Huevos's Best Records of 2009

Although not taken kindly to by my Imprint staff, I still hold strong to my year's end list. It's good to know there's no prejudice here against things that people would consider 'too obscure,' even though some of these results are pretty obvious (i.e. Embryonic or Merriweather) But even so, I did try to include albums I believe to be wildly underrated and unfairly overlooked during the passing year. And even though this may be what's posted, there is always an underlying feeling I've forgotten something, so be sure to tell me yours!

Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free

Blackout Beach
Skin of Evil

Built to Spill
There is No Enemy

Monsters of Folk
Monsters of Folk

Yo La Tengo
Popular Songs

Tom Waits
Glitter and Doom Live

Dinosaur Jr.

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

The Flaming Lips

Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion

Honorable Mentions
Big Business- Mind the Drift
Meat Puppets- Sewn Together
El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez-Lopez- Cryptomnesia
Antony and the Johnsons- The Crying Light
Bat for Lashes- Two Suns
The Bad Plus- For All I Care
Tortoise- Beacons of Ancestorship


Boris- Japanese Heavy Rock Hits Vols. 1–4

Throughout the last several months of 2009, Boris put out four 7" vinyl singles that somehow showed them experimenting more with their music than before. The freedom of the medium sparked some creative outputs, and the results are unsurprisingly vintage Boris. Vol. 1 kicks off with the epic rocker "8," a blazing number that could have seemingly been plucked from yesteryear's anime hit. It still has that Heavy Rocks edge in a way, so there's definitely no misled presumptions of what the single collection offers. "Hey Everyone" may be the more unorthodox of the two, boasting a party banging beat and drunken vocal chants.

Boris took the opportunity to display their fun side with these singles without being constricted by the wild concepts of previous endeavors like Flood and Feedbacker. On Vol. 2, it's made clear by even the title of "H.M.A. -Heavy Metal Addict-" as much as the song itself. Led into the groove by the rare appearance of synthesizers, echoing yelps and chugging guitar growls propel the track through five minutes but doesn't seem to go anywhere. Fortunately "Black Original" makes up for the lackluster rocker with its '80s new wave-inspired sentiment. Remember the Psychedelic Furs? Me either, but if they were Japanese and (presumably) not hung up with cheesy love songs, it might have sounded something like this. It's certainly a treat to hear harmonizing vocals in Boris's music...

...just as much as it is to hear lead guitarist Wata perform vocals herself. The post-rock "16:47:52..." of Vol. 3—reminiscent to the quieter moments of Flood—moves along at a very contemplative pace while Wata sings ever-so-softly, as if whispering inches away from your ear. Of course it's in Japanese, leaving most listeners in the dark on what the song means. "...And Hear Nothing" keeps on the crawling tempo but amps up the grandiosity with an anthemic quality akin to Pink's "Farewell," complete with the trademark droning feedback we've come to love from our Japanese trio.

The fourth and final single was released this month in December, although without a cover sleeve, any accompanying artwork and only only features one song rather than two. The band covers an upbeat '70s oldie called "Seasons," originally by a Dutch progressive rock group called Earth and Fire. Wata makes yet another appearance on lead vocals, but in an almost adorable manner when her Japanese accent drives the English-spoken lyrics. It's a substantial finish to the singles tetralogy and leaves Boris as eclectic as ever, while fans are left wondering what the band could possibly experiment in next.


If, Bwana- Tripping India (1997)

If, Bwana's mystery goes far beyond its bizarre lengthy tracks and baffling name.
For more than twenty years, the project has been quietly run under the hands of noise music artist Al Margolis. It remained passably popular through time, and from what I can see, has still yet to recieve any kind of true recognition... and that breaks my heart. There have been very few albums to make me react so ecstatically, especially to something that would be considered all noise. But I feel like it's something totally beyond that. Joined by a hefty collective of experimental performers, Margolis created a nucleus of sound that could only be described as a stripped down Sun Ra sweating through an acid induced hour long take in an outhouse studio during a thuderstorm. Three different pianists consistantly play at different times, both manipulated and processed to inject a riveting sense of familiarity to the listener. But within these tracks of clangs and piano keys, there's a larger story. You just sort of have to let the album overwhelm you, allow the soundscapes to narrate themselves and at the same time, prevent concern about where it takes you. The experience could be completely frightening (for me, it was), but it affected me so much more in larger way. I truly think it's an experience worth taking, for anyone, even if it's just once.
(some weed helps, too.)

1. 3 Out If 5 Ain't Bad
2. Pr-Dr
3. Tripping India