Dusted Features

2009: Patrick Masterson

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Dusted writer Patrick Masterson selects his 10 favorite albums of the year.

2009: Patrick Masterson

Release Date: February 17 | Label: Touch & Go

You can’t mention San Francisco’s Mi Ami without mentioning the DC band two of its three members formerly played in, but Watersports never aims to recapture Black Eyes’ past glories. Instead, the trio shoots for Public Image Ltd. territory by blending dub, techno, ambient, and post-punk influences to create an album that flows as beautifully as it sounds. Released shortly before Touch and Go announced it would cease output, Watersports exceeds the expectations of early 12” singles and offers a different perspective on a stunning live band.

  • Release Date: January 28 | Label: No Fun

    There was a healthy array of stellar drone records out this year, but What Happened stands out among them for its openly emotional melodies and touching Tangerine Dream-like soundscapes. John Elliott, Steve Hauschildt and Mark McGuire don’t have it easy in a recessed Cleveland struggling for jobs and civic pride, but What Happened argues for the vitality of its noise scene and builds upon the promise of their debut LP Allegory of Allergies and last year’s Solar Bridge EP.

  • Release Date: September 8 | Label: EMI

    Four years in the making and nearly a decade and a half on from the first Cuban Linx, Raekwon finally delivered the bulletproof album he’d promised when Busta Rhymes and The RZA were still executive producers. Distracting skits were kept to a minimum and, despite a million different guests and beatmakers and possible ways to ruin his good name, the Chef was indisputably in top form even when he wasn’t the one with the punchline. An astonishing performance that sounds every bit the equal of its predecessor.

  • Release Date: May 5 | Label: Dead Oceans

    It was the first time the band was playing without Ryan Vanderhoof, but that didn’t make Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free any less brilliant. Instead, shards of indie-rock and freak-folk and jazz-skronk explode in all kinds of ways to make this the most invigorating release of their short lifespan. From opener “Everyone is Guilty” through the pastoral middle section to the dizzying “They Will Appear” and quiet closer “Last Year,” Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free was as fun as it was frustrating.

  • Release Date: April 14 | Label: Strut

    The Father of Ethio-jazz had a big year in 2009 with his collection of older material, New York-Addis-London: The Story of Ethio Jazz 1965-1975, released to near-unanimous press plaudits. His collaboration with English collective The Heliocentrics was equally rewarding, but the new material that continued to fuse jazz with psych-rock and traditional Ethiopian funk gave his rediscovery a fresh edge.

  • Release Date: July 6 | Label: Siltbreeze

    Richmond-by-way-of-Queens duo Blues Control brought the heavy psychedelic stuff on Local Flavor, their second full-length and first for Siltbreeze. Though they share little in common with most bands on that label, their grimy, extended instrumental jams exist in just the right fidelity to fit in. These four songs swirl across noisy sonic terrain best exemplified in the sublime psychedelia of “Tangiers.” Mosurock (as usual) put it best: “Show me any other band whose drummer is a Walkman that sounds this compelling, and I’ll shut up.”

  • Release Date: March 24 | Label: Mute

    Unlike Silent Shout, I had expectations for Fever Ray, and perhaps that was the reason it felt merely good as opposed to great. In the absence of her brother Olof, Karin Dreijer-Andersson eschewed the wintry forest techno of the Knife for dark electro-pop on her solo debut. It wasn’t a game-changer, but Fever Ray was a listenable album with some particularly poignant moments (“Dry and Dusty” and “Now’s the Only Time I Know,” for instance) and nary a dud to be found.

  • Release Date: November 17 | Label: Self-released

    The initial draw to this dude for me was his drawl, which on a cursory listen made this Atlanta native sound slackjawed and hopelessly incoherent. Just one listen to any of the songs from his second mixtape, 4075: The Refill, however, and you knew you were dealing with a rapper’s rapper who alternated personal introspection with adept couplets on the glories and tribulations of hood rich living. If you liked it, he loved you… And if you didn’t, well, he had two words for you that even a slackjaw could sound out.

  • Release Date: October 20 | Label: ATP

    Not only was the artwork simpler (and classier) than the Black Dice-aping debut Street Horrrsing, but Fuck Buttons simply hit harder on the noisy and fluid Tarot Sport. Despite the volume, this Bristol duo made melodies almost in spite of themselves, 7” single “Surf Solar” a perfect example of the kind of epic beauty they only occasionally nabbed on Street Horrrsing. With a nudge in the right direction from Andrew Weatherall, Fuck Buttons impressed with a consistent set of songs that inspires further confidence for future releases.

  • Release Date: February 3 | Label: BPitch Control

    This should have been Telefon Tel Aviv’s brightest moment, a move to Ellen Allien’s venerable Bpitch Control label and a maturation in sound resulting in their most adept LP yet – and one of the first great albums of the year. But Charlie Cooper’s mysterious death just two days after its U.S. release will forever bring a funereal feeling to an album naturally clouded by melancholy. Cooper’s cohort Joshua Eustis has recently started playing live again, but whether or not he makes another album under the Telefon Tel Aviv moniker is beside the point: Immolate Yourself is the final chapter in a fruitful collaboration between two high school friends who continually found a way to put post-rock, art-pop and techno together.

  • Release Date: October 13 | Label: Relapse

    I like Mastodon. You like Mastodon. None of us can deny the sheer metalness of “March of the Fire Ants” or Leviathan or their album art. But at some point, not too long ago, those guys started reading their own press a little too much; that’s how we got Crack the Skye. Baroness has all the traits that endeared non-metal fans to Mastodon, except that after five years they still don’t suck. Blue Record is a brutal balance of prog, classic-rock, hardcore, and indie at work to make an excellent follow-up to 2007’s Red Album. Simple strategy: Keep the sound stripped down and the devil horns up. I like Baroness. You like Baroness. Here were a dozen reasons why.

  • Release Date: March 3 | Label: Kompakt

    2007’s Chromophobia received widespread accolades for its colorful use of synth-pop structures and techno know-how. But this was coming from a guy who wrote jingles in the mid-’90s and rock songs not long after. You can sign the man to Kompakt, but you can’t assign Kompakt to the man, know what I mean? Take My Breath Away tries a little harder than its predecessor to make a play for the Kompakt traditionalist, but Boratto just can’t help himself, so you get a bunch of pretty good pop songs cloaked in IDM production values. An altogether pleasing record that sounds about 8 million times better than that hideous album cover suggests.

    By Patrick Masterson

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