Monday, December 21, 2009

Best Albums of 2009, Part 2: #25-21

Part 1 - Rules and Runners Up


Blank Dogs - Under and Under
In the Red

Most bands never succeed in carving out a sound that's entirely their own, but Mike Sniper's lo-fi goth doesn't sound like anything else out there. Deeply reverbed synthesizers and guitars take the best from the original goth movement, leaving the melodrama in 1980. What's left are intriguing, dark pop songs. The "lo-fi," effects-laden production buries distorted vocals, leaving everything hard to make out. The effect sends chills down my spine. It's the feeling of encroaching darkness and the sense that some profoundly disturbing secret is lurking in the shadows. If you've ever been in an abandoned hospital or a spooky forest or someplace similarly eerie at night, you know what it's like when you can't quite make out what's frightening or explain it to someone else, but you feel a tangible chill in your bones. That's what this album does to me.

Read more from the original RFR review...

How I found it: the internet!
Track picks: "Setting Fire to Your House," "No Compass," "Slowing Down"
Link: [MySpace]


Cold Cave - Love Comes Close

Once again, I have to resort to quoting the press release because I can't paraphrase this and be as spot on: "equal parts romance and nihilism." Cold Cave's Matador debut draws from new wave synthpop, but just as much comes from krautrock, industrial and no wave music, making catchy music that's purposefully, powerfully vacant and inhuman. It's a statement of disillusionment and knowingly futile emotion. If Nietzsche had made an album of synth-based love songs, it would sound like this.

Read more from the original RFR review...

How I found it: They opened for Crystal Stilts and Love Is All last year.
Track picks: "Youth and Lust," "The Trees Grew Emotions and Died"
Link: [MySpace]


Thee Oh Sees - Help
In the Red

I wasn't that smitten with Thee Oh Sees when I first saw them last summer, but when I put on their album for the first time, it immediately grabbed my attention. The band's fuzzy, lo-fi garage tunes manage a rare balance between strongly stated professionalism and youthful indie-ness. The songs are well-written pop tunes, but they take themselves seriously, with instrumentation and production that packs a real punch. These guys are fun, but they aren't just fooling around.

How I found it: bunch of ways
Track picks: "Enemy Destruct," "Peanut Butter Oven"
Link: [MySpace]


Fever Ray - Fever Ray

Fever Ray, a.k.a. Karin Dreijer Andersson, the frontwoman of acclaimed electronic duo the Knife, released her solo debut this year. Dark, dense and wild, Fever Ray is an intensely primal album, both more earthy and more cryptic than the Knife's work. The music evokes dark images of untamed wilderness, ancient times and the occult, enigmatically hinting at the deep pain of some past trauma and an ensuing psychological deterioration. Andersson's powerful voice is one of the strangest and most evocative to emerge since Bjork's heyday, and here, it is fully unfettered.

How I found it: "Salvador" turned me on to it
Track picks: "If I Had a Heart," "Now's the Only Time I Know"
Link: [MySpace]


Dälek - Gutter Tactics

Being the only group in the world (to my knowledge) that can be classified as "noise rap," Dälek never ceases to be exciting. Gutter Tactics may not be their best work to date, but it's still a remarkable accomplishment. Rap's usual rhymes and beats here meet screeching, jarring iceflows of pure noise. Drawing from shoegaze and ambient as well as industrial and krautrock, Dälek is one of those rare bands loud enough to slam you back against the wall the first time you hear them. The lyrics are smart and meaningful, but unfortunately, the MC's delivery can be a little bland. Still, Dälek is one of the most boldly original groups on earth - here's hoping they're a precursor of what's to come in the next decade of music!

How I found it: I first heard of Dälek when they did a split release with "no-gazers" IfWhen.
Track picks: "Gutter Tactics," "No Question"
Link: [MySpace]

NEXT>> Part 3: #20-16
Part 4: #15-11
Part 5: #10-6
Part 6: #5-1

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