Monday, December 21, 2009

The decade in music

No, I haven't posted in many months. And lately this blog has become a big spam magnet. Still, I have a certain affection for it. And now that grades are in, I'm ready for a nice reflective bit of writing.

And so taking a cue from my friend and yours, Mr. Comoprozac, the one who keeps blogging, I am setting out to offer a list of my favorite music of the past decade.

I make no pretense at offering anything like the "best." I hardly listen to enough music to be able to make any such list. But I have developed a certain connection to many CDs over the years of this new century so far. And if Frank Rich is right (and I think he may be), that this had been a decade characterized by bamboozlement, there is at least the music.

And so a list of my favorites (which may or may not represent a hierarchy of preferences):

10. Krishna Das, Flow of Grace (2007)
It's kirtan music, which may not to everyone's taste, but it's wonderful for focusing the mind. I wrote the introduction to my book while listening to it. (And, yes, that is a monkey on the cover. A very special monkey.)

9. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois. (2005)
So much to love about this CD. An instrumental homage to coming "Out of Egypt," as I just had the previous year, along with what another former Southern Illinoisian has called the prettiest song ever written about a serial killer. Mr. Comoprozac puts it right at the top of his list, and it's hard to blame him.

8. Numinous, Vipassana (2009)
Be-a-u-tiful. "Vipassana" is a type of meditation, aimed at seeing deeply into things as they are. The title caught my attention. The music kept it.

7. Kronos Quartet, Terry Riley: Cusp of Magic (2008)
C. bought this and played it and I loved it. It's beautiful. That is all.

6. Panda Bear, Person Pitch (2007).
It might be heresy to say so, but I really enjoy this effort by the Animal Collective member more than the collective's much-lauded Merriweather Post Pavillion.

5. Dave Douglas, A Thousand Evenings (2000)
It's hard to pick a favorite CD among the many amazing CDs released over the past decade by one of my very favorite jazz artists. He's nothing if not prolific, that one. But I choose this one, with which he opened the century, featuring one of my favorites of his groups, Charms of the Night Sky. I just wish the woman on the cover didn't look so uncomfortable.

4. Ben Allison, Peace Pipe (2002)
Fresh jazz composing with Mamadou Diabate's kora-playing. This CD was in heavy rotation back in the early years of the decade, when I still was in Carbondale, working out at the Rec Center.

3. Marilyn Crispell, Amaryllis (2001)
Glorious. The kind of playing that makes me search for everything I can find by the artist, even if it means sending my credit card information over email to some small music store in New York.

2. Wayne Shorter, Footprints Live! (2002)
A legendary jazz composer and saxophonist puts together a quartet of young talent, with wondrous results. Ah, Wayne.

1. Fleet Foxes(2008)
I've played this CD so many times I've practically worn it out. Probably the last thing I re-played so obsessively was Synchronicity, which I listed to every afternoon for months on end. (I was young and prone to strong addictions.) The haunting voice of Robin Pecknold together with the unlikely synthesis of something like the Beach Boys and a Baroque sensibility keeps bringing me to tears. That's right. Tears.

I've already got in mind a lot of things that could be included here, but aren't. Including Johnny Cash, The Man Comes Around, with that incredible rendition of "Hurt"; Jolie Holland, Escondida; ); Tin Hat Trio, The Rodeo Eroded and it could go on. But I've been at this long enough. Time to post.