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2009 year in music blog

November 29, 2009

These years are starting to go by entirely too fast. I thought this was a pretty solid year of music, to end what has actually been a very strong decade with a lot of diverse and interesting music (I’ll probably put something together with what I feel are the best records of the 00s soon, in case you care).

Each year I like to put together these lists, not to put out a “look how cool I am” vibe, I do them more to keep it all straight in my own mind. My ultimate goal is to inspire thought and discussion amongst my friends, because I am certainly no authority and musical taste is so amazingly subjective. And there is always the off chance I will turn someone on to something they wouldn’t have heard of otherwise

So for good or ill, these are my favorite albums of 2009:

10. Steve Earle ~ Townes
song: Poncho & Lefty
This album, which is entirely made up of Townes Van Zandt covers, may actually be the most solid of Earle’s career. (Townes was definitely the better song writer, but Steve has the better voice)

9. The Dead Weather ~ Whorehound
song: New Pony
It’s nice to see an indie-rock band that actually does some honest-to-goodness rocking. Jack White has cemented himself as the most important figure in indie-rock (and mainstream Rock for that matter) for this decade. There are 10 albums from this decade he has performed on in some way, and the Dead Weather are already getting set to record their second album…and thus far (especially on this record) the quality of his stuff has not gone down in the slightest.

8. Them Crooked Vultures ~ Them Crooked Vultures
song: No One Loves Me & Neither Do I
This band is the reason why the word “Supergroup” was coined in the first place. Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones, how is this even really happening? This band sounded amazing just on paper when I first heard about them. I resisted the urge to hear their full album until I got the double LP in the mail. It was worth the wait. Josh Homme seems to be in some competition with Jack White for bands/side projects (Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal and now TCV). This collaboration does a great job of showing how mediocre today’s hard-rock bands really are, they make all of your Chevelle’s, Five Finger Death Punch and Breaking Benjamin’s look amateurish at best.

7. Patton Oswalt ~ My Weakness is Strong
track: Orgy
Patton is really hitting his stride becoming one of the strongest and most consistent comedians around. What makes him the most effective is that he gets the concept that all great comedians get, and what the Daniel Tosh’s and Dane Cook’s of the world fail to understand. Comedy works the best when it doesn’t come from a position of power. Sharing your shortcomings with an audience makes for much stronger and funnier connections.

side-note, if you happened to catch this special on Comedy Central, you really need to hear the full album, oddly a couple of the strongest bits were left off the network TV special.

6. Todd Snider ~ The Excitement Plan
song: Money, Compliments, Publicity (Song Number 10)
Todd Snider is quietly becoming the next cult-hero singer songwriter, following greats like Townes Van Zandt, John Prine and Robert Earl Keen. This is one of his strongest releases to date, featuring a more diverse set of instruments than past releases, it sounds like he’s transitioning to some place very special. And any album which contains a song about Doc Ellis pitching a major league no-hitter on LSD (actually happened btw) is automatically cool.

5. Phosphorescent ~ To Willie
song: Pick up the Tempo
Another album of all covers, but this one is a little different and more interesting. In this case it is the atmospheric indie rock band doing an album of Willie Nelson songs. Even better is that they didn’t go the greatest hits route, rather they dug into Willie’s catalog for some obscure classics. This is easily the most creative covers album I’ve heard.

4. the King Khan & BBQ Show ~ Invisible Girl
song: Animal Party
I am such a sucker for well done neo-garage rock, and no one comes close to doing it better than this band. I can’t think of a current band who mixes high and low brow art together so well. If it is ever your goal to get me to dance around like a dufus, put on a record by this band. It will work most of the time, if this band doesn’t make you want to dance, you may not have a soul. It also has the best album cover of the year (see below)

3. A.A. Bondy ~ The Devil’s Loose
song: A Slow Parade
A significant part of my music listening takes place in the 45 minutes I sit on the computer prior to work, and because I tend to prefer music on the calmer side when just waking up, I end up listening to a lot of folk and singer-songwriters. This album just sucked me in, the emotion comes across as authentic, which will always work on me.

2. Heartless Bastards ~ The Mountain
song: Out at Sea
This album really surprised me because of the giant leap this band made in quality from their previous releases. They sound contemporary, and yet wouldn’t have been out of place in the early 70s. Erika Wennerstrom’s voice isn’t the best you’ll ever hear, but it just sounds cool, it is also amazingly affective–occasionally bordering on Robert Plantesque. This band may become more noticed in the next couple years.

1. Deer Tick ~ Born on Flag Day
song: Smith Hill
So far, in my way of looking at things, this band is doing everything right to become one of the cooler and more interesting bands around. They’ve released two albums in less than one year, and this one expanded on the simplicity of the first album. A perfect mixture of Americana, old school Rock and Roll and some traditional Country in there as well, for most of the summer this was the only album I was listening to. The voice of lead singer John McCauley just sucks you in, and the hidden track, the drunken-backstage run-through of the Lead Belly classic “Goodnight Irene” is what makes this a record that I will be listening to far into the future.

Next 5:
Wavves ~ Wavvves
Wolfmother ~ Cosmic Egg
Dan Auerbach ~ Keep it Hid
Heavy Trash ~ Midnight Soul Serenade
Ben Harper and the Relentless7 ~ White Lies for Dark Times

Meh albums (albums that either got a ton of great reviews that I just never got into, or mediocre releases by artists that I typically enjoy):
Bob Dylan ~ Together Through Life
Regina Spektor ~ Far
The Mars Volta ~ Octahedron
Animal Collective ~ Merriweather Post Pavilion
Andrew Bird ~ Nobel Beast

individual Songs on albums not included, but were worth mentioning:
Drive-by Truckers ~ George Jones Talkin’ Cell Phone Blues
Devendra Banhart ~ Rats
Bon Iver ~ Blood Bank
Neko Case ~ The Pharaohs
Blakroc ~ Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)

That about does it, so what did I miss? I know there is something that after reading this list couldn’t believe that I left off…please feel free to share