Monday, January 11, 2010

My Favorite Albums of 2009

An annual tradition...

Honorable Mention:

Ian Brown – My Way
Lead track “Stellify” (supposedly written for Rihanna to perform?) is a great start. Other highlights for me include “Always Remember Me”, “Just Like You” and “So High”. I’ve seen a number of reviews calling this Ian’s best solo album and while I wouldn’t go that far - this is another great album from my favorite Stoned Rose. My only reservation is the album is too synth heavy for my taste. On his previous album The World Is Yours the highlights were the two tracks he recorded with Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook with Happy Mondays’ Paul Ryder on bass – if only Ian would record a whole album with that line up!

10. Elvis Costello – Secret, Profane & Sugarcane
This was a great kind of acoustic country swing album. The style works great but is almost irrelevant – the important thing being that this is a superb collection of songs. My favorites include “My All Time Doll”, “Hidden Shame”, “I Dreamed Of My Old Lover”, and “Sulphur To Sugarcane”. I just wish he had included his excellent version of “Friend Of The Devil”.

9. St. Vincent – Actor
I had never heard of her before I caught her on Letterman one night early in ‘09, but I was very taken with her song “Marrow” – very angular, multi-layered, unusual (I love the horn chart!) – just my cup of tea! I downloaded the album off eMusic and was very happy to find the whole album to be excellent. I expect many more great albums from her.

8. Band Of Skulls – Baby Darling Dollface Honey
The debut from this English trio finds this group occasionally sounding like the White Stripes (“Death By Diamonds And Pearls” and “I Know What I Am”, both great) but most of the album defies comparisons. My favorite track, the album closer “Cold Fame” is just outstanding and possibly my favorite song of the year.

7. Cage The Elephant – Cage The Elephant
Another act I caught on Letterman, I was immediately impressed with their live performance. The single “Aint No Rest For The Wicked” is a great aggressive rock song and I really like the album. I’m still trying to remember which Iggy song “Soil To The Sun” sounds like… Another band to watch.

6. The Church – Untitled #23
Is it laziness when the press resorts to calling a veteran band’s latest album a “return to form”? That’s the reception this album received, when in fact this is just YET ANOTHER great album from The Church – they’ve never stopped producing great work. I seem to catch them live about once a decade. I was fortunate enough to make it for this tour and they were just stunning – really better than ever! Favorites on this album include “Space Saviour”, “Happenstance”, “Anchorage”, and “Sunken Sun”.

5. Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications
There’s many more reasons to love Jarvis than for being that guy who drunkenly crashed – and mocked – Michael Jackson’s Brit Awards debacle in the ‘90s… the best being his band Pulp was one of the greatest of the ‘90s. With his solo records he continues to show that he’s right up there with Ray Davies and Morrissey for his ability to write incredibly witty/funny/clever lyrics set to catchy tunes… Standouts on this album include “Leftovers”, “I Never Said I Was Deep”, “Slush”, and “Hold Still”.

4. The Von Bondies – Love, Hate And Then There’s You
Sadly, I think I knew this band best because the singer Jason Stollsteimer is the guy who famously got his ass kicked by Jack White (that photo of him with his eye swollen shut was all over the place at the time.) To be fair, I did really like their “Come On, Come On” single a few years ago (Rescue Me uses it as the theme song). Anyway, I heard the single “Earthquake” off this album and was immediately intrigued. It’s just the kind of propulsive (great drummer!) off-kilter rock I’m a sucker for. This is an album I kept coming back to all year. Other favorites include “Pale Bride”, “This Is Our Perfect Crime”, “Shut Your Mouth”, “I Don’t Wanna”… great album!

3. Cursive – Mama, I’m Swollen
Yet another act I discovered watching Letterman! The single “From the Hips” is blistering and the whole album - combining aggressive tunes, dark lyrics, and spacey instrumentation - is excellent. Other favorite tracks include “In the Now”, “Donkeys”, and “Mama, I’m Swollen”. I guess a lot of Cursive fans felt this album marked an unwelcome change in direction, I love it.

2. Eels – Hombre Lobo
This album really took me by surprise. I’ve liked E and his Eels in the past so I was interested to hear the new album. Initially I may have dismissed it as a mellow collection of tunes but boy did those tunes sneak up on me! “In My Dreams”, “My Timing Is Off”, “That Look You Give That Guy”, “What’s A Fella Gotta Do” – this is classic stuff! I’ll be coming back to this album for years and years.

1. Manic Street Preachers – Journal For Plague Lovers
Original Manics lyricist James Richey disappeared, presumed dead, in 1995. The band soldiered on, becoming massive everywhere but here in the States! 14 years later the band released this album the first since 95’s excellent The Holy Bible to feature Richey lyrics. The material certainly inspired them. This is the finest Manics album in many a year, easily standing up as one of their best. My favorite tracks include “Jackie Collins Existential Question Time”, “Peeled Apples”, “Me And Stephen Hawking”, “Facing Page: Top Left”… lyrically I have no idea what most of these songs are about. Singer James Dean Bradfield has admitted to not understanding all of Richey’s lyrics and he’s got to sing them! Whatever he was on about, this is an outstanding album!

Monday, January 04, 2010

HOLMES cover in Three By Three Illustration Annual #6

A year and a half after publication and I continue to get mileage out of my scratch-board cover from the Ait/Planet Lar edition of HOLMES! I received my copy of the 3 X 3 Illustration Annual the day of New Year's Eve and didn't really know what to expect.

I’m very pleased to have my work included in this book – and thrilled that they spotlighted my piece with a full page. It is really an outstanding collection of contemporary illustration and I’m very proud to be included. Their site is