 5th song which was a little disappointing. Don’t get wrong, the previous 4 songs are great but nothing new. The expanded sound merges psychedelic, spaghetti western and Beatles influences into a sonic landscape the band should be proud of. The hard hitting electro beats surface from time to time to remind us that Kasabian can still rock out.




21. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

While playing with the New Pornographers, Neko Case was just a number and didn’t give much to the band but solo she is a force to be reckoned with. Neko does Alt Country like no one else and grows with each and every solo release. Middle Cyclone features fiddles, slide guitars, lots of strumming and Nashville vocals. This isn’t a honky-tonk Country record, more American Gothic with a sultry twang.




20. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast

Whistling, violins and glockenspiel’s are a few of the instruments used by Andrew Bird. Former member of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Bird has amassed a collection of releases while exploring different sounds on each. His latest Noble Beast is soft, folksy whistle rock tailor made for a soundtrack to a children’s book. The release is whimsical with an introspective view of Bird’s mind.




19. Pink Martini – Splendor In The Grass

Jazz, latin, classical and lounge a few of the styles Pink Martini incorporates into their orchestral sound. China Forbes leads the band singing in multiple languages and plays well with the various influences. The release begs to be played on a lazy Sunday morning or during a pretentious dinner party.




18. The Postmarks – Memoirs From The End Of The World

This is the Postmark’s 2nd release and a must have. The kitsch 60’s soundtrack arrangements blend perfectly with Tim Yehezkely’s voice who is actually a female. Her vocal range isn’t wide just soft and sweet and reminiscent of many 60’s heroines. Think James Bond mixed with Henri Mancini and you have the Postmarks.




17. Deer Tick – Born On Flag Day

I was quite disappointed by John McCauley’s interview on Sirius radio this past summer, his lack of personality and willingness to share with his listeners any insight into his music nearly cost him a spot on my list. I think the guy is a douche but his music is amazing. It’s gritty and unadulterated Alt Country, thru the lens of a drunken and pissed off hipster.




16. Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions – Through The Devil Softly

Former Mazzy Star creator, Hope Sandovol is back with a haunting release full of lush vocals, soft acoustic guitars and breezy atmosphere. I can’t recall how many nights I fell asleep to this release. The warm sound was relaxing as well as Hope’s whispering lyrics.




15. Florence & The Machines – Lungs

Part Beth Orton, Feist, Sarah McLachlan & Cat Power, Florence Welch delivers an amazing debut full of beautiful melodies and cutting folk rock. Florence’s voice is one that can transcend many musical styles, which allows her to genre hop if she is so inclined. Another debut from a young UK artist, Florence & The Machines have helped the lagging UK indie scene recover from the disastrous few years of post punk.




14. Son Volt – American Central Dust

Tear in my beer, melancholy and pure Alt Country are what Son Volt achieved this time around. The sound is not complicated nor does it vary in tempo but for fans of Americana and the early 90s will welcome this release with arms wide open. Slide guitar, whiskey soak vocals, fuzzy guitars and Hammond organs dominate the musical landscape. There are no modern electronic sounds, no fancy production just straight up tunes from a bunch of talented musicians.




13. U2 – No Line On The Horizon

Musically, the last decade has been boring for U2. They went back to their “roots” and became drab and dull. Not sure what it was but U2 changed directions and made their music interesting once again. They didn’t revolutionize the industry; instead they gave us a release without the incessant Bono whining and messiah complex. There are few pop songs but nothing that can be made into an iPod commercial. I’m fine with that; we need a break with something more about music and less about Bono.




12. Cornershop – Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast

Disco/Funk/Rock/World Fusion are just a few characteristics of Cornershop’s music. The 1st song Who Fingered Rock’n’Roll might be the best song of the year. With its mix of sitars, infectious grooves and northern soul, Cornershop has created a memorable gem that everyone should enjoy not once but many times over. If you are in need of a party record, this one should be it.




11. Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue

14 years after the last studio album and subsequent death of lead singer Layne Staley, Alice in Chains return with a new release and lead singer. The sound is dark, heavy full of sludge and beauty only AIC are capable of. New vocalist Patrick Lachman does his best impression of Layne and at times you can’t tell the difference between the two. This cd is both a tribute to Layne as well as a sign that the band was more than just the singer. The proverbial chains have been broken and I am curious to see what AIC has in store next time around.




10. Depeche Mode – Sounds Of The Universe

DM never disappoints and this time around it’s no different. The dark and heavily layered sounds create a captivating experience. The slow progression builds into a complex web of keyboards and electronic drums. Live instruments are not left out and add to tiers of sound. Dave Gahan’s vocals are strong, lasting and reminiscent of Songs of Faith and Devotion.



9. Gomez - A New Tide

The always out of place UK jam band, Gomez narrowed their sound and focused on clear and concise songs. Alternating vocals cater to the styles of each singer but keep the mood upbeat and lively. There are subtle Electronic hints as well as Alt Country poking thru leaving the listener with a better understanding of how slight fusions can make for great music.




8. Editors – In This Light An On

Editors, the UK’s answer to Interpol. This was true for a while but Editors finally found a sound they can work with and expand on. On this release, the band fully embraced the 80s synthpop sound and mashed it up with the darkness of Joy Divison. It’s clean and tightly produced with no feedback or rough edges. This one was a grower for me, it took a number of listens but by the end I was hooked.




7. Echo & The Bunnymen – The Fountain

31 years later Ian McCulluch and Will Sergeant are still making relevant and amazing music. There were a few years during the early 90s when the band broke up but since 1996 they have been going strong. The Fountain tosses any stereotype you would attach to a 50 year old by the wayside. This release is full of life and showcases Echo’s strengths. Biting hooks as well as beautiful melodies meander throughout the cd accompanied by Ian’s signature voice and Will’s guitar lines. The cd is timeless, it could have been released in 1989, ‘99 or ‘09 and you wouldn’t even know.




6. Moby – Wait For Me

Moby has been hit or miss and as of late, it’s been a number of misses. This time around, Moby gave up the dance floor and looked inward. He did what he does best and created a borderline ambient release. The deluxe version does contain ambient versions of each of the songs but this is somewhat boring compared to the originals. The warm/cold atmosphere Moby creates with haunting organs and lush female vocals is downright intoxicating and one that should be listened to over and over.




5. The Black Heart Procession – Six

The BHP enjoys the dark and brooding world of folk music. They excel at capturing a sound and engulfing all that surround them. While it’s dark, it’s not Goth more a sad Americana with beautiful piano melodies. Tension varies throughout the release, which adds to the depth created here.




4. Air – Love 2.0

Love 2.0 is the closest Air has come to their debut Moon Safari. The songs are still cool and breezy electronic but with some weight. The mood is lighter as is the tempo but not quite up to dance speed. The cd is full of kitsch organs, cinematic overtones and lush female vocals. While Pocket Symphony was a headphone release, Love 2.0 is meant to be enjoyed on surround sound.




3. Grant Lee Philips – Little Moon

Grant Lee returns with an eclectic mix of songs that keep your toes tapping and head swaying. This is Grant Lee’s strongest release to date. The multidimensional approach harkens back to GLB while showcasing Grant Lee’s taste for a perfect pop tune. Americana/Folk/Rock blended together with an uncanny eye for excellence.




2. The xx – xx

A brilliant debut from a bunch of UK hipsters too young to remember there influences but smart enough to build on the sound and make it their own. The xx have taken a minimalist sound with bantering vocals and transformed it into an amazing release from start to finish. Hints of Interpol and slacker electronic fill the room with a dark and moody vibe.




1. Soulsavers – Broken

For the 2nd time, Mark Lanegan teams up with the Electronic duo The Soulsavers to release a beautifully produced Mark Lanegan record. While it’s billed as the Soulsavers, the cd is more or less another solo for Lanegan. The release is dark, brooding and heavy all characteristics of his previous work. The Soulsavers take what Mark does best and complicates the sound with layers upon layers of atmospheric sounds. This cinematic approach gives Mark a full orchestration for his voice to weave in and out of fuzz, reverb, heavy riffs and menacing beats. I like to think of the Soulsavers as remixers of Mark’s previous work. Breathing new life and broadening the view Mark may never had imagined when he first went solo.

Posted by mardenhill 12/16/2009 02:48:00 PM  

22 Comments:

  1. Jenna said...
    Dude. I have been so out of things as far as music is concerned, this list helps loads. I just downloaded The XX yesterday, and who knew Editors had a new album? Way behind! I must now go and get half this list. Thanks, man :)
    mardenhill said...
    not a problem,i love the xx and usually listen to it a couple times a week. it was a toss up between them and mark for the top spot. about a week before posting my list i finally made up my mind. another really good cd is honey honey but after some digging i realized the cd came out in nov 08 so it couldn't earn a spot.
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    grubbii said...
    Randy -
    It is your old pal, Rick Grubb - from the BBDO days. The only album I even knew on this crazy list of yours was Alice in Chains. And, although Patrick Lachman DID tour with AIC for a while, the new singer on the "Black Gives Way to Blue" album is William Duvall (a black man, at that!)
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