Another year, another list. 2009 was strange for me in terms of music. While 2008 seemed to offer a long list of great albums, ’09 felt more subdued. Of course this could be the result of two key music stores closing in my area, leaving fewer convenient shopping options. So there will be a few albums I haven’t had the chance to hear yet. You’ll also notice that four releases on my list were digital or limited releases. A sign of the times, I guess. But on to the list…
10. ZKPRZ – ZKPRZ
A suprise release for me, sent by emcee Madwreck himself. The ZKPRZ are sort of a continuation of The Others, a hip-hop trio from the now-defunct Third Earth Music. I loved their albums several years ago, so I’m glad to see them return with the same level of quality. It’s free, by the way.
9. Squarepusher – Solo Electric Bass 1
I’m always up for a new Squarepusher album. Hearing Jenkinson minus the electronic drum’n'bass noodling sounded promising to me, knowing his appreciation for jazz-fusion and his skillfull bass playing. I honestly enjoyed this as much as last year’s Just A Souvenir.
8. Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue
Warp Records made a lot of noise this year celebrating their 20th anniversary. In a list of new artists, they also signed Bibio, previously on Mush Records. Known for his atmospheric cut & paste style of electronic folk, this time around he included a bit of J Dilla-esque instrumental hip-hop to great effect.
7. Hyperdub – 5 Years of Hyperdub
Late this year I started collecting record label compilations, all due to my enjoyment of Hyperdub’s 5 year anniversary collection. I’ve had friends trying to get me into dubstep for a while, so this was a good crash-course on one of the best labels working in genre.
6. Exile – Radio
Instrumental hip-hop is still alive. Exile’s Radio is proof of that. Taking radio and feeding it directly through his MPC, manipulating everything from music, voices and even static, he managed to craft not only an amazing set of beats but also include a bit of social commentary.
5. The Gaslamp Killer – My Troubled Mind
I’ll just say it; Brainfeeder is the future. Flying Lotus’ camp is pushing hip-hop to it’s limits, and The Gaslamp Killer is second-in-command. He somehow managed to make this 15 minute mini-album feel epic in scale, editing obscure samples and fusing that with more electronic influences. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for a full album from him and anything else Brainfeeder releases.
4. Tortoise – Beacons of Ancestorship
After three years, post-rock group Tortoise finally released a new album, rekindling my appreciation for them. The album is as modern and experimental as their other releases, but with an added sense of solidity. It also pushed me to explore guitarist Jeff Parker’s solo work, which I should have done long ago.
3. Triorganico – Convivencia
Now Again was spot-on with this release, a fully acoustic album by California-based Brazilian jazz trio Triorganico. Right as my obsession with Quarteto Novo was at full swing, the trio put together a more modern approach of a similar form. It’s also one of the most relaxing albums I’ve heard this year.
2. Dak – Standthis
I’ve thought there was something special about Leaving Records ever since their blog went live. Their first release, Dak’s Standthis, is a heavy, experimental collage of beats and sounds that really resonated with me. I still need to hear the recently released b-sides, Standthis (Otherside).
1. Shafiq Husayn – Shafiq En’ A Free Ka
A suprise favorite by Sa-Ra member Shafiq Husayn, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Shafiq En’ A Free Ka. What I got was the most organic, soulful album I’ve heard this year. The amount of collaboration with other great LA artists throughout the album is what I think attracted me most. This is all-around great music, even overshadowing Sa-Ra’s ’09 release Nuclear Evolution.
Hudson Mohawke – Butter
Harmonic 313 – When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence
Sa-Ra Creative Partners – Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love
Quantic & His Combo Barbaro – Tradition In Translation
Nicolay – City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya
Dam-Funk – Toeachizown
Mos Def – The Ecstatic
Broadcast & The Focus Group – Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age
Madlib – Vol. 5-6: A Tribute To…
The Long Lost – The Long Lost
MF Doom – Born Like This