|Mendigo's 2009: Albums|
I've got a fucking cold.
Merriweather Post Pavilion
My #1 spot was pretty much clear to me since January. I'd say it's worth every ounce of praise it gets - this is pure sonic bliss and happiness, a new classic.
|2||maudlin of the Well|
Part the Second
"Part the Second" is hard to describe. It's both like Toby Driver's work with Kayo Dot and older maudlin of the Well and it is not. It is less intimitatingly avant-garde than his recent albums, but more accessible. straight-forward, elegant, crystal clear. But also the exact opposite: experimental, labyrinthine, challenging. In the end it's mainly just beautiful though.
|3||The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble|
Here Be Dragons
"Here Be Dragons" shows a promising band flourishing. The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble creates a mixture of jazz, electronic, ambient and horror movie soundtrack that is as creepy as music can be. Although mainly instrumental the album seems to have a tight narrative, telling a dark and haunting story about who knows what. Unlike their German doom jazz peers Bohren & Der Club of Gore, they have a truly huge array of techniques and tricks available for disposal and write songs that enhance each other but are also able to stand alone as unique and original masterpieces.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt II
You need to have a hell of a lot of self-confidence to try recording a direct follow-up to a genre masterpiece that's almost 15 years old by now, especially with a legacy that hasn't really remained all that solid. But Raekwon and his partners in crime show no sign of dread. And no sign of age either, they really pull it off with energy and a record filled to brim with each track crispier and more inspiring than the one before.
Another band that has shown a constant evolution throughout their - in this case relatively young - career and reached their (temporary?) peak in 2009. Giant Squid show how great the result can be if you mix classical instruments and metal wisely. Over the course of ten tracks they play themselves through an array of different possibilities from heavy to soft, chaotic to tight, catchy to complex and win constantly.
Lyrically this album is a heartwrenching, nightmarish masterpiece. Songwriter Peter Silberman writes poems that wouldn't even need to be backed up with music to unfold their power. But the deadly appropriate mixture of lo-fi folk, ambient and post rock not only accompanies these frightening tales of hate, love and death in a hospital ward (or whatever the hell they are truly about), but enhances them to an even bigger emotional impact.
Axe to Fall
Since "Jane Doe" I haven't been really enthralled by a Converge album. They were still a good and enjoyable band but only now with "Axe to Fall" I've felt the same kind of frantic power jumping at me from all directions. The album captures all the musicians at the height of their technical abilities and they turn in a masterpiece of fucked up anger.
|8||Altar of Plagues|
Right when Wolves in the Throne Room have become a bit too heavy for their own good, Altar of Plagues stepped forward with an excellent atmospheric black metal debut. "White Tomb" might have an ambitious environmental concept, but its power stems from the music. Four epic songs with no fear of breaking boundaries or striking new paths.
|9||Sole and the Skyrider Band|
No doubt Sole is at the top of his game on here, spinning fascinating dystopian tales. But at least as much if not even more admiration goes out to the Skyrider Band. These pulsating walls of sound are carefully built with bricks of IDM, glitch, trip-hop, indie rock, and more stuff I've overseen and form the backdrop which gives the MC's lyrics the urgency they deserve.
L'Autopsie Phenomenale de Dieu
Initially I sort of dismissed it as "just another" one of those ambient albums with a little experimental touch. That was until I listened to it closer again. And again. And again. Then I realized what an amazing, dreamlike journey "L'Autopsie Phenomenale de Dieu" is. Surreal soundscapes, quirky but subtle ideas, ethereal moods, it's all there. Doom jazz and chamber music, experimental and modern classical, ambient and holy shit I don't know what else. A real beauty.
|11||Soap and Skin|
Lovetune for Vacuum
Anja Plaschg has created an intense and emotinoally exhausting debut. Musically it is an eclectic mix of impossible influences from classical piano etudes to Nico, post rock, electronic and what not. But what makes it the experience it is, is Plaschg's vocal work and the heartfelt emotions that ring true in every whisper and every cry.
|12||World Sanguine Report|
Third One Rises
A mixture of insane blues punk, avant-garde jazz, bar music, cabaret, chamber music, Tom Waits' evil twin brother, frightening lyrics, incredible musicianship, vocal contortions and lots of awesomeness. This one was surely recorded in the devil's very own jazz bar.
Underground metal bands obviously cannot be mysterious enough. But when you don't only leave your two 20 minute tracks on your new album untitled but won't even reveal in what fucking language you're singing them you sort of take the cake. It's all not that important though, since what counts is that Ea create some of the most incredible doom metal this side of Esoteric.
Monoliths and Dimensions
Happily marching on their way to eh... fame, Sunn O))) gather more and more attention with every new release. While still odd enough to be heavily polarizing, "Monoliths & Dimensions" shows the duo (or in this special case, uh, orchestra) not only at their most accessible but also at their most fascinating and in my very humble opinion at their best.
Isis are not big for surprises. Except maybe that they somehow manage to stay so true to their roots and still sound fresh and new with every record. So "Wavering Radiant" is pretty much what was expected of it, a typical Isis album but still in no way predictable or even boring. After all, they obviously still are at the forefront of their respective genre.
Who says black metal isn't inventive anymore? Panopticon, the one-man project of Austin Lunn, surely is. At times atmospheric with allusions to ambient and post rock, but also heavy and disturbing if it wants to. And then out of nowhere Lunn obviously loves to incorporate some - bluegrass. Should be done by more black metal bands I guess, since it works perfectly. Also, how many black metal artists manage to be so heavily political without coming off as ignorant assholes?
|17||Secret Chiefs 3|
Probably Trey Spruance should try out directing. The Severed Right Hands of the Last Men. Hell yeah. But no matter what, we've still got this album which even the masters of the Giallo and Spaghetthi Western soundtracks would have been more than proud of.
Code make quite experimental Norwegian black metal in the vein of Ved Buens Ende. Highly inventive and imaginative, clear and complex, a worthy successor to their exceptional debut album.
|19||Do Make Say Think|
Like all the great post rock albums "Other Truths" doesn't rely on the old boring loud/silent, crescendo/climax, atmospheric/heavy contrasts. Instead it experiments with jazzy ideas, chamber music, unusual sounds and rhythms and how to put all of that into coherent songs. Although being - well - "epic" with the shortest of the four songs ticking in at eight minutes, the album never turns into something overblown, instead there is a certain intimacy here which makes it all the more interesting to listen to.
As far as I know them, most attempts of mixing classical and rock fail one way or another, sounding too botched, using orchestration only as a meaningless backdrop or to blow everything out of proportion and all that. Tyondian Braxton, probably better known as the "frontman" of Battles, took a new and hugely successful path. "Central Market" is math rock dressed in classical clothes. Or something like that. Hell I don't have any idea whether I "got" what Braxton was after here, but I just love the unusual uses of instruments and techniques that usually don't fit together like that at all.
Kamaal the Abstract
Putting the whole ridiculous release history aside, what I really found fascinating about this is that it's so damn laid back and smooth that initially I was totally oblivious to how great it actually is. Radically different from the old A Tribe Called Quest material, often closer to nu jazz and neo-soul than hip hop, this is nevertheless an excellent and accomplished piece of work.
That this album was allegedly recorded with actual instrument and only later distorted until you'd swear it has never seen a piano or a drum set is just an amusing side note. What's important is that Chris Clark finally stepped out of Aphex Twin's long shadow with his new shortened moniker and released a piece of music that is as exceptional as it is unique. Abstract but catchy, aggressive but at times quite smooth, with a perfect sound and fantastic ideas.
|23||Orphans of Cush|
My knowledge about British hip hop lies around zero. But from now on I have one album I can absolutely recommend to anyone. "White Noize" is angry. And it is thoughtful, funny, angry, intelligent and engaging and generally doing pretty much everything a great hip hop album could do. The beats are superb and the lyrics are spit out with a huge amount of passion.
Recent studies have revealed that before the more badass Stone Age tribes went out slaughtering mammoths or less badass Stone Age tribes they put this album on to summon all their primeval energy and bow to the chaotic madness on display here.
Ugly as a blob fish, but just as fascinating. I cannot think of a more "extreme" album than this mixture of noise, drone, doom and whatever music is able to cause severe headaches. But they really know their shit and the album they have crafted works amazingly well throughout.
|26||Various Artists (Indie)|
Dark Was the Night
Not often is donating such a little amount of money a more selfish act than when you buy this album. "Dark Was the Night" brings together a large number of the bands that are currently on the forefront of the indie rock scene. A mix of stunning cover versions, wonderful originals and unlikely collaborations. With 2 hours length this sampler of course has its various low points but the majority of the tracks are at the very least admirable and absolutely mind blowing at their best.
My biggest complaint here is that I'd really love to actually understand the Polish lyrics. Other than that "Der Prozess" mostly delivers the goods for me. Somewhere in between (post-)hardcore and progressive punk, with its horn section (!) and long but focused compositions constantly setting it apart from the "usual" attempts at writing punk epics. Armia play around with styles and make themselves equally at home in orchestrated beauty and raw heaviness.
|28||The Flaming Lips|
I did like The Flaming Lips' delve into ridiculous indie pop but this change of direction towards something even more spaced out and considerably darker is a pleasant surprise nonetheless. "Embryonic" is a summer of love revival through and through, jazz rock jams and heavy psych, naked hippies and lots of drugs. The diversity and large amount of true gems guarantee that it won't show any signs of exhaustion in spite of its length.
In the Constellation of the Black Widow
Heavy, like in really heavy. At times chaotic and rather extreme, and I'm quite sure that grindcore on the brink of black metal is a more accurate deion than the other way round. Well, they surely know what they're doing and this album does not cease to hit hard again and again.
Strange Journey Volume One
A large collection of songs and instrumentals, just short of 80 minutes. But if there is a hip hop group which can get away with packing an album almost twice on one disc, it's CunninLynguists. Addictive and intelligent beats, wonderful rhymes and a endless amount of creativity, skits that are actually funny, songs that are in no way less engrossing in their instrumental version than with rapping and a bunch of noteworthy remixes. No doubt that Cunninlynguists truly are one of the essential hip hop groups these days.