December 18th, 2009

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Mudcub's Top 50 CDs of 2009



Here is my list of the top 50 CDs of 2009. This year, I noticed that my favorites were naturally divided into various groups: CDs I liked, CDs I liked but didn't expect to like, CDs I *thought* I'd like, but found out that I hated. I wonder if the artist's "backstory" influences me unduly. That is, instead of judging the music on it's own merit, I take into consideration where they've been, and most importantly, the direction *I* personally think they should be taking. On my list, it's not enough to put out a good record - I want to see brilliant newcomers, or at least an evolution of an existing sound. Or maybe, I think and judge too much and I should shut up and dance.

1. Amanda Palmer "Who Killed Amanda Palmer?"

Wow! Seeing her at the Coachella Music Festival was a highlight of my year. I liked her music with the Dresden Dolls, but with this Ben Folds-produced album, she took her songwriting to a new level. Throw in a tie-in book and DVD with a conceptual theme, and you have the definition of a true artist. There were some wonderful new songs that she performed in concert, so I'm looking forward to more and more Amanda Fucking Palmer. (Note: I know this CD came out officially in 2009, but I didn't hear it until the spring, and it's my list so I can bend the rules {grin})

2. Florence and the Machine "Lungs"

Sometimes there are CDs that everybody likes. When I was working during college at a local CD store, Paul Simon's "Graceland" came out. I have to confess that I was shameless - I would give that one an in-store a dozen times a day, and each time, people would come up and ask what was playing. I must have sold a thousand copies of that CD on my recommendation. This CD feels the same way. it's tuneful, it's fun, they are good in concert. Even the cover art is great. What more could you ask for?

3. Jill Sobule "California Years"

All of my top three picks were women. I find that odd, because usually I'm a sucker for moody boys. But Denver native Jill Sobule is one of the best songwriters working today, regardless of gender. This CD was a memento of her move to California, and it came out just as I was adjusting to life in San Jose. It fit my thoughts perfectly: at times bitter funny and cynical, and at other times absolutely beautiful and shamelessly hopeful. Kid of like me.

4. The Bad Plus "For All I Care"

This CD should have been a trainwreck. This band was known for their avant-guard jazz takes on modern pop standards. This is nothing new - even Miles Davis covered Michael Jackson ("Human Nature"). But stuffy modern jazz artists like Winton Marsalis think it's better to trod out old twenties pop tunes than tackle anything modern. I loved The Bad Plus taking on Nirvana and Blondie, but how could they add a vocalist? They don't play in even time... how could an attractive female singer keep up with them? The answer is - just fine, thank you. Wendy Lewis doesn't try to out-weird the band. Instead, she acts like everything is completely normal, and it doing so, creates an amazing world that I didn't expect.

5. Chris Isaak "Mr. Lucky"

I *like* the guy. But I was expecting myself to hate this CD. Surely the pretty-boy surfer who plays MOR rockabilly has overstayed his welcome? I mean he even did a Showtime TV show. Well... don't count him out. This CD is full of amazing songs. There's a great pacing... sweet ballads are followed by funny country twang, and then he'll pull off a great duet. I have thirteen Chris Isaak CDs already, and even though they all sound the same, I hope he makes a lot more.

Ten more CDs I loved:

6. The Decemberists "The Hazards Of Love"
7. A.C. Newman "Get Guilty"
8. Jason Faulkner "All Quiet On The Noise Floor" (as well as belatedly "I'm Ok... You're Ok" and the two TV Eyes CDs from Japan)
9. Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey "Here And Now"
10. Soundtrack "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog"
11. Phoenix "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix"
12. The Futureheads "This Is Not The World"
13. Los Lobos "Goes Disney"
14. Glasvegas "Glasvegas"
15. Noah And The Whale "Peaceful The World Lays Me Down"

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  • Current Music
    Michael Jackson "She's Out Of My Life"
Mudface

Mudcub's Most Disappointing CDs of 2009

I used to call this list the "Worst CDs of 2009", but I don't think that's fair. I'm sure there was a lot of awful music that I never heard. The difference with this list is that these were all CDs that I *bought*. I still own genuine physical proof of the mistake, and I can't bring myself to sell them back (yet). I hope you didn't waste your money on any of the these, too.

1. Weezer "Ratitude"
2. Flight Of The Conchords "I Told You I Was Freaky"
3. Alan Cumming "I Bought A Blue Car Today"
4. U2 "No Line On The Horizon"
5. The Prodigy "Invaders Must Die"
6. Ben Kweller "Changing Horses"
7. The Killers "Live From The Royal Albert Hall"
8. Nellie McKay "Normal As Blueberry Pie - A Tribute To Doris Day"
9. Various Artists "Ben Folds Presents: University A Capella!"
10. Jet "Shaka Rock"

And even thought I still love both of these artists, I can't say I was impressed by either The Swell Season "Strict Joy" or David Gray "Draw The Line".
  • Current Music
    Miles David "Human Nature"
Farrier

Mudcub's Best Techno of 2009

When I worked at a CD store, we had a section called "R&B". Us employees called it "The Musical Ghetto". Because no matter the artist, if they were black, that's where their CD went. Charlie Pride sat next to Prince. Living Color and Bad Brains sat next to rap artists. For mixed groups like "Hootie And The Blowfish", the manager would judge by the cover photo. Those CDs were all were sold at the front of the store near the registers, since we were supposed to watch out for shoplifting from that section.
 
Anyway, I find it also weird that I always separate "Techno" from my top CDs of the year. No matter if it's any of the millions of genres (genri?) of electronic music ("house", "jungle", "two-step", "gabber", etc.) I have them all listed on my iPod as "techno". I don't know why I starting doing this - I think I wanted to give some great intellectual artists like Kid Koala or Autechre a chance to compete against pop tunes. But lately electronic music has felt kind of stagnant to me, and I'm starting to wonder why these CDs are given their own list. But I liked them all, if that means anything...
 
1. The Bloody Beetroots "Romborama"
2. Calvin Harris "Ready For The Weekend"
3. VNV Nation "Of Faith, Power, And Glory"
4. Information Society "Synthsizer"
5. Gus Gus "24/7"
6. Royskopp "Junior"
7. Benny Benassi "Toolroom Knights Mixed By Benny Benassi"
8. Basement Jaxx "Scars"
9. Franz Ferdinand "Blood: Franz Ferdinand"
10. Simian Mobile Disco "Temporary Pleasure" 
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  • Current Music
    John Oswald "DAB"
Driving

Mudcub's Best CD Reissues, Best CD Artwork, and Worst CD Artwork

Here are some more lists I try to do every year: resissues and artwork. I love CD packaging. Even though purist may miss the larger size of record albums, I love what some artists are doing with the CD. And not just the cover, but the tray and the case and the top of the CD itself. It helps convey a whole atmosphere is the artist wants to - it's that little extra that can really make a CD "important". At the very least it shows that someone out there cares enough to a coherent package and vision.
 
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  • Current Music
    Alien Ant Farm "Smooth Criminal"
Cigar

Mudcub's Best And Worst Movies (So Far) of 2009

 Mudcub's Top Movies of 2009
 
I have a hard time completing a top movie list by the end of the year. So many films only come out in specialized markets for a week or two... just long enough to qualify for Oscar nominations when the movie "really" comes out. Yes, Master Thor, I envy you... seeing things in New York City that don't come out in the hinterlands until weeks later. So, there are dozens of contenders I haven't seen yet. I'll wait for the DVD to come out, which might not be until the middle of 2010. So, I'll try to post an updated list next summer, but until then, here are some things I saw this year that I really liked:
 
1. Coraline
2. Where The Wild Things Are
3. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs
4. The Brothers Bloom
5. Persepolis
6. Julie & Julia
7. Role Models
8. Trick 'R Treat
9. State Of Play
10. Son Of Rambow
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Mudcub's Worst Movies of 2009
 
...and then there are the stinkers. I really regret the hours of my valuable time that these movies sucked away from me. Like the "Most Disappointing CDs" list earlier, these were all movies that I starting watching fully intending to like them. Sure, I often love watching bad movies on purpose. I want to see "From Justin To Kelly" soon. But that's a different list. These are the films that broke my heart and made me realize how bad bad cinema can really be:
 
1. Knowing
2. Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen
3. The Cell 2
4. Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans
5. Seven Pounds
6. Four Christmases
7. The Final Destination (aka Final Destination 4: Death Trip)
8. 12 Rounds
9. Gran Turino
10. Mirrors
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  • Current Music
    Imogene Heap "Thriller"