BRAD'S FAVORITES FOR 2009 (GUEST BLOGGER)
* Andrew Bird - Noble Beast. I was surprised when the first few reviews I saw were very meh. Looks like it will end up on most people's best of 09 lists, and deservedly so.
* Ben Kweller - Changing Horses. Not a big Kweller fan - had never listened to him prior to this year. A friend thought this one, being a lot more Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline-ish, might be up my alley and recommended it. Another one that has been critically panned, but it's been in my rotation all year and I haven't grown tired of it.
* M. Ward - Hold Time. My favorite album of the year. The first few listens I thought it was too poppy and shallow to be worth much of an investment. Sarah kept putting it on and eventually I realized there was significant depth to the writing. The music is also more rich than I initially gave it credit for. I think out of all the new albums this year, this one is most likely to still be regularly in my rotation five or ten years from now. I'll call it album of the year.
* Wilco (The Album). Nothing that special about this album, I hesitate to even include it. Has some great individual songs though. Wilco (The Song) is awesome, brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. Bull Black Nova is intense, and surprisingly a song Sarah relates most to - she says the "I can't calm down, I can't think" crescendo is exactly how she feels when things start to spiral out of control around our house. Overall the album was a step back from the personal and intense masterpiece of Sky Blue Sky. This one was just...a collection of some mixed-quality pop songs I guess. Hope there is better to come, because to me it doesn't get any better than Wilco.
* Welcome Wagon (self titled). Sufjan Stevens dressed up a homely album of new hymns. It's a great listen when you have the liner notes to leaf through.
* Jeremy Enigk - OK Bear. Why everything this guy touches doesn't get universal critical recognition is beyond me. So intense, so beautiful. (Enigk is the former lead singer of Sunny Day Real Estate, if that means anything to anyone.)
* Bob Dylan's Christmas album - Christmas in the Heart. I don't care that everyone hates it, or mocks it, or thinks it is a joke. It's a great Christmas album if you don't get caught up in his 70-year-old raspy vocals. I think it is his most interesting work since Time Out of Mind, though there was certainly nothing wrong with Love and Theft. "Must Be Santa" is a riot - I don't know if that is his arrangement or if it is borrowed, either way it's done perfect.
* Also worth mentioning: the Away We Go soundtrack (mostly Alexi Murdoch); Blood of Man (Mason Jennings); Before the Frost...Until the Freeze (Black Crowes).
Some singles worth checking out:
* Spin Cycle, by Eyedea & Abilities.
* Cool Knowledge, by Volcano Choir (side project of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.)
* I Can See The Pines Are Dancing, and When The Devil's Loose by AA Bondy. The album is a little weak, but if you fall in love with these two songs it's worth taking in the rest of it. They are breathtakingly beautiful.
* Little Lovin', by Lissie. Great chick folk rock song. Just came out a couple weeks ago. Wouldn't be surprised if it becomes an indie-radio staple for the next decade.
* Paper Planes, by MIA. (It's the song from Slumdog Millionaire.)
I didn't read a thing this year. Three kids under three do that to a man. I did sneak in Brothers Karamazov before Lincoln was born in March, but that doesn't exactly count as 2009 lit.
* Inglourius Bastards - perhaps Quentin Tarantino's finest film. Not genre-defining like Pulp Fiction & Kill Bill, but for once it had a plot worth thinking about. And it was beautiful, from opening to scene to roll of credits. (If your worldview allows Brad Pitt scalpin' Nazis to be considered a beautiful thing - I found out this year that my worldview is EXPANSIVE.)
* A Serious Man. I think at the end of the day this is going to be my favorite film of the year. At least the one I think about the most. I need to see it again. Coen Bros' interpretation of the book of Job. I don't agree with the ultimate point they make, but it is an intellectually honest one, and startling. (FYI the trailer is terrible - I pulled it up for Sarah the other night to see if she might want to watch it with me, and can't believe ANYONE would want to watch it after seeing the trailer. Barf.)
* The Hurt Locker. Not as much a film about Iraq as it is an intense character study. As close to being a must-see as anything I caught this year - has universal observations about life and vocation and marriage and pressure and friendship while giving perspective on the present wars in the Middle East.
* The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I love this movie. I plan to see it fifty times over the course of my life. mostly because when we buy a movie for our kids, that's how many times it gets put in... but this one I will enjoy every viewing, as much as I did Rushmore or Royal Tenenbaums or Darjeeling Limited.
* Honorable mention to The Road. The book is infinitely better, but the movie stands on its own.
* Aso saw Where The Wild Things Are. It missed the heart of the book. not by much, but enough to ruin it for me. I think a better soundtrack/score would have covered all its blemishes, but so it goes.
* Was "Away We Go" this year? We watched that that this week on DVD. That's a movie worth seeing, Probably belongs on the above list. 24 hours of contemplation isn't enough to anoint it as anything greater than that though - I need more time to reflect on it. Definitely worth watching if you are of my generation (or wanting to understand my generation).
BRAD'S BEST MUSIC OF THE DECADE
* Jens Lekman "Oh You're So Silent Jens". One of the best albums you and all of your friends have not heard of. Find it, listen to it, hope you enjoy it. (Thanks Brian Murnion.)
* M Ward "Hold Time". Covered this above.
* Fleet Foxes "Fleet Foxes". The only thing that disappoints me about this is the grotesque despair of the lyrics once you dive into them. Beautiful album if you don't think about anything they are saying.
* Aaron Espe "Songs From a Small Town".
* Bon Iver "For Emma, Forever Ago". Hope this guy continues to grow.
* Lambchop "Is A Woman". The strangest "putting the kids to bed lullabye album" that we have in our arsenal.
* Josh Ritter "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter" and "The Animal Years". This guy and Sufjan Stevens are my favorite new artists of the decade. He's like Bob Dylan and Jeff Tweedy rolled into one. "Hello Starling" is great too.
* Wilco "Yankee Hotel Fox Trot", "Sky Blue Sky" "A Ghost Is Born", "Mermaid Ave Vol 2". Best band of the decade. Their last album (self titled) was a dud, but what a great run. From the late 90's "Summerteeth", "Being There" and "Mermaid Vol 1" were just as good, if not better. Great run of music, hope they keep it going.
* Swell Season "Once" Soundtrack. At this point probably overexposed, but it deserved every bit of praise it got. Neat project.
*Two Gallants "The Throes", "What the Toll Tells", "Two Gallants". No one else likes these guys except me. All I can say is I accidentally saw them live, and it was one of the best shows I've ever seen. The albums capture enough of that magic to make me love them, but if you haven't seen them live then you probably won't take to the albums.
* Sufjan Stevens "Illinois", "Seven Swans", "Songs for Christmas". Illinois is my favorite album of the decade. Songwriting at its best.
* Weepies "Say I Am You". Sarah found this one. It grew on me, a lot.
* Over The Rhine "Films For Radio", "Ohio", "Drunkards Prayer", "Snow Angels", "The Trumpet Child". Great band. Sarah has been in love with them since 1991, and just about every album grows her love for them. There are few bands that have as much of my respect as these two, in their music and for the people themselves.
* White Stripes "Elephant"
* Yo La Tengo "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside and Out"
* John Vanderslice "Life and Death of an American Four-Tracker"
* A.A. Bondy "American Hearts"
* Andrew Bird "And The Mysterious Production of Eggs"
* Arcade Fire "Funeral"
* Damien Jurado "Rehearsals for Departure" - Technically 1999 but I'm listing it anyway. I didn't catch wind of it until '02 or so, and it became one of my all time favorites.
* Hem "Rabbit Songs" - a perfect album. they haven't grown as a band since this one, but this one hit the spot. Sarah played it for me on one of our first dates, it was the first time I realized this woman was something special.
* Johnny Cash, "American Records Vol IV: The Man Comes Around" - one of his best albums. Captures the depth of a life thoroughly lived, and knowledge that the life is far from over.
* They Might Be Giants "Here Come the 123s" - check out the podcasts. "Never Go To Work" and "Seven" are unforgettable (in completely different ways).