2009

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Jan 1 2010, 18h36

Hardly a vintage year for music, was old 2009, but what little golden nuggets that slipped into my earholes were of very fine quality indeed, with landmark releases from every discernible genre. Except country. Fuck you, country. You used to cheat on my sister with disgusting bar floozies, smelling like Jack Daniels and rolled tobacco, tattooed, hairy and reprehensible. Now you're a 16 year old girl scrawling lovesick diatribes about unobtainable jocks while yodelling along to Shania cunting Twain.

Notable releases follow thusly:

Mastodon proved themselves to be on a different plain to nearly every other current metal band, with their sprawling and very widdly opus 'Crack The Skye'. Almost entirely abandoning the roary vocals of the previous three records, they instead employed melodious choruses, prog tendencies and three-part harmonies(!) and crafted an instant rock masterpiece. They even had a song about Rasputin on it. And if that's not cool in your books, I feel nothing but pity for you. In a stagnant genre reliant on technical frills and nonsensically violent imagery, Mastodon raised the bar to emphatic new heights with lengthy odes to astral projection and a no-joke confrontation with Lucifer, with batshit time signatures, banjo asides and the kind of complicated guitar and drum parts that are outlandish enough to make budding bedroom musicians say 'Fuck it' and put down their instruments forever and ever, amen.

Elsewhere, long defunct doom legends Yob returned with the (excuse my French) fucking savage 'The Great Cessation', their first release since mainman Mike Scheidt's adventures into bug-eyed psychedelia and legal woes with Middian. 'The Great Cessation' is heavy with the kind of heads-down, no messing around riffing that compels you to frug dramatically in your living room, glaring menacingly at knick-knacks and coffe-table ornaments. It is, dear reader, monumental in its singular desire to aurally kick you in the face repeatedly. Until, that is, the beautifully composed title-track, which closes the collection in a manner akin to lovingly tucking into bed someone you've just punched in the stomach. YOB are back, fucko, and this time the world had better listen.

Sadly, the world lost one of it's darkest bands in Sweden's Abandon, who bowed out after the apparent suicide of their frontman, Johan Carlzon. Their 2009 release, 'The Dead End', is a tough listen, the domineering desperation of Carlzon absolutely apparent in tracks like 'There Is No Escape', 'Pitch Black Hole' and 'Lost We Are'. As a listening experience, it's undeniably sad and a mental slog, but musically Abandon were years ahead of the curve, capturing the drowsy nihilism of Cult Of Luna alongside spooky organ melodies, bleak doom riffing, the occasional flash of absolute beauty and Carlzon's hopeless roar. RIP Johan, and RIP Abandon. Come back strong.

Post-Mercury Award and still as ethereally odd as ever, Antony Hegarty can be forgiven for stepping into new genres (hello, blues!?) on his band's latest release, 'The Crying Light'. His otherworldy voice and despairing worldview remain intact on the phenomenal 'Her Eyes Are Underneath The Ground', and possibly only he could compare the experience of throwing an epileptic fit to dancing. Rest assured, Antony and the Johnsons are still as beautifully strange and strangely beautiful as they've always been.

It would seem the death of post-rock may have been pondered prematurely, as the UK's daftly named Maybeshewill will attest. 2009 saw the release of their frankly excellent 'Sing The Word Hope In Four Part Harmony' full-length. Brimming with the kind of intricacy and attention to detail that would put most instrumental bands to shame, it's a record that, while absolutely of its genre, has the ability to restore any long waned confidence in the all-too-predictable nature of post-rock. They'll dance joyously on its grave when the old fucker finally snuffs it after one crescendo too many.

Similarily sillynamed genre newcomers And So I Watch You From Afar enjoyed a watershed year that saw them leap to the position of instrumental figureheads with their brilliantly deranged self-titled effort. There are no slowly building guitar arpeggios or string flourishes here, squire, but there are meaty riffs, strong songs and a sense of (shock!) fun. Yes, fun, on a post-rock record! Is that allowed? Someone check the Efrim's rulebook. At any rate, welcome to the fold, Norn Iron's finest.

Lyrics concerning serial killers. Stonerific jamming. Enough weed to kill a herd of cattle. Church of Misery must have had an album out this year, then. And it was damned good.

Mark Oliver Everett also returned in 09 after a lengthy hiatus, with Eels latest, 'Hombre Lobo'. Consider it the spiritual successor to previous effort, the noisy 'Souljacker'. What if that album's Dog Faced Boy grew up to be the Dog Faced Man? Cue lots of sexual howling and painful loneliness, in a set of songs that switch between rampant and playful garage rock to impossibly pretty ballads. What's more, E felt bad about being away for so long, so he's gonna release eels' newest newest album 'End Times' this month. That's two eels albums in a year. That, my friends, is good fucking news.

Big Business 'Here Come The Waterworks' is one of my all-time favourite albums, so what I have to say next fills my heart with heavy sorrow: 'Mind The Drift', the Business' latest release, is not very good. Blame may lay in the band's other work with Melvins potentially hampering creativity within the group, or the unneccessary addition of a widdly guitarist to the band, but 'Mind The Drift' breaks BB's cardinal rule: It is not fun. On the other hand, Jared Warren and Coady Willis' other other band WHITE SHIT released an album this year that was absolutely fun, and infinitely superior to their day job's latest output. We'll consider 'Mind The Drift' a momentary blip for now.

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