Matt Nerney Poop 09

Another year, another list, eh? Well, I have to say that on the verge of my 40th year, I may have finally reached the age of the curmudgeon. I don’t know if I’ve just lost my taste for new music, or if, as I suspect is true, new music really is just getting worse. Of course, there will always be good new music out there; it just seems it’s getting harder and harder to find. As the year wore on, I found less new music that interested me, and so I retreated back into a long forgotten love … reggae and dub. Since I really haven’t purchased that much reggae in the past few years, there was a treasure chest full of stellar titles for me to obsess over this year. Oh yeah, I also got the Beatles Stereo Box for Christmas, so the family and I have been listening to that quite a lot in the past month. Those classic and timeless recordings may also factor into my less than enthusiastic response to music in 2009. Bah Humbug!

Tops of the Pops

John Vanderslice   Buy New or Used through amazon   OR   @ eMsuic
1. John Vanderslice – Romanian Names :
Another interesting album by one of my favorite contemporary musicians. Intelligent songs, catchy hooks, and engaging production-work result in yet another indy-pop gem from JV. Artist of the decade?

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix   Buy New or Used through amazon   OR   @ eMusic
2. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix:
Reminds me of growing up in the 1980’s … remember new wave? Just really good, up-tempo pop songs.

Ida Maria - Fortress Around My Heart   Buy New or Used through amazon
3. Ida Maria – Fortress Around My Heart:
Mostly rehashed power-pop and punk tunes with a slightly modern sheen, but very catchy and her vocal-shredding antics on “Oh My God” just dug right in under my skin. Brass in pocket?

Le Loop - Family   Buy New or Used through amazon
4. Le Loop – Family:
More sunny pop music, but a little mellow and strummy. Inevitable comparisons to Animal Collective (ca. Sung Tongs) seem lazy but are generally accurate, with a smidge of English folk thrown in for good measure.

Alasdair Roberts - Spoils
Alasdair Roberts - Wyrd Meme EP
  Buy New or Used through amazon
  Buy New or Used through amazon

5. Alasdair Roberts – Spoils/Wyrd Meme EP:
Another guy having a great decade. Eccentric, acoustic Scottish folk with out-there lyrics and arrangements. Very interesting stuff. Warning: retrieve old college English lit. text books for references.

AC Newman - Get Guilty   Buy New or Used through amazon
6. AC Newman – Get Guilty:
Not quite up to the standard of the Slow Wonder or Challengers, but still quite good, really. The lyrics and arrangements are a bit fussy, but the hooks are still as sticky as molasses.

Dark Captain Light Captain - Miracle Kicker  Buy New or Used through amazon   OR   @ eMusic
7. Dark Captain Light Captain – Miracle Kicker:
Modern English folk-pop. Very clean production, intricate acoustic guitars, and hypnotic rhythms propel these songs forward with purpose and determination.

Fredrik - Na Na Ni   Buy New or Used through amazon
8. Fredrik – Na Na Ni:
A quirky little home-made folk-pop album by a couple of ambient/electro-pop musicians (the LK) from Sweden. Warm and fuzzy and strange.

GRIZZLY BEAR   Buy New or Used through amazon  OR   @ eMusic
9. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest:
It took a little while to get into this album but its slow charms eventually stuck. Dense and plodding, yet somehow atmospheric. Patience is definitely rewarded with this album.

THE FLAMING LIPS : Embryonic   Buy New or Used through amazon  OR   @ eMusic
10. the Flaming Lips – Embryonic:
I’m always glad when a new Flaming Lips album comes out, and more so when Wayne and the boys mix things up like they do on Embryonic. Dark, dense, and dirty, just like the old ways.

11. Blitzen Trapper – Black River Killer EP:
Outtakes from Furr make for an interesting little EP. If you’re a hardcore fan, check out all their sessions at, also.

12. the Acorn – Heron Act:
A collection of demos and live performances from the Glory Hope Mountain sessions/tour. Good alternate versions, but I still can’t say enough good things about the album proper (see POOP 2008).

13. Volcano Choir – Unmap / Bon Iver – Blood Bank EP:
Both releases expand the sonic landscape for Justin Vernon, but retain enough of the moody folk sounds for fans to be satisfied.

14. Great Lake Swimmers – Lost Channels:
Recommended if you like Harvest/Comes a Time style Neil Young. High, lonesome folk from Canada.

15. Polvo – In Prism:
One of my favorite indy bands of the 90’s come back with a solid, well-produced album that holds up to their blazing early work.

16. Twilight Sad – Forget the Night Ahead:
More psychological isolation than on Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, with a pronounced industrial sound that heightens the lyrical themes. Not for the weak of heart.

17. Reigning Sound – Love and Curses:
More garage/soul nuggets from Memphis rockers.

18. Levon Helm – Electric Dirt:
A bit more rambunctious this time around from the rejuvenated Band man. Here’s to your health, Levon.

19. Taken By Trees – East of Eden:
A few interesting moments, but the former Concretes vocalist sounds far too sugary for this type of minor-key musical backdrop. Disappointing.

20. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion:
Again, a few engaging bits, but this is starting to sound more like house music than alternative. Also, the hype machine really started to grate the nerves.

Reggae Revival

Pressure Sounds:
Still putting out the good stuff, like Joe Higgs – Life of Contradiction, Keith Hudson – Nuh Skin Up, King Tubby – Sound System International, Delroy Wilson – Dub Plate Style, Bim Sherman – Tribulation, Jimmy Radway – Dub I, V/A – Every Mouth Must Be Fed, V/A – More Pressure: Straight to the Head, V/A – Once Upon a Time at King Tubbys, as well as a slew of others. This label really can do no wrong!

Blood & Fire:
Sadly, no longer releasing new titles, but put out some great titles before the end like Yabby You (RIP) – Dub It to the Top, Yabby You – Deliver Me from My Enemies, and General Echo – Teacher Fi De Class (Equalizer imprint). Numerous titles are still available, but who knows for how long?

One of the great early US labels to champion Jamaican music, their association with the mighty Studio One is still going strong. Recently remastered and expanded editions of the Heptones – Sweet Talking, Johnny Osbourne – Truth and Rights, Delroy Wilson – Original 18, Lone Ranger – On the Other Side of Dub, Freddie McGregor – Bobby Bobylon, and the Gladiators – Studio One Singles, and many more have kept this label a vital source for essential reggae.

Soul Jazz:
Another crucial partner with Studio One, this UK based label has a deep, deep catalog of compilations that highlight the brilliance of CS Dodd and his stable of hit-makers from Brentford Road.

What to say? One of the originators, they have weathered hard times and recently been revived by their partnership with the Sanctuary group. Still cranking out great compilations like Big Youth – Ride Like Lightning, Keith Hudson – the Hudson Affair, and the Heptones – Peace and Harmony. Along with their massive back catalog, they also issued an extensive run of limited edition box sets at cut cost that is a boon for any reggae fan (highlights include the rocksteady box, the 12” mix box, and the dub rarities box).

VP/Greensleeves/17 North Parade:
Another group of labels that has a catalog that just won’t stop. The 17 North Parade imprint releases heavy sets of crucial roots and early dancehall that will enhance any reggae collection. Culture & the Dee Jays @ Joe Gibbs, Niney the Observer – Roots with Quality, Joe Gibbs – Scorchers from the Early Years, Joe Gibbs – Scorchers from the Mighty Two, Dennis Brown – A Little Bit More, Rod Taylor – Where is Your Love Mankind, Toyan – How the West was Won, Toyan – Spar with Me, the Most Wanted series, and too many others to mention. Keep an eye out for a “Junjo” Lawes collection in February.

Criminally under-rated producer finally gets his due with the help of a German-based ambient/industrial label. Titles by Horace Andy, Wayne Jarret, & Bullwackies All-Stars highlight the bubbling, broiling dub stew that Lloyd “Bullwackie” Barnes created in his Bronx reggae stronghold.

Light in the Attic:
Seattle-based label that has released a handful of totally obscure reggae titles from the Toronto-based Summer Records. Noel Ellis – S/T, Earth, Roots, & Water – Innocent Youths, and the Summer Records Anthology all delve into a little known north-of-the-border sound that draws inspiration from the likes of Keith Hudson and the mighty Upsetter himself, Lee “Scratch” Perry (who, of course, still has numerous titles being released, like Ape-ology, Dub-Triptych, Cutting Razor, Born in the Sky, and the totally essential I am the Upsetter box set).

Well, here’s looking forward to some good new music this year!