Saturday, January 30, 2010

A To Z: Doremi Fasol Latido - Hawkwind

1972 is an absolutely incredible year in music history. I cannot help but think what it would've been like to be the age I am now back then. Where would I have stood musically? Would I find myself part of the increasingly popular Glam Rock scene? Would I find myself with long hair and a hog, listening to Deep Purple? Would I be at crux in my life - rejecting traditional rock n roll for the likes of the classical influences inherent in Progressive Rock? Could I be cool enough to have connections to people following the apex of the Brazilian music scene? Maybe I would just be listening to the popular stuff by Elton John, Paul Simon, and Stevie Wonder.

37 years past that particular year, I find myself wanting to be a part of all these scenes, loving many albums released during this year retrospectively. I have no context of what it would have been like to actually have BEEN THERE. I've seen concerts, I've read anecdotes, I'm jealous to not have lived through this time, just as I'm jealous to not have lived through any significant time in pop music history.

As a natural extension and rebirth of the hippies at the end of the 60's, perhaps the burgeoning Space Rock, psych folk, Glastonbury scene would've been the scene for me. These people held true to what they wanted to do, mixing pop, rock and electronics to create music that was similar to that being created in Germany at the time - but distinctly different.

The difference was Hawkwind.

Doremi Fasol Latido came out on the heels of the massive UK single "Silver Machine" - a song that was not found on any Hawkwind album at the time, but still featured a sound that would soon define them. Lemmy's vocals sound like Roger Daltry, the guitar and bass chugging is reminiscent of the heavy rock found in Uriah Heep and Deep Purple - yet there was this ambience added to the music. A constant humming sound that gently slid up and down the scales, not distracting from the music but definitely noticable. Imagine your rock band performing in the middle of a hurricane, attempting to send it back from where it came. You get the point.

Doremi was 7 tracks the first time it was released. Alternating between hard rock, proto punk, kraut rock, and a handful of British folk moments - many consider this their masterpiece.

I've never really understood the genre title of "Space Rock" beyond the occasional synthesizer whirlings. To me, I think of the serene, minimal, bleep blopp fizz captured perfectly in the soundtracks to movies like Solaris, Moon and Sunshine as something "true" to space. I see The Orb as much more indicative of the loneliness I imagine space to be rather than what Hawkwind present it as.

A party. A huge, drug-fueled, week-long, awesome party.

If those soundtracks (or even perhaps the 2001: A Space Odyssey score) are what I imagine the true sound of space to be like, Doremi Fasol Latido is the quintessential soundtrack for teenagers traveling to space in rebellion against their aging parents. You see, there is a sense of urgency and defiance found throughout the album. The guitar is harsh, the recording is shit and everytime lyrics and singing are introduced I can't help but feel that Hawkwind is trying to write some melodramatic space opera.

But the drawn-out, mind-melting, feedback laden instrumental passages rock. This isn't space music to float around to. This is the your soundtrack to conquer space.

It's not a perfect album, I don't think it's even the best Hawkwind album, but it's fun to pull out every now and then and listen to loud. Grow your hair out, put on some bizarre threads. Hell, paint your face if you must. It might not be your version of space, but it's theirs. And it is one hell of a fun vision to have.

Download Here

PS. Album includes 4 bonus tracks - none of which I find as good as the any of the preceding 7.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Annihilation War and Annihilation Conquest

I have zipped up all the comics you need for the Annihilation War story arc of the Marvel Cosmic universe as well as the subsequent Annhilation: Conquest arc. The original Annihilation arc is better, but the Star-Lord mini that is a prelude to Conquest is probably the best mini out of the 8. Everything is in order or includes a reading list. Includes the preludes, tie-ins and everything else.

Reading comics on your computer is easy. You can use Jomic if you have a mac. Or Comical if you have Windows. Have some fun, I like these arcs and I find the space-based Marvel stuff much more intriguing than most of their other comics. Anyway if you want a review or whatever, look em up online. Shit is fun, art is mostly good, so just download and read them over time.

Download Here

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Multiupload, etc.

Another update post. Apparently multiupload went down sometime today, which is where all my recent files are mirrored, so if you're trying to get the 4 new things I've posted, you can't. That blows.

I'm hoping it goes back up soon, because it's a good service. I have some posts planned out and will get back to posting once this is resolved.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A To Z: Chessa - Shuttle358

We tend to give ambient music two distinct purposes:

1. To serve as inoffensive background noise for activities like studying, sleeping or perhaps barely waking up.
2. To serve as a special soundtrack to a unique situation we may find ourselves in: weaving through travelers at an airport, riding on a morning train, watching the snow fall outside.

I know of few people who choose to listen to ambient or drone music as a means of sparking lively conversation or who elect to share their new favorite microtonal artists with their peers. It is not an entertaining music, nor is it a significantly artistic music. Yet somehow these sound sculptures can manage to be the most quiescent or the most absorptive music we listen to.

We have heard over the last 30 years of the brilliance found within the minimal compositions of masters like Brian Eno and Harold Budd. In half the time, we have been able to add artists like Wolfgang Voight, William Basinski, Christian Fennesz and Stars of The Lid to that list. What was once a genre that few tread within, dominated by tape loops, hazy guitar pedals and the tinkling of keys on a synth or piano, soon blossomed during the laptop age of the early 2000's. Anyone could be a sound musician. I tried, you tried, we failed.

And though the genre of microtonal ambient music is far from dead - it is altogether saturated by carbon copy artists, all clawing (softly) for that one standout review handed out by a major publication every year.

I love ambient music, and while I'm in no way someone who follows the actual scene (and there is a true art-based minimal scene in every corner of the western world), nor am I even learned enough to be able to write for mapsadaisical, I delve into many new releases every year that happen to catch my attention during the hyperbolic ramblings of their press releases or Boomkat reviews. Every year many of them are nothing but boring, soulless electro-acoustic meanderings that start nowhere and go nowhere. "A guy, a laptop and a guitar walk into a bedroom..."

It is funny that we can consider a music with no specific form to adhere to but whatever one hears in their own head as "soulless", yet many releases within this genre are exactly that. Dan Abrams aka Shuttle358 is anything but soulless.

All positive reviews of ambient music make reference that a particular release is good because of the "warmth" and "humanity" that the music brings up for the listener. Specific memories in time are recaptured, current moments in the present are captured for the first time. Chessa is warm, Chessa is human.

Recorded and released during the apex of the click-and-beep madhouse of 2004, Shuttle358's third album on 12k has spoken to me for 5 years now. The fuzz, the chimes, the buzzing sounds, the looped guitar - these are all elements that can be found on releases by any ambient composer - and yet, this release sticks out from the others. I listened to this album four times this afternoon as I watched the rain come and go out my window. As night set in, earlier than it should have, the music continued to soundtrack my evening. Every track seems to find itself matching my breaths as it clicks along, every track placed perfectly in context with the exact emotion I encounter upon this experience.

It is a quiet album, a beautiful album - one that has many situational uses. It just turns out that its beauty has not allowed me to tie it to one situation in particular, but many. And few albums can do that.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Totally or Totally Not: 80's

New compilation just released by my bros over at Hipinion. 80's covers. Halfway through, its the best one they've released.

1. spaghettiandblankets - steppin' out (joe jackson)
2. overoverover(shermer) & mai - would i lie to you (eurythmics)
3. baba o rly - head over heels (tears for fears)
4. hat and beard - candy (cameo)
5. phillistine - when 2 r in love (prince)
6. nathan kozyra (ft. erik cheer) - you're the best (karate kid) (joe esposito)
7. uberwear - i'll be where the heart is (kim carnes)
8. arepa - what's inside a girl (the cramps)
9. fuckles - girls (beastie boys)
10. thrdklla - stand an deliver (adam and the ants)
11. Genius Sir - girl u want (devo)
12. sunglasses - no surrender (bruce springsteen)
13. black sandwich - dirty mind (prince)
14. eugenics - ceremony (new order)
15. buboclot - aqua (eurythmics)
16. fresh salad - love is a stranger (eurythmics)
17. legibet - orinoco flow (enya)
18. miss black america - girls just wanna have fun (cyndi lauper)
19. dragon jeans - self control (RAF)
20. sonicgabe - love is a battlefield (pat benatar)
21. nathan kozyra (ft. erik gloom) - cherry coloured funk (cocteau twins)
22. sad pandas - hey hey spaceman (guided by voices)
23. thrdklla - bark at the moon (ozzy osbourne)
24. contristo - i wanna be adored (stone roses)
25. ernie anastoz - atlantic city (bruce springsteen)

Download Here

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A To Z: Bravebird - Amel Larrieux

*Note: I got a DMCA takedown notice for this, but you should still like Amel Larrieux, so I won't delete the post.*

I was 9 years old in 1995. I grew up in the first age of youth that began to make mix cds rather than mix tapes. I was of the first generation to see the MP3 and digitally available music become mainstream and readily accessible. I don't even own a cassette player anymore and I sold every single one of my cds over the 2009 holiday break. Music is as enjoyable to me in 2010 as it was in 1995, though the way I take it in is so different.

To top things off, the first time I heard Amel Larrieux was in 1995, a little song by Groove Theory called "Tell Me"

In high school I wrote a 5-page "personal" essay reflecting on my past in which I would scour my family's cds and cassettes and make mixtapes. I described the amount of time at the ages of 8, 9 and 10 that I would spend listening to popular radio stations in Portland, Oregon, waiting for the precise song to play so that I could record it onto tape at the right place. The primary inspiration for this essay and a large chunk of it consisted of me discussing my obsession to "Tell Me." I can't say that it was the first song I fell in love with, but it is definitely possible that the song was my first true, conscious musical obsession.

I didn't listen to the entire Groove Theory album until 2005, I hadn't listened to any of Amel's solo albums until 2004. I didn't even connect her to being the singer of what may have been the primary song of my youth.

I still can't really explain why I love that song. It's simple in structure, chorus and production. Amel's vocals are wonderful, but hardly hold a candle to the things found on her later solo efforts. "Bravebird", her second solo album, released in 2004 isn't my favorite work of hers, but the fact is that it is an Amel Larrieux album, and it's still very good.

The album shifts between jazzy numbers, more upbeat-almost Alicia Keys in 2007 style numbers, more traditionaly grrl-centric Neo-Soul, a song with a distinct Bossa Nova feeling, and a couple of tracks harkening back to the Acid Jazz styles of Groove Theory. Throughout the whole album, the production feels like ?uestlove and The Roots, the haze just barely hanging there.

Amel's voice sticks out though, as it should.

There is no doubt in my mind that Amel is one of the most gifted singers we have right now, with the ability to cover all the above-mentioned genres and still sound entirely herself. A more poppy Sade, a less menacingly pleading Mary J. Blige. If Erykah Badu wasn't already near perfect, Amel would hopefully be THE voice of the neo-soul movement.

The album isn't perfect and I won't pretend that it is. Some lyrics are ill-fitting, some messages are to heart-on-sleeve. Amel is trying to spread hope through her words and that works for some people, it would've worked on a younger me, maybe it'll work on you.

Regardless, it's an album you should listen to. She's a musician you should love.

Linked Removed By Request of Label

Monday, January 11, 2010

A To Z: Aerial Boundaries - Michael Hedges

In the last few days, I have uploaded a number of albums in an effort to revitalize this blog and to try my hand at getting better at writing music reviews (for what purpose? I don't know.)

Instead of starting with those albums, I thought that I might go ahead and start a new A to Z series just for the sake of doing it. It forces me to choose albums I want to post and write about. I'll intersperse other things in the blog while this is going on, but it at least gives you something concrete to look forward to, rather than just updates saying I'm going to update.

I recently watched three BBC4 90-minute music documentaries. The first focused on synth-pop and the synthesizer. The second was about Krautrock and its influence on popular music of the mid-70s. Then this past weekend I finally caught the year-old Prog Rock Britannia, chronicling the rise and fall of bands like King Crimson, ELP, Yes and Genesis. These documentaries are all immensely entertaining, and though their oversites are numerous, they still beat just about everything that I can find here on American television.

I tell you this because towards the end of the Prog Rock documentary, the mood that the musicians and contributors possess suddenly changes. They talk about excess, of saturation, of near stagnation in their genre. They talk of punk rock, the simplistic rock n roll model that was triumphing over their preposterous "art." Within a number of years, these musicians went from being some of the biggest, most recognizable names in rock music worldwide, to bands whose allegiance spurred immediate damnation. As writer Johnathan Coe puts it so bluntly: Prog Rock became THE genre in which people were suddenly saying "it's all shit."

Where I come from, who I grew up with, who I look up to: they would disagree. Genesis could be cool, Yes wrote some good tunes, Keith Emerson is a godsend. Instead people would look at me, point at the music labeled "New Age" and tell me "now THAT is all shit."

Like progressive rock music, new age music has more than its fair share of stereotypes. Long hair, nature photos, instrumental passages that don't really go anywhere or accomplish much other than serve as auditory wallpaper. Like many stereotypes, there is some truth in these intimations. Despite knowing better, somewhere a 16-year old me cannot help but envision Tim Robbin's character from High Fidelity whenever anyone mentions the genre by name. Just relaaaaaxxx man.

I'm not reaching beyond my grasp here, this isn't an attempt to validate the artistic merit of music labeled as "new age" nor is it an attempt to brainstorm a better title. It is my guess that somewhere within the souls of each and every musician within this genre, part of them truly is attempting to raise the listener up to a new level of peace, understanding, maturation, perhaps a "new age" of being. However, where many musicians fail and come off as wonky, uninspired synthesizer experimenters with source waterfall tape recordings (say, is that going to be on my Top 50 of 2010?), there is one artist in particular that has the ability to transcend the genre while staying firmly within and his name is Michael Hedges.

Long considered one of the most important figures in solo acoustic guitar instrumentation, Michael Hedges released a string of albums in the early 80s and into the 90s that displayed a fingering style that truly didn't exist before him, but has been found in every coffeehouse since. Often sounding like 3, 4, sometimes 5 guitarists at once, Michael Hedges creates music that is rooted in old-America folk and John Fahey stylings while bringing the otherworldliness factor up by 10. He has often been noted as playing a guitar with two sets of strings, one for bass. He's also known for playing strange instruments no one but elves play. He's also known for braids.

Michael Hedges is a solo act. And what's more is that Michael Hedges is a solo LIVE act. Aerial Boundaries, his second and best album is said to have been recorded live, just Michael in the studio (how much of this I believe is another story). His musicianship is astounding and the hours of preparation that likely went into getting the sound just right for recording is evident. Even on the tracks where Michael has used electronic equipment ("Spare Change"), or has created sounds that aren't guitar (the flute on "Menage a Trois"), everything falls into place the way it was supposed to. It is clear that the album accomplishes the vision that Michael set out with before recording.

I've seen this album considered the best solo acoustic album of all time. Whether or not I agree is irrelevant, the sound is likely the best and the vision is perhaps the clearest. It is new age music. It can serve as audio wallpaper, dentist office music, elevator music. But it can also be a terribly engrossing listen. I've fallen under it's spell 6 times today.

And it's a masterpiece.

Download Here (VBR)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hudson Mowhawke - FUSE

I guess I should try this album again. Did not like it at all when it came out (I doubt I still will), but FUSE has been on constant rotation over the last couple days. Epic song.

Friday, January 8, 2010

New layout - Going to start posting things

Hey I downloaded a layout because I'm too lazy to code one myself. I guess I edited it though and changed some colors.

Will probably start uploading some things this weekend.

If you have a blog you would like linked here, leave a comment and I'll review it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Top Albums of 2009: 1-10

Let me just preface by saying a few things: First, if you've been following my lists for any amount of times or years, you've probably noticed a theme in which the reviews tend to get shorter the closer we get to the end. This may happen again, but it's not out of boredom or being "done" with the list. It's the fact that my top 10 this year features records which have mostly been talked about to death, and you can probably go around google and your favorite review sites and find praise for them in other places. I realize my reviews are not very good, despite what anyone says, but mostly that's just because they're rushed. I'm rushing through these next 10 too. 2009 was good. Not great, but good. Thanks for reading the list, if you did.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Beware
(March 17) (Drag City) (Myspace)
RIYL: Bill Callahan/Smog, Neil Young

As far as Will Oldham superfans go, I reckon that I'm a bit different. You see, there is almost no question that Will Oldham in all his various incarnations and psuedonyms is my favorite musician, yet you'd be hard pressed to call me obsessive. Back when I had a account (as many of you still do, I'm sure), Bonnie "Prince" Billy was my most
scrobbled artist by a large amount, while the rest of my top 10 consisted primarily of ambient musicians and a little band called The Beatles. Furthermore, my favorite Oldham records are not any of his work with Palace, nor some obscure rare EP. I don't think that I See A Darkness is his best album, and might not list it higher than number 5. My favorite album of his is the somber, intimate, though often overlooked Master and Everyone. In fact, that could very well be my favorite album of the decade. All this is irrelevant other than the idea that as a huge fan of Oldham, I tend to praise some things that others seem to cast aside, and tend to merely like those things that garner the most praise. Beware follows this pattern. Upon first listen of this album, I may have liked it more than any other record on first listen this year. I love Will doing solo acoustic stuff or songs with minimal accompaniment, but I also really enjoy his stuff with a full band. This album fits that mold. I gushed to my girlfriend about it for days, and when she finally played it, she liked it, though couldn't stand the out-of-tune fiddle. Fair enough, that's a reasonable complaint and I notice it now too, though somehow I personally love it, as well as most of the other backing music and what it sounds like. The songs themselves don't really rank up there with his best, but the music is wonderfully different from most of his releases (I said "most" so don't talk to me about Sings Greatest Palace Music) but whatever. It's Will Oldham, it's a good album that I enjoy more than most. It's also one of my most listened to records of the year. And it's cool to listen to a Bonnie "Prince" Billy song that seems to have sing-along choruses.

Jon Hassell - Last Night The Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street
(Feb. 10) (ECM) (Myspace)
RIYL: Brian Eno, Popol Vuh, Terry Riley

Jon Hassell has been making awesome experimental jazz and "fourth world" styled ambient music for almost 40 years. Somehow, despite this fact, his latest album is one of his very best in a career of very bests. Taking his trumpet and a traditional jazz lineup, adding a lot of effects, laptop tinkering and mixing live and studio tracks, Last Night... is one of the coolest records of the year. Trance-inducing night music. Beautiful ambient tracks, funky bass. Hassell continues his vision of creating a music that pays debts to all world cultures (in this case, lots of Middle Eastern music), without actually sounding anything like it. He has jazz influences, he has Brian Eno influences, but as with most of his music, Hassell has his own sound, and it happens to be a sound that no one can replicate. Fantastic album that didn't get the praise it deserved. Some people might throw it out calling it new age bullshit. It's not. You might call it new age, it's not far away from that, but it's one of the most beautifully composed records I've heard in a long long time. How exciting that someone as prolific as Jon Hassell and with a career as influential as his, can still make some of the best music of his life when the odds are against him.

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
(May 26) (Glass Note) (Myspace)
RIYL: Hot Chip, Hall & Oates, Todd Rundgren, Pop music

Phoenix was bound to crossover at some point. Though the momentum was hitting hard, and it seemed that Phoenix was going to become one of the biggest bands of the year on the strength of their two stellar singles "Lisztomania" and "1901", they didn't quite make it. That's ok. Those who know and love Phoenix have known the same thing for years: They're the best pop band working. Their music is insanely catchy. Where wereyou the first time you got "If I Ever Feel Better" stuck in your head? How often have you sung the chorus to "Napoleon Says"? How may times did you watch the music video for "Lisztomania" that was synched up to a bunch of Brat Pack movies? Phoenix writes the song that appeal to the youth in each of us that slowly disappears all the time. Phoenix fights to keep us enjoying ourselves, loving music, embracing huge choruses, high voices and lyrics that don't really mean anything but sound a-ok. Phoenix is the quintessential pop band, the likes of which don't exist in the 2000's, and Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is their best album to date. There's no reason for you to not love this band. There really isn't.

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
(June 6) (Domino) (Myspace)
RIYL: Yeasayer, Magnetic Fields, I don't know who else really

Nothing surprised me more this year than how much I loved Bitte Orca. I could attribute it to the hype machine, but the Dirty Projectors have had some hype for a few years now and if were around when Rise Above came out, their Black Flag covers record, you would have known there was no band I hated more than this band. I checked out one of their earlier releases out of curiosity, hated it just as much. When Bitte Orca came out and some of my peers were praising it, I was spamming message boards and review sites telling them how bad this band was, before actually hearing the record. I listened on a whim. I liked it a lot. I listened a second time, I liked it more. I then probably listened 3-4 more times (in a row, this is a huge deal for me), and I grew to love this record. My opinion about The Dirty Projectors changed in almost a complete 180 in a few hours. They went from one of my least favorite hyped indie bands to a band that I knew had just released a record that would appear in my top 10 of the year. If anything, the record's effect hasn't lessened either, the album is just really strong. I like the tracks that the females sing more than when Longstreth sings, but his voice isn't bugging me as much as it should. The music is just engaging. It's crazy, all over the place, but fuck is it good. I never would've expected it. Maybe I'll go back and listen to those old records and see if I like them now. I don't know if I will, and it doesn't matter. Bitte Orca is a great record full of great songs and deserved all the praise it received in the press this year.

Mastodon - Crack The Skye
(March 24) (Reprise) (Myspace)
RIYL: Isis, Black Sabbath, Rush, Metallica

How fitting that the only metal record on this list is the least metal album of Mastodon's career and not even considered "metal" by many people. Progressive Metal? Alternative Rock? Progressive Rock? Who the fuck cares. Crack The Skye is THE BEST rock record of the year and the best album by a band who many would consider to be one of the decade's very finest. The music is tighter than ever, the vocals are cleaner than ever, the concept is crazier than ever. What doesn't lack is just how awesome this music is. Go to Rateyourmusic and read the opinions of nerds, I don't need to tell you anything. I've always enjoyed Mastodon, appreciated their musicianship, but this album just puts them right to the top of rock bands for me. It's funny, lots of moments on this album would fit right into modern alternative rock radio, except everything seems to be done just THAT much better. I just love this shit. Turn it up loud, rock out, dream of time-traveling Russians and Rasputin and whatever else. Awesome awesome record and no metal critic can tell me otherwise.

A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Ashes Grammar
(Sept. 15) (Mis Ojos Discos) (Myspace)
RIYL: My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, M83

Even though this album is at #5 on this list, I will come out and say that this is the only other album on the list that could conceivably be considered the best album of the year. I didn't listen to it as much as the 4 albums ahead of it, but every time I do listen to it, I am almost stopped dead in my tracks thinking about how good it is. I thought the last ASIG album was good. It placed high on my 2007 list, where I stated that I had a love/hate relationship with it, where sometimes I thought it was terribly annoying, but other times I thought it was the absolute best album of the year. Ashes Grammar however, I'll have a hard time saying anything negative about. The band still revolves around Ben Daniels, but his sisters Lauren and Robin are pretty much gone. The band picked up Annie Frederickson for this album to do vocals, and they now currently also feature a good friend of my girlfriend, Jen Goma (awesome when a friend joins one of your favorite bands). What do I even say about this record? It's dreamy beyond dreamy. Hazy and beautiful, inventive, shoegazing, a masterpiece. If you like dense sounds on your records, you like guitars and effects and ethereal vocals and amazing everything. Pick up Ashes Grammar and let the 22 tracks just transport you. I could try to write a real review for this record, but it would take time. This is a truly great record.

Mos Def - The Ecstatic
(June 9) (Downtown Records) (Myspace)
RIYL: Hip Hop

Let me say this flat out: I may very well like this album better than Black On Both Sides. Furthermore, I probably would consider this in the top 10 hip hop releases of the decade. No one expected a record this fucking awesome from Mos Def in 2009. Everyone just wants to write him off as a singing goofball. On The Ecstatic Mos has proved that he in fact one of the best rappers there is, he knows the best producers and he can do a simple, no-frills album and make it good. What do you need to know about this record? Spacey, vintage sounding samples. Mos just spitting all sorts of nonsense. Short songs, minimal guests who come correct when they actually appear. The best record to play in your car this year. This is the album lots of people have been wanting Mos Def to create from day one. It's unfortunate that some of those very same people still don't consider this album great. It's everything good about hip hop.

The-Dream - Love Vs. Money
(March 10) (Def Jam) (Myspace)
RIYL: Usher, R. Kelly, almost any good r&b song on the radio

The-Dream has written and produced some of the biggest songs of the last 3 years. Most notably he is the man behind the powerhouses of "Umbrella", "Single Ladies" and "Touch My Body". The dude can write a song. Apparently he can write an album too, because his second full length Love Vs. Money is the best r&b/pop record of the last 10 years. I can understand that The-Dream hasn't really blown up as a solo artist. He's not a good looking dude, he doesn't really have a good voice, his songs are somewhat bizarre, and to be honest most songs on this album don't really sound like they should be singles. However, the 2-3-4 punch of "Rockin That Shit", "Walkin on the Moon" and "My Love" should have occupied the top 3 spots on the Billboard charts. Love Vs. Money is easily my most listened to record of the year. It's silly, it's weird to like male r&b, but The-Dream is making music that hasn't made this good in a long long time. Its a shame that his next record will be his last. Also, let's be truthful: this is an ALBUM. This isn't a typical r&b album, this is really thought out. It builds, it has song cycles, it fades, it's basically perfect. This article describes it really well. Whatever, stop fronting. This is better than anything R. Kelly ever did. And I love R. Kelly. Oh also, check out the Electrik Red album from this year which is the girl group he put together, it barely missed the list.

Mountains - Choral
(Feb. 16) (Thrill Jockey) (Myspace)
RIYL: Fennesz, Harmonia, Eluvium

Mountains have been one of my favorite ambient acts of the last few years primarily because the music they create straddles the line between organic and inorganic sounds better than anyone. Sure there is lots of electronic distortion inherent in their compositions, but the way it is executed somehow seems like it would be appropriate soundtracking a rainy day in a cold cabin. It's warm. Choral is their best album yet, and far and away the best experimental / drone / ambient album of 2009. Sounding like a mixture of Eluvium's earlier ambient soundscape work with the guitar work within some of Robert Fripp's ambient recordings, Mountains have created something special. It's not entirely new, but it is done with precision. They don't build huge crescendos or create loops of the sort that will make you weep, but they do relax you, and they do make you marvel in their beauty. There is acoustic instruments, washes of synths, darkness, lightness, everything but it sounds clean. A beautiful record from beginning to end and almost the very best record of the year.

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
(Jan. 20) (Domino) (Myspace)
RIYL: Doesn't matter

It couldn't be anything else. There is no possible way that I could pretend this isn't the best record of 2009. Go ahead and look around the internet for the next hour, this is the undisputed record of the year. The critics are right. In my mind, this is the first guaranteed "masterpiece" of the last many years and likely the absolute best record of the past decade. Masterpiece's deserved to be recognized. Animal Collective solidified the notion that they are the best band of the 00s by putting out their best album. If you haven't heard this album, where have you been? If you don't like this album, who are you? Nothing come closes. The album leaked on Christmas of 2008. It's been #1 since Christmas of 2008. It was #1 on Christmas of 2009. It could probably be #1 on Christmas of 2010. Merriweather Post Pavilion is undoubtedly the best album of 2009.

K, bye.