The Best (and Worst) of 2009

This week’s LEO Weekly contains a short top-five list by yours truly, and here it is for your perusal — Top Five Albums of 2009:

1. Blues Control, “Local Flavor” (Siltbreeze)

Russ Waterhouse and Lea Cho of Blues Control have delivered the goods with “Local Flavor” (full disclosure: Russ and Lea are friends, and I was present at their first show a few years back). That is, if the goods were super-hallucinogenic drugs that didn’t leave you damaged, but rather took you on a midnight journey through Tangier without leaving your living room. From beat-laden not-quite-dance workouts, to deconstructed guitar licks, to massive underwater drones, to ringing alarm clocks, there isn’t a record this year I’ve heard as wonderfully evocative of out-of-mind experiences.

2. Group Doueh, “Treeg Salaam” (Sublime Frequencies)

While it might put off some world music purists (and who do those jokers think they are, anyway?), the lo-fi nature of Group Doueh’s recordings are not only more “authentic” than, say, bringing the band to Paris or London to record in some sterile studio, they’re also far more joyous. Listening to “Treeg Salaam” at a loud volume, you feel like you’re standing in some Western Saharan souk, watching guitarist Doueh and company tear it up – and seeing them have a great time while they’re doing so.

3. The Phantom Family Halo, “Monoliths and These Flowers Never Die” (Karate Body)

Generally, most rock bands these days can’t pull off the sprawling double album, once a 1970s hallmark. But The Phantom Family Halo manages to do so, with aplomb. After multiple listens, I’m not entirely sure what the overarching theme or concept behind “Monoliths and These Flowers Never Die” is, or even if there is one, but this double album is executed so brilliantly, I’m not sure it matters. Hopefully the rest of the country will start paying attention to what these local greats are up to.

4. Mouthus, “Divisionals” (Ecstatic Peace!)

Back in May I wrote in LEO about Mouthus, the rackety, noisy guitar-and-drums duo of Brian Sullivan and Nate Nelson, and their album “Divisionals,” one of the mellowest, yet undeniably great albums I’ve heard this year. I even went so preposterously far as to write that “Divisionals” contains “a mysterious set of cyclic drones, which interlock and mesh within each other, much as the strands of DNA within our cells.” Well, Nate came through Louisville in August, and told me that “Divisionals” was performed on synths, a departure from their usual m.o. There you go.

5. Extra Golden, “Thank You Very Quickly” (Thrill Jockey)

Despite listening to more music from around the world than ever, I find that not very much of it is by current bands. The recent explosion of reissues of 1960s and 1970s African music is far more compelling than most new African bands, sadly. Extra Golden is an exception to that rule, and perhaps it’s because the half-Kenyan, half-American band has an extra rock element to it reminiscent of 1970s classics. Regardless, we’ve been lucky to see them twice in Louisville in the past year, and that they release consistently great albums.

Other albums that I’d have given honorable mention to, if space allowed: Bill Orcutt, A New Way to Pay Old Debts (Palialia); Sperm, Shh! (DeStijl); Sir Richard Bishop, The Freak of Araby (Drag City); Oneohtrix Point Never, Zones Without People (Arbor); Omar Souleyman, Highway to Hassake: Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria (Sublime Frequencies); Jim O’Rourke, I’m Happy, and I’m singing and a 1, 2, 3, 4 (Editions Mego); Kurt Vile, Childish Prodigy (Matador); Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou, The Voudon Effect: Funk & Sato from Benin’s Obscure Labels 1972 – 1975 (Analog Africa); Death, …For the Whole World to See (Drag City); Tony Conrad/Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Taking Issue (Dais).

Best Shows I Attended in 2009: Throbbing Gristle/Emeralds at Logan Square Auditorium, Chicago; Daniel Higgs at Lisa’s Oak Street Lounge, Louisville; Joe Manning/Doug Paisley/Nathan Salsburg at the Swan Dive, Louisville (full disclosure: I booked this show); Endless Boogie/Cross at the Swan Dive, Louisville (I also booked this show); Sapat/Blues Control/Softcheque/Raw Thug at Lisa’s Oak Street Lounge, Louisville; Black Juju (The Alice Cooper Cover Band) at Lisa’s Oak Street Lounge, Louisville; Young Widows/Maserati/The Genitalmen at Zanzabar, Louisville (full disclosure: I djed at this show); The Julia Schagene/Furry Bits at Jeff Komara’s house, Louisville.

Worst Things to Happen in 2009: The deaths of Rowland S. Howard, Jack Rose, Jerry Fuchs, Tony Bailey, Rashied Ali, Maryanne Amacher, Hugh Hopper, Max Neuhaus, Michael Jackson, Ron Asheton, Randy Bewley, Lux Interior, Luther Thomas, Mick Cocks, Sirone, and probably many more that I’m forgetting.

You can read the rest of the feature, including the top-five picks by the rest of LEO‘s music critics here: http://leoweekly.com/music/music-top-fives-2009.

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