With an approaching January 1st, the bloggers of the world are all busy making lists of the best records of the year, best records of the decade, best gigs of 2009.. having just gotten back from a semi-holiday (it was mostly visiting family and emptying an apartment, with lots of reading in between) I have “no plans and too much time” (thanks, Conor Oberst) so I’m jumping on the bandwagon. I wish all the music I’ve listened to, all the shows I’ve seen, the books I’ve read and the exhibitions I’ve been to could fit on this page, but they don’t. *sigh*. So I will try to keep it short and down to the essential: the things I’d do, read, see, and listen to over and over again, lost in their power, their beauty, their violence.
My best of 2009: Music
The Little Hands of Asphalt: Leap Years
I’ve expanded on the topic of Sjur’s talent a bit too much in the last months (see here) – but all I have written is absolutely true. Leap Years is a wonderful album where the songs flow right into each other, it reminds me of Norway (duh) and it’s very bittersweet and perfect for the transition between autumn and winter, when you desperately want time to stop and leaves to keep from dying.
Sigh & Explode: These Seem Like Tarantulas
It took me a few listens to understand the potential of this album. So very different from the dance-hardcore EP which made them known to the Norwegian audience, These Seem Like Tarantulas is more mature, more constructed and with its mix of screamed vocals and wonderfully-crafted melodies, takes 2009 hardcore to a new level.
Chris Garneau: El Radio
After my unnatural obsessive behavior when confronted to Music for Tourists, I was (maybe rightfully so) disappointed by El Radio – at first. Because it’s different. It’s louder, and cleaner, and happier. But it also leads more instruments into the foreground, it becomes richer and more interesting every time I listen to it. And Chris’ voice, of course, is pure gold.
Everton / Rika: Split LP
As I’ve already mentioned here, Everton do something to me. I know this release didn’t get the best reviews, especially on the Everton side of things, but I think it’s such a perfect perfect EP. It’s intense and beautiful and made me appreciate Rika’s music much more than I ever did before.
Sweet Sweet Moon: Pompidou EP
I threw myself on this the second after I saw him play live. It’s light like a summer breeze, and his voice is very particular and beautiful.
Emiliana Torrini (Szene, February 9th)
I discovered Emiliana close to ten years ago with the song To Be Free. The album it’s from is far from the style she delved into with her following records, but it has a special place in my heart. Anyway, I’d been waiting for that moment for years, and when she came up on stage she didn’t disappoint. The cutest thing alive!
The Scarabeusdream (Donaukanaltreiben)
I. JUST. LOVE. THIS. BAND. LIVE. And out of the three times I saw them live in 2009, the show by the danube was the most intense – maybe also because of the open air setting.
The Get Up Kids (Estragon / Bologna, Italy, August)
I also saw them in Munich in a much smaller venue, but somehow the atmosphere was completely different. In Bologna, there was energy flying off in all directions, and I managed to get some nice pictures without being punched or elbowed in the face.
Naked Lunch play UNIVERSALOVE (Arena Open Air, August)
Not my favorite band at all, but the screening of this beautiful movie with Naked Lunch playing the soundtrack live, open air, under the rain, was quite an experience…
Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)
I was sick of Bon Iver before even listening to any music he’d ever done. However I did – very cautiously – let myself wonder what For Emma, Forever Ago was all about. and Love was born. This album is nothing short of amazing; it followed me last winter, accompanied my cold february days and held my hand through spring and summer.
Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton: Knives Don’t Have Your Back (2006)
I don’t know why, but I had let this slide a bit when it first came out, and I picked it up again mid-2008. My whole 2009 was overloaded with Emily’s voice – especially the first half. The album, like For Emma.., is very simple. Minimalistic. And yet, it says so much with so little.
Brad Hamers: The Cut-Ups of a Paper Woman (2005)
For reasons which I will not reveal because they hurt like hell, this album is extremely important to me. I’ve listened to it less in the second-half of this year, it is however just as surprisingly beautiful as it was the first time I heard Sinking Summer Boat.
Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s: the Dust of Retreat (2005)
There’s nothing wrong with extremely sad music.
Non-2009 Releases (Demo/EP)
Death is not Glamorous: Demo (2005)
Even if you’re not into punk, you’ll be into this. It’s Melodic Hardcore at its best; I think I could never, NEVER get sick of these 5 songs.
My best of 2009: Books
Amélie Nothomb: Ni D’Adam ni d’Eve
Neil Gaiman: Anansi Boys
Muriel Barbery: L’Elégance du Hérisson
My best of 2009: Art Exhibitions
His exhibition was an eye-opener. Many exhibitions I’d seen at the Kunsthalle in the last years were curated terribly – instead of letting the works breathe, it was as if as many works as possible, space-wise, had been put together in the same room with the only red thread being some stupid theme like “Stars” or “Porn” or “Summer of Love”. The (small) Kempinas exhibition consisted in a few pieces scattered around the exhibition space. All very minimalistic, moving sculptures that are hung in the air graciously and that constantly flutter with the help of fans.
La Biennale di Venezia
(Much better this time than the last time I went. Adored the work of Pak Sheung Chuen.)
Die Moderne als Ruine
(Mostly because of Gordon Matta-Clarke)
My best of 2009: Trips
Something to Write Home About (roadtrip through Germany and Italy, August/September)
I went on a crazy road trip with a friend who flew from Cali. We sort of spontaneously decided to get some tickets to see two of the shows on the Get Up Kids reunion tour, to rent a car, pick up our friend Dennis on the way and travel aimlessly. We sort of had an idea of an itinerary for the twelve days, but didn’t exactly stick to it. Whatever. It was loud, and long, and full of sun and heat and pizza and beautiful architecture.
Another trip partly organised because of a concert. I also thought it might be time to visit my friend Elodie, who lives a bit outside of the city. This was my fourth time ever in Paris and every time this city leaves me with a different impression. I wish I’d had more time to do things, but time goes by so fast when you are among friends.. I got to see the Centre Pompidou though, and the Père Lachaise cemetery (where I’d never been!). I also went to an opening, met our friend Clem for fancy drinks, made quiche, and slept on three different people’s floors.
The Spanish flatmate I had in Norway, the wonderful Ana, moved to a beautiful new flat 10 min walk from the Retiro Park in Madrid. I flew down for a long weekend and so did another friend of ours. We ate churros in the sun, experienced the Spanish nightlife, and I went to the Reina Sofia and to the Prado – which I’d not been to in surely 15 years. The cherry on the cake was a surprise visit, for 24 hours, from a lovely lovely boy. Basically, an amazing and incredible five days where we forgot to sleep. ha.