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Monday, December 28, 2009

Lou's Top 20 of 2009, Part 3

Here's the third 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.

6.) Fruit Bats – The Ruminant Band (Sub Pop)

Eric D. Johnson and cohorts return for the first time since 2005, and regain the brilliant form of their first two releases from early in the decade. Amazingly, despite their consistently high quality output, the band has not been dropped by Sub Pop yet. But anyway… Johnson is one of the most engaging pop songwriters and singers of really any era—think Rundgren without the delusions of grandeur—and offers a platter of simple but glorious and fun nuggets here with more of a full-band feel than previous releases.

7.) Neil Young – Fork in the Road (Reprise)

Neil’s work over the past number of years is an interesting mixed bag. It seems that when the legend decides to try to craft the type of album that would have been a classic in the old days (see Prairie Wind) it ends up being, to be blunt, an embarrassment. But when he decides to go the “just rock the fuck out/stream of consciousness” route, the old magic returns. This has been the case with Greendale, Living With War, and now this release, which to me represent Neil’s three best releases since his incomparable ‘70s output. Like on its predecessors, Young picks up a loose social theme here, this time his fascination with electric cars and, more broadly, the economic crisis. While perhaps not topics ripe for inspiring songcraft, they adequately color great, stomping rockers like only Young can create on “Johnny Magic” and the title track. Meanwhile, “Just Singing A Song,” which plays on comments Young made casting doubt on music’s impact on social change, is one of his most thoughtful and beautiful tunes in years. Throughout, Neil sounds inspired and vital in both his singing and playing. Say what you want about Young embracing corny concepts or churning out material that doesn’t meet expectations that are just no longer reasonable 45 years into a career, whatever keeps the man rocking is good enough for me.

8.) Southeast Engine – From the Forest to the Sea (Misra)

What if Ray Davies had come of age attending a black Baptist church in middle America? Well, he might have made an album like From the Forest to the Sea, the latest from Athens, Ohio’s Southeast Engine. Informed by concept albums like Davies’ Kinks klassic Arthur and shaped by his own less-than-conventional religious upbringing, SEE’s Adam Remnant has concocted the most ambitious, and perhaps the most beautiful, of his band’s four albums. A uniquely warm and intimate sounding record recorded primarily live to analog in a 19th century schoolhouse in rural southern Ohio, the songs track a spiritual search while skipping stylistically from roots to indie-rock to numbers owing a plain debt to the gospel influences of Remnant’s youth. There’s barely a moment here that doesn’t convey creativity, craftsmanship and enthusiasm in spades, which is becoming the norm for this criminally underrecognized band.

9.) Crystal Antlers – Tentacles (Touch and Go)

This band continues the thread connecting The Sonics, The 13th Floor Elevators, Black Flag, Mudhoney and others who imbue the reckless abandon of primal rock with surprising melody and substance. Jonny Bell somehow manages to outscream the piercing organ and searing guitar noise to top off the glorious commotion this band makes.

10.) Deer Tick – Born On Flag Day (Partisan)

Deer Tick’s John Joseph McCauley, perhaps more than anyone else I have heard in quite some time, possesses the singer-songwriter’s treasure of the ability to convey pain –whether it be through wryly clever turn of phrase or beautifully gritty vocal. While his aptitude with a country tune hearkens to the legends, his delivery more resembles Axl Rose, which is unusual but no less evocative. Through the alternating rockers, shuffles, and ballads here, McCauley and his crackerjack band deliver perfectly the unique romanticism of drinking alone, gritting your teeth at harsh reality, and thinking of cutting yourself. And having fun doing it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think i prefer the 2009 tour cd by the fruit bats than their actual full length from this year. Eric was funny live with his cowboy boots and butt shaking.

6:02 PM  
Blogger lou said...

don't have that, could you rip it to me? purgegeeks@gnail.com. thanks for reading.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

here's that tour cd-


10:53 AM  

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