Friday, January 1, 2010

Top 20 of 2009

1. Sophia There Are No Goodbyes (2 CD) (Flower Shop UK)

"I lost my head in a landslide"

In Sophia's world, everything pretty much sucks. I can see how one would not like Robin Proper-Sheppard's music. His voice is kind of whiny and so are most of his lyrics. Yet, somehow, he manages to produce some of the most immaculate songs. He has an everyman vibe in his words which tempers the navel gazing self absorbed world he seems to live in. The pristine arrangements give this album both a soft glowing warmth and a grey day chill. His songs are geared toward the reflective and the instrospective, but there are catchy upbeat tunes like the 3 minute strummer "Obvious" that can real in even the most jaded with it's hook. The entire album seems to be about a break-up or divorce and touches on the bitterness, anger, loneliness, denial, confusion, regret, etc that seems to come with such complications. It's powerful and needs time to sink its teeth in. The second disc is a nicely recorded solo acoustic show (save for a few songs with a string quartet) recorded in Vienna on Valentine's Day of 2009.

2. The Rifles Great Escape (679 UK)

Second album, now a quartet. Continuing my love of uk punk-pop bands in the lineage of The Clash to China Drum. Careering blasts of frenentic joy and heartfelt working class sentiment. Timeless.

3. Camera Obscura My Maudlin Career (4AD)

Took me awhile to warm to this one. Feels a bit stiff at first. It's a grower and the more plays it gets, the more striking it gets. These Scots seem to be getting better with age. Plus there's a song on there about their 2007 show at Wonder Ballroom here in Portland.

4. Metric Fantasies (Metric)

This fourth album from Metric is a clear attempt for them to reach the stars, or at least the stadiums. This album is strikingly straight-forward and straight-ahead and crammed full of stadium rock anthems for the masses to chant along with. It would turn my stomach if it wasn't s well executed. Their first 3 LPs were all distatsteful to me upon first listen, but grew to be favorites over time. This one was instantly on heavy rotation, but it remains to be seen how well it will age.

5. Great Northern Remind Me Where the Light Is (Eenie Meenie)

I've gushed about them elsewhere.

6. Bob Mould Life and Times (Anti)

Mould is the man.

7. Editors In This Light and on This Evening / Cuttings II (2 CD) (Kitchenware UK)The difficult third album? Some changes. More electronics. More experimental. Bringing in new influences beyond the Bunnymen/Joy Division touchstones. Bleak black bleak. Love it.

8. Chairlift Does You Inspire You? (2008) (Kanine/Sony)

Multi-instrumentalist three-piece who made it big with their iPOD ad song "Bruises." Of course, in the iPOD world one song gets downloaded and the band forgotten. However, this debut album is pretty damn good. It is very 80s in a Book of Love crossed with Alphaville sort of way. They forge an added identity with some impressive biting social commentary on some of these songs as well. Especially the opening two tracks: "Garbage" and "Planet Health."

  9. Dinosaur Jr. Farm (2 CD) (Jagjaguwar)

Dinosaur Jr. are like an old furry stuffed animal that's worn out and beat up, but still kind of cute and inviting. This may be their best album from start to finish. Good to see the original lineup back together and staying together.

10. For Against Never Been (Words on Music)
Wow! The return of orginal guitarist Harry Dingman III has these Nebraska vets re-invigorated. This album takes me back to the original fire I had for this band's music when I first bought their "In the Marshes" 10" vinyl EP in 1990. It was mysterious and spooky and evoked the best of the original 4AD vibe with an added edge. They've never not been good, but this is why I first bought in.

11. Twilight Sad Forget the Night Ahead (Fatcat)
12. Drakes Hotel Sparks That March (self-released)
13. Ducky The Automobile (self released)
14. Thrushes Some Come Undone (2006) (Birdnote)
15. A Place to Bury Strangers Exploding Head (Mute)
16. Ballboy I Worked on the Ships (2008) (Pony Proof UK)
17. Desario Zero Point Zero (Darla)
18. Idlewild Post Electric Blues (Cooking Vinyl UK)
19. Longwave Secrets Are Sinister (2008) (Original Signal)
20. Nouvelle Vague 3 (PeaceFrog UK)