Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The 2009 Longlist Pt. 1 - Missed It By That Much

So after an intense period of re-listening to the longlist and poring over tea leaves, I've finally compiled my Top 20 Albums of 2009, which will be revealed in the fifth annual New Year's Eve special on UMFM (101.5 FM in Winnipeg or streaming live at UMFM.com). That show - which will also feature my Top 20 songs and the selections of co-host and UMFM Station Manager Jared McKetiak should start around 4pm on the 31st and run right up to the big apple plummet in NYC. And if you miss it on the 31st, we'll be rebroadcasting it during the day on the 1st.

I will be posting my Top 20 selections here AFTER January 1st, but as I did last year, I'm going to take some time to run through the worthy contenders that made my longlist for consideration. All told, the longlist ran sixty-nine entries long - meaning after subtracting my Top 20 there were forty-nine 'also-ran's.' I'm going to break the list up into four batches and while the three after this are bundled in no particular order, this first group of twelve albums are the ones that were in very serious consideration for the Top 20, narrowly missing inclusion. They're the records I debated over and their omission weighs heaviest.

Here we go:

Russian Circles - Geneva (Suicide Squeeze)
This one weighed especially heavy on me (no pun intended). Station was my #1 album of 2008 and Geneva was a strong follow-up. I was surprised by how quickly the band put this together after officially adding Brian Cook as bassist and an intense touring schedule for Station, but Geneva didn't sound hurried and was a natural progression for the band. They even incorporated strings into some of the songs that avoided sounding pretentious or superfluous. No small feat.

Dog Day - Concentration (Outside)
This gender-balanced four-piece from Halifax made one of the best straight-up ROCK records of 2009 with Concentration. I've already blogged this album at length, so I'd just encourage you to read my previous entry (and go pick up a copy of the Elder Schoolhouse 12-inch that came out recently).

Tiny Vipers - Life On Earth (Sub Pop)
Here's another one I blogged about earlier in the year (and no, inclusion on Ear To The Sound doesn't necessarily mean inclusion on my longlist...). This was a quiet and unassuming record that stuck with me.

Throw Me The Statue - Creaturesque (Secretly Canadian)
I literally put this one in the Top 20, then pulled it. Twice. I re-listened to Creaturesque more than any other record while compiling my list and think it's a flat out great record, but I still bumped it. In my review of the record for Stylus, I noted that "it doesn’t happen too often, but when it does I can’t help but be impressed. Seattle’s Throw Me The Statue have followed up 2008’s Moonbeams – one of my Top 20 of last year – with an album that has quickly established itself as a contender for this year as well."
I'm still impressed.

Sleep Whale - Houseboat (Western Vinyl)
I wrote about Sleep Whale's Little Brite EP, but of course, it being an EP it was excluded from consideration. Since the release of that EP, the band released a full-length on Western Vinyl that built nicely on the promise and ideas of Little Brite. I think this one was the wife's favourite from the nearly-made-its.

Lightning Dust - Infinite Light (Jagjaguwar)
Amber Webber and Joshua Wells started Lightning Dust as a side-project to chart different musical waters from Black Mountain. While I LOVE me some Black Mountain, the pair could stick to Lightning Dust at this point and I'd be pretty content. Infinite Light was a big step forward from their self-titled debut and a thoroughly captivating listen.

Nomo - Invisible Cities (Ubiquity)
Apparently 2009 was not a good year to release a follow-up to one of my favourite records of 2008. Nomo's Ghost Rock was my #2 record last year and McKetiak was pretty surprised to hear Invisible Cities didn't make the 2009 cut. It was a strong follow-up, but I felt it didn't quite measure up to the prior record in terms of energy or experimentation.

The Lytics - The Lytics (Pipe and Hat)
This was one of the most joyous records of the year and having seen the group perform live, I know they've managed to capture the energy and sound of their live show on their self-title debut. This is the type of positivity-oriented hip-hop that takes me back to the days of the Native Tongues and one of my favourite records of all time: 3 Feet High & Rising. Listen for a cut from this record in my Top 20 songs on the 31st.

Quiet Nights Orchestra - Chapter One (Do Right!)
The tagline for the QNO's website on Google says "New Swedish Jazz with Classic Elements" and that aptly summarizes the sound, but not the scope of Chapter One. While it was released on Toronto's Do Right! label, it could just as easily have found a home at imprints as diverse as Compost or Verve.

Letting Up Despite Great Faults - Letting Up Despite Great Faults (New Words)
Here's another record that made a contribution to my Top 20 Songs of 2009. The band name suggests a particularly emo sound, but this LA group make indie-electro that borrows from shoegaze and crests and troughs like the waves near Malibu.

Ohbijou - Beacons (Last Gang)
Here's a group that won me over with their live performance. Thinking about their show had me re-exploring the little treasures on offer on Beacons. And then the group did a little cover of Wham's "Last Christmas" that endeared them even further to me over the holidays. But those factors weren't quite enough to push them into the Top 20.

Jay Reatard - Watch Me Fall (Matador)
Here's a guy who showed up on a LOT of lists last year with Singles 06-07, but since that was a compilation it didn't meet my criteria. Watch Me Fall isn't quite as strong as that comp, but it's still a heck of an album (and I'm of the opinion it's more difficult to assemble a front-to-back album than a collection of singles).

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