K-Bo’s Top Ten (& Other Things) Re-Capping a Year of Music in 2009

Not a banner year, personally. It’s been about 20-24 months since I remembered what complete happiness was like, so I have to figure I’m do for some light at the end of a tunnel at some point. This Top 10 rounds an interesting decade in both life and music. It’s fascinating what my list is littered with this year as opposed to in 2000 – definitely a growth pattern, I think. In any case, they make up K-Bo’s Top 10 for 2009….love it or leave it…

Just missed the cut:

11. Chevelle/Sci-Fi Crimes (SONY): The brothers Loeffler have been churning out music now since just before the turn of the century and really landing on the map of modern rock in 2002. Commercially, they’ve been quite successful, but save for Wonder What’s Next never have really produced an album that’s been truly memorable. They have a sound that’s their own and very riff-heavy, but not ‘memorable.’ I thought Vena Sera (2006) was a complete dud and probably then end of good music from these guys. So imagine my surprise when Sci-Fi Crimes came out and grabbed me by the jugular again. Maybe I won’t remember the album in 10 years, but ‘Jars,’ ‘Shameless Metaphors,’ and ‘Sleep Apnea,’ hold my attention this year.

The Top 10 in reverse order…

10. Joshua James/Build Me This (ADA/Intelligent Noise): If I had to pick one word to define this album, I think ‘tender,’ would be apt. Joshua is a tender storyteller and musician, as evidenced on tracks like ‘Pitchfork,’ ‘Daniel,’ and ‘Lawn Full of Marigolds.’ At the same time he’s got a fire about it that smolders on ‘Weeds’ ‘Benediction,’ and ‘Black July.’ This is the kind of music you listen to around a campfire while gazing up at the stars. Lyric: ’I’ve got a cold black coffee on the right side of the bed/I picture you sleeping there next to me with your toes all painted red/and the misty grey sky morning hovers over your head/so will you meet me in the middle/like you said…’ (‘In The Middle’)

9. Thrice/Beggars (Fontana/Vagrant):. Dustin Kenrue’s band of merry vagabonds keep getting better with age. There are proponents and opponents to the album format these days. This band has done an array of things, but how do you come back to the album concept after four EP’s? These guys found little problem doing just that and in doing so, came up with their finest collection since 2002’s Artist In The Ambulance. They’ve taken everything they learned over the course of those EP’s and applied that here into one cohesive piece. It rocks, it ruminates, and it muses. Lyric: ’My heart is filled with songs of forever…’ (‘In Exhile’)

8. Killswitch Engage (ADA/Roadrunner): Finally, on their third album, KSE live up to the potential I’d hoped they had. This is arena rock in 2009 in all of its anthemic glory. Howard’s vocals soar, Adam’s melodies outshine the darkest corners, and the drumming is spot on.. These guys should be out on tour with either Metallica or Slayer right now. Lyric: ’What will it take to escape you?/Is this what you wanted?/To see me humbled?/Is this what you asked for?/The final word?’’ (‘The Return’)

7. William Fitzsimmons/The Sparrow and The Crow (Fontana/Downtown): some music is like a sea change in your life. I’ve found that a man and a guitar can say just as much as a fully plugged in five-piece with backing orchestra. Fitzsimmons hails from a cold, rural part of Pennsylvania and holed himself up to write one of the darkest break-up albums known to man. This album came to me late last year (despite it’s 2009 physical release) as I was coping in my own life with such a thing and connected with me. My collection would be incomplete without this piece of art. Lyric: ’It’s a lonely place to live with just a ghost/There is love left in my life I will see/But you still hurt me…’ (‘You Still Hurt Me’)

6. Dinosaur, Jr/Farm (ADA/Jagjaguwar): Before Nirvana, there was Dinosaur, Jr. That was 16 years ago in my mind…and in MY mind, my formative years took place just before the alternative era…I was listening to the Pixies by way of the U2 Zoo TV tour, and naturally found myself turned on to Mascis and Murph and the 1993 commercial breakthrough, Where You Been? …this was back when MTV played videos, kids. ‘Start Choppin,’ and ‘Out There,’ garnered several spins in the tape deck (yes, remember walkmen? No, no the band…) Jump ahead to today and they’ve never sounded so good (with Barlow back in the fold)…every song a testament to why J Mascis should be recognized for the guitarist and songwriter he is. Lyric:’I’ve got nothing left to be/Do you have something for me?’ (‘Plans’)

5. Alice In Chains/Black Gives Way to Blue (EMI/Virgin): No disrespect to Staley, but as a cohesive, fantastic sounding album from track-to-track, this AIC release takes the cake! Some of Cantrell’s best writing. Duvall is a welcome, accepted edition. I don’t think they could’ve written a better comeback. Lyric: ‘Fading out by design/consciously avoiding changes/curtains drawn, now it’s done’ (‘Black Gives Way to Blue’)

4. Placebo/Battle for the Sun (Fontana/Vagrant): This is, hands down, my favorite band of the decade. Continuing in the polished vein of 2006’s MEDS album, it would seem the band has found it’s niche in alterna-rock culture. More songs for boys like me with hearts on their sleeves. Lyric: ‘Now that I’ve stared into the void/so many people I’ve annoyed/I have to find a middle way/a better way of giving…’ (‘Bright Lights’)

3. Pearl Jam/Backspacer (Independent Release): Their fourth studio album of the decade, but first in 13 years with Brendan O’Brien. This is the PJ I know and love. The band with a mission on its record to rock fast with abandon while at the same time writing songs with a sensibility to them. The other three albums over the past 10 years lacked a consistent theme. To some that was considered cool. Sometimes I like straight lines in my album rock. Lyric: ‘See the path cut by the moon/for you to walk on/see the waves on distant shores/awaiting your arrival/dream the dreams of other men/you’ll be no one’s rival…’ (‘Unthought Known’)

2. Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson/Break Up (WEA): O.K. we all know the story – Pete woke up one morning and decided to do a duets album. Save for the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss record, there haven’t been too many duets records this decade that have been able to truly cross lines and blow …people away. As with anything over time, this album is an update on a theme, but it works (addressing both the past and present musically) – in the end, it’s a beautifully crafted pop album. Scarlett’s voice is truly a gift and a great foil and muse for Pete’s music. In a nutshell, it just works. Lyric: ‘There’s a place around the heart/that you wish for/when you pretend it’s never there/what are you livin’ for?’ (‘Clean’)

1. 30 Seconds to Mars/This Is War (EMI/Virgin): Epic grandiosity wins out for me. 30 Seconds to Mars succeed in every way that Angels vs. Airwaves never did. Their love of their fans (and ability to incorporate them into the overall sound and direction of this album) is awe-inspiring. Can’t wait to see the band translate this live and, I think, as a listener that should be a key component of an album – How it translates live (as in you can’t wait to see the sound in action). Lyric: ‘We both could see/crystal clear/that the inevitable end was near/we made our choice/a trial by fire/to battle is the only way to feel and/ /I fell apart/but got back up again…’ (‘Alibi’)

Best of The Rest:
Julian Plenti/…Is Skyscraper
Von Bondies/Love, Hate and Then There’s You
Therapy?/Crooked Timber
Silversun Pickups/Swoon
Dredg/The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion
P.O.S./Never Better
Jay-Z/Blueprint III
Iron & Wine/Around The Well
Ben Harper & Relentless7/White Lies for Dark Times
Fever Ray/Fever Ray
John Frusciante/Empyrean
Dredg/The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion
Depeche Mode/Sounds of the Universe
Arkaea/Years in the Darkness
The Editors/In The Light of This Evening
AFI/Crash Love
The Bravery/Stir the Blood
Prodigy/Invaders Must Die
Miike Snow/Miike Snow
Yeah Yeah Yeah’s/It’s Blitz

Best Songs of the Year:
Alice In Chains ‘Check My Brain’ – song of the year…
BlakRoc feat. Mos Def ‘Stay off the F*cking Flowers’
Blessthefall, ‘Hey Baby, Here’s That Song That You Wanted’
(The) Bravery, ‘Hatef*ck’
Chevelle, ‘Jars’
Depeche Mode, ‘Wrong’
Dredg, ‘The Information’
Grizzly Bear, ‘Two Weeks’
Jay-Z, ‘Empire State of Mind’
Julian Plenti, ‘Only If You Run’
Joshua James, ‘Annabelle’
Killswitch Engage, ‘In a Dead World’
Lady Gaga, ‘Bad Romance’
Marilyn Manson, ‘We’re From America’
Miike Snow, ‘Animal’
Pearl Jam, ‘The Fixer’
Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson, ‘Relator’
P.O.S. ‘Purexed’
Placebo ‘Kings of Medicine’
Silversun Pickups, ‘There’s No Secrets This Year’
30 Seconds to Mars, ‘Kings and Queens’
Thrice, ‘In Exhile’
Von Bondies, “Pale Bride’
William Fitzsimmons ‘You Still Hurt Me’
Yeah Yeah Yeah’s ‘Heads Will Roll’

Biggest Disappointments/Worst Albums:
1. Blue October, Approaching Normal: maybe that’s the problem – normal is boring in rock…
2. The Killer and the Star, Self-Titled: great concept, Scooter rocks, but not very memorable – and live the songs don’t translate well at all…
3. U2, No Line on the Horizon: their least memorable album of the decade as it fails to rock in any memorable way and the tunes, despite being produced by the same team that worked on Joshua Tree, are just flat out boring…

Reality Check in ’09? (Things I looked forward to at the end of ’08):
1. U2 – See above.
2. NIN – missed out seeing them with Jane’s Addiction due to NARM, couldn’t score tix to their final shows. Sadness prevails at the end of an era…
3. Black Light Burns – Supposedly album #2 was finished. Then Wes tried to get into Marilyn Manson. That didn’t work out. So now he’s back with Fred Durst (something he told his fans he’d never do…) Thanks for being as consistent as a politician.
4. Placebo – a solid record (as evidenced by my Top 10) – the North American tour (which was to feature a tour date here in Clifton Park) got derailed. Slow sales over here may derail further chances of a tour and I’m afraid they be another band that’s ‘really big over in Europe.’ So much potential though.
5. DROID – haven’t really heard anything from that camp in 2009. Maybe 2010 is a re-launch/rebirth year. Maybe Deftones will take ‘em out on the road.

Looking forward to in ’10?
1. My Chemical Romance: Butler says this is a return to raw rock. Personally I think it’s time for them to kill the dramatics a bit and just go straight up. Could be pretty exciting if they do.
2. Ryan Adams: A radio silent year for this prolific artist. One has to think he has something new up his sleeves pretty soon.
3. Interpol: New album apparently in the can and was recorded this past Spring. Which would’ve been around the time of when the Julian Plenti album came to fruition. They say it’s a return to form (which we hear a lot of these days.) Paint me optimistic.
4. Low vs. Diamond: I don’t know if they’ve begun writing for their follow-up but I hope so and look forward to the direction they take.
5. Bon Iver: How much of a sabbatical will he take this winter and what will he come up with for proper album #2?


~ by kjbox76 on December 12, 2009.

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