music in ’09.

by aslightbreeze

whew. okay. let’s do this.
this was a GREAT year for music, and i STILL insist that now is the best time in music’s long lifespan. perhaps 2009 was the year i began to embrace “pop” music while still retaining a love for challenging sounds. there were wonderful offerings from across the spectrum, from metal to dance to introspective folk to noise. i’ve also been looking back at the past decade through my own musical lens, and it’s been really fun to track the process of my personal tastes. i might post that later on. so here goes:

1. SUNN O)))-monoliths and dimensions.
duh. it’s getting somewhat ridiculous that these guys have topped my year-end lists for the past four years or so. but this album is most likely their best to date. 2005’s black one was a meditation on the essence of black metal, and sonically SUNN O))) matched the cold introspective tones that genre is notorious for. monoliths and dimensions, however feels so OPEN, right from the very first note of “aghartha”, my personal favorite track. it’s a warm, extroverted record, with each song pulling some other influence atop the waves and waves of guitar, thicker than a rhinoceros hide. maximum volume yields maximum results.
LISTEN:
SUNN O)))-Aghartha

2. memory tapes-seek magic
this was the record i felt i needed to show to EVERYONE. so i’m sorry if i beat you over the head with this. but there is something in the way this record is written and how the sounds sound that just KILLS me. this fella dayve hawk was in a band called hail social a few years back, and now he makes bedroom dance pop that has kind of a hazy sheen over the synths and guitars. and his rhythms are genius. he samples sneakers on a basketball court right in the first song. there are so many moments of pure ecstasy on this record that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but i find myself continually coming back to “bicycle” and “graphics”. mr. hawk also regularly hands out songs he’s been working on/remixing on his website.
LISTEN:
memory tapes-graphics

3. mount eerie-wind’s poem and dawn
phil elverum is a machine. a machine that churns out endless swaths of gorgeous, introspective avant folk. this year alone he added three more albums to his already impressive discography, first as the microphones, and then his moniker transition to mount eeriewind’s poem is a maturation of elverum’s current obsession with black metal, but it’s the way that he owns the sounds that make this album so solid. it wanders between white washes of stinging guitars to rivers of slow organ meandering through a forest, to gently plucked acoustic notes strung together on blades of grass. dawn is a collection of stripped down songs, some of which surfaced on other records, that were recorded in a cabin in the middle of nowhere norway. the CD comes embedded in a beautiful book containing photographs, drawings, and a journal that documents his months of solitude that spawned these songs. what i love so much about elerum is how his voice carries an incredible amount of honestly, that each word is imbued with the heaviness of a dylan thomas poem.
LISTEN:
mount eerie-wind’s dark poem (acoustic)

4. volcano choir-unmap
let me go ahead and admit that i only own four bon iver songs, and i didn’t even like it that much at first. but over the past year those four songs have really grown on me, so when i read over the summer that justin vernon was collaborating with collection of colonies of bees (a band i had stumbled across five years ago, and quite liked), my interest was piqued. then i heard “island, IS”. whew. in the first three seconds i knew this was something to really pay attention to. the album sounds exactly as you would anticipate the meeting of a woodsy girly voiced folkster and a minimalist-worshipping electroacoustic post-rock outfit. vernon’s voice becomes an instrument among instruments on this record in a more fully realized fashion than he has been capable of in his solo work, and the COCOB gentlemen show tremendous maturity in their restraint and appropriateness of sound. but it is in the choppy grooves of “island, IS” that their collaboration works best. this record really exemplifies how “weird” and “accessible” are slowly eeking towards each other as comfortable bedfellows in the coming decade.
LISTEN:
volcano choir-island,IS

5. fuck buttons-tarot sport
speaking of the weird/accessible dynamic… well, there isn’t too much to say here except this record is great. it was funny reading reviews of tarot sport arguing that it’s either more accessible or farther out than their previous album street horrrsing. i don’t know about that too much, but everything about this record is HUGE. they are epic in the way that i loved so many post-rock bands in the beginning of the decade: the constant build, the layer-upon-layer approach that reaches a climactic wall of beautiful noise. the only [potential] downside is the absence of vocals, which i thought were such an interesting element to the first record. but a minor aside to an otherwise fantastic chunk of blissed-out dancy cacophany.
LISTEN:
fuck buttons-surf solar

6. kylesa-static tensions and baroness-the blue record
okay, i kind of cheated here, but i JUST got the baroness album, and i’m still processing it all. these two records go hand-in-hand in my heart for their impressions of where heavy metal (of the southern-fried variety in particular) are heading. what i love about but these albums is the sense of power, and in that, it feels victorious in some way. like how the old D&D metal bands of yore made you feel like a warrior, kylesa and baroness make me feel like some sort of modern day viking, if norway was a county in rural georgia, and everyone had sweet facial hair. long live the almighty riff.
LISTEN:
kylesa-said and done
baroness-jake leg

7. animal collective-merriweather post pavillion and fall be kind
do i even need to write anything here? as soon as we heard it, we all knew it would be on our year-end lists. i guess the only thing i can say is that MPP hits me like a sigur ros album now, in that i feel like i’ve exhausted it and i don’t want to listen to it anymore, but as soon as i hear it, AC start feeding me juicy sonic morsels i didn’t notice the previous 654,000 times i listened to this album. and fall be kind is some sort of humble victory lap wrapped in gleeful strangeness.
LISTEN:
animal collective-what would i want? sky

8. the mountain goats-the life of the world to come
john darnielle means a lot to me. or rather, his music does. from the handful of times that i’ve seen him perform, to the musings on his blog, i am enraptured by him as a person, or at the least a very clever product of an amplified personality. i consider him one of the best lyricists alive, and it often comes not just from what he sings, but how he sings it. there is such a directness and urgency in his voice, and, like the aforementioned phil elverum, an honesty. on the life of the world to come, darnielle uses 12 lessons he has learned from the bible as a jumping point for stories of crystal healers and vandalists on pilgimages. it’s always interesting to me to delve into the impressions of christianity from someone who is not a professed believer, and this has been something that has always fascinated me about the mountain goats. his characters are often endowed with a sense of their own salvation through action, or the acknowledgement of their own resultant condemnation. this album, as with others, contains many references to driving or traveling, creating an overarching theme in his work; that life is one grand journey that requires our participation.
LISTEN:
the mountain goats-ezekial 7 and the permanent efficacy of grace

8. white rainbow-new clouds
richard, matt, kim, and i drove up to cincinnati to see the no age/deerhunter/dan deacon (all good albums this year) show a few months ago, and we walked into the venue immediately enveloped in a glorious drone from white rainbows. i finally found a copy of this new record a month ago, and it has been such a blessing to me. white rainbows is one dude who has worked in/with many other underground bands prior to his current moniker. the sound is a thick wall of guitars, drums, synths, and vocals, all set on repeat for four slabs of beautiful psychedelica. i once had a friend tell me i was the stoniest non-stoner he knew, and this album does nothing to refute that statement. gorgeous drone, like the best bits of a song when it’s on the edge of collapse.
LISTEN:
white rainbow-tuesday rollers and strollers

9. OM-god is good
you cannot fuck with the rhythm section from the almighty SLEEP. you just can’t. but lo and behold chris hakius left the band after a partnership with bassist al cisneros than spans two solid decades. thankfully, the addition of emil amos on the skins is a smooth one, and this album is probably the best realization of OM’s meditative bass-and-drums mantra.
LISTEN:
OM-meditation is the practice of death

HONORABLE MENTION:
tortoise-beacons of ancestorship
eagle twin-the unkindness of crows
anaal nathrakh-in the constellation of the black widow
daroc-super8 EP
passion pit-manners
no age-losing feeling EP
atlas sound-logos
pelican-ephemeral EP

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