Archive for December 2009
The Liner Notes’ “Top 10 albums of 2009” list is featured on Largehearted Boy.
This is the second consecutive year The Liner Notes has been featured on the web site. The music site’s post – Online Best of 2009 Music Lists – features The Liner Notes.
The extensive list of sites rating top books and music for 2009 includes: All Music, Pitchfork and Paste.
Top 10 albums of 2009
This year the music industry in 2009 continued to trend towards the digital download model making more music than ever before available to the masses. There were a number of standout albums, and promising bands that emerged this year. Below is a list of the top 10:
10) Rated O by Oneida
So dense, it almost takes an active, analytical listener to truly appreciate the breadth and depth of this album. Largely instrumental, the Brooklyn band spans a litany of mind-bending genres in this album. From psychedelic 20 minute jams to structured rhythmic rock, Oneida braves new musical territory with this gem.
9) Horehound by The Dead Weather
It seemed like 2009 was the resurgence of the “supergroup.” Jack White (The White Stripes and The Raconteurs), Alison Mosshart (The Kills and Discount), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age) and Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs and Greenhomes) suddenly formed The Dead Weather this year and the result is nothing less than some of the best rock and roll produced in years. Horehound is simply sublime. Reports are the group is working on a follow up album.
8) Humbug by Arctic Monkeys
Humbug took the Arctic Monkeys in a new direction from their past work. Darker, more mature and developed, the music flows more deliberate and less sporadic than previous works. Song such as “Crying Lighting” and “Dangerous Animals” still seep the signature AM sound, but the guidance of Queens of the Stone Age’s frontman Josh Homme, who produced the album recorded in Joshua Tree, Calif. Is evident throughout. The result is a more deliberate, stoic and untimely cohesive album.
7) Octahedron by Mars Volta
Characterized by a smooth subdued pace, pined up more by Thomas Pridgen’s insane drumming than ever before,Octahedron steps towards a more “traditional” album than previous works. Still filled with spectacular guitar by Omar Rodriquez-Lopez and surreal screeching vocals by Cedric Bixler-Zavala, MV continues to advance music is a direction unexplored by any other artist. This is the kind of deep, dark and phenomenal album one has come to expect from MV.
6) Manners by Passion Pit
Following on 2008’s promising Chunk of Change, Manners is the ideal follow up full of everything one could ask for. Rhythmic beats, fun hooks, choppy synchs and airy lyrics that make up one of the year’s most pleasurable albums to listen to. It just one of those records that makes the listener feel good.
5) It’s Blitz by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Some might frown upon commercial success, and Karen O and the crew have seen the limelight this year more than ever before. It’s Blitz achieved that new degree of success by departing from its conventional formula. Still true to its roots, the YYY added a heavy amount of synthesizers and reverb to the album taking the band to the next level.
4) Old Money by Omar Rodriguez Lopez
Perhaps one of the most complex albums of 2009, Lopez, of Mars Volta, unleashed a juggernaut with Old Money that could be interpreted a million different ways. Much like MV, Old Money is an epic journey of disjointed sounds, rhythms and themes. Revolving around otherworldly themes of dreams and nightmares, the album is an intricate mix of instruments and textures making for a surreal listening experience.
3) Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez by Felt
In a time when hip-hop is pretty uninspired, primarily composed of guys ripping off each other’s beats and rapping about cliché’s, comes Felt’s new album produced by Aesop Rock. Murs (Living Legends) and Slug (Atmosphere) compose an intelligent original piece of work in their latest tribute to b-list celebrities. Adding Aesop to the mix adds an edge to Felt 3 that the previous two albums didn’t have.
2) Them Crooked Vultures by Them Crooked Vultures
Another superband to make this year’s list and the members pretty much say it all: Dave Grohl, of the Foo Fighters and Nirvana, Josh Homme, of Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal, and John Paul Jones, Led Zeppelin. The combination creates a classic rock album that chock-full of heavy guitar riffs and thumping bass. The album sounds more like a QOTSA than anything, but that may be Homme’s predominance on vocals.
1) Cosmic Egg by Wolfmother
Who cares if Wolfmother frontman Andrew Stockdale wasn’t even alive when Robert Plant and Ozzy Osbourne were in their heyday. Nearly 40 years later he is blatantly ripping off their style with a precision that makes listeners have flashbacks to ZoSo. Stockdale takes his new band and breathes a second life into the notion of comprising an album around power chords thundering bass lines, reverb and wailing vocals.
See 2008’s list here.
A recent acquisition by Apple could mean a completely new business model for the popular music service iTunes.
iTunes made the music ala carte option popular by allowing single song downloads for a dollar. While the model was overwhelmingly successful, perhaps in part because of the stores companion iPod, it had its flaws.
Perhaps the biggest problem, which has been rectified as of January, was iTunes DRM restrictions, which limited the use of downloaded media to only Apple’s products. Other issues include limiting iTunes accounts to specific computers and only streaming 30-second samples of songs.
Enter Lala, a music site that makes more than 8 million licensed songs available to users to stream for free. The site reads:
“Take your music and fuse it with a massive licensed catalog to easily play, buy and share on the web.”
Users can register and steam any song once for free. After listening to a song they can replay a 30-second sample of it.
If a user decides to buy a song, or album, they can purchase it outright, for as low as $3, and own the file, which they can play on any MP3 player.
Now here is where Lala is innovate, for 10-cents a user can buy the rights to add a song to their collection and stream it online, from any computer, all they want. Full albums can be added to user’s collections for as low as 45-cents, most are around $1.
Universal access to a collection of streaming music from any server in the world is very appealing. So appealing that Apple reportedly paid $85 million for La La Media Inc.
The acquisition could have a number of ramifications. At first glance it looks like a monopolistic move as the 100-pound gorilla, Apple with 70 percent of the digital download market share, buys up a promising fledgling start-up.
It has been reported that Apple was more interested in the minds behind Lala than the streaming service itself; however there is also speculation that Apple may dismantle the site eliminating current user’s access to their streaming collections.
However, the Wall Street Journal reported today that Apple intends to revamp iTunes with a focus on the web.
The WSJ report reads:
“Apple Inc., the company that restructured the music industry around its iTunes service, is exploring an overhaul of the way it sells and stores music that is aimed at extending its influence to the Web, according to people briefed on the strategy.”
Regardless of the outcome, Lala has clearly spurred change in the music industry that appears to benefit the customer.
Frank Black knows.
He knows that the Pixies never have to create another original album again. All he has to manage is to keep the group on semi-friendly terms, enough that they can stand on stage together for 90 minutes, so they can play their hits and rake in ridiculous amounts of cash.
Cash from ticket sales, t-shirts, live recordings of shows and a new Minotaur box set that is selling for up to $600 for the limited edition package.
The Pixies have had their differences over the years. After parting ways in the early ‘90s, the quartet reunited for a tour in 2004, which is covered in the documentary “loudQUIETloud: a film about the Pixies.”
In fact, if Black ever did decide to record a new Pixies album it would most likely harm the group more than benefit it. There is really nothing Black can record, no matter how mind-blowing it is, that will stand up to the groups seminal works – “Come on Pilgrim,” “Surfer Rosa,” and “Doolittle.”
Weezer could take a cue from the Pixies.
Rivers Cuomo keeps releasing music that disappoints his fan base and enrages critics. Every couple years Weezer releases an album full of tracks that are amazing. Most musicians would kill to be able craft a pop-rock song half as catchy as Weezer’s.
Yet, no matter how catchy Cuomo’s licks are there is one common critique that haunts him: the album doesn’t sound like “Pinkerton.”
Imagine if Weezer simply did a “Pinkerton” tour where all they did was perform the album live. People would lose their minds to get their hands on those tickets.
Granted, from my understanding “Pinkerton” is the bane of Cuomo’s musical career, akin to Nirvana’s frontman Kurt Cobain’s relationship with the song Smells like Teen Spirit.
Coming full circle, Cobain was a huge Pixies fan who admittedly tried to “rip-off” the Pixies.
In a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone, Cobain, in talking about recording Smells Like Teen Spirit, stated:
“I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band— or at least a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.”
Cobain’s love of the Pixies, ultimately lead to my love for the Pixies. When the Pixies were in their heyday I was only seven years old and thus had never seen them live.
The Pixies have had their differences over the years, parting ways in the early ‘90s, to reunite for a tour in 2004, which is covered well in the documentary “loudQUIETloud: a film about the Pixies.”
When the news of a “Doolittle” tour, where the band would play, arguably my favorite album of theirs, in its entirety, surfaced this year I was ecstatic.
The show offered far more than just the Doolittle gems, as good as they are live. After a nearly eight minutes of Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s surrealist 1928 short film Un chien andalou, which inspired the Pixies’ song Debaser, the band emerged to perform four b-sides.
The b-sides, including Dancing the Manta Ray and Weird at my School, were so obscure that bassist Kim Deal said they actually had to practice them.
From there the group ripped into “Doolittle” backlit by an array of surreal videos that varied dramatically from creepy to lighthearted. The vibrant videos are almost like a portal into Black’s mind revealing macabre or silly images that seem to complement a song’s lyrics and tempo.
Following the “Doolittle” performance, the group delved into another set of b-side starting with Wave of Mutilation (UK SURF).
The show came to a spectacular finale with an encore of some of their signature hits: Nimrod’s Son, Caribou, Crackity Jones, Vamos and Bone Machine.
Black may have gained a pound or two over the years, but he still has a voice that sound otherworldly when he screeches like a banshee.
All in all it was quite a 20-year anniversary for the quartet whose music has left a gaping imprint on popular music of the past two decades.
A Debaser Andalou: