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Never Mind the Critics

Here’s what local musicians (and other tastemakers) were listening to in 2009.

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MC and producer for the Cool Kids

Mayer Hawthorne: A Strange Arrangement (Stones Throw)

The XX: XX (Young Turks)

Chuck Inglish

Mayer Hawthorne, that's probably my favorite record of the year. It's like, "Oh my God this dude just wrote a Motown album." I love that. I love the mood, the whole way he's flipped this style and kinda made it his own. That XX record, I think that's crazy. I think they took something like Portishead and put in a little more soul. They do Aaliyah covers and all of their breaks are pretty on point.

Jazz cornetist, coprogrammer of the Sunday Transmission series at the Hungry Brain

Henry Threadgill Zooid: This Brings Us To, Vol. 1 (Pi)

Chad Taylor: Circle Down (482 Music)

Han Bennink Trio: Parken (ILK)

Josh Berman

I love Mike Reed's record, I like Keefe Jackson and Frank Rosaly's duo thing and love Frank's solo record, but I feel funny talking about people I always work with.

The first thing about the new Henry Threadgill record is that the band has really figured itself out. There's a great balance between freedom and composition. There's a really striking openness to the whole record, and I'm not a huge flute fan, but I love the way he plays it. There's also very few places where you hear a saxophone within those rhythms—some rock, some additive rhythms—and he doesn't play this notey, hyper style over it. Plus, [guitarist] Liberty Ellman sounds incredible, splitting the difference between free, objective sound and these lyrical lines.

Chad Taylor's record is just beautiful. Chad's one the great writers, and I think around here everyone knows it, but it's easy to forget because he's such an incredible drummer.

I heard Han Bennink's new trio record—he plays one of my favorite Duke Ellington tunes, "Lady of the Lavender Mist," which I was thinking about doing with the Old Idea.

Overcoat Management (Swell Season, Iron and Wine)

Disappears: Lux (Kranky)

Katie Stelmanis: "Believe Me" b/w "Crying" (Vice/Loog)

Doug Paisley: Doug Paisley (No Quarter)

The two things I listened to the most this year are in all likelihood going to receive equal amounts in 2010. The first would be the forthcoming Disappears release, originally intended for the now dormant Touch and Go and now being rescued by the always on-point Kranky Records. These guys took Television's Marquee Moon, added touches of the Fall and select benchmarks of the In the Red catalog, and made a stellar record. The other artist I kept coming back to only released a single in 2009, but I can only see great things in 2010. Katie Stelmanis is yet another gift to us from north of the border and her "Believe Me" single was a total gem. Her new material and subsequent release in 2010 should see her placed in similar conversations with artists like Bat for Lashes, Florence & the Machine, and Cocorosie.

My singer-songwriter list for this year was deep, but no record stayed closer to my stereo than Doug Paisley's—it contained real songwriting and melodies. If he can find the sea legs to get out and tour a bunch, he should be able to transition into making the indie kids happy along with the older No Depression crowd.

Some of the best shows I saw were, oddly enough, as mainstream as they come. U2 at the Rose Bowl . . . It truly is magic to see a band unite 100,000 people, and even if you think it's fake sincerity—and I don't believe it is—they performed like they had something to prove. Also, Touch and Go night at SXSW. Really heartfelt and amazing night with stellar performances by Crystal Antlers, All the Saints, Sholi, Disappears, the Uglysuit, and Mi Ami. When all everyone I know wanted to do was bury their heads in the sand and pretend Touch and Go [where Greynolds once worked] coming to end wasn't happening, everyone—bands and employees—did the only thing we could, which was stand tall, be counted, and let the music do the talking.

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