Thursday, December 31, 2009

The 2009 Longlist Pt. 2 - In No Particular Order

By the time this is up, you'll be able to tune in to hear my Top 20 albums and songs on UMFM (the countdown starts at 5pm CST and will be rebroadcast New Year's Day at 10am CST).

The Western States - Bye And Bye (Dollartone)
Packing the van for Texas, this fantastic local band benefited from the warm sounds they were able to capture in Premium Recording Studios in Austin, but even more so from a growth in songwriting on their sophomore album. "Fictional Divide," "The Water Remembers My Face" and other songs draw comparisons to Gram Parsons' work because they sound like instant classics.

Andrew Bird - Noble Beast (Fat Possum)
I'll be honest, I wasn't particularly hot on Armchair Apocrypha. After the wonders of Mysterious Production..., that record felt flat to me. I was glad to find him regaining the deft touch at pop songcraft and employing his fantastic whistling sparingly on Noble Beast. If you're able to find it, the double-release with Useless Creatures is worth tracking down.

OK Giraffe - OK Giraffe (Independent)
I wrote about the charms of this little album a while back.

Morrissey - Years Of Refusal (Decca/Universal)
If it's a year where Morrissey is releasing an album of new material (and not one of those b-side horses he trots out occasionally) and the album doesn't completely suck, then it's automatically in consideration. Years of Refusal is a little uneven, but there are a few gems on here. It's no You Are The Quarry, but (mercifully) it's no Southpaw Grammar either.

Telefon Tel Aviv - Immolate Yourself (Bpitch Control)
This one is a bittersweet entry as it is likely the final release from this fantastic electronic duo. Just prior to the release of Immolate Yourself, group member Charles Cooper passed away quite suddenly. I don't know if Joshua Eustis
has any intention of carrying on as Telefon Tel Aviv, but if he chooses not too, this is a strong album to finish on.

The Whitest Boy Alive - Rules (Bubbles/Smalltown Supersound)
Look for Erlend Øye to show up in another musical venture later on, but for now it's his collaboration with a handful of Berlin-based musicians under the Whitest Boy Alive moniker. Rules is decidedly more dance-y than Dreams (coming off like Phoenix at times), but still has Øye's unmistakable vocals at the core.

Royksopp - Junior (Astralwerks)
Most years, this would have been my top electro-pop record as Norwegian duo Royksopp deliver their best record since their debut, Melody A.M.. The pair craft some memorable tunes and manage to evoke their older material without sounding dated.
Collaborating with the likes of Robyn doesn't hurt as her contribution to "The Girl and The Robot" made it one of my favourite singles of '09.
*Wait for the Top 20 to find out what my top electro-pop record was.*

Tim Hecker - An Imaginary Country (Kranky)
While comparisons have been made to the likes of Fennesz and Ulrich Schnauss, with An Imaginary Country, Montreal's Tim Hecker really came into his own in crafting ambient electronic music. From standout opener "100 Years Ago" it's quite clear that Hecker is forging his own sound - a peculiar mixture of ominous and uplifting tones.

Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens - What Have You Done, My Brother? (Daptone)
I wrote about Naomi Shelton on this here blog in a double-entry with Lee Fields & The Expressions. Expect to see Fields make a reappearance later on...

Bowerbirds - Upper Air (Dead Oceans)
Ah, Bowerbirds. If you had served notice with Upper Air and then released Hymns For A Dark Horse, it'd be a different story. Upper Air doesn't really 'slump' but it is clearly a sophomore effort that pales in comparison to their 2007 release. That record would likely have been a Top 5 choice this year, while Upper Air was just a contender.

Chairlift - Does You Inspire You (Kanine/Columbia)
I've got conflicted emotions about this record. I reviewed it for Stylus and quite liked the Brooklyn band's curious Kate Bush-ian lyrics ("Planet Health") and synth-pop. But then I heard "Bruises" in the change rooms at Old Navy. I'm not sure whether that says something about my musical tastes, or about Old Navy's music director. If it's the latter, that person deserves a raise.

Nestor Wynrush - Trinnipeg !78 (Clothes Horse Records)
I've already written about this record at length. What are you waiting for? Go pick up a copy at Music Trader!

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