When he’s not getting lap-dances, Patrick Wall writes about music with a passion second only to his obsession with making exceptions to his list of exceptions. He is also the Music Editor at Free Times, a contributor to Shuffle Magazine, and a blogger at Weekendsofsound.
Knee Meets Jerk: In Which a Beleaguered Music Journalist Attempts to Identify Ten Records Released Between December 2008 and December 2009 That Were Better Than All Other Releases in the Same Time Period.
Listed in alphabetical order. (Results subject to change.)
BraveYoung, Bloom 12” (The End)
Like Gorecki writing for Godspeed, BraveYoung’s epic slow jams flow through movements like contemporary classical music and unfold like minimalist masterpieces.
Nels Cline, Coward (Cryptogramaphone)
The quintessential guitarists’ guitarist solo record isn’t timid, reticent or soulless, as the title might intimate. Rather, it’s a daring execution of experimental, virtuosic chamber music that’s bookended by electronic soundscapes and centerpieced by the divine, 18-minute “Rod Poole’s Gradual Ascent to Heaven,” in which clanging guitars waterfall in funereal fashion.
Converge, Axe to Fall (Epitaph)
Hard, fast and angry as fuck, Axe to Fall is one of the most astonishing displays of hardcore fury in recent memory. I dare say it’s better than Jane Doe.
Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca (Domino)
Dave Longstreth masterminds another exceptional collection of experimental indie rock that simultaneously comforts and confounds. And fuck Rihanna: “Stillness is the Move” is 2009’s No. 1 R&B smoove jam.
DOOM, Born Like This/Unexpected Guests (Lex)
DOOM spent the latter half of the decade off the grid, honing his dark, absurdist rhymes. He returned with Born Like This, a rare hip-hop record that’s enhanced by its guest spots (Slug, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Bumpy Knuckles) rather than bogged down by their largesse. Indeed, Born Like This is a scant, savage record, in which DOOM — who’s never met a line he couldn’t add four more syllables to — never once relents his dominant flow.
Fast Citizens, Two Cities (Delmark)
This collective of hot young jazz composers — led this time around by tenor saxophoner Aram Shelton — plays inside/outside jazz that’s heavy on the outside, and the cerebral, avant-garde jazz resulting in the sextet’s group improvisations is nothing short of magical. Once you hear the ascending climax to “Two Cities,” you’ll understand.
Goes Cube, Another Day Has Passed (The End)
Whereas most loud-rock acts are either unrelentingly brutal or melodic and intricate — or, too often, simply unfocused and muddled — nuanced and intricate Brooklyn trio Goes Cube manages to be both massively heavy and incredible tuneful, melding Torche’s monolithic sludge, Refused’s manic intensity and careening alt-metal melodies without once sounding contrived.
Horseback, The Invisible Mountain (Utech)
Delivered and developed with an assured, deliberate and glacial pace, Horseback’s blackened, droning doom metal delivers thunderous storms of hypnotic and heavy riffs on the first three of its four tracks. But the 16-and-a-half-minute finale, “Hatecloud Dissolving Into Nothing,” is the disc’s real triumph, in which Jenks Miller — Horseback’s only member — reveals the aftermath of the storm as an eerie, ethereally beautiful epilogue.
Kowloon Walled City, Gambling on the Richter Scale (The Perpetual Motion Machine)
Loud, primal and unrelentingly ferocious, listening to Kowloon Walled City is like being crushed under the tread of a Panzer tank made of crushing, distortion-soaked sludge.
Polvo, In Prism (Merge)
Polvo’s return from its dozen-year exile doesn’t waste time with warm-up laps, pounding you with the snarling, gnarly opening riff of “Right the Relation” right off the bat. And sure, Polvo 2.0 rocks infinitely harder, but still remembers the slinking, pirouetting, tension-ratcheting math-rock prowess that made Ash Bowie and company gods to begin with.
POS, Never Better (Rhymesayers)
It’s true: Stefon Anderson’s never been better. And while the term’s mook-rock connotations make it hard to call it so, Never Better is a rap-rock album — an easy and fitting descriptor, given the churlish guitar thuds and doomy bass fuzz of “Drumroll” — that puts Limp Bizkit and its mongoloid cronies to shame.
Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2 (Ice H20)
I never understood why Method Man became so much of a public figurehead for the Wu-Tang Clan, especially when Ghostface Killah and Raekwon were the better emcees. Cuban Linx, Pt. 2 is the Chef’s finest work since Cuban Linx, Pt. 1. “House of Flying Daggers” is the jam of the year.
Snowing, Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit 7” + Tour Tape (Self-released)
The spirit of Cap’n Jazz and American Football are alive and well in this Lehigh Valley, Pa., band, the gruff, energetic, sore-throated, free-wheeling math-punk of which has its foot placed firmly on the accelerator. It’s nothing new or wild, but it’s absolutely infectious and affecting. “So I Shotgunned a Beer and Went To Bed,” from the tour tape, might be my favorite song from this year.
The Twilight Sad, Forget the Night Ahead (Fat Cat)
Clearer and denser than Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, the Scottish quartet here refines its Morrissey-via-Mogwai mopegaze into an atmospheric drift. At its core, though, its blunt, emotionally complex Scot-rock, certainly no sunny day in Glasgow, is as rewarding as it is soul-crushing. The epic sweep of Autumns is certainly missed, but only occasionally.
Honorable Mentions/Apologies To: An Horse, Rearrange Beds; Dan Auerbach, Keep It Hid; Josh Berman, Old Idea; Baroness, Blue Record; Dalek, Gutter Tactics; The Dead Weather, Horehound; Dinosaur Jr, Farm; Justin Townes Earle, Midnight at the Movies; Felt, Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez; Gold Standard, Gold Standard; Gifts From Enola, From Fathoms; Glorytellers, Atone; Hammer No More the Fingers, Looking for Bruce; Hayden, The Place Where We Lived; Isis, Wavering Radiant; Lightning Bolt, Earthly Delights; Miranda Lambert, Revolution; Mono, Hymn to the Immortal Wind; Mos Def, The Ecstatic; Mount Eerie, Wind’s Poem; Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix; Julian Plenti, is… Skyscraper; Radian, Chimeric; Red Collar, Pilgrim; St. Vincent, Actor; Still Pioneers, 01.28.1986; Sunn O))), Monoliths and Dimensions; Washed Out, Life of Leisure; Why?, Eskimo Snow; The xx, xx; Zomby, Where Were U in ‘92