Thursday, December 31, 2009

Albums of the Year: a Macedelic Perspective

by Doug MacRostie

So I am doing things a little different for the Macedelic Music Awards this year (the REAL MMAs :p); instead of a separate list of of MN artists it's all one top 10 list. There is music that makes me happy, music that makes me for when you're mad, music for when you're glad... Of course, the list is in no particular order and while I am fortunate enough to host Centerstage MN on 91.7 KAXE, this list is my opinion alone and does not reflect the views, opinions or ideas of Northern Community Radio, KAXE or Centerstage MN. Without further ado, here are the 10 best CDs of 2009:

The Flaming Lips "Embryonic"
I think what I like so much about this CD is it's SO not-pop. Compared to some of the recent FL albums which used harmonies and melodies to help put their quirky tunes to mass-audience-ears, this album is almost all experimental and out there. The creativity and beyond-the-edge sonic craziness is refreshing, haunting, edgy and beautiful. This isn't about melodies and hooks, and I love it. And after finally catching the Flaming Lips live, I feel like I know Wayne Coyne on a personal level.

The Pines "Tremolo"
There is something perfect about this album; it has a sense of place (in the Midwest), it has textures and sounds and music that seems to be the ambiance to an intricate and delicate world. Or as I said before, "When you listen to The Pines new album "Tremolo," the guitars dance slowly and methodically as voices whisper in your ear and sounds and images drift around like a living, breathing creature surrounding you with reflections of the modern world on an aged mirror - combining emotion and storytelling into a beautiful and simple presentation that can sooth you one moment and take your breath away the next."

Regina Spektor "Far"
This album has one of my fav songs of the year on it thanks to Regina's crafty and intelligent songwriting - "The Calculation." Seriously, this album could have made my top 10 list just with this song. That's not to say the rest of the album isn't great - but the story of lovers realizing the emptiness of modern life and the lack of a soul in so much of what we do (and how they react) is top notch. "So we made the hard decision / and we each made an incision / past our muscles and our bones / saw our hearts were little stones / pulled them out they weren't beating / and we weren't even bleeding / as we lay them on the granite counter top...we beat up against each other / we struck them so hard, so hard, until they sparked..."

Dalia "Treetops and Telephone Wires"
I was most impressed when I saw Dalia perform with some of her friends at 10KLF and was really excited to listen her CD, and I was not dissapointed. Mixing elements of hip-hop, folk, world and acoustic music this CD is a collection of clever lyrics, beautiful melodies and harmonies, and heartfelt songs. Her voice is soft and clear - it feels like she is in the room singing the songs to you - perfectly personal and inspiring.

Brother Ali "Us"
I first heard about Brother Ali on All Things Considered when they introduced an albino, blind, muslin rapper from Minneapolis - my ears perked up... With an obvious understanding of minority struggles this album touches on some serious topics in a profound and moving way. From the brutal and honest story of kidnapped Africans shipped off to slavery in "The Travelers", the story of a rejected and abandoned youth finding voice and compassion in "Breaking Dawn" or any of the other heartfelt and emotional songs like "Tight Rope" which is my fav song of the year (that, or that Regina Spektor song...).

Mason Jennings "Blood of Man"
The darker edge of this album, both in sound and subject matter, was an instant draw to me. Mason is a profound songwriter who continually evolves and grows with his music and this sonic shift (all played and recorded himself) is the perfect raw sound for raw emotional vocals. Top song for me is "The Field" about a fallen U.S. soldier from the parents perspective. The feeling of pride as he grows up, and the change when he goes to war; "when your first letter came, it sounded nothing like you / It took all my strength, to keep myself from running to you...". This song can still bring tears to my eyes as the intensity rises and Mason's voice breaks as he sings, "I don't want no victory, I just want you back."

Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank "Traveling Show"
This is the only thing I pre-ordered all of 2009, and the T-shirt I got for it is one of my favs, hehe (but seriously - people notice a Hobo Nephews shirt in these parts!). Teague and Ian Alexy are two outstanding songwriters with new interpretations of traditional styles of music. They stroll passed established boundaries and it's that element of experimentation and evolution that attracts me to their music. That, and the wonderful mix of their unique voices and inventive roots music.

Imogen Heap "Ellipse"
What a voice! And, I don't know if I have heard an album that sounded more fun to put together - something in Imogen's voice makes me think she had the time of her life recording this album (whether that's true or not, I have no idea). It's hip, it's thoughtful and it's a little different than the norm - which are all good things. Highly produced, electro-infused pop songs with intelligent and engaging content; electronically embellished yet deeply personal.

Marcy Playground "Leaving Wonderland ... In a Fit of Rage"
I have enjoyed each of the MP albums, but this one really stands out to me. Singer, guitarist and songwriter John Wozniak has been through a lot since the last release and included a lot of personal and emotional stories - he might as well be naked on this cover of this CD it's so personal. I also love the way he dances around lines/ideas from his previous work and brings it into the new material; it's like the music has followed him full circle, but now includes a maturity and thoughtful eye that give the music new life and deep meaning.

Eminem "Relapse"
Sometimes I really like mad music - and few are better at that than Eminem. I was skeptical when I downloaded this album - how could Em surprise me anymore? Could he make me stop and say, "no way did he just say that...". But he did it! As usual, I had to listen to the album a couple times to get into the flow and it grew on me like a fungus. From Dr. Dre coming in to throw down on the creativity of marijuana to family violence and rape, Eminem once again tackles subjects most people wouldn't even talk about it. And yeah, the album definitely has some surprised...just listen to "Insane" if you don't believe me. I enjoy "Stay Wide Awake" too for many of the same reasons: "I'm crazy but that's alright with me, man life can be so empty / Stay away from me 'cause I'm dancing to quite a different drum beat..."

Honorable mentions: Tori Amos, Matt Ray, Two Many Banjos, Living on Earth (great radio show :p), Seawolf, The Decemberists, Jake Dilley and the Color Pharmacy, Escher Lennon (he rox!), Bruce Cockburn and Leonard Cohen (I didn't count live CDs this time), Mark Knopfler, Clawthroat (excellent live show), Eilen Jewell, Chris Cornell, A Fine Frenzy, Magic Castles, Elmo, the first season of The Muppet Show, the list could go on and on...these 'honorable mentions' are handy so I don't have to sit and argue with myself over the final couple spots of the top 10 list :p

Biggest dissapointment: "Death Magnetic" from Metallica. While it is WAY better than St. Anger because they've brought back guitar solos (especially considering that Kirk is one of the best out there, and the reason I first picked up a guitar), but now we need to get James to stop singing...

Most undecidable: Alice in Chains "Black Gives Way to Blue"

1 comment:

Maroussia said...

It will be great to watch Mark Knopfler, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.