Every year the Albums Of The Year lists seem more and more removed from my experience. (Most of the time I haven’t heard a single album on the list.) Worse, we’re now getting into the Of The Decade lists, making me realize how long this has been going on*. If you ask me the top albums of the ’80s or ’90s, I don’t have too much trouble rattling off a bunch of names. But this decade? I get confused and have to start thinking hard and looking through the back covers of my mix CDs. Why is that? [Ed.: it’s because you’re getting old. Duh.]
Let me start with this year, 2009. What was good? Hm; my prosthetic brain units at iTunes and last.fm tell me that it’s:
• Dysrhythmia, “Psychic Maps” [jaw-dropping instrumental math-metal, will have you banging your head in 7/13 time.]
• Isis, “Wavering Radiant” [post-metal? huge lowercase-‘p’ progressive epics. so good I’m willing to overlook the cookie-monster vocals.]
• Pelican, “Ephemeral” EP [is it post-rock with big riffs? or restrained brainy instrumental metal?]
• Apricot Rail, “Apricot Rail” [ok, this is instrumental-post-rock for sure, but atypically cheerful, kind of like Do Make Say Think. they’ve even got oboes omg!]
• The Happy Hollows, “Spells” [this is the token recognizably-indie-rock album on the list. are they secretly Deerhoof covering the Pixies? Or Lush covering Interpol? also, they are hella cute and I can’t wait to see them live]
• Dirty Projectors, “Bitte Orca” [I still can’t figure this out, with its Afrobeat guitar lines, intricate interlocking vocals, weird rhythms and weirder lyrics. ok, that description makes it sound like “Remain In Light", which it isn’t at all like, but maybe is somehow.]
• Elisa Luu, “Chromatic Sigh” [can I say “eclectic" with a straight face? really interesting electronic music, clearly song-like, ranging between poles of rock and ambient.]
• Anduin + Jasper TX, “The Bending Of Light” [guitar-based drone. majestic.]
• Brock van Wey, “White Clouds Drift On And On” [exactly what it sounds like. it comes with or without beats, your choice.]
• Eluder, “Drift” [exactly what it sounds like, too. careful with this one, some people have had trouble returning to earth afterwards.]
• Jónsi & Alex, “Riceboy Sleeps” [Sigur Rós guitarist and his boyfriend do Stars Of The Lid. delicious in small doses.]
• Victoire, “A Door Into The Dark” EP [a string ensemble that embraces electronics as a natural part of their sound]
• Sub, “Id” EP [nothing new, but basically the best Photek tracks I’ve heard in ten years.]
PS: there might be some last minute additions to this list if Kate
Simko’s “Sounds Of The Atom Smashers" and Concern’s “Truth And
Distance" live up to their potential.
PPS: ZOMG I forgot Sunn O)))’s stark and forbidding “Monoliths And Dimensions", whose final track “Alice" is deserving of a space up there.
PPPS: Yes, a mix of this stuff is forthcoming…
* It’s not like I’ve been having trouble finding great new music, or that I resent other people for all picking different music than me; but it’s a little sad to not be part of the zeitgeist. Long ago it was really important to me whether punk and new wave would break dinosaur rock’s lock on the mainstream, or whether little-known underground bands like the Cure or the Pixies would get the recognition they deserved. I think the peak of my with-it-ness was circa 1990-91 when I could rattle off the name of every shoegazer band that mattered and I treated every issue of Melody Maker as a shopping list to take with me to the import bin at Tower to find the next Cranes or Chapterhouse.