Thursday, December 10, 2009

Top 10 of 2009: 5-1

5: Richmond Fontaine – We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River

Now that the aforementioned Morrissey has renounced unwieldy song titles, Richmond Fontaine have ‘stepped up to the plate.’ Here’s my review:

4: Pearl Jam - Backspacer

I love Pearl Jam. Well, it’s probably the idea of Pearl Jam I love more than the actuality, but I love what I think they are. They are like the last, old-school bit rock band who are ok to like. Their last few albums had been somewhat patchy, but Eddie Vedder released a solo album soundtrack to Into the Wild 2 years ago where he absolutely nailed the essence of the film. It made me wonder why he hadn’t released a quieter album years ago.

Anyway, enough of that, Backspacer was billed as the ‘Pearl Jam having fun again’ album. They sound ‘alive’ (boom boom) and revitalised on the faster numbers, but the slower ones are generally more memorable. Not just the wonderful Just Breathe, an acoustic ballad with strings in the vein of Into the Wild, but also the mid-paced Speed of Sound, a kind of slow-burning anthem which only a band like Pearl Jam could pull off. The final track, appropriately named The End is almost a little much, but Vedder’s vocal, where his voice almost cracks, makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand out. The final line of the song “I’m here, but not much longer” is a downbeat note to end on. Some have interpreted it as the end for Pearl Jam??

Note: the album also came with a code which gives access to 2 full concert downloads, which is nice touch for the rabid fans.

3: Mark Eitzel – Klamath

Mr American Music Club’s latest album was almost entirely created using his laptop and a guitar. It sounds very insubstantial when you hear it first, and drifts by almost unnoticed. But I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the slowburner of the year. Given time the songs (as opposed to the 2 instrumentals) gradually reveal themselves. Blood on My Hands is a strong, self-deprecated waltz, while I Live In This Place is classic Eitzel, with the memorable line “I know I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life” (here’s hoping). Why I’m Bullshit is another strong track, which is a little more self-flagellation from Eitzel. All of the above would be tiresome except for the fact that the music is generally very strong. His vocals are a little low in the mix, would be great to hear him more prominently (a la his live shows) but after a few haphazard electronic experiments, he appears to have finally mastered it with this album.

2: Sonic Youth – The Eternal

Sonic Youth’s albums of this decade are arguably up there with their strongest work. Advancing years seems to suit them. The Eternal is a strong collection of songs, probably a little heavier than the likes of Sonic Nurse and Rather Ripped but no real noisy freak-outs. Kim gets her quota of songs, with mixed results (God bless her she likes to shout), but she’s a little more tuneful on Malibu Gas Station (which reminds me of Juliana Hatfield of all people) and Massage the History. Thurston chips in with some strong songs, the best of which being Antenna, while Lee’s 2 tracks – What We Know and Walkin Blue are among the strongest on the album.

1: Soulsavers - Broken

See my previous review: