BEST OF 2009

So, I took my time.  I like waiting until the year is actually complete before naming the best it offered.  This was worth it, as a few of these entries didn’t make it until the waning days of December.  So, here goes.

BEST OF 2009

*as of january 2010

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

I don’t ascribe to revisionist history.  You probably went ape shit for this album in January but diss it now that your kid brother likes it.  Merriweather Post Pavilion is simply a flat-out fantastic psychedelic pop album.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Sometimes, that’s perfection enough.

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Bullion – Young Heartache

Incredibly innovative instrumental hiphop (although that term is sorely lacking here).  This is the first dj-based music I’ve heard since The Avalanches‘ seminal Since I Left You to render even a remotely similar feeling.  Both blushingly romantic and heady as all get out, it’s got more blood pumping in its veins than a hundred ‘real instrument’ based albums.  Pair it with his Get Familiar + Rude Effort single and you’ve got the sweetest half hour of 2009.

[Posted HERE in April]

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The Field – Yesterday and Today

Minimal techno blossoming into something altogether more wide-reaching and accessible, expanding the definition of what Kompakt records invokes. Touches of Boredoms‘ tribal transcendence, hypnotic but playful trippiness, and unabashed pop overtones ooze from this album’s pores.  You won’t find an easier ‘in’ to techno anywhere else.

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Fox Bat Strategy – Fox Bat Strategy

A decade+ old recording by the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me house band led by the late Dave Jaurequi, curated and released by David Lynch himself. Think everything Lynchian: 50’s pop, piles of reverb, spooky atmospherics, sweet / menacing lyrics, and a creaky, lived in demeanor that helps define this as utterly timeless.  1959, 2009, or 2059, these songs live in your dreams.

[Posted HERE in August]

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Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

Tribal noise drone dance trance whatever you want to call it.  This is deeply affecting, gravitationally heavy dance music for a caveman rave or an asteroid collision.  The most tangible elements of the past locked into a technicolor display of modern virtuosity.  Hypnotizing.  Captivating.  Adrenalizing?

[Posted HERE in September]

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Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band – Between My Head and the Sky

A longtime hero of the art world returns with one of, if not the best album in her career, with a little help from her friends.  Think John Lennon’s post-Beatles experiments, psyched up kraut grooves straight out of Cologne in the 70s, New York post-punk, no-wave, disco-not-disco, and the most singular and influencial voice in recent history rolled into an adventurous lifetime-spanning collection of music with an energy that puts folks half her age to shame.

[Posted HERE in October]

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The Flaming Lips – Embryonic

Don’t call it a return or comeback: this may be the Lips reclaiming their raucous early days as far as shaggy noise goes, but the album is both more experimental and more mature and accomplished than anything they’ve yet unleashed. Harkening back to the ragged psychedelic roots of their sound, using that as a base to jump through everything from their mid-90’s carnival extravaganzas to the string-laden height of their musical growth (Zaireeka / Soft Bulletin), they’ve managed to round up every loose end possible while leaving a whole raft of new threads hanging, ready to pull out towards the future. Nothing in years has sounded this HUGE.

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A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Ashes Grammar

Leapfrogging over their 2007 debut by miles, this Philly group synthesizes everything interesting they were known for (shoegaze sheen, noisey feedback twisting, wobbly synth lines and dreampop vocals) and spills forth this continuous dream of blasted pop tunes bubbling from post rock structures (or lack thereof) into the most narcotically unified, dizzying rollercoaster of an album this year.

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White Rainbow – New Clouds

Everything you know about dream music is laid out, multiplied, and promptly steamrolled by this masterpiece.  More than perhaps any LP in 2009, this one defines the year for me.  So-called hypnagogic pop has nothing on the truly woozy mind-melting 4 tracks contained here.  The review I wrote last fall sums it up succinctly.  Basically, this is bliss on record.  ‘Clouds’ don’t even begin to conjure the effervescent joy White Rainbow rides here.  Put it on low volume to set sail for dreamland, or crank it up to shake your house apart in a sun-worshipping frenzy.

[Posted HERE in October]

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Shackleton – Three EPs

Hearing about both the continued vitality and impending death of dubstep all year, it’s easy to understand folks stepping back and ignoring the whole galaxy while the dust settles, content to pick up whatever pieces are left after the fact.  Well fuck that laziness.  Shackleton has done more to stretch the boundaries of the genre, incorporating nearly every active subgenre of electronic music in vogue this decade into a cavernously dubbed out sculpture of forward thinking chill out music.  Play it to anyone thinking there’s nothing new under the sun and watch the grins slowly creep up.  Weed optional.

[Posted HERE in November]

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Dam-Funk – Toeachizown

Funk, through and through.  This is the most futuristic album made with old school instruments all year, if not the entire “aughts” decade.  Dam-Funk has crafted such a deeply singular body of work here that it demands attention from anyone nearing orbit with the massive (2CD, 5LP!) thing.  Despite standing far outside any of the trendy genres 2009 coughed up, this album stands head and shoulders above anything your favorite blog went apeshit over – and because of this it will most likely be far more fondly recalled when the time comes to look back on these days.  Get it now to hear what I mean.  Or go back to your ‘chillwave’ acts which you’ll be inevitably shitting on in a year’s time.

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Oneohtrix Point Never – Rifts

This one snuck up on me at the last second; in fact I’d only heard a track or two before the official end of 2009.  Luckily I have the common decency to wait until the year is actually complete before sharing the best of it (ahem, every music magazine in existence) so a gorgeous bombshell of alien earworm fantasy like this can get the recognition it’s due.  A 2CD set collection the band’s 3 LPs and various rarities, Rifts takes me on a trip through a wormhole filled with the best 80’s soundtracks (think Thief, Blade Runner, Legend, etc etc etc) and minimalism/drone epics of the modern era, mixed through a lense orbiting Terry Riley, Ashra, Emeralds, and anyone else flitting through your mind while reading this.  Although arriving at the tail end of the year (for me), this one colors the past 365 days as deeply as anything else on the list.

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The Best of the Rest

These albums may not have made the exhalted short list, but they’re all VERY worthy pieces of sound from 2009.

ROVO – Nuou

Dr. Who Dat? – Beyond 2morrow

Boredoms – Super Roots 10

Dan Deacon – Bromst

The Durutti Column – Love in the Time of Recession

Hudson Mohawke – Polyfolk Dance

Coconot – Cosa Astral

Peter Bjorn and John – Living Thing

Shogun Kunitoki – Vinonaamakasio

Black Moth Super Rainbow – Eating Us

Lukid – Foma

Dorian Concept – When Planets Explode

Dusty Kid – A Raver’s Diary

Ras G & The Afrikan Space Program – Brotha From Anotha Planet

Fever Ray – Fever Ray

Burial & Four Tet – Moth / Wolf Cub

Prefuse 73 – Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian

Meanderthals – Desire Lines

Subway – Subway II

J Dilla – Jay Stay Paid

Paul White – The Dreams of Paul White

Moby – Wait For Me

Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue

Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas – II

Lunar Testing Lab – Seashore Blvd.

Ganglians – Monster Head Room

Yagya – Rigning

Tim Exile – Listening Tree

JJ – jj n° 2

Nosaj Thing – Drift

Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs

Martyn – Great Lengths

Harmonic 313 – When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence

The Very Best – Warm Heart of Africa

Flying Lotus – LA EP 3X3

Nudge – As Good As Gone

OOIOO – Armonico Hewa

The Antlers – Hospice

Oh No – Dr. No’s Ethiopium

Flight of the Conchords – I Told You I Was Freaky

Eliot Lipp – Peace Love Weed 3D

the Gaslamp Killer – My Troubled Mind EP

Universal Studios Florida – Ocean Sunbirds

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon

Tim Hecker – An Imaginary Country

Tyondai Braxton – Central Market

Teebs – Teeps 09 Mix

Memory Tapes – Seek Magic

Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2

Emeralds – Emeralds

DJ /rupture – Solar Life Raft

Dr. Strangeloop – Are We Lost Mammals of an Approaching Transcendental Epoch?

Boris – Japanese Heavy Rock Hits Vol. 3

Mos Def – The Ecstatic

Sweet Trip – You Will Never Know Why

5: Five Years of Hyperdub [2cd label compilation]

Animal Collective – Fall Be Kind EP

King Midas Sound – Waiting For You

Fontän – Winterhwila

Sun Araw – Heavy Deeds

The-Dream – Love vs Money

Mount Eerie – Wind’s Poem

Black to Comm – Alphabet 1968

Buddy Peace – Late Model Sedan

Grackle – Desert Acid EP

Suishou No Fune – Phantom of the Eternal Night

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NOT FROM 2009:

Cannibal Ox – The Cold Vein

Shogun Kunitoki – Tasankokaiku

Dimlite – This Is Embracing

Steve Reich – Music For 18 Musicians

A.R. Rahman – Dil Se

Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin

Caural – Mirrors for Eyes

Santo & Johnny – Santo & Johnny

Pharoah Sanders – Karma

Omar Khorshid – Rhythms of the Orient

Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul

Dif Juz – Soundpool

John Cale & Terry Riley – Church of Anthrax

Alice Coltrane – Transcendence

Boris – Flood

Bill Fay – Bill Fay

23 Skidoo – Seven Songs

Suishou No Fune – Prayer For Chibi

the Gaslamp Killer – I Spit On Your Grave

Z-Rock Hawaii – Z-Rock Hawaii

Adventure Time – Dreams of Water Themes

Manuel Göttsching – E2-E4

Machine Drum – Urban Biology

Blue Sky Black Death – Late Night Cinema

Bows – Cassidy

Les Rallizes Dénudés in general

Have a Nice Life – Deathconsciousness

Tetsu Inoue – Ambient Otaku

William Basinski – El Camino Real

…and there are dozens more from outside 2009 which simply aren’t popping into my consciousness at the moment.  As I recall them, I just may add to this list.

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Thank you all for reading.  2009 was the first year here and it was a spectacular year.  Here’s hoping for at least a few more!

About David James

I try to do good in life. I strive to help others. My drive is to open minds, and make someone feel better. Sharing art aids in achieving this. Writing is what I do. Music is my passion.

Posted on January 27, 2010, in Music and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Polyfolk Dance EP! but no Butter.. :(

    I’d add:

    1000 Names – Toys Room Combat
    Rustie – Bad Science EP
    Mary Anne Hobbs – Wild Angels
    Harmonic 313 – When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence

    and Ben Frost – By The Throat

    also… no love for Dr. Who Dat?

    love the blog, love the music, keep it up!

  2. OH! and Lukid – Foma

    • optimistic_tour

      Thanks, I totally neglected Harmonic 313 and Lukid and Who Dat! List corrected.

      As for Ben Frost, I didn’t discover him until well into January so He shouldn’t really count; those others you listed I haven’t yet heard, so I’ll be sure to check them out now!

  3. Great list, great blog… looking forward to more in 2010!

  4. Dig the list, and the blog.

  5. It was a great year, because you and I both met the love of our lives. I love the term “alien earworm” :)
    You’re amazing.

    Love you

    • optimistic_tour

      Thank you darling. You’re incredible, always. I’m glad you dig that term, I often wonder what you’ll think of certain phrases I spill out :] I love you.

  6. Honestly, one of the best 2009 lists I’ve seen. Obviously, I’m biased because you put three of the same albums on your short-list as I did (The Field, Shackleton and A Sunny Day in Glasgow).

    About Ben Frost: from what I heard of that album, it got far too close to corny horror film music. I think you’ll like his previous album Theory of Machines a lot more.

    • optimistic_tour

      Thank you! I should certainly say the same about yours (and I think I have on your blog!) even aside from the common albums – you did a thorough job.

      As for that By The Throat album… I don’t really hear the corny horror music, but definitely can tell it’s somewhat in the neighborhood. Maybe it’s more like The Shining score to me? I need more listens. And yeah, I was told by nearly everyone that Theory of Machines is better so I got that and listened first, actually. Maybe I won’t think so much lesser of the new one, having discovered them at the same time?

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