[Initially posted on my last.fm account ("MrShake"... add me!), this was too relevant to what I do here to not post. I know I've promised the big finale of the Green Day Trilogy, in which I confess where all my insecurity comes from, how I learned to sing, and how American Idiot was indirectly responsible for the biggest decision of my adult life, but I figure I oughtta build the suspense for that. This should tide you over, since I know you all have been clamoring for more content what with my daily posts [insert emoticon face with "silly" tongue sticking out here, 'cause I won't]. This list was compiled prior to my hearing the new Green Day album, so you can forget about that until the end of the year. With all the writing I've been doing about them, I didn't want to revise to include it right now. Leave a comment, tell me I'm an idiot, you know, whatever...]
OK, so I realize it's only late May, but that means that next week, this year is half over. So in honor of that momentous occasion, I thought I'd put up a list of my favorite 7 albums of 2009 so far, both as something to do, as well as a way to force myself to say something new about the ones that make it through to the end of the year. So without further ado...
7: Madlib - Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6
Some people gripe about Madlib's instrumentals, and those people are crazy. On paper, it's all soulful jazzy samples over blunted beats, which sounds like it's been done a million times over already. There's something about Madlib's ear that makes these fresh. It's to this album's immense credit that I can't find words that will make it seem unique and interesting, you'll just have to listen to it.
6: Death - For The Whole World To See
I could go on and on about how these three dudes from Detroit were both out-MC5-ing the '5, and how they're like precursors to the garage/soul hybrid that the Dirtbombs are currently rockin', and how they only ever released a limited single before retiring to Vermont as a weirdass Gospel band, or, oh yeah, that they're a trio of '70s black dudes doing fucking searing garage punk. But I won't. This record would have made my top 7 this year(-ish) if it had come out yesterday and had no "rock nerd appeal" sorta story behind it. Bass driven, loud as hell, tight as the Bad Brains, and just fantastic.
5: Volcano Suns - "The Bright Orange Years"/"All Night Lotus Party"
Yeah, it's cheating. These records came out in the mid-80s already, but since they've never been on CD (ever!), and they have more bonus stuff than original album stuff, they count, OK? Imagine if your favorite 80s college/alternative band had a sense of humor AND rocked mightily? "Bright Orange" was written by former members of Mission of Burma and future members of Big Dipper. "Lotus Party" is darker, heavier, and different, but just as good. It's hard post-punk alternative rock that likes to have fun - like driving around with a buddy on a Thursday night cracking jokes about everything. I bought my old LP of this from the main dude in the band. He gave me a few bucks off due to my good taste.
4: Asobi Seksu - Hush
More Cocteau Twins than My Bloody Valentine, more Slowdive than Jesus and Mary Chain, and since I'm getting older, that's OK by me. The third album from these neo-shoegazers is a lot more poppy than a lot of their previous work, and by poppy, I mean repeatable phrases and hooks. It doesn't have the wall of sound that their breakthrough Citrus (incidentally, my #1 of 2006) has, but it's beautiful in the way that it can strip away a lot of the noise and remain beautiful. The only comparison I can make is the gorgeous chiming texture of Slowdive's Pygmalion after the oceanic SouvlakiIf you can dig something pretty, and I think most of us can, this is a must-have.
3: Sune Rose Wagner - Sune Rose Wagner
Exactly what I expected from this, but better. Imagine if the lead songwriter from the Raveonettes put out a solo record. Less "black leather, rock'n'roll", and a little more personal, with a sound like an intimate version of pre-murderer Phil Spector. I hate to fly commercially (it's not natural for humans to be in the sky!), but this was the perfect soundtrack: propulsive, cinematic, intimate, otherworldly. Like tuning into a radio station in Heaven in 1961. I don't even notice that it's sung in Swedish.
2: The Vandelles - Del Black Aloha
I heard their EP at the end of last year and liked it, but thought they'd break up and that would be that. Not too far from A Place To Bury Strangers, this has more go-go surf to it, but just as much noise. Remember that Jesus And Mary Chain album with both "Kill Surf City" and "Surfin' U.S.A." on it? This is like a whole album of that. Of course, to reduce them to a noisy surf band would totally be unfair to all the racket they kick up too. Sometimes that white noise/feedback saddle can be a little contrived, but this album makes it work, and it makes me glad I heard this one this year, so I won't be kicking myself for missing out on putting it on this list.
1: ofthemetro - Under The Sound
OK, so this isn't really an album yet, more of a work in progress. It is still, however, my favorite "release" so far this year. Two tracks from it are now available, and if you haven't looked at my charts recently, you wouldn't know that I've been listening to "April Is The Cruelest Month" and "Roboboogie" over and over. It's electronic, but it's got all the finesse and drive as the best rock albums, while still maintaining some of the glacial beauty and austerity that comes from sequencer rats. Not quite ambient, not quite dancefloor fodder. Reminiscent of the prettiest non-ambient songs by Aphex Twin. Remember track 8 on Analogue Bubblebath 3? (Available for download HERE.) That's the same ballpark, as well as one of the most gorgeous electronic tracks I can think of. Too much electronica is squelchy noodling, but since this comes from a former rock artist, it's lean, never forgetting that it's a song, not a "piece". I'm hoping and assuming that I'll be able to round up more of this by year's end and call it an EP or something.