Friday, January 5, 2001

McQ's Best of 2009 - Recommended Mixes Volume 1 - Rise Of The Inscrutables

Basically, the theme to this year. For the last few years artists like Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, St. Vincent, Spencer Krug and The Dirty Projectors have been winning indie fans and baffling more mainstream oriented detractors with their highly experimental forays into the pop format.

Well, much like David Lynch twenty-years ago, this was the year they all decided to get just a touch more conventional, and the result was a complete domination of the end of the year best of lists and widespread audience appreciation. Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavillion is without question the year's most celebrated album, Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest and The Dirty Projectors Bitte Orca were top 5 regulars, and pretty much every other album on this mix except for Ponytail's debut and Sunset Rubdown's Dragonslayer were top twenty mainstays.

In short, this mix is what 2009 was all about. Listen On Spotify!


Highest Recommends: Veckatimest - Grizzly Bear, Merriweather Post Pavillion - Animal Collective

Solid Recommends: The Crying Light - Antony & The Johnsons, Dragonslayer - Sunset Rubdown, Actor - St. Vincent, Bitte Orca - The Dirty Projectors

Mild Recommends: Ice Cream Spiritual - Ponytail, In Ear Park - Department of Eagles

1. Southern Point - Grizzly Bear
2. My Girls - Animal Collective
3. Stillness Is The Move - The Dirty Projectors
4. You Go On Ahead - Sunset Rubdown
5. No One Does It Like You - Department of Eagles
6. Marrow - St. Vincent
7. Epilepsy Is Dancing - Antony and The Johnsons
8. Beg Waves - Ponytail
9. Guys Eyes - Animal Collective
10. Cheerleader - Grizzly Bear
11. Useful Chamber - The Dirty Projectors
12. Aeon - Antony and The Johnsons
13. Idiot Heart - Sunset Rubdown
14. Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood - St. Vincent
15. While You Wait For The Others - Grizzly Bear
16. Brother Sport - Animal Collective

Here's a Youtube Playlist with videos of all the tracks:


Merriweather Post Pavillion - Animal Collective: The year's critical darling, topping just about every broad reaching best of the year poll, a huge commercial breakthrough from a previously very difficult art-pop band, and one of the most unique albums of the last half decade. If the Beach Boys had been born to this generation, and fallen in love with sequencers instead of guitars and drums, this might be what it would have sounded insistent, swirling mix of amazing vocal harmonies and throbbing synthesizer churns. Though a touch too samey front-to-back for me to give it the nod over the broader reaching Veckatimest, it does contain three of the year's best tracks in My Girls, Summertime Clothes, and the brilliant Brother Sport, easily most joyous six minutes put on record this year, on a song dealing with a Father's recent death, no less. An essential purchase...will be considered one of the defining records of the decade for the rest of our lives.

The Crying Light - Antony and the Johnsons: Indie's most popular tranny returned in 2009 with another crisp, succinct set of late night torch songs. This time the lyrics shift away from the very personal transgender/transfiguration issues that dominated 2005's Today, I Am A Bird towards much more universal matters of the hearts, but ironically, believe it or not, the shift ends up creating an album that's harder to relate to. That said, the album's best four or five tracks are all among the the most beautiful of the year, so while I wouldn't recommend it over Bird, this is still definitely worthwhile for those with a taste for the uber vulnerable in their music selections.

Dragonslayer - Sunset Rubdown: Wolf Parade's Spencer Krug strips down his proggy sound to primarily nasty guitar and drums for this side project's third outing and the result is the leanest, hardest hitting album in their catalog. That's not to say the longish tracks and all those Krugian quirks have disappeared, just that they've been repositioned in a manner the more conventionally minded should find more palatable. Lyrically, it's an interesting effort, the Dragon of the title having nothing to do with medieval fantasies, but rather serving as a metaphor for the trials and tribulations of artistic creation, reaching it's peak on Idiot Heart, possibly one of the best songs ever written on the subject. What writer/songwriter doesn't understand the ramifications of failing to heed that song's opening warning..."Stay away from open windows!"

Actor - St. Vincent: What could be more inscrutable than and unrelenting obsession to marry a love with Disney Show Tunes with ragged, punk guitar, but Sufjan Stevens and Polyphonic Spree collaborator Annie Clark has done it effectively twice now with Actor. Overall, the album mines very similar material to her 2008 debut Marry Me, with better, more subtle production and an higher average song quality, but less stunning peaks and narrower range of styles. I still lean slightly towards Marry Me, but if you like the feel this odd combination of influence produces, either album is a good bet.

Bitte Orca - The Dirty Projectors: No band made a bigger effort to "mainstream" their sound in 2009 than the Projectors, a now sextet of Ivy Leaque composition majors for whom no traditional structural choice is acceptable. Though still difficult and herky jerky at times, the reggaefied rhythms and fabulous backing vocals have never sounded better, and the albums middle three song stretch of Stilliness Is The Move, the beautiful One Dove, and the rousing Useful Chamber is one of the year's top highlights. If you're ever going to give this challenging band a try, this is place to start.

Ice Cream Spiritual - Ponytail: Marrying surf punk guitar and energy with an random, primal screaming/shouting singing style, some tracks on this album, especially opener Beg Waves, have a joyous, cathartic power, but stretched over a full album, the combination quickly wears out its welcome. Not a terrible album, just limited and repetitive. Those interested are encouraged to download piecemeal rather than buy in full.

In Ear Park - Department of Eagles: Side project for Grizzly Bear's principal songwriter Daniel Rosen, this one plays exactly like a Grizzly Bear album minus Ed Drost's gentler croon...three or four decent songs on this one to be sure, along with a lot of difficult, only marginally successful material. Not bad, but given that Grizzly Bear hit their probable career high water mark with Veckatimest, you're money is much better spent there. For hardcore fans of the Grizzly Bear sound only.

To Listen or Download Tracks from this Recommended Mix
Click on the Widget Below.

No comments: