Here's a list of contemporary music I spent my time with this year... I hesitate to publish all this music-journo sounding stuff, but then I struggle with wanting this blog to be interesting outside of just my exploits, or links to writing about my music etc...
SO. In the interest of an interesting blog, here's my favourite 11ish releases of 2009.
1. SUNN O))) - MONOLITHS & DIMENSIONS
I know very little about metal, but what's particularly exciting to me is the fusion of a pretty niche genre with such rigourous art practice. Richard Serra cover art, gregorian chant inspired doom performed in Norwegian cathedrals, full elaborate costume changes for their occasional singer, elaborate art-artifact packaging, robbed press shots - no one is taking shit as serious as these guys. The music itself is ancient sounding and elemental, dread inducing and exhilirating... No one makes music this physical. Sunn seem to approximate a black hole not only in their numbing inky weight, but in their expanding shape shifting now encapsulating gregorian chant, deft orchestration, Morricone-esque flourish, and perfected doom riffage. SO HEAVY.
2. RAEKWON - ONLY BUILT FOR CUBAN LINX II
Oh man, the marvel any of these Wu guys can muster with a great selection of beats!! The swagger is magic. Rae finally matches Ghost's 00's dominance, with rapid flutter crack rap talk and tracking that glides on dust & grit. The story telling is morbid and ornate, but frankly analyzing this type of thing is like a table cloth draped over a deep manhole, you fall into sounding like a pretentious nob pretty quickly. It's raw. Leave it at that.
3. MADLIB - BEAT KONDUCTA VOL: 5-6
Madlib is pretty much my favourite living musician. Reclusive, prolific, mysterious, completely idiodyncratic. Moments in his Beat Konducta series run parralel not only to RZA, Premier et al, but to avant contemporaries (and favourites) like Black Dice & Broadcast. To say this compilation is more of the same, is just to suggest that I spent hours pouring over this psychedelic and soulful tribute to his only contemporary equal J Dilla. I refuse to stop cribbing from this guy, as my sensibility relies almost half on his magpie genius.
4. TIMBER TIMBRE - S/T
When someone you don't really know releases an album this good in your city, it smarts a little. Then you get over it, and are like... damn. I have a hard time with blues & roots straight up, but I find this record strikes the perfect arty compromise. Pristine minimal production, and pretty great lyrics as well. I'm really excited by what the next shit might sound like... plus I really wanna do a show with him at some point.
5. THEE OH SEES - HELP!
I can't tell if this band is super original, or if I just haven't heard enough psych/garage stuff... I get the impression it doesn't really matter as they slice and dice through a familiar pallet with some visionary guitar trash. I don't mean to suggest this is all heavy guitar workout though, as Thee Oh Sees have two singers whose voices perfectly blend into one awesome hiccup like no other band going. Also the songwriting is stellar, which is something I find kind of lacking with a lot of newer garage stuff. Crazy tremolo guitar destruction, slapback vox, insane live antics, super good songs. Winning combination.
6. INTELLIGENCE - FAKE SURFERS // CREPUSCULE WITH PACMAN
Four sides of great cryptic pop from what sounds like a basement eccentric. Both LP's are inventive and eclectic, but my favourite is probably CWP for the extra layer grime caked on it and because Horse Glue is such a FUCKING JAM. Oh my god, I could listen to that song on repeat for about an hour... Intelligence are super cool because they don't fit into any current trend (lo fi, garage etc...) but seem to encapsulate the best qualities of a few with commendable concision. I've always kind of thought of this dude's stuff as an American counterpart to The Rebel's recent work which is only a great thing.
7. BLACK DICE - REPO // CHOCOLATE CHERRY & ERIC COPELAND - AL ANON
I've talked so much about this band on my other year end lists... But I will say it once more. THEY ARE THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST. My favourite band, their records have consistantly cracked my mind and given me the appetite and context for other challenging artists. Like Madlib's work, I devour this shit and immediately try to co-opt it. The fact that you can totally get down to their recent output is pretty exciting.
Repo is a super heavy LP, the sounds as tactile as the record's front cover. Black Dice function almost like a pop culture recycling bin, regurgitating bleeps from junked teevees, or trying to execute the Timbaland science from an extraterrestrial perspective. Chocolate Cherry sounded like melting soul loops Ghostface should've jumped on, and Al Anon is totally underrated psychic dance trash from group member Eric Copeland. Groovy shit. (On a personal note, I opened for these guys once this year which was such a total teenage thrill).
8. BROADCAST & THE FOCUS GROUP - INVESTIGATE WITCH CULTS OF THE RADIO AGE
Bucolic English psychedlia cut up into a thousand loops (some of this shit, truly does sound like Madlib). This mysterious slab has kind of a Faust Tapes vibe to it. It's totally invigorating to see a band with the reverse trajectory of a 'success story' like Animal Collective, getting progressively more elliptical and fragmented as they evolve. I was totally bowled over by their concert in Toronto with their perfect mesh of dissonance and skewed pop (plus amazing visuals). I'm pretty sure this music functions like vitamins for the imagination, as when I turn it on I'm able to totally vibe out...
9. DOOM - BORN LIKE THIS
Doom's back... finally, thank god. On first listen I was a little dissapointed (many familiar special herbs, Rae over UFO but unchopped?!?) - but I suspect this is a pretty standard first reaction to a Doom LP as it takes a few listens to soak in the lyrical content. Doom is a master, probably the finest lyricist going in any genre. The amazing illusion he is able to pull, is that on surface his rhymes are totally pleasing to hear fall into place like alliterating puzzle pieces, but once you dip in they become obscure little jewels – every line! His flow on this album is as hilarious, hard to follow, and wonderful as ever. Plus that newly unearthed Dilla beat GOES HARD!!! The Bukowski track is pretty terrorfying as well, pretty great record actually.
10. J DILLA - JAY STAY PAID
More synthetic than Donuts, and without the succinct consistency but with mesmerizing moments nonetheless... This one is a a trunk rattling grower with gems to be found for those who plunder hard. I hope this isn't the last of it, and that his superhuman prolificness will provide a couple more LP's of unheard material...
11. SIC ALPS - L MANSION
I'm putting this on, because it's a perfect release. One flawless pop jam on the A, one cool cover on the B – everyone goes home happy!
Also, I have a few friends who released list worthy shit this year (I just don't like grading buds)... Thank you to Actual Water, Dirty Beaches & Onakabazien for all releasing tapes that I seriously jammed hard to. Those dudes are so on it on it.
My favourite LP's of the decade is up next...
North America: Sam Kogon / firstname.lastname@example.org
All other inquiries: Dara Kartz / email@example.com