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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Lou's Top 20 of 2009, Part 2

Here's the second 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.

11.) Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Beware (Drag City)

Will Oldham’s string of making some of the best albums ever heard wasn’t going to last forever, and it ends here, which isn’t to say that Beware isn’t at times beautiful and brilliant. “You Are Lost,” for instance, is one of his most striking songs. Most others, like the rollicking “You Don’t Love Me” and “I Am Goodbye” to the Vaudville-y “I Don’t Belong To Anyone,” are of the type that are great enough—though perhaps just normal enough—that you can imagine the likes of Haggard, Cash or Coe handling them. Of course, there are more than enough bold lyrical and musical turns to set this apart from most anyone else. While not the crowning achievement his last two efforts were, this is another strong building block in Oldham’s barely rivaled body of work.

12.) Ben Kweller – Changing Horses (ATO)

Having progressively mastered popcraft on his first three lp’s, Kweller effortlessly goes country here to delightful effect. Sure, hiring a steel player doesn’t make him George Jones, but it’s clear by a few tracks into this album—on the ebullient “Fight” followed by the aching “Hurtin’ You”—that although the essential character of Kweller’s brilliance hasn’t been dramatically altered, everything that is beautiful and authentic about country music is here. “Wantin’ Her Again,” “Things I Like To Do” and “On Her Own” are all further infectious trips to Kweller country with the man who could be our generation’s McCartney.

13.) Mississippi Man – The Snake Oil Salesman (self-released)

The debut release from these Angelinos is billed as e.p., but at seven songs and 28 minutes there is more than enough to establish them as something special. This group’s hooky pop and roots tunes are unleashed with unbounding energy and a wealth of creative twists and turns in the vein of Dr. Dog.

14.) The Mumlers – Don’t Throw Me Away (Galaxia)

On their second release, the Bay Area’s Mumlers further cement themselves as one of the most inventive bands on the scene today, defying categorization and breaking boundaries. The Dixieland horn section lends itself to a certain feel on several tracks, with which the vocals and lyrics easily comply without a hint of limitation on melody or originality. On “Coffin Factory,” which sounds like a garagey lost Animals side, and the breezy, rootsy “Golden Arm & Black Hand,” the band shows it can go in almost any direction with ease.

15.) Dawes – North Hills (ATO)

In my experience, bands like to sound like their influences, but not too much. If this holds true of L.A.’s Dawes, then this review of their debut may not get tacked to the wall of their practice space. Because, DAWES SOUNDS LIKE THE BAND! And this is a good thing, because I mean The Band at their best. Aching, Danko-esque vocals from frontman Taylor Goldsmith deliver stirring melodies that top off lots of earthy instrumentation. “Give Me Time” has a bit more of a CSNY ‘around the campfire’ type of feel that shows they aren’t completely obsessed. But just about every other cut here evinces a deep debt to the artists formerly known as The Hawks. I, for one, have always wished those guys had made one more great album, and Dawes gets as close are we are going to here.


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