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Year End 2009

It's hard to believe that 2009 was only ONE year because so much happened that it felt like the last year of the decade sort of swallowed the whole damn thing. For us, it was a good year. If you weren't so lucky (and we were damn lucky), I hope 2010 is full of sparks. But this about all the good and bad tunes that came out last year, and there was a lot of them. Hopefully you'll be as excited and surprised as we were at just how varied our writers' picks were this year. Adios 2009.
 

Anthony D'Amico

Best Album
Black to Comm "Alphabet 1968" (Type)
Marc Richter’s first attempt to write an album of “songs” yielded some of the most eerily beautiful distillations of his surreal aesthetic yet. “Traum GmbH” and “Hotel Freund” are as achingly beautiful as music gets.

Best Song
"Adieu to Old Finland" from Joonatan Elokuu "Mushroom Heart" (Kiiltomatolyhty)
Joonatan’s haunting duet with his wife on this traditional prison ballad sent chills down my spine, and then the creepily warped outro did it all over again.

Best Debut
Tie: Darwinsbitch "Ore" (Digitalis) or Benjamin Finger “Woods of Broccoli” (How Is Annie)
Marielle Jakobsons’ debut is one of the most haunting, complex, and absorbing drone albums that I have ever heard, but “Woods of Broccoli” is a warm and hypnotic series of subtly hallucinogenic dreamscapes. I could not possibly pick one over the other- both floored me.

Best Reissue
Jim O’Rourke "I’m Happy, And I’m Singing, And A 1,2,3,4”’ (Editions Mego)
There were a lot of essential reissues this year, but none were as seminal, inventive, and close to perfection as O’Rourke’s long out-of-print laptop masterpiece.

Best Various Artists Compilation
"Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Ghanaian Blues 1968-81" (Soundway)
I spent most of 2009 obsessively listening to great world music compilations from Soundway, Analog Africa, Sublime Frequencies, and Honest Jons, but this one alone was the perfect mixture of awesome, wild, and ridiculous.

Best Anthology
Nurse With Wound "Flawed Existence" (Vinyl on Demand)
Five hours of Nurse With Wound rarities in a red velour box? My head just exploded. Someone please buy this for me.

Best Cover Art
Gog "Mist From The Random More" (Utech)
The enigmatic and malevolent-looking sleeve art perfectly complemented the crushingly heavy contents inside.

Best Vinyl Only
Our Love Will Destroy The World “Stillborn Plague Angels” (Dekorder)
I thought about picking Expo ‘70’s “Psychosis,” but then realized that almost nothing else I heard this year was as memorable as this brutally harsh and disturbing trip into Campbell Kneale’s twisted hellscape.

Best Cassette Only
Sun Stabbed "The World Upside-Down" (Peasant Magik)
I’m sure that I missed dozens of great tapes this year, but this French duo’s controlled storm of shimmering, quavering feedback seems like it would be pretty hard to top.

Best Live Show
Cold Cave @ No Fun Fest, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, May 17th
There were quite a few brilliant performances at No Fun this year (Black Pus, Pedestrian Deposit, etc.), but Cold Cave’s brief but intense set left my jaw on the floor. Also, I finally got to see Throbbing Gristle and Faust this year, so I am now quite a bit closer to being able to die contentedly.

Biggest Surprise
I was pretty amused that Cold Cave went from No Fun Fest to having a song in a Radio Shack commercial in just six months. Something Faustian is definitely afoot.

Biggest Disappointment
Nothing about 2009 made me particularly angry or depressed. Either it was a surprisingly good year or I have finally become completely dead inside. I like to think it is the former, but I have my suspicions. I wish I had gone to the Northeast Noise and Power Electronics Festival though.

Most Overrated
I will strangle the next person who mentions Animal Collective to me.
 

April Larson

Best Album
The Caretaker "Persistent Repetition Of Phrases" (History Always Favours The Winners)
Elusive yet eerily familiar, loops of eroded time and memory made audible.

Best Song
"Omen" from The Prodigy "Invaders Must Die" (R.E.D. Distribution)
My appreciation for what music could be began with industrial and electronica (Skinny Puppy, Funker Vogt, Wumpscut, Prodigy's "The Fat of the Land") and "Omen" was like revisiting old skool gutter-rave with new and infectious clarity.

Best Debut
Black Math Horseman "Wyllt" (Tee Pee)
Polished and ethereal seamlessly woven with thunder-in-the-distance doom.

Best Reissue
Xiu Xiu vs. Grouper "Creepshow (2009 Edition)" (Release The Bats)
Ethereal, striking, psychedelic horror, building tension and story and sound like a film for the ears.

Best Various Artists Compilation
"Traveling" (Sunrise Acoustics/Imperfect Music)
Deeply textural, heavy and swampy and spacey without losing the playful spirit of wanderlust.

Best Anthology
The Caretaker "Theoretically pure anterograde amnesia" (History Always Favours The Winners)
The six-CD box-set (sold out, unfortunately, at time of writing) is a collector's item for Wunderkammer, an overwhelming thing of haunting postmodern achievement, eighty or so tracks chronicling the degraded and collapsing depths of memory.

Best Vinyl Only
Leyland Kirby "Memories Live Longer Than Dreams" (History Always Favours The Winners)
The last part of a trilogy, beautiful and unsettling, the torment and allure of nostalgia.

Best CD-R Only
Medroxy Progesterone Acetate "Durga On The Wing Of Abomination" (Kimberly Dawn Records)
Radio frequencies gargled in a throatful of glass and spat back out, filtered through needles and engines, old school blips like Contra sfx.

Best Cassette Only
Liminal Planes "Liminal Planes" (Beach House Records)
Sonic Lovecraft, perfectly suited to the scratchy whip-rhythm of cassette.

Best Live Show
OTEP @ City Club, Houma, August 31st
Otep Shamaya and Evil J are mind-blowing up close, inviting the crowd into their rituals. Their cover of Nirvana's "Breed" brought down the house.

Biggest Surprise
Scanner "Rockets, Unto the Edges of Edges" (Bine Music)
Just gorgeous. There were more novel albums, certainly, but I played this one again and again.

Most Overrated
Lady Gaga "The Fame Monster" (Streamline/Konlive/Cherrytree/Interscope)
Hailed as the heiress to the pop kingdom of Madonna and Michael Jackson, her music is even more superficial and monotonous, watered down and then blown up to exaggerated proportions.
 

Bryon Hayes

Best Album
Timber Timbre "S/T" (Arts & Crafts)
I first heard Taylor Kirk play live at a small bar in Toronto, and was immediately taken by his ghostly folk ramblings. This is his third album, and is a culmination of what he's been doing over the past few years. It's so gorgeous and spidery and macabre it almost has me in tears every time I listen.

Best Song
"Fostercare" by Burial from the compilation "5: Five Years of Hyperdub" (Hyperdub)
I'm not usually into this kind of stuff, but I borrowed this compilation just to hear something different this year. I was immediately shaken by this track by Burial – it's so spooky, yet is also really beautiful. For some reason it reminds me of watching The Crow when I was in high school.

Best Reissue
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds "Your Funeral, My Trial" (Mute)
The fact that the reissues stopped here (so far) really punctuates the genius that is “Your Funeral, My Trial.” Mr. Cave can do no wrong!!

Best Cover Art and Best Vinyl Only
I can't vote for these two categories, as I am biased – I think that the Ajilvsga LP on my own Near Passerine Devotionals label takes 'em.

Best CD-R Only
Ghostlight "Robsoblat" (Inyrdisk)
Picking up from where the amazing “Shade Grown” left off, these Toronto heads continue to bring on the psych, torching minds in the process.

Best Cassette Only
Dreamcolour "Inner Worship" (Stunned)
This tape combines a bunch of elements that I love – it's delicious, hypnotic goo!

Best Live Show
Faust w/ Not the Wind Not the Flag @ Polish Combatants Hall, Toronto, October 4th
Yes, there were complaints about technical difficulties, but Faust did put on an amazing show, full of energy and humor. Not the Wind Not the Flag's brand of ethno-avant-improv was the perfect foil for the Kraut masters. A great show overall, in my opinion!!
 

C.A. Parsons

Best Album
Tricorn & Queue “Ashes Wander” (Stunned)
Tricorn & Queue are the band that got me into this type of music in the first place, so there is plenty of bias. "Ashes Wander" is everything I liked about them originally, plus all the things I’ve learned to love since.

Best Song
“Heavy Deeds” from Sun Araw "Heavy Deeds" (Not Not Fun)
The confidence of this song blew me away from the very beginning. Its jam was set long before I hit play.

Best Debut
Kellen Shipley ”Deep Breaths” (Roll Over Rover)
Sent to me out of sheer goodwill from the bottom of Sean McCann’s heart, this album has routinely bowled me over. It’s everything I look for in music at this point, so content to just be itself. Whenever I’m trying to introduce the more straight-laced folk to new music, I reach for this one.

Best Reissue
Peaking Lights “Imaginary Falcons” (Night People)

Not a genuine reissue, I’m aware, but I missed out on the first round of vinyl and was really, really glad for a second pressing. Dull, I know.

Best Various Artists Compilation
I never pick up any compilations. Just how I roll.

Best Anthology
Beatles: Rock Band
Like you haven’t played it.

Best Cover Art
Any Stunned Records collage (Stunned)
I’m a huge fan of absurd collages and Phil seems to have outdone himself for the entire year. I was consistently hunched over these tiny things, looking at each individual image that went into the whole.

Best Vinyl Only
Plankton Wat “Dawn of the Golden Eternity” (DNT)
After adding a donation to my DNT order, Tynan was nice enough to throw in the Plankton Wat album (admission: I hadn’t actually ordered it). I was immensely pleased with this one, and it’s still on my record player at this very moment.

Best CD-R Only
Eureka “Big Breath” (Stunned)
I’d heard no Eureka before this, but will hear much Eureka after this.

Best Cassette Only
Tricorn & Queue “Ashes Wander” (Stunned)
If my favorite album of the year only came out on cassette, I would be remiss if I didn’t also label it as the best cassette only release, no?

Best Live Show
(We have a tie!)

WILCO @ The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA June 22nd
There are few bands that I’m as excited to see live as WILCO. I just love ‘em, plain and simple. I was ecstatic the entire time, shakin’, shoutin’, and singin’.

??????? @ The Orpheum, Los Angeles, CA, October 4th
Getting to see Thom Yorke’s new band was an incredible treat and it moved me in ways I wasn’t expecting. Some of the most interesting live electronic music around.


Biggest Surprise
My biggest surprise was not in the quality of the album, but just in receiving it. I had placed a small order from McCann’s excellent Roll Over Rover and the swell fella sent me the entire batch of releases. What stood out the most was Kellen Shipley’s “Deep Breaths,” an album I’ve since played a countless number of times.

Biggest Disappointment
Sonic Youth canceling their Santa Barbara show.

Most Overrated
Unthoughtful noise. I’ve not been on the beat for too long, but this year was when I finally got informed enough and fed up enough to simply say, “Enough.” I’ve heard too much lackluster use of tape loops, too much pointless drone, and not enough thought. Making sound and using sound are two very different things.
 

Charles Franklin

I can't pretend to have heard all of the amazing music that was flowing this year. I'm just happy I got to dip into all of the goodness that found its way to me. Here are some of the things that moved me in 2009.

Best Albums (Top Three)
Caboladies "Atomic Weekender" (Digitalis Vinyl)
Cosmic synth music continued its resurgence this year, and fortunately there were a handful of artists who took this music to new heights. One of the most talented and creative groups floating through the underground is Caboladies. This album definitely exists within its own colorfully abstracted world.

Antony and the Johnsons “The Crying Light” (Secretly Canadian)
In my mind, this is the finest and most emotionally rich display of Antony's music yet. Of course, it won't be for everyone, as the overly operatic vocals can definitely turn some people off completely. For me, the vocals exist perfectly within these neo-chamber compositions from a very talented group of musicians.

Emeralds “Emeralds” (Wagon)
This one really grew on me. It definitely takes cues from the greats of '70s synth music, but there is a focus and intent behind this work (the B-side in particular) that really elevates it into a territory of subtle brilliance.

Best Various Artists Compilation
"Radio Scenic Glow Vol. 1" (Upstairs)

Leave it to Daniel Lopatin to introduce me to a ridiculous amount of bands operating on this bizarre plane of post post-modern digital recycling. Weird, dreamy, funny, and dreamy again. I keep putting this in and finding something new that excites me.

Best Cover Art
Stunned Records

Stunned raised the bar with amazing art and packaging this year, so I've got to give a shout out to the entire catalog of 2009. Phil and Myste do an amazing job with the label- their level of commitment shines in each release. They have a great aesthetic that works perfectly with the transcendently psychedelic sounds they release. Well done!

Best Vinyl Only
Cotton Museum "Puss Pustules" (Tasty Soil)

I love this record! Chris Pottinger provides the perfect sound track to his totally funny and completely sick illustrations or oozing creatures. This is the best and most joyful electronic horror/psych soundscape album of the year! Hands down! Also qualifies for best YouTube promo video of the year.

Best 3" CD-R Only
Expo 70 "Psychic Funeral" (Ruralfaune)

Expo 70 had a great year, but for me, this double 3" is the best of the best. This is glorious guitar ambient shimmer and swirl with that special something that puts it into the realm of the truly psychedelic.

Best CD-R Only
Padna "Metal Hurlant/Farmer’s Hearth" (Stunned)

This one caught me off guard with its constructed brilliance. Padna takes the listener on a voyage through nostalgia soaked caverns of analog and digital sound. Existing somewhere between melodic pop and droned out bliss with just the right combo of analog and digital sound, this disc was one that I kept spinning over and over...

Best Cassette Only (Top Two)
Xiphiidae/ Thoughts on Air "Split CS" (Cloud Valley)
Thoughts on Air/Tricorn and Queue “Split CS” (Housecraft)

The three artists that make up these two split tapes represent some of the finest talent in the strange resurgence of low fidelity ethereal music. I seriously cannot get enough of what these folks are doing. It seems that everything Jeffrey Astin touches is filled with a sense of patient wonder that always pulls me into his work in whatever guise it manifests itself as. Thoughts on Air really shines on these two tapes as well, and his side of the Cloud Valley split is some of the most moving music I've ever heard.

Best Live Show
Antony and the Johnsons and Matmos @ Big Ears Festival, Knoxville, TN, February 7th

I was quite impressed at how well this festival was put together and it looks like they are getting ready for round two in 2010. The highlights for me were seeing Antony and Matmos perform in Tennessee! Both artists had great receptions so I can only hope that they will return. Matmos in particular really won me over with their tremendous energy and presence.
 

Dave Miller

Best Album
Barn Owl "From Our Mouths a Perpetual Light" (Digitalis)
I can’t stress how much I LOVE Barn Owl! Everything that they’ve put out has been some of the best stuff I’ve ever heard. I can listen to any of their releases at any given moment despite my mood. Even their solo releases have been incredible! Elm’s “Nemcatacoa” was a close tie. Good work, guys! I’m looking forward to “The Conjurer” on CD in early 2010! BTW, I’ve had the crazy Hindu-style wolf deity from the cover as my computer wallpaper this whole year. Anybody who knows anything about drone should be familiar with Barn Owl!

Best Song
"Exit Twilight" from Ilyas Ahmed (feat. Grouper) "Goner" (Root Strata)
Ilyas Ahmed and Grouper blend perfectly together. There’s no question that this is probably one of the best musical marriages I have ever heard. A spell-binding track that I have yet to get tired of. I hope to see more collaboration in the future by these two. The best would be a split with some collaborative tracks, but if a full collaborative album were to appear it would surely be essential to everyone’s collection.

Best Debut
Wood-land "Stone Circle" (Install) or Basillica "Kingdom of Status" (Blackest Rainbow)
I hate ties just as much as you do, but I honestly couldn’t decide. Wood-land and Basillica are very different, yes, but they each deserve recognition in their own right. First, Wood-land’s “Stone Circle” is by far the best psych album out this year. You can read more about why that is from my review. This debut absolutely blew me away as each track just clicked with me. No question that I’ll be watching for more of their stuff in the coming year. Second, Basillica’s “Kingdom of Status” was a release that dropped me off into a realm I have never explored before. Long tracks of (doom?) dark guitar that just kills it. It sounds like it was recorded in some basement dungeon away from the warmth of civilized society. I don’t know exactly what it is about this 3-track album but it just has a feel unlike anything else I’ve heard. For that, I think Basillica should be recognized. This guy’s inventing his own style and for that he should be heard.

Best new artist
Al Qaeda
Yeah, I know…usually best new artist and best debut go hand-in-hand, but not for me. San Francisco’s Al Qaeda didn’t begin really putting out a lot of stuff until this year, so I’m going to count them as a new artist. Most people probably didn’t encounter them until this year either. Anyway, I haven’t heard enough of their material (they have yet to release a full-length CD) to say that they have one of the most solid releases, hence that’s why they’re not under the “Best Debut” category. However, upon hearing the “Haunted” 3” CD-R from Love Torture Records and getting glimpses into some of their tape releases and such I have been very impressed with them overall. I mean, they have a ridiculously crazy name, play live shows in caves, and put out super limited releases on the most obscure labels. But, their brand of Robedoor-style psych noise is pretty killer too and I’m looking forward to seeing them grow. I predict they’re going to become one of the better-known artists in underground music. Somebody like House of Alchemy, Blackest Rainbow, or Kimberly Dawn should pick them up and put out some of their releases. Just a promising band.

Most consistent artist
Peter Wright
Natural Snow Buildings and the solo projects that have grown out of them came close because their output is amazing…Barn Owl too…but Peter Wright nails it every time. 2009 started off kind of slow for releases from Wright, but then he buried us in an avalanche of drone with “Snow Blind” in May. Each release in his back catalog is at least as good as the last, making “Snow Blind” spectacularly epic. Then, he put out a 7”, a collaborative 10” with Antony Milton, his Oh Mental Hospitals project EP, a 12”, and his latest, “An Angel Fell Where the Kestrels Hover.” And that latest one is a mind-blower. Very complementary to “Snow Blind.” Everything about Wright’s releases is dripping with deliberation as his drones are always uniquely his and the art for each release is so carefully selected to match. Wright has yet to disappoint.

Best Reissue
Grouper "Cover the Windows and the Walls" (Root Strata)
I was very excited when Root Strata decided to release this LP on CD. Grouper is a great artist and everything she releases has its own distinctive quality to it. All Grouper, but each album is an individual in itself. So, when I heard that this one was going to be burned to acetate I was thrilled.

Best Anthology
Ducktails "Backyard" (Release the Bats)
This was a much-needed release. It’s so convenient to have many of the obscurities of Ducktails’ sunburned brand of psych on one disc. It was getting to be just too difficult (and expensive) a task to get each of the three releases separately. Not to mention it’s just nice to have tape tracks available on CD format. Great idea! Thanks for doing this!

Best Cover Art
Blood Fountains "Floods" (Utech)
Evan Caminiti’s cover art from Barn Owl’s “From Our Mouths a Perpetual Light” came close and so did Expo 70’s “Corridors to Infinity,” but Kasner had to win out. Stephen Kasner is probably my favorite visual artist of all time, so when he put out his own release of audio tracks, I knew the album art would be amazing. Let’s just say he didn’t disappoint. I love Kasner’s art, and so “Floods” definitely wins the award. I think the rest of the art he’s done for other Utech releases is also great! I’m glad he’s getting the recognition he deserves.

Best CD-R Only
Mark Bradley "Eternal" (Blackest Rainbow)
This was a great drone album, plain and simple. Mark Bradley is a phenomenal artist who has put out a lot of wonderful releases over the past year. Read my review to know more about why I think so highly of this album. It has stayed in my disc changer since I first heard it, just like I said it would.

Best 3” CD-R
Sparkling Wide Pressure "Dreams By Water" (Kimberly Dawn)
This was difficult, especially since Kim Dawn’s output of 3” CD-R’s has been so extensive and they’re mostly all great. But, I have to give it to S.W.P. who just put out this very solid and outstanding release. Again, read my review if you want more details on this release.

Best Label
Blackest Rainbow
Other than our own Digitalis, who puts out great artists with quality album art, B.R. has had a really phenomenal output of essential releases this year. I mean, Vakhchav, Twinsistermoon, Natural Snow Buildings, Mark Bradley, Basillica, Forest Creature, Bong, Eyeballs, and Black Eagle Child are just a few of the greats that have seen their art come through the label. I also love B.R.’s own use of black CD-R’s…I just think it’s cool to put something that looks like a Playstation game into my stereo. And the photography for much of the album art is by Joe Blanchard himself, who is simply fantastic at what he does. A great year for a great label. I’m looking forward to 2010 with B.R.!

Best Live Show
Patrick Wolf @ Bottom Lounge, Chicago, June 15th
Patrick Wolf has really proven himself to be an incredible freak folk artist. His performance was a real treat because he is not only a great musician but also a wonderful showman. His live shows are very free, expressive, and fun. The only downside was that going there was like seeing your high school drama department dressed up for a lame Halloween party—pretty much just a Patrick Wolf wannabe contest. But, Wolf himself played so well! And he really knew how to interact with the crowd. He played forever too. Just a great time.

Biggest Surprise
Forest Creature “Frustrated Analogue” (Blackest Rainbow)

Biggest Disappointment
No Raccoo-oo-oon this year!

Most Overrated
Macaroni and cheese
 

David Perron

Best Album
Social Junk "Born Into It" (Digitalis)
I realize that there may be some who will look upon this choice with a bit of skepticism. Rest assured, though, there isn’t any in-house ass-kissing or payola schemes at play here (though I am expecting a tin of re-gifted mixed nuts with the next package). No, “Born Into It” was simply an amazing album. It was chaotic, confounding, noisy, blissful, euphoric, metronomic, and meticulous in every way. It encompassed all of these qualities, all the while begging for repeated listens. Avoiding any of the genre-trappings or fleeting trends of the year, Social Junk crafted an album that was beyond categorization.

Honorable mention: Oneida “Rated O” (Jagjaguwar)


Best Song
"Future Primitive" from Papercuts "You Can Have What You Want" (Gnomonsong)
When not lending a hand to the Skygreen Leopards, Jason Quever was off recording his own dreamy little pop songs. Criminally overlooked, “You Can Have What You Want” was a perfect summer album, not to be confused with that whole “chill-wave” thing, and “Future Primitive” was the song that kept getting played again-and-again.

Honorable mention: “O! Anxiety” from Dan Melchoir und das Menace (S-S Records)


Best Debut
Amen Dunes "DIA" (Locust Music)
The story behind “DIA” may have read a bit like Bon Iver’s debut from the previous year, but Damon McMahon’s trip into the woods yielded an album that was far more ragged and opaque, but no less personal in fact. Employing “elemental vocalizations” throughout a finely sequenced collection of rough-hewn psychedelic rock and country-tinged folk songs, “DIA” played out like another unearthed private press gem, in places sounding like a mysterious Japanese psych group and in others like lost Roky Erikson recordings. But it all held together in a rather convincing classic LP sense, not just a clever record collector ruse.

Honorable Mention: Sonny & The Sunsets “Tomorrow Is Alright” (Soft Abuse)


Best Reissue
el-g "Tout Ploie" (S-S Records)
“Ass-flatteningly great” was how critic David Keenan described this album upon its initial release on Kraak Records last year, which I think quite eloquently summarizes “Tout Ploie”, so why muck it up with any unnecessary verbiage. It stands shoulder-to-shoulder with my album of the year selection, but I’ll play by the rules.

Honorable Mention: Destroy All Monsters “74 76” (Compound Annex)


Best Various Artists Compilation
"5 Years of Hyperdub" (Hyperdub)
A generous compilation from this reputable underground dance label, featuring a disc of label highlights and another filled with new tracks from their current roster. While I can’t say that I fully grasp all of the sub-genre breakdowns of recent years, “wonky” to me being how I feel after a night of too many pints, I can say that this compilation features a surprisingly broad range of styles that shouldn’t pigeonhole it as simply a “dubstep” collection. There are plenty of deep vibrations here that are sure to move your inner core; your ass may follow as well.
Honorable mention: “Well Hung: 20 Funk-Rock Eruptions From Beneath Communist Hungary” (B-Music)





Best Anthology
The Shadow Ring "Life Review (1993-2003)" (Kye)
Previous attempts at unlocking the mysterious music of The Shadow Ring proved fruitless, but this double-disc anthology provided an on-going source of fascination for the better part of the year and made clear, in my mind at least, that The Shadow Ring were one of the most original and uncompromising bands ever. It’s quite amazing to hear how this band, minimalist as they were from the get-go, peel away more-and-more layers over their ten-year life span, becoming a mere electronic howl by “I’m Some Songs”. This album was played so often around the house that “Lord Lyson” became one of my 4-year-old son’s to-go imaginary characters. Sponge Bob has got nothing on “Britain’s Last Lighthouse Keeper”.

Honorable Mention: 39 Clocks “Zoned” (DeStijl)


Best Cover Art
Wet Hair "Dream” & “Glass Foundation" (Not Not Fun)
Shawn Reed’s cover designs for these albums, along with many others he has done on his Night People label, are quite fascinating. Symbology? Dream imagery? Guy Maddin’s mental wallpaper? Who knows?!

Honorable Mention: Aidan Baker “Gathering Blue” (Equation Records)

Best Vinyl Only
Mayyors "Deads EP" (Hurling Man)
Four bombs from this relatively low-profile Sacramento-based wrecking crew that strikes a perfect balance between razor-sharp precision and complete off-the-rails punk mayhem.

Honorable Mention: Bill Orcutt “A New Way To Pay Old Debts” (Palilalia Records)

Best CD-R Only
Julian Lynch "Born 2 Run" (Buffalo Songs)
As much as I adored his “Orange You Glad” LP, I’d still argue that “Born 2 Run”, the first in a series of self-released CD-Rs from 2009, was Lynch’s best. Containing the songs “Banana Jam Pt. 1” and “Droplet on a Hot Stone” featured on Underwater Peoples Summertime Showcase, a fine collection in its own right, this batch of lonesome, A.M. pop transmissions were in constant rotation during the latter half of the year.
Honorable Mention: Kraus “Golden Treasury” (self-released)
Best Cassette Only
M. Geddes Gengras "Aural Mimesis" (Tape Drift)
One of the only cassette releases that I got my paws on this year that sounded genuinely epic. The two sidelong tracks on this c60 unfold in a slow, yet assured manner, with Gengras steering the listener further into his intoxicating soundworlds. Guitar, bass, and drum machine patterns emerge from these lengthy synth explorations. Yet, to call these two sides merely “synth jams” seems a bit insulting, though, as there is such a keen sense of movement and composition on display here.
Honorable Mention: Monks of the Balhill “Ten Ways To Get Out Of The Water” (Peasant Magik)

Best Live Show
Sonic Youth @ First Ave, Minneapolis, July 21st
Although I’ve seen SY countless times, they played a particularly inspired set on this evening, shedding new light on the material from their latest album “The Eternal” and playing raucous versions of long-time favorites like “Silver Rocket” and “Death Valley ‘69”.

Honorable Mention: Flight of the Conchords @ Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis, May 3rd

Biggest Surprise
If anyone had told me a few years back that it was possible for someone to breathe new life into popular 80’s synth-based soundtrack music, making it shred and sound amazingly contemporary, I would have thought they were off their fuckin’ rocker. Daniel Lopatin has done just that with Oneohtrix Point Never and I still listen in amazement.
Biggest Disappointment
Animal Collective is undeniably good; the proliferation of Animal Collective imitators isn’t.

Most Overrated
It seems a bit pointless to single anyone out here. With pop culture as accelerated as it is, the majority of artists any of us would consider for such a dubious title will be forgotten in a short period of time anyway. I say kudos to any artist who can even become a pesky fly on our cultural crap heap.
 

Darryl Norsen

Best Album
Animal Collective "Merriweather Pavilion" (Domino)
Cliché, I know, given the hype but Jesus Christ, it's just an amazing pysch dub madness album.

Best Song
"Hunch Back" from Kurt Vile "Childish Prodigy" (Matador)
Gimme the one from the 12" or the Matador release, but it doesn't matter because the riff fuckin' killz

Best Debut
Strange Boys "And Girls Club" (In The Red)
I guess not a true debut after a slew of 7"s and cdrs, but damn if Bob Dylan & the band got in a rumble with the 13th Floor Elevators and this would be the outcome.

Best Reissue
Abner Jay "True Story of Abner Jay" (Mississippi)
All the crap aside of Mississippi being a glorified bootleg label, this reissue is the shit! What do you give an elephant with diarrhea? Plenty of room!

Best Various Artists Compilation
"Forge Your Own Chains" (Now Again)
Plenty of this was released on other labels over the years, but its solid, it’s nicely sequenced and the packaging is sublime!

Best Anthology
13th Floor Elevators "Sign of the 3-Eyed Man" (International Artists)
Every man needs a woman who is willing to deal with international shipping and currency exchanges to get her husband hands-down the best box set ever created. Ten discs, poster reproductions, and a large detailed book. This is a MONSTER! If you don't have it now - you SNOOZED!

Best Cover Art
Flaming Lips "Embryonic - Deluxe Edition" (Warner Brothers)
I am not the biggest Lips fan, as to me they ended after they stopped doing the Syd Barrett pysch madness, but I am a sucker for crazy packaging. What is more insane then a woman bursting out of the womb and it’s surrounded by fur? Dude ...

Best Vinyl Only
Michael Hurley "Parsnip Snips" (Mississippi)
It was hard to think of a vinyl only release as I just purchase everything on vinyl that I can these days, but I really dug this compilation of early Hurley tracks. Fingers crossed they continue to re-release more Hurley albums!

Best CD-R Only
Corsano Flower Duo "Chocolate Cities" (self-released)
Chris Corsano & Mick Flower - need I say more? BARN BURNER!

Best Cassette Only
anything by Chapels
Adam Richards is a one prolific motherfucker, hence I can't choose which release I liked the most because they are all fantastic. Don't sleep on these releases - PURCHASE NOW!

Best Live Show
Bonnie Prince Billy @ The Apollo, Harlem, NY, May 21st
I have been waiting many years to see BPB and there is no better way than at the legendary Apollo. 2 and a half hours long though I am still acting like it I am watching it right now.

Biggest Surprise
Duchess & The Duke
I was not expecting their second album to be so different than the first, but damn, third listen and I was HOOKED. This release will probably slip through the cracks then someone will freak out on it 10 years from now. Helado Negro's "Awe Owe" will be another one that will be easily missed but will blow people's minds slowly but surely.

Biggest Disappointment
Six Organs of Admittance and Om's new ones. Gris Gris is still broken up and Greg Ashley's new album is still NOT out.

Most Overrated
Wavves and all its cohorts. I don't get it. They sound TERRIBLE but everyone is jockin' his shit like he is the 2nd coming.
 

Elliott Sharp

Best Album
Sore Eros “Second Chants” (SHDWPLY)
A splendid home-recorded pop album founded on the idea of creative sublimation as a solution to meaninglessness and worldly pain that should be listened to alongside Pre-Socratic accounts of cosmology, theogony, and water.

Best Song
“Castles” by Amen Dunes from “Dia” (Locust)
When the handclaps and shaker kick in, Damon McMahon warmly transports you directly to his cabin of solitude in the Catskill Mountains.

Best Debut
Harappian Night Recordings “The Glorious Gongs of Hainuwele” (Bo’Weavil)
Sayed Kamran Ali has created a thriving and mysterious world of sound that constantly invigorates the curious mind.

Best Cover Art
Tim Hecker “An Imaginary Country” (Kranky)
A beautiful impressionistic topographical album cover containing within it sounds grounded on the same radical idea.

Best Reissue
Various Artists – “Nigeria 70: The Definitive Story of 1970s Funky Lagos” (Strut)
I was fortunate to have picked up this CD, which is by far my most favorite compilation of Nigerian Afro-funk, a few years ago, and was very pleased to see Strut reissue it so that it can reach new ears.

Best Various Artists Compilation
“My Estrogeneration” (Not Not Fun)
NNF brought together the dopest estrogenerators in from the out-scene for this one.

Best Anthology
Abner Jay “The Story of Abner Jay” (Mississippi)
I love how Jay’s storytelling and music have the power to create a total picture of another historical and imaginative world, and this anthology organizes and edits his work in such a way that it enhances this rare power.

Best Vinyl Only
Gareth Davis & Steven R Smith “Westering” (Important)
Much like Earth’s “The Bees Made Honey in The Lion’s Skull,” this thought provoking album is both exceptionally lonely and flourishing at the same time.

Best CD-R Only
Caboladies “Crowded Out Memory” (Gneiss Things)
The sounds produced here remind me of an underwater arcade world that I once saw in a junk dream.

Best Cassette Only
Silver Bullets “Free Radical” (Stunned)
A dangerously rippin’ and guitar-damagin’ neo-krautrock tape.

Best Live Show
Transfigurations @ Asheville, NC August 13-15
Harvest Records threw themselves a three-day, five-year birthday party. While some performances were a drag, those by Kurt Vile & The Violators, Mount Eerie, War On Drugs, Jonathan Kane, The Coathangers, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy were superb.

Biggest Surprise
Blues Control “Local Flavor” (Siltbreeze)
I despised this album when I first heard it, but after letting it rip its way through my ears over the course of many walks and subway rides, it gradually became one of my most favorite releases of the year.

Biggest Disappointment
Hush Arbors “Yankee Reality” (Ecstatic Peace)
Following the intimate and fantastic 2008 self-titled release, “Yankee Reality” felt distant, charmless, and overproduced.

Most Overrated
Dirty Projectors “Bitte Orca” (Domino)
I don’t necessarily dislike this album because the songs are more accessible, though the fact that the band has drifted into less interesting sonic terrain with this release is certainly a problem. Rather, I dislike the album due to its overall nihilistic mood. In 2008, when Lonstreth re-imagined Black Flag’s “Damaged,” which I interpret as being one of the great anti-nihilistic texts of contemporary North American youth culture, the consequence of his hermeneutic adventure was to radically rearticulate the need for anti-nihilistic thinking in an age where meaninglessness and hopelessness are thriving, and where form/appearance is valued more than content/being. After the heroic display of political creativity that was “Rise Above,” “Bitte Orca” falls dangerously short. I have no idea what the album is about, and every rave review speaks only of its clever pop-form. No one has yet been able to meaningfully justify its content. I’m still waiting…
 

Eric Hardiman

Best Album
Bill Orcutt "A New Way to Pay Old Debts" (Palilalia)
Enough has been written about this record elsewhere, and there's not too much that I can add to the praise, but this LP is just fantastic. Four strings and the truth? Orcutt delivers all the goods and more in a guitar record that is full of complexity yet direct and emotional enough to pull you right in. Wonderful cover art too. Second place goes to Locrian's "Drenched Lands" LP (Bloodlust), amazing drone/noise/metal from Chicago. Other contenders included Peaking Lights "Imaginary Falcons" LP (Night People), and Tom Carter's "The Dance From Which All Dances Come" LP (Wholly Other), and Matt Weston's "Seasick Blackout" CD (2727 Music). The Weston disc blew me away, such a wonderful and mysterious recording.

Best Song
Any track off Richard Youngs "Beyond the Valley of the Ultrahits" (Sonic Oyster) - they're all cut from the same cloth of song, and it's a great one. Had these on repeat in my head for many a day in 2009. It was exciting to see Youngs embrace more traditional songform in a way he never has before. And of course, the result is anything but traditional - it's pure Youngs and beautifully successful.

Best Debut
Iibiis Rooge "Pink Hybrid" (Winged Sun)
Brand new cassette collaboration between High Wolf and Astral Social Club. Like most things Neil Campbell has his hands in, this is trippy, hypnotic, and full of ecstatic transcendence. The approach of both artists is similar, yet exciting new intersections are traversed, making it a keeper. I really hope this is more than a one-off, as this seems to be a combo with lots of possibility for growth. Second place goes to Island's Eyelids with their tape "Eyelands" (Roll Over Rover), which was in constant rotation this year.

Best Reissue
Michael Hurley "Armchair Boogie" (Mississippi)
Could have also been "Parsnip Snips", but this one hits the spot every time and got more airplay here. The reissue sounds fantastic and allowed me to rekindle my love for this record in no time flat. I've listened to it so many times, my copy already sounds old again. Sean McCann's "Phylum Sigh" reissue on CD was another reissue fave.

Best Cover Art
Eli Keszler and Ashley Paul "Aster" LP (Rel Records)
Beautifully simple design and look to this record, inside and out. Wonderful music too.

Best Vinyl Only
Von Bingen (s/t) (Amen Absen)
Daniel Presnell and crew put together a superb LP that shows a heavy krautrock influence, but filtered through a distinct lens with touches of drone, psych, and a thousand other realms as well. An amalgam of analog synth, guitar, and assorted other instruments, It deftly goes beyond categorization and exists on its own level. Beautifully recorded and packaged, this one demonstrates exactly why vinyl still sounds better than any other format. Runner up prizes go to Steven R. Smith's "Cities" (Immune) and Dialing In's "The Islamic Bomb" (Music Fellowship), both of which were essential listening.

Best CD-R Only
Sparkling Wide Pressure "Dreams By Water" (Kimberly Dawn)
One of the many superb releases on Frank Baugh's label that exclusively releases 3" mini-CD-Rs. If it seems like there's always a Sparkling Wide Pressure title on my list each year, there's good reason. However, this one may just top them all. A near perfect 20 minutes, with Frank exploring new realms of beauty like nobody else can. Two close contenders were Padna's "Metal Hurlant/Farmer's Hearth" (Stunned) and High Wolf's "Incapulco" (Winged Sun).

Best Cassette Only
M. Geddes Gengras/A.M. Shiner "The Blue Push/The Red Kush" (Stunned)
Rich, textural, and heavy goodness spilling over in this excellent split tape on Phil French's label. Phil and Ged are involved in so many heavy hitting projects these days, and yet somehow they never drop the ball. This tape makes a convincing argument that they save their best, most magical work for their solo endeavors. Two complementary flavors that had me flipping sides of the tape on endless repeat. A very close second place was Andreas Brandal's "Liber Null" (Anathema Sound), which was as heavy, dark, and compelling as anything I've heard in a long time. Other contenders that could have easily shared the top spot: Island's Eyelids "Eyelands" (Roll Over Rover), Sparkling Wide Pressure "Bob Moves/Linda Speaks" (Existential Cloth Recordings), and the insanely great Silver Bullets tape "Free Radicals" (Stunned).

Best Live Show
Boredoms @ EMPAC, Troy, NY, September 11th
Seeing the Boredoms perform their BOADRUM 9 extravaganza in this amazing venue left most of the crowd, myself included, speechless. Pummeling, riveting, and joyous in a way that very little music achieves. There were moments during this epic performance when I thought, "this simply can't get any better." And of course, it did. And kept going. The only response was to smile and soak it all in. The searing rendition of "Acid Police" that capped off the show was perfect. Rarely do concept, vision, and implementation meet in such a seamless way. There were many contenders for second place, but getting to see, meet (and open for) Faust was fantastic. Other special live shows included Ashtray Navigations, Tom Carter, Steve Gunn, Family Treasures, Peaking Lights, Gregg Kowalsky and Ben Bracken, Ralph White, and each night's killer set from Beach Fuzz on their mini-tour with Century Plants.

Best Label
Stunned Records
Phil and Myste set the bar for the rest of the DIY labels out there, providing amazing music and packaging every time. Anyone who's ever gotten a Stunned package in the mail will know what I'm talking about.

Biggest Surprise
The challenge and joy of mail collaborations - started in on several new ones this year, and they've all been highly rewarding. Getting to work with some amazing musicians (especially Derek Rogers and Cory Card) despite geographical distance has opened up all sorts of new possibilities for this coming year and beyond.

Biggest Disappointment
Not yet finding time and/or resources to start putting Tape Drift vinyl out. 2010 will rectify that!

Most Overrated
I'll follow in my tradition of passing on this category. There's way too much positivity out there and fantastic music being made to dwell on the overhyped. There are certainly some prime candidates, but I'm content to bite my tongue and simply enjoy the good stuff.
 

Frederick Galbrun

Best Album
Land of Kush "Against the day" (Constellation)
Sam Shalabi brought me a huge dose of experimental music trough the years. His latest project, a big band ensemble, blends elements of Arabic pop music, free-jazz, pop tunes and the mix is absolutely stunning. Land of Kush might be his most accessible musical outing to date and one of his most thrilling.


Best Song
"Dear Father" from Jay Bolotin "Jay Bolotin" (Locust)
Well, I have to admit I first heard that song on the Numero compilation, but hey, it's mentioned below. This song reminded me a lot of Leonard Cohen, and I presume I'm not the only one...It's not a bad thing to be compared to one of the greatest songwriter of all time.... The overall sadness of this song, the sense of longing, is so palpable that it is impossible not to weep for that same father who scuffed us away with a pair of 10$...


Best Debut
Amen Dunes "Dia" (Locust)
Oh boy...this one is really difficult to pick. With so many cassettes/CD-r/ 7 inches being released it's really hard to decipher what is a debut and what is not... But I'm sure of this one. A promising debut and collection of songs from this New Yorker. It sometimes gets a little bit too hippy-ish in the psychedelic folk genre...But nonetheless there's an outsider feel to it, using echo and delay in his voice the way he does, sure makes it more interesting.

Runner-ups discovered this year: Sun Araw "Heavy Deeds" (Not Not Fun), Oneohtrix Point Never "Rifts" (No Fun)


Best Reissue
Ariel Kalma "Le temps des moissons" (Beta-Lactam Ring)
So many great reissues this year.... But this one stands out mainly because it's a mythical recording most people never heard of. And the music is just insane.

Best Various Artists Compilation
Wayfaring Strangers "Lonesome Heroes" (Numero)
This label is surpassing itself all the time. Superb reissues, amazing compilations and this one kills them all. The songs selected for this compilation are unmatched in coherence. The presentation is, as always, beautiful, the liner notes abundant and informative on all of these unknown artists.

Best Anthology
Mike Tamburo "Tenth Gate and Other Revelations" (Self-released)
Mike Tamburo is a soldier. This second box set, following "Language of the birds", is huge. A collection of recordings on guitar, hammered dulcimer and Crowned Eternal, superb packaging and artwork. Really nice work.





Best Cover Art
Blues Control "Local Flavor" (Siltbreeze)
As I walked in my local record store (L'Oblique), my eyes were attracted by this odd cover. In fact, so simple but also so attractive. Possibly just the colors made it really effective, and that face...that beautiful face...Set up against the beige walls of that store, just made it look like a work of art.


Best Vinyl Only
Ashtray Navigations "Six imaginary scenes from the life of Muhammad Al Aqil" (Nashazphone)
How sweet is that Nashazphone label? They're releasing some of the most exciting music right now and this Ashtray Navigations LP definitely holds its place in this category. Wasn't a fan before hearing this great set of Middle Eastern inspired set of songs. Halfway between Sun City Girls and Sunroof, it's right up in my alley. Amazing artwork also.

Best CD-R Only
Helen O "Self-titled EP" (Le Son 666)
Sweet little unpretentious EP by one of the best musician in Montreal. This is so beautiful, it didn't get out of my player for days.

Best Cassette Only
Daniel Higgs "Devotional songs of Daniel Higgs" (Open Mouth)
Being a huge fan of Daniel Higgs, this collection of songs is just great. Especially because it features a crowd favorite, "Take me to Eden", hijacked from a Star Trek episode...

Best Live Show
Mike Tamburo, Khôra, Ensemble Kesdjan @ Casa del Popolo
Mike Tamburo is such an amazing guy. I don't know how that influences the fact that his live shows are mesmerizing. People were literally lying on the floor, swept away by the sound of his hammered dulcimer. And as soon as he played the Crowned Eternal, people knew they were in for something special...

Biggest Surprise
Broadcast and the Focus Group

Biggest Disappointment
Reines d'Angleterres live at Suoni Per il Popolo. I really admire Ghedalia Tazartes and was looking forward to that show. Halfway through, I thought about leaving what I felt was an uninspired noise set.

Most Overrated
Fuck Buttons
 

Howard Martin

I began the year intending to focus on local music.  In the interim, this notion shifted from a geographical one to a more personal, tactile one.  Each of the albums that follow influenced my own musical practice and my thoughts on the process of musical creation. 

Best Album
nmperign "Ommatidia" (Intransitive)
nmperign's textured studio debut captivates me with each return; the playing shifts continuously - seemingly static, focused, comic, and scrambling by turns.

Best Cover Art
Spiral Joy Band "Little Sparrow" (VHF)
The huddled bird on the cover stretches down and around the folded white package.  Inside you'll find his stiff, tagged friends and another on the CD itself.  The acoustic drones never resolve either.  

Best Cassette Only
Reuben Son "Glowing Departure" (Private Chronology)
This tape still floors me.  After listening to the twenty-six minute opener for the first time, I had to stop the tape and drive with only road noise.

Best Live Show
Jack Callahan; Kilter (Steve Norton/Curt Newton) @ Weirdo Records, Cambridge, MA, December 14th
This show began with an impressive set by Callahan on bowed cymbals and floor tom; Norton and Newton's parallel improvisations for soprano sax, bass clarinet, and percussion linger in my mind as a flurry of notes and soft thuds seemingly talking around each other.
 

Jan-Arne Sohns

Best Album
Leyland Kirby "Sadly, the Future Is No Longer What It Was" (History Always Favours the Winners)

Best Song
"Battlegrounds" from Altar Eagle "Judo Songs" (Digitalis Ltd.)

Best Debut
Space Dive "Twenty First Century Sport" (Digitalis Ltd.)
Sorry John, I just had to. This is when all the synth craze began to make sense to me. Hope there’ll be more Space Dive in 2010!

Best Reissue
V/A "Baku: Symphony of Sirens: Sound Experiments in the Soviet Avant-garde" (ReR Megacorp)
Yeah, I know, this could also feature in the compilation section but it fits better here as I am particularly thrilled by one track: the 25-minute "Symphony of Sirens" by Arseni Avraamov. The composer directed tramways, factory plants, aircraft, tanks, machine guns and a whole arsenal of machinery all through the town of Baku. Doing so, he stood on a factory chimney and used flags of different colours. This CD has a recreation of the original, which must be the most unbelievable music ever made.

Best Various Artists Compilation
Type Podcast #1 (Type)
Presented by John Twells, this was such a welcome return. I really had been waiting for years for John to do these again. I ended up buying half a dozen releases based on the tracks featured here. I know it’s not a 'proper' compilation, but this needed to be said. Oh, and please keep it up!

Best Anthology
Six Organs of Admission "RTZ" (Drag City)
Is this an anthology? I guess so. This beautifully presented triple LP collects pretty much everything I like about solo guitar music.

Best Cover Art
Otesanek "s/t (a.k.a. Final 12)" (Nancy Jo / Reification of Misery Productions)
This must be about the thickest cardboard I’ve ever seen used for record packaging. The real treat, however, is the illustration by Master Pizor.

Best Vinyl Only
Alasehir "Torment of the Metals" (Important)
I’ve hardly seen this one mentioned anywhere, but I think it’s one of the best in 2009 and maybe my favourite Alasehir material to date.

Best CD-R Only
Austerity "Austerity" (Bubonic Productions)
Got this after Hammer Smashed Sound blog made it album of the year. Truly some of the most desolate music I’ve ever heard.

Best Cassette Only
Terror Bird: "Sociopaths Are Glam" (Night People)
I’ve been obsessing with the label’s no-fi melodic garage rock sound all year, and this tape pretty much epitomises it all.

Best Live Show
Grails @ Club Schocken, Stuttgart, Germany
Because it was the first time I saw them and I wasn’t disappointed. Incredibly dense, and much 'harder' than I had expected.

Close second:
Melvins, who still manage to floor me with utter perfection.

Biggest Surprise
To find out that Dr. Vasumathi Badranathan, who had just given a lecture to us @ Podar College, Mumbai, is also a globally recognized singer and dancer. Her stuff on YouTube is simply stunning.

Biggest Disappointment
Drone; Well-established, highly respected labels and distros who are in trouble or have called it quits (like Release the Bats). We should buy more music, or find more people to buy music.

Most Overrated
Natural Snow Buildings
 

Jon Lorenz

Best Album
Mount Eerie "Wind's Poem" (P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd.)
Totally epic record that continued to grow on me more and more with every listen. Mind-blowing record through and through.

Best Song
"Love Comes Close" from Cold Cave "Love Comes Close" (Heartworm Press)
A bit of an '80s throwback but whatever; this song is still one of the catchiest/most memorable songs of the year.

Best Debut
Julian Lynch "Orange You Glad" (Olde English Spelling Bee)
Lynch’s LP introduction full of lo-fi wah and world tones. Great record to waste away a Sunday.

Best Reissue
Dave Bixby "Ode to Quetzalcoatl" (Guerssen Records)
Totally stripped down, dark, and lonely home recordings from former druggy, born-again Christian from '68. Probably the best private press Christian record you’ll ever find.

Best Various Artists Compilation
"Resonant Hole Vol. 1" (Mountaain/ Rampart)
Total weirdness from Lexington weirdos. Made-up/brand new bands making up songs about space and shit.

Best Anthology
Destroy All Monsters "1974 - 1976" (The End is Here/ Compound Annex)
Anthology reissue of the early tape recordings, slightly disappointing packaging though but mighty important sounds.

Best Cover Art
Infinity Window "Artificial Midnight" (Arbor)
Robert Beatty has been rulin’ on his artwork for some time now.

Best Vinyl Only
The New Monuments "The New Monuments" (Important)
Monstrous trio of Don Dietrich, C Spencer Yeh, and Ben Hall bringin' the heavy noise jazz shit storm.

Best CD-R Only
Caboladies "Crowded Out Memory" (Gneiss Things)
Lexington (now Chicago), trio (now duo) synth dudes bring it, … always!!

Best Cassette Only
Baronic Wall
Like early Door and the Window of some other Fuck Off Records obscurity, but one dude on keys and more emotional and sci-fi influenced. Totally weird!!

Best Live Show
Keiji Haino/ Tony Conrad @ Empty Bottle, Chicago
Easily the most exciting show I went to this year. Also, gotta mention Wolf Eyes at the Void in Lexington (jamming over AC/DC “Back In Black’ Encore), Pedestrian Deposit, Jon Mueller, Puffy Areolas, Baronic Wall, Black Pus, Mount Eerie at various times at Art Damage Lodge and Trauma down at DAM Fest in Atlanta.

Biggest Surprise
Stumbling upon unreleased recordings and super weird video from some mystery local dudes from 1978, Cincinnati - Vic Matthews and Rick Moore.

Biggest Disappointment
Sonic Youth’s Matador debut “The Eternal.” Not surprising at all considering they’ve been making awful records for years, but maybe more disappointing is the fact that some people actually liked it…

Most Overrated
Obviously, Animal Collective...
 

Matt Blackall

Best Album
Sun Araw "Heavy Deeds" (Not Not Fun)
Plenty of people have sung the praises of this album already, with good reason. Whether you want to call it cosmic funk, psychedelic blues, or weirdo rock and roll, it is undeniably powerful stuff worth listening to over and over again. This one is going to be a favorite well into 2010 and beyond, I have no doubt.

Best Song
"Into the Void" from Vee Dee "Public Mental Health System" (Criminal IQ)
A great bit of Stooges/MC5-inspired rock and roll from this Chicago band. Really, there are lots of great tracks on this double album, but I keep coming back to this one.

Best Debut
Waterside Gala "Composure & Recreation" (Roll Over Rover)
Sean McCann and Kellen Shipley (of Bats in the Belfry) aren't exactly new artists, but their recent collaboration is absolutely stunning. Their deft mix of keyboards and sax power through two amazing tracks: the joy-filled "Scotch & Soda" and the more brooding "Guest of Honor". This two-song c13 is an amazing taste of what these two musicians can do together, and I'm certainly ready for a bigger portion when the muse strikes them again.

Best Reissue
Kraftwerk "The Catalogue" (Astralwerks)
If nothing else, this collection of all of Kraftwerk's albums beginning with "Autobahn" is a great reminder of just how influential the band was and still is. Now, if they could only put together a solid reissue package of the early Kraftwerk albums...

Best Various Artists Compilation
"Psyched Punch: DNT 3 Year Anniversary" (DNT)
This is an awesome two cassette collection culling from the first 49 DNT releases, along with a few new, previously unreleased nuggets tacked on for good measure. Really, there's not a dull moment throughout. There are tracks from Robedoor, Yellow Swans, Jazzfinger, Acre, and Mudboy, to name a few. It's a bit of shame it was so limited (100 copies), but there's no denying the music.

Best Anthology
MK-ULTRA "Discography" (Youth Attack!)
This isn't exactly the usual Digitalis fodder, but if you were (or are) a punk rock nerd like me, this is a pretty fantastic collection. These two LPs of noisy, political hardcore punk collect nearly everything this Chicago-area band did during their run in the 1990s, from way out of print EPs and demos to compilation tracks. Extra points to Youth Attack! for putting everything together so well, too. In particular the huge, glossy insert packed with pages of the band's lyrics, photos, and artwork is a nice touch.

Best Cover Art
Aaron Martin "Dead Teeth" (Cabin Floor Esoterica)
Everything I've seen from this label looks fantastic, but this particular release really turned out especially nice. The tape is encased in a handmade fabric pouch (sporting a flower and chicken pattern, no less) with a feather and glass bead attached. On top of that, the cassette has a hand-painted label and sports three full-color inserts. Essentially, before you even pop this tape into your stereo, you can enjoy a full-blown art object. This is not to say you should get entirely hung up on the packaging, as this also represents another beautiful musical outing from the always-impressive Aaron Martin.

Best Vinyl Only
Bardo Pond "Gazing at Shilla" (Important)
What could be wrong with an LP made up of two sidelong Bardo Pond tracks? Nothing, that's what. Seriously though, "Eight-Thousanders" and "Kali" are two more fantastic jams in the band's arsenal.

Best Cassette Only
Caethua/Ancestral Diet "Split" (Goaty Tapes)
This does everything a good split release should do by having each half perfectly compliment the other. (Of course it doesn't hurt that the two outfits share the same personnel, but why argue with excellent results?) Caethua's sidelong track, "Surface Waters and Underground Seas", is probably one of her best yet, and that's saying a lot given the rest of her catalog. The Ancestral Diet contribution, "Coming Back in Trace Amounts" is a fantastic, spacey piece, as well. Hats off to Goaty Tapes for the great packaging and inserts for this release, too.

Best Live Show
Ajilvsga, Scott Tuma & Mike Weis, Uneven Universe @ Enemy, Chicago, May 4th
Altogether, an amazing night of mind-blowing music.

Biggest Surprise
Flaming Lips "Embryonic" (Warner)
I really didn't think that they had this in them any more, but was I wrong. It still boggles my mind that a major label would even think to put out something this ambitious and weird in this day and age, but I couldn't be happier that they did.

Biggest Disappointment
Another year passes with no new Massive Attack album. Now, they say it's coming out next year. I'll believe it when I see it.

Most Overrated
Dirty Projectors
Does anyone else find them incredibly dull?
 

Michael Jantz

Best Album
Caethua "The Long Afternoon of Earth" (Preservation)
I don't like to attribute the term 'best' to anything, but I'd definitely say "The Long Afternoon of Earth" was one of my favorites in 2009. The album is really two EP-length sessions, but each is a world of charm by itself. The first disc, "No Man's Land" is my favorite, with cleverly-penned and memorable tracks from start to finish. With literally every listen, I will often say to myself upon the beginning of each track, "Oh yeah! I LOVE this one..." Clare Hubbard's voice is unmistakably candid, and so appropriate for every word she sings.

Best Song
"Pata Lenta" from Norberto Lobo's "Pata Lenta" (Mbari Music)

To be honest, this entire album probably ties "The Long Afternoon of Earth" for my 'favorite' in 2009. BUT in an effort to play by the rules, I picked only one favorite and then in consolation, here is most definitely the best song I've listened to all year...over and over and over. Everything I love about Lobo's style and approach to music is expressed in this one song. It is emotionally rich, technically engineered to the last detail, and just a fun song to listen to repeatedly.

Best Debut
Silver Bullets "Free Radical" (Stunned Records)

I'm sure it won't be hard to find folks who will agree with this nomination, and so I hope I can leave some explaining out. These guys blew my mind seconds after popping this little green nugget in and hitting PLAY. Eastern-tinged stoned-jams whirling around and around, electric guitars rich with wah and fuzz, and lots of jittery tambourine. This plus that magical ingredient I call 'mystique'—the fact that this band materialized basically from thin air. Only pain alongside the pleasure of listening is wondering when they will drop another album!

Best Reissue
Dave Bixby "Ode To Quetzalcoatl" (Guerssen)

To be entirely honest, I don't keep up much on reissues, and often if I am listening to a reissue, I'm totally oblivious to the fact that the album is in fact a reissue. Anyhow, this one is a magical ride through the Christian mind of Dave Bixby, man of God. It's an often chilling album, but also sweet and honest. I think the druggie-turned-penitent is a bit of a cliché at this point in time, but Bixby defies the cliché and creates something that's too well-written to write-off. Taking his faith with a slight grain of salt, it's hard to dismiss the epic subject matter that he's going after in some of the songs ("666" in particular). I think if this record wasn't so soaked in religious subject matter, it would have some seriously broad appeal outside of the cult realm.

Best Vinyl Only
Emeralds "Emeralds" (Wagon/Gneiss Things)

In a world of eternal mp3s and instant ripping, it's hard to put any weight on a vinyl-only release. BUT I think of note this year for me was definitely Emeralds eponymous LP. This, for me, is the record that I've been waiting for this band to make. I've always thought it strange that most of the Emeralds stuff I've heard prior to this does not sound like an amalgamation of the three members' solo acts. On this LP, I got exactly what I wanted. McGuire's polyrhythmic guitar, and the two synth warriors' unmistakable arpeggios and lush analog drones, all here together. No bullshit boring drone here—just straight-up space-tripping via splattery green wax.

Best CD-R Only
Analog Concept "Listen Already Today To The Music Of The Past!" (Stunned Records)

When it comes to innovations in electronic music, this guy has got my vote! There were a lot of great things happening within the 'genre' this year, but this album in particular piqued my interest. Where a lot of previous Analog Concept jams have been bigger, sprawling pieces, or otherwise a series of minimal jams, this one is a tidy little collection that spans the whole gamut. He takes dated samples and churns out a fresh sounding 3-minute romp. There are still remnants of the old Alexey, but overtaking the stage is this new, far more adventurous persona. Bits and pieces of 90's and 80's electronica nostalgia are buried along the way, and I think that's the icing on the cake for me. I like to reminisce, and this album makes it possible.

Best Cassette Only
Sean McCann "Midnight Orchard" (Roll Over Rover)

No question that Sean is one of my favorite musicians working at the moment and in the midst of his perpetual gush of tapes this one naturally elevated above the others. At this point in time he has a kind of 'signature style', but I think that style first became obvious to me with this tape. Bending tones from bowed strings are what guide us down the river. "Midnight Orchard" is a totally pleasant journey and one of my favorites to flip around and around.

Best Live Show
Ajilvsga, Scott Tuma, Bone Patrol U.S., Drunjus,  Loop Retard @ Willy Street Pub, Madison, May 2nd
Well to be honest this is one of the only shows I attended this year due to my new role as father, BUT I think even if I'd have seen a few dozen more shows, this one would still trump 'em all. This show gave me a chance to meet Brad and Eden, Nathan, discuss family and writing music with Scott Tuma, and of course see Madison native nice guys Tony, Woodman and Luke. Oh and very nice performances also. Ajilvsga+Tuma in an unexpected collaboration was the perfect preface to Brad and Nathan's rumbling synth/pedal performance.

Best Label
Stunned Records

Without a doubt, this label is setting an entirely new standard for cassette production in underground music. This is not to say that Stunned couldn’t ace vinyl and CD also, but cassette is definitely the medium of choice at the moment. Every tape is another installation in the quality discography that seems to just keep expanding. And every tape is beautifully shrouded in what I imagine to be painstakingly intricate artwork, often consisting of exquisite color collages and recycled media from decades past. Everything is well-constructed and produced to the highest quality, but even so there is an unmistakable warmth to each release. You can definitely tell that Stunned Records exists only because its owners love the work they are doing. And as a listening, I love to know that so much consideration went into the tape that I’m about to flip.


Quick 'Catch-All' List of Favorites (in no particular order)
Caethua: "Long Afternoon of Earth" (Preservation)
Norberto Lobo: "Pata Lenta" (Mbari Music)
Yo La Tengo: "Popular Songs" (Matador Records)
Emeralds: S/T (Wagon/Gneiss Things)
Thomas Koner: "La Barca" (Fario)
Silver Bullets: "Free Radicals" (Stunned Records)
Sean McCann: "Midnight Orchard" (Roll Over Rover)
Mountains: "Choral" (Thrill Jockey)
Super Minerals: "Clusters" (Stunned Records)
Peaking Lights: "Imaginary Falcons" (Night People)
Bill Callahan: “Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle (Drag City)
Rameses III: "I Could Not Love You More" (Type Records)
Seasons (pre-din): "Your Eyes the Stars and Your Hands the Sea" (Type Records)
Luke Vibert: "We Hear You" (Planet Mu)
Ugly Husbands/Old Softy: "Salmon-Chanted Evening" (Roll Over Rover)
Tricorn & Queue: "Ashes Wander" (Stunned Records)
Jodey Kendrick: "Plus Ten" (Rephlex Records)

 

Michael Pursley

Best Album
Clouwbeck "Wolfrahm" (Shining Day)
Music by Richard Skelton. To call this beautiful falls woefully short. Skelton coaxes shimmering tones out of the ether and into looping arcs that breathe, drift, and settle into seemingly predestined realms. This recording has an effortless power and a ceremonial quality that never fails to take me somewhere new. It’s brimming with soul and life.

Best Song
"Daniel" from Bat for Lashes "Two Suns" (Astralwerks)
A meat locker: cold and with many hooks, this song has an amazing chorus and great synth tones. It’s very 80s but arranged with innovation and a good degree of risk. Bask in the Sehnsucht.

Best Debut
Watts Ensemble "Two Suites for Crime & Time” (Kill Shaman)

What happened when Brian Watson, a drummer, decided to try his hand at jazz composition? He ended up with a terrific crime jazz meets Stravinsky score and went on to recruit over a dozen players to bring it to life. “Crime & Time” has guts and brains, and is an exhilarating example of following an unstoppable musical vision from beginning to end.

Best Reissue
The Beatles "The Beatles Stereo Box Set" (EMI)

A reminder of The Beatles’ vast achievement: all their successful experiments, the superhuman workload, incredible singing and musicianship, and consummate artistry. What The Beatles did doesn’t even seem real or possible, but here it is, remastered and ready to stand the tests of time. Also, the release of the remastered albums brought forth a lot of media buzz, and rather than a lot of noxious marketing, there were some genuinely insightful takes on Fab Four history, studio innovations, and resounding relevance.

Best Various Artists Compilation
"Yeti 7" (Yeti Publishing LLC)

Eclectic, smart, and endlessly inspiring, a new issue of Yeti is worth its weight in gold. It’s put together with a passion you can almost taste and has turned me on the writers like Erik Davis and Luc Sante. Their CD compilations are always a blast and Yeti 7 had some gems: Zola Jesus, The Dutchess & the Duke, 39 Clocks, and a cover of “Negative Creep” by a band called Finally Punk that out-scabs the original. Near the end of the comp is a Grouper song called “False Horizon” that’s so unbelievably good it stayed on perpetual repeat and got better every time.

Best Cover Art
Animal Collective "Merriweather Post Pavilion" (Domino Recording Co.)

Since it’s against the law not to have this on your best-of list, and I honestly thought the record was just ok (being still stuck on “Sung Tongs” and not likely to budge), how about that swimmy Akiyoshi Kitaoka cover art? It’s like magic eye without the eyestrain.

Best CD-R Only
Broken Spirits "Steam and Undergrowth" (Smokeland Studios)

A drone album with color and variety. Tape manipulations and clarinets, sometimes harsh, sometimes ethereal. It’s an album that really stayed with me and is always an exciting listen.

Best Cassette Only
The Korean Black Eyes "The Korean Black Eyes" (Plus Tapes)

Charm, red hot soul, and Elvis, Moody Blues, and Jesus Christ Superstar covers from an all-girl 1970’s Korean rock band. It doesn’t get any better.

Best Live Show
Lychgate, Ashes, Corporate Park @ America, Baltimore, October 16th

Yes it was cold, late, and drunk, but how often does harshly pitted Texas noise get out to the East coast? The music was a depraved treat and I got to see some old pals. A win-win!

Biggest Surprise
I almost didn’t go see Leonard Cohen when he came to Maryland (playing at Merriweather Post Pavilion no less) figuring he’d be feeling his age and the huge outdoor amphitheater would bar the immediacy of his songwriting. I was entirely wrong on both counts. His band was great, there were numerous surprises, and Cohen was more of a dancing Buddha in a fedora than the morose wordsmith many of his songs would indicate. He performed for three hours and was captivating at every moment, setting everyone aglow on a miserable rainy night.
 

Paul Simpson

Best Album
Dan Deacon "Bromst" (Carpark)

Was really close to giving this one to To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie, but I just couldn't say no to "Bromst". I just get ridiculously giddy listening to it, there are no words. I've known this guy since the "Meetle Mice" days; I've been waiting for this one all decade.

Best Song
"Digidesign" by Joker (Hyperdub)

First released on a 12" with the equally perfect "You Don't Know What Love Is" by 200F & J Kamata, both are also on the "5 Years Of Hyperdub" comp. I don't think the originators of dubstep were expecting the genre to go in this direction, but I'm glad it is.

Best Debut
Humble Dinosaur
No tracks released yet, but everything I've heard so far (on Myspace, Soundcloud, and "Homebass Radio" on WPKN) has been astonishing next-level dubstep.

Best Reissue
Vaselines "Enter The Vaselines" (Sub Pop)

I'm not a huge reissue guy, and I'd usually rather give this one to some unearthed rarity rather than something legendary or canonized. But for whatever reason, for about a month or so this year I just went through a period where I had to keep listening to the Vaselines. I bought this and it already looks worn out enough so you'd think it's been in my collection for years.

Best Various Artists Compilation
"5 Years Of Hyperdub" (Hyperdub)

Another category where I was really close to giving this one to something I actually reviewed for this site (in this case, "Miwak Twelve", Hymen's spectacular 2cd 12th anniversary comp), but Hyperdub has just been killing it so much lately that there's no reason not to acknowledge their importance. Darkstar, Zomby, Burial, Joker... this is pretty what music circa 2009 is to me.

Best Anthology
Bizzy B "Retrospective" (Planet Mu)

The master. So many of my faves learned from this guy. Nothing but wicked chunes.

Best Cover Art
Jaqee "Kokoo Girl" (Rootdown)

What you know about getting slapped in the face with a cheesecake?

Best Vinyl Only (Single/EP)
Raffertie "Wobble Horror!" (Planet Mu)

Makes my head spin in about 40 different ways.

Best Vinyl Only (Album)
Ela Orleans "Lost" (La Station Radar)

Sort of reminds me of "Person Pitch" because of its composition (guitar, samplers, vocals, tons of reverb), but with a bit of a darker, more nostalgic type of vibe. I knew nothing about this before putting it on the turntable, but my immediate reaction was a wide-grinned "Yes."

Best CD-R Only
The Procedure Club "Music For The Leisure Time" (Series Two)

I ordered another CDR by this group but it hasn't arrived in the mail yet so I'll just have to give it to this one. Really bizarre noisy offbeat shoegaze-y rock that does things to my head that I wasn't expecting.

Best Cassette Only
Of The Glow, Of The Wind, Of The Void... "#1" (Existential Cloth)

Still can't seem to find any info about this project, but this desert-inspired folk-drone cassette was my favorite of the batch of tapes Existential Cloth sent me.

Best Live Show
Throbbing Gristle @ Masonic Temple, Brooklyn, April 16th

Brooklyn needed some discipline in here.

Biggest Surprise
DOOM "Born Like This" (Lex)

I remember being so excited when I heard "Take Me To Your Leader" and "Operation Doomsday", but then he kept making the same album over and over again. If this came out during the height of his prolific peak, I might've just tossed it off, but somehow this was just exactly what I needed to hear this year. Same with Lightning Bolt; they were everywhere when I was in college, but then I just got sick of them. But their new album is great!!!

Biggest Disappointment
The Field "Yesterday And Today" (Kompakt)

I remember being so excited hearing the first 2 Field 12"s in 2005 and 2006, and the first full-length was my favorite of 2007. The first track I heard from this one sampled "Lorelei" and I was still super excited. Then I heard the album and somehow I was bored to tears. The live instruments are a nice touch, but the songs are way too damn long. And I absolutely loved the "Sound Of Light" release, which was just four 15-minute tracks. The down-tempo "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime" cover just does not work at all, either.

Most Overrated
Same as last year, all of the popular/indie-popular stuff just blurs together for me. I still like Animal Collective, though. But as for what there is to get excited about Grizzly Bear, I suppose I'm not meant to know.
 

Peter Taylor

Best Album
The Beets "Spit In The Face Of People Who Don't Want To Be Cool " (Captured Tracks)

Instant classic, been playing this on repeat for the last few months.

Best Song
"My Girls" from Animal Collective "Merriweather Post Pavilion" (Domino)

Great album and great track. Love that MPP has brought AC so many haters and new fans to boot. This song makes me smile in a big way, which is what it's all about, right?

Best Debut
Le Drapeau Noir "Le Drapeau Noir" (Chironex)

The best of the UK/EU improv scene deliver a spectacular slab of wax.

Best Reissue
Onna "Onna" (Holy Mountain)

The artwork made me want to draw again. The music made me want to whinge like a vexed teenager. Beautiful and the most venerable racket I've heard all year.

Best Various Artists Compilation
"My Estrogeneration" (Not Not Fun)

Great label and showcase. Representing a wonderful crop of female experimentalists.

Best Cover Art
Andrew Chalk "The Cable House" (Faraway Press)

Been waiting for this since the Goldfall LP all those years ago. Absolutely breathtaking work. Mine is staying in its wrapping.

Best Vinyl Only
Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides "Blew in the Face" (Chironex)

Favourite PWHMOBS yet. This is truly a master rendition of simplicity and duality.

Best CD-R Only
Zola Jesus "New Amsterdam" (Sacred Bones)

Great album equaled by her CD/LP proper. My voice of the year.

Best Cassette Only
Greg Davis "Full Spectrum" (Digitalis)

Magic tones that restored my faith in drone and ambient.

Best Live Show
Aaron Dilloway @ The Grosvenor, London, July 4th

Inspiring, better than every major act that frequented My Bloody Valentine's extremely dull ATP festival.

Biggest Surprise
Harappian Night Recordings


Biggest Disappointment
Sunn O)))


Most Overrated
Susan Boyle, wtf?!

 

Robert Oberlander

Best Album
Eagle Twin "The Unkindness of Crows" (Southern Lord)

Eagle Twin is only comprised of two dudes, but these burly destroyers swing ten-ton sledgehammers that break holes in the Earth deep enough to see the other side. "The Unkindness of Crows" rests somewhere in between the suffocating, metallic guitar drones of Earth/Sunn O))), and the smoke-filled meditations of Om and Sleep. It's dark, it's heavy as hell, and it's a lot of fun to get lost in.

Best Song
"Alice" from Sunn O))) "Monoliths & Dimensions" (Southern Lord)

The evolution of Sunn O))) from worshipers at the altar of Earth into evil, modern classical goliaths has been remarkable. Sunn's typical, forceful low-end isn't the story here-- it's the gorgeous flourishes of brass that eventually consume the song.


Best Debut
Leyland Kirby "Sadly, The Future is No Longer What It Was" (History Always Favours the Winners)

Okay, I'm cheating a bit here. This certainly is not the first album Kirby has recorded, given his array of fantastic recordings-- many of them under his Caretaker moniker. However, this is his first release under his real name, and it's a doozy. This massive album of ambient is so heartrendingly powerful it cannot be denied.


Best Reissue
Fenn O'Berg "Magic & Return" (Editions Mego)

Both a reissue and a compilation, "Magic & Return" collects the two albums of improvisational electronic music composed by Christian Fennesz, Jim O'Rourke, and Peter Rehberg. Two important and highly influential albums.


Best Various Artists Compilation
"The World is Shaking: Cubanismo from the Congo 1954-55" (Honest Jon's)

This awesome compilation collects the early music from the beginning of Africa's musical golden age. Listening to "The World is Shaking," you can feel the excitement being fostered through cultural upheaval. A fascinating and fun listen that holds up tremendously well.


Best Cover Art
Barn Owl "The Conjurer" (Root Strata)

Listening to a lot of experimental music means that you inevitably end up seeing piles of collages for cover art that, after awhile, all begin to bleed together. This cover is pretty simple, black-and-white, and it references 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's hard to go wrong with that formula.


Best Vinyl Only
Emeralds "Emeralds" (Wagon)

This was a tough one, but I have to give it to the dudes from Cleveland. Another sublime slab of guitar/synth drone straight out of the Berlin music school circa 2042.


Best CD-R Only
Skyramps "Days of Thunder" (Wagon)

Mark McGuire of Emeralds and Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never kicking out the jams. McGuire brings his guitar and Lopatin brings his synthesizer. Melodic, rhythmic, and utterly joyous.


Best Cassette Only
Sean McCann "Phylum Sigh" (DNT)

McCann is becoming "kinda like a big deal," and "Phylum Sigh" is a large reason for his growing popularity. On this tape he successfully combines his love for acoustic instrumentation with keyboards to create soaring, impressionistic collages of beautiful sound.


Best Live Show
Mount Eerie, Tara Jane O'Neil, No Kids @ Art Damage Lodge, Cincinnati, OH, November 4th

I saw a number of live shows in 2009, including an M83 show in Columbus where Anthony Gonzalez punched and kicked a security guard, but Mount Eerie's show at the Art Damage Lodge stuck with me the most. Despite the issues with his amp, Phil Elverum's swirling walls of black-metal influenced riffing filled the room and evoked a feel of mystery that has remained vivid in my memory.


Biggest Surprise
Getting a copy of the out-of-print Swans vinyl, "Children of God" for Christmas. Thanks Emily!


Biggest Disappointment
Baroness' "Blue Record" (Relapse)
A lot of people that know little to nothing about metal have been getting excited over this album, but it's an extremely dull watering-down of the band's southern prog-sludge punch. A pretty big drop off for a band that had a couple of pretty ferocious EPs and a great debut album just a few years ago. The "Blue Record" is metal for people who don't like metal. Yawn.


Most Overrated
The artistic output of furries in 2009. Animal Collective, Grizzly Bears, James Cameron. The list is large. Too large for this space.
 

Tim Gentles

Best Album
The Mountain Goats “The Life of the World to Come” (4AD)

Despite a potentially disastrous premise - “twelve new songs: twelve hard lessons the Bible taught me” - John Darnielle has produced (along with last year's Heretic Pride) what may be his best album since the 90s. Much of what has always appealed about The Mountain Goats is here, of course, but the loose religious theme only works in his favor, framing a set of astonishingly tender and humane songs about loss and mortality.

Best Song
"One Day" from The Juan Maclean "The Future Will Come" (DFA)

The best song from a fantastic album. 4:17 of pure boy-girl synth pop bliss. Who knew ripping off the Human League could sound so good?

Best Debut
Emptyset "Emptyset” (Caravan)

Ridiculously heavy and minimal Bristol techno duo's first full-length release after a string of singles. This album is the first I've heard of them again but it has pretty much single-handedly got me interested in minimal techno again.

Best Reissue
Axemen "Big Cheap Motel" (Siltbreeze)

Siltbreeze continue to do the good work in lovingly reissuing The Axemen's 'protest album' on LP. A chaotic pastiche of mostly live recordings and some in-studio trickery, this is about as uncompromisingly essential as it comes.

Best Various Artists Compilation
"Stroke – Songs for Chris Knox" (Label)

Benefit CD released in the wake of Chris suffering a stroke midway through last year. Numerous artists covering Toy Love, Tall Dwarfs and Chris Knox songs. No more explanation necessary.

Best Anthology
The Shadow Ring "Life Review" (KYE)

Thirty-four tracks chosen by Graham Lambkin from the oeuvre of a band too truly great to ever be forgotten, but still seriously needing this kind of retrospective treatment.

Best Vinyl Only
Peaking Lights "Imaginary Falcons" (Night People)

Midwestern fuzzy analog goodness. The Night People label has completely blown me away this year.

Best CD-R Only
C. Spencer Yeh "The Strangler" (Chocolate Monk)

I've long been a fan of C. Spencer Yeh's work, but this CD-R on Chocolate Monk is the most exciting thing I've heard from him a while. Keeps you on the edge of your seat through sheer minimalism alone.

Best Cassette Only
Super Minerals "Clusters" (Stunned)

One of the nicer discoveries of the year has been the Stunned Records/Magic Lanterns crew of which this Super Minerals cassette is my personal highpoint. Piano arpeggios poke out through some of the most blissful tape warble I've ever heard. Beautiful.

Best Live Show
Pink Reason, Pumice & The Axemen @ The High Seas, Auckland, NZ, September 19th

An absolutely perfectly matched line-up of no-fi pop visionaries.

Biggest Surprise
Toro Y Moi

All the hype surrounding 'glo-fi' or 'chillwave' or whatever you want to call it had me prepared for pretty much the worst thing ever. Not too particularly sold on Neon Indian, but Toro Y Moi offer a pretty damn infallible soundtrack to summer.

Biggest Disappointment
Lindstrom & Prins Thomas “II” (Eskimo)

Who knew two of the most interesting dudes in Norwegian electronica could get together and produce something so boring?

Most Overrated
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart & other assorted C86 revivalists.
 

Tobias Corell

Best Album
Barn Owl “The Conjurer” (Root Strata)

This beautiful record is worthy of the all the praise you are able to summon.

Best Debut
Real Estate "s/t" (Woodsist)

Matthew Mondanile is not bad in a group, either.

Best Reissue
Bob Desper "New Sounds" (Discourage)

The first and only record by the king of loner folk 1974 is finally available to us record-collecting mortals.

Best Various Artists Compilation
"I Woke Up One Morning in May" (Mississippi)

I have yet to experience a sub-par release from this label.

Best Vinyl Only
Chris Corsano "Another Dull Dawn" (Ultra Eczema)

Corsano proves once again how good he is at making his records sound worlds apart from his previous releases, but still just as good.

Best CD-R Only
Yawning Chasm "The Shadow That is Hidden" (Rusted Rail)

A little folk EP gem from the Irish Aaron M. Coyne.

Best Cassette Only
Sun Araw feat. Matthew Lessner "In Orbit" (Stunned)

Two tracks of solar craziness. Sun Araw doing what they do best.

Best Live Show
Head of Wantistiquet, Aethr Myth’d, Aymeric Hainaux @ Festival of Endless Gratitude, Copenhagen, Denmark, May 20th-24th


Biggest Disappointment
The deaths of Jack Rose and Vic Chesnutt.
 
-- Brad Rose (14 January, 2010)
Foxy Digitalis.
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26 September, 2010
The New Foxy Digitalis Check out the new site.... feature :: by Brad Rose

8 September, 2010
Ernesto Diaz-Infante Since the mid-nineties, composer/guitarist Ernesto Diaz-Infante has been releasing some of the most boldly unclassifiable and uncompromising music that spans an unbelievably wide range of sounds... feature :: by David Perron

Horaflora Horaflora is San Francisco-based musician Raub Roy. .. feature :: by Mike Pursley

1 September, 2010
Bis auf’s Messer Berlin’s Bis auf’s Messer emporium has all bases covered. From two rooms in the Eastern borough of Friedrichshain, Robert and Stefan run a store and a mailorder operation, they organize gigs, and not one, but two labels... feature :: by Jan-Arne Sohns

Neon Marshmallow Fest Recap More so than perhaps any festival on the radar, the lineup itself was truly the draw of Chicago’s inaugural Neon Marshmallow Fest, the four-day cornucopia of experimental music of all stripes.... feature :: by Travis Bird

25 August, 2010
Little Fury Things Padna’s own Nat Hawks runs a rad micro-label out of Brooklyn with an even radder name! .. feature :: by Dave Miller

Live London #13: Graham Lambkin / Call Back The Giants / Helm Show review from August 6th, 2010 at Cafe Oto in London featuring Graham Lambkin, Call Back the Giants and Helm... feature :: by Peter Taylor

4 August, 2010
Eggy Records Eggy Records (and Eggy Distribution) is the brainchild of Portlander, Raf Spielman. .. label-spotlight :: by Brad Rose

18 August, 2010
Donovan Quinn Donovan Quinn has already proven himself to be one of the more gifted folk-pop songsmiths of the past decade through his work with Verdure and The Skygreen Leopards... feature :: by David Perron

11 August, 2010
Marc Manning Marc Manning is an artist and musician living and working in San Francisco... feature :: by Dave Miller

28 July, 2010
TRD W/d Belfast, Maine's premier source of total weirdness... label-spotlight :: by Brad Rose
15 September, 2010
Lucky 13 Jani Hellén's 13,000,000th dream.. podcast :: by Jani Hellén

10 August, 2010
Early Women Composers A collection of tracks from some of the best female composers this century... podcast :: by Brad Rose

5 August, 2010
Hobo Cult #1 First set of tunes from the man behind Hobo Cult/Hobo Cubes... podcast :: by Frank Ouellette

15 July, 2010
LAFMS Podcast #1 A selection of tracks from the might Los Angeles Free Music Society.. podcast :: by Andrew Murdock Livingston

3 July, 2010
ALPHACAST A collection of songs from the mighty Colin Ward AKA Alphabets in celebration of the ALPHABOX release... podcast :: by Brad Rose
 
 
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