Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Soundtrack of 2009

The year started out with such hope politically and finished with an amazing array of great music which made up for the loss of hope. Now I am not being cynical, but the musical output was a wonderful antidote to all of the bad news which came out of Washington after January 20. The country has been through hell and while we are on our way back, the august body known as Congress has turned off the American public.

But I digress; its about the music. Once again a prodigious group of young musicians along with a 75 year old and a 60 year old captured my ears and carried me through the cold of winter and the heat of the summer. You see much of my listening is done on the road, as in the roads that I was born to run on or the friendly and at times safe skies that I fly in. It is my companion. Music possesses such a redemptive quality that it makes me feel alive and stronger with every great song. The discovery aspect also ranks very high and this year I was able to turn my 22 year old son and 19 year old daughter onto some of the best new music (in my opinion) made. For whatever reason I decided that since the decade is ending I would rank the Top 50 this year as a way to bring that much more music to my friends. It is a daunting task listening to so much great music; it can't think of any better way to relax.

Now if the truth be told and I am a believer, this is a purely subjective list based on my ears. They are seasoned, having been to Woodstock and back and having listened and appreciated great music down through the years, I have developed a few favorites. Singer/songwriters with an ability to weave such wonderful stories into the form of a finely polished collection of songs are a favorite of mine and have always been. Straight ahead great rock n roll which has been embraced by a new generation of hipsters from pop to echoes of the fifties, has caught my attention with amazing vocals and great young bands. Soul music is always a favorite, as is the moody ambient British sounds of rock and club music. And without a doubt American roots mountain music which is a genre all its own that has many practicioners from the great Bob Dylan to the sounds of the Catskills bands The Duke and the King and The Felice Brothers. To exclude the new sounds of experimental, dreamy, baroque and psychedelic music made by bands such as Fanfarlo, Grizzly Bear and Jonsi and Alex would be a generational faux pas, as these kids are so talented, to listen to their growth is a joy.

For the Top 25 I will provide a short rant about the band and my favorite track on the album. I hope that you enjoy listening to the music as much as I did, and by listening to something you had not listened to previously you will turn another friend onto the music and this ever growing blog. May your 2010 bring your Peace, Health and Happiness.

50. THE ANTLERS: HOSPICE
49. EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROES: UP FROM BELOW
48: TAURUS RILEY: CONTAGIOUS
47. DIRTY PROJECTORS: BITTE ORCA
46. BUDDY AND JULIE MILLER: WRITTEN IN CHALK
45. MARK KNOPFLER: GET LUCKY
44. ALEA DIANNE: TO BE STILL
43. SAM BAKER: cOTTON
42. DAN DEACON: BROMST
41. WOODS: SONGS OF SHAME
40. VAN MORRISON: ASTRAL WEEKS: LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
39. BON IVER: BLOOD BANK EP
38. U2: NO LINE ON THE HORIZON
37. JOHN DOE AND THE SADIES: COUNTRY CLUB
36. ROSANNE CASH: THE LIST
35. ANIMAL COLLECTIVE: MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILLION
34. TODD SNIDER: THE EXCITEMENT PLAN
33. LEVON HELM: ELECTRIC DIRT
32. JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE: MIDNIGHT AT THE MOVIES
31. JAY FARRAR AND BEN GIBBARD: ONE FAST MOVE OR I'M GONE
30. LYLE LOVETT: NATURAL FORCES
29. HARLEM SHAKES: TECHNICOLOR HEALTH
28. DARK WAS THE NIGHT: VARIOUS ARTISTS
27. JONSI AND ALEX: RICEBOY SLEEPS
26. WILLIAM ELLIOT WHITMORE: ANIMALS IN THE DARK


25. ST. VINCENT: ACTOR

Annie Clark is one of the growing number of musicians that calls Brooklyn home. As one of the 8 artists in this list from one of the most creative areas in America (two years ago it was Austin, TX) the former member of the Polyphonic Spree has made two remarkable albums. This one combines her wonderful voice with a great band and a remarkable mix of strings and old style movie music. A talent who has much more to tantalize the world with.
SAVE ME FROM WHAT I WANT.

24. GIRLS: GIRLS

The first release from these two BOYS is such a wonderful treat of Beach Boys and Fifties inspired rock n roll translated by a couple of Bay Area hipsters. From the opening guitar riffs you will be hooked or maybe you are not in love with rock and roll. One of the freshest sounds in music today and aside from the hype in the Blogosphere, these two are the real deal and their loves wanted and lost are anthemic. LUST FOR LIFE (Has nothing to do with Iggy Pop)

23. THE GOURDS: HAYMAKER

One of the all time great bands from Austin TX with one of the worst names for a band, fall into the genre of American Roots Mountain Music. I am a sucker for this music and yes they are in the Bob Dylan/Band category with the vocals reminiscent of Levon Helm and Rick Danko. Texas boys that deserve more exposure. COUNTRY LOVE

THE DAWES: NORTH HILLS

Do not let the worst album cover of the year fool you. These boys share #23 since they share a similar sensibility in playing great American music. Sweet voices and great stories from the Hills; if you close your eyes you may hear the ghost of Rick Danko singing along with Garth Hudson on the organ. THAT WESTERN SKYLINE

22. CAMERA OBSCURA: MY MAUDLIN CAREER

Forgive me for the comparison, but Tracyanne Campbell sounds so much like Lesley Gore that it makes me yearn again for 1964 and Its My Party. This band from Glasgow Scotland sounds like a great mash up of the great girl bands of the sixties with such great sad stories and flat out folk rock. An irresistible record. FRENCH NAVY

THE CLIENTELE: BONFIRES ON THE HEART
That 60s sound of pop music captured perfectly by these lads from England makes for a very entertaining and sonically beautiful offering. This is their sophomore album and once again it is so beautiful musically and Alasdair MacLeans voice is so angelic that you will be spellbound by its majesty.
I WONDER WHO WE ARE

21. THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART: THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART

Hailing from where else? NYC, I was blown away by their maturity and their love of straightforward great old time rock n roll. In the vein of the Strokes and the Ravonettes with their fuzzy guitars and pounding drums these "kids" lived up to the hype. Sweet and unpretentious rock and roll by a band that listened to alot of 60s Brit music.
A TEENAGER IN LOVE

SIN FANG BOUS: CLANGOUR

While on the subject of great pop music and leaving NYC for the creative environs of Iceland, Sindri Mar Sigfusson, founding member of Seabear has created a pop record that is rooted a bit in electronics, but just keeps you smiling from start to finish.
ADVENT IN IVES GARDEN

20. CASS MCCOMBS: CATACOMBS

With the Baltimore MD area producing an amazing amount of talent, quietly Cass McCombs produced a stunner of a record with a sweet and soft voice which tells such sweet stories and yearns back to the sounds of young lovers. Never raising his voice too loud and backed by an equally efficient band this is a joy to listen to. The opening song with Karen Black singing with him hooked me. DREAMS COME TRUE GIRL

19. BILL CALLAHAN: SOMETIMES I WISH I WERE AN EAGLE

The former Golden Smog front man, Bill Callahan released one of the most beautiful records of the year. His voice is so endearing you forget everything going on around you. The stories and the sweetness with which each one is conveyed is magical. The journey that you are taken on is almost as transcendental as a magic carpet ride. JIM CAIN

18. THE AVETT BROTHERS: I AND LOVE AND YOU

With their first major label release these Southern down home American folk rockers chose one of my favorites, Rick Rubin to produce. The good Mr Rubin has great ears and he let these American Roots folkies sing and strum to their hearts content. A great take on modern American music with brilliant harmonies from this modern American jugband. I AND LOVE AND YOU


17. MONSTERS OF FOLK: MONSTERS OF FOLK

The only way for me to describe these guys are the modern day equivalent of a super-group in the folk rock genre. Sort of a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young of the 21st century or maybe The Traveling Wilburys. M. Ward, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Mike Mogis (producer extraordinaire for Bright Eyes) and Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes make melodic folk rock and roll with each member shining. DEAR GOD (SINCERELY M.O.F.)

16. NORAH JONES: THE FALL

This woman never ceases to amaze me. From her first album she has continued to sing and play beautiful music and damned be all the critics who after her first album disrespected her. She has evolved, rocks a little more and sings beautiful songs while staying innovative and working with great musicians. Sweet Norah Jones does not ever disappoint. CHASING PIRATES


15. VETIVER: TIGHT KNIT

Part of the original Freak Folk genre this San Francisco based band makes soothing beautiful records that are genuinely pleasing to the ears and puts one into a very relaxed state of being. Andy Cabic, the "leader" of this every changing assemblage of talented musicians possess a very tender voice and the music is just plain mellow. ROLLING SEA

14. JASON LYTLE: YOURS TRULY, THE COMMUTER

Jason Lytle founded one of the great bands that never "made it" commercially, Grandaddy. Despite three genius albums the band broke up due in part to Jasons substance abuse problems and the band not making enough money. Luckily he has continued recording and this jewel of a record is a testament to his genius as a musician and a phenom. YOURS TRULY, THE COMMUTER

13. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: WORKING ON A DREAM

There is really not much I can ever add about Bruce Springsteen. He has made more great music in his 35 years than anyone I can think of, including Bob Dylan. This is much more of a Brendan O'Brien production number than Magic, but as usual Bruce continues to represent to the downtrodden and lovers in this troubled country; which Bruce continues to love and sing about. An American treasure. OUTLAW PETE

12. THE LOW ANTHEM: OH MY GOD, CHARLIE DARWIN

Having somehow missed their fist release in 2007, the sophomore release from this Providence RI band is almost perfection. Americana music at its best, with hauntingly gorgeous vocals this is another wonderful listen for anyone who loves music. From the opening track to The Ghosts Who Write History Books, this is truly "intellectual American folk music" of the highest level. OH MY GOD, CHARLIE DARWIN

11. BOB DYLAN: TOGETHER THROUGH LIFE

To continually be so prolific is a true sign of genius and Bob Dylan is a modern day musical genius and a purveyor of the very best in American music. This is an album not so much a collection of great songs, but more of a soundtrack of life on the road for Bob. From the album cover to his take on American society today, Its All Good, Bob keeps getting better. A beer and a few shots in a seedy bar with Bob and his amazing band. BEYOND HERE LIES NOTHIN

10. THE FELICE BROTHERS: YONDER IS THE CLOCK

I am an unabashed fan of these guys. With all the comparisons to Bob Dylan/The Band, they are every bit as good on record. They continue to make great American folk/rock/soul/mountain music. Upstate New York must have something very special in the Catskill Mountains water because this is another gem of a record. THE BIG SURPRISE

WILCO: WILCO (THE ALBUM)

Somehow in my eagerness to get this out in time an error in sight occurred and I completely missed on my 5th revision of this list Jeff Tweedy and the boys. Wilco is the culmination of many great musicians and bands mixed into this grand Americana band. With roots in Uncle Turpelo, the seminal alt-country Americana band of the eighties, this Chicago based band has evolved into the finely tuned unit is is today. This being their most accessible and wonderful album to date it is obvious that Tweedy has found happiness in being sober, in love and a father. A grown up and easy to listen to, this rock and roll record will stand as the band goes into the next decade. WILCO (THE SONG)

9. MAXWELL: BLACKsummers'night

Being a Detroiter there is nothing quite like great soul music. From those golden voices of David and Jimmy Ruffin, Smokey, Stevie and Marvin, soul music is in my blood, or at least embedded in my DNA somehow. It is surely part of Maxwell and his singing and songwriting is spot on in the pantheon of great soul singers. Turn out the lights, light a candle or two and if you enjoy a beverage, have one. Maybe even find someone you care about and share the experience.
BAD HABITS

8. NEKO CASE: MIDDLE CYCLONE

To be able to properly describe this golden voice from this red headed beauty; I already did. Gritty and sexually charged Neko Case is one of those artists that has never been accorded her due. As a member of the New Pornographers she has continually made great music. Country tinged her particular form of rock n roll is enchanting to say the least. THIS TORNADO LOVES YOU

7. GRIZZLY BEAR: VECKATIMEST

This Brooklyn based quartet makes the best "psychedelic folk rock pop" and if that moniker is a bit much for you to wrap your mind around.....listen to their music. Having made only two exceptional albums since the 2006 release of Yellow House, Grizzly Bear dazzles with every cut on this album, named after an island off the coast of Massachusetts. A beautifully produced and performed record, this band defies description. Sonically beautiful. SOUTHERN POINT

6. THE VERY BEST: WARM HEART OF AFRICA

Formed in 2007 in London by Malawi born Esau Mwamwaya and British DJ Radioclit, the duo has released two albums which combine mash ups between old and new African music mixed with the sounds of pop music. The combination is so genuinely exciting that it almost makes me forget how good the Indestructible Beats of Soweto was or how wonderful Ladysmith Black Mambozo was. Doesn't hurt that Ezra Koening from Vampire Weekend sings on the title track. Worry not, this is world music at its best turned upside down and mashed up to create an amalgamation, after which the band is aptly named. WARM HEART OF AFRICA

5. LEONARD COHEN: LIVE IN LONDON

Perhaps my greatest regret was not seeing Leonard Cohen perform live in NYC or Detroit. The reviews from my friends who saw the shows were glowing. From the singers to the band a real jewel of a show. Leave it Lenny to release a double album capturing the essence of the shows with the first show that he performed Live in London. If you have never heard Leonard Cohen, I'm sorry. Go out and buy this. The man is 75 years old and he is at the top of his game.....still....sounding like the Buddhist Jew that he is. It would be impossible to even choose the best track on this, since every damn song is phenomenal. But not to disappoint here is one to represent all of the tracks. DEMOCRACY

4. REAL ESTATE: REAL ESTATE

From the Catskills water to the water in Brooklyn, something is happening in NY. This album is the debut release from these Brooklyn boys via New Jersey and I did not stop listening to it. Psychedelic surf music might be the best way to describe it or an even better way could be to say they are the children of Yo La Tengo. Summertime, sand, sunshine and surf guitars. The Ventures and The Beach Boys all mashed up into one of the greatest first albums ever. Fuzzy and energy driven this a gorgeous aural rock trip. BEACHCOMBER

3. FANFARLO: RESERVOIR

To think I only paid $1.00 on their website when this was released!! A sonic tour de force is all I can say about this extraordinary debut from this band from London. Comparisons to Coldplay, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Talking Heads or even Sigur Ros are only for purposes of identifying how powerful their sound is on record. Employing a sound so overwhelming as to mesmerize even the most jaded, Simon Balthazar and company should be a musical force to be reckoned with for years to come. Album cover is pretty damn good also. Guaranteed to bring you to your knees or at least keep your fingers snapping and a smile on your face. THE WALLS ARE COMING DOWN

2. THE XX: THE XX

Seductive and sensual and sexy and fucking hot. This debut from two kids from London is all about desire and longing for something which may be sexual or maybe not. Either way it is two film noir voices trading verses and backed by bass and drums and guitars. The tension or maybe lack of it is almost trance-like. Perhaps for me the most interesting part of this music is how much it just feels like you are party to two people describing that sexual tension between them. Massive Attacks grandchildren maybe? England to the rescue. CRYSTALISED

1. THE DUKE AND THE KING: NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY

The name of this American music band is from the brilliant book, Huckleberry Finn by the great American author mark Twain. The Duke and The King, taken from Shakespeare, were hustlers who befriended Huck. These are not hustlers. Simon Felice (The Duke, who you may recognize as the drummer in the Felice Brothers) Robert "Chicken" Burke (The King), Simi Stone and Reverend Loveday Nowell Haskins (The Deacon) are the real deal. To paraphase Jon Stewart's introduction of Springsteen at the Kennedy Center Honors, "If James Brown and Bob Dylan" had a child. In this case it would be Smokey Robinson and Jesse Winchester. Sweet soul and folk rock combined to be my single most played album of the year. Soulful and genuine in its rock, The Duke and The King kick ass. With a line like this who could argue..." Jesus walked on water, but so did Marvin Gaye" They never waiver and much like most great musicians....they take no prisoners on this, their debut album. IF YOU EVER GET FAMOUS. WATER SPIDER. THE MORNING I GET TO HELL. ONE MORE AMERICAN SONG.

































2 comments:

Lilja said...

thank you Mark for this amazing list!!
Now I just have to start tasting all these yummy flavors :)
lilja

lee13d said...

maestro keller! you never cease to amaze! ok xhb, carry on! yt, diana