A Different Kind of Top 10 Music List for 2009

It’s that time of year again!

Following our successful outings the past four years, we’re at it again. Our (belated) Different Kind of Top 10 Music List for 2008. If you missed prior versions, then here’s the deal with what makes this list different:

There are lots of Best of Lists out there, but most of them aren’t relevant to adults (a group I have begrudgingly joined). Those of you with families, careers, hobbies, etc. do not listen to 200 new CDs each year.

Hence, this list. Rather than cranking out yet another collection of music you never heard, this is a more useful list: What a relatively informed music fan has been playing the hell out of all year. These 10 abums are what was most frequently spinning in the car/ipod this past year — my personal soundtrack for 2009.

This year’s list is a bit skewed: Writing the book meant that the background was mostly vocal-free jazz. Second, one of the selections — a Boxed Set — dominated everything else for the latter months of the year. This may be our most eclectic list yet:

The Beatles Box Set (Stereo) I normally save the Box sets for the end, but why bury the lead? This beast simply dominated what I listened to the last 3 months of the year. 14 CDs plus a DVD containing a short “making of” each album.

The sound quality is revelatory. A team of engineers from Abbey Road Studios spent four years using both state of the art technology plus renovated vintage studio equipment to maintain the authenticity and integrity of the original analog recordings. And it shows. The vocals sound like Paul and John are singing from the middle of your living room. The guitar three-dimensional, with resonance of buzz and acoustics of a real guitar. The songs come alive, full of small details not heard before. It sent me off to buy a new pair of front speakers.

As sound quality gets worse as files get compressed ever more small in the age of the iPod, this is a delightful throwback. A memorable sonic experience.

Terence Blanchard   Let’s Get Lost New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard (and former musical musical director to Spike Lee) reinterprets the songbook of  Jimmy McHugh, with the vocal assistance of Diana Krall, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, and Jane Monheit. The vocals are top mothc, the arrangements first rate, all the while Blanchards’ wonderfully evocative trumpet drips with cool. This was my favorite jazz album of the year.  (Home Page)

Mo’ Horizons  … And The New Bohemian Freedom: This disc was my most unexpected surprise of the year to me. I found it ’cause the song Shake It Loose got under my skin. A wisp of electronica layered over a nice Brazilian rhythm.

But the rest of the album was the stunner — an eclectic mix of Latin, Techno, funk, and bossa nova, with funky soulful vocals. Even stranger, its by a German acid jazz duo.

Its a mind blowing mix of guitar, drums’n’bass, often Latin style vocals, and great beats. No two songs are very similar — its like a musical world tour of Brazil, Africa, Mexico, Spain.

Raphael Saadiq, The Way I See It This disc could have been a lost Motown recording from 1965 that was uncovered 25 years later. Its retro, yet fresh, filled with class R&B hooks and Motown infused soul.If you were a fan of Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield, or The Temptations, you should give this a listening to.

If you recognize Saadiq’s name, it might be from his earlier work with Tony Toni Tone! Suffice it say this is far more sophisticated.  (Home page)

Peter Blanchette, Archguital Cinema Italiano:  Peter Blanchette is the inventor of the 11-string archguitar, a modern, 16th century instrument. He uses it to play a broad mix of classical music. But what grabbed me was his reinterpretations of the music of Italian Cinema: Federico Fellini, Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly alone is worth the cost of the disc, but other film soundtracks include Fellini’s 8 1/2, Once Upon A Time In America, La Dolce Vita, and Fistful Of Dollars. Not your typical soundtrack . . .

Kylie Auldist, Made of Stone Straight out of Motown: Past years, I’ve made a habit of finding retro-inspired new music from female vocalists, and this year was no different. Kylie Auldist does old-school funk soul and pop with a warm, retro-modern flavor. She has a big voice, which is complemented by a tight band (Quantic Soul Orchestra) with a big sound.  (Home page)

Les Triaboliques, rivermudtwilight Ben Mandelson, Lu Edmonds and Justin Adams are the multi-instrumentalist trio collaborating on this eclectic mash up of blues, classical, Cuban and West African music. The title track is the odd man odd — a rocking blues number that allows each member to cut loose.

I’d love to hear a full album of rock & blues from these guys as a power trio . . .

•  Madeleine Peyroux  Bare Bones On Bare bones, Peyroux successfully transitions from songstress to songwriter.  The title could describe the somewhat spare arrangements, which show off that wonderfully distinct voice all the more.

Much has been made of her doing original songs rather than covering Jazz standards and music songbook classics. Ignore all that noise. The chanteuse has made a beautiful, intimate disc that is worthy of your living room. (Home page)

Melody Gardot,  My One and Only Thrill Gardot is a surprisingly gifted songwriter, capable of penning catchy, haunting melodies and wistful, poetic lyrics. The albums rolls on from traditional jazz to Brazilian samba, with a bluesy, world weary vein running throughout.

The elegant string arrangements and acoustic guitars create a spare, mix of silky jazz and smokey blues.

The disc reveals a startling maturity for a 25 year old. Full of noir, longing, and forlornness, this is a surprisingly sophisticated album. (Home page)

Sting  If On A Winter’s Night… I have yet to figure out why this album was not better received. The album careens through a tender collection of songs, carols, and lullabies “spanning the centuries.” Its a creative mix of British Isles traditional songs, part Scottish, part Celtic and part Classical.

It seems to have been misinterpreted as a Christmas album, with it is decidedly not. Rather, think of this as a “Winter” album — like George Winston’s December or Windham Hill’s A Winter’s Solstice.


Well, that’s my list for this year — and I didn’t mention releases from Bruce Springsteen, U2, or other major artists.

I hope you find something you haven’t heard before that you find worth listening to . . .

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