With such an unforgivably long hiatus from blogging, a lot of things got to percolating. For instance, I’ve listened to a decent amount of new (well, mostly new for me) music, and felt like communicating that. And what better way than a list?!?
(There are probably numerous better ways, but this is fastest, and I’m still waking up this morning.)
Top 7 of 2009 – in alphabetical order:
(Also, why 7? Because that’s all I felt like. 5 isn’t always enough, but 10 is often too many. So there.)
(Also also, this will not be a typical ‘best of 2009’ list, as most of it isn’t from 2009, that’s just when I was really into to it. It’s mostly just a snapshot into what I’ve enjoyed over the past year.)
A bit of a fudging (since I only really listened to the full album very recently), but again, my list, my site, my damn rules. An amazing piece of weird, nerd-core, underground synthed-up hip hop. From the brain of the hyper- and multi-talented Donald Glover, a man who every passing day I get increasingly jealous that I am not. Dude puts out high quality albums in addition to being a writer for 30 Rock (“The Funcooker”), an amazing sketch comedian (Derrick Comedy), and a budding sitcom star (as the secret weapon of Community, the best new half-hour of the year).
It took a few tracks before I could decide if it was novelty or not, and what I decided was two-fold: hell no, and, who cares if it was? It’s amazing. Some of the craziest, smartest and flat-out clever hip hop I’ve heard in a long time. Refreshingly outside of the mainstream lyrically and musically. Anyone who attributes, in-song, the Jens Lekman sample he pulled, “for those out there wonderin'”, is OK by me.
Best part of all? It’s totally free. Download it. Download it NOW.
(Big-ups to Dart for pushing me over the edge in seeking this out.)
Normally it’s supposed to be the older, wiser one influencing the younger. In my case however, I unabashedly have bitten some musical taste from Beth’s little brother. Not that Elvis Costello is a huge discovery or anything, but I wasn’t really into him before copying the “Best Of” CD from Jordan a few years ago. Now I’m a big, big fan.
So on my record store scroungings in Paris, I managed to find a bootleg copy of Costello’s live show from 1978, an amazing night in my own little ‘burg of Toronto. A great snapshot of the Angriest Man in Music at one of his earliest points. Highlights include a pre-album release playing of “Radio, Radio” and a burning version of what is now a personal Costello favourite, “Little Triggers”.
I initially almost dismissed it as too folksy, too rustic, a little too “Sting with his lutes”, but that would have been a huge mistake. This self-titled LP debut finds Fleet Foxes doing right what plenty of other too arch and too self-serious folksy-rock groups have tried the past few years to only varying degrees of success (poor: Decemberists, better: Arcade Fire). They also played well personally off of my other recent rediscovery of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, with their earlier EP highlight “Mykonos” (included in the vinyl version we bought on a second disc) feeling eerily like a classic lost CSNY song that went missing for 30 years.
Another fudging. This album was hardly unknown to me before now – I’ve had a copy since before its release, having received a review copy at the Press ages ago. It’s hardly even been that far out of my regular rotation since then, but picking it up on collector grade, limited edition vinyl really brought it back into the forefront of my mind. An alt-country/New York rock mash-up with the edge of the frontman of D Generation as filtered through the production of Ryan Adams (here producing a record I like better than any of his own). Plaintive, pretty, and a little pissed off, not one you should miss.
I have a weird relationship with Spoon. Some of their stuff I lovelovelove, some I absolutely cannot abide. I haven’t come close to pinning down my feelings on their actual new album, but Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga easily slides into a list of my favourites from last year. Full of hooks from beginning to end, this album features pretty much all of my favourite Spoon songs, from “The Underdog”, to “Don’t Make Me A Target”, to “Don’t You Evah”, “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” and “Black Like Me”. Not exactly groundbreaking choices as Spoon goes, I know, but still damn fine.
Another Parisian record store find. I spent a few days on and off ducking into record stores across the city of love, trying to find the perfect balance between nostalgia (I wanted something classic rock/punk, preferably European) and value (records in Paris can be expensive). I finally came across this second album by one of the nowadays relatively-unheralded pioneers of the Brit-punk scene. Still looking for a decent copy of Inflammable Material to enhance my SLF collection, but this one was a great start. “Gotta Getaway” and “Nobody’s Hero” stand as classics, while “Tin Soldiers” plays on my nostalgia from the Bosstones cover that I enjoyed a lot in my teenage years.
X was way ahead of the curve. Not necessarily musically (they were pretty in the thick of the California punk scene), but technologically. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find “X” on a torrent search site? Yeah yeah yeah, awful of me to be pirating music, I know, but I ain’t got a lot of money for CDs, and everything ends up as MP3s anyhow. But seriously, try searching for “X” and getting anything useful, or not porn. Can’t be done. I even had trouble going by album title for a while. Hence my obsession with owning their entire collection on vinyl. Tough to track down at times, but worth it when you do. This was the beginning of my X collection, and to this day I still prefer many of these live versions to their studio album counterparts. Energy, energy and more energy.