My Ten Of 2009
1. Not Far Now– Richard Shindell
I thought it was impossible to surpass his 2000 album Somewhere Near Patterson but he came up trumps with this. Funded by advance donations from fans, it was as if he was trying to repay their trust by making the best album of his career and everything from the digipak package to the music is first class. A Juggler Out In Traffic is as moving as music gets, Gethsemani Goodbye, State Of The Union, One Man’s Arkansas and the Dave Carter cover The Mountain are all personal faves but theres not a weak track from start to finish.
2. Treasury Library Canada- Woodpigeon
One of my two great Canadian discoveries this year. Mark Hamiltons collective hail from Calgary and this is their second album of baroque folk pop. Vocally close to the hushed tones of Elliot Smith or Sufjan Stevens, Hamilton has an amazing ear for melody and harmony.
3. One Fast Move Or I’m Gone- Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard
Farrar can do wrong in my book and has excelled himself with two top notch records this year writing the music for most of this and using Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur prose to inform the lyrics. Bringing Death For Cutie singer/ songwriter Ben Gibbard into the fold was a master stroke in my view which brought some welcome colour to the vocals.
4. Josephine- Magnolia Electric Co
This is Jason Molina shedding his Neil Young skin and drawing on a few other influences. I loved it and thought it was up there with the classic first MEC album.
5. American Central Dust- Son Volt
Jay Farrar returns to his country rock roots after a couple of more ‘progressive’ albums. As The Search was my album of the year a couple of years back, I should be disappointed but Jay can do what he likes. When the history books are written, somebody will inform us that Jay Farrar in the noughties was the nearest thing we had to Neil Young in the 70s. God like genius anybody ?
6. Winter Hours – The Deep Dark Woods
My other great Canadian discovery, this time from Saskatoon. Liked the much missed Minneapolis band Bellwether, you can actually hear that they live in extreme cold for a large part of the year. Beautiful melancholy roots rock, their singer/writer Ryan Boldt has one of those totally believable sad voices that sucks you into the songs.
7. Year In The Kingdom- J.Tillman
You have to be in the right mood to listen to JT, but I find his slow- paced, lyrically spiritual roots stuff strangely uplifting. Josh put out two albums this year, equally as good. I’m going for this one purely because it contains Though I Have Wronged You which was amazing live with his band.
8. Veckatimest- Grizzly Bear
Two Weeks is so damn catchy that initial impressions were that the other eleven songs lacked melody. Not true, it just just took a lot of plays over many months for the clever, intricate arrangements and subtle melodies to sink in. The Beach Boys circa Surfs Up meets Radiohead is a fair description.
9. Around The Well- Iron & Wine
This is like a best of compilation covering Iron & Wine’s whole career from the lo-fi acoustic swamp folk at the beginning to the more elaborate recent stuff and yet none of these songs has been on an official album. An amazing double compilation, there’s gold in these grooves.
10. Lost Channels- Great Lake Swimmers
The third Canadian outfit in my ten, I’ve liked Great Lake Swimmers from the outset but Tony Dekker added another dimension with the inclusion of the Byrdsian Palmistry and She Comes To Me In Dreams. His/ their most varied and interesting album yet.
Gigs Of the year:
Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express- Bedford UK
Woodpigeon/ The Miserable Rich- ICA, London
J. Tillman and band- Bush Hall London
Iron & Wine/ Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings- ND festival Marymoor Park, Richmond
Peter Bruntnell band- Bedford UK