... a countdown ::
28. Viral Videos: Staged Acts
Everyone’s trying to get their 9 minutes and 59 seconds of fame on the youtubes these days. And by the way, that wedding ceremony dance video thing was really lame. Also, I’m not a big fan of The Black Eyed Peas and I could care less about Oprah, but I have to admit this caught my attention. After all, I do like me some synchronized dance moves and seeing Chicagwegiens having fun.
27. Flight Of The Conchords...These guys continue to make me laugh and their songs are both catchy and hilarious. Too bad their show got cancelled.
26. Morrissey... What a year it was for Morrissey - his 50th. Sickness and bottles to the head meant a whole lot of shows were cancelled (or stopped suddenly), he released a new album - the average “Years of Refusal” - and dragged out a forgettable collection of recent b-side drivel. Mozzer also continues to shun Canada due to our apparent taste for seal products. As well, he is currently without a record label and is contemplating hanging up the gladiola for good. All this and I’m still not sure what to think - other than I know that if he finally found a decent set of musicians (who had at least one original idea between them) to back him up, then things would be back on track with my hero-worshipping. Hmmm, all four Smiths members are still alive!
25. Emmy The Great ... Her vocals on “Seattle” gave The BPA’s Fat Boy Slim renewed life. Meanwhile, Emma-Lee Moss has carved out for herself a fine little singer-songwriter career who’s best work is surely ahead of her.
24. Discovering/ Rediscovering the oldies... I may have been raised on early 70’s am radio, but the only Beatles music I ever really got into was Stars On 45’s medley take. As awesome as that is, hardly a primer. So it wasn’t until this year’s Beatles Rock Band that I got a new found appreciation, though I still think I prefer Wings. The Animals, The Kinks and even Pavement were other “oldies” I finally discovered.
23. Pixies reunited...
Maybe this time they’ll pump out some new tunes to go along with the reformation. Yeah they’re as “dull as butter knives” on stage but I like the fact that they toured the Doolittle songs on the occasion of that album’s 20th anniversary (and that Joey Santiago still looks like he’s 25).
22. Pet Shop Boys - Yes... “Love etc.” is a phenomenal song from a group that is not supposed to matter anymore. The remaining songs were... fine.
21. Dead Man’s Bones... Made up of actor Ryan Gossling and a friend, Dead Man’s Bones, through their daring amateurism, goes down as the band least likely to of 2009. More surprising than the storyline of an actor succeeding in music is that Gosling transformed his tween turn in the Mickey Mouse Club to that of baritone singer of ghoulish prose.
20. NSFW Music Videos... Others have pursued the NSFW/ nekidness type-video theme before, like Sigur Rós last year, but this sure was the year for pushing the envelope. Yeahsayer had naked running people, Girls showed off their own penises, Major Lazer peformed dance-based sex acts minus the nudity while Massive Attack recently released a video for Paradise Circus with clips from old porn flics. Matt and Kim were the most original with their Times Square clothes ripping FU for Lessons Learned, but the best of the bunch was The Flaming Lips’ Watching The Planets... as much as I didn’t need to see Wayne’s Coyne, it was a fairly decent video.
19. The Avett Brothers... I first heard these guys during a scene in Friday Night Lights and was blown away. Turns out they have quite the following in that southern belt of states. “I and Love and You”, released in September, is fairly conventional stuff (Starbucks sells it - yikes!) but there are enough original bits and pieces in there to hold my attention.
18. Miike Snow... This Swedish/ American band came out of nowhere to produce a handful of memorable, if slightly conventional, songs. Their videos were equally memorable.
17. The Flaming Lips - Embryonic... I have only listened to half of this album, but I like the direction these guys are going. These are not simple tunes that catch you right away - you have to work at them a bit.
16. Arctic Monkeys - Humbug... Again, for some reason I haven’t gotten around to listening to the entire thing, but I’m sure glad that the Arctic Monkeys still matter and have been able to translate all that hype and talent into high quality output. Nice lads too!
15. God Help The Girl... This film score to a non-existent (yet) movie by Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch contains all the great songwriting , hooks and necessary twee-factor of a proper B&S album but perhaps comes off a little too polished.
14. múm - Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know...
Iceland’s múm changed up their members and their sound this time around and while the vocals are a little more present, the minimalistic squeaks and blips that make their music so enduring remain. Perhaps not their best effort, but an intriguing departure from the ordinary.
13. Antony and the Johnsons - The Crying Light... This came out way back in January. This is Antony’s most complete album to date but given his warbley vocals, I think people still either love him or hate him.
12. Flotation Toy Warning - Bluffer’s Guide to The Flight Deck... This album was actually released in 2004, but I went five years without knowing the beauty that this thing contains. Mesmerizing stuff. New work is expected from Flotation Toy Warning next year.
Song :: Popstar Reaching Oblivion by Flotation Toy Warning
11. Hello Sweden (once again)... Discovering the music of Hello Saferide, Skatan, Air France and Anna Ternheim was enough to make this list but “old” Swedish standbys like Peter, Bjorn and John and Loney Dear also pumped out reasonably decent new material.
Song :: Collapsing At Your Doorstep by Air France
10. fun. - Aim and Ignite... Nate from The Format joins forces with his buddies to create happy songs with wide reaching arrangements and tempo changes all over the place. A beauty!
9. Karen O (Karen O and The Kids - Where The Wild Things Are OST; Yeah Yeah Yeah’s - It’s Blitz)... I have ignored the The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s over the years but Karen O’s handling of the Where The Wild Things Are soundtrack was so brilliant that I then went back to It’s Blitz, released earlier in the year, and enjoyed that too. Next thing you know, Karen O was popping up, via telephone line vocals, on a couple of tracks on Embryonic, the new Flaming Lips album.
8. Karin Dreijer Andersson... One half of Swedish electronic outfit The Knife, Karin continued her collaborative work with Röyksopp in 2009 on a couple of tracks and also branched out as a solo artist with Fever Ray – a collection of dark and eerie tunes strung together with THAT voice.
7. Music Go Music - Expressions... Disco revival at its finest! Actually, I only need one album in the “disco revival” category... and this is a whole heap of fun.
6. The xx - xx... xx stands for twenty - the age of all four members of the band at the time of recording this, their first album. Vulnerable, exquisite, measured... their music belies and confirms their accumulated experience. The xx combine boy-girl narration with a modern, low fi sound that results in creative works of art hailed by critics and fans alike. Believe the hype!
5. Animal Collective... The band’s 2009 album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, spawned two of the best videos of the year - both for the excellent “My Girls”. Later in the year, Animal Collective released one of the best songs of 2009, ”Graze” off of their EP, Fall Be Kind. Graze contains the most awesome sample of Zamfir’s pan flute that you’ll ever hear(!)... in the dancey bit of the song no less!
4. Röyksopp - Junior... The ultimate up-beat album; benefits from the diversity of all those guest singers (Lykke Li, Karin Dreijer Andersson, Robyn). Dance music you can listen to on your commute!
Video :: The Girl And The Robot by Röyksopp
3. The Antlers - Hospice... One would think that an album entirely dedicated to songs about watching your beloved die of cancer in hospital would not be well received (or even conceived). But with Hospice, which is equal parts moving, engaging and entertaining, The Antlers manage to achieve the impossible. A must! Note: Hospice was originally distributed by the band themselves - an indie group in the truest sense of the term.
Song :: Two by The Antlers
1. The Hidden Cameras - Origin:Orphan... This is one of the two best albums of the year. There was less singing about peeing on your fellow man and more attention to detail on this, Joel Gibbs’ fourth album proper. The hooks are still there and the songs are better than ever. I would say this represents a more mature approach but past Cameras songs detailing golden showers and enemas were oddly mature in their own right. Origin:Orphan is a brilliant album by a brilliant man and it goes well beyond the band’s self described “gay church folk music” moniker.
1. Jason Lytle - Yours Truly, The Commuter... The other best album of the year - this by the recently-gone-solo ex-Grandaddy leader. Any commentary on this album, positive or otherwise, has strangely been absent from 99.9% of interweb music blogs: proof of my continued uncoolness I suppose. However, “Yours Truly...” will one day be looked upon as a classic! Bonus: you can get Jason’s new seven track “Christmas” album of improvised piano pieces for free here.