Monday, December 14

BEST OF 2009

It's that time of year, December, and that usually means best of lists galore. I thought I'd chime in and share with you what really got me excited over an incredible year in music. This list is in no particular order, just some noteworthy releases and artists that I thought stood out.

Sleepy Sun - Embrace

A band from San Francisco which I first encountered at Treasure Island Music Festival this year. I was given a tip by a friend to check them out and I was not disappointed. They perform very well on stage, too good in fact, that at times I wish this album was live. But if it was not for the songs on this album, they would have no show to perform. The psychedelic sounds, the vocals and the arrangement of music made this a very solid debut for them. It will be very interesting to see how they progress forward.

Woods - Songs of Shame

What is great about music is that at any given moment, one stumbles upon an artist so unexpectedly that it is embarrassing to admit to never knowing about them from the beginning. That is the case with Woods; I know about them now thanks to Dungen visiting the USA in August. Their set followed another brilliant discovery of Kurt Vile and played an incredible 45 minutes of music. Having gone backwards in understanding Woods, it is amazing to see their progression from acoustics to full on psychedelic and trippy rock. This album is a personal favorite and songs like Rain On and Military Madness prove that these guys can make some excellent stuff.

Ganglians - Monster Head Room

I am excited about this band because they are from a town close to home, Sacramento; I thought the only way to hear music like this was in SF or Berkeley. The lead singer loves to use vocal manipulations, which is a wonderful obsession he brings to the live show. Violent Brave is an example of what this band is capable of doing and they do it impeccably well; a strong acoustic presence which then explodes from within into psych rock which lasts for over five minutes. This band is incredible and am happy to know they are only 35-40 minutes away

Beach House - Devotion

It has been a very busy year for Beach House. A new record deal with Sub Pop records and a seemingly never ending tour with Grizzly Bear across the United States and Europe. With a new album out early next year these two musicians never seem to stop and rightfully so. Their latest, Devotion, is a drastic improvement and more focussed effort than their debut effort. It is very solid and musically diverse with Victoria's voice relentless throughout the album.

Other Lives - Other Lives

Other Lives is a band from Oklahoma with very politically charged songs, examples being Don't Let Them and Paper Cities. I saw this group a month after seeing Fleet Foxes live and their are no comparisons other than if your a fan of Robin and co, this band may appeal to you. The music is a bit slow but the music is played very well that the pace really doesn't take anything away. Black Tables seems to be everyone's favorite song but do not let that dominate this record. If they played some new songs at Outside Lands Festival then the new record should be something to look out for in the up coming year.

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

What is there to say about these guys that has not been said already. It seems as if they are everywhere and on everyones top lists. And for good reason, this is album is that good. Their previous effort, Yellow House was an amazing piece of work but Veckatimest goes one better. The songs seem to be more distinct and varied with tempos going up and down all throughout. Having three of four members with a different vocal styles and ranges helps keep things fresh. Almost every song on the album could be a stand alone single and yet what might come off as dull to some, to most of the world it seems these guys have made something special.

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

As above, what can be said about this trio's latest that has not already been said; this album is incredible. After each listen a new favorite song appears on this beast of an album. The listener is quickly thrown into a freakout if listening to the opening track with eyes closed and then it gets even better as the record moves forward. I missed the show in Oakland earlier in the year but from posted videos, the live performance seems to be the best way to experience this band.

Real Estate - Real Estate

New boys from New Jersey have hit gold with their debut. What can be described as beach rock has been a very welcoming addition to my collection so late in the year. The album is so chill and relaxing to listen to your almost soothed asleep to it dreaming about being back in Jersey. This album needs to be bought and needs to be listened to, its too good to be ignored.

The Flaming Lips - Embryonic

So much controversy about the new one from the art/psych rockers from Oklahoma City. Being a new Lips fan, this album is what I always envisioned them sounding like. So to my surprise I was a little taken aback by the pop that was At War With The Mystics and the ballads that were The Soft Bulletin. Fans are torn by the album, very experimental? Yes. Artsy? Very much so. But that is what makes this one so good. I've read about complaints about no "pop" songs but to me that is not what The Flaming Lips were about; to me they were about songs like, The Sparrow Looks up at the Machine, See The Leaves, Worm Mountain, Your Bats and Watching The Planets. 1999 dawned The Soft Bulletin and a change for the Lips. 2009 hopefully begins a new era for the band and I hope that they can improve on this for future releases.

Akron/Family - Set 'em Wild, Set 'em Free

Might not have been as solid as their previous record, Love is Simple, the album can still hold its own with songs like Everyone is Guilty and River. It does suffer from mediocrity at times but this is what to expect when an influential band member leaves. All in all, I am pretty excited to see how they move on and progress from here and hopefully they can really create something special as I know they can.

Dan Deacon - Bromst

The experimental electronica God himself. For a person who looks like and conducts his audiences like a high school physics teacher, Dan Deacon can make some very cool sounding and complex stuff. The fact he has "an ensemble" on stage and that he had to stop touring due to an injury from non-stop shows for two years should paint a picture of someone who tries to resonate the energy from his music onto everyone else. Bromst is a huge improvement from Spiderman of the Rings, the album sounds more complete and the songs are better arranged. Some highlights include Of The Mountain and Woof Woof.

The Dutchess and The Duke - Sunrise/Sunset

The folk duo that is the Dutchess and Duke are an exceptional pair. The music is great and with two albums put out in what seemed like the same year, the craving never seemed to die down. They blend elements of 60's psychedelica mixed into the folk throughout the album and if your a fan of "old" sounding music then this effort (and the one before) should appeal.

Girls - Album

Girls, another band from San Francisco, which has been selling out shows throughout the year. There has been a lot of buzz about these guys which they rightfully deserve. The singers voice reminds me of some late 70's early 80's punk rocker vocalists and the band at times sound like one too, but overall this band have a varied debut. It is the perfect album to sit back and chill out to.

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