Although you would never know it from my sparse posting over the last twelve months, I have been listening to an awful lot of music this year. Reading a few of the year-end lists this month, I realized that today's tastemaking hipsters have very little to offer me. I listen to NPR for the information, not the bumper music, ya know? Case in point - if I see Merriweather Post Pavillion top one more list I am going to poke my ears out with some sung tongs. (Full disclosure - I do think "My Girls" is a really great song).
For me, the golden age of new music was approximately 1988-1998. And I'm talking multiple genres here - metal, hip hop, and of course the various shades of indie that I favor nowadays. Maybe that is my problem. Maybe it happens to every obsessive music fan. At some point, I started longing for The Way It Used To Be. I became that boorish asshole who insists that most seemingly new ideas in rock music were being done better while you [20-something hipsters] were still listening to Raffi.
And so, in some respects, 2009 was a great year for me. It was satisfying to see long-overdue redemption come for The Jesus Lizard and Merge Records. But this wasn't just the year of the aging hipster. There are a lot of kids out there making music The Way It Used To Be. Bob Pollard's myriad 2009 projects sound like Steely Dan compared to the droves of overmodulated, 4-track low-fi RAWK that came out this year.
I won't even try ranking. Grouping is difficult enough. Links for official, free downloads might come later as time permits. (Did I mention I have a job which requires lots of travel, plus two preschool daughters - one of them an 8-week old baby?)
The Bakers' Dozen, in alphabetical order:
Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
It would figure that my top list would start with one of the reborn maestros from my Golden Age. This is a great rock record in any year as far as I am concerned.
Floating Action - Floating Action / Floating Version EP
I found this one thanks to the awesomely reliable Ongabuka blog. There has been a lot of awesomely shitty "beach rock" the last few years. (e.g. Vampire Weekend has nothing to do with either vampires or weekends). Floating Action changes the game. Rough around the edges, and very likely stoned. I make a lot of long distance drives for my job. This was a favorite pick for summertime highway driving after dark. Bonus - dub/remix EP came out in July.
Japandroids - Post Nothing
Lo-fi, yet heavy. Noisy, but melodic. Sloppy, yet perfectly executed.
Knot Feeder - Light Flares
Don Caballero rolls on - in name only perhaps, but still rolling. Ian Williams has become a minor sensation with Battles. Even original bassist Pat Morris found a new home with The Poison Arrows. But for many years it felt like Mike Banfield (the only founding Don Cab guitarist, for what its worth) disappeared completely. Or if you live in Pittsburgh like me, and bump into Mike every once in a blue moon, if seemed like he became content in his life without performing music. Thank goodness then that his new project Knot Feeder, with some equally talented guys ten or fifteen years younger than him, is out now. Instrumental rock with emotion, The Way It Used To Be.
Mos Def - The Ecstatic
A forty-five minute head nod, rooted in 1993 yet affected by modern touches... minus the crunk and Louis Vuitton of course.
Oneida - Rated O
I saw Oneida play one time in 2003, and like a junkie I've been chasing that dragon ever since. They finally came through this year. Hard rock, groove, and drone, just like I've always hoped they would do on record.
Patton Oswalt - My Weakness is Strong
OK, this is not music. So what. If you don't get it then you don't deserve the gift of laughter.
Ourself Beside Me - Ourself Beside Me
Three ladies sounding like a cross between Velvet Underground and either Shop Assistants or Close Lobsters. This would make complete sense if they were from Brooklyn. They actually live in Beijing, which is astounding. I mean, how did they even hear the records that surely must have inspired their music? Trust me though, I would still rank this in the top 13 even if they really were from Brooklyn.
Polvo - In Prism
In their original 90s incarnation this North Carolina band pulled off an exceptional melding of Sonic Youth dissonance, Beefheart herky jerk, Chicago-tight production and asian scales. Ten years after, add to that mix a top shelf RAWK drummer and a willingness to jam. This is their best album. I hope they keep going a la Mission of Burma.
Sonic Youth - The Eternal
Is it just me, are did Thurston and Kim sing together a lot more on this record than ever before? It works.
Tanya Morgan - Brooklynati
Native Tongues-style hip hop for the 21st century. From Cincinnati. Who knew?
Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures
Most people I know will only pay attention to this because Dave Grohl is on drums and John Paul Jones is on bass. Little do they know that Josh Homme has been on a roll the last few years. Queens of the Stone Age's Era Vulgaris is one of my favorite rock records ever, and the last couple Desert Sessions records pressed a lot of the right buttons for me, too. To my biased ears this may be a supergroup rhythm section, but Homme makes it a worthwhile listen.
Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy
I accept the fact that lo-fi has become a stylistic choice rather than a fiscal necessity. I acknowledge that 2009 overflowed with high quality digital releases (allegedly) created with four track tape recorders. Neverthess, this record stands out.
Amen Dunes - Dia
Cave - Psychic Psummer
The Curious Mystery - Rotting Slowly
DOOM - Born Like This
Double Dagger - More
Eat Skull - Wild and Inside
Flaming Lips - Embryonic
The Fresh and Onlys - The Fresh and Onlys
Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another
Hole Class - Hole Class
The Mint Chicks -Screens
Motorpsycho - Child of the Future
Nisennenmondai - Destination Tokyo
NOMO - Invisible Cities
Obits - I Blame You
Pterodactyl - Worldwild
Ty Segal - Lemons
Sholi - Sholi
Superchunk - Leaves in the Gutter EP/Crossed Wires 7"
The Thermals - Now We Can See
Wale & 9th Wonder - Back to the Feature mixtape
Akron/Family - Set 'em Wild, Set 'em Free
Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue
Black Crowes - Before The Frost / Until the Freeze
Blank Dogs - Under and Under
Cheater Slicks - Bats in the Dead Trees
The Clean - Mr. Pop
dälek - Gutter Tactics
Deleted Scenes - Birdseed Shirt
Deerhunter - Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP
The G - Hold My Gold 12"
Gangligans - Monster Head Room
Intelligence - Fake Surfers / Crepuscule with Pacman
Jay Reatard - Watch Me Fall
LSD March - Under Milk Wood
Odd Nosdam - T.I.M.E. Soundtrack
Selfish Cunt - English Chamber Music
That Fucking Tank - Tankology