I love this WFMU lock groove record so much and not just because that (along with a slew of other FMU DJs including Trent, Brian Turner, and Irwin) I have some tracks on it. In fact I can't even find the ones I produced whenever I've looked for them. But that doesn't matter because instead I inevitably stumble upon one of the (literally) hundreds of other lovely never ending loops of sounds/noises on this rich and varied WFMU 2009 Marathon premium item ($365 + pledges). And that is the beauty of a lock groove record like this or the similarly themed RRR-500 records (their recently released latest volume is another must-have record): that you can just drop the needle on the record on any groove and discover some new slice of audio delight that will go on and on and on and on.... Two copies of this and you are set for infinity.
2) Edan Echo Party (Traffic Entertainment)
This amazing mix, which got its world premiere on WFMU on Small Change's radio show a couple of months back, was meticulously pieced together over a two year period from hundreds of sound sources culled from the vast catalog owned by Traffic Entertainment that the tireless, multi-talented Edan was granted access to, then took and chopped up and remixed and re-edited with new sounds and effects added. A jaw-dropping tapestry of hip-hop based sounds that puts a modern spin on the old-school megamix style pioneered by Double Dee & Steinski. A similar project, that took as long to compile and produce was Irish DJ Tu-Ki's 2009 underground CD release Pro-Seed.
These turntablists, each regular guests on WFMU over the past year, display turntable manipulations that could be best described as jazz-like improvisations that draw from a wide swath of found sounds off vinyl. The Bay Area's DnZ, Maryland's DJ ALF who released his debut album This Way Or That Way in '09, and West of Ireland's Vince Mack Mahon crew (Jimmy the Hideous Penguin, Deviant, Tweek, and Mikey Fingers) all take the school of turntablism pioneered by innovative West Coast DJ master D-Styles to new heights as they continue in that dark, dense, dreamy strain of turntablism. When Galway's Vince Mack Mahon crew produce their annual Community Skratch Games again this Easter weekend (early April 2010) in Galway City, WFMU's live remote unit will be there to broadcast. More info here.
4) Zion I The Takeover (Gold Dust Media)
Oakland based Zion I, comprised of emcee Zumbi and Amp Live (one of today's greatest producers), who originally hail from the ATL, released this richly diverse album back at the start of 2009 - around the time they were guests on WFMU on a remote show from California. Showcasing a variety of accessible hip-hop styles, with guests that include Devin the Dude and Brother Ali, this amazing album is pop but without ever becoming shallow or cheesy.
While on one hand much of the new hip-hop in '09 was boring, predictable, and cliche it was also the year when various hip-hop artists or those who have been associated with the genre took it, reworked it, and pushed it into new realms - all the while keeping it rooted in music's past. A prime example of this is Kid Koala's rock meets hip-hop project The Slew in which, along with Dynomite D, the Montreal DJ/producer teamed up with the rhythm section of Wolfmother to create a record (and a tour) that was both classic rock (like Deep Purple or Rory Gallagher's Taste) and quirky turntablist in its sonic assault. Brilliant!
6) Cage Depart from Me (Definitive Jux)
Speaking of hip-hop artists who have veered from the genre but in a good way New York City rapper Cage released one of the best non hip-hop albums for a hip-hopper in 2009, Depart from Me on Def Jux, in which he channels such 80's pop-punk faves as Suicidal Tendencies and the Dead Milkmen. Here the ever angst-ridden artist takes the template laid down by these rock artists from a bygone decade and moulds it into his own - lyrically drawing, with an underlying dark sense of humor, from his much troubled personal history that so famously includes spending eighteen months locked up in a mental institution.
7) Technology 2009
Having witnessed (endured?) first hand the age of Walkmans, typewriters. and answering machines I fully appreciate the Digital Age and all of the affordable conveniences it continually bestows upon us. And I just love how every year technology makes more mind-boggling advances with 2009 being no exception as (once again) digital electronic products got not just faster and smaller in size, but also substantially cheaper. For the same price as its predecessor, the latest iPod Nano model includes an inbuilt video camera - designed, no doubt, to take a bite out of the Flip Cam's considerable market share for such a small company. Of course 2009 was also the year of the APP with endless new APPs arriving including most importantly WFMU's Invaluable APP designed to listen to WFMU on your iPhone or iTouch wherever you may wander.
Like Jon Stewart and the Daily Show, from where it spun off, the Colbert Report has become a more reliable source for news than the so-called "news" outlets that it loves to mock. And Colbert is pure comedy genius, someone who has pitch perfect timing and can brilliantly improvise at the drop of a hat, and always managing to keep a straight face. And he can sing and rap too! Plus he and his writers are always coming up with fresh new ideas and themes. In 2009 I got tix to a live taping of the show and was even further impressed at how good Colbert is in the live setting (no mistakes, perfect the first time in every take). Close runner up in best comedy on TV in 2009 would be Tina Fey's 30 Rock which is such a well written and executed program that you can rewatch it several times and keep finding new bits to laugh at.
9) Bassnectar Cozza Frenzy (Child's Play / Amorphous Music)
NorCal producer Lorin Ashton (aka Bassnectar) upped his profile in 2009 with constant touring and the release of his latest album Cozza Frenzy when he both laid down killer instrumental tracks and provided electro, glitch-hop, big beat, and various other engaging electronic musical strains to bring out the best in the guest rappers on his album. While maybe not quite as commanding as Daly City's Mochipet (one of last year's top artists) Bassnectar is an amazingly talented electronic music producer (he did some great remixes in '09 too) who effortlessly infuses soul and feeling into his productions. Also worth mentioning, when it comes to melding glitchy and atypical beats to MCs,is Antipop Consortium's 2009 return album Fluorescent Black.
Like Tom Scharpling's The Best Show on WFMU on Tuesday nights, the weekly WFMU Seven Second Delay (7SD) on Wednesdays with Ken and Andy is must hear radio. But this past year it outdid itself with its hilarious December 2nd, 2009 show in which Ken, as a stunt, got totally wasted on booze and made some of the most entertainingly funny comments he's ever made on the air. Broadcast live, with a studio audience, from the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre (UCB) the one-hour episode was booked solid with guests that included Monk's Tony Shalhoub, John Darnielle, A.J. Jacobs and the cast of Oleanna and a witch. While typically Ken is the straight man, keeping the show on track, to Andy's wild & witty excursions from the format this time Ken was so out of it that Andy had to play the responsible one for once. To see playlist and hear archives click here. Or better yet, attend the upcoming 7SD this month also at UCB when Ken promises he will be doing mushrooms.
To check out other WFMU DJs' Top Ten of 2009 click here.