Top 10 albums of 2009

December 11, 2009 at 5:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Once again, I am excited to share my list of my favorite albums that I enjoyed this year.  It was hard to whittle this down to the list we have here, but I hope that some of you might enjoy some of these on your gramaphones at home.  I do intend to listen to other people’s lists to generate a “follow up” list as well as a list of singles I loved during 2009 which are not here.

So let’s get started…

Sleigh Bells – 2HELLWU CD-R
I will confess right now that you cannot walk into your record shop and buy this today but I had to list this anyway.  This is a release that Sleigh Bells released over the tubes of the electric internets earlier this year and although this is more of a “demo”, I cannot stop listening to it.  I love the crunching rhythms and edgy guitars.  The vocals from Alexis Krauss are a welcome mix somewhere between the innocence of the 50’s and rawness of modern day hip hop.  The guitars are mean and creative while the beat production makes me want to shake my culo.  By the time you read this I will probably have already bought a convertible in which I can properly listen to “Ring Ring”.  It’s the most perfect sunny day hip hop \ rock song that needs the top down to be appreciated.  Even if it’s below zero here in SLC, I still think I’ve gotta have this convertible as soon as possible.

Dethklok – Dethalbum II
I was disappointed when I attended a DETHKLOK concert earlier this year that was not brutally killed in some grisly, hilarious and completely metal fashion.  While I did take a serious beating “in the bit” by a bunch of doods more brutal than myself, I survived and lived to tell the tale of witnessing in the flesh the greatest people (and metal band) on God’s Green Earth Satan’s Dark Earth.  After meeting Brendan Small earlier this year at NAMM I remarked that he is serious about what he does and his performance with Dethklok was no exception.  Brendan was no comedian and made no apologies for punishing and pummeling us with the greatest metal ever forged.  Musically I submit that DETHKLOK are hitting their stride and that by 2012 (coincidence???) they will have already achieved global domination.  Do yourself a favor and listen to “Black Fire Upon Us”.  As loud as you can.  Buy new speakers Marshall stacks if it doesn’t go loud enough.

Screaming Females – Power Move
Christmas came early this year when I heard the opening track “Bell” from this record.  Less than two measures has been emitted from the car speakers when I yelped and asked “Who is this?!?!?!”  Instantly I was hooked with the fuzzed-out guitars, machine gun drumming and voice-on-fire sound of the Screaming Females.  After listening to the first track (and shaking my fists like a hyperactive child… something I mentioned on a recent podcast I’ve been doing with Jared) I found that the album continued to be what I needed to listen to but didn’t know until it entered my ears.  It sounds as if some of the best parts of Black Sabbath and Sleater-Kinney heard my unspoken wishes and re-formed into these 2 males and one screaming female.  Sometimes I get sad when bands like Sleater-Kinney are no longer making music, but it’s artists like Screaming Females that make me smile again knowing that there is an army of newcomers to continue carrying the torch.

Malajube – Labyrinthes
A quote has crossed my mind more than a few times over the last year.  That quote was one that I read in Entertainment Weekly back in 1992.  That quote read “if Primus could write a hit ballad they would rule the world”.  Certainly that quote is not true.  Primus sucks.  However, I have adapted this quote to Malajube thinking “If Malajube sang in English they would rule the world”.  I think it’s possible.  Tracks like “Porté disparu” lead me to believe that the statement above might be true.  I love the instrumentation on this record and I defy guitar players out there to come up with voicings as interesting as those we hear from Julien Mineau.  If you find yourself wondering what the lyrical might hold in store for a francophone, I have translated the best song on the record right here on this site.

The Dead Weather – Horehound
I am usually skeptical of “supergroups” since it often seems that who receive this label exhibit a loss of chemistry that made each member’s former group so great.  This is not the case at all with The Dead Weather.  I love the chemistry between Jack White and (be still my heart) Allison Mosshart.  This album drips with sexual tension and musicianship.  If you read my top 10 list for 2009 you already know how highly I think of Allison Mosshart.  This year I gained a new appreciation for Jack White.  Part of this was attributed to the album we are currently speaking of.  For example, check out “I Cut Like a Buffalo” which I think might be the most interesting invention I’ve heard this year in terms of genres. Another part of my appreciation for Mr. White is due to the documentary “It Might Get Loud“.  This film convinced me that Jack White truly is one of the hardest working people in music and he was recast in my eyes as a fully inspiring musician.  His comments and philosophies in the film made me run home and pick up my guitar for the first in a long time.  Chapeau, Mr. White.  Chapeau…

Fever Ray – Fever Ray
It took me a long time to get into The Knife after reading the acclaim of their 2006 album “Silent Shout”.  I just didn’t get it.  I listened to it a few times and then dismissed it.  3 years later I have become a fan of The Knife and consequently this side project from Karin Dreijer.  While I initially was turned off by the frozen aural landscape of The Knife, over time I developed a love of the musical ideas they were crafting.  While the outer layer may appear cold there is a core of passionate warmth and rhythms which invoke an island-like atmosphere.  I have fallen in love with Karin’s voice and the wide array of textures used on this record.

Flaming Lips – Embryonic
Remember last year how I reviewed the Flaming Lips soundtrack for Christmas on Mars waving as a banner for a return to form?  Even I did not expect the magnitude of this return to form.  This album is particularly interesting because on one hand when I hear it, it sounds so new and different that it does not sound the Flaming Lips.  On the other hand however, this is a drugged out exploration in the vein of the early Flaming Lips.  When I listen to this, I experience the same feelings and excitement as “In a Priest Driven Ambulance” (1990) and “Hit to Death in the Future Head” (1992).  Someone tell me.  Someone enlighten me.  Does anyone know how artists can sound so new and still recall to memory their recording history of 19 years ago?  I can’t think of any examples in recorded history like this.  My only explanation is that all current and past members of the Flaming Lips actually did arrive here on Earth from another planet where time travel is possible.  As is often with the case with my favorite Lips albums, they close the recording (two discs!!!) with an amazing track with “Watching the Planets” which is immediately added to the Flaming Lips canon.

Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
Was it really just last year that I listed Fuck Buttons as my #1 album of the year.  Yes sir it was.  I asked myself a question last week as I was gearing up to write my top 10 list of 2009.  Did my #1 choice hold up?  Do I still think that “Street Horrrsing” was the best album of 2009?  Absolutely.  Here we stand exactly one year later and these two gentlemen have once again constructed a recording which excites my imagination and in my opinion signals the “arrival” of noise music as a genre.  As a band they are still recognizable but this disc does cover new musical territory.  Other than the opening track on “Street Horrrsing”, I think that all the music on this album surpasses the former.

Pelican – What We All Come To Need
I was not a huge fan of Pelican’s 2007 release “City of Echoes” since it was a departure from heavy interesting song forms in favor of a trajectory towards being a heavier and less interesting of the Cure or U2.  This year’s release finds itself more in the middle of their earlier work and this 2007 effort of being more accessible.  This may not appeal to all, but this record really appeals to me.  I recently had a good chuckle in reading a review on this record which panned it with this sentence : “Divest the Smashing Pumpkins or Hum of their singers, give the bands room to jam, and this album might have ensued.”  What?!?!?!  This is a bad thing?  I simply do not understand.  Though there are no vocals on this record, I fail to see how this diminishes its quality as a creative recording of huge guitars and interesting structure.


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Top albums of 2008 (that I learned about during 2009)

March 6, 2009 at 6:45 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

As I mentioned in my previous top 10 list of 2008, I love end of year lists to help me expand and also filter through my experience of the limitless amount of music there is out there to enjoy.  I spent time reading a lot of lists.  I learned about a lot of records I never heard about during 2008 proper.  I started digging like a small child and got lost in the wrapping paper.

So now that the wrapping paper has cleared, I got out a pick axe and pried open the large box labeled “2008”.  I poked my head inside to see what all stuck with me going through those lists.

Once again, there are links wherever possible so you can click away and start listening to this stuff at the speed of thought.  Also, since this is about finding things through other people’s lists, where I can recall I have given credit to who introduced me to the music.


Portugal.  The Man – Censored Colors

Introduced by : Carmen

This record to me is a continuation in the tradition of well-crafted songs from The Beatles.  There are a few tracks on here which are so well crafted and I believe have a universal appeal that they sound to me like a modern version of “Hey Jude” (check out “And I”).  So even though there is a substrate of The Beatles going on here, there is a lot of complexity to the music.  There are elements which are angular, disjointed, and fractured which remind me of Mars Volta.  There is a lot of soul and expression in these songs and it’s hard not to sing along with John Gourley on these tracks.


Everest – Ghost Notes

Introduced by : Taylor

A great enjoyable collection of classic songs which will draw comparisons to bands like Wilco and Calexico.  There is a lot of alt-country essence here and it’s a great record to listen to while driving.  There are also some spacy exploration in the latter half of the record as well but it’s not out of place.  I could recommend this record and the Portugal The Man record mentioned above to nearly anyone I know.


High Places – High Places

Introduced by : Carmen

This record is a great little surprise.  It took a few ambient listens before it grabbed me and I really started paying attention.  It is a beautiful formula of the beautiful voice of Mary Pearson, sweet melodies and the tribal percussion which dance around her.  Given this formula, one might guess that it could be similar in sound to School of Seven Bells which I had on my top 10 list for 2008, but the end result is very different.  I’m curious to see if this one grabs people right off the bat or if it takes a few listens like it did for me.


Russian Circles – Station

Introduced by : Corinne

Immediately upon listening to this I had an image pop into my head.  I just spent the last 20 minutes trying to find the image and I can’t.  If anyone can send it my way, they get a high five.  The image is a drawing from Igor Stravinsky in which he drew 2D figures which represented the music of several composers. Included are Bach, Schoenberg and others.  The figure her drew for Richard Wagner consisted of spirals.  This record from Russian Circles creates the same image and feeling as I listen to it.  Their instrumental heavy guitar driven forms are like a gigantic whirlpool.  It makes me wonder if Wagner would enjoy it.


Diplo and Santogold – Top Ranking

Introduced by : Matt at work??? Can’t remember???

I listened to this a lot in 2008 but for some reason I didn’t include it in my other top 10 list.  This record is a fun experience.  It travels all over through the spaces of Reggae, Dub, Hip Hop, Baile Funk and more.  There are a lot of tracks here so felt like I needed to fold down the corners of the MP3s as a crude bookmark.  For a few beginning bookmarks, I recommend these tracks : “Creator”, “Get It Up”, and “Light’s Out”.  (what?  Panda Bear mixed in here?  it works…)


The Black Angels – Directions To See A Ghost

Introduced by : Taylor

Dark, brooding, and full of swagger.  This record instantly reminds me of Darker My Love, Jesus and Mary Chain, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Velvet Underground all at once.  If you like any of these then go pick this up yesterday.  There are some incredible trips in this record which leave Earth’s atmosphere far behind.  My little roommate bunny Radar loves this record.  If it gets the approval of a selective and sometimes disapproving stoner bunny then it’s a pretty good pick.


Wow. WordPress seemed to censor this. It said "crunching..." for a bit and then the image never appeared. I threw it into MS-PAINT and then wordpress was happy. I guess it doesn't want me to post breasts???

Grails –  Doomsdayer’s Holiday

Introduced by : (thanks statistically-based recommendations!  you work!!!)

Way to go,  Another great record I did not know about without your help., I feel a bit embarrassed here.  You give me so much and I do little in return besides filling your servers with loads and loads of data about what I listen to.  Does that bother you?  Does it get heavy carrying all the music that I love?  I appreciate your hard work and especially your talent in recommending good music to me.  Thanks for giving me Grails.  This is great music.  Most people who read this probably will not like it, but I like it.  It’s loud and mean and, you know what I needed.  I will be sure to send you a Christmas ham this year.  I promise this time.

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Top 10 albums of 2008

December 18, 2008 at 4:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

I love this time of year.  One of the things I enjoy most about it is sharing music that I loved during the year and digging up records that other people enjoyed.  I would love to hear what other people listened to this year, so please let me know.

P.S. all these below have links where you can listen and\or read more about the musics.


#1 – Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing

I’ve already written a bit about this record here so I won’t say too much more.  Layers and layers of fuzz like blankets over your ears.  Beautiful melodies and textures assemble themselves as it feels like the ether around you is resonating and crackling.  This may not be for everybody, but I would recommend at least checking out one track.


#2 – Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna

A complete journey from one point to another while rarely re-treading over its own path.  The song forms on this record are free of traditional verse\chorus\verse structure.  Its pieces together music from the Middle East, Asia and various corners of the world into one meandering voice.


#3 – DJ /rupture – Uproot

Weaving together disparate musics from around the world, dj /rupture has created one of the most thoughtful and carefully created re-combinings of music I have ever heard.  From Moroccan hip hop to classical music to dubstep, they are all weaved back together with a very deliberate and cohesive alchemy.


#4 – Portishead – Third

Beyond the disbelief that this record finally came out is the disbelief that it’s actually good.  It’s more than good.  It’s one of the best records I have ever heard.  After 11 years they are back with a record which is a completely new exploration and a very enjoyable one.  Their commitment to reaching out to new musical space is nothing less than inspirational to me.


#5 – MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

Hands down among this list, this record is the one that I would recommend to almost anyone I know.  Maybe even my mom.  She would probably love “Electric Feel”.  Some of the spaciest, danciest pop I have ever heard and I still can’t get enough of it.  It’s sweet and catchy and still it lasts.  I’m looking forward to more from these guys.  Especially if they continue working with Dave Fridmann since they seem to be like a younger and catchier Flaming Lips.


#6 – Buraka Som Sistema – Black Diamond

If you want rhythm, then check out some of this music called by some “kuduro” (“hard ass” in Portugese).  Full of fresh rhythms that I had not previously imagined, it’s hard to describe without playing it.  So click.  Pull down shades.  Shake your hard ass around your living room.


#7 – Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts I – IV

Far and away this is the record I do not agree with music critics on this year.  Admittedly it is a collection of song ideas.  Fragments.  Nothing produced.  Nothing seen to completion.  However, there are moments in these recordings that I find to be extremely valuable.  Moments that made me feel something more than anything else I have listened to this year.  I didn’t expect Trent Reznor to remind me that I have a heart.  For examples of these, please see “Track 13” and “Track 22”.  The rest is left as an exercise to the listener.


#8 – The Kills – Midnight Boom

Pure guilty pleasure.  A great blend for tastes like mine since it combines atonal complicated musical ideas with instantly enjoyable pop.  Their most accessible record so far, it is sensual and well produced while still retaining its quality of being raw, and almost animal.  Those of you who were with me at the Monolith Festival at Red Rocks know that I was a bit impressed with Ms. Alison Mosshart as well.


#9 – Torche – Meanderthal

Is this really my only heavy guitar album on the list?  I’m afraid so.  Beyond being heavy, Torche are melodic and epic.  Some of these songs are so huge I think they could become anthems of small nations if they were to fall into the wrong hands.  Despite being “heavy” guitar driven rock, the music feels positive, almost uplifting at times.  I think I will go ahead and give this record the distinguished and highly sought after award of  “Kelly’s pump up record of the year”.


#10 – School Of Seven Bells – Alpinisms

Fell completely backwards into this record.  I had forgotten that the Secret Machines had changed their roster and I read that they had a new record.  I listened to it but it didn’t really sound like them.  Turns out that previous vocalist\guitarist Ben Curtis left and created this wonderfully ethereal record with a couple of young ladies.  Filled with lush, psychedelic layers, African rhythms and beautiful vocals, I would recommend this to anyone who loves My Bloody Valentine, M83, or Cocteau Twins.

Honorable Mentions


Marnie Stern – This Is It […] That Is That
Who would have known that such technical guitar playing could be so enjoyable?  If 2009-Kelly came to visit 2008-Kelly to tell him that one of his favorite records was full of two-handed guitar weedlemanship (weedlewomanship???) would he have believed 2009-Kelly?  Most likely not.


This Will Destroy You – This Will Destroy You

An album I was not expecting.   I was not expecting it to destroy me.  But it did.  A great record of “post-rock” which employs a bit of noise and glitch elements along with more guitar-driven instrumentals a la MONO, Explosions in the Sky, and Mogwai.  It turns out that good things can come out of Texas.


The Flaming Lips – Christmas on Mars (soundtrack)

One more to file away in the “I can’t believe this finally happened” category.  Along with new recordings from Portishead and Guns n Roses, I started to wonder if this movie and its soundtrack would ever see the light of day.  I love the Flaming Lips but was not too impressed with their last album.  It had a few moments, but overall I felt it was lacking.  This does not disappoint.  It is a soundtrack, so there’s nothing here to tap your foot to.  However, the compositions and soundscapes here are masterful.  It feels like there were some deliberate efforts on the behalf of Stephen Drozd to try new thematic methods in creating the score.  On the interviews on the DVD he talks about how we would write a melody and then re-write it so that the melody and rhythm changed places to invert back and forth on one another.  The sound\music of this film are definitely the highlight and after years of waiting and receiving Christmas cards from Wayne saying that the movie was “finally coming out that year” I’m glad that they took their time to do it right.

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