Talking Music: Reflections & Recommendations by Admohr

Best Music of 2009: More Superlatives!

Posted in 2009, The Year's Best by admohr on December 31, 2009

3 Rock Records from 2009 that just cannot be missed:

Art Brut Art Brut vs. Satan
Dinosaur Jr. Farm
Mission of Burma The Sound The Speed The Light

The only thing holding these records back this year is basically the fact that each of these surprisingly strong records are just inevitably overshadowed by the more hallmark albums in each of these bands’ discographies. But that is no excuse not to experience these brilliant performances. Mission of Burma’s “After the Rain” is one of the best & most dominating rock tracks of the year. There are so many strong tracks on Farm that is hard just to pick a couple as each time you dig into the album it seems like each track tops the next, but if I had to pick just two I’d pick opener “Pieces” as well as “Over It.” And finally Art Brut’s newest is just a blast to enjoy, no track has me more pegged than “The Replacements,” yet the album highlight is almost certainly “Slap Dash for No Cash” with the lyrics “I hear his parents saying ‘Turn it down!’ / Cool your warm jets Brian Eno” – although on second thought the album highlight has to be “What a Rush” and it’s lyrics of “I can’t believe those things I said / I blame it on a massive Rush of Blood to the Head

2 Live Albums from 2009 that just cannot be missed:

Leonard Cohen Live in London
Tom Waits Glitter and Doom Live

It was a bit of a surprise to me just how essential these records turned out to be, but the motivated & spirited performances by the songwriters are entirely the reason why these albums are as strong as they are. Cohen at age 75 is better at engaging the audience both lyrically and vocally than most artists less than half his age. Waits’s performance is especially driven, full of career highlights (“Trampled Rose” and “Get Behind the Mule” come first to mind) and the album serves personally as a painful reminder that I didn’t pony up the cash to go see Tom on the Glitter & Doom tour when it came through Grand Prairie. And not to take away from the performance side of the album, but the provided collection of 30 minutes worth of “Tom’s Tales” told in between song performances in undeniably a highlight for the listener. Specifically, nothing has made me burst out loud laughing from a record like when Tom describes buying the last dying breath of Henry Ford on Ebay.

Top Ten Records of 2009 Continued:

11. Real Estate Real Estate

Frankly I just think its impossible not to love the aural experience that Real Estate is, something that’s undeniably engaging yet smooth, lo-fi & relaxed. Track “Fake Blues” is a personal favorite, which is meant to take nothing away from other album highlights “Atlantic City” and “Snow Days.” I think you could spend all day picking out influences in Real Estate’s sound – something like Yo La Tengo’s more pop-performances and there’s just got to be a Fleet Foxes influence on “Snow Days.” Point is, the album is beautiful and surely cannot be missed this year.

NOTE: random Youtube uploader describes it best: Hipster Surf Rock. There you go.

12. The Rural Alberta Advantage Hometowns

A shoutout to my hometown’s Saddle Creek Records for the most engaging record of the year and holy cow what an emotional swing this record is. Track “Drain the Blood” makes the listener want to explode with its massive pop rock hooks, yet track “Don’t Haunt this place” is a simpler pop performance with some beautiful harmonizing vocals. Track “Edmonton” is a highlight, “Four Night Rider” sounds like the spawn of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over the Sea and Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible. This is a great, great pop record that I think is one of the most fun listens of the year. I can’t recommend this one enough.

Best Live Moment I experienced in 2009 (non-performance division):

Dan Bejar (Destroyer) asked the Dallas Granada Theater’s audience in complete seriousness if Texas had won the Olympics. This was in November, a month removed from when Chicago didn’t win the bid to host the Olympics, and months more removed from when Houston had made a bid to host. Maybe he meant competing in the Olympics that had been over for over a year, or didn’t start until next February. It honestly doesn’t matter – the question came from out of the blue, and there was absolutely no follow up on the thought whatsoever. I would kill to know the thought process that put that question in his mind that night.

Best Live Moment I experienced in 2009 (music-performance division):

The Gaslight Anthem covered a bit of a personal anthem for myself in the Replacements’ “Left of the Dial” at the Dallas Granada Theater on a show where they shared the bill w/ the beautiful Heartless Bastards. It wasn’t a can’t miss-cover by any means, the rest of the audience either didn’t know the song or didn’t care, and the Heartless Bastards generally had a better set but I don’t care – I thought it was a beautiful gesture and a flawless selection for a band with a pop/punk-rock influenced sound. Apologies to those around me for screaming like a girl throughout it.

Best Development in DFW/Denton Music Scene in 2009:

(Tie) The births of Indie-Verse & KXT

Indie-verse came first with a station available on HD Radio, but most importantly available online (and obviously accessible from anywhere in the country, rest-of-world) at http://www.indie-verse.com and they proved to me upon a first listen that they had their head on straight playing some fantastic Grizzly Bear and the Avett Brothers. The highlight of the channel is undeniably Mark Sanford’s classic indie show on at Wednesdays at 4 which features just an amazing array of classic independent music that honestly pushes my boundaries of awareness each time I listen. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Suggestion for 2010: (other than get on non-HD radio) Integrate more classic indie into the standard, non-programming related playlists. But that said – their programming is fantastic. And just a great start for the channel.

KXT just recently joined the airwaves and is significantly more accessible than indie-verse because of the availability on non-HD radio. The channel is fantastic featuring good programming in Undercurrents and the World Cafe. I think the more this channel is embraced the more that it could literally be the linchpin of a very strong live music scene throughout the metroplex but I do have a laundry list of suggestions for 2010 (since I’m a Launch Crew member and all): 1. ANY punk rock 2. ANY noise rock 3. ANY rock 4. more classic stuff. Preston Jones, the DFW.com culture critic had some good suggestions for the channel to loosen up the format even more including Jazz & other genres. I see the value in that, yes – but I think in the meantime they could refine just the coffee-house-esque playlists they sometimes get stuck in and be just fine. It is possible they’re not trying to compete/take away from Indie-Verse which is something I can respect… if Indie-Verse was available to me on my commute home.

New Wave Tracks of the Year:

Handsome Furs – “Radio Kaliningrad”
Passion Pit – “Little Secrets”
Junior Boys – “Parallel Lines”
Fever Ray – “Keep the streets empty for me”
Bear In Heaven – “Lovesick Teenagers”
Phoenix – “Lisztomania”

Non-New Wave Tracks of the Year (in albums not otherwise mentioned yet):

Asobi Seksu – “Me and Mary”
Califone – “Buñuel”
Ola Podrida – “Donkey”
St. Vincent – “Actor Out of Work”
Wye Oak – “Take it in”
Dorrough – “Ice Cream Paint Job” (WHAT? Do it ride good?)

Underrated High-profile release of 2009:

Monsters of Folk Monsters of Folk

I have to be honest, I really didn’t think this was going to work at all. But the performances here are beautiful and balanced in each songwriter’s influence & input. I was having a hard time figuring out how this was going to play as anything other than a sampler, but instead I feel like that the collective just brought the best out of each. And the bottom line is that there are just great songs on this record, and for that I think it deserves all of the airplay it has been getting.

Overrated High-profile release of 2009:

Animal Collective Merriweather Post-Pavillion

“Summertime Clothes” and “My Girls” are undoubtedly amazing tracks. But Pitchfork (which I honestly love but am going to nitpick on a couple of things here) selling this as the best thing to happen in music this year just isn’t true. “Also Frightened” is an automatic-skip, and the back half of the record puts you to sleep. AMIRITE? And 2007’s Strawberry Jam was a more convincing performance anyways.

That however wasn’t the biggest mistake Pitchfork made in 2009 – that would of course refer to the inclusion of Taylor Swift on their best tracks on 2009 list. Look – our broken society is doing more than enough to somehow reward this 6th grade poetry as culture, any legitimization of Wal Mart entertainment products only gives them further staying power. So cut it out.

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