Top 10 Albums 2009

Oh joy of joys children, it is that time of year again, in which I, a hopeless nobody languishing in the bleak depths of the internet, raises his voice for a truly arbitrary annual tradition that somehow feels important.

After some serious deliberation, this is what I’ve settled on.

  1. maudlin of the Well – Part the Second
  2. Do Make Say Think – Other Truths
  3. Sunn O))) – Monoliths & Dimensions
  4. Akron/Family – Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free
  5. Khanate – Clean Hands Go Foul
  6. Big Business – Mind the Drift
  7. Years – Years
  8. Crippled Black Phoenix – The Resurrectionists/Night Raider
  9. Pelican – What We All Come to Need
  10. Porcupine Tree – The Incident

I’m slightly ashamed to say that I haven’t fully absorbed everything I bought this year, I’d probably be better off moving to Brandon Wu‘s system of doing his list one year later (ie. this would be top 10 2008) just to let everything settle, and to pick up everything I missed or overlooked this year, but I find there are some benefits to the traditional way. For one thing, it encourages me to do some focussed listening, which I enjoy, and don’t do nearly enough of.

In the course of my focussed listening, one particular album stood out. When the maudlin of the Well reunion-of-sorts free album was released, I was reasonably curious, as a Kayo Dot fan who had not really heard much maudlin (the CDs have been out of print for years) but had heard from disgruntled Kayo Dot fans that maudlin were much more metal. I was then obviously surprised to hear how mellow and somewhat mild-mannered this album sounds. I quickly latched onto the first track, but the rest of it kind of lost my interest. The Final Fantasy esque intro to track 2 really put me off for a while. But the strength of that first track was actually so great as to keep the album in contention for my top 10.

Anyway, after seeing Kayo Dot – or should I say Tartar Lamb – in October, I finally bought the first Kayo Dot album Choirs of the Eye, whose elusiveness had been bugging me for some time, from the merch stand, and thanked Toby Driver for turning up in Glasgow, despite the various tour difficulties. In listening to Choirs (itself a lengthy process), I slowly began to see where it was that Part the Second was coming from, and in the last month or so it has really opened up to me.

It was also the year of the lost final Khanate release, and Sunn O)))‘s most adventurous (and musical) release to date. Oh, and Porcupine Tree‘s latest epic, with the very ballsy 50-minute continuous song cycle The Incident.

The biggest surprises for me were maudlin of the Well, Pelican, Do Make Say Think side-project Years, and a couple of things that narrowly failed to make the list – Eagle Twin and The Mars Volta, who once again took a major stylistic left turn.

All in all, it was a great year for adventurous music, and that’s obviously the kind of music I like to listen to.

Live

Figured I’d put a little section in about live music here, about my highlights of the year.

Saw Akron/Family in the tiny basement of Captain’s Rest, and the show ended up being an hour later than advertised so I went for a long walk along the banks of the Kelvin which would have been beautifully romantic if I had a girlfriend, but it was pretty nice regardless. I often forget how beautiful that particular slice of Glasgow is. So anyway, the band were every bit as energetic and meandering as I expected, and bar a slight mood-destroying moment at the end from some drunk Glaswegian asshole, it was an exceptionally pleasant display of awesome radiant happiness and hippy love – a change from the dreary apocalyptic despair of almost everything else I listen to.

Also, really enjoyed a mini noise-fest at Stereo in April that I ended up going to at the last minute, headlined by Nate Young & Aaron Dilloway, current and ex members of Wolf Eyes respectively, alongside a guitar-oriented set from Richard Youngs & Heather Leigh Murray, and floor-bound pedal-fiddling noise swash by Glasgow’s own Nackt Insecten (I should totally speak to that dude, because he lives in the same damn city as me). Just as I was about to leave after Aaron Dilloway‘s solo set, Nate Young joined him for a what I guess in conventional music terms would be called a duet. Anyway, it was totally up my street, and apparently up quite a lot of other people’s streets too (and yet, I never seem to meet these people in the real world).

Saw my fifth Sunn O))) show a couple of weeks ago. That was swell. Also, Kayo Dot, despite a massive fuck-up that left half the band in a different country (a fact which I hope was the reason for the slightly meagre turn out), played a wonderful set of minimal material from the Tartar Lamb CD, along with a few select Dot pieces (including personal favourite Immortelle and Paper Caravelle – Thanks Toby!)

Flaming Lips as well, crazy show, as ever.

Unfortunately had to skip Supersonic Festival this summer due to monetary concerns, but it wasn’t even that exciting of a lineup as far as I could tell – at least until Sunn O))) appeared on the bill, leading me to assume that I’d miss their only UK show this year – thankfully that turned out not to be the case. Man, it’s like a drug. Gotta get my fix.

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