Thursday, January 01, 2009

Some of my favourite things

Happy New Year! Once again I've waited for 2009 to be actually over before choosing the stuff I liked the most, and hopefully pointed the like-minded in the direction of something they might enjoy. Here's my year end Top 10, loosely categorized, with also-rans, not counting stuff I forgot or left off because it's a bore and a chore remembering everything I liked this year. Here they are in no particular numerical order. (I'm now thinking I should have reserved a No. 11 slot for Aidan Baker and Tim Hecker's Fantasma Parastasie, but I better quit while I'm ahead).

Muffler Crunch, The Dominion, July 26, 2008

1. Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue. Most of the music I remember at the end of the year comes from at least a little way off the beaten track. Sure I listened to and enjoyed such pop-critic favourites as Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!, Fleet Foxes' debut and Sun Giant EP, Martha Wainright's I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too, Beach House's Devotion and The Walkmen's You & Me, but the album that I particularly enjoyed was a late purchase, Jenny Lewis' Acid Tongue. Her album with The Watson Twins was nice if a bit glossy. By comparison Acid Tongue sounds like they jammed everyone in a single room, a la Muscle Shoals, cranked the reverb and cut loose with some surprisingly crunchy southern style pop. I'm also still quite made for Shearwater, so naturally Rook lands high on my year end best of. Another favourite, Drive-By Truckers, released another excellent album, Brighter Than Creation's Dark. I also dug Sloan's Parallel Play.

2. Crystal Antlers, Crystal Antlers. This was a good year for mixed-up pop. Sic Alps released a super compilation of single tracks on A Long Way Around to a Shortcut; they also put out U.S. EZ, which comes highly recommended but which I unfortunately haven't been able to find. Jay Reatard released a couple of quality single comps and put on a good live show as well. Of the vast profusion of bands with the word "Crystal" in their names, my favourite this year was Crystal Antlers. Granted, I bought their Touch and Go EP because I had them confused with outpsych collective Jewelled Antlers, but it was no disappointment, being an excellent slice of reverberating Comets on Fire-style rock fury. Deerhunters' Microcastle got a lot of props on year-end lists ... I liked it too, and not just because my inner miser appreciated the bonus disc they appended to provide a bonus to people who didn't listen to the Internet leak of the original.

3. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago. I was lucky this year in my choices of records to review from I picked up Bon Iver's solo debut. You can read my review here. Sometimes you revisit an album after a few months have passed and find the thrill is gone, but I still think For Emma, Forever Ago is one of the year's best. The Society of Imaginary Friends was another find. Apparently they're an offshoot of another group called the Band of Holy Joy, who apparently were sitting around one day and realized that they'd sound much better if they had a really good singer. Some of the song's lyrics might not age well (jabs at Myspace can only be called dead on arrival) but they're pretty amusing right now. More to the point, the vast majority of the album combines wondrously supple vocals with sharp intelligence.

4. RTX, JJ Got Live RaTX. As a longtime Royal Trux lover, having the pennyblackmusic folk ship me RTX's latest was a no-brainer (saved me having to buy it). Like many a young lad growing up in the 1980s I was exposed to an excess of hairmetal. Back in my youth one couldn't turn on a music video show (which for you young'uns were these shows that played music videos ... I don't think they have them anymore) without seeing a band like Ratt or Motley Crue wailing away in spandex, with occasional cutaways to similarly spandex-clad ladies prancing around through some post-apocalyptic set (actually probably the local auto junkyard). JJ Got Live RaTX isn't a live album, but if isn't the apotheosis of Jennifer Herrema's glam metal ambitions, I'm not sure where she can go from here.

5. Endless Boogie, Focus Level. Endless Boogie has a similar love for the rockers of yore (did the name give it away?), and Focus Level was one wicked slab of guitar rock. The Hellacopters went out with a classy bang by covering the bands they love on Head Off; I'm still not sure I want to expose the Powder Monkeys' tune on the vinyl side of their CD to my turntable's needle, though.

6. The Linus Pauling Quartet, All Things Are Light. The Linus Pauling Quartet have a great name and a great album in All Things Are Light - it's sort of a late entry since technically it was released in 2007, but I don't think any copies made it north before 2008. Excellent Texas psych for those of us who miss The Mike Gunn. Also in the field of head expansion. Black Mountain produced a great sophomore longplayer in In the Future.

7. Geisha, Die Verbrechen der Liebe. There was loads of good guitar heaviosity in 2008. Harvey Milk continued their post-hiatus string of excellence in the form of Life...The Best Game in Town. I also really enjoyed albums from Boris and Torche this year; after their smashing live show I also had to pick up the latest from opening act Nachtmystium as well. Then I got wind of Geisha's Die Verbrechen der Liebe. This British quintet seems to spend all its time dwelling on sleazy sex. You get five tracks of blowout noise rock and one extended psychedelic drumathon, all of it cool.

8. Leviathan, Massive Conspiracy Against All Human Life. I've kept up my interest in black metal. Sonically it's the descendant of the My Bloody Valentine records I've always enjoyed. Also it makes me laugh. Who wouldn't get the giggles from an album called Epiphanic Vomiting of Blood by a band (or rather a man, since these black metal groups are often solo shows) called Gnaw Their Tongues? Can you really go wrong with songs with titles such as My Body is Not a Vessel, Nor a Temple. It's a Repulsive Pile of Sickness? However, I could do without the snippets culled from a serial killer's post-arrest interview, which smack a bit of trying too hard. Thus, I'm giving the nod to Leviathan and Massive Conspiracy Against All Human Life. MCAAHL was the second Leviathan release I bought this year. A little while before I got a compilation of his earlier work called Verrater that I quite enjoy, but Massive is undoubtedly a step above.

9. Soul Messengers, Soul Messages From Dimona. Numero probably deserves a collective award for its compilations, which are among the best value in music going on. You're almost certain to have never heard any of the tunes, let alone the performers on them, and the vast majority of it falls with good and excellent, provided you like soul or powerpop, which I do. It's not all top-notch ... I was a bit underwhelmed by the Young Disciples release, despite the inspirational story of redemption through music in East St. Louis. Then there's amazing offerings like Soul Message from Dimona (funky soul by Black Jewish emigrants to Israel), the midwest powerpop of Titan: It's All Pop! or the long-lost soundtrack to the never-made Brotherman movie. The re-issuers seem to be keen on power-pop right now - I also picked up the Milk-n-Cookies double LP and it's swell too. Neil Young's reissue series also seems to be proceeding apace. Sugar Mountain: Live At Canterbury House 1968 is a charming document of where Young was at just after the breakup of Buffalo Springfield, and the between-songs chit-chat is almost as good as the music. As far as seminal rereleases go, it would be hard to beat Steinski: What Does It All Mean? Retrospective 1983-2006, even if you're not a huge hip-hop fan.

10. Muffler Crunch, Arc. On the local scene there were a bunch of sell releases, but the one that really stood out for me was Muffler Crunch's Arc. It's both a good representation of their overdriven live show and an opportunity to hear all the things in their music that sometimes get lost when they turn everything up to 13. I'm also enjoying The White Wire's Girly Girly Girly, and am just hours away from posting photos from their album release set at the New Bayou (they're also playing up in Wakefield real soon). From Guelph M. Mucci produces a high calibre of Takoma influenced solo guitar. His Under The Tulip Tree is well worth picking up for Fahey fans (he's playing a show at the Avant Garde in the not-too-distant future, as well).

I also did a year end list for Pennyblack Music, in which I only included new stuff that I didn't review for the site, and a list for Birdman Sound, in which I included just about everything except the kitchen sink (and even then, I added a few more after shipping it off). Here it for those of you who don't feel like clicking over.

New stuff:
  • Trevor Alguire, 30 Year Run (self-released)
  • Aidan Baker and Tim Hecker, Fantasma Parastasie (Alien8)
  • Chris Bathgate, A Cork Tale Wake (Tangled Up)
  • Beach House, Devotion (Car Park)
  • Black Mountain, In the Future (Jagjaguwar)
  • Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)
  • Boris, Smile (Southern Lord)
  • Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan, Sunday At Devil Dirt (Fontana)
  • Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!! (Mute)
  • Chesterfield Kings, Psychedelic Sunrise (Wicked Cool)
  • Cloudland Canyon, Lie In Light (Kranky)
  • Crystal Antlers, Crystal Antlers (Touch and Go)
  • Deerhunter, Microcastle/Weird Era Continued (Kranky)
  • Dr. Dog, Fate (Park the Van)
  • Drive-By Truckers, Brighter Than Creation's Dark (New West)
  • Dungen, 4 (Kemado)
  • Earthless, Live At Roadburn (Tee Pee)
  • Endless Boogie, Focus Level (No Quarter)
  • Evangelista, Hello Traveller (Constellation)
  • Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes/Sun Giant EP (Sub Pop)
  • Fucked Up, The Chemistry of Common Life (Matador)
  • Geisha, Die Verbrechen der Liebe (Crucial Blast)
  • Gnaw Their Tongues, Epiphanic Vomiting of Blood (Crucial Blast)
  • Gutter Twins, Saturnalia (Sub Pop)
  • Harvey Milk, Life...The Best Game in Town (Hydra Head)
  • Hellacopters, Head Off (Wild Kingdom)
  • Krallice, Krallice (Profound Lore)
  • Sharron Kraus, Meg Baird & Helena Espvall, Leaves From Off The Tree (Bo'Weavil)
  • Land of Talk, Some Are Lakes (Secret City)
  • Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue (Warner Bros.)
  • Leviathan, Massive Conspiracy Against All Human Life (Moribund)
  • The Linus Pauling Quartet, All Things Are Light (Camera Obscura)
  • Moss, Sub Templum (Rise Above)
  • M. Mucci, Under The Tulip Tree (Tall House Recording Co.)
  • Muffler Crunch, Arc (Last Drag)
  • Nachtmystium, Assassins - Black Meddle Part I (Century Media)
  • Jennifer O'Connor, Here With Me (Matador)
  • Pentemple, Sunno))) Presents (Southern Lord)
  • Jay Reatard, Matador Singles ’08 (Matador)
  • Relief Maps, Graveyard Smash (self-released)
  • RTX, JJ Got Live RaTX (Drag City)
  • Shanker & Romps, Sing For Your Summer (self-released)
  • Shearwater, Rook (Matador)
  • Sic Alps, A Long Way Around to a Shortcut (Animal Disguise)
  • Snailhouse, Lies On The Prize (Unfamiliar)
  • The Society of Imaginary Friends, Sadness Is a Bridge to Love (Soifmusic)
  • Sloan, Parallel Play (Yep Roc)
  • The Starlite Desperation, Take It Personally (Infrasonic)
  • Kelley Stoltz, Circular Sounds (Sub Pop)
  • Sunno))), Domkirke (Southern Lord)
  • Torche, Meanderthal (Hydra Head)
  • Vetiver, Thing of the Past (Gnomonsong)
  • Kurt Vile, Constant Hitmaker (Gulcher)
  • Martha Wainright, I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too (Zoe)
  • The Walkmen, You & Me (Gigantic)
  • White Wires, Girly Girly Girly (Gaga Records)
  • Big Dipper, Supercluster (Merge)
  • Jim Ford, Point of No Return (Bear Family)
  • Robyn Hitchcock, Luminous Groove (Yep Roc)
  • Bettye Lavette, Tell Me A Lie (Universal)
  • Nick Lowe, Jesus of Cool (Yep Roc)
  • Milk'n'Cookie, Milk'n'Cookies (Radio Heartbeat)
  • Linda Perhacs, Parallelograms (Sunbeam)
  • The Philisteins, A Savage Affection (Off The Hip)
  • Raven, Back to Ohio Blues (Owl Recording Studios)
  • Rodriguez, Cold Fact (Light In the Attic)
  • Soggy, Soggy (Memoire Neuve)
  • Soul Messengers, Soul Messages From Dimona (Numero)
  • Steinski, What Does It All Mean? Retrospective 1983-2006 (Illegal Art)
  • Meic Stevens, Gwymon (Sunbeam)
  • Various Artists, Titan: It's All Pop! (Numero)
  • Sir Victor Uwaifo, Guitar-Boy Superstar, 1970-76 (Soundway)
  • Neil Young, Sugar Mountain: Live At Canterbury House 1968 (Reprise)
  • VSS, Nervous Circuits (Hydra Head)
Then I ate a whole pie in one bite.

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