A Year of Interesting Albums - pt. 3: 2009

Last year I began making album yearlists where I listed the best albums of years gone and worked my way backwards in time. This began in 2009 so the first year listed was 2008. Two lists have been listed so far; 2008 and 2007. It's been more than a year since I posted the last list, so now that we're in 2010 I'm going to make a list for 2009. So 2009 will be no. 3. This all makes perfect sense and no, there's no need for you to be confused. At all.

Here's some of what I wrote as an introduction to the first two lists:

"In a sudden attack of listmania I decided to pick my favourite albums, or at least the albums that caught my interest the most, and make a list for each year. I’m going to slowly work my way backwards in time. Each blog will contain a list of about 10 to 15 albums that range from “awe-inspiringly excellent” to “interesting”. The selection will of course be extremely subjective and open to much debate. Leave comments if you want. Am in no way saying that this is a definite list. Let's wait and see whether the albums represented here will stand the test of time. There might be changes made to the list in the future. If I come across a really great album that I haven't heard, that album might replace one of the listed albums. But this is it for now.

Please note that electronic music is likely to be underrepresented, since a lot of electronic artists release great singles while not doing much in the "cohesive album as a whole"-department. With a few notable exceptions. And those will be included."

Please note that changes have been made to both the 2008 and the 2007 list. Click 'em to see exactly what those changes are.

EDIT: There's some confusion here. For whatever reason I thought Destination Tokyo by Nisennenmondai came out earlier this year but apparently it came out last year. It has been included in the list.

So here goes "A year of interesting albums - pt. 3: 2009". In no particular order except a sort of chronological one:

Dälek: Gutter Tactics

The follow-up to Abandoned Language (2007). What a great album that was and what a great album this is. Experimental hip hop collage music with balls and integrity.

A Place To Bury Strangers: Exploding Head

Standing on the shoulders of shoegazers. More evil guitar noise from New York. The follow-up to the band's self-titled 2007 debut. Saw them live at Loppen in Copenhagen recently. Great show. Oliver Ackerman sure knows his guitar and pedals.

Antony and the Johnsons: The Crying Light 

Sometimes I'm stunned by the simple beauty and clarity of this album. It slowly grows. That's Japanese Butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno on the cover.

Black Meteoric Star: Black Meteoric Star

Analogue droning minimalist kraut jams with an old school house twist. Great stuff. Gavin Russom plays his home built collection of retro synths and drum machines. Hisses and crackles. Recorded live to tape. No computer editing here, no way José. From what I understand Russom also plays in the LCD Soundsystem live band. Black Meteoric Star is out on DFA Records.

Beak>: Beak>

Side project from Geoff Barrow (Portishead) and two other guys. Mostly instrumental and kinda kraut inspired. Cool grooves. Who needs song structures anyway?

Bob Dylan: Together Through Life/Christmas In The Heart

So Bob and his cohorts managed to add another great album to an already staggering canon and make a decent (as in 'the coziest in a long time') christmas album. All in one year. Way to go Bob.

The Flaming Lips: Embryonic 

This just might be the best and ballsiest album of 2009. If I had to pick an album of the year this would be it.

The Field: Yesterday and Today 

Cool stuff from Sweden. Cut up cells of sound that ebb and flow. 'Atmospherica'? With techno at its base, that's for sure.

Oliver Huntemann: H3 

German techno producer. Minimal, dark & edgy. Very good.

GusGus: 24/7 

 A deep + technoid album from Icelands finest. No bullshit here.

Mokira: Persona

More good stuff from Sweden. Andreas Tilliander is behind this. Ambient and haunting. Ghosts, machines and ghosts in machines.

Nisennenmondai: Destination Tokyo

 We ("we" = my girlfriend and me) saw this Japanese trio at Roskilde Festival and they blew us away! Our favourite show at a festival that had some great bands playing. Nisennenmondai are three girls that make intense, repetitive, minimalist rock with a dark krautrock disco bent. Live they went from motorik grooves to crazy noise freakouts and back to the groove in an instant. This is probably not for everyone but if you find yourself liking this kind of stuff you are in for a treat. I absolutely love this album. Four tracks that range from 8 to 13 minutes and a fifth that is a short funny interlude in the middle. Have to get this on vinyl.

John Tejada: Where

Techno that's to the point. Sharp. Craft is the word.

Tortoise: Beacons of Ancestorship 

Tortoise is such a cool band. A musical mix that includes jazz sensibilities, American minimalism & German (kraut)rock from the 70's = good stuff. Saw them live in Copenhagen in december. Glad I did.

U2: No Line On The Horizon

Well, they write good songs, now as always. It's not hip to like U2 but who cares. I like my regular dose of anthemic and nobody does anthemic like U2.

The Whitest Boy Alive: Rules

Incredibly laid back funk pop. The album was recorded in sunny Mexico, obviously. "Islands" was one the best songs of 2009.

Wooden Shjips: Dos

Psy-che-delic like your Californian grandmother used to play it. Drums + bass lay down repetitive grooves while sleepy vocals, organ textures & incendiary guitar freakouts float above. Oh yes, oh yes indeed. They played a great show at this year's Roskilde.

Wolves In The Throne Room: Black Cascade

I remember walking by the stage where this band was playing at last year's Roskilde. It was the first day and we were in a hurry; on our way to see some other band I can't remember. So I only heard a few minutes of WITTR's performance but their sound stuck with me.
A friend on facebook mentioned them earlier this year and soon after I found Black Cascade at a local vinyl shop. Didn't buy it then (I was looking for a gift for my girlfriend and believe me; this was not it) but I decided to finally dig into this band. What a wise decision. Got their albums on mp3 and saw them live at Loppen in june. What a fucking great band. From what I understand the music is described as "ambient black metal". It is characterized by a very immersive and dense atmosphere. It's black metal but there's more to it. Something unspeakable at play. A void in there. The abyss. Stare into it long enough and it stares back at you (Nietzsche'an for 'kick ass!') And what an awesome band name. Speechless.


The "Amen Break" - Sampling continued

Continuing on from my recent post The Phenomenon Phenomenon, in which I traced that musical phenomenon's development and reappearance in new contexts, I'd like to share this little documentary/video about the "Amen break" with you.
Wiki has this to say; The "Amen break" was a brief drum solo performed in 1969 by Gregory Cylvester "G. C." Coleman in the song "Amen, Brother" performed by the 1960s funk and soul outfit The Winstons. It gained fame from the 1980s onwards when four bars (5.2 seconds) sampled from the drum-solo (or imitations thereof) became very widely used as sampled drum loops in hip hop, jungle, breakcore and drum and bass music.

This 2004 documentary by Nate Harrison traces the reemergence of the amen break from the 1980's onwards and also features some interesting perspectives on intellectual property etc. It ends with these quite brilliantly put words from Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals;
"Overprotecting intellectual property is as harmful as underprotecting it. Culture is impossible without a rich public domain. Nothing today, like nothing since we tamed fire, is genuinely new. Culture, like science and technology, grows by accretion, each new creator building on the works of those who came before. Overprotection stiples the very creative forces it's supposed to nurture."

I just gave away the very last sentences, but give this a good listen anyways. Thoughtful and fascinating stuff.


Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

It's sunday and I'm feeling hymn-y (definitely not a word, but you might know what I mean). This is a good one. Wonderful performance by Sufjan Stevens. A beautiful hymn. Words by by Robert Robinson and music by John Wyeth.
 Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise

Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I'm fixed upon it
Mount of Thy unchanging love

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy great help I've come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home

Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
Let that grace now, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise

Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I'm fixed upon it
Mount of Thy unchanging love

Thanks to cool dude and student of theology Arni Zachariassen for making me aware of this hymn on facebook.