Greetings KEXPeeps. It’s that time of year… after weeks of agonizing over thousands of choices, each KEXP DJ is supposed to come up with their favorite albums of the year. Which presents the question… Do I choose the ones I think are the most accomplished musically? Or do I choose the ones that I listen to at home and in the car every day?
I went with the ones that are my soundtrack to everyday life. Each record has a different purpose. Is it a headphone record (nothing else is happening but the listening, best done lying on the floor with a pillow and giant headphones)? Is it a car album (for road trips, traffic and general neighborhood disturbance)? A cleaning record (very valuable, underrated really)? Or one that changes my living room into a dance club?
Let’s start with number one:
1. Glitter and Doom Live by Tom Waits
I don’t know if I’d recommend this for the general public, but if you’re a fan of Tom it’s a must have. I’d categorize this baby as a “best friend record” – meaning the record takes you right up next to one of your favorite artists. Best heard on headphones on your living room floor. Tom is by far my favorite living artist. And the tension and vulnerability in these songs is beautiful. It’s like a diamond in the rough that has no aspirations to be polished. Beautiful, raw and solid as a rock.
2. Born Like This by Doom
Formerly known as MF Doom, this guy is seriously twisted, brilliant and funny. This is an album that is great for the car (or anywhere you are stuck and need to be entertained), as listening to Doom’s take on the state we’re in is always fascinating. His warm, grainy, almost-whispered delivery, mixed with a whirling carnival of intelligent pop-culture subjects is a path through the madness. The beats are understated and simple, the loops cinematic. Doom is not to be missed, no one is more real. Parental discretion is advised…
3. Thunderheist by Thunderheist
This Canadian duo turn my living room into a dance floor. The beats hit hard but (like all the electronics I like) are very warm. Isis’s vocals are sexy but not false. The lyrics are dirty, but not tacky. There’s also an urban edge to the writing that I aspire to. This is their debut, and the concert at Chop Suey (which almost no one knew about) was a highlight of my year.
4. Music for Men by Gossip
At first when I heard this record I was dissapointed. Their last album “Standing In The Way of Control” was SO much more original lyrically. There are way too many cliché’s in the writing of these songs for my taste. But Beth Ditto even at her worst is amazing, and the sincerity of the delivery makes this record work. She’s one of the most exciting artists to see play live, and her band is only getting better.
5. Daptone Gold by Various Artists
What a surprise to find my favorite Daptone label songs all on one record! Daptone is one of the few truly indie labels left. Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings built their studio and offices in Brooklyn for the label themselves. And they run it on a daily basis. The money for the building was made by selling VINYL. These guys are incredible and this is a solid soul collection worthy of praise for years to come with performances by Sharon Jones, The Dap Kings, Lee Fields, Budos Band and more.
6. Miike Snow by Miike Snow
Miike Snow is one of the most original groups to come out of 2009. They take 80’s style drum pads and loops and play them live onstage next to a drummer with a full rock kit. The melodies are folk-pop and the lyrics masculine, dark and extremely vulnerable.
7. xx by The xx
This new band is taking the indie world (and the KEXP DJ Top 10 of 2009 Lists) by storm.
Male-female vocal interplay rides on romantic words. Dreamy guitars are woven over modern electronic beats. There is an exposed feelings to the singers, as if they are on some sort of rock pedestal, playing their hearts out in an understated, intense performance.
8. Temporary Pleasure by Simian Mobile Disco
Before this record, SMD was known as a mostly instrumental band. But this 2009 release adds a bunch of guests (most notably Beth Ditto from Gossip) and memorable melody lines, yet is still extremely modern and danceable.
9. Phantogram EP by Phantogram
Phantogram are a true psychedelic group and another great new band from 2009. Unlike XX who are more exposed vocally, Phantogram’s melodies are buried (but not so much you can’t hear them) in a lush landscape of lights. There are a few rough spots on the record but the high points will give you a pleasant sense of vertigo.
10. Tonight by Franz Ferdinand
My friend (and KEXP co-worker) Julia popped this record in on the way to the Sasquatch Festival at the Gorge this summer. It’s an energetic, happy record with an indie edge. And every song on here contains a sense of roguish fun – and after seeing them at Bumbershoot I know that they are actually having a good time playing. A perfect roadtrip record that will forever remind me of that day with Julia and Nathan going off to see our favorite bands on a sunny summer day.