Fester’s Lucky 13: The Best Albums of 2009

2009 Year-End Summary

Top 100 Albums of 2009 | 2009 Breakdown: Top 13 Genre Lists | Singles & Shows | Movies & Books

I always look forward to year-end (or decade-end) lists every December. It’s a great way to catch up on some great albums I missed throughout the year. But inevitably I encounter the annoying tendency for many of the participants to whine about how they think lists are stupid but they’re forced to feed their vampiric readers’ list-lust. Or the self-deprecating, “shucks, I’m not qualified to tell you what the best albums are, I haven’t heard enough, and it’s all subjective anyway.” Of course it’s subjective, FFS. But the least you could do is do your job and listen to as large of a sampling as you can.

You’re not going to get that crap here. I’m uniquely qualified to make lists. I started listing the best records that belong to my family as soon as I could learn to write, and haven’t stopped since. I listen to more new music (usually over 500 albums a year) than all but a small handful of people on this planet. Most of them are disqualified because they are either not sane, or do not use their powers for lists. I am the king of lists. Pump me with enough whiskey and you might see me stand on the table and proclaim myself your patron saint of lists. Switch to tequlia and I’m your Fucking Bastard God Of Lists. You might not agree with all of my list, but I could make your own personal list better than you could, because you probably only listened to a half-assed baker’s dozen of new albums this year. Didn’t you. Shame on you. While you probably don’t deserve it, I could do it for you. All I’d need is a glance at your music collection, or your pathetic iTunes catalog, and you’d have to voluntarily take a roofie to reveal your guilty pleasures. If that makes you nervous, you could opt for the alternate brain probe. I take cash, money order and PayPal.

Or just keep an open mind, take a listen to some of the unfamiliar stuff and decide for yourself.

Album sales may be down, but I see no evidence that the album as a format is in decline. Even when CDs disappear, people are going to continue wanting to hear more than a single song’s worth of music from their favorite artists. If anything, the album is expanding. Oneida, Oneohtrix Point Never and Leyland Kirby have released TRIPLE albums, and Dâm-Funk’s Toeachizown was originally released as five albums, woo hoo!

Comeback of the year

Metal continues to gain a wider audience. Doom metal
and black
in particular seem
to be enjoying a resurgence, with new bands paying tribute to old bands (Pentagram, Cathedral, Trouble, Obsessed). Heaven & Hell, which is the incarnation of Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio, released a good album backed with an entertaining tour. But I’m going to give the edge to Anvil, who’s underdog charm gave them a boost from the movie. To be honest, bandleader Lips is annoyingly narcissistic and whiney. He believes they deserve to be stars when there are dozens of other bands from their era (including Budgie, Raven, More, Loudness, Overdrive, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Manowar, Riot, Tank, Girlschool, Heavy Load and Helloween) who were just as good or better who also didn’t make it big. Good thing for them, This Is Thirteen rocks.

Debuts of the year

King Midas Sound, The Very Best, Fever Ray, Dâm-Funk, Moderat, Them Crooked Vultures, The xx, Wardruna, Shrinebuilder, fun., Fontän, Cold Cave, Fool’s Gold, The Big Pink, Real Estate, Crippled Black Phoenix and Soap & Skin all had albums in the top 50. Many of these are veterans with long histories, such as King Midas Sounds’ Kevin Martin (Techno Animal, The Bug) and Them Crooked Vultures and Shrinebuilder. The Very Best are Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya and British DJ duo Radioclit, who came up with a fresh sounding pop album that transcends genre restrictions most associate with World Music. While The Flaming Lips were rehashing the same bombast they’ve been doing for over a decade at the Pitchfork Festival, large groups of people began streaming towards the stage where The Very Best were playing. I can only guess that friends were texting and Twittering (Twiting?) that this joyous, danceable set was not to be missed.


Overrated of the Year

I’ve considered doing away with this category the last couple years because I prefer to focus on stuff I like. I’ll stick to tradition this last time of the decade. There’s a whole block of albums that have consistently rated high on lists, which a discussion board dubbed DAPGY (Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective, Phoenix, Grizzly Bear, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). I guess I’m guilty having at two of those in my top 10 and the rest in my top 40. Animal Collective rated lowest of them, but I still like them. When I first heard them at the beginning of the decade, I thought they might become a new favorite band. However as engaging and clever they’ve been, few of their songs really stick for me. Merriweather Post Pavilion is still a good slab of sunny psychedelia though. I was a bit surprised by some high placings by Bat For Lashes and The Horrors, but I like those alright too. People have struggled with choosing a token hip-hop album, so votes are split between Mos Def and Raekwon. I used to like both quite a bit. I’d say the weakest by far is Raekwon’s Only Built for Cuban Linx… Pt. II.


Disappointment of the Year

As always, there’s plenty of artists who underperform like Eels, Rancid and Hot Leg (Justin from The Darkness). Considering the promise of her first album, I’d say Lilly Allen wins it, yay.


Looking Ahead
There seems to be as stockpile of promising albums scheduled for release early in 2010, such as Vampire Weekend, Missy Elliott, RJD2, Sigh, Beach House, Four Tet, Fucked Up, Spoon, Hot Chip, Massive Attack, Yeasayer, Field Music, The Streets, Ruby Suns and LCD Soundsystem. Lots of contendors to be remembered for the first great album of the new decade.

Fester’s Lucky 13 – The Best Albums of 2009

  1. King Midas Sound – Waiting For You (Hyperdub) King Midas Sound - Waiting For You
  2. Roger Robinson is a poet from Trinidad & Tobago who originally collaborated with Kevin Martin on The Bug track “You And Me.” Martin thought the narcotic psych-ward lovers rock vibe was worth exploring further. After adding Hitomi from Dokkebi Q, King Midas Sound was born. Like Burial, their sound is murky and subtle, that takes a while to sink in, but in turn rewards multiple repeated listens. Though the album came out recently, I’ve played it more than anything else this year, and have yet to get sick of it.

  3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz! (Interscope)Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
  4. For their third full-length, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wanted to see what they could do by largely stripping out the guitars and focusing on electronics for textures and beats. Given how explosively great Nick Zinner’s guitar playing is, it sounds like a bad idea. However, the band handles this shift no problem and rather than sounding like they’re chasing trends, they simply dominate with another bunch of amazing songs, ranging from trashy disco to elegiac ballads that shimmer and radiate.

  5. Mastodon – Crack The Skye (Reprise/WEA)Mastodon - Crack The Skye (Reprise/WEA)
  6. Mastodon started out strong out the gates on the debut album, Remission(2002), but with their influences like Neurosis, Melvins, Entombed, even Thin Lizzy fairly recognizeable. It’s clear to me that the band has gotten better and more unique with each album, and it confounds me how anyone could think otherwise. Their growth has been evident the five times I’ve seen them live, and the proof is in the pudding of fourth album, Crack The Skye. The best album by the best metal band of the decade.

  7. Baroness – Blue Record (Relapse) Baroness - Blue Record
  8. It’s fun how great bands can sneak up on you. Baroness released two excellent EPs that mixed post-harcore and post-rock influences like Fugazi and Mogwai with bits of metal along the lines of their neighbors Mastodon. They were totally under my radar until 2007’s debut full-length The Red Album, which tailed off a bit at the end but showed a ton of potential. The anticipation for the next album was rewarded with Blue Record, where they finally nail it. New guitarist contributes to some sweet twin lead harmonies, as well as vocal harmonies, which are used sparingly but effectively. With both raging southern rock riffing and lush acoustic interludes that dip into prog and folk, it’s a well-rounded album that will scratch all kinds of itches.

  9. The Very Best – Warm Heart Of Africa (Green Owl)
  10. True to their name, The Very Best is the greatest sort of globalist pop band. Avoiding contrived notions of how they should identify themselves culturally, they formed by chance when Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya ran into Frenchman Etienne Tron in a London secondhand shop to buy a bike. Tron and his Swedish mate Johan Karlberg are the DJ duo known as Radioclit, who collaborated with Mwamwaya last year on a mix tape that, among other things, covered and re-imagined cuts by Vampire Weekend and M.I.A. It’s fitting that Ezra Koenig and M.I.A. would collaborate with them on the title cut and “Raindance.” No more authentically African than American bands like Vampire Weekend and Fool’s Gold, it’s just great dance pop.

  11. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote)Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
  12. French electro-pop band Phoenix hit some speedbumps trying to follow up their popular debut United (2000), and found their way out of dance-pop rut by practicing their guitars and shifting influences from Air and Tahiti 80 to The Strokes for their third album, It’s Never Been Like That (2006). The New one is even better, tightening up their songcraft, comeing up with a seemingly non-stop hit parade of hooks.

  13. Matias Aguayo – Ay Ay Ay (Kompakt)
    Matias Aguayo - Ay Ay Ay
  14. Born in Chile and raised in Cologne, Germany, Matias Aguayo has been around for a while, as one half of Closer Musik, and a 2005 debut solo album, Are You Really Lost. Ay Ay Ay is a departure from his more traditional house-based techno, using his voice in unusual ways, providing much of the basis for songs like “Rollerskate.” He mixes elements of South American based rhythms like Brazillian Forro and cyclical Tango with repetitive Krautrock beats. It’s strange, addictive music, and far stretch from house.

  15. Gary War – Horribles Parade (Sacred Bones)Gary War - Horribles Parade
  16. The former bandmate of Ariel Pink has people strruggling to describe the music. It’s cluttered homegrown psychedelia cluttered with layers and effects, like wobbly liquid vocals that sound like Chrome brought up to date by Black Moth Super Rainbow. Some have called their music hypnagogic pop. It’s a psychedelic rainbow of colorful gummy bears melted in the sun. An acquired taste, then, but surprisingly pretty.

  17. Fever Ray (Mute)
    Fever Ray
  18. Taking a break from Swedish band The Knife with brother Olof, Karin Dreijer goes solo with Fever Ray, and nearly matches the classic Silent Shout. If that album seemed cold and creepy, Fever Ray turns the eerie intensity up two notches and keeps it there. If Siouxsie & the Banshees and Björk created dark but beautiful ice sculptures, they reside in the foyer of the massively forboding ice castle of Fever Ray, haunted by Dreijer, the fearsomely eccentric witch goddess. An impressively, deeply weird album.

  19. Tony Allen – Secret Agent (World Circuit)Tony Allen - Secret Agent
  20. It makes sense that Fela fans would look to his sons Femi and Seun to continue the Afrobeat legacy. But all too often they forget that Fela’s secret weapon, Tony Allen, is still kicking around. Allen not only played a large part in creating Afrobeat with his unique drumming style, he arranged nearly all of Fela’s music as musical director for the first 15 years. Allen may be almost 70, but he’s been working on overdrive, putting out four excellent albums since 1999 – Black Voices, Home Cooking (2002), Lagos No Shaking (2006) and Secret Agent, in addition to his work with super group The Good, The Bad And The Queen.

  21. Dâm-Funk – Toeachizown (Stones Throw)
    Dâm-Funk - Toeachizown
  22. DJ Damon Riddick, aka Dâm-Funk, spent the 90s doing session work for mostly West Coast rappers like MC Eiht and Master P. Recording as a one man band in his studio, Dâm-Funk produced five entire LPs of electro-funk, paying tribute to Bernie Worrell, Roger Troutman and early Prince. Toeachizown condenses the five LPs into a double CD set, nearly two and a half hours of Zapplicious, purpledelic, G-funkalaxin synth-based tunes. It’s almost an oppressive lenght, but it slides by easily as you zone out. This is the most fun I’ve had with electro-funk since the Clinton album a decade ago.

  23. Them Crooked Vultures (DGC/Interscope)
    Them Crooked Vultures
  24. While this project was Grohl’s idea, and John Paul Jones is certainly a certified rock god, this is Josh Homme’s band. The lineups of Queens of the Stone Age have changed so much over the years that as long as Homme is writing, singing and playing the guitar, it’s pretty much QOTSA in my mind. And this is the best thing they’ve done since Homme last worked with Grohl on Songs For The Deaf, one of the best albums of the decade. That’s not to say Jones doesn’t alter the sound. Homme certainly had to be influenced, as several songs are more heavily indebted to Led Zeppelin than anything he’d done in the past.

  25. Kiila – Tuota Tuota (Fonal))
    Kiila - Tuota Tuota
  26. Kiila is a Finnish avant-folk band that references both the Incredible String Band and Current 93. Compared to other avant psych & folk Finnish labelmates Paavoharju and Kemialliset Ystävät, Kiila may be relatively more tame. Yet I wouldn’t bet against them being caught now and then frolicking in the snow wearing nothing but body paint and antlers. Just when you think you’ve settled into some nice soothing acoustic picking, they throw in some free-form jazz or lysergic freakout, as it should be.

    All the above albums can be purchased online, even the imports. See the Fast ‘n’ Bulbous Guide to Online CD Shopping for tips.

    The rest of the Top 100

    If I had another week I’d write about every single one of these. I’ll talk about a few that may be unfamiliar to some folks. A Somalian settled in Ontario, K’NAAN waxes poetic, raps and sings with a range of talent matched only by MIssy Elliott and Erykah Badu. Wardruna is a Norwegian avant folk project that explores Norse mythology based on runes from over a thousand years ago, using authentic ancient instruments and recorded in the forest. Part one of a trilogy, it’s actually pretty lush, like Dead Can Dance. Shrinebuilder is Wino (Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, the Hidden Hand), Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Al Cisneros (Sleep, Om), and Dale Crover (Melvins). Nothing need be added other than, doomtastic! OOIOO is lead by Yoshimi P-We (The Boredoms), and makes avant rock in tribute to nature (Armonico Hewa translates from Spanish and Swahili to “air in a harmonious state”). Mix Stevie Nicks with Siouxsie Sioux and Jesus and The Mary Chain and you get Nika Roza Danilova from Madison, aka Zola Jesus. Fontän are this year’s Balaeric kraut-disco progsters from Jahin Melin and Jesper Jarold, who was in Studio. Cold Cave specialize in bleak dark wave synth pop.

    As always, plenty of artists with very good albums didn’t make my top 100 — Isis, Moderat, Meshell Ndegeocello, The Slits, The Clientele, Editors, NOMO, Emeralds, Dan Deacon, Telepathe, Krallice, GusGus, Rain Machine, Extra Golden, Soulsavers, BLK JKS, Moon Wiring Club, Passion Pit, Desire, Antony and the Johnsons, Pissed Jeans, Part Chimp, Micachu & The Shapes, King Cannibal, Major Lazer, Camera Obscura, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Super Furry Animals, Tom Zé, Yoko Ono, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, The Twilight Sad, etc. Click here for the entire list.

  27. OOIOO – Armonico Hewa (Thrill Jockey)
  28. Richard Youngs – Under Stellar Streams (Jagjaguwar)
  29. K’NAAN – Troubador (A&M/Octone)
  30. The xx – xx (Young Turks/XL)
  31. Wardruna – Runaljad: gap var Ginnunga (Fimbulljóð)
  32. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti)
  33. White Denim – Fits (Full Time Hobby)
  34. Evangelista – Prince Of Truth (Constellation)
  35. Shrinebuilder (Neurot)
  36. fun. – Aim And Ignite (Nettwerk)
  37. Zola Jesus – The Spoils (Sacred Bones)
  38. Wild Beasts – Two Dancers (Domino)
  39. Fontän – Winterhwila (Information)
  40. Cold Cave – Love Comes Close (Matador)
  41. Oneohtrix Point Never – Rifts (No Fun Productions)
  42. Leyland Kirby – Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was (History Always Favours the Winner)
  43. White Rabbits – It’s Frightening (TBD)
  44. Fool’s Gold (IAm Sound)
  45. Ben Frost – By The Throat (Bedroom Community)
  46. Tinariwen – Imidiwan: Companions (Independiente)
  47. Sunn 0))) – Monoliths and Dimensions (Southern Lord)
  48. David Sylvian – Manafon (Samadhi Sound)
  49. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (Warp)
  50. The Big Pink – A Brief History Of Love (4AD)
  51. The Rakes – Klang! (V2)
  52. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca (Domino)
  53. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic (WB)
  54. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)
  55. Raise The Red Lantern (At A Loss)
  56. Real Estate (Woodsist)
  57. Death – For the Whole World To See (Drag City)
  58. Hacride – Lazarus (Listenable)
  59. Zu – Carboniferous (Ipecac)
  60. Crippled Black Phoenix – 200 Tons of Bad Luck (Invada)
  61. Otto – Certa Manha Acordei De Sonhos Intranquilos (Nublu)
  62. Soap & Skin – Lovetune For Vacuum (P.I.A.S.)
  63. Katatonia – Night Is The New Day (Peaceville)
  64. Oneida – Rated O (Jagjaguwar)
  65. Franz Ferdinand – Tonight (Sony)
  66. Slough Feg – Ape Uprising (Cruz del Sur)
  67. Lightning Bolt – Earthly Delights (Load)
  68. Anti-Pop Consortium – Fluorescent Black (Big Dada)
  69. YOB – The Great Cessation (Profound Lore)
  70. 3 Inches Of Blood – Here Waits Thy Doom (Century Media)
  71. The Antlers – Hospice (Frenchkiss)
  72. Maxwell – BLACKsummers’night (Columbia)
  73. The Gates Of Slumber – Hymns Of Blood And Thunder (Rise Above)
  74. Health – Get Color (Lovepump United)
  75. The Fiery Furnaces – I’m Going Away (Thrill Jockey)
  76. St Vincent – Actor (4AD)
  77. Julianna Barwick – Florine EP (Florid)
  78. Jim O’Rourke – The Visitor (Drag City)
  79. Alasdair Roberts – Spoils (Drag City)
  80. Girls – Album (True Panther Sounds)
  81. Kylesa – Static Tensions (Prosthetic)
  82. Tombs – Winter Hours (Relapse)
  83. Minsk – With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (Relapse)
  84. Ancestors – Of Sound Mind (Tee Pee)
  85. Liam Hayes & Plush – Bright Penny (Broken Horse)
  86. Patrick Wolf – The Bachelor (Universal/Polydor)
  87. Dälek – Gutter Tactics (Ipecac)
  88. Gay Witch Abortion – Maverick (Learning Curve)
  89. Brother Ali – Us (Rhymesayers)
  90. Khaled – Liberté (Wrasse)
  91. Teeth Of The Sea – Orphaned By The Ocean (Rocket Launch)
  92. DM Stith – Heavy Ghost (Asthmatic Kitty)
  93. Cobalt – Gin (ProfoundLore)
  94. Shafiq Husayn – Shafiq en’ a-Free-Ka (Plug Research)
  95. City Center (Type)
  96. Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue (Warp)
  97. Abramis Brama – Smakar Söndag (Transubstans)
  98. Radio Moscow – Brain Cycles (Alive)
  99. Madder Mortem – Eight Ways (Peaceville)
  100. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – I Speak Fula (Out Here)
  101. Sa-Ra Creative Partners – Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love (Ubiquity)
  102. Converge – Axe To Fall (Epitaph)
  103. Broadcast & The Focus Group – Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age (Warp)
  104. The Horrors – Primary Colours (Beggars XL)
  105. Memory Tapes – Seek Magic (Something In Construction)
  106. Bear In Heaven – Beast Rest Forth Mouth (Hometapes)
  107. Mountains – Choral (Thrill Jockey)
  108. Sonic Youth – The Eternal (Matador)
  109. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport (ATAP)
  110. Horisont – Två Sidor Av Horisonten (Crusher)
  111. Siena Root – Different Realities (Transubstans)
  112. Betty Davis – Is It Love Or Desire (Light In The Attic)
  113. British Sea Power – Man Of Aran (Rough Trade)

2009 Breakdown

Rock & Pop

White Denim - Fits

White Denim get more interesting all the time, expanding on their (now impossible find) debut album’s Meat Puppets and Royal Trux influences. Add the Minutemen to their diverse arsenal, and you start to wonder how great this band is gonna be.

  1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz! (Interscope)
  2. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote)
  3. White Denim – Fits (Full Time Hobby)
  4. fun. – Aim And Ignite (Nettwerk)
  5. Wild Beasts – Two Dancers (Domino)
  6. White Rabbits – It’s Frightening (TBD)
  7. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (Warp)
  8. The Rakes – Klang! (V2)
  9. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca (Domino)
  10. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic (WB)
  11. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)
  12. Real Estate (Woodsist)
  13. Franz Ferdinand – Tonight (Sony)
  14. The Antlers – Hospice (Frenchkiss)
  15. Liam Hayes & Plush – Bright Penny (Broken Horse)
  16. Patrick Wolf – The Bachelor (Universal/Polydor)
  17. Maxïmo Park – Quicken The Heart (Warp)

Electro/Dream Pop

Fontän – Winterhwila
I get grief for continually changing names in this slippery category, yet others have come up with no less than four new names this year — dreambeat, chillwave, glo-fi and hypnagogic pop.
There are subtle differences that distinguish between the various bands associated with the names (and hilarious arguments about them on discussion boards), but generally if it’s jangly, gauzy, fuzzy, swirly or ethereal, it most likely belongs here. One of the general trends that I have mixed feelings about is the crappily recorded bedroom psych. There’s loads of talent for songwriting and arranging in bands like Neon Indian, High Wolf, Pocahaunted, Emeralds, Blank Dogs and Nite Jewel, but in 2009 there’s really no excuse not to get their shit together and learn how to record properly. This stuff always goes in cycles, so most of them will be making better sounding recordings in the next year or two. Fontän do not have this problem, as Winterhwila sounds amazing, as one would expect from Studio’s Dan Lissvik and The Embassy.

  1. The xx – xx (Young Turks/XL)
  2. Fontän – Winterhwila (Information)
  3. Cold Cave – Love Comes Close (Matador)
  4. The Big Pink – A Brief History Of Love (4AD)
  5. Julianna Barwick – Florine EP (Florid)
  6. Girls – Album (True Panther Sounds)
  7. City Center (Type)
  8. Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue (Warp)
  9. The Horrors – Primary Colours (Beggars XL)
  10. Memory Tapes – Seek Magic (Something In Construction)
  11. Bear In Heaven – Beast Rest Forth Mouth (Hometapes)
  12. Neon Indian – Psychic Chasms (Lefse)
  13. Javelin – Jamz n Jemz (Javelin)
  14. High Wolf – Incalpulco/Gabon (Winged Sun)
  15. The Clientele – Bonfires On The Heath (Merge)
  16. Pocahaunted – Passage (Troubleman Unlimited)
  17. Emeralds – What Happened (No Fun Productions)
  18. GusGus – 24/7 (Kompakt)
  19. Micachu & The Shapes – Jewellery (WB)
  20. Ducktails (Not Not Fun)
  21. Blank Dogs – Under And Under (In The Red)
  22. Nite Jewel – Good Evening (Human Ear Music)

Avant Rock & Out Pop

Evangelista - Prince Of Truth
Carla Bozulich has come a long way since Geraldine Fibbers. With Evangelista, she sounds like she was posessed by PJ Harvey (the angry version) and Diamanda Galas and ate her band.

  1. Gary War – Horribles Parade (Sacred Bones)
  2. Fever Ray (Mute) – Sweden
  3. Kiila – Tuota Tuota (Fonal) – Finland
  4. OOIOO – Armonico Hewa (Thrill Jockey) – Japan
  5. Evangelista – Prince Of Truth (Constellation)
  6. Zola Jesus – The Spoils (Sacred Bones)
  7. David Sylvian – Manafon (Samadhi Sound)
  8. Crippled Black Phoenix – 200 Tons of Bad Luck (Invada)
  9. Oneida – Rated O (Jagjaguwar)
  10. Lightning Bolt – Earthly Delights (Load)
  11. Health – Get Color (Lovepump United)
  12. The Fiery Furnaces – I’m Going Away (Thrill Jockey)
  13. St Vincent – Actor (4AD)
  14. Sonic Youth – The Eternal (Matador)
  15. Zombi – Spirit Animal (Relapse)
  16. Mount Eerie – Wind’s Poem (P.W. Elverum & Sun Ltd.)
  17. BEAK> (Invada/Ipecac)
  18. Greymachine – Disconnected (Hydra Head)
  19. Maserati – Passages (Temporary Residence)
  20. Blueneck – The Fallen Host (Don’t Touch)

Experimental & Ambient

Leyland Kirby - Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was
James Leyland Kirby is a Berlin based British composer and producer who has worked with more traditional dance music as a member of V/Vm and ambient music as The Caretaker, where he’s credited as an architect of hauntology. This is a massive work of three double LPs and three CDs ranging from extended piano based compositions to hypnotic drones and incidental musics that could be used in a horror soundtrack. It sounds liek Kirby’s magnum opus.

  1. Leyland Kirby – Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was (History Always Favours the Winner)
  2. Ben Frost – By The Throat (Bedroom Community)
  3. Sunn 0))) – Monoliths and Dimensions (Southern Lord)
  4. Jim O’Rourke – The Visitor (Drag City)
  5. Teeth Of The Sea – Orphaned By The Ocean (Rocket Launch)
  6. Mountains – Choral (Thrill Jockey)
  7. British Sea Power – Man Of Aran (Rough Trade)
  8. NOMO – Invisible Cities (Ubuquity)
  9. Gyratory System – The Sound-Board Breathes (Angular)
  10. Black To Comm – Alphabet 1968 (Type)
  11. Blue Sabbath Black Cheer – Crows Eat The Eyes From The Leviathan’s Carcass (Release The Bats)
  12. Jonsi and Alex – Riceboy Sleeps (Beggars/XL)
  13. Christopher Tignor – Core Memory Unwound (Western Vinyl)
  14. Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band – Between The Head And The Sky (Chimera Music)
  15. Rhian Sheehan – Standing In Silence (Loop)
  16. Mordant Music – SyMpToMs (Mordant Music)

Electronica, Techno & Dance

Oneohtrix Point Never - Rifts
Daniel Lopatin, a.k.a Oneohtrix Point Never, was on a roll this year, coming out with three albums — Betrayed in the Octagon, Zones Without People, and Russian Mind — that were compiled into a double CD called Rifts. It’s a one-stop shop for pretty much every type of electronica you could want, like ambient soundtrack music, minimalist kosmische (“Hyperdawn”), and machinery gone spastically awry (“Learning to Control Myself” and “Format and Journey North”).

  1. King Midas Sound – Waiting For You (Hyperdub)
  2. Matias Aguayo – Ay Ay Ay (Kompakt)
  3. Oneohtrix Point Never – Rifts (No Fun Productions)
  4. Broadcast & The Focus Group – Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age (Warp)
  5. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport (ATAP)
  6. 10-20 (Highpoint Lowlife)
  7. Circlesquare – Songs About Dancing And Drugs (!K7)
  8. Moderat (Bpitch Control)
  9. Dan Deacon – Bromst (Carpark)
  10. Luciano – Tribute To The Sun (Cadenza)
  11. Moon Wiring Club – Striped Paint For The Last Post (Gecophonic Audio Systems)
  12. Desire – II (Italians Do It Better)
  13. King Cannibal – Let the Night Roar (Ninja Tune)
  14. Major Lazer – Guns Don’t Kill People– Lazers Do (Sony)
  15. Tim Hecker – An Imaginary Country (Kranky)
  16. Shackleton – Three EPs (Perlon)
  17. Omar-S – Fabric 45 (Fabric)
  18. The Field – Yesterday And Today (Anti)
  19. 2562 – Unbalance (Tectonic)
  20. Falty DL – Love Is a Liability (Planet Mu)
  21. Redshape – The Dance Paradox (Delsin)

Heavy Rock

Death - For the Whole World To See
Death started out as a Detroit R&B band in 1971, until they heard The Stooges and the MC5. Closer to Bad Brains than Funkadelic, this band was already playing hard and fast by 1974, when they recorded the seven songs found here. Columbia asked them to change their name, they balked, and then, nothing, until Drag City finally put it out 26 years later. Awesome.

  1. Baroness – Blue Record (Relapse)
  2. Them Crooked Vultures (DGC/Interscope)
  3. Death – For the Whole World To See (Drag City)
  4. Katatonia – Night Is The New Day (Peaceville) – Sweden
  5. Kylesa – Static Tensions (Prosthetic)
  6. Ancestors – Of Sound Mind (Tee Pee)
  7. Truckfighters – Mania (Fuzzorama)
  8. Gay Witch Abortion – Maverick (Learning Curve)
  9. Abramis Brama – Smakar Söndag (Transubstans) – Sweden
  10. Radio Moscow – Brain Cycles (Alive)
  11. Horisont – Två Sidor Av Horisonten (Crusher)
  12. Siena Root – Different Realities (Transubstans)
  13. Black Math Horseman – Wyllt (Tee Pee)
  14. Isis – Wavering Radiant (Ipecac)
  15. Zoroaster – Voice Of Saturn (Terminal Doom)
  16. Jesu – Opiate Sun EP (Caldo Verde)
  17. Between The Buried And Me – The Great Misdirect (Victory)
  18. Big Business – Mind The Drift (Hydra Head)
  19. Om – God Is Good (Drag City)
  20. The Mars Volta – Octahedron (WB)
  21. Nadja & Black Boned Angel (20 Buck Spin)

MetalRaise The Red Lantern

Builders of Emperor Custom Cabinets, Chicago’s Raise The Red Lantern really took a leap in quality on their second self-titled album, mixing High On Fire sludge with more progficient riffery. Hacride’s star is quickly rising, nearly catching up with fellow Frenchmen Gojira on their stunning latest album. Italian avant-garde jazz fusion trio Zu collaborate with MIke Patton (Fantômas/Bungle) and King Buzzo (The Melvins) with thunderously satisfying results.

  1. Mastodon – Crack The Skye (Reprise/WEA)
  2. Shrinebuilder (Neurot)
  3. Raise The Red Lantern (At A Loss)
  4. Hacride – Lazarus (Listenable) – France
  5. Zu – Carboniferous (Ipecac) – Italy
  6. Slough Feg – Ape Uprising (Cruz del Sur)
  7. YOB – The Great Cessation (Profound Lore)
  8. 3 Inches Of Blood – Here Waits Thy Doom (Century Media)
  9. The Gates Of Slumber – Hymns Of Blood And Thunder (Rise Above)
  10. Tombs – Winter Hours (Relapse)
  11. Minsk – With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (Relapse)
  12. Cobalt – Gin (ProfoundLore)
  13. Madder Mortem – Eight Ways (Peaceville) – Norway
  14. Converge – Axe To Fall (Epitaph)
  15. Krallice – Dimensional Bleedthrough (Profound Lore)
  16. Slayer – World Painted Blood (Sony)
  17. Keelhaul – Keelhaul’s Triumphant Return To Obscurity (Hydra Head)
  18. Ahab – The Divinity Of Oceans (Napalm)
  19. Anvil – This Is Thirteen (VH1)
  20. Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (Rhino)
  21. Megadeth – Endgame (Roadrunner)
  22. Gwynbleidd – Nostalgia (MRI)
  23. Liturgy – Renihilation (20 Buck Spin)
  24. Obscura – Cosmogenesis (Relapse)
  25. Coalesce – Ox (Relapse)
  26. Skeletonwitch – Breathing The Fire (Prosthetic)
  27. Bloody Panda – Summon (Profound Lore)
  28. Nile – Those Whom The Gods Detest (Nuclear Blast)
  29. Serpent Throne – The Battle Of Old Crow (Season Of Mist)
  30. Kreator – Hordes Of Chaos (Steamhammer)
  31. Candlemass – Death Magic Doom (Nuclear Blast)
  32. Goblin Cock – Come With Me If You Want to Live (Robocore)
  33. Goatwhore – Carving Out The Eyes Of God (Metal Blade)
  34. Orthodox – Sentencia (Alone/TSC)
  35. Portal – Swarth (Profound Lore)


Fool's Gold
Bandleaders Luke Top and Lewis Pesacov were born in Israel and emigrated to Los Angeles when they were young. Other members are from Argentina, Mexico and Brazil. Think you’ve got an idea how they sound? Probably not even close. They specialize in Afro-pop influenced by Congolese soukous, Ethiopian, Eritrean music, and Tuareg desert blues. Speaking of Touareg, I can’t believe I almost forgot Tinariwen, one of the best touring bands the past few years. Their latest album hasn’t had very good distribution in the U.S. this year, but should probably be reissued in 2010.

  1. The Very Best – Warm Heart Of Africa (Green Owl) – UK/Malawi
  2. Tony Allen – Secret Agent (World Circuit) – Nigeria/France
  3. Fool’s Gold (IAm Sound) – Israel/US
  4. Tinariwen – Imidiwan: Companions (Independiente) – Mali
  5. Otto – Certa Manha Acordei De Sonhos Intranquilos (Nublu) – Brazil
  6. Khaled – Liberté (Wrasse) – Algeria
  7. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – I Speak Fula (Out Here) – Mali
  8. Warsaw Village Band – Infinity (Barbes) – Poland
  9. Ooumou Sangare – Seya (Nonesuch) – Mali
  10. Extra Golden – Thank You Very Quickly (Thrill Jockey) – US/Kenya
  11. Tom Zé – Estudando A Bossa (Biscoito Fino) – Brazil
  12. Rodrigo Y Gabriela – 11:11 (ATO/Red) – Mexico
  13. Os Mutantes – Haih Or Amortecedor (Anti) – Brazil
  14. Group Doueh – Treeg Salaam (Sublime Frequencies) – Western Sahara

Country, Folk & Americana

Richard Youngs - Under Stellar StreamsRichard Youngs is a multi-instrumentalist from Glasgow who’s released albums since 1990. The last few years he’s developed an intense, meditative minimalist style that’s truly powerful, particularly with River Through Howling Sky (2004) and The Naive Shaman (2005). He’s pushing the boundaries of what a singer-songwriter can do with voice and guitar in ways just as extreme as Scott Walker and Robert Wyatt have been doing in recent years.

  1. Richard Youngs – Under Stellar Streams (Jagjaguwar)
  2. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti)
  3. Wardruna – Runaljad: gap var Ginnunga (Fimbulljóð)
  4. Soap & Skin – Lovetune For Vacuum (P.I.A.S.)
  5. Alasdair Roberts – Spoils (Drag City)
  6. DM Stith – Heavy Ghost (Asthmatic Kitty)
  7. Es – Kesämaan Lapset (Fonal) – Finland
  8. Alela Diane – To Be Still (Rough Trade)
  9. Eleni Mandell – Artificial Fire (Zedtone)
  10. Bill Orcutt – A New Way To Pay Old Debts (Palilalia)
  11. Califone – All My Friends Are Funeral Singers (Dead Oceans)
  12. Wilco – The Album (Nonesuch)
  13. The Unthanks – Here’s The Tender Coming (Rough Trade/Beggars)
  14. Florence & The Machine – Lungs (Island)
  15. The Mountain Goats – The Life Of The World To Come (4AD)
  16. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast (Fat Possum)
  17. PJ Harvey & John Parish – A Woman A Man Walked By (Island)
  18. Miranda Lambert – Revolution (Columbia)

Hip Hop & Rap

Anti-Pop Consortium - Fluorescent Black
Anti-Pop Consortium emerged at the beginning of the decade, bristling with ideas, talent and righteous rage. Tragic Epilogue (2000) was a sort of avant-garde underground hip-hop, mixing it up with glitchy electronica. It was impressive but a little sterile. Moving to Warp records, Arrhythmia (2002) was their best yet. The group disbanded, with Beans doing solo work. Their reunited in 2007, toured with Public Enemy in 2008, and made possibly their best album yet.

  1. K’NAAN – Troubador (A&M/Octone) – Somalia/Canada
  2. Anti-Pop Consortium – Fluorescent Black (Big Dada)
  3. Dälek – Gutter Tactics (Ipecac)
  4. Brother Ali – Us (Rhymesayers)
  5. Edan – Echo Party (Five Day Weekend)
  6. Doom – Born Like This (Lex)
  7. Dizzee Rascal – Tongue In Cheek (Dirtee Stank)
  8. Mos Def – The Ecstatic (Downtown)
  9. Prefuse 73 – Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian (Warp)
  10. Wiley – Race Against Time (SRD/Eskibeat)
  11. DJ Quik & Kurupt – BlaQKout (Mad Science)
  12. Busdriver – Jhelli Beam (Anti)
  13. Freeway – Philadelphia Freeway 2 (Real Talk)
  14. Clipse – Til The Casket Drops (Columbia)
  15. Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt II (EMI)

R&B, Soul, Funk & Dancepop

Maxwell - BLACKsummers'night

While D’Angelo supposedly finally has an album ready for 2010, Maxwell’s resurgence was a pleasant surprise. His first couple albums weren’t really all that great compared to the attention he got. BLACKsummers’night turned out to be his best by far. Part of a planned trilogy, hopefully there is even better things to look forward to. Speaking of trilogies, Erykah Badu’s Part Two: Return of the Ankh was originally scheduled for release in August 2008 but mysteriously disappeared from schedules without a trace. Hopefully it won’t take as long as Betty Davis’ last, and arguably best album. Is It Love Or Desire was recorded in 1976, and Island foolishly chose not to release it. It finally got heard 33 years later. It’s a shame Davis never got to benefit from its release at the time. Nevertheless, the funk is timeless, and just as hot now as ever.

  1. Dâm-Funk – Toeachizown (Stones Throw)
  2. Maxwell – BLACKsummers’night (Columbia)
  3. Shafiq Husayn – Shafiq en’ a-Free-Ka (Plug Research)
  4. Betty Davis – Is It Love Or Desire (Light In The Attic)
  5. Sa-Ra Creative Partners – Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love (Ubiquity)
  6. Georgia Anne Muldrow – Umsindo (SomeOthaShip/E1)
  7. Meshell Ndegeocello – Devil’s Halo (Downtown)
  8. Miike Snow (Downtown)
  9. Annie – Don’t Stop (Smalltown)
  10. Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement (Stones Throw)
  11. The-Dream – Love vs. Money (Def Jam/Radio Killa)
  12. Kid Sister – Ultraviolet (Downtown)
  13. Basement Jaxx – Scars (Ultra)
  14. La Roux (Cherrytree)
  15. Utada – This Is The One (Island) – Japan
  16. Rihanna – Rated R (Def Jam)
  17. Shakira – She Wolf (Epic)
  18. Lady Gaga – The Fame Monster (Interscope)

Older albums discovered in 2008

  1. Finntroll – Ur Jordens Djup (Century Media) 07
  2. UFOmammut – Lucifer Songs (Supernatural Cat) 05
  3. NOMO – New Tones (Ubiquity) 06
  4. TAPE – Milieu (Häpna) 04
  5. Sigh – Hangman’s Hymn: Musikalische Exequien (The End) 07
  6. One More Grain – Pigeon English (Victory Garden) 07
  7. Seu Jorge – América Brasil O Disco (EMI/Naive) 07
  8. TAPE – Opera (Häpna) 02
  9. Made Out Of Babies – Coward (Neurot) 06
  10. UFOmammut – Snailking (American Music Cartel) 04
  11. UFOmammut – Godlike Snake (American Music Cartel) 00

Albums I missed before I made the lists

Nothing more frustrating than getting recommendations of imports the last week of the year that I couldn’t possibly find in time, unless I’m lucky enough to be able to download. No such luck with these.

The Beatles - Box

It took them long enough, but they finally remastered the Beatles catalog, which had never been done properly. You can tell they really put time and thought into the painstaking mastering. Needless to say they sound awesome. And it also goes without saying that there’s no clipping. The only annoying thing is they should have just included the mono versions, because no sane person is going to buy the whole set twice. With the Sparks and Kraftwerk catalogs also reissued, it was an expensive year for the reissue junkies.

  1. The Beatles – Box 63-70
  2. Sparks – Catalog
  3. Kraftwerk – Catalogue
  4. The Feelies – Crazy Rhythms (Bar/None) 80
  5. Emitt Rhodes – The Emitt Rhodes Recordings: 1969-1973 (Hip-O Select)
  6. Died Pretty – Free Dirt (What Goes On/AztecMusic) 86
  7. U2 – The Unforgettable Fire [2CD] 84
  8. Tricky – Maxinqyuaye [2CD] 95
  9. R.E.M. – Reckoning [2CD] 84
  10. Loop – World In Your Eyes [3CD]
  11. Guru Guru – Kanguru (Brain/Revisited) 72
  12. The Cult – Love (Beggars Banquet) 85
  13. Def Leppard – Pyromania [2CD] 83

Click here to see the entire list of reissues.


  1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero
  2. Phoenix – 1901
  3. The xx – Crystalised
  4. Cold Cave – Love Comes Close
  5. Maxïmo Park – Wraithlike
  6. Franz Ferdinand – Send Him Away
  7. Fool’s Gold – Surprise Hotel
  8. The Fiery Furnaces – Even In The Rain
  9. YACHT – Psychic City (Voodoo City)
  10. Wild Beasts – Hooting & Howling
  11. The Rakes – 1989
  12. Passion Pit – Moth’s Wings
  13. fun. – All The Pretty Girls
  14. Memory Tapes – Green Knight
  15. K’NAAN – Take A Minute
  16. Brother Ali – The Preacher


  1. Baroness – Reggie’s Rock Club
  2. The Jesus Lizard, Pitchfork & Metro
  3. Gojira, Logan Square Auditorium
  4. Mastodon, Metro
  5. Opeth, House of Blues
  6. The Feelies, Millennium Park
  7. Graveyard, House of Blues
  8. Shrinebuilder – Empty Bottle
  9. The Very Best, Pitchfork
  10. Fever Ray, Metro
  11. The Cult, House of Blues
  12. Slough Feg, Cobra Lounge
  13. Heaven & Hell, Charter One Pavilion
  • St. Vincent, Millennium Park
  • The Dirty Projecters, Millennium Park
  • Black Moth Super Rainbow, Millennium Park
  • Cut Copy, The Vic
  • Om, Bottom Lounge
  • Nebula, Bottom Lounge
  • Hawksley Workman, Schuba’sMovies

    UpAnimated movies have consistently made the top of my lists this decade. Considering the massive amount of painstaking work and expensive technology it takes to make them, it’s good to know most of the studios have learned to make sure they invest in good writers too. Up was pretty much a masterpiece, and deserves its place as one of the best movies of the decade. I’m pretty sure Fantastic Mr. Fox and Where The Wild Things Are will be up there too, but I haven’t seen them yet.

    1. Up
    2. Julie & Julia
    3. Star Trek
    4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
    5. I Love You, Man
    6. Whip It!
    7. Coraline
    8. Whatever Works
    9. Funny People
    10. Away We Go
    11. Anvil: The Story Of Anvil
    12. Adventureland
    13. Gigantic
  • Watchmen
  • It Might Get Loud
  • (500) Days Of Summer
  • The Cats Of Mirikitani

    • Nanny McPhee
    • X-Men Origins: Wolverine
    • The Time Traveler’s Wife
    • Women In TroubleAlso worth seeing: Watchmen (mainly if you loved the graphic novel), It Might Get Loud (for music and guitar geeks only), (500) Days of Summer, The Cats Of Mirikitani, Duplicity, Nanny McPhee, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Hangover, In The Loop, District 9.Haven’t seen yet:
      Up In The Air, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Where The Wild Things Are, Inglorious Bastards, It’s Complicated, A Serious Man, An Education, Avatar, The Princess & The Frog, Ponyo, Crazy Heart, Nine, Broken Embraces, The Lovely Bones, The Blind Side, Cold Souls, A Single Man, Moon, Sherlock Holmes, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans.

      Overrated Movie

      One of the best books I’ve read this year was Erasure by Percival Everett, published in 2002. Thelonius “Monk” Ellison is an academic who writes dense postmodernist fiction and literary theory that no one reads, partly because his books are misplaced in bookstores in sections like “African American Studies.” He’s criticized for his writing not being “black” enough. Meanwhile, he deals with his ailing family after his physician sister is murdered by anti-abortionists, and mother develops Alzheimers and needs care that he can’t afford. Yet Juanita Mae Jenkins (an Oberlin-educated woman), who wrote a ridiculously exploitive book in embarrassingly fake “black dialect” called ‘We Lives In Da Ghetto’ gets universal acclaim and a plush movie deal. The middle act of this book consists of Monk’s parody of that book initially called ‘My Pafology,’ (a reference to what Ishmael Reed called the “Black Pathology Biz”) which he changes to the more succinct, ‘Fuck.’ The acclaim the novel gets, and the presumptions of what his nom de plume, Stagg R. Leigh is like become increasingly ridiculous and hilarious. Inevitably it wins the National Book Award, despite Monk’s efforts to sway the committee’s mind. He the has to choose whether to keep quiet and take the money, or tell the truth. Monk’s and Everett’s outrage over people’s ridiculous concepts of authenticity are spot on, making this a refreshing, brilliant middle finger in the face of hivemind stupidity.

      Just after reading the book I noticed ads for a movie called Precious. Wow, it bears a remarkable resemblence to ‘We Lives In Da Ghetto.’ Turns out the movie is based on the book Push by Sapphire, published in 1997. The first line of the book reads, “I was left back when I was twelve because I had a baby for my fahver…” Compare with the first line of the fictional ‘We Lives In Da Ghetto’ — “My fahvre be gone since time I’s borned and it be just me an’ my momma an’ my baby brover Juneboy.” While there are other books of that type by the likes of Omar Tyree, Sister Souljah, Nikki Turner, Teri Woods, Zane and Triple Crown Publications, it looks to me like Push could have been a direct inspiration for Everett’s satire in Erasure. While Everett’s book was funny in parts, it was also pretty brutal and angry. Everett’s probably either laughing his ass off or crying at the irony that the real thing finally ended up with the very same kind of movie deal, and incomprehensible acclaim that his parody received. And incredibly, Precious is topping all sorts of year-end movie polls!

      Ah, but the plot thickens! Angela Bassett is currently in production with a movie called United States. It’s original source title? Erasure!!! All I can say is thank friggin’ god. I hope the movie gets finished and is a hit, to get an opposing viewpoint out there. Hopefully it can make it’s point that yes, there is poverty, illiteracy, violence and incest in the real world. But that is not the only reality of the so-called “Black experience,” and including stuff like sexual assault in graphic detail in both the novel and movie does not automatically make it great. In fact, I wonder how many critics ranked that movie because they thought they were being P.C., but in reality they would have preferred to gnaw their own arms off than stay and finish it.

      More cans of worms:

      Pride & Precious: You can thank media titans Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry for much of the hype surrounding Lee Daniels’ film Precious. ARMOND WHITE calls it the ‘Con Job of the Year.’

      “The withering contempt and sheer malice for black people (and especially black men) that this film represents and embodies is an integral part of a very disturbing and destructive trend among a number of cultural hustlers, thieves, and conmen and women in film, literature, theatre, and the music industry that is being vigorously promoted and marketed by white corporations and Madison Avenue. It’s no coincidence that the increasingly casual and overt racism that is routinely displayed in advertising and the media generally is working hand in glove with the contemptible and venal likes of artistic pimps and prostitutes like Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry, and Oprah Winfrey. This development has been dismissing, marginalizing, and destroying the impact and influence of genuine African American artists in all the arts now since the mid ’90s and has in the past decade reached its vicious apex in the heinous “work” of such black retrograde and reactionary assholes as the people producing and directing this film.”

      Hollywood’s Enduring Myth of the Black Male Sexual Predator: The Selling of “Precious,” by Ishmael Reed

      “Three standing ovations given Push’s test run at Sundance convinced some of the business people that although white audiences might decline to support films that show cerebral blacks, The Great Debaters, in which Denzel Washington plays the great black poet Melvin Tolson, or Spike lee’s Miracle at St. Anna, which shows heroic blacks, they would probably enjoy a film in which blacks were shown as incestors and pedophiles.”

      Bell Hooks interview on her book Bone Black and Push:

      “One thing that
      really annoyed me for example was that Sapphire’s novel Push
      came out at the same time as mine in the States and people kept
      lumping them together as if they were the same thing. Sapphire’s
      book is a work of fiction; she draws on the real life stories of
      many girls to make this one character. I was really annoyed
      because one of the things that a lot of people kept saying in
      reviews about my book was that there’s nothing interesting
      happening here and I felt like: well, how do you take the story
      of a little black girl. Bone Black has got a lot to do with my desire
      to kill myself between the age of 13 and 16 like many adolescent
      girls who feel really disturbed about who they are, their sexuality
      and everything. And I got all these reviews, particularly from
      white women saying, we don’t know what this book is about. I
      felt the American public wasn’t ready for a different kind of
      narrative of black girlhood. I was getting tired of this other
      narrative being presented as our only narrative. I don’t want to
      belittle incest in any way because I do think there are women
      who want to share their narratives of incest but I think there is
      a kind of sensationalist fictional confessional narrative that should
      not be mistaken for real life narrative. Nor should it become the
      only narrative of black female experience that we can listen to. I tell people what my book is about; a nerdy black girl who wants
      to read and write in a working class household. They don’t
      understand that.”


      Nick Cave - The Death Of Bunny Munro

      Possibly because Nick Cave’s songwriting has been refreshingly unhinged recently with Grinderman and his last album, I had a good feeling about this book. It’s definitely better than his first attempt at southern gothic. Bunny Munro is a door-to-door cosmetics salesman in England who’s indiscretions apparently drive his depressed wife to suicide. Stuck with caring for his 9 year-old son Bunny Jr, he takes him on the road for some sales calls, and eventually a visit to his dying father, all the while being haunted by his wife’s ghost. Mixed with guilt and grief, his chronic drinking, masturbation and womanizing reach epic proportions in a spiraling descent into madness straight out of a Birthday Party song. Bunny has some hilariously sick fantasies about Avril Lavigne and Kylie Minogue that are so demented I wondered if Cave was mad at them. At the end of the book he offers them thanks and apologies. This could have come off as cartoonish if it weren’t for Cave’s sensitivity to Bunny Jr’s character, a weird but charming and brave kid. Not recommended for those familiar with the romanticism of Cave’s mid-period Cohen-esque albums but not his dark side!

      The books with no date next to them were published in 2009.

      1. Jonathan Lethem – Chronic City
      2. Nick Cave – The Death Of Bunny Munro
      3. Daniel J. Levitin – This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession (2007)
      4. Thomas Pynchon – Inherent Vice
      5. Bill Willingham – Peter & Max
      6. Nathan Rabin – The Big Rewind
      7. Nick Hornby – Juliet, Naked
      8. Dan Kennedy – Rock On: An Office Power Ballad (2008)
      9. Stephanie Kuehnert – I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone (2008)
      10. Julian Cope – Head On/Repossessed (2000)
      11. James Maxey – Nobody Gets the Girl (2003)
      12. David J. Schwartz – Superpowers (2008)
      13. Dean Wareham – Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance (2008)
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