Thursday, December 24, 2009

Streetmeat's Best Albums of 2009

I figured Christmas eve was as good a time as any to add the heaviest Year End List you'll see on this website in the foreseeable future. Very occasional contributor Streetmeat has listed his favorite records, along with a few he simply liked and some he didn't like at all... anyway, scroll down and enjoy, and you'll see lists from myself, DL and TC here pretty soon. Happy holidays. PS-- we'll do a quick post of weekend shows on Friday afternoon, and be back in full swing on Monday. --(SR)

This thing is gonna be longwinded, in no particular order, overly opinionated, and underinformed. I haven't listened to everything this year. I haven't even listened to HALF of everything. I've forgotten lots of stuff. You know you can't wait to hear what I have to say. Right? Oh. Anyway, you'll probably hate the things I like and be offended by the things I don't...but let's be honest, since none of these bands are the Bad Brains circa 1980, none of them are any good anyway.

All apologies for filling this list with "heavy" music. Sort of. You know, if you really hate all things heavy, though, there's a website called Pitchfork that might be up your alley. I hear they REALLY have the scoop on the new Vampire Weekend.

So here we go. I liked this first group of albums a lot-- you might say I think they're the "best" of 2009. remember - these aren't in order!

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Nadja - When I See the Sun Always Shines On TV

This covers record by the (overly?) prolific doom/drone band Nadja kicks off with a cover of MBV's "Only Shallow," and then goes on to reimagine Elliott Smith, Slayer, Swans, Codeine, and a few others. This might be my favorite record of the entire year. It's gorgeous, well-produced, and far better than any covers record has a right to be, really. the Kids in the Hall cover is one of the gloomiest things I've heard in a long, long time.

Hatred Surge - Deconstruct

Dunno what it says about me that this record was probably my most-played of this year, but it was. The self-applied "grinding powerviolence" descriptor fits this perfectly. Ugly, bleak, raw, oppressive, and just about ideal as far as this stuff goes. This was originally a very Despise You-esque project of the bassplayer from Insect Warfare, but it's a lot more than that now. People will try to top this for a long, long time, which leads me to...

Mammoth Grinder - Extinction of Humanity

Basically a couple of dudes from Hatred Surge, but sans Faiza and plus someone else.(?)(!) Really good old-school death metal. the riffs. THE RIFFS.

Trapped Under Ice - Secrets of the World

Baltimore hardcore in the vein of Cold World and all that other Wilkes-Barre business - sort of. Bleak, angry, memorable, no-frills stuff. Kind of a must-have, as far as these things go.

Dinosaur Jr - Farm

I don't need to talk about it. I just need to let you know that if you don't like it you're a jerk.

Moutheater - Ornament

Incredible Jesus Lizard-meets-Cursed kind of noise rock record, if I may oversimplify. Bits of harsh noise stylings creep into this release in a very welcome way-- its maybe a bit angsty for some, but I think it's phenomenal. I'm just afraid this band is peaking early with their first LP. Can't recommend this enough, along with all the EPs they released prior to this.

The Atlas Moth - A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky

This is the first full-length by these guys, and I can't wait to hear more. It should be noted - although I'm gonna compare them vaguely to Neurosis and what Isis should sound like now, there's a lot more going on than that, and it's not tired at all, unlike the vast, plodding majority of the bands that fall under that umbrella. A significant amount of NOLA-styled sludge (think Eyehategod) and texture are happening here as well, along with a heaping helping of American doom. This and the new Yob are atop the list for me as far as the longer, meaner stuff goes. Give it a spin. Or four.

speaking of Yob,

Yob - The Great Cessation

Try and find a better doom record this year. I dare you. The Pacific Northwest must be really, really oppressive, because even though at least one of these guys is a family man, it hasn't toned them down a bit since their inception. Man, despondent rage never sounded so excellent.

Burnt By the Sun - Heart of Darkness

This sounds exactly like it was supposed to, which is why it's so phenomenal. These dudes didn't slow down a bit during their (rather lengthy) hiatus. Heavy, complex, and proficient. Excellent. It's been a good year for old guys making relevant music typically executed by "kids."

Afgrund - Vid Helvetets Grindar

Top-notch crusty Swedish grind in the vein of Human 2.0-era Nasum or Rotten Sound. Does the new Magrudergrind one better. Grind nerds shouldn't miss out. Willowtip is on a roll this year, seems like.

11_ />
<br /><b>Blacklisted - No One Deserves to Be Here More Than Me</b>
<br />
<br />Where did this even come from?  I didn't even hear about this until after it released.  Either way - it's phenomenal, and continues the group's progression from a hardcore band into something else.  I'm getting a lot of Jesus Lizard out of this, and a whole lot of 90's Seattle grunginess too.  I like it a lot.  This one will probably be forgotten, unfortunately, because hardcore kids don't tend to appreciate deviation from the norm, which is an awful thing in this case because this record is great. Ugly cover art, though.
<br />
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Coalesce - OX/OXEP

I'm treating these as one entry because they're both from the same recording sessions and are quite similar. I'm not gonna try to sell anyone on this band - if you know who they are then you already know whether or not you like them based on years and years of releases. This seems to be the year of the comeback record for bands that have been inactive, and OX is probably the best of them all. (OXEP is the stuff that didn't fit on OX.)

last, but certainly not least...

Agoraphobic Nosebleed - Agorapocalypse

This is so good. They took the old ANb formula (short songs, frantic drum machines, lack of a bass) and threw it all away. The songs are 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 minutes long, they've added a female vocalist (Kat of Salome), they've added a bass, and there's a drum machine solo. It's fantastic. The lyrics are absurdly offensive, and so is the Florian Bertmer artwork.

- - - - - - - - - -

ok, here's the stuff I rather liked but didn't feel made it to whatever arbitrary list is above this text, with a blurb about each.

Polvo - In Prism - Like I said earlier, 2009 was pretty magical for bands returning from inactivity to record solid albums. this stands with any of their previous records, I think, and it continues to grow on me with every listen.

Rise & Fall - Our Circle is Vicious - Nasty Integrity-influenced Belgian hardcore. I felt the previous record was better, but this is still pretty good.

Reign Supreme - Testing the Limits of Infinite - I think I wore this out early on. It's kind of dumb, but it's immensely memorable and enjoyable. Very solid "typical" hardcore record.

Behemoth - Evangelion - Great death metal record, zero trendy "deathcore" garbage. Reminds me of Nile, but with a Sumerian theme. I think this is on here because I didn't listen to nearly enough new death metal this year, but either way, it's solid.

Yeah Yeah Yeah's - It's Blitz! - This wins for the occasional Italodisco stylings alone.

Baroness - The Blue Album - Maybe if Mastodon had any talent left after their one good record and one decent record they might have evolved into this band, but instead they put out Crack the Skye and made a prog album for deaf people. Pity. Anyway, this is good.

Poison the Well - The Tropic Rot - I didn't expect to enjoy this, so much so that I had to be convinced to listen to it. It's way, way better than it has any right to be. Honestly! (and no matter what anyone says, this band was embarrassing back in their 'heyday.')

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca - I really liked the last one (which was quite different in tone, I think), and I might like this one even better. Unique and inventive.

Tombs - Winter Hours - I might have liked this more, except for the part where they kind of sucked live, TWICE. "Merrimack" is a standout track though.

Darkest Hour - The Eternal Return - Look, I'm supremely mortified to add this, but I have to be honest, it's really good. This band got pretty wretched for a few years there, and they've always kind of been (ok, they've always really been) an At The Gates knockoff, but this...this is actually good thrash. Who knew? 2009 has been full of surprises.

Ancestors - Of Sound Mind - If King Crimson and Black Sabbath had a baby...

Church of Misery - Houses of the Unholy - Nothing groundbreaking, but Japanese EHG-worship bands writing long songs about serial killers apparently happens to really be my thing, so on the list it goes.

Magrudergrind - Magrudergrind - How did the generic grind band with a bad name suddenly put out a completely solid Nasum knockoff record? I'm pleased and surprised. I can see them improving with age.

Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures - Hey, neat. didn't want to like this but I kinda do. Dave Grohl should stick to drumming if he won't write anything like Foo Fighters - S/T again.

Brutal Truth - Evolution Through Revolution - Another one of those releases where you either know if you're gonna like it or not before you even hear it. Solid grind release by a band that's been around the block many, many times.

- - - - - - - - - -

ok, I didn't like these. I'll start lightly. or at least I'll try to.

Clipse - Til the Casket Drops - Too bad this has one of the best hip-hop singles of the year on it (Popular Demand), because otherwise I could write it off almost entirely. What happened to these guys?

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion - I recall making fun of this last year when it leaked. Gonna do it again. Overrated, overrated, overrated. I don't even like the word and I feel it applies here more than anywhere else. Look, this is pleasant enough, fine. But come on. Enough. It's not mindblowing because it's a hopscotch sonic collage - it's just temporarily interesting. This is not the new Pet Sounds. Everyone seems to have conveniently forgotten that these guys were wearing animal suits and playing bad freak-folk (now there's a redundant phrase) a few years ago. Yawn.

Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3 - What, naming it after 2 better records somehow validates this phoned-in garbage? Nice try, dude. There are a couple of good tracks on here, but by and large, this is filler and yacht payment slurry. Forget it.

Mount Eerie - Wind's Poem - Elvrum's "black metal" album turns out to be nothing more than a gimmick backed with monotonous songwriting and fuzzy overproduction; indie world takes no notice, purchases in droves anyway. more at eleven. (ok, fine, the Twin Peaks song was good. because he didn't write the cool parts.)

The Mars Volta - There was some new one, right? - didn't listen to this because I'm a decent human being.

Immortal - All Will Fall - These guys and Darkthrone are apparently in some sort of grim, kvlt race to see who hits the frostbitten pinnacle of black metal irrelevancy first. Darkthrone's winning but this just closed the gap. spare me the mid-tempo drudgery.

Converge - Axe to Fall - I heard the first track off of this and got really excited. Then I heard more and got really unexcited.

Mastodon - Crack the Skye - I don't know which makes me more embarrassed to admit I like metal - garbage like Disturbed that the average Joe seems to think is metal, or garbage like this that used to BE metal but sounds like a toothless prog-for-dummies bar band. Nice face tattoos, dude. At this rate, two albums from now they'll record an album that Phish fans will enjoy.

Shrinebuilder - Shrinebuilder - This isn't horrible, don't get me wrong. However, if a sludgy doom band has Wino, Al Cisneros of Sleep, Dale Crover, and Scott Kelly in it, I expect - nay, demand! - more than mediocre, forgettably decent songs. What a colossal letdown.

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest - Feeling very sleepppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp

sorry, dozed off on the keyboard there.

Trail of Dead - Century of Self - More like Century of Suck, amirite?! Seriously, this sucks.

Jim Jones - Pray IV Reign - Think about this - when was the last time you heard a hip-hop album where the intro was better than any of the tracks that followed? Now that's special.

Cam'ron - Crime Pays - Bad year for Dipset stuff. this one's not too good either.

Sonic Youth - The Eternal - Band makes good album and breaks with tradition; band follows up good tradition-breaking album with laurel-resting, badly written album. hm.

Slayer - World Painted Blood - Look, I should've known, ok?

- - - - - - - - - -

I liked these records, but I didn't hear enough of them to honestly list them.

Girls - Album (I need to get's exceptionally pleasant)
Nadja / Pyramids - split (you may have noted that I have a thing for Aidan Baker/Nadja)
Bat For Lashes - Two Suns (what's up, Kate Bush worship?)
Napalm Death - Time Waits for No Slave (saw the show. does that count?)

- - - - - - - - - -

and finally, three things I didn't listen to/couldn't stand because I am a decent human being with a conscience:

Wavves - whatever it's called (maybe if I didn't shower enough and wore TOMS shoes I would 'get it')

Vampire Weekend - whatever it's called (despite what NPR and J. Crew tell you, this is worthless.)

Jay Reatard - whatever it's called (look, I enjoyed Blood Visions, but COME ON.)

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