Top 10 albums of 2009 - Alexander Varty
This year’s list is split between records that address the Big Issues of our times, albeit obliquely, and others that are dreamy or exotic enough to make the world’s troubles seem very far away. In alphabetical order, as always:
Jon Balke/Amina Alaoui
A timely and successful attempt to find common cause between Europe and the Arab world, Siwan features Norwegian keyboardist Jon Balke setting Moroccan singer Amina Alaoui’s gorgeous voice to music that also connects the baroque era to the contemporary avant-garde.
Jon Balke and Amina Alaoui's "A La Dina Dana".
All My Friends Are Funeral Singers
Singer-guitarist Tim Rutili and bandmates assemble a soundtrack to the film of the same name, but one that stands on its own as an object lesson in how to wake up blues-based songs through sonic experimentation.
Califone's "Funeral Singers".
At the Cut
Possibly a career best for this wickedly imaginative lyricist—and certainly the source of the year’s most moving song, the tender, sorrowful, and yet weirdly optimistic “Flirted With You All My Life”. Death has never sounded so good.
Vic Chesnutt's "Flirted With You All My Life".
The Hazards of Love
Slightly less wonderful than 2006’s The Crane Wife but still a magnificent undertaking, The Hazards of Love is a Child Ballad–influenced song cycle that harks back to the glory days of Fairport Convention and Led Zeppelin.
The Decemberists' "The Hazards of Love 1".
The most radical trumpeter going makes a relatively accessible recording—if you’re up for an hour of chilly, abstract soundscapes and deep, doomy pulsations. Works for me!
Arve Henriksen's "Sorrow and its Opposite".