Best Music CDs 2009
Explore the Music Department with your ears and check out some of the shiniest of 2009's spinning, silvery discs.
Tyondai Braxton (of the band Battles and son of avant-garde jazz artist Anthony Braxton) has made an album where electronic beeps and bird whistles sound comfortable next to piano, flute, horns and strings. With lots of playful patterns that are added to and subtracted from, it ends up sounding like a cartoonish Steve Reich.
Histoire de Melody Nelson
On this 1971 concept album, the lecherous French singer's Rolls Royce hits a teenage girl on a bicycle. He falls in love, takes her to the Cleopatra room at a private mansion, and then she dies in a plane crash -- all whispered, spoken and sung over sleazy lite-funk with strings.
Grizzly Bear plays indie pop with lots of instruments, lots of vocalists and lots of well-deserved hype. They've successfully made the transition from bedroom recordings to a big studio sound without losing their ambitious, experimental nature.
Take a swig from "Larry Maher's 5-Gallon Jar" and other songs of the Irish diaspora. I don't know how my fair-skinned, freckled ancestors survived sailing the seas without sunscreen.
Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos
If you're intrigued by a Latin dance number that starts with someone yelling "Oy Vey!" then this is for you. It's a welcome reissue and rediscovery of a 1961 album of traditional Yiddish tunes performed by top-notch Latin musicians and African-American jazzmen.
Next to Normal
Some folks bristle at the gung-ho cheeriness of musicals of ages past. Those folks should check out Next to Normal along with a handful of anti-depressants.
Puente in Percussion
Puente was good enough to make an album of just bass and percussion interesting enough for 8 tracks. Thanks to the Fania label for this and countless other great reissues of 60s and 70s Latin music.
Compiled by Timothy R. Williams