The Best Music of 2009 - My Top Twenty-Five...

Another year slips past, leaving us with meager + bare memories of the time that we've lost... until we turn to the best music that was released in 2009, which brings smiley-happy-time to all the world! Here's my personal list of the best music released this year. They're in roughly alfabetical order, since trying to rank them any further than "these are all really good" would be a total snoozefest for me + you both. So, here they are; go download or buy some stuff you ain't heard yet + know that it'll be good ('cuz Unca Igor dun tol'ya):

Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O.
- Lord of the Underground: Vishnu and the Magic Elixir

Evidently, Hawkwind + Pink Floyd got loaded together + had a baby. A rock orchestra baby. A Japanese rock orchestra baby... And that baby was midwifed + nursemaided by Sandy Bull... Rocking riffage, swirling + trippy synths, dronee-stylee, tribal drumming... now we now where Syd Barrett + Nik Turner are!


Bardo Pond - Peri

Yet another busy year for Bardo Pond! If you haven't heard em, think of them as the "you got Your peanut butter in my chocolate" genetic experiment gone awry that'd happen if Brundlefly stuck Jessamine + Sonic Youth into one of his wacky transporter pods... Lots of stony riffs, weird noises that could be synths or waaay treated guitars, he + she vox that float just under the music. In addition to Peri, which I see as kinda their "main" record of the year, BP also released three other following notable records:
Gazing at Shilla
Volume VII
Game Five and a Half
...as well as three super-freaky drone-laden side-projects:
Moon Phantoms - Moon Phantoms
Alumbrados - Monochord
Alasehir - Torment of the Metals
...(I'm always a sucker for alchemy-themed records...)


Baroness - Blue Record

Badass! Big powerful riffage that doesn't stay the same til boredom. Metal without being one-dimensional, with lots of nods to classic rock + early metal, and some more modern stoner metal stylings.

Caspian - Tertia

(At times quite heavy) instrumental post-rock, with walls of guitar sound that evoke prime My Bloody Valentine-era Kevin Shields; shimmering chords + tons of delay! The quiet passages are well-placed + provide great soft spots to build the songs back up from.


Cougar - Patriot

Instrumental post-rock, with clever drummage + intricate/delicate guitarwork that build + swell to immensities before resolving back down again. Extremely neat production, with extra crispy drums. The more I listen to this one, the more I love it; it's rapidly easing its way toward best album of the year... along with the new If These Trees Could Talk!


Dinosaur, Jr. - Farm

If at times it seems that J. Mascis' guitar solos are overabundant + superfluous to the songs, then it must be Tuesday + we must be listening to Dinosaur, Jr., with lots of heavy + beautiful guitar melodies + solos beefing up some clever pop songs. Somehow, 20 years after You're Living All Over Me + Bug, DJ's original lineup is still mining fertile ideas for new music, though the vein remains the same... And Mascis has possibly my favorite guitar tone, which is thick + grabs hold of ya!


Do Make Say Think - Other Truths

instrumental post-rock. this time, it's 4 tracks from DMST, each highlighting a different aspect of their music; you get some light + ethereal along with your cinematic + expansive. Best album of the year candidate...


Dysrhythmia - Psychic Maps

Instru-metal three-piece... I hear (the good kind of) influence from classic King Crimson, as well as lots of frantic metal riffage + thoughtful arrangements of some brutal tracks.


the Flaming Lips - Embryonic

Yet another highly anticipated release from one of the greatest bands ever. Can't hate on a single album they've put out in over 20 years, and this one's no exception. I haven't completely assimilated it all yet (there's a lot to take in), but I like. A lot. Even if it's not my favorite 'Lips record (yet... so far, that's still 1987's Oh My Gawd - the first 'Lips musicks to ever kiss my ears), it's still striking. This band continues to evolve with every release, staying frickin' neat-o the whole time!
If These Trees Could Talk - Above the Earth, Below the Sky

Instrumental post-rock that often leans toward heavy. Maybe my favorite record of the year. Hypnotic + cinematic!

Isis - Wavering Radiant (+ the Ephemeral EP)

Some vocals waft into range from time to time, but the more impactful moments of the new Isis releases (a full-length + an EP) come during the instrumental passages, which quickly shift from beautiful to ominous throughout. Powerful stuff.

Kylesa - Static Tensions

Tribal + brutal stoner metal band (from Georgia?) that weaves an unrelenting web of intricate guitar + basslines over powerful tom-heavy drumming. Great driving music!

Maserati - Passages

Kinda sounds like 90s Trans Am records, especially since this album contains some delicate post-rock, some overt Krautrock + Kraftwerk influences, some driving + moving moments. Broad + varying styles bump against each other, but without being too disparate to gel as a cohesive album.

Mastodon - Crack the Skye

Mastodon's series of concept albums continues with the aerocentric Crack the Skye. This one is much more musically diverse than previous Mastodon albums, with more than a few moments of sheer progrock shining through the metal. This isn't my favorite Mastodon release (that'd be Leviathan, just for the record), but it's still an awesome + mighty album.

Mooncake - Cast the Route

Instrumental post-rock. The only bad thing I can say about this is that, unlike previous Mooncake releases, this EP is a mere two songs, clocking in at under 20 minutes. Word is, they're from Russia; don't know, but I am glad for the internet - else I'd've never found out about em (same with the similar post-rockers Deepset, from Indonesia).
Nile - Those Whom the Gods Detest

Brutal + with a penchant for ancient Egyptian themes (+ scales, evidently). Metal as fuck. machinegun drums. gravelly grave-vocals. outstanding! The deathiest death metal of all... like, what if Dethklok was a real band... they'd be scared of Nile, thass what!


Pelican - What We All Come to Need

Huge + menacing, Pelican's music often evokes giant monsters + huge mechs wading into cities, destruction-bent. Looking forward to seeing this display of aural delicacy + brutality live when they come to the Birmingham area in December (esp cuz I misst em -with Isis!!!- during the summer)...

Russian Circles - Geneva

Heavy instrumental post-rock three-piece. Got to see em live in October + was blown away by their sound. Lots of textural guitars + thunderous basslines, tribal drumming, + clever songwriting.

Slayer - World Painted Blood

More new Slayer! This ain't as jaw-dropping as God Hates Us All was on first listen (it's up there for me right behind Reign in Blood), but is as solid as or even better than the more recent Christ Illusion. No surprises, but no disappointment, either. Lots of dive-bombing guitars, thunderous riffs (the bass is even mixd a bit louder, it seems), angry screeds... Yay!

Sonic Youth - The Eternal

Another excellent release from one of the most influential bands of the 1980s + 90s. Namecheckt by almost as many bands as have flat-out rippt them off, Sonic Youth has managed to maintain a solid presence in the scene for over 20 years now. This new record does a lot of the same stuff expected from the band: some twistd angular reworking of pop-stylee rock, some beautiful + unearthly sounding guitars, thumpy bass, poundy drums.

Like former labelmates Dinosaur, Jr., who're also on this list, SY hits with a new slab that evokes their classic SST records while still being fresh + relevant-sounding. How very cool that SY, Dinosaur, Jr., Slayer, and the Flaming Lips, all of whom had records in my top releases of the year lists in 1986/7 are all still represented + creating solid music after alla these years...

Sunn O))) - Monoliths and Dimensions

This record will sound best when played ridiculously loud. Through headphones. While loaded. And sitting in the dark. Beautiful, scary, huge, ominous... drone-thick, distortion-driven almost-ambient metal that is perfect lullaby music... next-gen volume + distortion experimentation that'd prob'ly well suit fans of the same from My Bloody Valentine, Sleep, Spectrum, E.A.R., etc... and they even sneak a little electric Miles Davis stylee in for good measure...

Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures

A supergroup comprised of Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones... Lemme just say that this is waaaaay better than the reality show Supergroup with Anthrax's Scott Ian trying to stay reasonable + polite while faced with idiots like Sebastian Bach + Ted Nugent... This slab sounds a lot like one of the Desert Sessions records, so if you like those at all, y'know you'll enjoy this one!

Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship

I've already said my piece about this one when it came out [LINK]... An excellent + diverse group of songs + a swell bunch of guys. Go see their in-studio live set + interview with Chris Douridas from sometime this summer (8 July 2009, actually) on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic [LINK]. The Remixes 12" is also a neat little find, with a pair of kooky-wild DnB sides.


Valis - Dark Matter

Another slab of high-grade stoner metal from a group who had to check out, since their name is taken from the title of a classic super-paranoid Philip K. Dick novel... three albums in + they still do not disappoint!


J.G. Thirlwell - The Venture Bros. Soundtrack

WOW! All over the dial, from spaghetti western + classic spytones to retrofuturo + beyond. If you love the show, you need the soundtrack. If you don't love the show... fuck you, buddy, and the goat you rode in on!


  1. Jesus. This rules. Laughed out loud sev'ral times.

  2. Glad you like, brother! What sucks is that I checkt out some other '09 lists + almost none of these bands are on 'em... Caspian + Mooncake + If These Trees Could Talk (yeah, that name...) are all supremely under-rated! Go listen!!!

  3. Mo' goodstuff. I'm still listening to the new Slayer, and I b'lieve the new Nile is sitting and waiting for me at the post office, which is locked down 'til Monday so I gotta wait impatiently. I still can't think of any CDs that came out this year, at least not enough to make a list of. The new Nashville Pussy is pretty kickity-ass, and the new Clutch is great. They're pretty consistent, Clutch is. I keep wanting to count Exodus's "Atrocity Exhibition" but that came out two freakin' years ago. I have no sense of time. Newer Exodus is pretty amazing. Go to YouTube and look for the studio version of a song called "DeathAmphetamine" and listen up to the 1:00 mark when the main riff kicks in, and tell me that doesn't floor you. That is just some crazy, crazy shit. I don't see how they play that so damn fast. And the bass sound on that album is massive.