Favorite edition 2009: Quarter final

I’m hesitant to call the Favorite Edition 2009 list because I haven’t really listened to very many new releases, and the numbers bear that out. According to the Music Collector database I use to keep track of my music purchases, 2009 saw a huge drop in new release consumption.

The number of titles I consumed from 2008, spanning three formats (CDs, downloads and paid streams), was 76. In 2009, that number is 46, a 30 percent drop.

Those numbers are bit deceptive, because three of those 2008 titles weren’t discovered till 2009. Still, 46 titles is paltry next to 76 in 2008, 86 in 2007, 71 in 2006 and 67 in 2005. Also, some of the stream and CD titles are duplicates — when I like a stream well enough, I’ll buy the CD.

Most of that shift in purchasing habits can be attributed to saving for my Japan trip, but my changing preference for catalog titles didn’t help either.

So 2009 is getting the short shrift. Perhaps later I can revise history, should the new releases of this year become catalog discoveries of coming years. I doubt it.

  1. … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, The Century of Self … Trail of Dead’s final album for Interscope was really phoned in. Once free from the major label shackles, the band resparked the fire of its early work while still applying the lessons of its recent past.

  2. LEO Imai, LASER RAIN Imai’s second major label album shows him taking on a glossier sheen, but the hooks on this album are far catchier than its predecessor. Imai really strengthens as a writer on this one.

  3. Van Tomiko, Van. Van pretty much squandered her solo career on a pair of cover albums, but this second studio effort sounds stronger than Do As Infinity’s pre-break-up albums. It also sounds stronger than DAI’s reunion album.

  4. The Bad Plus joined by Wendy Lewis, For All I Care I confess I would rather hear the Bad Plus do covers all day, and the addition of Wendy Lewis isn’t as distracting as it seems on paper.

  5. Shiina Ringo, Sanmon Gossip I hope whatever mojo Shiina spun with this album makes its way back to Tokyo Jihen, because Sanmon Gossip is pretty much a Tokyo Jihen album with better production.

  6. Kronos Quartet, Floodplain The sequencing on this album can seem a bit uneven at times, but not since Nuevo has Kronos Quartet sounded so alive.

  7. Tomosaka Rie, Toridori. Tomosaka Rie’s pre-millennial solo albums were standard idol fare, but the involvement of then-newcomer Shiina Ringo gave a hint of something deeper. Eight years after her previous release, Tomosaka takes a break from acting to record a brisk album, still very pop but with far more substance.

  8. mono, Hymn to the Immortal Wind For a while there, it seemed mono was too much in a rush, and as ear-crushing as the band’s fortress of distortion may sound, it got a bit too predictable. A long break to concentrate on writing was what the band needed to make its massive sound mean something.

  9. Wendy & Lisa, White Flags of Winter Chimneys No hints of Wendy & Lisa’s funk pedigree can be surmised by this thoroughly-composed album. They have become the rocker chicks their early solo work indicated they would.

  10. Office, Mecca Office released this album as a free download before putting it out on LP. The band’s previous release, A Night at the Ritz, felt too comfortably affixed to the ’80s resurgent bandwagon. Mecca, however, reaches much further.

These titles almost ranked:

  • Utada, This Is the One A bit underproduced, but the solid songwriting since Ultra Blue remains.
  • Gentleman Reg, Jet Black A bit twee on first listen, but subsequent listens bode well.
  • FLiP, Kanshou Chuudoku Every bit as tuneful as the debut, with the intensity notched up.
  • Onitsuka Chihiro, DOROTHY Still does not surpass Insomnia, but the way Onitsuka challenges herself is admirable.
  • Royal Wood, The Lost and Found EP I downloaded this because Wood looks good in a suit. Then I discovered those luverly strings and piano.
  • Morrissey, The Years of Refusal Way more kick-ass than Ringleader of the Tormentors.

And because catalog was such a big influence this year, I’m going to rank my favorite discoveries:

  1. Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane, Over the Sea I liked Arcade Fire back when they were called Neutral Milk Hotel, and Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois was better when it was called In the Aeroplane, Over the Sea.
  2. The Replacements, Let It Be (Expanded Edition) I think I really need only one album titled Let It Be in my life, and this one would be it.
  3. Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising I’ve always felt a bit self-conscious following Bob Mould’s solo career but overlooking his early work.
  4. ABC, The Lexicon of Love My introduction to ABC was How to be a Zillionaire! I’m glad I saved this album for later, because I think I would have been disappointed by Zillionaire.
  5. Emmylou Harris, Luxury Liner Elite Hotel scared me away from Emmylou Harris’ early albums, even though I loved Pieces of the Sky. Too bad I was wrong.
  6. Kate Bush, The Red Shoes I was booed by a friend for expressing a preference for this album over The Sensual World. So long as I didn’t say it was better than Hounds of Love or The Kick Inside.
  7. Department of Eagles, In Ear Park This album kind of demonstrates how overrated Grizzly Bear’s Veckatemist turned out to be.
  8. Alfred Schnittke, Concerto Grosso I/Oboe Concerto/Piano Concerto A Schnittke neophyte cannot survive on Kronos Quartet’s Complete String Quartets of Alfred Schnittke alone.
  9. Jennifer Koh, String Poetic This Grammy-nominated album showcases some really good works by the likes of Jennifer Higdon and John Adams.

Favorite reissues:

  • Duran Duran, Rio (2-CD Collector’s Edition) I’m also really looking forward to the reissue of Arcadia’s So Red the Rose in March 2010.
  • Nirvana, Bleach (20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) I’ve been wanting to hear this album remastered after listening to the Nirvana compilation from 2002.
  • Terry Riley, In C (Carnegie Hall Presents) I would have loved to have gone to the commemorative performance at Carnegie Hall. It fell close to my birthday. Rats.