It’s that time of year again… although, I feel less pumped about my list this year than in years past. I spent more of my listening time in 2009 on older stuff I’d slept on for awhile (e.g. Silver Apples, Can, Faust) vs new stuff. Perhaps it’s a by-product of getting older, but it seems rarer n’ rarer to hear new music that actually stands up to the test of time and warrants repeat listens.
My consumption of new music hasn’t gone down at all, but I feel like I’m discovering fewer 5 star albums (where the whole damn thing is good from end-to-end) than I used to.
Twist my arm though, and here you have my top 10 for the year (album covers link to video clips):
01. Kings of Convenience – Delcaration of Dependence
I’ve been a long time fan of these guys, but re-fell-in-love with them just as I heard they had a new album coming out. I know their music bores many to tears (*cough* Dave *cough*), but I’m a huge unrepentant fan. What can I say, they speak singularly to my inner sad bastard. Hoping to catch them live next year (and hoping even more that Erlend does another DJ Kicks record).
02. Röyksopp – Junior
If my #1 choice was all about melancholic introspection, this was my get-up-n-go album of the year which probably accompanied me on half of my outdoor runs. Röyksopp isn’t the same band we heard on that first record (which I still long for), but I continue to be a fan and wish I hadn’t missed out on their tour earlier this year.
03. The Sight Below – Glider
Technically, this is a 2008 release, but it came out in November and didn’t go into my regular rotation until this year. It’s the perfect record for “getting into the zone” and focusing. Broadly categorized as ambient, but most of the songs here have a subliminal driving beat in the background that give the song a pulse. I can’t count the number of times I put this on at work when I needed to crank on some designs. I hope Raf won’t take my utilitarian usage of his record as a negative It’s seriously a gorgeous album and I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with next.
04. Zomby – One Foot Ahead of the Other
I heard a lot of dubstep this year, but not much of it held my attention for very long… especially since the genre is driven by singles, not albums (here’s my favorite dubstep single of the year while we’re on the subject). Having said that, this record (listed as an EP… an EP with 9 songs???) really did it for me. The sounds are super pure, clean, and would be at home in any modern remake of an 8-bit NES game. Now if only someone could get the guy toshow up for his own gigs.
05. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Playing the Piano
I also re-fell-in-love-with Sakamoto this year, revisiting as much of his backcatalog as I could get my hands on. I was all set to see him perform his piano works in Birmingham, but that gig was canceled Regardless, his music left a big mark on my 2009 and I suspect it will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
06. Patrick Cleandenim – Orange Moonbeam Floorshow
This was a random discovery made at Other Music in NYC. Really catchy tunes in the vein of Pet Shop Boys and other great dramatic synthpop of the 80s. I’m curious to see where he goes from here.
07. Fever Ray – Fever Ray
It really took me awhile to get into this record, but then I finally succumbed to the awesomeness that is Karin’s solo project. I still long for new Knife, but this album, plus her Royksopp contributions will help tide me over until the next one comes out. (also file this under “shows I wish I could’ve caught this year”).
08. Eluvium – Life through Bombardment
Another album that probably shouldn’t be in this list (it’s a 2009 comp of older material), but I’ll bend the rules since it’s what really got me into his music. I fell asleep to this more than anything else over the last 12 months (a high compliment). It’s painfully pretty.
09. Omar Souleyman – Dabke 2020: Folk And Pop Sounds Of Syria
This was definitely the “funnest” find of 2009, just look at that album cover for crissakes! I have to thank Other Music again on this one… seriously, I had no idea people threw down like that in Syria. I can only hope living in Europe means I have a greater chance of seeing him live next year… preferably at some huge wedding.
10. Portico Quartet – Isla
The importance of brick n’ mortar record stores is proved yet again with this latecomer to the list… picked up at Rough Trade in London. Fantastic instrumental compositions for fans of Tortoise and Cinematic Orchestra. Would love to see them perform sometime.
And that’s all she wrote. For 2010, I’m looking forward to hearing the new Massive Attack, Burial, and Radiohead records. It sounds like Trent is already itching to come back out of hiding too and I’m praying it’ll be more like Ghosts than anything else he did with NIN. Maybe Aphex or Boards of Canada will surprise us with something too?
I’ve checked out most of the other top ten lists floating around the web and it looks like Animal Collective came out as top dog. I can appreciate the band for their playfulness, but I never felt compelled to go back to this album. Maybe I will once all the fanfare dies down.
What were some things you dug this year that may have been overlooked by everyone else? I’m particularly interested in under-represented genres in my list like hip-hop or metal (does anyone even make good metal any more? I suppose that depends on who you ask and how you define “metal”… I know Isis and Circle are still doing good stuff). Whatever happened to bands like Faith No More, Ministry, Helmet? I suppose Tool are still around, but we need some young blood to step up and kick some sonic teeth in!
‘Till next time…
See my list for 2008 here.