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Day: December 31, 2009

Best of 2009: The Films

Just as with music, this list of movies is not ranked, but instead represents my 10 favorite films of the year.

And what a great year in film it was. There are literally dozens of films which I had to cut off the list, and there might be movies that I thought were “better”, but these are my favorites.  Since I went at length about some of these movies in reviews on the site, I’m not going to “re-review” them…but here goes.

(500) Days of Summer


Adventureland


Avatar


District 9


Inglourious Basterds

Moon


Star Trek


Up


Up in the Air


Zombieland

So do yourself a favor…if there are any of these you haven’t seen yet…get on the ball. Check them out.

Best of 2009: The Songs

As I do every year, here’s a post containing a link to a download of my favorite individual tracks of 2009.

There are 31 (!) songs this go around, and the file size is 230MB, so it may take a bit to download.

…but trust me, it’s worth it.

The songs are, in artist alphabetical order…

“Isis Unveiled” by …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
“A Bright Light” by The Appleseed Cast
“Is This Sound Okay?” by Coconut Records
“I Was Once a Loyal Lover” by Death Cab for Cutie
“The Rake’s Song” by The Decemberists
“Fake IDs” by Deleted Scenes
“Pieces” by  Dinosaur Jr.
“Temecula Sunrise” by Dirty Projectors
“Osaka Loop Line” by Discovery
“Kingdom Of Rust” by Doves
“You Don’t Have To Be A Prostitute” by Flight Of The Conchords
“Two Weeks” by Grizzly Bear
“While You Wait For The Others (Feat. Michael McDonald)” by Grizzly Bear
“All Is Love” by Karen O And The Kids
“Recipe for Disaster” by Karmella’s Game
“Santana DVX” by The Lonely Island
“Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare” by Matt & Kim
“Repeater Beater” by Mew
“Satellite Skin” by Modest Mouse
“Heavens To Purgatory” by The Most Serene Republic
“Patternicity” by The Most Serene Republic
“Little Secrets” by Passion Pit
“Ninja-High Schooool” by Peelander-Z
“1901” by Phoenix
“Keep Quiet” by The Protomen
“These Are My Twisted Words” by  Radiohead
“Growing Old Is Getting Old” by Silversun Pickups
“Oh, The Devastation!” by So Many Dynamos
“Hell” by Tegan And Sara
“Circulation” by Workers
“Take It In” by Wye Oak

Click HERE to download, and ENJOY!

Best of 2009: The Music

Folks, I don’t claim to be someone with perfect taste. If anything – it’s imperfect.

But, you fine readers seem to dig hearing my opinion on the matters of media, ergo, I create these top 10 lists for your enjoyment.

Thusly, here’s the first of two lists – the 10 Best of 2009 in music.  This year, I’m trying a new approach…no rankings, just a list of my favorites.  Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but choosing one over another sounds kinda silly, and has become increasingly difficult.  I’d imagine that if I ranked these albums today, then were asked to re-rank them tomorrow, the order would be different, but never the less, they were my favorite.  If you haven’t listen to them yet – do so.  Heck, some’ll be in the Best Songs of ’09 post, coming later tonight.

Sagarmatha by The Appleseed Cast
Seven albums in (Eight, if you count the b-sides compliation Lost Songs), featuring a new drummer and bassist, and on their third label in as many albums, it would be easy to expect little from the latest release from The Appleseed Cast.  But in creating Sagarmatha, which took as many turns away from their strong instrumental, post-rock sound as it did toward it, the band not only refined, but rejuvenated their sound. Just when the amazing peaks of their back to back releases of Mare Vitalis and Low Level Owl seemed to be long gone, The ‘Cast reminds you why you fell in love with their brand of dramatic and beautiful guitar work, with lush vocals lost in the sea of sound. Stunning stuff.

The Hazards of Love by The Decemberists
Folk Rock Rock Opera. Doesn’t sound like something that would work out, let alone be quite listenable.  As has become their trademark, The Decemberists rallied against expectation and somehow found their greatest success with what might be their most inaccessible work.  But I’ll be damned if when guest vocalists Becky Stark and Shara Worden make their immense vocal presences known if it didn’t make the hair on my neck standup.  Going into this album, I wondered if mainstream success would ruin the focus for Colin Meloy.  With Hazards, he made it very clear – he’s going to continue to create the music he wants, just have a much larger audience for it.

Bitte Orca by Dirty Projectors
You got your afrobeat in my math rock! You got your math rock in my R&B! The Reese’s peanut butter cup of awesome which is Dirty Projectors may not be what you’d expect as amazing, but there isn’t a single minute of Bitte Orca that didn’t have me hooked.  I must admit, I originally avoided this album due to it’s Pitchfork seal of approval, thinking it another flash in a pan like say, The Black Kids, but as soon as I heard this album, I couldn’t stop listening to it.  Any release that can feature the relaxed mellow rock of “Temecula Sunrise” alongside the should-be-#1-on-every-R&B-station “Stillness is the Move” on one album, and make it seem natural must be something special – and this release is flat out one of the best of ’09. Grab it.

LP by Discovery
You figure that taking a member of Ra Ra Riot and slapping him together with a member of Vampire Weekend would just be indie rock money in the bank, right?  Now imagine that combo decides to do a techno pop album.  In a year of surprising left turns (see the above two albums), this may have been the hardest left, but it made for a surprise summer release that I couldn’t keep off my iPod.  Props for the best Jackson 5 cover ever, too – a single handed use of auto-tune which may argue in favor of everyone’s least favorite vocal editing tool.

…And the Ever Expanding Universe by The Most Serene Republic
Lost in the mix of fellow Canadian chamber-pop bands Broken Social Scene and The Arcade Fire, it seems not many people are aware of The Most Serene Republic.  But for the past few years, they’ve quietly been building a catalog of very solid albums – and with …And The Ever Expanding Universe, they had what might be their most realized to date.  Mixing catchy pop hooks with beautiful instrumentation, and even a lengthy instrumental interlude, this album is a pleasure to listen to.  Like a dewy spring morning, it’s a refreshing listen, and was just the right tone for this year.

Wolfgang Amadeus by Phoenix
This album was everywhere in 2009, and I’m not going to act like I’m super special or unique for discovering it. However, what Wolfgang Amadeus had, which so few albums have had in this decade, was the “single factor”.  Nearly any track from the album could be pulled out and released as a successful single.  And where I come from, that’s what I call good work.  If you haven’t already been inundated with releases like “1901” or “Fences”, grab this album, click play and enjoy.  They really don’t make them like this any more.  Not that that’s a bad thing.

Act II: The Father of Death by The Protomen
It feels weird to put an album by people I actually know on a list of best ofs. That’s honestly why you don’t see Karmella’s Game’s new release in here (Seriously, You’ll Be Sorry is great stuff).  But with the Protomen’s Act II, they rose above the label of being a ‘video game rock band’, and instead of releasing just a redux of their first album – which would’ve worked -they pushed forward and showed their chops as musicians, creating an album where half was a tribute to dark country songs, and the other half was a tribute to keyboard infused 80’s style arena rock.  And I’ll be damned if they didn’t pull both off. For the sheer balls of being willing to alienate their audience with a new sound, when an easy rehash would do, The Protomen get a nod as one of 2009’s best.

The Loud Wars by So Many Dynamos
Why the hell did Vagrant sit on this album?  After many delays and pushes, The Loud Wars was released this past June, and it instantly melted faces.  Strategic, intricate guitar lines, catchy keyboard riffs, it all came together in The Loud Wars, and blew me away every minute it was in my ears.  It’s a shame they didn’t have a good time the last time they were in Baltimore, but maybe I can change that. People reading this – get up on So Many Dynamos, they’re beyond awesome. And if the gang at So Many Dynamos reads this – let’s talk a decent Baltimore show for you, eh?

Workers by Workers
Once known as Your Black Star, this band of Kansas natives decided to get a fresh name to have a fresh start, and hopefully get a new record deal in the process.  The album itself: absolutely stunning, career defining work, far exceeding their prior releases. The new record deal: as far as I know, yet to happen.  Like So Many Dynamos above, Workers are an absolutely stunning band which far too many people have slept on.  Maybe this album will change that. It’s for sure great enough.

The Knot by Wye Oak
Alright folks: take my credibility card. Despite sharing the same city as this band, and even being served by Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner a time or two at Golden West, the first time I saw Wye Oak live was this past Sunday evening.  Why the hell had I been sleeping on them so long?  Taking the lush sound of their first release, If Children, and infusing it with a kick to the pants by way of some stellar steel guitar work, The Knot is an absolutely stellar piece of work.  Jenn’s deep vocals add a dark tone to the proceedings, but the solid rocking she does with Andy Stack will leave you amazed that so much sound can come from a two piece.  The White Stripes may’ve set the standard for a two piece boy/girl rock band, but Wye Oak tears it down and rebuilds it in their own image.