The Top 10 of 2009 Revisited

Posted in Features on September 22nd, 2010 by JJ Koczan

As 2010 makes ready to jump into the double-digit months, it occurred to me the other day to go back and take a look at my Top 10 of 2009. I remembered a few of the albums that rated off the top of my head, if not the order they were put in, but I thought it might be fun to look through the list and see where I stand on the albums 10 months later. Let’s check it out:

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Yup, this is still the best album that came out last year. Check.

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Every time I listen to this album, I’m reminded of how much I dig it. It’s in the same CD wallet as YOB and Los Natas, but I don’t reach for it as much.

5. Shrinebuilder, Shrinebuilder (Neurot)
I hardly ever listen to this anymore, but killer album, killer performances, killer personnel. Can’t wait to get swept up in the hype for the next one, then do the same thing.

6. Crippled Black Phoenix, The Resurrectionists/Night Raider (Invada)
I like the art so much for this album, I don’t even touch it because I’m afraid of screwing it up or leaving fingerprints. It’s gathering dust on my shelf. Pretty dust though, so that’s alright.

7. Wino, Punctuated Equilibrium (Southern Lord)
Am I the only one who thinks maybe Wino meant “punctured” instead of “punctuated?” I just happen to be wearing my t-shirt of the album cover today, so I guess it still curries favor. “Smiling Road” rules.

8. Yawning Sons, Ceremony to the Sunset (Lexicon Devil)
This one still gets listened to regularly, is in that CD wallet. If I was making this list today, it might be number three.

9. Om, God is Good (Drag City)
Cool album, but I never put it on anymore. Maybe I will now.

10. Them Crooked Vultures, Them Crooked Vultures (Interscope)
Josh Homme could take a dump on my brand new cupcake and I’d still have a man-crush on him, so this one was bound to show up. Needless to say, I went back to the first couple Queens of the Stone Age albums shortly thereafter.

If I had the list to do over, I’d put Blood by Snail on it, and maybe Church of Misery‘s Houses of the Unholy, which has kept its appeal pretty well. Other than that, I stand by most of the picks above. Let me know if there’s something I missed out on or anything you can think of that you never returned to once January hit.

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The Top 10 of 2009: Post-Script and Honorable Mentions

Posted in Features on December 29th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Man, that was exhausting. More exhausting than I thought it would be. A list that crossed about three weeks’ worth of posts and completely ran dry my synonyms! I mean, how many ways can you say, “Gosh, I really liked this album so I put it on my top 10?” I’m glad I didn’t decide to do a top 11. I don’t think I’d have one more in me.

You’ll also note there were no “Of the Decade” lists to be found on The Obelisk. That was on purpose. I didn’t want to do one. If you want to know what I think the best record was of the decade, I don’t have an answer for you. I’d probably say Lateralus by Tool, but I haven’t listened to it in about three years, so maybe it hasn’t held up. Anyway, I had enough trouble putting together a best of ’09 to worry about ’00-’08.

Speaking of, it’s time for a few honorable mentions. These aren’t in any order other than that in which they occurred to me: Paradise Lost, Snail, Pelican, Ichabod, Kylesa, Zoroaster, Birds of Prey, Naam, Black Math Horseman, Heaven and Hell, Dark Castle, Lo Pan, Candlemass, Black Pyramid, Church of Misery, Clutch, Iron Man, Lamp of the Universe, Ancestors, Helen Money and about three dozen more. Pretty much everything that didn’t suck. The podcast has a bunch, in case you missed it.

In all seriousness, this was a lot of fun, and agree or disagree, I hope you enjoyed reading, listening, watching the videos, etc. More to come.

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The Top 10 of 2009: Number One…

Posted in Features on December 29th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

It was a hefty mountain of shit guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt had to climb to get to the point of putting out a new YOB record. After breaking up the band following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, his follow-up act Middian was sued by a shitbag local act of a similar name, effectively disbanding them. Abandoned by his label, Scheidt reformed YOB with drummer Travis Foster and new bassist Aaron Reiseberg, signed to Profound Lore and put out what I consider to be the best album of 2009: The Great Cessation.

They had split after releasing what was their high water mark, and with a string of quality albums preceding — 2004’s The Illusion of Motion, 2003’s Catharsis and 2002’s Elaborations of Carbon — a legacy was well in place. YOB‘s massive stone/drone doom made for some of the best metallic psychedelia of the decade, and for them to come back, harness and focus all the aggression of their prior output with an even more expansive breadth, was easily the listening highlight of the year. Even with the noise and crash of “Silence of Heaven,” which was near-unlistenable (and intentionally so), The Great Cessation proved to be the strongest and most powerful slab of cosmic doom the band has produced yet.

As if I could ever get the cadence of opener “Burning the Altar” out of my head. As if the prolonged agony of the closing title track didn’t present something different to my ears every single time I heard it. YOB may have grown in esteem following their breakup (absence makes the hip grow fonder?), but they sacrificed none of their unearthly heaviness with their comeback, compromised nothing of their sound and approach, even limiting their live appearances to exactly what they wanted them to be. With constant progression and unflinching creativity, The Great Cessation was simply the best record released this year. Here’s looking forward to the next one.

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The Top 10 of 2009: Number Two…

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

This and the number one still to come feel pretty obvious to me, but I guess it’s a lot easier to say that from this side of the keyboard. Los NatasNuevo Orden de la Libertad on Small Stone was my number one of the first half of the year, and my appreciation for it hasn’t diminished at all with the additional time. If anything, the Argentinian freedom rockers’ fifth album (not counting numerous other collections, the Toba Trance series, etc.) has gained esteem over the course of the last few months. In the context of the year’s releases, this, the number one and the number three are pretty much interchangeable in my mind, but when you way in all the factors, Nuevo Orden de la Libertad was the penultimate combination of quality, listenability and pure rock enjoyment.

I did a search on this site for Los Natas, and came up with more hits than I care to count, most of which can be boiled down to the simple phrase, “Los Natas kick ass.” From the review, to the interview with guitarist/vocalist Sergio Chotsourian and the sundry other nerd-outs, that’s what it all comes down to. As someone who spent the better part of 2008 popping on the band’s first album, 1999’s Delmar (Man’s Ruin), each morning on his way to work, I found Nuevo Orden de la Libertad to be more streamlined than its predecessor, 2006’s El Hombre de Montaña (also Small Stone), but still carrying the banner of creative jamming freedom for which the band’s work throughout releases like München Sessions has made them known.

They’ve transcended any simple genre tag, moved well beyond the Kyuss influence that typified their earliest work, and become a powerful and influential force all their own. Nuevo Orden de la Libertad was more than just a combination of killer songs; the cohesion and drive behind it became evident in every playback, and with each listen, the deceptive complexity of tracks like “Ganar Perder” and “Noviembre” showed themselves to excellently balance rich fullness of sound and raw intensity. More than some of the albums on this list, I know that Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is a record to which I’ll be returning over the years to come, and that’s exactly why it is where it is on the top 10 of 2009. Now if only we could get them to tour the US

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The Top 10 of 2009: Number Three…

Posted in Features on December 23rd, 2009 by JJ Koczan

By now I don’t even remember how long the wait was for Pine/Cross Dover from the time it was announced to its release, but the sixth album from Masters of Reality — finally out in Europe through Brownhouse/Mascot and available Stateside as an import — was worth it. I’ve raved before about the genius of main songwriter Chris Goss, and with the two part Pine/Cross Dover, his increasingly quirky style was fully at play. The outcome was a group of memorable, rich songs whose quality showed itself over time.

I included “Testify to Love” in the end of year podcast, but really that could just as easily have been “Always,” “Up in It” or any number of other tracks from the record. Goss‘ prowess as a pop constructionist and performer made each of these songs an experiment in personality, and the reason Pine/Cross Dover worked so well was that each of the personalities flowed into the next. I know they’re not the highest profile band in the world, and I’m not sure if in this long run this will overthrow 2001’s Deep in the Hole‘s sentimental appeal, but for 2009, Pine/Cross Dover was absolutely one of the best, and more or less a constant in my player.

Sometimes you’re just so happy an album has come out that it informs the way you hear the songs. There was probably some of that at work, but it doesn’t matter. For the cult following Masters of Reality have built over the two-plus decades the band has been together, Pine/Cross Dover is an exciting glimpse at where the band and Goss are today. The way I see it, this is a hard one to beat.

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The Top 10 of 2009: Number Four…

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2009 by JJ Koczan

This spring, when I envisioned the how the rest of the year was going to play out, right at the forefront of my mind was Mania, the third album from Swedish fuzz rockers Truckfighters. In both my review and interview with the band, I raved about how groundbreaking a record it was, how it was changing the face of modern stoner rock, adding a progressive intelligence to the genre that most bands wouldn’t even be able to conceive, let alone execute.

I feel exactly the same way today.

Mania, released through Fuzzorama, is hands down the best pure stoner rock release of 2009. It built upon the solid foundation of its two excellent predecessors, 2007’s Phi and 2005’s Gravity X, but took a turn in a more fleshed out direction that caught me off guard in how hyper-developed it was. All of a sudden Truckfighters were a mature band, one of the best in Sweden, and with tracks like “Monte Gargano,” “Con of Man” and “Majestic,” they set the bar incredibly high for both themselves and the genre. Not to get all neo-con about it, but I think as history plays out, Mania is a record whose importance will grow with time.

Some albums just feel like a landmark, and Truckfighters‘ third most definitely did. This is a personal list, and there were records I listened to more for myself, but not many (about three, to be exact), and I don’t know if any of them broke the kind of ground Mania did. It was a crowning achievement for the band, put them on a different level entirely, and more than that, left the genre different than it found it.

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The Top 10 of 2009: Number Five…

Posted in Features on December 21st, 2009 by JJ Koczan

I would totally live in that shrine. Tourists could come and I would show them around. "And this is where I sweep the floors, and I pee over here, and this is where Wino plays a killer riff, and this is the kitchenette," etc.I’m not sure there’s much left to say about the self-titled debut from Shrinebuilder, the much-hyped supergroup featuring Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Scott “Wino” Weinrich (Wino, etc.), Dale Crover (Melvins) and Al Cisneros (Om). The first time I heard about the band was when I interviewed Kelly about the last Neurosis album. He said, “Yeah, I’m gonna be in a band with Wino and the dudes from Om” — at the time, Chris Hakius had yet to be replaced in Om by Emil Amos and in Shrinebuilder by Crover. My response was a stunned, “Dude.” Kelly said, “Yeah, I know,” and we had a good laugh.

That “dude” has pretty much been my feeling on Shrinebuilder the whole way through. Before it came out, it was more or less universally agreed that it was going to rule, and when Neurot put it out on Oct. 20, it ruled. Simple as that. One has to wonder what the second album will be like (because, as Cisneros confirmed in our interview, there will be a follow-up), since on these five songs it’s relatively easy to discern who wrote which part. You’d have to figure there will be a more solidified sound going forward, with the first album out of the way.

But that’s speculation for another time. For now, Shrinebuilder‘s Shrinebuilder proved a doom milestone in 2009. A dream lineup executing a collection of killer songs with poise and precision. To slather it with hyperbolic appreciation at this point seems excessive, but suffice it to say I’m really, really glad this record came out this year and it’s been a source of continued enjoyment since its release. I imagine I’ll be returning to it for some time to come.

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The Top 10 of 2009: Number Six…

Posted in Features on December 18th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Fancy pants.After their stellar A Love of Shared Disasters release on Invada, my interest in Crippled Black Phoenix‘s 200 Tons of Bad Luck was immediate. It may be a collection of tracks culled from the double-disc offering, The Resurrectionists/Night Raider, but as a single-disc album, it works completely, from the breathtaking opener “Burnt Reynolds,” down through the rest of the psychedelic darkened folk or whatever the hell you want to call it. I’ve returned to it more than I even thought I would, and considering I was still digging into the last one when I bought this, that’s This looks pretty awesome.saying something.

I never reviewed it, which is kind of a bummer, because it would have been fun to go through track by track and talk about the wide swath of musical ground covered in these 12 tracks, but for the purposes of this year-end list, I’ll just say that Crippled Black Phoenix are one of few bands out there who can execute a heaviness in their songs without actually being heavy. Despite having something like 47 members in the band at any given time, the sound still evokes a crushing, desolate feel that’s more prevalent in “Crossing the Bar” and “Whissendine” than in any number of death metal albums I heard this year.

The only bummer about 200 Tons of Bad Luck (aside from the music itself, which is kind of depressing, but in a good way) is there’s so much more material on The Resurrectionists/Night Raider I haven’t heard yet. The Invada UK store has it for £16, which I’m pretty sure works out to $180, so I’ll have to start saving my pennies. In the meantime, there’s plenty of dreary minimalism here to accompany me through the bleak winter months ahead.

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