1. Life with Tamar - So 10 years ago I asked the then volunteer director at WFMU out for a drink and she said yes (after several earlier attempts of which the majority were met with indifference; not even a sneer, obvious disgust, or a why are you talking to me look). The next week I was looking forward to our second date when Hurricane Floyd hit putting the kibosh on that idea. (I did get to watch one of my roomates at the time, a proper English gentleman, stand out in the middle of the road with an umbrella where a manhole cover had flown out of its manhole due to the extreme flooding, warning oncoming cars.) So two weeks later we went on our second date and it just kept going and here we are. And I can't imagine another here where we'd rather be are. Case in point: This year she spotted an insect mask made of spoons while we were walking through the town of Onancock. I was at the time speaking to the Cosmic Cowboy so I almost missed what became a very important moment of acquisition. But my better half knew me the moment she saw it. She actually has a chance of co-opting a higher percentage at this point; my better two thirds, perhaps?
2. Henry Cow - The Road: Volumes 1-10 (ReR) - This is a nice little monument to a group that deserves a permanent place in this listener's ear. For about half the year I've listened to this off and on; first. taking the listen-to-it-one-CD-a-night for a week and a half (there's also a DVD) bath, and then! intermittently afterwards. Upon first listen I noticed that each recording was worthwhile but a few (Volumes 1: Beginnings and 4 & 5: Trondheim) stood out as being kind of revelatory in the way that they placed them in English music at their time of initial attempt and verified the sound of theirs I find the most intriguing (, respectively). But the more I listen, the more I enjoy because these are bits and pieces forming a cohesive whole with room for expansion (who doesn't like a whole with room for expansion?).
3. Cartoon History of the Modern World, Part 2 - Larry Gonick (Harper) - I'll admit that I grumbled to myself that this doesn't quite live up to the previous volumes after first read; the last century, which could have a book to itself, goes by rather quickly. But then I read an interview with Mr. Gonick that explained the logic and his reasoning makes perfect sense (our historic vicinity to a big event influences our view of its importance). And that's the kind of book that this is. It makes perfect sense that all of Larry Gonick's cartoon guides become part of the curricula in schools. They are a great overview of history and science, and the books listed in the back in the bibliography are fodder for students to pursue personal projects based on interest and curiosity: the heart and lungs of passion. I look forward to his guide to calculus (anyone who can actually get me to write those words has accomplished something that seems impossible).
4. Lucky Dragons - The Stone - Saturday, May 9 - This year I avoided/missed live music for the most part. However, I did catch a few shows and this one in particular stands out as being the most surprising show that I've seen in awhile (and surprise is a feeling that I bow to). While I enjoy their records, I did not know how important audience participation is to their performance. At various points during the show members of the audience were handed electric bean pods, rocks to pass through theremins, and live electric circuits of some sort that allowed audience members to touch and grab arms of the circuit bearers thereby altering the sounds the musicians were playing with. The kind of ritual I wouldn't mind participating in once a year or so.
5. Asterios Polyp - David Mazzuchelli (Pantheon) - It took years for David Mazzuchelli to complete this beautiful book. It is the story of a relationship utilizing various signifiers such as drawing styles, colors, shading, fonts, etc., to establish character, emotions, motivation, offering layer upon layer within layers, building a relationship with the reader who is busy reading about a relationship. The ending has annoyed some readers but it's a glimpse of potential in the reconstruction of a relationship (plus it made me laugh), while the last line is beautiful in context.
6. Amen Dunes - Dia (Locust) - Shivering self soundtrack extending the
horizon staredown after a long night of revelation. He performed live
on Scott Williams' show on August 13, 2009 (http://wfmu.org/playlists/
7. Orphan Fairytale - Ladybird Labyrinth (Ultra Eczema) - ...standing off to the side somewhere, observe a muse signal...
8. The Beaches of Agnes - Agnes Varda (Cinema Guild) - A fine film essay of a life best described by the opening segment: a beach with an assortment of mirrors.
9. Sun Araw - Heavy Deeds (Not Not Fun) - The double negative of its label defines this record. Makes me want to dance (honestly, more like move, I don't think the way I dance would pass muster with a thesaurus).
10. Welcome To Mars - Ken Hollings and Welcome To Mars soundtrack CD -
Simon James (Strange Attractor Press) - Welcome To Mars started out as
a radio show (http://www.simonsound.co.uk/
11. Horace Tapscott - The Dark Tree (Hatology) - One of my favorite records of all-time. This doesn't make it into the Top 10 only because it's been released three times in the last 20 years, so has remained somewhat available but, for the most part, unknown. Know it and feel how lucky we are.
12. Hot Potatoe - Marc Bell (Drawn & Quarterly) - Eye candy may cause brain cavities.
13. Broadcast/Focus Group - Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age (Warp) - Hold this shell to your ear and listen. That is one vast ocean, and it eddies in a most peculiar way.
14. José Maceda - Ungnayan (Tzadik) - This just came out and during second listen I started to hear Ragnar Grippe's Sand, György Ligeti's Poeme Symphonique for 100 Metronomes, and a whole bunch of Ocora recordings as a satisfying liquid set.
Hey, Mayor Bloomberg! You and the Marcos regime already have something in common, why not add a New York version of this to the list?
15. The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard - J.G. Ballard (W.W. Norton & Co.) - Buy this. Read it. Some of the best stories ever. Ballard is able to pin the midpoint between the fantastic and melancholy, displaying a grim and beautiful struggle.
MORE > The following were given due consideration for this list and all are worthwhile.
It was a really good year for Music:
OOIOO - Armonico Hewa (Thrill Jockey)
Flaming Tunes - Flaming Tunes (Life and Living Records)
Evangelista - Prince of Truth (Constellation)
Walt Dickerson - Tell Us Only The Beautiful Things (Why Not?)
Aki Takase/Rudi Mahall - Evergreen (Intakt)
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion (Domino)
Nels Cline - Coward (Cryptogramophone)
The One Ensemble Orchestra - Other Thunders (No-Fi)
Ducktails LP (Olde English Spelling Bee) and CD (Not Not Fun)
Robert Wyatt - Radio Experiment Rome, February 1981 (Rai Trade)
Wadada Leo Smith - Procession of the Great Ancestor (Nessa)
The Necks - Silverwater (ReR)
Spiral Joy Band - Pleasure Is The Headlight (UZU Audio)
Ikue Mori - Class Insecta (Tzadik)
& Hope Still - Silent Land Time Machine (Indian Queen)
Indigo Trio - Anaya (RogueArt)
David Simons - Fung Sha Noon (Tzadik)
The Moritz Von Oswald Trio - Vertical Ascent (Honest Jon's)
Harris Eisenstadt - Canada Day (Clean Feed)
Greg Malcolm - Leather and Lacy (Interregnum)
Tyondai Braxton - Central Market (Warp)
Hematic Sunsets - Aroma Club Paradox (Dekorder)
Volcano The Bear/La STPO - The Shy Volcanic Society At The Bear And Bird Parade (Beta-Lactam Ring)
39 Clocks - Zoned (DeStijl)
Don Cherry/Latif Khan - Music/Sangam (Heavenly Sweetness)
Live Music and Art
Evan Parker/Sylvie Courvoisier - The Stone, October 6
Rhys Chatham/Liquid Liquid - Lincoln Center - August 8
Souther Salazar/Andy Kehoe, Jonathan Levine Gallery
Yayoi Kasuma - Gagosian Gallery - The world needs more infinity rooms...
New Bamboo: Contemporary Japanese Masters - Japan Society
Dormitorium: Film Decors by the Quay Brothers - Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery, Parsons The New School for Design
Basil Wolverton - Gladstone Gallery
Robert Frank - The Americans - Metropolitan Museum of Art
Art of the Samurai - Metropolitan Museum of Art - ...and Samurai helmets with antlers and goggles.
Books (read in 2009, not necessarily released in 2009)
The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky - Alejandro Jodorowsky (Park Street Press)
Notations 21 - Theresa Sauer (Mark Batty Publisher)
Oranges & Peanuts for Sale - Eliot Weinberger (New Directions)
The No-Nonsense Guide to World Music - Louise Gray (New Internationalist)
The Horn - John Clellon Holmes (Thunder's Mouth Press)
Doctor Faustus - Thomas Mann (Vintage)
Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture - Jon Savage (Viking)
Comics (read in 2009, not necessarily released in 2009)
Popeye Vol. 4 (Fantagraphics)
Abstract Comics (Fantagraphics)
Oishinbo: Sake (VIZ Media LLC)
The Caterer - Steve Aylett (Floating World Comics)
Seaguy - Grant Morrison/Cameron Stewart (DC)
Masterpiece Comics - R. Sikoryak (D&Q) - "Blond Eve" is my favorite version of the creation.
Omega The Unknown - Jonathan Lethem/Farel Dalrymple/Gary Panter (Marvel)
Capacity - Theo Ellsworth (Secret Acres)
Maybe Later - Dupuy & Berberian (Drawn & Quarterly)
Film (seen in 2009, not necessarily released in 2009)
Anvil: The Story of Anvil - Sacha Gervasi (Metal on Metal Productions)
Coraline - Henry Selick (Laika)
Up - Bob Peterson/Pete Docter (Pixar)
Science is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painleve - Jean Painleve - DVD (Criterion)
Trafic - Jacques Tati - DV
Two things that I will see before the end of the year that would make
the list somewhere but since they haven't occurred yet I don't know
where they belong:
1) A Town Called Panic - Film Forum - December 16 - 29, 2009 - Film Forum
2) Stifter's Dinge - Heiner Goebbels - Park Avenue Armory - December 16 - 20, 2009 - Park Avenue Armory
And town of Onancock, I beseech you, a "You are now leaving Onancock. Please come again." sign is necessary. "Onancock - Wish You Were Here" postcards would also be nice.
And, finally, my favorite visual of the year was watching 50 very excited chickens come running to greet the Cosmic Cowboy on his farm.
More WFMU Top 10s of 2009 can be found here.