Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mick’s Picks -A Dozen Delights From My Favourite Albums of 2009

Music journalist and psychedelic poster artist Mick Dillingham has once again honored PPO with his top picks for 2009. You can read more from Mick at his brilliant site "Art Into Dust". Filled with music, interviews and great insight, it is worth your time.

1. Jason Falkner –Princessa (from All Quiet On The Noise Floor)
After releasing the opinion dividing I’m Okay, You’re Okay after a decade long hiatus (I’m in the thumbs up camp on that album) Jason Falkner returns with the stunning masterwork that is All Quiet On The Noise Floor to almost universal acclaim. You don’t need me to tell you here, how ridiculously talented the man is, he is after all Jason Falkner for crying out loud. Those of you who haven’t had the cash to splash out on this so far only Japanese release will be happy to hear that a stateside release is in the works and arriving early in the near future.

2. Anne Soldaat –Runaway (from In Another Life)
And Mr Falkner is all over another brilliant album, both playing and empathetically producing Anne Soldaat’s heart stoppingly glorious debut solo album In Another Life. Soldaat was the brilliant lead guitarist and one of the songwriters in Daryll Ann who I consider to be one of the finest bands to ever walk the planet and together these two legends have crafted a work of depth and melodic passion they are both deeply proud of. A magical delight of a record chock full of brilliant songs that effortlessly matches the glory of his musical history In Another Life is a majestic classic deserving of your love.

3. Roger Klug – Girl After my Own Heart (from More Help For Your Nerves)
Ten years after delivering up two genius monster slabs of clever, inventive rock/pop Roger Klug returns with More Help For Your Nerves and, impossible as it might seem to those of us already hopelessly smitten with what has gone before, delivers up his best album yet. Classic pop melodies, swooping choruses, blazing playing (mostly all by the man himself) topped off with razor sharp wit of great humanity and white hot magma guitar work that will not just knock your socks clean off but sear them from your feet in a unfortunate smelting accident sort of way. There’s so much listening adventure to be had in this treasure house of master class clever its almost embarrassing. A mighty, mighty album from a mighty, mighty talent.

4. Waz -All You Want (from These Bright Lights)
Waz is I believe the only artist here that made it into my top ten of last year with his previous gem. Waz, like Philip Price and Mark Mikel has a seemingly endless supply of drop-dead gorgeous melody lines to scatter about his songs, each eliciting the same sort of hopeless heart lifting pleasure you get when you see a beautiful girl walking past you on the street. He also has a voice that would melt honey and a love of creativity that makes anything he touches a true and real glory to behold. These Bright Lights is his singer songwriter album but beautifully played and warmly and thoughtfully produced enough that it stands next to his previous more flashy outing with ease. At the heart of his work are the songs and my oh my can Waz write songs.

5. Jeff Litman –Anna (from Postscript)
New York based Jeff Litman turned his back on a career as a classical guitarist to return to the arms of his true love, melodic guitar pop and his debut album Postscript effortlessly shows the sacrifice was anything but in vain. Built around a song cycle of love, loss and regrets it’s a beautifully played, sung, produced and arranged pop treat of such depth and quality that you can easily listen to from start to finish and then press play all over again. It beautifully crafted by a man who knows exactly what he’s doing and is doing it right up our street. Part Jason Falkner, part Michael Penn but mostly unmistakably Jeff Litman, Postscript heralds a major new talent to be embraced and enjoyed for years to come hopefully.

6. The Damnwells- Dandelion (from One Last Century)
I first heard The Damnwells around the same time as another fine band Wayne and both bands reminded me of the other in that at their collective hearts was a very strong songwriter whose vision drove the band members to a true level of creative melodic playing (as with Scott Sax and Wanderlust on their classic debut Prize). Wayne sadly disappeared without a trace, The Damnwells fortunately did not and on their third album One Last Century they continue to do what they do best; being one hell of a class act. If it says Damnwells on the sleeve then you just cannot go wrong, it seems to me.

7. The Twilight Hours –Never Mine (from Stereo Night)
Back in the yesterday that was the 90’s John Munsun and Matt Wilson were half of the legendary and unique Trip Shakespeare a band I love forever with every fibre of my being. Today John and Matt are The Twilight Hours and the tunes on their debut album Stereo Night are the dreams that stuff is made of. The songs, the playing and the singing are as masterful as you would expect, tender, warm and softly passionate, wistfully romantic. It’s beautifully recorded with the added strength of the sort of perfectly timed unleashed production flourishes that turns such proceedings into an album proper and not just a recording of musical performances on a CD that so many artists seem to settle for at the moment. And another source of joy is that Matt hasn’t forgotten to bring his unmistakable soaring sonically magnificent guitar solos along for the ride. It all adds up to one hell of a fine album.

8. Moss Comfort (from Never Be Scared/Don’t Be A Hero)
Dutch band Moss are signed to Daryll Ann’s old label Excelsior and their classy debut album The Long Way Back was a real sit up and listen winner with me so the follow up Never Be Scared/Don’t Be A Hero was much anticipated. Spacier and yet more direct than before the melodies and songs are just as delightfully addictive, and come wrapped in lightly golden clouds of subtly rising layers of flat guitars and tumbling keyboards. Less immediate than the debut, a few plays in you realise that this splendid band have produced yet another winner deserving of repeated listens.

9. Marc Carroll- Always (from Dust Of Rumour)
The excellent Irish songwriter and musician Marc Carroll after the diversion of his last Dylanesque last album has returned to the pop field once more on his strikingly excellent Dust Of Rumour. While his debut was effortlessly power pop for this latest album he’s added an extra sixties shimmer that is probably due to hanging out with The Quarter After in LA half the year. He plays nearly everything on this fine inventive album and is a dab hand at writing one great song after another so how can this album be anything other than a great listen.

10. Sam And Me- Green Fingers (from The Battle Of Hemsby)
Originally from Brighton England Sam and Me have been around a while but finally got around to recording their debut album this year The Battle Of Hemsby is a beautiful mid tempo pop confection overflowing with charming playing and production full of details and melodic sixties tinged songs that remind me of the type of cotton candy fragile romantic pop Chris Holmes does so well. This is a warm and inviting album built on sighs that once played wont let go of your heart or your ears. Wonderful golden listening pleasures drips from every blissful tear. An easy choice for my albums of 2009 or any year for that matter.

11. It Hugs Back-Don’t Know (from Inside Your Guitar)
.Another British band It Hugs Back have also caught my attention this year with a debut Inside Your Guitar that also reminds me of Chris Holmes and for that matter Sam And Me though it is at times more dream pop that either. There’s lots of jangly guitars and buried vocals when they do get going though and the mixture of fast and slow brings lots of rewarding listening pleasure and makes the album on that you can slide into your player and drown into time and time again.

12. Don McGlashan and the Seven Sisters- The Switch (from Marvellous Year)
If Crowded House were REM then they would sound like The Mutton Birds except the Mutton Birds sound like no one but The Mutton Birds. . The Mutts are another of my greatest bands of all time, like the already touched upon Trip Shakespeare and Daryll Ann and like those legendary combos they are no more. Fortunately principal song writer and lead vocalist Don McGlashan has continued along the same epic musical path as his former band on his pair of wonderful solo outings so far. He’s a highly literate songwriter and when not turning out passionate and soul lifting love songs he is busy populating his soaring melodic tunes with all manner of slightly twisted characters set in the claustrophobic towns and wide open spaces of his native New Zealand. He continues to be one of the major songwriters in my book.

Mick’s Picks/rs
Mick’s Picks/mu