We’ve sorted through some 2000 CDs and downloads that came into Echoes in the last year and we’ve picked our favorite CDs for 2009. You can vote for your’s in the Best of Echoes 2009 Poll. Deadline is 9AM, December 11.
Overall, the mood of 2009 on Echoes was atmospheric and electronic. In fact, 22 of our 25 selections had some kind of electronic grounding. Matthew Schoening plays cello but uses loops, violinist Anna Schaad uses electronica backings. Even The Beyman Bros‘ Memories of Summer as a Child, based in folk stylings and instruments, was framed with an electronic sheen.
Only three albums bucked the trend, relying on purely acoustic or simply amplified instruments for their sound: Ablaye Cissoko & Volker Goetze’s serenely beautiful album of trumpet, kora and vocal duets, Sira; Bill Frisell’s chamber Americana on Disfarmer; and Leo Abrahams’ multi-layered acoustic instruments on The Grape and the Grain which I called “a walk through classically arranged forests, Americana-dusted plains and English folk-fed streams.”
But music triggered by electronica designs dominated our list, starting with our number one selection, Moby’s Wait for Me, a CD of the Month in July. Ironically, it’s his most rustic and rootsy album to date. It was also his most personal and soul searching with heartbreaking melodies and singers who sounded both lost and full of wisdom beyond their years. Moby is one of the few musicians who can reference old gospel and blues on “Pale Horses” as well as German electro-rocker Michael Rother and Neu on “Scream Pilots.”
Just as heartbreaking as Moby’s album was Western Sci-Fi by Loner. I think Loner A.K.A. Geoff Smith’s album title and performance name are a little unfortunate, but this was one of my most played CDs of the year. It’s an album for being in and out of love, the electronica child of Nick Drake.
Other highlights for me include Jon Hassell’s deeply ambient and intricate Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street, certainly the longest title of the year. His live set at World Cafe Live was one of the highlights of 2009. Solar Fields, A.K.A. Magnus Birgesson from Sweden dropped his best album yet with the darkly textured electronics of Movements and Jeff Johnson, a longtime Echoes favorite, may have made his most perfect album, teaming up with Phil Keaggy on the interior cinema of Frio Suite, an album that charts inner landscapes even more than the natural landscapes of its title inspiration. That was a CD of the Month selection for October.
There are several new comers to the Essential Echoes list. Aerosol, from Denmark takes a shoegaze approach to electronica on one of the surprise albums of 2009, Airborne. The Mandrake Project’s A Miraculous Container was one of the most invigorating discs of the year, full of intricate compositions, detailed atmospheres and lyrical playing that nod to progressive rock, minimalism and electronica. Matthew Schoening rose above the crowd of looping cellists, again with lyrical compositions and violinist Anna Schaad was a real treat with Dream Within A Dream, a surprisingly sophisticated album of electronica, world music and violin. Rhian Sheehan’s Standing in Silence, a haunting album of music box melodies, Arvo Pärt moods and ambient electronics was a delightful gift from New Zealand.Surprisingly, all of those artists had previous recordings out, some going back nearly a decade, yet they only came across the Echoes transom this year.
I could comment on all 25 CDs, but I already have written about most of them in the Echoes Blog. There’s not a CD on here that didn’t make a significant impression and illustrate serious artistic intent. This is a combined list from the Echoes creative staff of Jeff Towne, Kimberly Haas and myself. We generally reached consensus, although I will say that Bluetech’s follow-up to Sines and Singularities, The Divine Invasion, would’ve been high on my list with its electronically pivoting melodies that spin in and around your head across elliptical chromium grooves.
Go see the complete list of 25 Essential Echoes CDs for 2009.
Then go vote in the Echoes 2009 Poll. Pick your 3 favorite CDs of the year and you’ll hear them in 25 Top Echoes CDs for 2009 on Monday, December 14. You can also win a 16gig iPod Nano, the Top 5 CDs or a copy of Still: Echoes, the Echoes Living Room Concerts Volume 15. That would’ve topped the essential list but we want to maintain our humility. So vote now. The poll closes Friday morning, December 11.
Just in case there is any confusion there are three Best Of lists on Echoes.
1-John Diliberto’s Top Ten Albums and Top Ten Songs for 2009 These are my personal favorite CDs, irrespective of genre or Echoes.
2-25 Essential Echoes CDs for 2009
These are the Echoes CDs picked by the Echoes staff of myself, Kimberly Haas and Jeff Towne