Friday, December 25, 2009

Aaron's Favorites, 2009

1. Dinosaur Jr, Farm
At first the songs seemed too long, the lyrics lazy even by Mascis standards. But beneath his slacker veneer, J has always been a perfectionist, a weird visionary for a sugary thrash no other band even dares attempt. Turns out the extended jams and warm production just give Dinosaur--as good a trio as has ever lumbered--more room to soar.

2. The-Dream, Love Vs. Money
An update of Dirty Mind in the post-crunk era. Unlike the Purple One, Dream isn't a game-changer, but he and collaborator Tricky Stewart's lavish, gorgeous songwriting--interlocking beds of synths, loverman coos, gang chants, and elastic rhythms--is miles ahead of the competition.

3. Wye Oak, The Knot
Wye Oak's 2007 debut was an often beautiful, occasionally awkward shotgun marriage of folk and shoegaze. The Baltimore duo's second disc tends towards the latter, and goes places the band simply couldn't two years ago. Jenn Wasner's plaintive vocals still keep both feet on the ground. Her guitar's mournful too, but the fucking thing sounds massive.

4. Morrissey, Years Of Refusal
"All you need is me," our hero intones, brashly. I believe him. As a vocalist, he's untouchable--operatic, masculine, nimble--and his band powers through the album's fantastic rockers and only slightly less-great ballads with aplomb. Oscar Wilde's favorite album of 2009.

5. Amadou and Mariam, Welcome To Mali
Vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Amadou Bagayoko and his vocalist/songwriter wife Mariam write songs completely their own--ringing and clear, with melodies at once accessible and elusive. An all-world set of collaborators help bring their visions to vivid life.

6. Sonic Youth, The Eternal
No new tricks here, but SY sound fiercer than they have in ages. Thurston Moore and Lee Ronaldo's fuzz-squall alchemy continues, with some typically cool-sounding vocals on top.

7. Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Part II
Unlike many of his peers, Rae has never been a natural on the mic. But what he lacks in the agility department he makes up with pure grit. OB4CL2 is miles better than its predecessor, just harder, with better beats, ace guest rappers, and some brutal OG wisdom.

8. Flaming Lips, Embryonic
Mindfuck music, in the form of an unexpected and very welcome left turn. Shit, it's not anthemic even once! While one of your speakers spools out bad-trip synths, the other blasts nightmare bass and spider guitar.

9. The xx, The xx
The sound of slow burn. These absurdly young upstarts make lust music, somehow synthesizing the aims of Sparhawk and Timbaland while infusing their songs with a potent negative space.

10. Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career
Expert indie-pop. Tracyanne and Co. have spent as much time studying the C86 songbook as their purely heart-pained colleagues, but The Obscura have evolved into a symphonic, even muscular mope-rock outfit.


  1. Props back at you. I agree the second Wye Oak is better than the first, which doesn't exactly explain why it's the one I didn't top ten.

    Seems like most musicians are absurdly young these days.

  2. We share three albums total between our lists, so I'm pretty sure there's not much to say about how awesome YOF, OB4CLII, and The xx's album are. As for the rest:

    1. A lot of Farm is great, and the opening track is magnificent, as are many of their longer songs (killer moment: J. Mascis going "saaaave me" on "Said The People). However, this also has some of the weakest Dino Jr. tracks out there, like "Friends" and Lou Barlow's tracks, so it respectfully didn't make my list.

    6. Also great, but same deal. I don't think this one is particularly better than Rather Ripped or Sonic Nurse, but that's okay.

    8. Same deal yet again. Some of Embryonic is indeed pretty weak, although one can pretend not to notice that.

    As for the rest, I have not heard them, so I will get on that immediately. Haven't heard Wye Oak in particular.

  3. Yeah, obviously I have a weakness for new material from classic indie bands. That said, I'm not sure there's a bad song on either Farm or The Eternal, and many incredible ones. The Eternal struck me as being much superior to Sonic Nurse and Rather Ripped, but I seem to be the only person who thinks that.

    Embryonic might have an expendable track or two, but that album gives off some sweet vibes.