This post is the "miscellaneous" releases of 2009. I didn't exactly know what category some of them belong in or they're part of a category that I only bought 1 or 2 releases from.
Several months ago, I posted about the latest Flaming Lips album, Embryonic. And I don't have much to add to what I've already wrote. Basically, I've listened to the album more and I'm liking it more. It has tons of great songs, it works as an album because of its thematic cohesiveness, and it's just a very interesting direction for the band. I would undoubtedly put it on a "best of" list if I made one.
My most listened to album of this year was Repo by Black Dice. That's partly because it came out in April, whereas most of the other releases came out in the fall. But that's not to say Repo isn't awesome. It's an album that I can listen to over and over again, always finding something new and always being entranced by the complex musical trajectories. The biggest change on this album is the increased use of vocals (in the form of samples, so no straight vocal melodies here, thankfully) and the fact that there are more, shorter tracks. There are still the long stretches ("La Cucaracha" and the fantastically titled "Ultra Vomit Craze"), but there are quite a few less-than-a-minute to three minute tracks that seem transitional, rather than full-fledged songs -- it's kind of like Radiohead's Hail To The Thief, where the short tracks have some interesting ideas, but you want them to be really developed and fleshed-out. Repo is a worthwhile addition to any BD fan's collection, but it's not a great starting point for newbies.
Fuck Buttons' latest outing is quite impressive. I was a pretty big fan of 2008's Street Horrrsing, but the duo has managed to top last year's slab of droning electronoise. The beats are pumped up and the vocals are dropped completely, two adjustments that considerably up the musical ante. Not only are you hypnotized by the drone and freaked out by the noise, but you can also dance to many of these tracks. The songwriting style hasn't changed much (and the tracks flow perfectly into each other just as before -- creating a real album experience), but the band has beefed up their sound. Tarot Sport is denser, more streamlined, and just more memorable. It seems like FB have fully realized the sound that the debut couldn't quite reach.
Talk Normal's debut full-length, Sugarland, is cut from the same cloth as last year's Secret Cog EP, but it's even more noisy and cavernous, with more distinctive songs. It sounds like a lost '80s NYC no-waver, or perhaps something released by the now defunct Gold Standard Laboratories label. It's slow and lurching, with lots of clanging, junky percussion (which reminds me of Neptune). And there's only two members of this band, both of whom do vocals, sometimes at the same time. I'm not quite sure what they're talking (normal) about since the vocals are a bit buried, except "In Every Dream Home A Heartache," which is clearly about materialism and emptiness, but it it doesn't matter that much. This music strikes me as being more about creating unsettling soundscapes than sending a message. Or maybe that is the message?
Though she didn't release a proper album this year, Ellen Allien's single "Lover" (b-side: "You Are") is worth mentioning. It's decidedly more techno than last year's album, Sool, though it sounds like the artist is moving forward, not just retreading old ground. The closest comparison I could make to her older material would be some stuff from Thrills, but that's not entirely accurate. These tracks seem more complex and developed. The fault of Thrills' tracks was that they didn't always feel like fully realized songs, but "Lover" and "You Are" both sound like complete stories. They go from point A to point B. Maybe it's due to length. Both of these songs are 8 minutes, some of Allien's longest. I'm hoping her next album goes in this direction.