Monday, January 11, 2010

Coyote Sighting

I had just finished parking my car behind the Civic Center, when I see what I think is a stray dog on the other side of the street. Then I realize it is a coyote, smallish, a bit scruffy-looking, but trotting down the sidewalk like he belongs and has an appointment to keep. My camera is in my backpack, which is in the backseat. But before I can move, the coyote takes a sharp right and disappears into the backyards. I try to follow, but he's gone. Nothing left but these prints, which don't look any different than a dog's. I'm staring at the tracks, when an older guy walks by. Did you see that? I ask him. He doesn't stop, but says, That was no dog.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Best of 2009

Best of 2009

2009 was a better years for songs than albums. I had no trouble my year-end mix tape of stellar songs released this year. Coming up with a list of ten albums that held together as albums was a lot tougher. But here’s what I enjoyed in 2009.

1) Middle Cyclone by Neko Case
Neko’s most popular album is also one of her best. Her voice is as divine as ever, She allows herself to write some choruses, and her lyrics have less of the obtuseness of Fox Confessor. It helps that I first heard the best of these songs on a gorgeous September night at the Hideout Block Party in 2008; hearing them again brings back that late summer magic.

2) Face Control by Handsome Furs
Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and his wife, Alexei Perry, make an album of lean muscular rock that is more vital and urgent than 90% of the stuff out there.

3) Fortress ‘round My Heart by Ida Maria
Brash, funny pop with a punk edge.

4) Hospice by The Antlers
A gorgeous suite of songs evoking the grief, guilt, helplessness and fear resulting from watching a loved one die. The music whispers then surges into powerful choruses.

5) Welcome to Mali by Amadou & Mariam (2009 US Release)
Maybe the most joyous album of the year comes from the Mali couple of Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia. The lead track, “Sabali,” continues to beguile.

6) Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective
The same multilayered sonic landscapes you’d expect from Animal Collective, but crafted into more structured songs. “My Girls “ is a sunny, giddy delight.

7) Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear
A big step forward from their 2006 release, Yellow House. Still too many formless swaths of pretty sounds, but the strong songs (“Cheerleader,” “Two Weeks,” “While You Wait for the Others”) are some of the best of the year.

8) Wilco by Wilco
I miss the edge of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but this comfy cardigan of an album is ingratiating.

9) It’s Blitz! by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Great dance rock.

10) Change of Heart by Tim Fite
Mr. Fite’s Valentine’s Day present to music fans is a free download of songs about a break up. Fite’s goofy wit is reined in a little (but, happily, not extinguished) and the songs cut deeper.

Many Happy Listens

Dark Was the Night by Various Artists
This double album compilation is a microcosm of the 2009 indie music universe: talented people recording some terrific songs, but why are so many so introspective and slow.

The XX by The XX
This debut album by a London band features spare arrangements with whispery vocals and carefully parsed guitar lines.

Yonder is the Clock by The Felice Brothers
Great songs. If only this album had the energy of the their live shows.

Art Brut vs. Satan by Art Brut
More droll rockers from this band from the UK. Are they pulling a Mekons and setting up shop in Chicago? They must have played here at least ten times this year, including a five-night stint at Schubas.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart by The Pains of Being Pure of Heart

PW & The Ghost Gloves Cat Wing Joy Boys (EP) by Paul Westerberg

Blood Bank (EP) by Bon Iver

Manners by Passion Pit