sugar high

January 24, 2010

Oh yeah. One of those moods again. Time for the best and worst of 2009! I wasn’t nearly as tuned-in this year as I have been, owing mainly to my geographical and cultural displacement, but make no mistake, everything on this list is worthy of your attention. On with the show!

best albums

Future of the Left – Travels With Myself and Another

Bertie Blackman – Secrets and Lies

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Pheonix (Predictable, but come on.)

Propagandhi – Supporting Caste

Built to Spill – There is no Enemy

Mariachi el Bronx

A Wilhelm Scream EP

best singles

Bag Raiders – Shooting Star (This one actually first surfaced in 2008 but was hands-down the breakout incredible single of the year. Pure euphoric pop bliss. Watch out for Bag Raiders running away with the crown of Aussie electro/pop in 2010 when their album drops.)

80kidz – Frankie

Bertie Blackman – Byrds of Prey

Perfume – Kiss and Music
(Warning: cute Japanese girls.)

Phoenix – 1901

Passion Pit – Little Secrets

Paramore – Ignorance

Polar Bear Club – Living Saints

Propagandhi – Supporting Caste
(Arguably the hardest-rockin’, smackest-talkin’ track of the year.)

A Wilhelm Scream – Bulletproof Tiger
(On second thoughts, this one is the hardest rockin’.)

Mariachi el Bronx – Litigation

Future of the Left – Arming Eritrea

The Maccabees  – Kiss and Resolve

best albums not released in 2009

The Matches – Decomposer (What an album. Bursting with wit and creativity, unlike anything else in the genre and still sounding totally fresh.)

Bodyjar – How it Works

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Live at The Sands (Peerless.)

The Fire Theft – S/T

I am the Avalanche – S/T

best discoveries

Bertie Blackman

Perfume (Pitch-perfect electro-charged J-pop.)

The Benevento/Russo Duo

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

biggest disappointments

Paramore – Brand New Eyes (The best one-two opening punch of the year besides Phoenix quickly degenerates into boring, predictable soft rock a la Green Day. Snore.)

meWithoutYou – It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright (Supremely accomplished, sophisticated album, but after Brother/Sister, I was hoping for a punishing, challenging listen, which this definitely isn’t.)

Blakroc – S/T (Lazy rhymes and half-arsed beats from the Black Keys. Shame.)

Maxïmo Park – Quicken the Heart (A lazy album from a band that needed to step up to be counted.)

The Maccabees – Kiss and Resolve (Despite a few highlights, here’s another case of a band on the brink that played it way too safe this time around.)

The Decemberists – Her Majesty (wtf?)

i just don’t get it

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion (I would rather listen to Jet than this disharmonic pretentious mess. Fuck this band.)

Ladyhawke – S/T (I’m all for Kiwis making it on the world stage, but since when did ‘lame ironic nu-disco’ become a synonym for ‘indie royalty?’)

The Wire (After hearing people go nuts about this show in the same way as The Sopranos, I thought I’d better check it out. Maybe I’m just not in tune enough with lower-class American suburbanality, heroin dealing or wharfies union struggles, but this has left me pretty cold.)

bands that should have quit in 2009

Animal Collective (Spare us. Please.)

Muse (How many albums of Matt Bellamy soothsaying in falsetto do we need?)

Rise Against (Just oh so over.)

Green Day (If I want American politics I’ll watch the Colbert Report. You’re a pop-punk band – talk to me when you feel like writing another song about masturbation.)

bands that shouldn’t have quit in 2009


most anticipated


Bag Raiders


best gigs

Parkway Drive @ Freeway Jam, Koriyama

80Kidz @ Fujirock

Fall Out Boy @ Fujirock (Even Pete Wentz’ idiotic babble didn’t detract from the energy of this show. Cheesy band, great set.)

Polysics @ Fujirock (The only band I’ve ever seen to successfully get a festival-sized crowd pogo-ing in perfect timing. Wacky, wacky shit, with the best recorder solo in pop music.)

best movies



The Road

District 9

Fantastic Mr. Fox (An animated film with a difference. It took Wes Anderson to do it, but finally, something that can go toe-to-toe with Pixar’s efforts.)

worst movies

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Where the Wild Things Are (I never read this as a kid, but how could anybody really get into this film? A bunch of oversized sad-sacks complaining about each other for 90 minutes.)

The Hangover (Come on, everyone. This was just so silly. And as if we needed another movie about loud Americans partying in Las Vegas.)

Sherlock Holmes (I really wanted to like this, but even despite RDJnr’s enthusiastic turn, this is nothing more than an uninspired exercise in dumb action sequences, ignoring every opportunity to turn into a thoughtful and worthwhile new franchise.)

best movies of 2009 that i haven’t seen yet

Inglorious Basterds

(500) Days of Summer

A Serious Man


Bad Lieutenant

best television shows

Breaking Bad (More times than I can count, this show made me sit up in a state of pure shock and admiration. Great writing, great dramatic timing, and the acting revelation of the year in Brian Cranston.)

Bored to Death (Finally, an American comedy that doesn’t try way too hard.)

Honourable mention: John Safran’s Race Relations (I’m not sure this classifies as a ‘good’ show, but it left me as enthralled as anything else I saw in 2009.  John Safran embarrasses, dishonours and mutilates himself (literally), all just to prove a point to himself. At turns hilarious and repulsive, I’m proud that the Australian censorship board still lets him do whatever the hell he pleases and get away with it.)

worst television shows

30 Rock (Yawn.)

Community/Parks and Recreation (Flaccid, cliched attempts to cash in on the success of The Office.)

Fringe (Halfway through the first episode, when an FBI agent allows an incarcerated mad scientist to submerge her in water and attach diodes to her head in an attempt to sync up her dreams with her catatonic lover in virtual reality – and the plan works – well, that is when I knew this show was not for me. Oh yeah, and the mad scientist said she would have to do it naked, but turns out she was wearing a black sports bra. Worst thing I have seen in ages.)

best books read in 2009

Truman Capote – In Cold Blood

Saul Bellow – The Adventure of Augie March

Stephen Pinker – The Language Instinct

George Orwell – 1984 (again)

best video games

Mario Galaxy (Wii)

New Super Mario Bros. (Wii)

Machinarium (PC) (A wordless old-school adventure with a whole lot of heart.)

GTA Chinatown Wars (DS) (Does so many things right and proves that the DS is still the handheld platform with the most versatility and potential.)

best lifestyle choice made in 2009

Shaving in the shower. Never before have I known such effortless smoothness.

Well, I guess that’s it. Until next time!