by DAVID KERN
Clearly the first half of 2009 has long since passed. However, good music is good music and ought to be declared loudly as such. An incredibly busy summer has restricted the frequency of posts here at Into the Hill, but after weddings, honeymoons, adventures and moves, we’re ready to get back at it. We apologize if you’ve missed us; we’ve missed you.
So here are my choices for the ten best albums of the First Half of 2009. I reserve the right to let an album climb this list by the time my year end lists are completed.
10. Bob Dylan - Together Through Life.
I am shocked at the slight reception that this album has received. Granted, it’s not Dylan at his best, but it’s still a remarkable, creative, deep collection of personal, poetic songs. A slightly less amazing Bob Dylan album is still better than 99% of the music out there.
09. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca.
This is one of the albums I expect to grow on me even more. It’s fanciful, moody tones are great fun and it’s weirdness is just enough of a challenge for the listener interested in listening closely. Seems to be a good example of aesthetic eclecticism responsibly approached.
08. Devon Sproule - Don’t Hurry For Heaven.
Like her ‘07 debut, a lot of fun. However, this time around Virginia’s own Appalachian jazzist is more grown up, more impressed by what she sees around her and more nuanced in her approach. Title track is an old timey joy.
07. Fanfarlo - Reservoir.
Slick, subtle and full of energy, this little known pop gem is a brilliant example of the kind of rock eclecticism that has become so popular - without allowing the galling, pretentious romanticism of many such albums to seep in too deeply.
06. Wilco - (the album).
We shall see. While this most recent effort probably won’t stand the test of time the way Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born will, primarily because of the stories behind those albums, but this album is proof that Tweedy and co. still have it.
05. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest.
04. Joe Purdy - Last Clock On the Wall.
A happy new discovery for me, and one which I find myself going back to often - in fact, daily. A fantastic album of folk/Americana songs which is deeply, deeply rooted in place and time, community and family, and therefore, history too - themes which are sure to catch my eye.
03. U2 - No Line On the Horizon.
Dare I say it? Might just be U2’s best album of the decade. Bono and the guys are an old band by most standards, but this is a thoroughly modern album. However, it’s a modern record that hasn’t forgotten the past. I second Josh Hurst’s thoughts when he calls it “a work of deep spiritual meditation and inspired musical synthesis.”
02. M. Ward - Hold Time.
So much joy. So much inspiration. So much carefully scripted quality art. I would argue that M. Ward is one of the five best artists of the decade and while Post War might be better (maybe) it’s Hold Time, a magical confluence of old timey pop hooks and brilliantly imaginative images that pushes him into that upper echelon. His consistency has been remarkable. M. Ward is a modern poet.
I highly recommend you take a gander at Hurst’s insightful review.
01. Southeast Engine - From the Forest to the Sea.
Perhaps a surprise to some, but an album that I’ve fallen in love with. A deeply spiritual, intensely personal, and wonderfully creative folk rock album by a band that is getting nowhere near the attention they deserve.
Albums to look for on my year end list:
Joe Henry - Blood From Stars,
Mos Def - The Ecstatic,
The Low Anthem - Oh My God Charlie Darwin,
Patrick Watson - Wooden Arms,
Derek Webb - Stockholm Syndrome,
Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Elvis Perkins in Dearland.
David Kern is editor of Into the Hill. Email him at email@example.com.