For the 12th year Brainwashed Readers have voiced their opinion on the best and worst music of the year. While some of the results shouldn't come as a surprise, there are, as always, plenty of anomalies. Brainwashed Readers have once again, and probably moreso than any other previous year, distanced themselves from the mainstream. Thanks to all who took part. As always, the Brainwashed Staff have added their comments.
Album of the Year:
- Sunn O))), "Monoliths & Dimensions"
"Their best album by a country mile. I get the feeling their collaborators have a lot to do with that fact as the arrangements on this album are a big reason for its greatness. Songs like "Big Church" and "Alice" are direct and concentrated and eschew altogether SunnO)))'s more absurd and ridiculous qualities. Instead of goofy metal gimmicks, Anderson and O'Malley created a careful, well-paced, well-written, and superbly recorded album with honest-to-God songs. "Alice" might be one of the best songs of the year." - Lucas Schleicher
"It is unusual for a great band to suddenly become much greater, but that is exactly what happened here. This easily could've been a self-indulgent mess, but turned out to be their most rewarding release yet." - Anthony D'Amico
"Sunn always manage to avoid being a one-note gimmick, but this album is really new ground for them. "Alice" is not only worthy tribute to the Coltrane style but a highlight in the band's career overall." - Matt Spencer
"It may lack the primal caveman thunder of their early albums but their more diverse approach to their music has paid off big time. The vast structures and stellar supporting cast mark this album out as a milestone in Sunn O)))'s career where their gut wrenching metal and absorption of countless influences have wholly merged into something that the album's title only hints at." - John Kealy
"Part of me wanted to not like this, since such a niche band started getting so much mainstream press, but it won me over. Less metal than their previous work, it mixes in the right amount of jazz, classical, and avant garde with the normal drone metal sludge. For a band painted as being so repetitious, the tracks on here (especially "Alice") display some wonderful transitions throughout." - Creaig Dunton
- Current 93, "Aleph At Hallucinatory Mountain"
"David Tibet is clearly at the mercy of his poetic imagination. I love it when he sings in Coptic. The amazing percussion on this album perfectly compliments the lyrical furnace blasts of fiery invective." - Justin Patrick
"I still can't believe that one of the heaviest rock masterpieces of the year is by Current 93. My mother hates it which is praise of the highest order." - John Kealy
"Still apocalyptic, still essential. I could listen to David Tibet read a grocery list." - Anthony D'Amico
"Current 93 finally make good on that Black Sabbath imitation they did back on Lucifer Over London." - Lucas Schleicher
- Tim Hecker, "An Imaginary Country"
- Om, "God Is Good"
"After an incalculable loss to the band, I expected a bit of a mess. Instead they recorded a virtually perfect album. God is good, Om is great." - John Kealy
"Not exactly surprised to see this album rank so highly as much as I'm disappointed by its undeserved placement. A couple months back, I won free tickets to see Om on tour, and it tied with Pelican's latest go-round with the most boring live concert experience of 2009. Shrinebuilder, Cisneros' doomy star-studded side-project, put out a way better record than this." - Gary Suarez
"It's their best record because it's brief and layered with new instruments. Seeing Robert A.A. Lowe from Lichens play with them was a revelation; I like Om, but they sound much better with an additional musician and a little sonic diversity." - Lucas Schleicher
"I'm certainly thrilled that Om is back and "Thebes" was one of my favorite songs this year, but...really? One great song does not equal a great album (even if it is a very long one)." - Anthony D'Amico
- Six Organs of Admittance, "Luminous Night"
"An intense and emotional album, Ben Chasny played my heartstrings as deftly as those on his guitar." - John Kealy
"Ben Chasny reveals his inner workings in a series of perfectly arranged melancholic songs. They show off a new maturity in his already impressive skill as a guitarist and songwriter. There is a little bit for everyone here: noisy soundscapes, ballads, and expert finger picking." - Justin Patrick
"Ben Chasny channels his inner Jethro Tull with very communal results. Loss of clothing, more body hair, and flower power pseudonyms were quick to follow." - Justin Spicer
"I still struggle with this record. Chasny's instrumentation and song-writing are at their best on this one and Eyvind Kang proves once again that he is a valuable member for any band playing with its sound but I can't adjust to Ben's vocals this time around. I think he sounded so much better on Shelter from the Ash and School of the Flower. I know his voice has never been the main attraction, but they're distracting on Luminous Night." - Lucas Schleicher
- Emeralds, "What Happened"
"I'll tell you what happened, these guys put out an album of intense psychedelic synth and guitar jams which made my brain short circuit." - John Kealy
"The Cleveland trio separated themselves from the synthesized fossils of Ash Ra Tempel and Tangerine Dream. What Happened is a darker foray, echoing the economic downturn of Ohio's dankest city, while maintaining the infinite expanses of space and the positive future it nurtures." - Justin Spicer
"Emeralds followed up the excellent Solar Bridge with an even better album. I'm pretty sure this is out of print, though - I'm willing to bet MP3s have a lot to do with why this album is so popular. I'd love to see a pretty vinyl reissue. Please?" - Lucas Schleicher
"Their second full length takes another wide step toward the horizon." - Henry Smith
"They contort new sounds out of the seemingly exhausted sources. For breadth of vision and sharpness in detail, this album really does deserve to be called 'cosmic.'" - Matt Spencer
- Nurse With Wound, "The Surveillance Lounge"
"In a very good year for Nurse With Wound, this new album stood out as being one of the best albums that Steven Stapleton has ever done. Capturing the dark heart of his early music and transplanting it into the barely warm corpse of a F.W. Murnau film is an alchemeic act of immense power." - John Kealy
- Antony & the Johnsons, "The Crying Light"
"Antony expresses a kind of bravery unheard elsewhere. Tapping into the hopes and fears of mankind he does the world a great service. Seeing the band play live when they were on tour for this album was definitely one of the highlights of my year. His friendly chatter in between songs at the concert show Antony to be quite humorous as well." - Justin Patrick
"I am still not sure about this. I like it but not sure if it will stand the test of time like his previous works. One of the best album covers of the year though." - John Kealy
- Fever Ray, "Fever Ray"
- Nurse With Wound, "The Memory Surface"
"Bolstering The Surveillance Lounge, this charted the development of that album like some weird laboratory experiment by scientists who lost the plot years ago." - John Kealy
- James Blackshaw, "The Glass Bead Game"
"I've always liked Blackshaw's work, but I am very happy to see that he is aggressively expanding his sonic palette. "Cross" is brilliant." - Anthony D'Amico
"An astounding achievement for Blackshaw and one of my top picks of the year." - Jon Whitney
""Cross" and "Arc" are amazing. Since reviewing the album I've taken issue with its middle part, but the opening and closing songs alone are enough to make The Glass Bead Game great. I think I'm in love with Lavinia Blackwall's voice." - Lucas Schleicher
- A Place To Bury Strangers, "Exploding Head"
"I can't wait to hear their next record. I like Exploding Head plenty, but I think the first album was superior. What APTBS did with this record is prove that they're here to stay. Loved hearing The Cure and New Order influences more strongly this time around, though, and "In Your Heart" kicked a lot of ass. This and Death provided me with almost all my rock needs in 2009." - Lucas Schleicher
"Exploding ears." - John Kealy
"I can't think of a better rock band currently producing music." - Michael Barrett
- Nurse With Wound, "Space Music"
"In space, no one can hear you hum along." - John Kealy
- Cold Cave, "Love Comes Close"
"There has been an unforgivable dearth of danceable misery in recent years. Cold Cave have filled that void admirably." - Anthony D'Amico
"Although it veers close to "trying too hard", the result is a catchy set of faux new wave pop tracks that do a wonderful early Depeche Mode impression." - Creaig Dunton
"Really disapointing when compared to thier previous singles." - Michael Barrett
"I liked this for approximately 20 minutes the first time I heard it. After that the charm and novelty wore off." - Lucas Schleicher
- Emeralds, "Emeralds"
"This LP is undoubtedly my album of the year as Emeralds again blow my mind with their frankly untouchable music. Transcendental is a term that's thrown around a lot but in this case, I can think of no other word that comes close to describing this album." - John Kealy
"Third full length and the group's clearest statement yet. All hands on deck here." - Henry Smith
- Zola Jesus, "The Spoils"
"I like this, but I refuse to accept that there is now a genre called Hypnagogic Pop." - Anthony D'Amico
- Throbbing Gristle, "The Third Mind Movements"
"A top heavy recording, yes, but at it's best moments Third Mind Movements feeds my fetishtic needs for dense abract electronics oh so delightfully." - Michael Barrett
"After the rather disappointing Part Two: The Endless Not, I was delighted to hear TG back in fine form with this unfortunately limited edition CD. The amorphous sonic bleed that drew me to them is present again, The Third Mind Movements sounds like the kind of album the young TG would have made if they had today's technology." - John Kealy
- Jim O'Rourke, "The Visitor"
"After 8 years of little communique, Jim O'Rourke emerged from his cocoon to deliver an album as rich and textured as his previous 'pop' albums. What The Visitor lacks in ingenuity it more than makes up for in style." - Justin Spicer
- Ben Frost, "By The Throat"
- This Immortal Coil, "The Dark Age of Love"
"This was not at all what I was expecting, but it still yielded a handful of mesmerizing interpretations. Will Oldham's "Ostia" makes my blood run cold." - Anthony D'Amico
"I've always been critical of tribute albums as being cynical cash-ins but This Immortal Coil do John and Sleazy proud with these touching and reverent covers of Coil classics." - John Kealy
"Amazing renditions of classic Coil tracks bring new enjoyment to the songs I've listened to over and over again. It's fun to hear them reinterpreted and played in a new light by musicians who know what they are doing." - Justin Patrick
- William Basinski, "92982"
- Fuck Buttons, "Tarot Sport"
"I don't get this one. What I hear is over-produced teeny-bopper hardcore masquerading as avant-garde techno. A style built on unabashed trend hopping." - Matt Spencer
- Leyland Kirby, "Sadly, the Future is no Longer what it Once Was"
"I just don't get it at all." - Anthony D'Amico
"One of two amazing triple-disc albums released this year. This was the better one. It's ambitious and gorgeous and totally self-indulgent, but so carefully and lovingly assembled. I can't get enough of it." - Lucas Schleicher
- Pan•American, "White Bird Release"
"The most beautiful music to come out in 2009, this has become my favorite Pan•American album out of all of them." - John Kealy
- Tom Waits, "Glitter and Doom Live"
- Dinosaur Jr., "Farm"
"Dinosaur Jr. sound really like the Foo Fighters on this album. But a good Foo Fighters. One without Dave Grohl." - John Kealy
"Dinosaur Jr.'s reemergence may be coinciding with the slight return of the '90s alternative scene in fashion and mainstream music but the point remains that Dinosaur Jr. continue to riff on the college and grunge rock they were so conveniently wrapped in during those heady, lazy days of '90s alterna-journalism." - Justin Spicer
"Barlow, Mascis, and Murph outdid themselves with this one. A logical progression from 2007's Beyond, this record proves that a band that's been around for over 20 years can stay true to itself without having to stagnate or engage in embarassingly ill-informed experiments, all the while sounding as hungry and vital as ever. Kurt Vile, Jay Reatard, and the rest of those in the current crop of indie rock darlings should be humbled by every single track on Farm." - Gary Suarez
"Surprise of the year for me. I was never a Dinosaur Jr. fan, but this record caught my ear. It also gave me incentive to go back over their discography, which is way better than I remembered it being." - Lucas Schleicher
- JG Thirlwell, "The Venture Bros. Soundtrack"
"Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. This is the best thing Jim Thirlwell's done since Gash, and undoubtedly his most lucrative. This already great cartoon is one hundred fifty three percent more awesome thanks to Thirlwell's kitschy, whimsical scoring." - Gary Suarez
"Exhilarating soundtrack music whose mammoth production doesn't weigh down the cartoonish buoyancy of the material a bit." - Henry Smith
"I've never seen the show but this is one fun album." - John Kealy
"An incredible record from one of the most talented composers still standing. I hope this achievement will serve as an appropriate intro to any cinematic producer as I will gladly see any Hollywood blockbuster film that this genius scores." - Jon Whitney
- Marissa Nadler, "Little Hells"
- Sonic Youth, "The Eternal"
"I had high hopes for the first proper Sonic Youth album on an indie since the 1980s. To quote Colin Newman, I should have known better. Since 1995's Washing Machine, the band has put out meandering self-indulgent records marred by inconsistency and boasting one or two gems. The Eternal fits this profile, with "Malibu Gas Station" and "What We Know" its sole highlights. Let's face it: Sonic Youth are Gen-X's Rolling Stones, and we'll be lucky if we get a Voodoo Lounge out of them, let alone a Steel Wheels." - Gary Suarez
"While not a bad album, I was expecting more from Sonic Youth now that they were "free" from the claws of the major labels but it appears the scars run deeper than I thought." - John Kealy
- Sun Araw, "Heavy Deeds"
"It's not as good as 2008's Beach Head, but Sun Araw has got his approach down to a hazy science. Cruise-worthy to the max." - Henry Smith
- Lightning Bolt, "Earthly Delights"
"Lightning Bolt are incapable of making a bad album." - Michael Barrett
- Mount Eerie, "Wind's Poem"
"Phil Elverum continues to reinvent himself without ever doing more than being himself. Wind's Poem is a fierce, yet strikingly soft testament to Elverum's versatility as both an artist and a road-weary musician." - Justin Spicer
"Almost maintains the standard of his collaboration with Julie Doiron." - Duncan Edwards
- Dälek, "Gutter Tactics"
- Kevin Drumm, "Imperial Horizon"
- Blues Control, "Local Flavor"
"They take the sappiest aspects of rock and ambient music (blues licks, pan-pipes, saxophone solos) and manage to make something both clever and serious." - Matt Spencer
"The duo do it again with super focused instrumental jams that never meander. Avoids all the trappings of what it could be by simply honing in, and the result is something akin to Popol Vuh in the 21st century." - Henry Smith
- Irr. App. (Ext.), "Kreiselwelle"
"Bewildering. Bemusing. Bewitching." - John Kealy
- Six Organs Of Admittance, "Empty The Sun"
- Zola Jesus, "Amsterdam"
"Excellent studio material and a great live set recorded for WNYU. Hopefully this release will see vinyl in 2010." - Michael Barrett
- Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words, "Lost In Reflections"
"Eerie scratches in a forgotten language. Somewhere between cave painting and morse code." - Duncan Edwards
"Yes! This is my favorite of the Killer Pimp records released this year. Thomas Ekelund's dark world of buried memories and decaying structures totally captured my imagination this year. He turned the beautiful city of Boston into a sad and dying landscape several times" - Lucas Schleicher
"A gem of an album." - John Kealy
- Soisong, "xAj3z"
"As unique as a snowflake and warmer than the hug of a lover, I want to marry this album." - John Kealy
- The Field, "Yesterday & Today"
- Alva Noto, "Xerrox, Vol. 2"
"This was a bit more abrasive than I'm used to hearing from the venerable label, but it definitely works well, with contributions for Stephen O'Malley and Ryuichi Sakamoto, among others. Great combo of noise and atmospheres." - Creaig Dunton
"This is what film soundtracks would sound like in a perfect world." - Anthony D'Amico
- Bill Callahan, "Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle"
"Callahan may be soaking in bourbon by this point in his career but that Kentucky musk is as effervescent as it was during his parenthetical days." - Justin Spicer
- Jack Rose & the Black Twig Pickers, "Jack Rose & the Black Twig Pickers"
- Nudge, "As Good As Gone"
"These guys are quickly becoming one of my favorite bands. As Good As Gone is a chamelion of a record: it's incredibly dynamic, but it grooves hard in so many places and has so many great hooks. I thought it was pretty sexy, too." - Lucas Schleicher
- Oneida, "Rated O"
- Moritz Von Oswald Trio, "Vertical Ascent"
- Oneohtrix Point Never, "Rifts"
"Daniel Lopatin's busy 2009 is neatly summed up on Rifts and though the double album may seem daunting to those new to the synth-laced underground, it also serves as an essential release from a year when synthesizer music transcended its underground past to become a unique and playful scene all its own." - Justin Spicer
- Mono, "Hymn to the Immortal Wind"
- Pocahaunted, "Passages"
"This was decidedly underwhelming." - Anthony D'Amico
- To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie, "Marlone"
"The idea of noir expressed in musical form seems a far-fetched one but To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie nailed it with Marlone. The album is intoxicating, as wafts of femme fatale perfume and gumshoe cigar smoke infuse the moody music with a classic quality only Bogart and Bergman can capture." - Justin Spicer
- Hildur Gusnadóttir, "Without Sinking"
- Bonnie "Prince" Billy, "Beware"
"This album didn't excite or move me the way I thought would. Perhaps it's because he leans much closer to a pure country western style than he has on other releases. His natural talent is still something to be reckoned with but this didn't get put into the player as much as I had anticipated." - Justin Patrick
"Not his strongest album by any measure but a satisfying and content album which gets better with each time I play it." - John Kealy
"This was one of the biggest disappointments of the year. About half the record is great and the rest is just plain mediocre. After releasing albums like The Letting Go and I See a Darkness I expect Will Oldham to write better lyrics than the stuff on Beware. Lots of people say it's an improvement on Lie Down in the Light, but that isn't saying much and I'm not entirely sure it's true. On the other hand, seeing Oldham and company play these songs live made a big difference. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy put on one of the better concerts in Boston in 2009." - Lucas Schleicher
- Faust, "C'est Com...Com...Compliqué"
"Sounding like a bunch of kids who have never heard music before but had it described to them, Faust are the Peter Pan of krautrock. Forever forging paths in places where I didn't know there was solid ground, C'est Com... Com... Compliqué sits up there with anything else they've done." - John Kealy
"A huge disappointment. I refuse to accept this is Faust." - Duncan Edwards
- Khanate, "Clean Hands Go Foul"
"It's very obviously the counterpart to Capture and Release because there's not a lot of variety between the two albums. The painfully sparse and slow "Every Goddamn Thing" is the perfect death knell for the band." - Creaig Dunton
"A disappointing post-mortem release from the most vital heavy band since Swans. It has its moments but overall has left me cold. Part of me thinks this was the point." - John Kealy
- Lustmord, "The Dark Places Of The Earth"
- Nadja, "When I See the Sun Always Shines On TV"
"Never has a band made other people's songs so their own." - John Kealy
"My biggest beef with this is the fact that the covers of The Cure and Slayer sound quite similar to one another. That's not right." - Creaig Dunton
- Tortoise, "Beacons of Ancestorship"
- White Rainbow, "New Clouds"
"Some albums are dizzying to listen to and this is one of them. Though the kaleidoscopic music here is a treat as opposed to the cloying faux-psychedelica of Animal Collective (see below)." - John Kealy
- Black to Comm, "Alphabet 1968"
"This was inarguably one of the best albums of the year. You guys are deaf." - Anthony D'Amico
- DOOM, "Born Like This"
- Espers, "III"
- Phill Niblock, "Touch Strings"
"Minimalist in every sense of the word, the compositions for both classical and modern stringed instruments, the latter courtesy of Robert Poss and Susan Stenger, are brilliant studies in texture." - Creaig Dunton
"Shatteringly heavy, Niblock again shows all the kids who is king of over amplified drones. This fills the room like tear gas and leaves me just as incapacitated." - John Kealy
- Rameses III, "I Could Not Love You More"
"The English trio are the quiet masters of soothing lullabies that stay with you well into slumber." - Justin Spicer
- Cluster, "Qua"
- Converge, "Axe To Fall"
"These metallic hardcore heroes made their best record since 2001's Jane Doe. Cacophonous and cathartic, this will be the soundtrack to our secret wars in Yemen." - Gary Suarez
- SND, "Atavism"
"Wonderfully sterile techno-electro stuff, it's reminiscent of old school Autechre. You know, before they discovered the "make random sounds" button on their laptops." - Creaig Dunton
- The Tear Garden, "Have a Nice Trip"
- Yellow Swans, "Mort Aux Vaches"
"Great packaging but potentially unplayable depending on how unforgiving your CD player is. It's fantastic once it meets a CD player it likes." - John Kealy
- Black Dice, "Repo"
"I don't get this one either. They make remixing trashy pop-music a turgid exercise, which is inexcusable." - Matt Spencer
"Someone listened to this all the way through more than once?" - Lucas Schleicher
- Ducktails, "Ducktails"
"Matt Mondanile had a big year with his own project as well as Real Estate. This is where I like his stuff best though. Restrained jams for the Corona-minded." - Henry Smith
"This compilation of last year's tapes and singles is great, fantastic even. Unfortunately lead-man Matt Mondanile's subsequent material both as Ducktails and Real Estate has upped the yawn factor to 11." - Michael Barrett
- Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh, "Overloaded Ark"
"This album was my very favorite this year. Batoh & Espvall are quite a pair. Mixing traditional songs from across the centuries with tunes of their own creation, they show themselves off as both clever interpreters and innovative composers. Overflowing with psychedelic effects, Overloaded Ark is a masterful fusion of studio technique and the pure talent of highly practiced instrumentalists. The fact that Helena has stunning voice doesn't hurt any either." - Justin Patrick
- Lustmord, "Beyond"
- Svarte Greiner, "Kappa"
- Evangelista, "Prince of Truth"
- Sir Richard Bishop, "The Freak of Araby"
- Steven R. Smith, "Cities"
"When will an enterprising director discover Steven R. Smith and realize how perfect his music is for film?" - Lucas Schleicher
- Vic Chesnutt, "At the Cut"
"A devastating and sad album to finish on, At the Cut contains everything that made Vic Chesnutt into the wonderful artist that he was. He will be dearly missed." - John Kealy
"I bought this at the tail-end of the year, but it quickly became one of my most-played (and loved) records. Only Glenn Jones' album got more plays from me." - Lucas Schleicher
- Diana Rogerson & Andrew Liles, "No Birds Do Sing"
"The most dangerous album of the year, this nearly caused me to drive my car off the road. Five stars." - John Kealy
- Mountains, "Choral"
"This record deserves to be way higher on the list. The songs here are both dynamic, evocative, and ethereal. They make great use of acoustic instruments and arrangements. It's digital music with a human face." - Matt Spencer
- Natural Snow Buildings, "Shadow Kingdom"
- Richard Youngs, "Under Stellar Stream"
- Shrinebuilder, "Shrinebuilder"
"Truth be told, this admittedly solid album felt like a prologue to something bigger, something better. However, with all the hype generated about this band, it was always going to be tough to live up to the legend. Yet based on this album, there is a spark there waiting to light the fuse." - John Kealy
- Aluk Todolo, "Finsternis"
"You got your black metal in my krautrock! You got your krautrock in my black metal! " - Creaig Dunton
- Andrew Chalk, "The Cable House"
- Lisa Germano, "Magic Neighbor"
"A new album from Lisa Germano is always a wonderful thing, but this was not one of her better releases (aside from "Snow", which is four minutes of pure heaven)." - Anthony D'Amico
- Rapoon, "Melancholic Songs of the Desert"
- Shackleton, "Three EPs"
- Bardo Pond, "Peri"
"The sister album of last year's Batholith, Peri is another uppercut from the swift hands of Bardo Pond. Glass jaws and lightweights need not apply." - Justin Spicer
- Edward Ka-Spel, "Dream Loops"
- OOIOO, "Arminico Hewa"
- Atlas Sound, "Logos"
- Bill Orcutt, "A New Way to Pay Old Debts"
"Harry Pussy guitarist reemerges for an album of acoustic guitar improvisations that rip. Beyond technique, these numbers soar whether aided by Orcutt's grumbles or not. Total immersion into an internal logic that's way more exciting than most insides ever get ya. Criminal that it's not higher on the list, one of the best things put out this year." - Henry Smith
- Cave, "Psychic Psummer"
"A groover of a disc whose momentum and sound slide right off the palette and on to the wall." - Henry Smith
- Do Make Say Think, "Other Truths"
- Flower-Corsano Duo, "The Four Aims"
"Both are masters of their respective instrument and the fury with which they play surpasses the sounds of power to hit the heart of talent." - Justin Spicer
"Sublime. Nothing else, just sublime" - John Kealy
"Everyone knows these dudes can play, and play they do, only with a resiliency usually afforded only to jazz players." - Henry Smith
- Gregg Kowalsky, "Tape Chants"
"Neat premise, but a cool process does not always yield a compelling album. Almost never, actually." - Anthony D'Amico
- Isis, "Wavering Radiant"
- Locrian, "Drenched Lands"
"This synth and guitar band definitely leans more on the experimental than the metal side of things, channeling electronic textures and post-rock elements along with the pained vocals and heavy guitar sludge. While this album has the added bonus of a 30 minute live track, their more recent works show an even more diverse approach to their sound." - Creaig Dunton
"Dark deep doom drone whose textural sensitivity speaks to a healthy alternative from the more demonically minded." - Henry Smith
- Nadja, "Under the Jaguar Sun"
- Broadcast & The Focus Group, "...Investigate with Cults of the Radio Age"
"This one took a while to grow on me, but that's because its "experimental" in the the risk taking sense of the term. This EP expands their repertoire of sounds and structures while still preserving the great pop-songwriting of the band." - Matt Spencer
- This Immortal Coil, "Tattooed Man/Chaostrophy"
- Emeralds, "Fresh Air"
"If I say anything else about how great Emeralds are I figure everyone is going to think they're paying me. And yes, this is another firm favorite from 2009." - John Kealy
- Jesu, "Opiate Sun"
"It's probably the most unadulterated "rock" release Justin Broadrick has ever done, but the guitar soloing and harmonized vocals give it an earworm quality that kept it in my CD player for a while." - Creaig Dunton
- A Place To Bury Strangers, "Keep Slipping Away"
- Deerhunter, "Rainwater Cassette Exchange"
- Burial + Four Tet, "Moth/Wolf Club"
"These guys compliment each other perfectly. Moth/Wolf Club is superb and leaves me wanting more from these two. It's far too good to have been so limited." - Lucas Schleicher
- Broadcast, "Mother is the Milky Way"
- Wolves in the Throne Room, "Malevolent Grain"
""A Looming Resonance" is one of the most perfectly devastating balances of beauty and violence that I have yet heard. " - Anthony D'Amico
- Bohren & Der Club of Gore, "Mitleid Lady"
"Ridiculously brief but indescribably beautiful, Bohren continue to captivate me." - John Kealy
- Fennesz and Sparklehorse, "In the Fishtank 15"
- Antony & the Johnsons, "Aeon"
- Philip Jeck, "Spool"
- King Midas Sound, "Dub Heavy - Hearts & Ghosts"
- Boduf Songs, "On The Brink Wall Of All We Hate"
- A Place To Bury Strangers, "In Your Heart"
"The dance remix was not this band's best idea." - Michael Barrett
- Benoit Pioulard, "Flocks"
- Kode9, "Black Sun"
- Boredoms, "Super Roots 10"
"This EP is not a refinement of their sound, but a clue that the band is in a creative holding pattern. They could have made this record ten years ago." - Matt Spencer
- Mika Vanio, "Vandal"
- Monolake, "Atlas"
- Nadja, "Clinging to the Edge of the Sky"
"Channelling the essence of Bohren & Der Club of Gore, this EP was such a shock for me. I like Nadja but I never expected something so wonderful and unreal from them." - John Kealy
- Washed Out, "Life Of Liesure"
- Deathspell Omega, "Veritas Diaboli Manet In Aeternum: Chaining The Kacheton"
- Greymachine, "Vultures Descend"
"I pre-ordered the full-length and got this on cassingle. CASSINGLE!" - Gary Suarez
"A great hybrid of classic Godflesh and Techno Animal, it's like the dissonance and anger that Godflesh had (and that Jesu doesn't) is distilled and compressed into pure industrial chaos." - Creaig Dunton
- Nick Cave, "Your Funeral...My Trial"
"After years of being so poorly mastered on CD, it is great to finally hear this album in all its glory." - John Kealy
- Nurse With Wound, "Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella"
"This came in the nick of time as my disc rot ridden CD copy appears to be on its way out." - John Kealy
"It's about damn time." - Anthony D'Amico
"Again, really? Nice job on the cover art, though" - Michael Barrett
- Six Organs of Admittance, "RTZ"
"Comparing this to this year's new Six Organs album, it is amazing to hear both how far Chasny's come with his music but also how so many elements and themes have been there from the start." - John Kealy
"I think I liked this more than the new Six Organs album. I love it when Chasny goes out as far as he can go. Seek out a copy of the triple-LP. The music is gorgeous and worth taking with you everywhere you go, but the artwork for this thing is crazy and looks best on a nice big fold-out record sleeve." - Lucas Schleicher
- Loop, "A Gilded Eternity"
"It's great to hear their most fully realized and polished album receive new life, and the addition of demo tracks and one of my all time favorite Peel Sessions on the bonus disc make this a winner." - Creaig Dunton
- Einstürzende Neubauten, "Ende Neu"
"Personally, I have always found Ende Neu to be a weaker than usual album for Neubauten. This is probably due to the difficult recording (the band nearly completely disintegrating during the sessions) but strangely, it contains some of the best songs of their career on it. Re-evaluating it now, my problem is how the album is put together rather than the music itself as each song on its own is practically perfect." - John Kealy
- Cluster & Eno, "Cluster & Eno"
"The classic gets reprinted and proves to be, well, classic." - Henry Smith
"While Cluster without Eno would always be my preference, this album shows a pivotal moment in rock when Eno met the krautrockers and everything changed for him afterwards." - John Kealy
- Nirvana, "Bleach"
"When Nevermind hit in 1992, I was 13 and always preferred Bleach and Incesticide. Seventeen years later I feel the same way. Considering how murky the sound was intended to be, the polishing of this sonic turd was very well done, and the bonus live material is great." - Creaig Dunton
"It's like 9th grade all over again, but with out the misery of High School. Good job, Subpop." - Michael Barrett
"Nirvana's popularity should not obscure their achievements. The notion that a couple of burnouts from a depressed logging town could change popular music is invigorating and essential." - Matt Spencer
"This album changed by life back in the early 1990s. Jack Endino and Krist Novoselic have done a fine job with the remaster, and the inclusion of an unreleased live concert was a nice touch. I'm a little miffed that the studio version of "Spank Thru" wasn't included, but I can overlook that, I suppose. On a related note, I'm amazed that Sub Pop's reissues of the first two Sunny Day Real Estate albums didn't make the cut." - Gary Suarez
- Current 93, "Live at Bar Maldoror"
"This older Current 93 material never really did anything for me but Andrew Liles' remix is worth the price alone." - John Kealy
- The Monks, "Black Monk Time"
"This record is snotty and intense enough to put any contemporary rocker to shame." - Matt Spencer
"Garage never got better. And yeah, I know it's the one on Nuggets, but "Complication" still rules harder than anything on here." - Henry Smith
- Current 93, "In Menstrual Night"
"See Live at Bar Maldoror." - John Kealy
- Jim O'Rourke, "I'm Happy, and I'm Singing, and a 1,2,3,4"
"This deserves to be put up there with Endless Summer and Music has a Right to Children as one of the most innovative electronic albums of the last twenty years" - Matt Spencer
"Few artists are as adept at both somber beauty and chaotic mischief as Jim O'Rourke. This is an essential album, but I could've done without the bonus tracks." - Anthony D'Amico
- Lydia Lunch, "Queen of Siam"
"This sounds like a cabaret of the damned." - Anthony D'Amico
- Current 93, "Dawn"
"This is the only early Current 93 album that really works for me but again it is eclipsed by Andrew Liles' stunning remix." - John Kealy
- Godflesh, "Pure/Cold World/Slavestate"
"Budget boxed set without remastering. Earache is just half trying. But if you missed out on Godflesh before, you can catch up now. Abso-fucking-lutely essential." - Michael Barrett
"Ok, this stinks of Earache cashing in, but the material reissued is so great I can't really complain. Pure was always a bit too metal for me, but the dour Cold World is a great foreshadowing of Jesu, and the mechanized death of Slavestate still warms my heart." - Creaig Dunton
"Why did this rank? It's another shoddy Earache Records repackaging of shit that wasn't out-of-print to begin with. Justin Broadrick is apparently eager to do some deluxe remastered reissues, but the label seems content bilking fans rather than putting together something of real value." - Gary Suarez
- Harmonia '76, "Tracks and Traces"
"I wonder if this was the birth of post-rock." - Duncan Edwards
- Loop, "The World In Your Eyes"
- Tony Wakeford/Steven Stapleton, "Revenge of the Selfish Shellfish"
"Perfect reissue. Gorgeous packaging, great album and fantastic additional material." - John Kealy
- Cold Cave, "Cremations"
"While about half of this feels like demos that may have been best served staying unheard, the other half is really good pop influenced synth experiments. I didn't think they were going to go as pop as they did on Love Comes Close, but the tracks leading up to it are anything but." - Creaig Dunton
"I think I prefer Cold Cave's early menacing nihilism to their current sound, but Love Comes Close has much better songs." - Anthony D'Amico
- Eno Moebious Roedelius, "After the Heat"
"A poor man's Cluster." - John Kealy
- Eliane Radigue, "Triptych"
- Foetus, "Limb"
"A surprisingly varied compilation of early works by J.G. Thirlwell, I could not believe how much of this sounded like what he is doing now with Manorexia and on The Venture Brothers. If ever I needed more proof as to how awesome he is, I've got it." - John Kealy
"I strongly feel that this deserves a much higher place on the list. J.G. Thirlwell released two very solid records in 2009, and this one came with both great music and a great video documentary. Anyone that cares about Foetus, or even Nurse with Wound, Coil, Swans, or Einstürzende Neubauten would do well to re-visit this. Thirlwell isn't just a genius, he has to be one of the hardest working guys in the business. That fact shines through on this compilation. Limb also shows just how forward thinking Thirlwell has always been." - Lucas Schleicher
- Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, "White Lunar"
- Gavin Bryars Ensemble, "The Sinking of the Titanic"
"No review can do justice to this testament to the persistence of humanity. Magnificent." - Duncan Edwards
"Tears well up in my eyes just thinking of this piece and this recording is no exception." - John Kealy
"I am curious about how many versions of this piece I will accumulate over the course of my life." - Anthony D'Amico
- Arthur Russell, "Love Is Overtaking Me"
- Death, "...For the Whole World to See"
"ROCK! Putting on the Death record made me feel like an 11-year old kid that had just discovered punk and hard rock again." - Lucas Schleicher
- Antony & the Johnsons, "Epilepsy is Dancing"
"When pagan rituals, nudity, and animated butterflies collide, everyone wins." - Anthony D'Amico
"It's amazing to have Johanna Constantine back with Antony & the Johnsons both for this amazing video and the tour dates she was on. I do get nostalgic when thinking about the awesome shows with Dr. Yasuda opening in morse code and the big ensemble of the Johnsons." - Jon Whitney
- To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie, "The Needle"
"Creepy and wonderful. I wish more bands would embrace German Expressionist Horror." - Anthony D'Amico
"I didn't fully appreciate this until I saw it projected onto a huge screen with a sound-system that did the song justice (i.e., it was really loud). TKAPB are another band that mesh naturally with the video medium; their music begs for a visual accompaniment." - Lucas Schleicher
- Fever Ray, "When I Grow Up"
"Definitely the most compellingly bizarre video ever made with just a camera and a suburban pool." - Anthony D'Amico
- Depeche Mode, "Wrong"
"You don't have to be an obsessive Depeche Mode fan (yes, that's oxymoronic) to appreciate this chilling video for the single off Sounds of the Universe. A man, bound and gagged, is trapped behind the wheel of a moving vehicle desperate to extricate himself from the situation without dying. Given the typically bleak nature of Martin Gore's lyrics and Dave Gahan's drug-addled past, the metaphor fits." - Gary Suarez
"A brilliant nightmare in 3 minutes." - Jon Whitney
- Sonic Youth, "Sacred Trickster"
- Boduf Songs, "Quiet When Group"
- Tortoise, "Prepare Your Coffin"
- Kid 606, "Mr. Wobbles Nightmare"
- A Place To Bury Strangers, "In Your Heart"
- Marissa Nadler, "River of Dirt"
- Black Dice, "Glazin"
- Ulterior, "15"
"Appropriately stark and jittery." - Anthony D'Amico
- The New Year, "Seven Days"
- Mission of Burma, "1,2,3, Partyy!"
- El Perro Del Mar, "Change Of Heart"
"This video is so weird and entrancing that it is easy to forget that there is even a song playing." - Anthony D'Amico
"I'm in awe of the subjects strength and stamina. It's one of those things you can't take your eyes off." - Jon Whitney
Various Artist Compilation:
- Five Years of Hyperdub
- Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro Sounds, Ghanaian Blues 1968-1981
- Shadow Music of Thailand
"Some of the most strange and improbable surf music ever." - Anthony D'Amico
"Makes the best case for cultural globalization that I have ever heard. These bands make music that is often more groovy than any occidental surf music." - Matt Spencer
- 1970s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground
"I was totally caught off guard by how raucous this album was." - Anthony D'Amico
"The music pales compared to the cover art." - Duncan Edwards
"Blistering and beautiful, I wish I had a time machine to sample this music as it happened." - John Kealy
- Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Ghanian Blues 1968-81
"Swell collection of jams that'll have you bounding around the room. A vast collection that gets to the heart of the matter with this material." - Henry Smith
"This is one of the best things that Soundway has ever put out." - Anthony D'Amico
- Ød Lot
- Panama! 2: Latin Sounds, Cumbia Tropical & Calypso Funk on the Isthmus 1967-77
"Alternately sexy, fun, and ridiculous and never very far from my stereo." - Anthony D'Amico
- Can You Dig It? Music and Politics of Black Action Films: 1968-1975
"Souljazz is damn near infallible when it comes to compilations. I wish I lived in England." - Anthony D'Amico
- Forge Your Own Chains: Heavy Psychedelic Ballads And Dirges 1968-1974
- Siamese Soul: Thai Pop Spectacular 1960s-1980s Vol. 2
"Contains the funk canon's most definitive works on the subjects of frogs and breast milk." - Anthony D'Amico
- An Anthology of Chinese Experimental Music: 1992 - 2008
"I'm glad Sub Rosa saw fit to compile this set of noise and experimental material from an isolated population, which displays nothing if not that making noise is fun, regardless of where you're from." - Creaig Dunton
"Astounding in its breadth and quality, this has been a very welcome release for anyone trying to find out more about China's new music." - John Kealy
- Legends of Benin
"This isn't quite as strong as some of the other Analog Africa compilations, but Gnossas Pedro's "La Musica en Verite" should not be missed." - Anthony D'Amico
- Open Strings: 1920s Middle Eastern Recordings - New Responses
"An album to unravel over several years. Worth it for the Six Organs track alone." - Duncan Edwards
"I did not like the "New Responses" disc at all. Bad, bad idea." - Anthony D'Amico
- Strings Of Pearls: International 78s
- The World is Shaking: Cubanismo from the Congo, 1954-1955
"Raw, sultry, and damn good." - Anthony D'Amico
- Tumbele: Biguine, Afro & Latin Sounds from the French Caribbean, 1963-1974
- Loving Takes This Course: A Tribute to the Songs of Kath Bloom
"I think I probably could've done without the cover album, but this definitely got me into Kath Bloom in a major way." - Anthony D'Amico
- Marvellous Boy: Calypso From West Africa
"After being consigned to the ghetto of "old man" music, Calypso seems to be gaining more credibility. This comp demonstrates how essential the style is to 20th century pop and folk styles." - Matt Spencer
"Sheer, unbridled joy." - Duncan Edwards
- Plantation Gold: The Mad Genius Of Shelby S. Singleton and Plantation/SSS Records 1967-1976
- Scott Walker: 30 Century Man
- Kraftwerk, "The Catalogue"
"Each year around this time I like to treat myself to a box set of an artist that I've only had a passing experience with, and this year it was Kraftwerk. Shamefully having heard very little of their work prior, I must say that I definitely missed out. Not only is the sound as amazing as one would hope, it's so beautifully packaged it can't help but be loved." - Creaig Dunton
"Now that it's finally out I can't afford it. Thanks Kraftwerk." - John Kealy
"I'm really disappointed with this. The updated mastering sucks the soul and humor right out of these songs." - Matt Spencer
"Sure, the packaging is pretty, the music can't be disputed, and the remasters are okay but what really needs remastering attention is the material before Autobahn as well as a decent collection of non-LP singles/mixes and a DVD of all the music videos over the years. The albums in this set have been reissued and reissued and reissued so many times now." - Jon Whitney
- Pere Ubu, "Datapanik in the Year Zero"
"Makes the case that the leading edge of the punk avant-garde was in Cleveland, not London or New York." - Matt Spencer
"Missing the live CD from its original release but at such a low budget price, this is a lot of bang for your buck." - John Kealy
- Nurse With Wound, "Flawed Existence"
"The motherload of NWW goodies presented in the fanciest way possible. This made my year." - John Kealy
- Luc Ferrari, "L'Oeuvre Électronique"
"I could not believe my eyes and I didn't trust my French when I first read about this box on a French website but once I had it in my hands I realised it wasn't a dream. 10 CDs of undiluted genius gave me weeks of entertainment and awe. Unfortunately distribution on this box appears to be poor so hopefully in 2010 this might make its way out into more stereos across the world as Luc Ferrari is an artist unparalleled in 20th century music." - John Kealy
- Big Star, "Keep An Eye On The Sky"
- 13th Floor Elevators, "Sign of the 3 Eyed Men"
- Eluvium, "Life Through Bombardment"
- Bobby Beausoleil, "The Lucifer Rising Suite"
- Incapacitants, "Box Is Stupid"
"Intense and overwhelming." - Michael Barrett
"It's 10 hours of the best noise band out of Japan (and possibly in the world). What's not to love?" - Creaig Dunton
"Box is deafening." - John Kealy
- Merzbow, "13 Japanese Birds"
"Boxed sets are Masami's new format of choice. Pretty well-rounded series." - Michael Barrett
Artist of the year:
- Nurse With Wound
- Current 93
- Six Organs of Admittance
- Sunn O)))
- Fever Ray
- Antony & the Johnsons
- A Place To Bury Strangers
- Aidan Baker
- Jim O'Rourke
Label of the year:
- Drag City
"Drag City often releases albums that I actively dislike, but they always do it for the right reasons." - Anthony D'Amico
- Southern Lord
- Bureau B
"Bureau B seems to be single-handedly keeping the krautrock canon in print these days, but they released a lot of other great and eclectic lost albums this year too. I fear they may be way cooler and well-informed than I am." - Anthony D'Amico
- Beta-lactam Ring
"Whenever I listen to a BLR podcast, I am always floored by at least one album." - Anthony D'Amico
- Secretly Canadian
"Yeah, fine. But then why isn't the new Magnolia Electric Co. record on the "best of" list?!" - Lucas Schleicher
"Between Richard Skelton and Black to Comm, I have become a serious Type enthusiast in 2009." - Anthony D'Amico
New artist of the year:
"My favorite artist of the year. Everything Zola Jesus has produced has surpassed her previous release. Comparisons to Diamanda, Siouxie and Kate Bush are not unfounded. I expect really big things to come from this midwestern banshee." - Michael Barrett
Lifetime Achievement Recognition:
"Throbbing Gristle have never seemed so important or relevent to me as they do now. I wasn't even born by the time they terminated the mission originally but today, in a political, economic and environmentally turbulant time they have proven to be not only relevant but inspiring. Driving through desolate areas where shops have closed down and the queues to collect jobseeker's allowance grow longer and longer, the ghostly pulse of their music haunts me more than ever." - John Kealy
"The reunion concerts were criminally underwhelming and The Third Mind Movements did even less for me than P-Orridge's horrendous last two Psychic TV albums. At least I got my vinyl copy of Heathen Earth signed by all four members at their Brooklyn Masonic Temple gig." - Gary Suarez
"I never listened to Throbbing Gristle a ton. The first time I heard them, I was sure that I hated them. Actually, I couldn't imagine anyone liking them at all. Over time I became familiar with them and somehow they seeped into my veins. I still don't listen to them on a regular basis and I still can't say that I love them, but I don't think I can imagine music without them. It was because of some Throbbing Gristle tapes I was given when I was pretty young that I came to listen to so much weird music. They pushed me over the edge and compelled me to seek out more strange music. If there were a group of people capable of making and listening to music like Throbbing Gristle, then what else could be waiting for me? They certainly made all the popular so-called "industrial" bands look weak and silly by comparison. Throbbing Gristle were exciting, even as I disliked them. Turns out that they influenced so many of the bands I do enjoy and listen to on a regular basis. Go figure." - Lucas Schleicher
"Gen has lost it. That is obvious. The fact the the rest of the band can come out and still slay like they did in the '70s, even better with updated technology, is a testiment to true artistic validity and genius. Just make your releases more democratically available and affordable, OK?" - Michael Barrett
"I saw Gristle perform two sets this year: one that was completely mesmerizing and another that was an embarrassing fiasco. That is exactly how it should be. It's like they never left." - Anthony D'Amico
- KMFDM, "Blitz"
"I haven't heard any KMFDM since Adios. Sounds like I haven't missed anything." - Creaig Dunton
"The fact that people still get excited about this band makes me very perturbed." - Michael Barrett
"Few bands have aged less gracefully than KMFDM." - Anthony D'Amico
"Brainwashed readers are a buncha haters. I bet most people who panned this record haven't even listened to it. (I probably wouldn't like it either but that doesn't mean I vote against it!)" - Jon Whitney
- Grizzly Bear, "Veckatimest"
- Genocide Organ, "Live in Japan"
- Job For A Cowboy, "Ruination"
- The Horrors, "Primary Colours"
"Full disclosure: I fucking loved The Horrors' first album Strange House for its devotional update on sleazy garage rock. But this new one? God awful. Lux Interior is rolling in his grave." - Gary Suarez
- Dying Fetus, "Descend Into Depravity"
- Boys Noize, "Power"
- Boy In Static, "Candy Cigarette"
"Oh come on, people. This wasn't SO bad. OK maybe it was..." - Gary Suarez
- Animal Collective, "Merriweather Post Pavilion"
"This album can only be bad in the sense that the group sets bad trends rather than follows them. They may be to blame for a lot of the hippy-dippy music put out in the last few years, but they're still the best in the game. Breaking into the pop charts with something so willfully unusual should be lauded, not dismissed." - Matt Spencer
"It's one thing to convince some people that you aren't naked. It's quite another thing to spend time ripping up rather average clothes and reassembling them into something much duller than the original, and then parade around in the fucking mess. The worst record Animal Collective have yet made." - Duncan Edwards
"I'm not sure Animal Collective quite deserve to be "worst album" candidates, but I'd certainly be happy if I never, ever heard their name mentioned ever again. " - Anthony D'Amico
"I think it's probably better on drugs? Maybe?" - Lucas Schleicher
- Bellini, "The Precious Prize of Gravity"
"All I remember about this album is that I put it on for a couple minutes, shrugged, and turned it off." - Anthony D'Amico