Year in Music Review


We held our 2009 Year in Music review the other day with Portia Early of UtahFM, Dan Nailen from Salt Lake Magazine and David Burger from the Salt Lake Tribune. Here are their top picks for the year:


Portia Early
11. The Brobecks "Violent Things" (Now residing in Los Angeles, CA)
10. Lord Mandrake "The Best Of All Possible Worlds"
9. Starmy "Starmageddon"
8. Libbie Linton "Bird Wings On The Bleak"
7. Oh! Wild Birds "So Long Cowboy"
6. Joshua James "Build Me This"
5. Jezus Rides a Riksha "Last Reach For The Sun"
4. The Future Of The Ghost "For The Future"
3. Tolchock Trio "Abalone Skeletone"
2. Fictionist "Invisible Hand"
1. Elizabethan Report "Are You A Murderer?"

EP Mentions:
Desert Noises "Desert Noises EP"
Birthquake "The Teepee EP"
Broke City "No Thanks For The Ride EP""
Neon Trees "Start A Fire EP"
Muscle Hawk, who comes out with 3-song EPs every 3-4 months.

2010 Mention:
Michael Gross And The Statuettes "Impulse & Exports"

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Dan Nailen's Best Albums of 2009

10. Meat Puppets, Sewn Together.

This is an egregiously personal choice; the Meat Puppets have been one of my favorite bands for two decades, and this is their best album since 1994's Too High to Die, although sonically it recalls older work like 1985's Up on the Sun. And Curt Kirkwood remains one of rock's unheralded guitar gods. That's a crime.


9. Bob Dylan, Together Through Life

Some don't believe this set lives up to Dylan's previous releases this decade, but I love the Tex-Mex vibe of the set—much of it courtesy of Los Lobos' David Hidalgo—and Dylan's aging sneer of a voice remains potent.


8. Monsters of Folk, Monsters of Folk

I was worried the joint effort of My Morning Jacket's Jim James, M. Ward and Bright Eyes Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis might get a little too precious for its own good, but the album was a pleasant surprise thanks to its unexpected muscle. Thank James for that, methinks.


7. Them Crooked Vultures, Them Crooked Vultures

Another so-called "supergroup" album that doesn't suck—shocking! The combined powers of Led Zep's John Paul Jones on bass, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age on guitar and vocals, and Dave Grohl in the drummer's seat (where he belongs for all eternity), came up with a surprisingly straightforward blues-rock power-trio sound. I was expected something stranger than a modern Blue Cheer/Cream. Glad I was wrong.


6. John Doe and The Sadies, Country Club

X's John Doe is no stranger to country tunes; despite his punk rock roots and bona fides, he's always had a bit of that country-western hiccup to his vocals whether working with X, The Knitters or on his solo material. Here, he's joined by Canadian twang-rockers The Sadies on a killer set of classic country favorites.


5. Heartless Bastards, The Mountain

I've been obsessed with the talented frontwoman of Heartless Bastards for years now, so it's pretty sweet to Erika Wennerstrom reward we with ever-improving albums. The Mountain is her best work yet, combining muscular blues-rock with her powerhouse pipes. I've said it before and will say it again: Wennerstrom has young Robert Plant's voice in her barely five-foot-frame. And her songwriting has grown by leaps and bounds.


4. Dinosaur Jr., Farm

When the original Dino Jr. lineup got back together a few years ago, I was excited to hear J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph together again, but I was underwhelmed by their return to the recording studio, 2007's Beyond. Farm, on the other hand, trades in some of Beyond's noisy bluster for more hooks and melodies. Good call, because the album is eminently listenable from beginning to end.


3. An Horse, Rearrange Beds

I never heard of this Aussie guitar/drums duo in my life before this year, but this batch of songs by Kate Cooper and Damon Cox burrowed into my head and wouldn't stop bugging me until I played their debut full-length again. Catchy-as-hell guitar pop by a twosome who met working at a record store equals savvy songcraft and a bright future.


2. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone

This album easily could have been my favorite of the year. Case has been on a decade-long hot streak between her solo work and recording with New Pornographers, but Middle Cyclone feels like the most complete, personal set in her catalog. It certainly helps that she has otherworldly pipes, but her songwriting prowess and wise choices in collaborators make this a must-own album.


And ...


1. Yo La Tengo, Popular Songs

Like Case, this New Jersey trio has released a steady stream of memorable albums during its career, and this isn't the first time I've had them in my Top Ten. But it IS the first time Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew have topped it. Popular Songs has everything fans could ask of Yo La Tengo. You have the tender ballads between husband-and-wife team Kaplan and Hubley ("By Two's," "I'm On My Way"). You have unexpected genre exercises like the STAX-soul vibe of "If It's True" or garage-rock of "Nothing to Hide." And you have the monster jams that allow the three musicians to explore themes including jazz, surf, world-beat, noise-rock, you name it—the last three songs average about 12 minutes in length. And I loved every minute of them.


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David Burger's Best of the Decade


1. "The Rising" » Bruce Springsteen's 2002 reaction to 9/11 was not only his first full-length album with the E Street Band in 18 years, but also an angry, poignant, wrenching and altogether anthemic concept album. The Boss showed New Jersey, New York and America to be destroyed but not defeated.
2. "The College Dropout" » Released in 2004, before he became Public Enemy No. 1, Chicago rapper Kanye West was brash, defiant and insanely musical in his subversive debut. Instead of resorting to gangster rap, he was bold enough to proclaim that "Jesus Walks."
3. "The Marshall Mathers LP" » Eminem's 2000 album was defining and game-changing for not only white rappers but the entire rap world. Eminem's lyrics were terrifying and brutal, but always honest, as in "Stan."
4. "Transcendental Blues" » Steve Earle made the country album of the decade by not recording a simple country album. This 2000 album showed off a stylistic eclecticism that merged rootsy country-rock with Celtic influences, bluegrass, British invasion pop and ragas.
5. "Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea" » Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen redefined what it meant to be a British songstress this decade, but P.J. Harvey's 2000 album about her new home of New York was unsettling, raw and unflinching in its feminist rock.
6. "Van Lear Rose" » The White Stripes' Jack White brought forgotten country icon Loretta Lynn into the studio in 2004 and, by stepping back, allowed her to make the most personal album of her life.
7. "Blinking Lights and Other Revelations" » This 2005 double album by Mark Oliver Everett -- otherwise known as Eels -- was the prettiest pop-rock album of the decade as it chronologically traced the mysteries of life from birth to death.
8. "Kid A" » Radiohead went off the reservation in 2000 with this influential avant-garde, minimalist electronic album that showed that machines can still have humanity as well as melody.
9. "Stereo/Mono" » Paul Westerberg's fourth album since the breakup of The Replacements was 2002's flat-out-fun double album, one disc of gleefully raucous garage rock and the other disc offering intimate acoustic introspection.
10. "American Idiot" » Green Day transformed from a sophomoric pop-punk band to a moral conscience in this 2004 diatribe against Pres. George W. Bush's America. And it was as catchy as hell.