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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Malajube – Labyrinthes

March 5, 2009 at 6:44 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )


Malajube - Labyrinthes. Great music continues to come out of Montreal. Vive la belle province!

Over the last several weeks, I have been obsessing more than a bit over the album  from Montreal artists Malajube.  Their 2006 album Trompe-l’oeil was my favorite album of the year so I’ve been looking forward to their new release Labyrinthes.

This record is not quite as accessible as Trompe-l’oeil but has longer song forms with complicated, twisting elements.  Several of the songs deal with religion.  The province of Quebec is about 83% Catholic and Malajube do not seem to be big fans of organized religion.  When I lived in Montreal I met countless people who were not happy to see a church on their frozen horizon that was built from the money and effort of “saints” who they felt were manipulated into increasing the size of the empire.  The song I’m going to share is bien a propos.

Statue of St. Ursula (Ursule en francais)

Statue of St. Ursula (Ursule en francais)

Julien Mineau is the main chanteur of the group and comes from Ste-Ursule in Quebec.  It is from this saint (Ursula in english language) that we get the name of the track I’m going to share.  I, along with Julien, find the fascination in Quebec (and much of the Catholic world) with the saints to be strange.  The first half of the song is structured melodically almost like a hymn or a recitation of a prayer.  Then the chorus tears itself loose into a strong melodic line which delivers home Julien’s message of saints and religion.

Cold, cold Ste-Ursule.  This is one reason Im glad I dont live in Quebec anymore.

Cold, cold Ste-Ursule. This is one reason I'm glad I don't live in Quebec anymore.

This track is in French, but don’t be afraid.  Listen to it first and then down below you can read my English translation.  I have wanted to do more translation in 2009 and even though this is small, is it something.  At least I put to practice a bit of the great material on translation from Hofstadter’s Le Ton Beau de Marot.

Here’s the opening track “Ursuline”.  If you like it, please go buy the record.

Or follow this link to save it (don’t right-click):

Ursuline (en francais) :

Donne-moi la force d’affronter
Le mal et les sorts
Mon squelette et ma chair
Ensevelis sous la terre
J’ai souffert, tu souffriras
Ne laisse pas tomber les bras
Je serai toujours avec toi

Aucun homme, ni aucune religion
Ne viendront sous ma robe x2
Pour brûler en enfer

Ursuline (english)

Give me the strength to confront
Evil and the fates
My skeleton and my flesh
Buried under the ground
I have suffered, you will suffer
Don’t allow your arms to drop
I will always be with you

No man, nor any religion
Will come under my clothes x2
To burn in hell

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