favorite albums of 2009


At heart, I’m still a DJ, and what good DJ goes without making lists of favorite music? (examples: 2005, 2006, winter listening, some favorites from early 2009).

As such, I’ve come up with my top records of the year. Here’s this year’s list:

  • United Pursuit Band – EP / Radiance
    I listened to this record (the EP) more than almost any other this year. Amazing, stripped-down, passionate music.
  • Urban Rescue – Urban Rescue
    A phenomenal first release from a young band. Can’t wait to see what they do next!
  • David Crowder*Band – Church Music
    This year’s offering from DC*B was a return to the complex, thematic recordings I love of theirs. Much appreciated on many levels.
  • Christopher Willits – Live on Earth, Volume 1
    Gorgeous live ambient guitar and electronics
  • Jahaziel – Ready to Live
    A fresh UK hip-hop artist whose tracks saw a lot of play this year.
  • Sammy G – Plain an Simple
    Love the intersection of grime, dubstep, and UK hip-hop in one Gospel package.

late arrivals

These records arrived too late (Christmas presents, mostly) to be included, but have the potential for heavy play over the next few months:

Some recent listening


Being a DJ at heart, I tend to clump music together in terms of like-mindedness, and I’m forever putting together playlists in iTunes. Here are a few sets of music I’ve been listening to lately.

First off, some London bizness. I got turned on to Jahaziel last year via the Sphere of Hip-Hop forums, and then that led me to a few other related UK MCs (especially Sammy G, who’s spitting over dubstep and grime rhythms).

Sammy G – Plain an Simple
Silas Zephanias and Jahaziel – YouTube freestyles
Jahaziel – Ready To Live
re:flex the architect
Burial – Untrue

That morphed into digging (virtually) for some old UK jungle to satisfy that mid-90s kick…reading Burial talk about “rollage” in an interview brought back all those moments where you got a rush from hearing breaks chopped up just right. Here are a few things I found (the Photek is especially precious; I have it on 12″ but having no turntables anymore means I haven’t heard that tune in a looooong time).

Doc Scott – Far Way (Fourteen Flavors Of Funk)
Photek – Consciousness
Foul Play – Being With You

I’ve also been listening to a few worship-related records lately, especially these. The United Pursuit Band EP is particularly strong, especially “Running in Circles” and “Story of Grace”.

United Pursuit Band – EP
Jars of Clay – Closer EP
David Crowder*Band – Remedy Live

Finally, I have to give the kids some love…here’s what they’ve been requesting in the car. I’m loving that all 3 kids are consistently requesting “Pocket Calculator” by Kraftwerk…

Ali Dee and The Deekompressors – Go Speed Racer Go (Film Version)
Kraftwerk – Pocket Calculator
Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force – Planet Rock
Michael Jackson – Thriller
The Beatles – Yellow Submarine

winter listening favorites


Here’s a list from a mix I put together to showcase some of what I’ve been listening to lately. Winter usually nudges me toward quiet, introspective music, and this year is no different (though I’ve also been on a 90s hip-hop kick, which isn’t noted in this list).

Artist – Song (Album)

DEMF/Movement 2007 – Saturday Reflections


Here are my reflections on attending the DEMF/Movement 2007 festival on Saturday, May 25, 2007.

1:15PM – Arrived in downtown Detroit, park in the underground lot where I always park for the festival. It’s $10 this year – seems like it wasn’t that pricy before. Ah well.

1:20PM – Secure tickets. $26 for a one-day pass. Ouch! Again, more expensive than years past, but oh well.

1:30PM – Park myself directly in front of the stage in the Beatport tent and watch as Pole begins. His first two tracks pretty much melted my face. The bass was staggering, it sounded like the Pole of days past. After that, he veered into what sounded like his newer material, based on the bit I’ve heard. It was decent – nothing I’d seek out, but enjoyable. He played one track that sounded like Pole’s take on west-coast rap instrumentals, with this sort of Moog-sounding synth part. That description might steer you a little off, but it’s close, I guess. He finished up with some noisier dub pieces, and it was quite good. A great start to the day’s music.

Pole playing live

2:30PM – Watch as Sassmouth begins her set in the Beatport stage, and head out after 10 minutes or so. What I heard was fine, but I wanted to check out Higher Intelligence Agency, who was playing on the Pyramid Stage. I meet up with Jeff Kleine, and we head over together.

Higher Intelligence Agency
Higher Intelligence Agency playing at the Pyramid Stage

2:40PM – Oh my. The sound system at the Pyramid Stage is absolutely stunning. The high-frequency drivers literally looked like none I’ve ever seen before, and the sound is just unreal. Super crisp, clear, plenty loud, and the bass just envelopes you. Each side (left/right) has a front stack, two side stacks, and a rear stack. Standing in the middle is really the sweet spot – the bass hits, you get an awesome sense of the stereo imaging, and it really can’t be beat. The music is a great compliment to the system – deep bass and kick drums, clean, clear synth parts, and even some nice field recording noises at times. Bobby Bird (HIA) looks like he’s having the time of his life during his set, too. Jeff and I both really enjoy this set.

Higher Intelligence Agency
Higher Intelligence Agency

4:00PM – HIA finally wraps up, and Rhythm & Sound starts. This is one I’ve been anticipating, and there on the stage are two grizzled-looking Berliners, Mark Ernestus and Moritz Van Oswald, with a box of dub 7″s and a pair of turntables. A mic and Powerbook lay on the table next to them, awaiting the line-up of 3 toasters who will eventually accompany the pair in their selections. As the set progresses, it becomes clear that they’re in no hurry (they have 6 HOURS on this stage, after all) and a steady stream of slow, grooving versions and vocal tracks get played.

Rhythm & Sound
Rhythm & Sound, playing dub 45s

4:30PM – Some food is in order, so I skip over to the Ren Cen for an ATM, then back to the festival for a corn dog. Mmmmm, corn dog!

4:30PM – Back to Rhythm & Sound. The toasters are in full effect, though at times they’re detracting from the experience – a bit too much banter about “rhythm & sound, the sound system, feel this experience, etc”. I like the DJ role in all this, but I’m here to hear the selectors, too.

Rhythm & Sound
Rhythm & Sound with toaster

5:10PM – Over to the Beatport stage for Losoul. I saw him setting up while Pole finished, and he’s got an interesting rig – Sequential Circuits Studio 440 (an ancient sampler that takes floppy disks and has analog filters), a Novation Remote 25 controller, and a laptop. I own a couple of Losoul records that I like, which have some zip and funk to them, but this set turned out to be fairly sterile. Lots of kick drum, synth noise, rinse, repeat. Ho hum.


5:30PM – Back to Rhythm & Sound. The vocalists seem better integrated now. Some nice songs. Nothing from the Burial Mix catalog (what I would give to hear “Ruff Way” or “Never Tell You”!), but a good dub vibe. Fred Heutte is here now, too, and we all vibe off R&S.

Rhythm & Sound
Rhythm & Sound in full swing

6:00PM – Over to the Real Detroit tent to hear Anthony “Shake” Shakir. Shake had kind of a rough set – his multiple sclerosis seems to have made a lot of the necessary energy and fine movements difficult, but there were glimpses of his stunning past DJ sets in this set, bits like finding the groove in doubles of Rob Hood’s “internal empire” and working it, or dropping “Shades of Jae” at just the right time. It was great to see him really having fun, though there was also obvious frustration at times, too (partly due to what I think was an unfamiliar mixer, or possibly something wrong with it).

Anthony "Shake" Shakir
Anthony “Shake” Shakir

I’ve said it in the past, and I’ll say it again – I just love Shake, and I really enjoyed seeing him play. He’s been a huge inspiration to me musically.

a joyful Shake
Anthony “Shake” Shakir

7:00PM – As I walk back to the car, the rain starts to come down with slightly more force. It’s held off all day, but is finally starting to rain, and I watch the lights, and the people, and hear the thud of kick drums gradually fade. It’s time to go home.

Main Stage
DEMF Main Stage

You can see all my pictures from this at my Flickr site:

DEMF/Movement 2007 Photos

top 9 records for 2006


As I’ve done for many years now, I present you my top records for 2006. Since my days of buying massive amount of vinyl and other recorded music are gone, my lists tend toward “records that were important to me in the year gone by”, instead of trying to list the best music released that year. Most years there have been 10 on the list, this year there are only 9.

Therefore, most of the records in my list were not released in 2006, but instead this list is about what mattered to me this year. I hope you enjoy it.

Sara Groves – Add to the Beauty
This is probably the record I listened to the absolute most in 2006. I got a preview of it at the Sara Groves performance I attended in the summer of 2005, and for whatever reason didn’t pick it up when it was released in October 2005. I finally got a copy via LaLa, and it was pretty much a permanent resident in my CD player from that point on.

Procussions – 5 sparrows for 2 cents
“5 sparrows…” has its ups and downs, but when it’s up, it’s fantastic. The opener, “Shabach”, is probably my favorite hip-hop track of the year, seeing all 3 Procussions emcees trading verses off over a ridiculously good beat. Mr. J hits hard as always on the closer, “American Fado”.

Deadbeat – New World Observer and Wild Life Documentaries
Wild Life Documentaries was on my top 10 list the year it came out, and I returned to that material in a big way this year. I finally got New World Observer, and am also really enjoying that, though at this point I think Wild Life Documentaries is still my favorite of the Deadbeat full-lengths.

David Crowder*Band – A Collision [or, 3+4=7]
I got this in the last few days of 2005, so it got the vast majority of its play in 2006. It’s really all over the map stylistically, which I like, and has some great songs.

Sleeping at Last – Ghosts
I got to see Sleeping at Last live in the summer of 2005 and finally got “Ghosts” this year. It reminds me a lot of Hum, whose “You’d Prefer an Astronaut” record wowed me back when I first heard it. That’s not to slight Sleeping at Last, just to say that the influence runs strong. “Currents”, the second song from “Ghosts”, is phenomenal.

Denison Witmer – Philadelphia Songs
Such sad, sweet music. This record took a while to grow on me, but I went through a phase where I listened to it a ton over a few weeks in 2006, and have come back to it several time since.

Fognode – Porch Music EP
A free download offered by Fognode, this set of gorgeous ambient guitar pieces was a definite influence on my own “6 strings for a winter’s day” that I released at the end of January 06. I had these tracks going a lot during studying or reading this year.

Paul Simon – Surprise
A new Paul Simon record? With tons of help from Brian Eno? Sounds interesting, and it is. It seemed like Paul Simon jammed a few too many ideas into one song during the first half of the record, but the production is great, and there are some wonderful lyrical bits in there, too.

top 7 listening experiences for january-march 2006


Here’s a quick list of what I’ve been listening to a lot lately in the last few months:

Half-handed Cloud: halos + lassos [asthmatic kitty]
A great little poppy set of short songs. think of a one-man version of saturday looks good to me, or maybe just a really joyful john ringhofer. I’ll hopefully be going to see HHC on April 1 at the Halfway Inn in Ann Arbor…

david crowder*band: a collision (or 3+4=7)
The bredth and depth of this record is really something. I generally listen to the first half, but it’s strong all the way through.

john davis: john davis [rambler]
This has become a real favorite after receiving it for Christmas. Great pop songs with some lyrical depth and lush production. John Davis plays everything on the record, and has some gorgeous Beach Boys-like moments of melody and harmony.

various tracks from the Thinner netlabel [http://www.thinnerism.com]
Thinner has been putting out great stuff for quite a while now, all for free download. I recommend the “Crossways” and “Silent Season Dub” releases, but there’s a lot of good stuff there.

loscil: stases [one netlabel: free from http://one.dot9.ca/2/releases.php?id=027]
This is a collection of ambient drones and slow-moving soundscapes that works great on headphones. And it’s free!

LABKLIK: Quilting with Dan and Tim [deepspace5 records; available for digital download via: http://www.forthelistener.com/store_downloads.php]
All the classic LABKLIK stuff I never heard since I wasn’t listening to indie underground Christian hip-hop in the nineties. It’s kind of like a 2-man white, rural, Christian version of the Wu-Tang Clan recorded on 4-track cassettes that got mailed back and forth. Everything is super lo-fi and dirty, and you can really see the evolution of Listener through this material into his later Deepspace5 and solo work. Makes me wish I’d gotten the original cassettes that were for sale back when this material was first being put out.

Miles Davis: Kind of Blue [Sony]
Really, what could I say about this record that hasn’t been said before? Classic.