My contribution to the Orlando Weekly piece:
Solving the ’09 problem
The decade closes with stellar last-minute considerations
Before I get to the business of running down my top five albums of 2009, I’ve gotta do a little rule-breaking. One of the parameters of this annual look back is that we don’t include reissues, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention just how amazing the Big Star box set – Keep an Eye on the Sky (Rhino)– is. It’s not only head-and-shoulders above all of the other box sets released this year; its mix of outtakes, album tracks and alternate versions from the iconic power-pop band may make it one of the most essential box sets ever released. Seriously: Buy it now. Since we’re talking about reissues, technically, this year’s Nonesuch release of The Low Anthem’s Oh My God, Charlie Darwin was a reissue, since the band originally released it on their own last year. If you saw their jaw-dropping performance at the Social earlier this fall, you know that this multi-instrumentalist dream-folk trio is a force to contend with.
Before we get to the list, though, I want to make sure to mention two local bands that made 2009 for me. First, the crusty metallians in Junior Bruce peeled my face off every time I saw them; each show was a brutal, groove-laden slab of awesomeness that outstripped the previous brutal, groove- laden slab of awesomeness. Meanwhile, three-fourths of the boys from New Mexican Disaster Squad went and teamed up with Tony Foresta of Municipal Waste to form No Friends, a practice-when-we-get-to-it blast of straight-up classic hardcore. (Also: Blind Man’s Colour, though not technically local, sure are fantastic, aren’t they?) (And also: The Tenant!)
Oh yeah, the list. Here are the records I listened to and liked the most in 2009:
No. 1: Crippled Black Phoenix, 200 Tons of Bad Luck (Invada)
No. 2: St. Vincent, Actor (4AD)
No. 3: Major Lazer, Guns Don’t Kill People … Lazers Do (Downtown)
No. 4: Riverboat Gamblers, Underneath the Owl (Volcom)
No. 5: Bat for Lashes, Two Suns (Astralwerks)
And the worst? Well, I was conflicted as to whether the new Baroness record disappointed me as much or more than the new Mastodon record bored me, but then I really got to thinking about what pissed me off most about 2009, and the word that immediately came to mind was Lotusflow3r (NPG). On one hand, that spelling abomination is the title of an excellent new album by Prince, probably the first good record he’s made in years, a thoughtful and weird melange of psychedelic rock and woozy, slinky funk. But it’s also the name of a three-CD Prince package that contained the vacuous and venal “throwback” album MPLSound as well as an unlistenable bimbo protégé album. That’s pretty bad. Worse? It’s alsothe name of the website Prince convinced his ravenous fans to shell out $77 to access. What did they get? The very same album that was sold in Target (for $12), a T-shirt and the ability to watch grainy, VHS-dubbed videos they probably had at home in higher quality. Classy.