Sunday, December 27, 2009

The QH Blend's Records of 2009

2009 is pretty much done and it closes a bleak chapter on popular music. The 2000's wavered in its balance between quality and quantity, but that doesn't mean there wasn't good music in 2009. The 10 records that made the cut do so because they put the previously mentioned idea of quality first. Good music is always there, one may just have to look harder for it. Before I unveil my 10 "winning" selections, I want to share my 10 "runner-up" records of the year:

Best of the Rest of 2009

1. Nelly Furtado: Mi Plan (Universal/Nelstar)
2. Mos Def: The Ecstatic (Downtown)
3. a-ha: Foot of the Mountain (Universal/We Love Music)
4. N'Dambi: Pink Elephant (Stax)
5. Tori Amos: Abnormally Attracted to Sin (Universal Republic)
6. Backstreet Boys: This Is Us (Jive)
7. India.Arie: Testimony Volume 2: Love & Politics (Universal Republic)
8. Mariah Carey: Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (Island/Def Jam)
9. Basia: It's That Girl Again (Koch)
10.Teena Marie: Congo Square (Stax)

The QH Blend's Records of 2009

10. Whitney Houston: I Look to You (Arista)

Those expecting a halfbaked comeback will be surprised by the tasteful, vogue settings Ms. Houston utilized for her sixth studio album. Seven years after Just Whitney, Houston displayed vocal prowess injecting vitality into deluxe ballads and a few upbeat numbers. (Notable Track: "Call You Tonight")

9. Vanessa Williams: The Real Thing (Concord)

Vanessa Williams' velvet toned R&B/pop has only appreciated in value through the years and is articulated nicely on The Real Thing. Splicing classic chestnuts and newly minted material together over pastel sound palettes is style with substance. (Notable Track: "Hello Like Before")

8. Q-Tip: Kamaal The Abstract (Battery)

Set for release in 2002, Q-Tip's second record was shelved, deemed to be too much of an artistic sucker punch to mainstream hip-hop's paunch. The intelligentsia force of Kamaal was unearthed this year, demonstrating the witty and insurrectionist attitude Q-Tip has made his calling card. (Notable Track: "Feelin")

7. Annie: Don't Stop (Smalltown Supersound)

Annie's Don't Stop is a miscellany of influences that crash into one another, creating juicy grooves. Annie's voice, previously a glossy, sopoforic wisp has filled out in all the right areas, blithe and commanding. (Notable Track: "I Don't Like Your Band")

6. Zap Mama: ReCreation (Heads Up)

Zap Mama (Marie Daulne) has made another all-embracing world music farrago, unparalleled in her appetites in jazz, hip-hop, funk, and Euro-pop. Daulne's strange singing sews these mentioned genres together in a quilt-like fashion. Notable Track: ("Non, Non, Non")

5. Amerie: In Love & War (Island/Def Jam/Feenix)

Amerie's fourth long player bridges the divide between commercial convention and her "chi-chi" experiments that Amerie is renowned for. That lemon piquant voice pumps with sass, but can frost songs with sadness when needed. Overall, the album is a sprightly affair, confirming Amerie's status as R&B's artsy darling. (Notable Track: "Tell Me You Love Me")

4. Chris Brown: Graffiti (Jive)

Chris Brown's temerity for edging forward in his sound should be praised. Graffiti juggles seductive inamorato boasts, incendiary confessions, and glowering club bangers. The true star is Brown's vocal and lyrical progression, his whiz-kid precision makes Graffiti an adroit junior album. (Notable Track: "I'll Go")

3. Natalie Imbruglia: Come to Life (Malabar/Universal)

Imbruglia's distinct brand of alternative pop is some of best in its arena. On her fourth record, and first on her own independent label, Imbruglia wastes no time resting. Come to Life recreates her ballads and adds a few electronic twists for a pop maverick feel on the latter half of the album. (Notable Track: "Wild About It")

2. Joss Stone: Colour Me Free! (EMI)

Continuing to defy the narrower classifications of "blue-eyed soul,"  Joss Stone serves up another piece de resistance of gutsy, luxurious music. The task of outdoing her third record is met with consistent studio polish that doesn't sand away Stone's grit. (Notable Track: "Could Have Been You")

1. Mandy Moore: Amanda Leigh (Storefront)

A decade makeover in the process, Ms. Moore is indisputably this decade's leading female singer songwriter thanks to Amanda Leigh. Studying Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, and Carole King, Moore has added her own lyrics and gossamer voice to the folk-pop medium. Moore's album is all heart, presented on the stage of fine musicianship. (Notable Track: "Merrimack River")-QH

[Editor's Note: Special thanks to Andrew Bird for the art & enthusiasm on the project.-QH]


Anonymous said...

Your list is based on R&B/pop music and doesn't represent a very wide range of taste at all, therefore I disagree pretty much completely. Sorry man.

Mara said...

Great list. Mandy Moore's album was really melodic and easy to listen to. Reminded me of a great Seventies folk-pop album, perfect description.

Lots of a-ha fans out there in cyberspace, need to sink my teeth into some of their stuff. Currently satisfying my Hall & Oates sweet tooth, but will get around to some of these other gems on your list. 2009 was a good year of releases. Thanks for sharing.