I’m an inveterate list-maker, so below you’ll find a pair of 2009 Top 10s: My favorite albums, in order of preference, and web mixes, chronological by date posted. My original A.V. Club write-ups are linked where appropriate. The mixes were especially difficult to nail down—believe me, I could have included even more FACT and Resident Advisor mixes than I did. I hope you like them as much as I do. Enjoy, and have a great 2010.
1. DJ Koze, Reincarnations: The Remix Chapter 2001-2009 (Get Physical)
3. A-Trak, FabricLive 45 (Fabric)
Playing connect-the-dots with historic classics should always be this fun: Getting from DJ Sneak’s “You Can’t Hide From Your Bud” to Scott Grooves’ “Mothership Reconnection (Daft Punk Remix)” to DJ Zinc’s “138 Trek” is a hell of a ride, and A-Trak provides nonstop thrills as well as sightseeing. The more recent stuff (Aeroplane remixing Friendly Fires, for example) fits right in, and all of it propels without effort.
4. Bloody Mary, Black Pearl (Contexterrior)
Musty, wreathed in smoke, and full of surprising melodic contours, the debut of this Berlin producer/DJ was minimalist and startlingly well-rounded. The low end is where much of the action is located—Mary’s beat patterns give the ear plenty to work with—but nearly every track contains a twist or two that elevates it above the floor-working pack. Not goth, but not far from it, either.
5. Henrik Schwarz/Âme/Dixon, The Grandfather Paradox (BBE)
This seems scholarly on its face. Three top DJs put together a quasi-pre-history of techno, taking in minimalism, early synth, astral jazz, and grooving minimalist rock: Steve Reich, Raymond Scott, Moondog, Liquid Liquid. So forget where any of it comes from, and concentrate on what’s there: This stuff is so luscious, it’s easy to forget any of it has a pedigree, which is the entire point.
7. DJ /rupture & Matt Shadetek, Solar Life Raft (The Architecture)
Jace Clayton (a.k.a. DJ /rupture) has collaborated plenty with other musicians, but this is his first time as co-DJ on a mix disc. It suits him: Shadetek, a grime/dancehall vet (and Clayton’s co-producer on Jahdan Blakamoore’s fine new album), helps make this the earthiest /rupture mix yet. There’s still plenty of oddness here: When Nico Muhly drops in on Shadetek and Hildegard Westerkamp, it’s one of the most jarring (in a good way) moments of ’09.
8. Cassy, In the Mix: Simply Devotion (Cocoon)
A longstanding regular at Berlin’s Panorama Bar, Cassy Britton has an ear for everything from hazy percussion workouts (Kassem Mosse’s “Untitled A1,” DJ Qu’s “The Zones”) to soul-kissed deep house (Trus’me’s “Good God,” Inland Knights’ “Wanna Be Up”) to minimalism-gone-opulent (DJ Qu’s remix of Jitterbug’s “No Pressure”), which makes for a mix aimed for the feet while still sounding kaleidoscopic.
9. The Juan MacLean, The Future Will Come (DFA/Mute)
A lot of folks grumbled that this wasn’t the knockout punch everyone hoped would come in the wake of the early ’08 monster “Happy House,” which concludes this disc. But without that track, Future would still be one of the smartest synth-pop revisits of recent years, and “One Day” is one of the year’s great singles.
10. Various Artists, And Suddenly It’s Morning (Smallville)
This is the most appropriately titled compilation of 2009: Each of the 10 tracks on this Hamburg label’s diaphanous first CD evokes waking up from a heady dream, most particularly Sven Tasnadi’s “Winter” (percussion heavy but still light in feel), Bon & Rau’s gurgling “Cloverleaf Days,” and the glossy pads of Dimi Angélis & Jeroen Search’s aptly titled “Our Life With The Wave.”
Aus Music… All Night Long (Aus)
The Glimmers Present Disko Drunkards (Glimmer Twins)
Italoboyz, Bla Bla Bla (Mothership)
10-20 (Highpoint Lowlife)
Lindstrom & Prins Thomas, II (Eskimo)
Afrobutt, Wanderbutt (Electric Minds)
Luciano, Tribute To The Sun (Cadenza)
Shackleton, Three EPs (Perlon)
Dan Deacon, Bromst (Carpark)
Final Song #1 (Get Physical)
Rick Wade, Presents Harmonie Park Revisited (Rushhour/K7)
A Detroit deep-house legend proffers his legacy one immaculately turned-out track at a time, spanning the mid-’90s to the late ’00s: slinky, soulful, and utterly timeless.
Geko Jones, on Mo’Glo, WNYE, 91.5 FM (posted April 1)
This “world music 2.0” (copyright writer and academic Wayne Marshall) comes via a New York DJ who guides his radio audience through a scrumptious hour of far-flung beats, bass, and whatever else happens to pop up, via Crazy Cousinz, The Very Best, and DJ Mouse, for starters. If these UK funky, bachata, and cumbia tracks (among others) had been licensed and pressed to a “real” CD, it would have been one of the compilations of the year, without question. Info and download here.
Untold, FACT Mix 58 (posted June 18)
One of my favorite music moments of 2009 was driving through Brooklyn on a hot summer night with my friend and colleague Kristal Hawkins, blasting this killer dubstep set as we passed beneath the Williamsburg Bridge. It consists almost entirely of unreleased exclusives; this is an intensely playful mix, particularly during the several points when the bass seems to liquefy on contact with the speakers. Info here, download here.
Woebot, FACT Mix 61 (posted June 29)
The British blogger and musician known to his mum as Matthew Ingram isn’t a DJ by trade—many of this mix’s transitions are fairly rough. But his fan’s zeal is a good chunk of what makes the mix so enjoyable—not to mention that the music itself, ambient jungle from the music’s mid-’90s golden era, benefits from the approach. Time-bound though they may be, these click-clacking breakbeats, sigh-and-tug basslines, and floating atmospherics (by, among others, Danny Breaks, LTJ Bukem, Roni Size, DJ Krust, and D’Cruze) still manage to sound uncanny and promise-filled. Info here, download here.
nsi., RA.162 (posted July 6)
Not a mix but a 49-minute live set recorded at this year’s Mutek Festival in Montreal, this spooky piece of dry, experimental, spaced-out psychedelia will strike pop fans as horribly self-indulgent. But its absolute sense of place hit my buttons perfectly. More than one person has since told me that the visuals made it even trippier. I believe it. Best for late, dark nights—sobriety optional. Info here, download here.
Brackles, XLR8R Podcast (posted July 30)
Jittery and all over the place, this young London dubstepper marks this one with inventive, disorienting reworkings of vocal tracks by TLC and Jamie Lidell, not to mention basslines that heave without bashing listeners over the head. Info and download here.
Tomb Crew, FACT Mix 74 (posted Aug. 14)
This may be the most colorful of the year’s many excellent mixes mining the area where UK funky, dubstep, ragga, and bassline house intermingle—believe me, this entire list could have been made up of them. The Tomb Crew’s own edit of Baobinga ft. Rubi Dan’s “Raggipahop” is the riotous peak, though it’s by no means the only one. Info here, download here.