The Podcast Cafe's Favorite Music of 2009

Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2009
The xx, Phoenix, Iron & Wine, Miike Smith, Neko Case & the Japandroids receive valuable multiple vote-points in annual renowned world-famous poll of the SBWS tastemakers -- Nirvana roars back, P. Jam snoozes and Big Debate over Wilco (The Album)

DJ Fundi:

Fever Ray's "Fever Ray"
Welder's "Vines and Streams"
The xx's "xx"
Heyoka's "Gate Code"
Cymbals Eat Guitars' "Why There Are Mountains"
The Cave Singers' "Welcome Joy"
Built to Spill's "There is No Enemy"
Dirty Projectors' "Bitte Orca"
Tinariwen's "Imidiwan"
ill.gates' "Autopirate"

A mix of genres served in good proportion: electronica/whomp/dub (4), guitar rock (2), weird folk (1), avant-garde pop (2) and African (1). Very pleased with each one of these and expect to listen to them for the ages. Most of the artists are brand new to me, so maybe I'm still in the honeymoon phase? Built to Spill is the only oldie but goodie to me, and I was stoked to hear Doug & Co. roar back with a solid album full of beauty, heartache and soaring guitar solos.

Honorable mentions:

Sonic Youth's "The Eternal"
"5: 5 Years of Hyperdub" compilation
Andras Schiff's "Bach: Six Partitas"
Neko Case's "Middle Cyclone"
DJ/Rupture's "Solar Life Raft"
Nosaj Thing's "Drift"
The Mountain Goats' "The Life of the World to Come"
Iron & Wine's "Around the Well"
Yim Yames "Tribute To George Harrison"
Bon Iver "Blood Bank"
"Dark was the Night" compilation

Most Disappointing:

Pearl Jam's "Backspacer"
To my ears, the blandest and most predictable album they've ever made -- I tried very hard to like it. Still love the boys but most of this this just sounds limp and plodding and too predictable. Instead of Backspacer, check out the band playing ferociously in peak form in 1994 at Wolfgang's Vault -- one of the best, most energetic and passionate rock performances ever, methinks.
Wilco's "Wilco (The Album)"
Not a bad album per se, only that Wilco has set the bar so damn high for themselves and I was over this one after 2 or 3 listens.
Bob Dylan "Together Through Life"
Ditto Dylan -- the first average album after a decade of amazing late-period releases.

Listen to a free podcast featuring much of the music listed above on the
main Podcast Cafe episodes page.

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Dub Marcus "K-Pop" Keeney:

Top 15 in somewhat order -- (parenthese is a good track to check out)

The xx - The xx - (crystalized)
Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young (Out of the blue)
Japandroids - Post-Nothing (The boys are leaving town)
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Lisztomania)
Bombay Bicycle Club - I had the blues but shook them loose (What If)
St. Vincent - Actor - (marrow)
Wilco - Wilco (wilco - the song)
Tegan and Sara - Sainthood  -(alligator)
The Avett Brothers -   I and Love and You- (I and Love and You)
Neko Case - Middle Cyclone   (this tornado loves you)
The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love (The Hazards of Love Pt1)
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion  - (My Girls)
Miike Snow - Miike Snow   (animal)
U2 - No Line on the Horizon (Magnificent)
Vieux Farka Toure - Fondo    (sarama)
Honorable mention

The Big Pink, Atlas Sound, Amadou & Mariam, brakesbrakesbrakes, Robyn Hitchcock (Live in NY I often dream of trains)
Couple comments
Japandroids is just pure post-punk, there is just something about this album that makes we want to grab a smashing stick and go to work, but not with anger, rather pure joy and a smile on my face.
The Decemberists album deserves the full listen with headphones, not single tracks, for it is what I would dub Storybook Folk at its best. 
Animal Collective is somewhere between ...And you will know us by the trail of the dead...and pink floyd.  So many layers in their songs I get lost and love it.
The Avett Brothers - Many of you know my long standing obstinance to country (and hesh too but that is a different story) but this album is just great song writing, plus I am a sucker for a banjo (The January Wedding.)
Neko Case has now entered my pantheon of female singers that make me swoon.  She is a mix of Tracy Thorn and Margo Timmins.
Phoenix - admitedly I am a little tired of this album nowadays, but I couldn't get enough when this first came out early in the year. Great pop that makes my bouncing leg step it up a notch.
Bombay Bicycle Club - ditto - these guys have to be fantastic live. 
Miike Snow - where they hell did they come from? Some Nordic country that Dille will have to affirm but do give them a listen, I promise you will want to stand up and march.
U2 - I know Bono's crooning can be a bit much but there are a number of tracks on this album that harken back to the glory days (Joshua Tree) mostly due to the Edge.  Definitely my guilty pleasure of the year.
Vieux Farka Toure - just like his father, this reverb fender hypnotizes me and is pure brilliance in my opinion.

Don't take my word on any of this, listen for yourself:

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The Internationally Renowned Boaster:

This has been a tricky year to come up with a top 10. There are tons of really good new releases but none that I felt were far and away better than the rest. The most epic of all was the Nirvana live album. Even some that are in my top 10 I don't see being on my regular rotation like so many top 10's in the past.  As evidence to this point, in the KEXP top 90.3 albums of the decade only two were from 2009.  Some of my favorite '09 releases do not even qualify as new albums (one live, two  b-side comps and one EP).   I even went back through many of the "consensus" top albums to make sure I wasn't just in some strange socialistic music rut where everything is equal. I still don't get the fascination with Merriweather post pavilion.  Very few releases were completely solid from the first song to the last.  Too many had what I would call filler. Another example, Mos Def's "Ecstatic" has some great songs but also has some pure cheese. Anyway, before you call bullshit on my entire "2009 -the year of parody" theory, have a gander at what wheat I have separated from the chaff, in no specific order:
Japandroids - post nothing (I new it was special when 80% of the people I turned on to it hated it.)
Julian Plenti - Julian Plenti is....Skyscraper
The xx-xx
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Its Blitz
Nirvana - Live at Redding (this I will be listening to for the rest of my life)
Iron and Wine - Around the Well
Shabazz Palaces - Of Light
Staff Bebda Bilili - Tres Tres fort
Amadou and Miriam - Welcome to Mali
Miike Snow -Miike Snow
Modest Mouse - No One's First and You're Last
I am not going to give any honorable mentions as that could include countless credible albums. I will say that I do agree with K-Pop that the Decemberists latest is worthy, specifically the "Wanting Comes In Waves" track. 
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UPDATE: late entry by Mr. Kevin Koga
Steinski-What Does it All Mean
James Pants-Welcome
El Michels Affair-Enter the 37th Chamber
Major Lazer- Guns Don’t Kill People Lazers Do
Ben Sollee- Learning to Bend
K’Naan- album
Diplo- Decent Work for Decent Pay
Raphael Saadiq- The Way I See It
Common- Universal Mind Control
Tom Waits- Glitter and Doom

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Did we miss anything? Leave
your favorite albums of 2009 in the comments. Peace.

Best Albums of the Decade

NPR's music team has posted a provocative list of their "50 Most Important Albums of the 2000s", with different critics of diferent genres weighing in, hence the rock albums alongside classical alongside jazz (reviews and samples from the albums are found here). Note that these picks aren't the BEST of the 2000s, but instead representative of some important trend or defining moment in music over the past decade. I am very happy to see several non-obvious choices on their list by artists that have inspired, challenged and sustained me over the past decade: Burial, Bon Iver, The Bad Plus, Iron & Wine, Yo-Yo Ma. Radiohead is the only band with two albums on the list -- can you guess which two?

Carey Brownstein's Monitor Mix blog at NPR has
a lot of thoughtful essays, quizzes, timelines and whatnot about the past 10 years of music too.

I'm also enjoying studying the lists of
"The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s" over at Pitchfork -- I always get a bunch of new musical leads to track down reading their various staff lists of this and that. They also rate the worst album covers and best musical videos of 2009.

Looping Around the House with Simon

Looping Around The House from Si on Vimeo.


Nosaj Thing in action

Yours Truly Presents: Nosaj Thing from Yours Truly on Vimeo.


Summertime bounty & a brief respite for DJ Fundi

Hello friends of the Podcast Cafe -- DJ Fundi here, and I've just uploaded a ton of new music to all three of the DJ Fundi's Podcasting Network outlets -- the main Podcast Cafe channel, the Live Archive and Radio Free Fundi -- six new episodes in all. That should be plenty for you to chew on for some time to come, not to mention all of the archives of past episodes, including the recent 3-part Michael Jackson Tribute.

I'm going to take a break for a few months from working at the Podcast Cafe. I need to put my energy towards some other pursuits that sometimes get neglected in my frenzy of music mixing and distribution. My other website is demanding lots of attention right now as I prepare for my third Burn at the end of August with a group of stellar friends -- the dBM blog and the Radio dBM feed in particular are active and funky-fresh. I also have writing projects and travel plans that will keep me pretty busy through the fall. I will probably post a new episode here and there on the main channel as I have a few more already in the can, including Part 2 of the Purple Reign series.

I want to thank those listener-subscribers who donated money to the Podcast Cafe over the past couple of months, including Miguel B., Edubious, Jodie_sweetfire, LizardSnyder, CheesyChez and the Mountain Sufi, and to Noble Andy for the shipment of fine oolong tea from Taiwan. Their support helps keep this free service on the air and lets me know that folks appreciate the hours and hours of labor that goes in to keeping it alive. There's a PayPal link in the sidebar to the right if you too want to pitch in to show some love for DJ Fundi's efforts.

Here are a couple of amazing videos to leave you with -- enjoy the rest of summer and keep on rockin' in the free world!
xo, DJ Fundi

Just Colour from Jesper Kirkeby Brevik on Vimeo.

The Falcon from The Shamptonian Institute on Vimeo.


Rest in peace, Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson performing with James Brown and Prince:

Michael Jackson * 9.27.87 * Live in Yokohama


Dance Party at the Gorge


Neil Young's Archives Vol. I

In the wake of Bob Dylan's successful 1985 expanded anthology Biograph, it seemed like every rock artist of note was lining up for CD box-set canonization. And true to his reputation as a futurist, David Bowie tried to outdo them all with 1989's Sound + Vision, which supplemented the usual greatest-hits-plus-rarities format with a bonus disc of visual content that would showcase the glorious new CD-Video format. There was only one problem with his attempt to revolutionize the box set: no one knew what the hell a CD-Video disc was, let alone owned any kind of device that would allow one to view it.

It was around this same time that Neil Young started talking up an ambitious career-retrospective project called Archives, and given the amount of unreleased songs Young routinely dusted off in his concerts, fans had come to expect nothing less than a parallel-universe repertoire every bit as rich and deep as his official one-- a Decade to last for decades. But as gleaned by anyone who's gone to a Neil Young show expecting to hear the hits but treated to an hour of Greendale instead, being a Neil fan requires a certain amount of patience. Twenty years since its first public mention, Archives has gone on to usurp even Chinese Democracy as the ultimate lost-album punchline. But the long-delayed arrival of this first volume seems less a matter of archeology as technology. And like the Bowie box, there's some confusion about how exactly you're supposed to use the thing.

Neil Young is an odd sort of perfectionist, favoring a raw immediacy in his recordings that often means leaving the mistakes in for purity's sake, but he's obsessed with making sure those mistakes are mixed and mastered to sometimes unattainable standards of fidelity. (He refused to release arguably his finest album, 1974's On the Beach, on CD until 2003 for this reason.) So it appears that the advent of Blu-ray HD audio technology was the missing piece that has allowed Neil to realize his multimedia masterplan for Archives. What little public comment he's made about Archives' release has taken the form of evangelical praise for the medium, urging fans to adopt the new technology like a Best Buy salesman working on commission.

The first volume of Archives arrives as a 10-disc set, spanning the first 10 years of Young's career and, somewhat confusingly, three different formats. For the most ardent audiophiles, there's the $300 multimedia-enhanced Blu-ray edition that includes six compilation discs; the previously released Live at the Fillmore East and Live at Massey Hall; an additional solo concert recorded in 1969 at the Riverboat coffeehouse in Toronto (though it boasts a tracklist similar to last year's Live at Canterbury House set, also included here as an unlisted bonus throw-in); the first DVD release of Young's infamous tour-documentary-cum-existential-road-flick, Journey Through the Past; plus online-update capabilities through which users will have access to more material.

For equally fervent fans with inferior home-entertainment set-ups, there's a $200 version boasting all of the above musical and multimedia content in a DVD format. And for those who just want some Neil on-hand in the car to soundtrack future road trips forevermore, there's a basic eight-disc $100 CD box with all the tunes but none of the extras. (All versions come with mp3 download codes, though we all know how Neil feels about iPods.)

Regardless of the format, each version of Archives makes the same convincing case: For Neil Young, the years of 1963 to 1972 were marked by a rapid maturation and a series of successful stylistic reinventions that rivaled the Beatles. Starting out as the surf-rockin' frontman for Winnipeg garage combo the Squires, he quickly transitioned into the folkie busker cutting early demos of "Sugar Mountain" for Elektra Records in 1965; the wide-screened psychedelic visionary in Buffalo Springfield; the savage electric warrior of 1969's Crazy Horse debut, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere; the heroic hippie wingman for Crosby, Stills and Nash; and then the country-rock traditionalist of 1970's After the Gold Rush and 1972's Harvest. On top of summarizing a tidy 10-year span, Archives Vol. 1 ends symbolically with Neil at his commercial peak, before a growing disillusionment with rock stardom and the death of close friends would usher in a more darkly compelling phase of his career......
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MM&W : "Amber Gris"" />" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" width="400" height="220">

This is the music video for "Amber Gris", the first single off of Medeski Martin & Wood's newest release, Radiolarians II. Radiolarians II is available now.


Beasties with The Roots


Scenes from the Gorge...

I could talk at length about how great last weekend's trip to the Gorge in eastern Washington to see the Doobie Brothers, the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead was -- and how amazingly surprised and pleased I was with The Dead's inspired performance -- but for now, I need to just listen to the music play....

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Happy 3rd Birthday Podcast Cafe !!!

Nearly 50 episodes later, The Podcast Cafe is turning three years old today. There's a special anniversary episode, kicking off the first-ever listener-powered fundraiser, right about here. More celebratory nonsense later....gotta get some sleep before leaving to see the Doobie Brothers, the Allman Brothers and (especially) the Grateful Dead at the Gorge with some old friends tomorrow!Keep Reading...

The Dead -- still alive -- in 2009

DJ Fundi is having a bit of a Grateful Dead fiesta over on the Live Archive, and he is dropping some live sets from favorite shows he was in attendance at in readyment of his forthcoming journey to see the Dead at the Gorge in May 2009. It'll be his first show post-Jerry, and the concert will feature not only the reunited Dead but the Doobie and Allman Brothers as well.

Check out
a lively show from Cal Expo in 1992 right here and here too, revisit the Radio Free Fundi archival podcasts of Jerry's music here and here, and enjoy this tasty nugget from 1977:

Update: I am uploading the 5/16/09 Dead show at the Gorge over on
the Live Archive! And there is a review of the show posted over at Here's an excerpt:

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Pearl Jam's "Release"

For nearly 20 years and running, I've been listening to Pearl Jam's album "Ten." There's a good chance you have been too. "Ten" has become on of the 30-something generation's touchstone albums, defining of your "young adulthood," a time when many of us are opening up to the power of music in new ways. The records we hear in this fertile period tend to stick with us over the long haul, becoming emblematic and representative of something larger than itself. Pearl Jam's debut album "Ten," along with "Nevermind," "Blood Sugar Sex Magic," "Ritual de lo Habitual" and "Badmotofinger."

The song "Release" is the closing track, winding things down after 10 tracks of unbelievably passionte and driving rock 'n roll. It started a tradition of P. Jam ending most of their album with a seriously smoldering slow jam that highlights the pleading sincerity of Eddie Vedder. We bring it to your attention now because P. Jam have recently released a remastered/remixed version of "10," with new renditions of oldish classics handled by Brendan O'Brien, their long-time producer. I'm curious to hear which version you like the best, and to make things more interesting, I've tossed in 2 live versions too. If you have any feedback on the different takes on "Release," or on P. Jam and "Ten" in general, leave yer thoughts in the comments.

Release (1992)

Release (2009)

Release (Live in Chicago 2003)

Release (Live at Bonaroo 2008)

(Click to play)

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Tiger Mountain Peasant Song (Fleet Foxes covers)

Something about this kaleidoscope of soulful people singing one of the Fleet Foxes' finest tunes makes me feel proud to be an American....allow yourself some time to sink in to the harmonic convergence of democracy, found within the chords & harmonies...dig it.

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My Sugar Lumps

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Boogie Universal presents...

Download or stream Ana Sia's "dripHOP" mix over at our sister site,
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Freddie's Dead

'Taps' for Freddie Hubbard

Wall Street Journal

In the 70 years that he was with us, Freddie Hubbard, who died on Dec. 29, was known primarily for one thing: playing the trumpet harder, faster and with more pure chops than virtually anyone else who ever picked up the horn. Hubbard was regaled as the most prolific, the most prodigious, the most celebrated, and probably the longest-lasting trumpet king of what came to be known as the hard bop era, performing a style of jazz that has exerted a disproportionately large influence on the young jazzmen of the Marsalis generation and beyond.

Yet over the course of his productive career, the iron-lipped Mr. Hubbard did a great many things brilliantly: He was working with avant-garde musicians (John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy) almost from the beginning, and later made a pile for himself in the burgeoning field of jazz-rock fusion; he could play ballads with exquisite, heart-breaking tenderness; as a composer, he had an extraordinary track record of tunes that were widely played (and even sung) by other musicians. He did a lot of things but still remained known for playing hard-bop or soul-jazz style trumpet better than almost anybody.

(Visit Radio Free Fundi for a podcast-tribute of Hubbard and his most memorable moments in the studio and on stage; link below to continue reading.)Keep Reading...