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Friday, December 18, 2009

Lou's Top 20 of 2009, Part 1

Here's the first in a four-part series revealing my choices for the Top 20 records of 2009. Feel free to submit your own list to purgegeeks@gmail.com and I'll strongly consider posting it.

16.) Young Fresh Fellows – I Think This Is (Yep Roc)

The best rock ‘n’ roll band of the past three decades reconvened here long enough to lay down its best album since the early ‘90s. (Granted, it is only their third since then amidst long stretches of inactivity.) The Fellows do what they do best here: have a hell of a good time! The production from unlikely cohort Robyn Hitchcock is clean without losing the band’s trademark garagey goodness. And dual songwriting geniuses frontman Scott McCaughey and guitar god Kurt Bloch turn in top notch tunes, evinced no better than by the one-two punch kickoff of “The Guilty Ones” and “Lamp Industries.” Welcome back Fellows! Hope we’ll see you again in another few years.

17.) Mark Olson & Gary Louris – Ready For the Flood (New West)

After 15 years apart, the formerly estranged singer-songwriter duo of the original Jayhawks effortlessly regains its stature as one of the most achingly beautiful combinations of voices ever committed to record. Understandably tinged with a bit more world-weariness, the magic of their early ‘90s classics nevertheless immediately resurfaces on the near-perfect leadoff “The Rose Society,” and they make up for lost time with a track for each year of their separation on this extended disc. “Doves and Stones,” “My Gospel Song For You” and others return a pair of musical souls who seemed a bit lost without each other to their rightful lofty perch.

18.) The Rural Alberta Advantage – Hometowns (Saddle Creek)

The names of this band and its full-length debut don’t exactly evoke the convergence of punky angst and raw energy singer-songwriter Paul Banwatt and mates storm through on “The Dethbridge in Lethbridge” and “Luciana.” In fact, there is little “rural” in evidence other than perhaps the howl of desperate isolation. Even when the band brings it down, a refined (albeit stripped down) poppiness akin to Death Cab for Cutie or the Decemberists comes through. But a common thread of earnestness and authenticity maybe not so far removed from the open prairie runs through it all.

19.) Garrett Pierce – All Masks (Crossbill)

A vocal ringer for the likes of Colin Blunstone or Nick Drake, this Bay Area singer-songwriter’s beautiful, moody and engaging material would capably suit those forebears he conjures. Hushed acoustic numbers like the string-textured “When All We Knew Was No” lack nothing in drama even when stacked up next to the dynamic “All Through the Night.”

20.) Or, the Whale (Seany)

The sophomore effort by this San Francisco band for the most part lacks the “county gold” flavor that my favorites on its debut, Light Poles and Pines, had in spades, though “Datura” comes close. But this album still has the heartfelt tunes, beautiful harmonies, and energetic takes on roots instrumentation that show this aggregation bursting at the seams with talent.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

mark olson and gary loris were pretty great live.

11:10 PM  
Blogger johnny said...


9:44 AM  

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