Sean May’s Top 10 of 2009

2009 was, to be frank, a goddamn good fucking year for music at large.  But where I ended up drawing the pick for the top cream of the crop from was out of my past when my all-time favorite band Thrice (who I hadn’t really listened to much since the release of Vheissu in ’07) manage to blow my brains out of my skull with its sheer level of awesome.  As the tired adage goes, this album literally pisses excellence.  They cover the gamut from bluesy piano-driven romps in “Doublespeak” to Kid A-era Radiohead with songs like “Circles”.  This album is so smart and utterly tasteful that it really puts 99% of the other songwriting-centric music this year to shame.  This band is on its way to getting inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame for their lifetime achievement of asskicking.  Even if the ‘establishment press’ never bestows them any major big time Nobel-level honors, god damn it… Thrice, you’ll always be in my hall of fame <3.  Dustin Kensrue is also probably the best voice around these days; his singing continues to grow in tone, range and emotion every consequent album by leaps and bounds.

But it’s not to say that there were no other standouts these past 12 months.  I’m fairly sure that Telefon Tel Aviv, Junis, and The Appleseed Cast all managed to make me wipe away a tear of joy with their 2009 releases with their masteries of Western music, harmony, tone, and each having their own unique and implacable qualities that elevate their statuses head and shoulders above their peers.  The Appleseed Cast’s new record was actually the soundtrack to my first encounter with pure ‘elf spice’, and question as you may, but it was a life-changing experience for the better.  Ever since this occasion I’ve been consistently happier, calmer, and a better, more successful person.  That’s how good these tunes are.  On the heavy music side of things, there were some glaring obvious picks for the year when it came to the best of the best.  Ulcerate and Converge were two of the year’s heaviest releases, but also some of the best experimental and melodic experiments I’ve heard from the extreme scene in years.  Of Fracture And Failure is as close as you’re going to get to a death metal band touching Gorguts‘ seminal experimental works (Obscura and From Wisdom To Hate) until the big boys themselves release their new material in the near future (now with a rhythm section composed of John Longstreth and Dysrhythmia).  Converge fucked EVERYONE’s shit up with Axe To Fall, and all thanks to the exposure they’ve rightfully deserved with their tour with the Warner Bros giants and High On Fire… they’ve been appearing at the tops of NPR lists and plenty of #1’s on “best metal album of all time” lists in every other publication for Jane Doe, but Axe To Fall grasps and very nearly attains this level of quality.  It’s especially fun hearing the gamut of guest musicians and vocalists on this bad boy.  Also worth noting is Gorod‘s new record, a.k.a. THE ONLY good technical death metal album to come out this year (runner up being tech core darlings Starring Janet Leigh for their impressive debut).  And, if you read my (one and only) Burnt By The Sun review, you’d already know that it’s one of the heaviest releases to come out this year.  With how busy life has been for me lately, it’s nice to have such quality releases everywhere to remind me why I do this in the first place.

1. Thrice – Beggars
2. Telefon Tel Aviv – Immolate Yourself
3. Junius – Martyrdom of a Catastrophist
4. The Appleseed Cast – Sagarmatha
5. Ulcerate – Everything Is Fire
6. Converge – Axe To Fall
7. Wolves In the Throne Room – Black Cascade
8. Burnt By The Sun – Heart Of Darkness
9. Magrudergrind – s/t
10. Gorod – Process Of A New Decline



8 Comments

  1. Vuk Varicak wrote:

    I hated Beggars, and was deeply disappointed as a huge Thrice fan. Magrudergrind is one I haven't seen on many lists though, and it's monstrous.

  2. Vuk Varicak wrote:

    I hated Beggars, and was deeply disappointed as a huge Thrice fan. Magrudergrind is one I haven't seen on many lists though, and it's monstrous.

  3. Sean May wrote:

    No one else around here shares my enthusiasm for Beggars, but that's okay. I didn't listen to anyone else's opinion on the matter; I myself postponed listening to the CD for months because I was so convinced I was going to hate it. But I finally gave it a try… and the music grabbed me 10 times harder than ANYTHING Alchemy Index-related. I might actually have to write a separate rebuttal review just to educate people on a different perspective through which to appreciate this MASTERPIECE. People were just mad because the album had little to do with their previous works…

    • hearwax wrote:

      I am not as huge into the Alchemy Index as everyone else, but I was still incredibly disappointed by Beggars. I found it to be very boring and unmemorable – two traits I had never imagined I'd associate with them. Artist and Vheissu are two of my favourite albums, but the "groove" they went for with this was not groovy at all, and there were no other elements to make it worthwhile. I'd love if you wrote a rebuttal review though.

  4. Sean May wrote:

    No one else around here shares my enthusiasm for Beggars, but that's okay. I didn't listen to anyone else's opinion on the matter; I myself postponed listening to the CD for months because I was so convinced I was going to hate it. But I finally gave it a try… and the music grabbed me 10 times harder than ANYTHING Alchemy Index-related. I might actually have to write a separate rebuttal review just to educate people on a different perspective through which to appreciate this MASTERPIECE. People were just mad because the album had little to do with their previous works…

    • hearwax wrote:

      I am not as huge into the Alchemy Index as everyone else, but I was still incredibly disappointed by Beggars. I found it to be very boring and unmemorable – two traits I had never imagined I'd associate with them. Artist and Vheissu are two of my favourite albums, but the "groove" they went for with this was not groovy at all, and there were no other elements to make it worthwhile. I'd love if you wrote a rebuttal review though.

  5. Vuk Varicak wrote:

    I listened to it many, many times. It took me forever to write that review, just because I was so surprised that I disliked a Thrice album so much.

    I feel like they were trying to break their formula of climax-driven stuff, and go anti-climax. Sort of like Mew did, I guess. Except Mew play a style of music that works much better with that kind of thing,

  6. Vuk Varicak wrote:

    I listened to it many, many times. It took me forever to write that review, just because I was so surprised that I disliked a Thrice album so much.

    I feel like they were trying to break their formula of climax-driven stuff, and go anti-climax. Sort of like Mew did, I guess. Except Mew play a style of music that works much better with that kind of thing,

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