Wednesday, December 30, 2009
This is Our Music: 2009 (Pt. 2)
10) Charles Rumback, Two Kinds of Art Thieves
Rumback is a tremendously giving, supportive drummer, the kind that fades into the wallpaper if you're not listening closely. But pay attention and you'll be rewarded by the way he buttresses the horns (Joshua Sclar on tenor and Greg Ward on alto) and bass (Jason Ajemian). Rumback debuts as a leader here, but he's far from green, and it comes across. The result is warm, open, loose. And yet again, Clean Feed is the platform for a winning record; the label that can't lose.
9) David S. Ware, Shakti
I retain no residual doubt that Ware is one of the most important musicians of his era, and Shakti confirms it anew. That the saxophonist felt the draft from Death's scythe earlier this year is perhaps more reason to appreciate this disk, and the others that preceded it in Ware's discography. That he is intact, new kidney apparently operating smoothly, lends promise to the hope that we'll have more of his music to treasure in the years ahead.
8) The Raveonettes, In and Out of Control
If all pop music were like this I would listen to commercial radio with a fervent mania bordering on religiosity, the way I imagine people once did on balmy summer nights in topdown cars while cicadas hummed and the sweet pinegum air was thick and warm. We would all know consensus on our favourite songs, and our futures would look as bright as all our yesterdays.
7) Vandermark 5, Annular Gift
Vandermark the yeoman. Vandermark the workhorse. Vandermark the champion. Vandermark the blue-collar intellectual. The band (Dave Rempis (alto and tenor sax); Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello, electronics); Kent Kessler (bass); Tim Daisy (drums)) hums along like a well-oiled, many-headed automaton, and a staggering run continues.
6) Sonic Youth, The Eternal
Nearly thirty years, 15 albums, endless experimentation, a devotion to stylistic restlessness, scores of followers who don't deserve the comparison, and you have to say this much for Sonic Youth: their Sonic Youth impression is bang-on.
5) Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Slick and smooth, poppy and damn-near perfect. This is the music I want to hear in car commercials, and in the iPod era, I can (God bless the invisible hand of the marketplace). I heard this while strolling the aisles of IKEA the other day, and it sounded right. I bought three Billy bookcases.
4) The XX, XX
Sexy, detached, effortless, cool. Can I dance to this? Is that cool? Or will that trip up my brooding? Because really, I could go either way.
3) Rob Mazurek, Sound Is
An abundance of space and atmosphere. A very interesting musician gets even more interesting.
2) Phosphorescent, To Willie
Matthew Houck unearths the essence of the Red Headed Stranger. If there's blood in your veins, chances are decent it'll be thinner before this record's over. Substances and self-loathing; outlaw country by way of Williamsburg. This initiates the countrified left hook-right jab combo at the top of this list, and they're close, man, close. But they serve different purposes: this one's for drinking and feeling low. Oh, and singing along with my three year-old daughter, who took a shining to "that "Reasons to Quit" song" as soon as she heard it. I chalk it up to the harmonies, not the lyrical content. Right?
1) Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
If Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (the better album, but probably only because "Star Witness" is a perfect song) was a revelation, Middle Cyclone is a confirmation. There is more blood, heart, fear and desire in Case's music than you can bear. Take heart, son; crying's the only natural response. The country-to-pop ratio's about the same as on a Taylor Swift album, but the country's a bit realer, and the pop is a thousand times smarter. Does God have taste? If so, he'll see to it that Neko's name is still spoken in a hundred years.