Friday, December 11, 2009

A Reading Of The Best & Worst According To Mark

As I put the final touches on one last disappointment and my favorite records of 2009, here is Mark Levine, lifelong record guy and one of the last great fans, back again to share his choices for best and worst records of 2009.

The Best

U2 – No Line on the Horizon – this is my favorite record of the year. Could be my favorite U2 album ever. So many incredible songs, so many different sounds; hooks everywhere. I love it. Bono and the Edge never sounded better. Some people have this on their worst of the year lists, I don’t get it.

The Next

Phish – Joy -- upbeat, bright classic rock sound. Trey’s voice and guitar playing sound amazing. Page shines throughout. An expression of their happiness to be back! Im with you Trey going backwards down the number line!

Avett Brothers – I And I Love You -- this is great stuff, totally rising above the rest of all the other alt-country-folk records. Great vocals, tons of different instruments in all the right places, and songs. I hear The Band, the Eagles, Jackson Browne.

Black Crowes – Before the Frost/Until the Freeze -- I hated the last Black Crowes record, but this one is great. The Stones-esque “Miss You” style “I Aint Hiding” is amazing.

Bob Dylan – Together Through Life -- It just sounds so good to hear Bob singing new songs, and there are some killer tracks here. Beyond Here Lies Nothing, My Wife’s Hometown, and If you Ever go to Houston all stand out. Also, his Christmas album is kind of entertaining.

Pearl Jam – Backspacer – I’m a fan of every Pearl Jam record, including the recent ones that others didn’t really like, but this one rocks.

Crown of Thorns – Faith -- ok, I have to disclose I’m friends with them, but that said, this is a great classic rock record, Jean Beauvoir’s voice never sounded better and the songs just rock. The title track “Faith” kills.

Cheap Trick – The Latest -- great new record, Robin Zander’s ageless voice, and the song Miss Tomorrow is incredible.

Crocodiles – Like Echo and the Bunnymen, done California style.

Kiss – Sonic Boom -- instead of missing Ace Frehley, I love Tommy Thayer’s guitar on this record starting with a killer lead on Modern Day Delilah and he even sings on this record. Ace’s record isn’t bad either, by the way.

Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown – I don’t need the “concept,” and its definitely over the top and bombastic in parts, but the songs are great.

Carbon/Silicon – The Last Post -- I love the Clash and Mick Jones, so ill probably like anything he does, but this update on the B.A.D. sounds is great, and, best of all, they are giving it away free on their website.

Dave Matthews Band – a tribute to LeRoi Moore is one of the best records they’ve done. A little darker and deeper than before, this is great.

Wilco – I haven’t liked a Wilco record in years, until now. Less dark than the past few, makes them sound brighter and more fun, and the George Harrison-esque “You Never Know” is outstanding

Mars Volta – Octahedron – I really liked their last record, this one is similar, and if you can get past the vocals, it really rocks!

Matthew Sweet/Susanna Hoffs – this time around, they do 70s covers, and some are just amazing. Big Star’s “back seat a car,” George Harrison’s “Beware of Darkness,” Little Feat’s “Willin’” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Second Hand News are all gems.

Taylor Swift – yes, it’s a great record. Really. Yes really. She writes, sings (well!) and the songs are real, upbeat and fun.

The newno2 – George Harrison’s son Dhani’s great new band, and he eerily sounds like George on this record, in a great way.

Edward Sharpe – very cool unique sounding cultish/collective style music, with really heartfelt his and her vocals throughout. Check out “Home.”

These Arms are Snakes – power punk pop rock, with great songs and hooks. Its infectious, and you get hooked right in.

Willie and the Wheel – Willie sounds amazing fronting this country swing band.

Ben Nichols and Lucero – for some reason, every other alt-country band gets tons of hype except Lucero. Both the Lucero record and the Ben Nichols record are different and great. Reminds me of the Replacements, but a little more countrified.

Yet Another Great Record From…

Elvis Costello, Brendan Benson, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Stereophonics, Sonic Youth, Cracker and Bob Mould. All of these artists consistently put out great records, in many cases as good as anything they’ve ever done, and it’s almost taken for granted. These are all solid from beginning to end.

Girls Rock!

Great rocking records by Ida Maria, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Pretenders, real country rock from three Nashville girls, Those Darlins, an infectious 60s-ish pop-vibe that you just cant-not-like from the Noisettes, a purely fun record from Lady Gaga, great folk from Sharon Van Etten, and amazing new records from both Regina Spektor and Norah Jones. Seriously. And the Fever Ray is pretty cool too. A Fine Frenzy is pretty great too. Oh, and the Miley Cyrus single, “Party in the USA” is the funnest song of the year.

Not all Indie Music Sucks

Its true. The Dirty Projectors record IS really good, as are new records from Portugal. The Man, Motel Motel, Jay Reatard, Owl City, Julian Plenti, Conor Oberst, Fiery Furnaces and the Antlers.

I want to like it, but it isn’t great:

Chickenfoot – I really wanted to like this, but its ultimately pretty empty AOR “Rock.” Sammy sounds ok, but Satriani is too restrained, and there are too few of those amazing backup vocals that Michael Anthony used to bring to VH. Wasn’t much better live.

Dead Weather – it sounds sorta cool, I gave it a chance, but it never quite gets there.

Not as bad as everyone says:

Weezer – Raditude – everyone is hating on this record, I actually kinda like it. I think it’s better than the last few and has some really good songs.

The Worst

Bon Jovi – The Circle – the clich├ęs start with the title, and then continue throughout every other song on this contrived, forced “product.” “When we were beautiful,” “live before you die,” “loves the only rule,” “fast cars.” They sample so much from themselves on this record, youll think youre listening to a bad song that didn’t make it onto some other Bon Jovi record.

Them Crooked Vultures – unlistenable. Instead of being more than just the sum of its superstar parts (although I refuse to call Josh Homme a “superstar”), it is lowest common denominator and its ends up being just the worst of everyone involved. Homme sounds exactly like he does on every other record, but this time he’s just “monotoning” over bad King Crimson-style barely-progrock, art noise. Bad.

Mark Knopfler – I love Mark Knopfler, but his records keep getting more and more boring and repetitive. Mumble mumble, plink plink, strum strum, mumble mumble. This one is simply the worst. Maybe he needs some strong coffee??

Winger – I know, who cares right??? Well I do, I love Winger, but this is just terrible.

Muse – I’ll never understand this band. Bombastic prog, trying to so hard to be Queen-like, but it just goes nowhere. In one ear and out the other.

Chris Cornell – I guess this was an experiment, and its not really bad, its just a mess. I love Chris, and there are some decent songs here (as evidenced when he played them live), but on this record, with this production, everything is a mess.

And I don’t get Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Devendra Banhart, the Mountain Goats or Sufjan Stevens. All have records that are on many top ten lists, but just sound empty and boring to me. Really Sufjan, the BQE? Why not the Gowanus?

(Your "WEEKEND MIX" will be posted a bit later. Stay tuned...)


Meanstreets said...

Hopefully, you will have some " roots " material on your list...& not just that art-sy - fart-sy stuff you highlight to my distaste...

Playin' Ray Bonneville's " Goin' By Feel " now, produced by GURF....

Meanstreets said...

Is " The List " on your list ?

Sal Nunziato said...


Meanstreets said...

That's a " yes ".............

Is your list " Written In Chalk " ?

Sal Nunziato said...

I've been advised not to speak any further on this matter.

Meanstreets said...

Another " yes "........

Why don't I just write the list for you Sal....

Then you can work on another " Weekend Mix "........

Sal Nunziato said...

I can do both.

Laura Faeth said...

Sal, Cheap Trick's The Latest is a masterpiece. "Miss Tomorrow" is great, but I think "Everybody Knows" is even better. And Robin Zander's voice does sound as if it is getting better with age. Very freaky.

Sal Nunziato said...

I'm not feeling the "masterpiece," but I do think "The Latest" is Trick's finest in years. Absolutely love "Everybody Knows," "Times Of Our Lives," and "Closer."

rakeback said...

Pearl Jam is the standout band of the 1990's along with Nirvana. There music is honest and genuine and there is a message behind their music. Eddie Vedder is one of the great front-mans of all time, and McCready is an amazing guitar player.

Meanstreets said...

Burning Wood's Top 2009 CD list very " secret & profane "............