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by Jennifer Cooke

8 Jan 2010


PopMatters has unveiled its list of the Top 60 Albums of 2009. And as testament to the diversity of taste here at PM, I found exactly ZERO of my choices on that list. No overlap whatsoever. With apologies to Animal Collective, from where I’m standing, that is one butt-naked emperor. So, be it ever so humble, here is my personal Top Ten for the year.

10 Julian Casablancas, Phrazes for the Young
Those who know me have heard the story a dozen times apiece. When the Strokes still played clubs right after Is This It? came out, I stood in the front row at the Casbah and got biffed in the bean by Julian Casablancas’ microphone stand, producing an impressive golf-ball sized knot. He was deep in his training-wheels-alcoholic phase where he fancied himself quite the Johnny Thunders Jr. Between the head injury and the revelation of hearing “Barely Legal” for the first time, I fell in love on the spot with what became one of my five favorite bands of the decade. Phrazes for the Young is the first time since Room on Fire that I felt a tingle in that phantom spot on my forehead.

by Christian John Wikane

6 Jan 2010


Bruce Sudano is jet-lagged. He just returned from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. Only two days earlier, he was shaking President Obama’s hand and now he’s enduring the seasonal frenzy of holiday shoppers at the mall. All this followed an intense month of travel where the Nashville-based singer-songwriter jetted between Los Angeles and New York. He savored each bite of the pasta dinner he ate last night in the comforts of his own kitchen with a glass of Chianti. After such a whirlwind itinerary, home never tasted so good.

Even before departing for Oslo, Sudano was celebrating an already memorable year. 2009 marked the release of his third solo album, Life and the Romantic, released on his own Purple Heart imprint. The writer of hits by Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Robert Palmer, Jermaine Jackson, and Donna Summer emerged this year with a new set of songs that found the former member of Alive ‘n Kickin’ and Brooklyn Dreams in a contemplative space, mapping his observations about the details of everyday life over a variety of soundscapes. “Beyond Forever”, “Love Is Sacrifice”, and “A Glass of Red and the Sunset” folded a shade of jazz into the tunesmith’s repertoire while “It’s Her Wedding Day” helped Sudano earn two nominations (AC Artist and AC Song of the Year) for the 2009 New Music Weekly Awards. It’s a good time to be Bruce Sudano, as the artist ruminates on what he wore to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, what he said to President Obama, and the special place that both his wife and Bob Dylan occupy in this latest edition of 20 Questions.

by PopMatters Staff

6 Jan 2010


You’ve heard Ludovico Einaudi’s music in the trailer for The Reader, in an ad for American Airlines with Kevin Spacey, in the 2009 NBA Championship Playoffs advertisements in the US, a number of television placements as well as 17 of his tracks used in the upcoming film Dirt! The Movie

Einaudi has written 15 film scores, several which won prizes as best soundtracks in a variety of European film festivals, including the BAAF award for his soundtrack for Shane Meadow’s film, This is England

Einaudi was the only classical artist invited to play the iTunes Festival in Europe and on his last live tour, he performed more than 120 concerts all over the world including India, Europe, Japan and the US. His first US release, Divenire (2008), debuted at #1 on the iTunes Classical Chart and at #78 on their pop chart. The release was also nominated for “Album of the Year” by the Classical Brit Awards.

Formerly trained in Conservatorio Verdi in Milan, Einaudi now lives on a vineyard in the Italian region of Piedmont where his latest CD, Nightbook (released in the US this month), was conceived.

by Michael Metivier

5 Jan 2010


The regrettable tendency for audiences when any great artist dies is to hear that person’s music in the past tense. Songs one used to be able to live in actively start to sound more like premonitions or epitaphs, rather than the vibrant, complex worlds that existed before their departure. Though not as widely known as Kurt Cobain or Elliott Smith, Vic Chesnutt’s recent death has already sent fans parsing through songs like “Supernatural”, “Florida”, and especially the recently penned “Flirted With You All My Life” for clues and foreshadowing of his apparent suicide. However, I hope against odds that this is avoided. For all of Chesnutt’s remarkable candidness and honesty in his writing, songs like those mentioned above shined not just as insight into his own mind, but through their craft, idiosyncrasy, and unique style, they succeeded at illuminating countless unarticulated thoughts and feelings in our own lives, whether dark, silly, crass, or poignant. And though Vic’s death has left an unfixable hole in the lives of friends, family, and fans, the truthfulness and relevance of his life’s work endures.

“Flirted With You All My Life”, for example, touches on experiences and people personal to Chesnutt, though I cry whenever I hear it not out of pity, or how it resonates with Vic’s death just months after its release, but out of sympathy and my own experiences with death. In light of his passing, I hope not to fix his songs as finite pieces of his life’s puzzle, but to allow them to continue to be borderless and timeless. In that spirit, I want to indulge in a few of my favorite memories involving Vic’s music, that continue to make me laugh and think, as much to celebrate what was and is, as to grieve what can no longer be.

by Sean McCarthy

4 Jan 2010


In 2002, I did some record store browsing with some fellow copy reporter interns-to-be in Austin. While I was fishing through the ‘R’s, one girl next to me said “One thing you can count on when you go into a used record store is at least five used copies of R.E.M.‘s Monster will be on hand.” At that moment, I saw a solid brick of orange CDs, proving her point. Several hours and several beers later, we started wondering why so many people turned on Monster. A few months later, I vowed I would get a record store clerk to buy my copy – a feat that took more than seven years to complete.

Before going into why people have sold the album en masse, it merits looking back to see why so many people picked up the album in the first place. After all, a used CD once had a buyer.  Document put R.E.M. in the majors, but was followed by three less rock-oriented albums that made the band superstars nonetheless. Automatic for the People was regarded in many circles as one of, if not the best work from the band. Still, once that album was released, there was a definite rumbling in the band’s fanbase for the band to return to the more rock-oriented sound of their earlier albums. Enter Monster.

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