It poured sweet and clear / it was a very good year

Time for a list.

I rather enjoy putting the things togeth­er, so if lists are your thing, please read on.

Okay, as usu­al, I can divide my new music this year into a fair­ly clear divide between the new and the reis­sued. But the divide is even stronger this time around as there is a very clear delin­eation between the phys­i­cal and the dig­i­tal. And the line is fair­ly much the same. My old music is most­ly phys­i­cal and the new music was almost exclu­sive­ly dig­i­tal. In oth­er words, I bought old music on CD or vinyl and new music on mp3. If I own a CD of a new record, it’s most­ly because I was giv­en a copy by the label or for review pur­pos­es.

And here’s anoth­er clear divide: the new music is almost, with one or two excep­tions, all on indie labels, big and small, and the old stuff is on majors. Which under­lines the com­mon­ly held per­cep­tion that the big record com­pa­nies have long since lost touch with what their poten­tial cus­tomers want to buy, assum­ing that I’m not com­plete­ly divorced from the main­stream.

I’m not list­ing sin­gles or one-off tracks from acts as they are both too numer­ous and I’ve lost track in what I con­sid­er a thor­ough­ly vin­tage year for pop music in all it’s main­stream and, most­ly, alter­na­tive forms.

But it’s worth men­tion­ing that miss­ing in action at the end of 2009 are the two for­mats devised and briefly tout­ed by both Apple and the labels to revive the album as a for­mat – this year’s DCC.Andy Weatherall

Indeed, the way things are head­ing, the album as a for­mat may be more and more mar­gin­alised as we gen­er­a­tions who grew up on the 40 minute LP and 70-minute com­pact disc become increas­ing­ly irrel­e­vant to the record­ing indus­try. My teenage daugh­ter shows lit­tle inter­est the for­mat.

How­ev­er all that sits some­where in the next decade and in the inter­im, I’ll toss togeth­er, if any­one cares, my favourite records this year, start­ing with the new stuff, or the com­pil­ing of the new stuff (and some may be from 2008 or before..yes a sin in these instant times, but I’m sim­ply not that on to it… )

Dip­lo : Decent Work For Decent Pay

A sound track to the first few months of 2009. This was in the car stereo through­out big parts of Feb­ru­ary and March and seemed very Bali road-chaos appro­pri­ate with its block par­ty humour and sin­ga­long hand slap­ping the steer­ing wheel-ness. Purists hat­ed it. Fuck ‘em, I loved it and had a ball when I saw him bang­ing it out in sim­i­lar style at 808 in Sep­tem­ber. I hate purists …

Architeq : Green + Gold

All won­der­ful­ly dub­by, noisy and swoon­ing like. The spir­i­tu­al child of Roy Budd mashed with Bris­tol styled wonk­i­ness. Speak­ing of which…

RSD : Good Ener­gy

…the god­fa­ther of the Bris­tol scene (per­ti­nent ques­tion sure­ly after all these years: water/ingredients /Bristol? There must be a rea­son?) col­lects his cin­e­mat­ic dub sin­gles from recent times with some majesty. I nev­er tire of Koto, King­fish­er, or those god-giv­en basslines that’ve rum­bled through his work since the much loved (and right­ly so – where is my Carl­ton album when I need it?) Smith & Mighty days

Mar­tyn : Great Lengths

Every­one knows this right? You’d have to be have been liv­ing under a big immov­able block of rein­forced con­crete (or in Bali where things like this real­ly didn’t creep through unless you made a real effort – I guess I did) to have missed the most all-per­va­sive release of the first part of 2009. Do I need to hear it again? My last.fm stats say yes – this is the third most played album in my totals ever (or at least since I signed up a cou­ple of years back). The best pop album of 2009, or more real­is­ti­cal­ly, as dark and melod­i­cal­ly adven­tur­ous as I’d like pop to sound like, but rarely does.Martyn

DJ Hell : Teufel­swerk

Old fash­ioned big room house music, or is it tech­no? I guess it real­ly is, but the bound­aries have always been so blurred it’s a sil­ly argu­ment. Mag­nif­i­cent what­ev­er you may wish to call it, despite the, I think, cheesy open­er with Bryan Fer­ry. See, now I’m kick­ing myself for call­ing it old-fash­ioned, as the sec­ond half slips effort­less­ly into a wide-rang­ing mod­ernistic cin­e­mat­ic sprawl that Fritz Lang would have crawled across bro­ken shards to use. Epic and, using the word that should nev­er be used, genius.

Bad Lieu­tenant: Nev­er Cry Anoth­er Tear

Yeah, I know, it’s hard­ly an adven­tur­ous choice (see my reis­sues too) but after four decades of music acqui­si­tion at a sil­ly rate, I’m allowed a moment of hap­py reflec­tion and indul­gent nos­tal­gia. The new New Order album with­out some of the bits that made New Order, New Order, if you will, but it’s rather fine and safe­ly spine tin­gling for all that (and I did, after all, love the last two, much slight­ed, gui­tar-based New Order albums so much, so there).

Andrew Weather­all : A Pox on The Pio­neers

Yeah, and Andy, no slouch in the pio­neer stakes him­self, is indulging some­what him­self in an album that ref­er­ences the ear­ly post-punk 1980s, and, if I had to point a fin­ger even more, Mick Jones’ mag­nif­i­cent Big Audio Dyna­mite (who are wor­thy of a bit of rev­er­en­tial ref­er­enc­ing), and in the process takes a few equal­ly rev­er­en­tial jabs, if that’s the cor­rect word, maybe not but it’s bet­ter than say­ing pox­es, at King Tub­by, Ter­ry Hall, his own Sabres of Par­adise and so much more. And includes what may be some of 2009’s best lyri­cal lines, when talk­ing about respons­es to his music: “‘As a teenage girl, your music made me bad’”. A glo­ri­ous doc­u­ment of a career as a musi­cal deviant, and, yes, one of the very great pio­neers. Oh, and quick­ly grab your­self a copy of his Fact Mix. It says it’s only up for 3 weeks (it dates from Sep­tem­ber) but at the time of typ­ing, it’s still avail­able; and, if you’ve not had the plea­sure.…

Fuck But­tons: Tarot Sport

Pro­duced by Mr. Weather­all, for our lis­ten­ing plea­sure, and to my like­ly con­ser­v­a­tive ears, quite an improve­ment over their debut. The idea of a wall of aur­al tex­tures for plea­sur­able lis­ten­ing is a tough one to pull off. Most­ly it fails after it pass­es the clever hur­dle, and tries to jump the plea­sure hur­dle. The Bat­tles were very much like that for me – yes thor­ough­ly clever, but hor­ri­ble to spend any time with. And so it was with Fuck But­tons’ debut. I played it and loved what they were try­ing to pull off, but hat­ed the end result. So, thank you Mis­ter Rot­ter, you’ve tak­en the ideas, sand­ed off the ugly bits and added a splash of uber-epic. And it may well be, this week at least, my favourite album of 2009. If only I could let rid of the under­ly­ing, and uneasy feel­ing that I may have inad­ver­tent­ly suc­cumbed to a mutant child of prog-rock…

Ter­ry Lynn: Kingston­Log­ic 2.0

I dun­no where I found this – an email from some­one I think. A touch of 80’s Gussie Clarke dig­i­tal stylings, albeit much tough­ened, a smat­ter­ing of hard stac­ca­to rag­ga pop, a swing towards MIA here and there, and an album that veers towards the har­row­ing lyri­cal­ly but with a sug­ar coat­ing. Kingston via Cana­da. Love it.

New (non-album) video:

Dami­an Lazarus : Smoke The Mon­ster Out

Thor­ough­ly bliss­ful elec­tron­ic sound­scape that sounds like the sort of thing that Lennon may well have made if he’d been around today (assum­ing of course that he’d had the ben­e­fit of him­self a gen­er­a­tion or two ear­li­er, break­ing down the walls that make albums like this pos­si­ble). If you’d asked me in June what my favourite album of 2009 was, I’d have point­ed to this with­out a moment’s pause. I love the humour of this record and the unpre­dictable swings that still, after months, take me by sur­prise. A won­der­ful, won­der­ful mish-mash tak­en from twist­ed jour­neys through the mind of one of this decade’s most adven­tur­ous cre­ators.

2562 : Unbal­ance

God, this is glo­ri­ous. It a record to make you writhe with the beau­ty of it all. Throb­bing drums, tug­ging basslines and majes­tic swirls of synth. And that’s just Escape Veloc­i­ty, the last track. The rest of this album leaves you weak long before you get to it, so much so, that the wash of the track is almost too much to deal with after al that. That may all sound thor­ough­ly ver­bose and pre­ten­tious, and yes, I guess it is, but real­ly, try putting an album like this into words. I can’t.DJ Hell

Jamie Jones : Don’t You Remem­ber The Future

A rather fetch­ing meet­ing point between old school elec­tro (Egypt­ian Lover guests on the album for heav­ens sake), and club friend­ly tech-house, which real­ly slipped through the cracks this year but kin­da hit a nerve with my, oft self-denied 80s elec­tro fetish – oh and the sort of Prince record that Prince might be mak­ing if he wasn’t so dull now, in the minor club hit, Sum­mer­time.

Elvis Costel­lo : Secret, Pro­fane and Sug­ar­cane

Yeah, I love Elvis Costel­lo, and I’m one of a shrink­ing num­ber who buy every­thing he does. And I love it when he goes all plas­tic like – and this is his plas­tic blue­grass album. He tries to be authen­tic, as he does when he does the sil­ly clas­si­cal thing, and back in the day when he first went to Nashville and made the com­plete­ly plas­tic and com­plete­ly engag­ing Almost Blue. And yes, his voice on these tracks, espe­cial­ly the slow ones, is still gor­geous. The last track, a sit­ting-on-the-front-porch remake of Lou Reed’s Femme Fatale, is just a won­der.

Sal­ly Shapiro : My Guilty Plea­sure

Oh, this is love­ly. I’m a suck­er for this sort of slight indie euro-pop, so called ita­lo-dis­co in some sort of odd nos­tal­gia for a sound that nev­er real­ly exist­ed, at least as it’s pined for in the 21st Cen­tu­ry. That doesn’t make this record any less appeal­ing, and the fact that Sal­ly (Swedish I believe – hence the engag­ing steril­i­ty that is such a trade­mark of every Swedish band from ABBA onwards) is so detached from both a pub­lic per­sona and the under­ly­ing pret­ty synths that make up the musi­cal bed of this album makes me like it even more. What does all that mean? Not very much I guess, but if you real­ly want an eight­ies ref­er­ence point for this record I’d point you in the direc­tion of the pre-KLF genius that was Lori and The Chameleons .

Carl Craig & Moritz Von Oswald : Recom­posed Vol. 3

This, which got mixed reviews rang­ing from con­fused to ecsta­t­ic, was both gor­geous and exhaust­ing. Two pio­neers of elec­tron­ic com­po­si­tion rework­ing, and remak­ing using both ana­logue and dig­i­tal machines, orches­tral per­for­mances of Mau­rice Rav­el and Mod­est Mus­sorgsky, tak­en from the Deutsche Gram­mophon cat­a­logue (Berlin Phil­har­mon­ic Orches­tra to be exact), with­out ever feel­ing the need to resort to the obvi­ous or the cliched. The end result was hyp­not­ic. Killer remix­es from Ricar­do Vil­lalo­bos and Craig came short­ly lat­er as a sin­gle.

Omar-S : Fab­ric 45: Detroit

The guy who works at the Ford Motor Com­pa­ny by day (putting marks on things with a felt pen I believe) and turns out this sort of deep urban tech­no by night. I guess things must go around and around that head all day, demand­ing expres­sion after hours. What­ev­er, this was one mighty Fab­ric mix, fea­tur­ing all orig­i­nal tracks, some new, some not so new, but all rugged­ly meshed togeth­er in a raw and indi­vid­ual way that extends the soul of his city (Flo­rence Bal­lard is his aunt, after all).

Var­i­ous: Stroke — Songs For Chris Knox Well, yes, of course, it’s on the list, even if it’s less than a week old. I’ve known Chris since 1978, we’re mates, but not real­ly close. I released the first Tall Dwarfs’ record in 1981, before his nat­ur­al home, Fly­ing Nun (and the day Chris left, it real­ly stopped being Fly­ing Nun) exist­ed. Whilst the true pain is his and his family’s, his stroke hit me, as it did many oth­ers, pret­ty hard. I had a swathe of mes­sages and emails from peo­ple, includ­ing ex-Toy Love mem­bers, who felt like they too were help­less to help, being nowhere near. It was a day or two before the news became clear­er, and it was an unset­tling few days or more.

So, this record mat­ters to me. Chris was a big part of my life and I felt rather hol­low the night of the gig in Auck­land. You kin­da sit in Bangkok think­ing that you real­ly need to be some­where else, but are unable to be. So I played this over and over.

It’s quite a record, and the heart­felt love and sin­cere affec­tion comes through on so many of the tracks. Myself, I have a lit­tle trou­ble with two or three of the tracks, but when it hits, it just floors you. My friend Rus­sell Brown said that one track on here, Will Old­hams’ cov­er of My Only Friend, bought him to tears, and oth­ers here have almost done that to me, includ­ing The Cry­ing Wolfs take on All My Hol­low­ness to You. Indeed I was rather tak­en that all three songs from that orig­i­nal TD EP from 1981 all made it on to the album and all sound quite mar­vel­lous.

You are gonna buy it, right?

and so to the reis­sues:

 

Bad Lieutenant

 

I liked the Dim­itri Night­dub­bin’ col­lec­tion of 80s B-sides a lot. The B-sides of so many funk and pro­to-house 12“s across that decade con­tained the real gold on the release, and most have nev­er been com­piled. I have about 80% of these, and many many more from the era, but it’s nice to see so many of them in one place dig­i­tal­ly. Just a ques­tion: why do the likes of Dim­itri and Dave Lee so often feel the need to ‘edit’ what was often per­fec­tion? I had this con­ver­sa­tion mid-year with Nor­man Jay and we both agreed it was sim­ply ego. Shame, as it tar­nish­es some­thing that was bet­ter left alone.

The first 3 Buz­zcocks albums have seen reis­sue sev­er­al times, but none as well as the two pack EMI issues ear­li­er this year, which sound almost as good as the vinyl did the first time around. 30 years on, they still sound like the pop mas­ter­pieces they did the first time around.

Oh, and then there was the lim­it­ed (yes I’m bloody biased) dig­i­tal re-release of the remas­tered (by Alan Jans­son) album from The Scream­ing Meemees , with bonus tracks. I’m hop­ing that 2010 will see the dou­ble CD com­plete with 20 min­utes of unseen live mate­r­i­al that’s sit­ting on my desk.

The Beast­ie Boys ’ mas­ter­piece, Paul’s Bou­tique found its way back onto my playlist this year. The pack­age was superb, with the orig­i­nal album gate­fold beau­ti­ful­ly recre­at­ed. It’s just a shame that the ram­pant copy­right infringe­ment that is this album, and the sub­se­quent set­tle­ment of claims, meant that no bonus tracks made it on to the reissue..the asso­ci­at­ed 12″ tracks for exam­ple, many of which have nev­er made CD.

But, 2009’s reis­sues / remas­ters were dom­i­nat­ed by The Bea­t­les, of course, and in mono, stereo, 8 track, quad, or any oth­er for­mat you can think of they still sound fan­tas­tic, and the new boxed sets / remas­ter (and most espe­cial­ly the mono box) take them to anoth­er lev­el. And of course, with­out these records the first time around, like­ly noth­ing in this post would’ve exist­ed any­way…

Still wait­ing on the Kraftwerk, but this’ll do for now…

Late addon:

A Decem­ber arrival, but a week in the King Midas Sound album, Wait­ing For You, has been stuck on my stereo and iPod. The bas­tard child of Mas­sive Attack and decades of pirate radio, like so many of the records on this post, it could only be British. The bizarre thing is, the British are fair­ly use­less at mak­ing just about anything..with the glar­ing excep­tions of tele­vi­sion and pop­u­lar music, in which, in both cas­es, they not only lead but drag an often unwit­ting (or the in the case of the US, unaware) plan­et after them. Won­der­ful, sen­su­al, gor­geous and utter­ly of its time.

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