Friday, December 18, 2009

Best of 2009

I love holiday songs and could listen to them all year long, but I have a rule; no Christmas music until I have digested my turkey and trimmings. Right now I’m listening to Natty and Nice: A Reggae Christmas and Six Degrees Collection: Christmas Remixed. But that’s not why I’m writing. This post has to do with my favorite discs from 2009. Here goes.

The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You (Sony, 29 Sept 09)
I describe these guys as Black & Bluegrass and this is their best release to date. They hold to many Bluegrass traditions, but their live shows have more energy than an atomic bomb and nearly as explosive.

Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti, 3 Mar 09)
Wow! That’s all I can say, wow! Got to see her at Bumbershoot ’08.

Ravi Coltrane – Blending Times (Savoy Jazz, 13 Jan 09)
It has to be tough to live is the shadow of a legend. Ravi shows no signs that it’s a burden. He’s put together a solid combo, isn’t afraid to let them shine and shine they do on this great Jazz disc.

The Black Crowes - Before the Frost/After the Freeze (Red Distribution, 1 Sept 09)
I’ve seen the Brothers Robinson 3 times, including a great show in November of this year. These tracks were recorded live at Levon Helm’s Woodstock studio and performance hall (OK, OK it’s a barn) and truly demonstrates how the boys have matured as songwriters and musicians.

eels - Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire (Vagrant Records, 2 Jun 09)
Take a blues influenced, retro, rock sound, strip it down, add some distortion, fold in a lot of attitude and you have Hombre Lobo...

Fink - Sort of Revolution (Ninja Tune, 22 May 09)
If Nick Drake lived long enough to incorporate an ever-so-slight Techno pulse into the bottom end of his music, this is what it would sound like.

Grand Archives - Keep in Mind Frankenstein (Sub Pop, 15 Sept 09)
The Emerald City’s own created another disc of perfectly blended harmonies in their version of the Folk tradition.

Mayer Hawthorne- A Strange Arrangement (Stones Throw, 8 Sept 09)Sweet Soulful sounds from Ann Arbor by a geeky looking white guy in a cardigan and Buddy Holly glasses. Buy this record now! One of my great finds from Bumbershoot ’09.

Hoots & Hellmouth - Holy Open Secret (Mad Dragon Records, 2 Jun 09)
A solid sophomore effort from the Philly quartet who provided the best live show I saw in 2009 (the energy from their show could power a city for a week). Mostly, it’s Folk Rock delivered with the fervor of a Pentecostal preacher in a tent revival meeting.

Joe Henry - Blood From Stars (Anti, 18 Aug 09)
I love Joe Henry’s sweet melodies, his jazzy arrangements, his poetic lyrics and his spot-on delivery. What I’m trying to say is I love Joe Henry’s music. He reminds of Tom Waits and Ricki Lee Jones.

Levon Helm-Electric Dirt (Vanguard Records, 30 Jun 09)
A few years back Levon was dealing with cancer and a very rocky financial situation. Hard to believe! This is his second great album since coming back. Who needs The Band to reunite as long as Levon can make a disc like this?

The Lonely Forest-We Sing the Body Electric (Burning Building Recordings, 21 Apr 09)A debut from a young band of straight on Rock from Anacortes, WA .Very, very nice.

Manchester Orchestra-Mean Everything to Nothing (Sony, 21 Apr 09)Atlanta Rockers tearing it up with attitude!

Mindy Smith- Stupid Love (Vanguard Records, 11 Aug 09)Third album and best yet, from this very talented Nashville transplant by way of Long Island. Two things I like about her; she gives me hope for the future of C&W and she’s not Taylor Swift. I saw her at Bumbershoot ’04.

Telekinesis-Telekinesis (Merge Records, 7 Apr 09)Bright, Pop sounds reminding me of the snappy tunes from the New Wave era. A crowd pleaser at Bumbershoot ’09.

Vieux Farka Toure – Fondo (Six Degrees, 12 May 09)
Blues Mali style. His dad did an album with Ry Cooder a few years ago.

Westerly- This Lonesome Town (Westerly, Mar 09)Northwest quartet playing C&W (mostly originals) with catchy hooks, great melodies and honey-sweet harmonies. Saw them at the Kingston Arts & Crafts Festival in June.

Vetiver-Tight Knit (Sub Pop, 17 Feb 09)They pay homage to the Folk tradition with playful, sometimes Jazzy songs. I love this band.

Volcano Choir – Unmap (Jagjaguwar, 22 Sept 09)
A collection of very talented people from Wisconsin including Bon Iver. Slow, somber, Folky tunes.

More to follow...