Wow, this year’s Top 5 was really hard to pick out of the 60-plus great records that came out in '09. It was also a good year for bands starting with the letter M since 11 out of the entire list, including three of the top five are M-bands. So for those who care…here's the Top 5 musical releases this year:
Converge – Axe To Fall
Probably 95% of Converge fans, including myself, consider 2001’s Jane Doe to be their magnum opus; the record that, no matter what they recorded thereafter, would never be surpassed. Well, three albums later, that day of overshadowing has finally come. From the first, infectious drum intro on “Dark Horse”, through to the two dirge-like closers, Axe To Fall is a keeper. 20 years into their career this genre-defining, Salem, Massachusetts quartet will go down in history as one of the finest underground bands of all time, and by the sounds of this record, they have a lot more steam left. Be sure to support them on their upcoming tour in May.
Del Castillo – Del Castillo
As most of you know, these guys are from Austin, so we’ve already gotten to see them play back in November. I had seen them once before when they came through Syracuse a few years ago, but it’s really nice to be right in their back yard where they play at least a couple of times a month. We’ll be seeing them again the end of the month. Anyway, get the new record because it’s awesome!
mewithoutYou – It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright!
Slight stylistic change from previous works but it’s definitely still mewithoutYou. I keep a few CDs in the car to listen to on my way back from work, and this is always one of them.
Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk
Super group with Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and M.Ward. Saw these guys play to a sold-out show at Stubb’s in Austin. The album is a well-balanced combination of the consummate talents of these four artists.
M.Ward – Hold Time
I realize this is sort of like listing M.Ward twice, but putting on his new record is like listening to an old friend. Almost like it’s been the record that’s been by your side for many, many years.
Honorable Mentions for '09:
AFI – Crash Love
Band Of Skulls – Baby Darling Doll Face Honey
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – How Big Can You Get: The Music of Cab Calloway
Bright Eyes – A Christmas Album LP
Castanets – Texas Rose, The Thaw & The Beasts
Celldweller – Wish Upon A Black Star – Chapter 1
Celldweller – Wish Upon A Black Star – Chapter 2
Christafari – No Compromise
Jesse Cook – The Rumba Foundation
Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band – Outer South
Dave Rawlings Machine – A Friend Of A Friend
Despised Icon – Day Of Mourning
Koen Duncan – Shine High
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Up From Below
Eluveitie – Evocation I – The Arcane Dominion
Gasoline Heart – Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be
Good Night, States – In The Impossible Tension
Gringo Star – All Y’All
Hill Country Revue – Make A Move
Jesca Hoop – Hunting My Dress
Huntingtons – Punk Sounds
Impellitteri – Wicked Maiden
Inevitable End – The Severed Inception
Sarah Jarosz – Song Up In Her Head
Langhorne Slim – Be Set Free
Laura Gibson – Beasts of Seasons
Lissie – Why You Runnin’
Mainline Riders – Worldshaker
Matisyahu – Light
Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster – III
Sophie Milman – Take Love Easy
Miseration – The Mirroring Shadow
MxPx – On The Cover II
MxPx – Left Coast Punk EP
MxPx – Punk Rawk Christmas
Nico Vega – Nico Vega
Night Horse / Dirty Sweet Split 7”
Paul Oakenfold: Perfecto Vegas
Papa San – Higher Heights
Elvis Perkins – Elvis Perkins In Dearland
Peter And The Wolf – Mellow Owl
Psyopus – Odd Senses
Sotahuuto – Vastarintaan
The Cassettes – Countach
The Chariot – Wars And Rumors of Wars
The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
The Devil Makes Three – Do Wrong Right
The Empty Tomb – The Empty Tomb
The Red Chord – Fed Through The Teeth Machine
The Von Bondies – Love, Hate, and Then There’s You
The Weird Weeds – I Miss This
Thieves And Liars – American Rock ‘N’ Roll
Rosie Thomas – All The Way From Michigan Not Mars
Jason Truby – Entropy
Tumbledown – Tumbledown
Wolfmother – Cosmic Egg
Zao – Awake?
Books Read In '09:
I didn't get to read as many books this year as I read last year, but this was still a great year for reading. Here are the Top 5 books released/read this past year:
Ford County: Stories by John Grisham
First ever collection of short stories by one of my favorite authors.
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
For those unfamiliar, Nick is also the author of High Fidelity and About A Boy, two books made into great movies. Anyway, before I start receiving inglorious comments, the book’s title refers to an un-mastered re-release of an indie rock record, originally titled Juliet. Just thought I should make that clear. Anyway, it’s a good book, and Hornby is a great author.
A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life by Donald Miller
Another one of my favorite authors of all time. If you haven’t read Blue Like Jazz, well what’s wrong with you? The legendary Steve Taylor himself is producing Blue Like Jazz, The Movie, so you know it must be good. Donald came through Georgetown last November so we got to see him speak about his new, highly introspective work.
The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales by Peter Rollins
Re-told original biblical parables with a different ending twist. It’s interesting and very thought-provoking to hear these familiar stories told with different endings.
The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose
One of our mutual favorites this year. Kevin Roose spent a semester of undercover journalism at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. I highly recommend this book to followers and non-followers alike. Roose gives a humorous, and at times poignant look at modern evangelicalism.
Other (non-2009) Books Read This Year:
Spain…A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow
The Mission, The Men, and Me by Pete Blaber
The Nasty Bits – Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps and Bones by Anthony Bourdain
Never Surrender by LTG (Ret.) William G. Boykin
Kill Bin Laden by Dalton Fury
America’s First Battles, 1776 – 1965 by Charles E. Heller and William A. Stofft
The Search For The Twelve Apostles by William Steuart McBirnie, Ph.D.
Jesus In The Margins – Finding Jesus In The Places We Ignore by Rick McKinley
This Beautiful Mess – Practicing The Presence of the Kingdom of God by Rick McKinley
Prayer And The Art Of Volkswagen Maintenance by Donald Miller
Searching For God Knows What by Donald Miller
Offering The Gospel To Children by Gretchen Wolff Pritchard
Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary by Ben Witherington III