Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009 Albums Index List and Podcasts

Original: 12/22/09 7:05AM

more edits or futher elaboration may follow (more on 2009 music-in-general..namely the disappointments..i.e. why certain records are no where in the top 50..Muse, BTBAM, etc).

100-51 (missing the cut)
Here We Go Magic Here We Go Magic
The Appleseed Cast Sagarmatha
Editors In This Light and on This Evening
The Color Turning - Good Hands Bad Blood
Amogh Symphony - Abolishing the Obsolete System
Devin Townsend - Addicted
Devin Townsend Ki
Gavin Castleton - Home
Paper Route - Absence
Shadow Gallery - Digital Ghosts
U2 - No Line on the Horizon
Microfilm - The Bay of Future Passed
God Help the Girl - God Help the Girl
St. Vincent - Actor
Archive - Controlling Crowds Part IV
Courtney Yasmineh - Beautiful Lonely
3 - Revisions
Transatlantic - The Whirlwind
BrainFreeze - Focus
Phideaux - Number Seven
Rx Bandits - Mandala
Modern Skirts - All of Us in Our Night
Operahouse - Escape From the Sun
Persefone - Shin-ken
OneRepublic - Waking Up
Other Lives - Other Lives
Pain of Salvation - Linoleum [EP]
August Burns Red - Constellations
Nile - Those Whom the Gods Detest
Job for a Cowboy - Ruination
Skidmore Fountain - Cloudless Blue
BLK JKS - After Robots
Vektor - Black Future
Hotel of the Laughing Tree - Old Dominion [EP]
The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
Imogen Heap - Ellipse
Behemoth - Evangelion
Marillion - Less Is More
Murder by Death - Finch
Between the Buried and Me - The Great Misdirect
Do Make Say Think - Other Truths
Headlights - Wildlife
Russian Circles - Geneva
From Monument to Masses -On Little Known Frequencies
Riverside - Anno Domini High Definition
Mastodon - Crack the Skye
Karnivool - Sound Awake
Muse - The Resistance
As Tall as Lions - You Can't Take It With You
Obscura - Cosmogenesis


50. The Arusha Accord - The Echo Verses

Debut album from this British experimental/progressive extreme Metalcore band. The SiKth meets Protest the Hero style does work pretty well for them. An expansion/or more-material of that ilk, that was apparent on their ep from 2008.

Some of the changing moods and times, guitar work (and tones) and vocal harmonies I think make this album work throughout. It's consistent, but not overwhelming. For a debut album, that is at a minimum quite promising.

49. The Swell Season - Strict Joy

my initial review:
"The Rain" "High Horses" and "I Have Loved You Wrong" are all excellent. The rest of it isn't really filler either. Classic-case of a record start-2-finish works, but a bunch of select cuts win the most. Similar to their debut album in that respect.

I would agree with those tracks standing out. However, I'm not as blown away by the rest of it to put it higher. It's one of those albums I really love and isolate said amazing tracks that have those wonderful, uplifting parts. And the rest may grow on me eventually, or just be worth hearing when I'm in a mood to hear them (preparing for a concert perhaps. or in their case, watching "Once" I suppose).

48. Baroness - Blue Record

A lot of styles incorporated into this record. The sludgey guitar riffs and bombastic drumming stands out especially. They added a great part to their style with the folky, acoustic interlude pieces. Very Pink Floyd-ish in a way.

47. The Mars Volta - Octahedron

The problems with their last couple of albums are more or less gone. Bad production (on the cymbal especially) and the long-winded, redundant sections of songs. Not that this is over the top or as “epic” as some of their best stuff, but it is successful at being less-is-more and exploring new styles. The last half of the album I think did for me. A pleasant surprise and somewhat of a comeback for a band who has too much talent to ignore.

46. Yeah Yeah Yeah's – It's Blitz

Karen O’s work with the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack forced me to re-check this band out. And while I can’t claim to be as attached to this or the YYY’s as that music, it certainly didn’t hurt. A bit like Amanda Palmer and The Dresden Dolls came more into my radar last year, I think Karen and her band have this year. Electronic, Post-Punk, New-Wave, female-vocal-ed, bombastic Art-Rock. A bunch of styles are explored here, but overall I think it’s the songwriting and melodies that work. And her voice. She has such a pretty voice sometimes.

45. Total Babe - Heatwave

The debut EP from this local-Minneapolis teenage band, who don’t sound as new as they are. They are another good example of less-is-more. Emotional, but subtle at the same time. But still not run-of-the-mill folky-pop. I guess there’s enough on here to give a lot of optimism for their future, other than the fact as young as they are, the chances of them of them having a long-term future are naturally uncertain. But at a minimum, the members of this band are one’s to watch as they grow as musicians and songwriters.

44. Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg

Energetic, riffy, layered, and still retro-sounding. Wolfmother surprised me and many I sense with this sophomore record of theirs. If on their debut they seemed to bring back the spirit of Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. On this album it’s Rush. They added more prog, and a bit more pomposity, but in a good way. Some of the prog scene raved about albums from Big Elf and Astra this year. Sorry, but these guys do that retro style better. They are more fun, more melodic, and more nostalgic sounding.

43. Lights on the Highway - Amanita Muscaria

The 2nd record from this Icelandic band who along with Dikta, make me think their country has more good music beyond Sigur Ros. I was rather impressed on how much I enjoyed this album. It definitely found the not-a-bad-song-on-it category. Layered-pop that seems to include a lot of different things I like. Piano, twangy guitars, recorder among other things.

42. Dream Theater - Black Clouds and Silver Linings

This was their highest charting record ever (#6 on Billboard it's 1st week). I honestly expected it to have some songs (or sections of songs) I like, and the predictable filler that pretty much every record they've done since Jordan Rudess joined them has had. More notice-ably since 2003's Train of Thought.

Well this album partially resulted in that, but I guess in revisiting it recently, some of the best moments are so good, that it seemed to score a bit higher than their other albums. "The Best of Times" and especially the much mocked "The Count of Tuscany" really are examples of Dream Theater's music working well. They both successfully hit the emotional button and I really can't find any of the band's frequently un-necessary habits existing in them. Even the rest of this record barely includes a lot of the plastic-synths and long-winded sections that are boring in their recent work. Their still isn't much piano unfortunately, and some of Portnoy's vocals don't really help the songs they're in; however I don't find their style nor length to be as repulsive as a lot of other fans.

I dunno, this may end up growing even more on me and be one of their best records yet. Not that I am thinking they have comeback to where they were in the 90's or even at the Six Degrees level, but it at least shows they may have a chance to return close to that level again. Especially if they focus on songwriting, creating strong, memorable melodies. Because when they do, they really can make some highly memorable music. And maybe the piano will return again as well.

41. The Boy Will Drown - Fetish

Really solid tech/death/grindcore of sorts. The folky acoustic interludes help. My only criticism might be they don't create much melody, but in this style, even if you don't, the exaggerated phrasing alleviates that desire.

40. Solstafir - Kold

Huge dynamics and even with a bit of stoner element that actually really works for me. The guitar and drums drown your ears in heavy, intense, pulsating sludge.

39. Graph - EP 2 (EP)

Oh man, I may owe my favorite blog again for introducing me to this band. Jazzy prog/punk? It's a bit low-fi, but frankly, it doesn't matter. There's a few sections that got my head turning, namely the song "The Wow! Signal."

38. Oceansize - Home and Minor (EP)

Moody, ambient, and mostly instrumental collection, but as different as it is, it still inherently sounds like Oceansize, which gives it value in itself.

37. Warpaint - Exquisite Corpse (EP)

Textural, dreamy female-driven rock group. This band is quite good, and this is the re-release their debut EP with an extra track. I'm not sure if any of the songs standout much over the others on this. I just find there music to have an enjoyable quality. Very seductive and mesmerizing at times. Girls can do that :p. And they were all very nice and kind to me (hugs :P) seeing them live. Their debut full-length is expected to be released in Spring. It's certainly pretty high on my anticipation list.

36. 100Ft Snowman - Juggling Knives (EP)

Very mature songwriting quality on this their 2nd ep, and sadly possibly last release. They really have it all, melodies, chops, personal lyrics, textures. Just not a record contract.

35. Brooke Waggoner - Go Easy Little Doves

Whoa Brooke! Where did this bloody gorgeous work come from? I recall enjoying her live with the string section back in April opening for Paper Route; but not this much! The production and orchestral arrangements are exceptional on this!

Fuck, this could be one of the most overlooked/under-the-radar records of the year.

34. Scott Matthews - Elsewhere

The Jeff Buckley comparisons are barely here if at all. The songwriting and consistency of the songs on this record are impressive. From emotional rockers to perfect moody acoustic ballads. I think Scott has matured a fair amount as a songwriter, from what was an impressive debut album in 2006's "Passing Stranger."

Robert Plant even makes an appearance. Definitely one of most overlooked albums of 2009, since I saw nobody talk about it all, all year.

33. Water & Bodies - Water & Bodies (EP)

Excellent songwriting and production. It's not Kaddisfly. It's not supposed to be Kaddisfly. Again, it's not supposed to be Kaddisfly.

An entirely new project from 4 of the members of Kaddisfly. The only criticism that is valid about this is it's not a full-length record. Every track is moving in some way. "Free World" "Celebration Song" and "Naked in the Rain" are among my favorites on this. I can't wait to hear their upcoming EP (in January) and hopefully a full-length debut album as well, in 2010.

32. Doves - Kingdom of Rust

A bit of a comeback record. An edit is required as my best memories and notes on this are n/a to me at the moment. But from memory, pretty much every track works on here. Nothing overwhelming, but there are hooks, layers, vocal-effects and a lot of what I enjoy about this band. Their live show I think eclipsed this album which is saying something.

31. Painted in Exile - Revitalized (EP)

I found about this newyork (progressive extreme metal) band a little over a month ago. But I am revisiting and am pretty much in awe of how impressive they are.

Pretty much what I love about Between the Buried and Me, I love about them. They have really good clean vocals and their screaming actually works really well with their music. This new ep of theirs is just 3 songs, but all 3 tracks clock in between 8-10 minutes.

The drumming and guitar work is excellent. And they use those wonderful segues with different quieter sections..sometimes piano, other times acoustic guitar..some of it jazzy, etc.

Go to their myspace and listen to "Skylines" and you'll see what I mean.

30. The Most Serene Republic - ...And the Ever Expanding Universe

While they do remind me a lot of their fellow Canadian post/chamber-rock, that doesn't make this album any less interesting. Some wonderful arrangements involving strings and woodwinds. Vocal harmonies, and piano. These guys have a lot of what I enjoy (or look for) in a modern rock/pop band.

29. Shelter Red - Strike a Mortal Terror

Tight compositions, with ballsy, thick, heavy riffs, screaming, growling guitar lines. This thing works beginning to end. It flows really well.

In the tradition of proggy post-metal bands like Russian Circles, Long Distance Calling and East of the Wall. They make less a lot more.

28. Mute Math - Armistice

The title speaks to the struggle they had putting this out. But the end result was hopefully worth those headaches. Sure they've become bigger, but their music hasn't suffered too much. "Goodbye" is outstanding. Extremely catchy chorus. "Clipping" "Burden" and the title cut are others I enjoy on here, although I don't think there's a song I don't enjoy on this. It's a more diverse album than their debut record as well. However, the remixed version of the title track, where the brass section lets loose more, and is extremely funky, really should have been on the album. It might have finished higher had it.

27. Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions

Pretty much a continuation from 2007's "Puzzle." The difference I suppose is length. This record is about 45 minutes, at least 20 less than Puzzle.

But more or less every track works. Very riffy, melodic, poppy at times. Symphonic. They definitely added all the ingredients from their kitchen here and while the style isn't all that new, the songwriting quality remains.

26. Porcupine Tree - The Incident

They pretty successfully managed to put together an album-side or 55 minute piece that doesn't feel long or 55 minutes worth.

Steven Wilson gets credit for thinking how to transition these parts through really well. And when they do *Melancholy music* well (and it's not such an in-your-face downer like FoaBP lyrically) they usually score high for me. "I Drive the Hearse" is another classic example of that. Another big highlight is the "Drawing the line."

Still pretty predictable stylistically, but no matter, this was definitely a reasonable comeback album.

25. The Diablo Swing Orchestra - Sing-Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious

They floored me at ProgPowerUSA, and this album pretty much echoed that performance. The tight compositions, clean yet thick guitar riffs mix well in their style of surf and cabaret Metal. The opera vocals were the main issue I had with them before this, but i either have grown to tolerate them, or they don't ruin their music (unlike other bands like Nightwish, where they did).

Another terrific Metal band from Sweden doing their own thing. They should tour soon, hopefully with uneXpect.

24. The Antlers - Hospice

The moods on this are so goosebump-worthy its unforgettable. "Slowcore" maybe a genre I'm starting come around on. But I think these guys stand out more than a lot of the others.

Listening to this is another highly enjoyable, therapeutic, melancholy experience.

23. The House Harkonnen - Vol.6

Awesome energy start to finish. 28 minutes or so, and they make every second count. Energetic bluesy Metal in the vein of Motorhead, Mastodon, or even The Galactic Cowboys. The last not entirely surprising with the Texas roots.

Really a band and this album at least that easily could become a lot better known. Opening for Fair to Midland I'd hope is a start.

22. Sholi - Sholi

Organic, percussive. Great use of dynamics. One of the best debut albums of 2009. Less is more definitely. "November Through June" "Dance For Hours" and "Contortionist" are among my favorites.

21. The Kris Norris Projekt - Icons of the Illogical

Technical, ballsy riff-driven, mostly instrumental metal. I never liked The Darkest Hour, but this is nothing like that from my memory of that band. It's not "Post" metal exactly like Long Distance Calling or Russian Circles, but it's not as insanely technical the way Blotted Science is. Sort of somewhere in between. The Liquid Tension Experiment comparison might fit best, but of course there aren't any keyboards on this album either.

20. Grammatics - Grammatics

Excellent debut album. Indie/alt-prog that uses cello quite well. The singer sounds a bit like the singer from Deas Vail, but with more listenings, his voice seems to fit well enough with their sound; and he sounds less "emo", *christian-rock*, nor even *feminine* than some initial impressions. "The Vague Archive" "Cruel Tricks of the Light" "Shadow Committee," and "Murderer" are among my favorites.

19. Malajube - Labyrinthes

Maybe their most progressive-rock like. On par with their last 2 albums. The drumming is incredibly tight on this album.

18. Sound & Shape - The Love Electric (EP)

The best EP of 2009. One of the brighter new groups arising of late in the alternative-rock prog. I actually thought this would become more popular than it did. Silly me, as that sort of thing has (failed-to) happen many times before (House of Fools, Bend Sinister to name a few).

17. maudlin of the Well - Part the Second

I donated to this, and thus am 1 of the "executive producers* (like I am for the upcoming The Age of Rockets album too). The result ended up pretty good. The lack of extreme vocals and not a lot of the Metal-side to motW probably will never allow me to rate this as high as the double-release of LEAVING YOUR BODY MAP/BATH in 2001. But the compositions still work well. It has those motW moments still, namely with the use of strings. I won't deny it is more like halfway between motW and Kayo Dot, but it's still better than any of the KD stuff to me. There is very little to no minimalistic-filler on here. And we probably never will get another motW album, so at least it's great to go out on a high note (like Soundscape and maybe even Kevin Gilbert this year as far as unreleased material).

16. My Latest Novel - Death and Entrances

A breakthrough album of sorts. This band have made an uplifting, organic yet layered album. Full of vocal harmonies (male and female)

Inspirational lyrics, tight percussion, clean production, and song after song that works. Given my appreciation for artists like: Anathallo, Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, Local Natives and Annuals, this band and album are right up my alley.

15. Ramona Falls - Intuit

Brent Knopf of Menomena's new project. A consistently engaging record throughout. While I probably wouldn't put it quite at the level of Menomena, like Menomena, this album continues(ed) to grow on me really well. "Melectric" "Russia" "Salt Sack" are some of the tracks that I think of it for.

14. Archive - Controlling Crowds

70 some odd minutes that had very little filler. Trip-Hop, progressive rock, psychedelic rock, and Hip-Hop among other styles here. Archive is a band I've liked for a few years, but unlike Porcupine Tree or Pure Reason Revolution, they've never caught-on that well among the music circles I frequent. Perhaps due to how hard their music is to find.

This is better than their last record 2006's "Lights" certainly. Among the things about this album that stand out probably the fact that they explore so many different styles successfully, itself is what holds it biggest appeal. One example is the song "Collapse Collide" having this woman sing this soaring melody that almost reminds me of Neverending White Lights. Really sad and beautiful at the same time.

13. Greg Herriges - Telluric Currents

Awesome follow-up to "It Plays Me." Greg's style of progressive/ethnic/folk with surf rock, Japanese styles and others included made this album as eclectic as any record that came out this year. I think Greg has grown a fair amount as a songwriter, and this record really shows that. "Sabir Khan Song" "True Smile" "Rama B Good," "I Hear" are among my favorites. But there's not a track I ever skip. Why the forums didn't catch on to him/it? I can't follow, but I've been asking myself the same question about Dean Magraw for years. But in this case, the studio work definitely lives up to his live shows to a point.

12. Karen O - Where the Wild Things Are

I loved this. The movie made me cry, and the music-with-it was a big reason why. Karen O has such a gorgeous voice at times. Some of the chanting on this is so dreamy and adolescent, that I literally felt like I was 8 years old again. "All is Love" is a great kid-like pop tune. The percussion is highly enjoyable throughout the music on here. If you haven't seen the movie, go do it. Then you may follow why the music is such a big part of it.

11. Kiss Kiss - The Meek Shall Inherit What's Left

Worthy follow-up to an impressive debut record in 2007. A dozen or more ideas crammed into their style of circus-rock for most music would be ridiculous, but for Kiss Kiss it always seems to work.

10. note. - my city of ghosts, stars and hours

Excellent combination of styles, moods and textures that make this a record very rewarding when heard all at once. Using samples from movies that transition from jazz, blues and somewhat traditional sounding post-rock.

9. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor

Long-awaited phenomenal debut record. Every track stands out in some way. Everything on here is of the quality and as uplifting as the music they did as Cavil at Rest. And for that matter, pretty much any album in 2009.

8. Long Distance Calling - Avoid the Light

Tight compositions that stylistically cover many areas from post-metal, to progressive and psychedelic rock without losing focus of the song.

7. Umphrey's McGee - Mantis

Their finest studio work, best songwriting, and most progressive-rock centered.

6. Pure Reason Revolution - Amor Vincit Omnia

The new style was a bit surprising, but still a well-written and made 2nd album, that showed certainly much progression from 2006's "The Dark Third." Electronica can work with prog. This album proved that. The vocal harmonies and fat synths give this record an enjoyable blend. "Gloaming," "Apogee," "Victorius Cupid," "AVO," Deus Ex Machina" are among my favorite parts. is it about love? I guess, sort of a trippy love-drug of sorts.

3c. dredg - The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion

I love this band. And this album took 4 years to come out. It was more than worth that wait. One thing to say about it is how well it takes elements from all three of their previous albums, and combined them to work together. Certainly they added a few things like on "Down to the Cellar." But the moods, poppy-ness, extremely clean-production, transitions and interesting interludes are among the reasons this worked. The melodies sometimes would not leave my head for hours. Especially songs like "Gathering Pebbles," "Mourning this Morning," and "Information." It came across rather polarized to the fans, but being a fan of all their styles and back catalog, this worked as well as I'd expect.

While The Mars Volta and Coheed and Cambria become more and more well-known, this band continues to surpass them as musicians and yet receives only a fraction of the visibility. The RX Bandts concert in August where 1/2 of the crowd left sort of exemplified that. Why is Wolfmother playing at State Theater, and dredg at Station 4? it should be the other-way-around.

3b. The Dear Hunter - Act III: Life and Death

An excellent follow-up and progression from one of the best albums of the decade in 2007's "Act II." Definitely a case of now my favorite current songwriter (Casey Crescenzo), making an album to his and my standards. It didn't finish on top, only for the fact I couldn't give it 5-stars with "Go Get Your Gun" which is the one blemish in an otherwise perfect record. "Mustard Gas" and "This Beautiful Life" along with the suite of "Son," "Father" and "Life and Death" (One-of-these-days, he will learn, to luhhhhvv again"..."when we die, we die, alone") probably are my favorite parts of this. But like the 1st two Acts, this record works best listened to all-at-once. Transitions, the story, and just enjoying the various styles The Dear Hunter explores. The quality is impeccable, and yet the recognition still remains criminally low. But that sound/has-sounded like a broken-record for too long. So all I can say is go listen to this band and many others will agree about the high-level of songwriting and musicianship acumen, I am certain.

3a. Mew - No More Stories Are Told Today I'm Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories the World is Grey I'm Tired Let's Wash Away

Their best, most complete record beginning to end. Very dreamy. There's really no other band who sounds like them. The textures explored here totally grab me. Happiness, childhood-nostalgia, inspirations all come to me while listening to this, which I find are qualities that distinguish Mew quite well. "Tricks" "Introducing Palace Players" "Sometimes Life Isn't Easy" "Beach" "Hawaii" "Vaccine." It's a bit hard to single-out the best moments, because as I am someone who enjoys listening to full-albums, this also is enjoyed most start-to-finish. But their other records, namely KITES and FRENGERS, don't quite find that perfect mix throughout. It's teetering on classic status, and maybe like The Stiletto Formal did eventually, it'll wind up at 5-stars soon. I listen to it often enough that it could happen.
If only they could manage to find their way back to Minneapolis for a concert again. twice the fall of 2006, and neither US Tour this past Fall. The promoters in Minnesota continue their horrible-level of naivete.

2. Soundscape - Grave New World

Long awaited (10+ years) progressive rock concept record. The production is among the greatest parts of this. It's a classic no doubt, and a worthy follow-up to "Discovery" one of my favorite albums ever.

"Grave New World" "Digital Lover" "Big Brother" "Generation Why" are some of the highlights among all 76 minutes.

Another case of an extremely impressive album that nobody, including the progressive rock scene (the obvious demographic), noticed.

Failure 101. But why should I care? It's not like "Discovery" got even a fraction of the attention it deserved either.

1. Kevin Gilbert - Nuts/Bolts

The 1st part of this long-awaited collection. Every song is tremendous in so many ways, that I don't have time to add even a fraction of how much they deserve.

Simply put, Kevin Gilbert was a genius songwriter, and this collection, like pretty much everything else he did from Giraffe-on proves that once again.

"Tired Old Man" probably still remains one of my favorite things he ever did, although the "Puppet Suite," even not-mastered quality, I think eclipses it.

The 2nd part of this collection of immortal bliss. It pretty much picks up where "Nuts" left off. The piano ballads among the rest of the work here are noteworthy. "The Best of Everything" and "God's Been Tapping My Phone" are just so perfectly made. Emotionally, lyrically, sonically.

The fact I know how much I will be listening to this collection of music in the coming years, pretty much forced me to put Nuts/Bolts on top here.

The content included may not be as in-your-face or can't-get-that-part-out-of-my-head quality as some other music, but the fact is, this collection of songs is worthy of the quality of Kevin Gilbert's work, it's just inherently so good and so much better than any other music being made, pretty much justifies why this is the best music that was released in the year 2009 (at least that hit my radar).

It's far too significant to me to ignore and sell short. Sorry, but there is no better songwriter that worked in the past 25 years, and every moment here pretty much proves that point even further.

The fact that people still are not recognizing Kevin Gilbert's music and name still is just another reason to show them how hugely they are failing by not being aware of him and this latest release from his estate. Someday they will know the errors of their ways and the amount of value and importance of Kevin Gilbert's music will be reciprocated like it should be; like I am giving it here by placing it above everything else for the year in music that is/was 2009.

no youtube vids with any of the unreleased work, but this classic Zeppelin cover is included on the collection.

I'm a bit drained in trying to finish this fucking thing.


ryan said...

I'm supprised Bat For Lashes isnt on here

ryan said...

I'm suprised Bat For Lashes didnt make this list

Media Reviews said...

More may follow with these, but here's 11-through-1.
Be sure to turn the volume up on that page, if you're streaming it there (rather than dwnldng it).