Josh’s Picks: Favorites from 2009 Q1

I’m not going to fall into the trap of calling these the “best” records of the year, or even that they will necessarily still be on my favorites list come December. (Though at least a couple of them seem like pretty safe bets.) I simply put forth these albums as the ones I’ve listened to and enjoyed the most in the first quarter of 2009– albums that earn my highest recommendation. No foolin’.

no-line

U2, No Line on the Horizon

In a masterful showing that belies a band going on 35 years of music-making, No Line on the Horizon is an album of astonishment and insight, song-for-song as strong as any album U2 has ever made, and a rejection of image and a consolidation of strengths that makes it, immediately, the quintessential U2. Read my full review.

written-in-chalkBuddy and Julie Miller, Written in Chalk

oo country for country radio, Buddy and Julie have always written from a place of honesty and poetry that make them peerless. Sorrow and gladness, faith and desire meet again and again on this record, and the sparks of beauty it creates makes Written in Chalk a timeless piece, an album to be lived with and treasured. Read my full review.

live-in-londonLeonard Cohen, Live in London

That Cohen embarked on a tour in 2008– his first in a decade and a half– is another out-of-time surprise, as it certainly isn’t what one would expect from an icnreasingly reclusive artist at the age of 74, but this surprise is a most welcome one, not least because it results in the marvelous tour document Live in London– which, as one might imagine from an artist like Cohen, is anything but a mere tour document, or even a major event. In fact, it’s nothing less than the great Leonard Cohen record, as, for the first time, all of his very best songs, spanning his entire career, are collected in one place, and they’re all given the presentation that they deserve. Read my full review.

welcome-to-maliAmadou & Mariam, Welcome to Mali

An album so ambitious and inclusive has to be big, and Welcome to Mali is certainly that: It’s a sweeping work of astonishing diversity, and it takes a few spins to pull it all together. But its rewards are inumerable, and at the top of the list is this: That the album just might cause us to think twice about our reductionist stance toward music from other cultures. Read my full review.

abundancePPP, Abundance

The term tour de force is one of the most overused critical cliches in existence, but Abundance is one of the rare albums that actually deserves it. It’s an utterly epic album that seems to run the entire spectrum of R&B sounds and styles, bringing a fresh creativity and big heart to each one, all the while never seeming to break a sweat. Indeed, the PPP posse never misses a beat or makes a fumble; its scope is sweeping, its craft flawless, its vision impossible to deny. Mainstream pop and R&B haven’t seen an album so inspired or inventive in years, and indeed, in its forward-thinking innovation, it’s technically as impressive as any recent offerings from the world of indie rock and pop. Read my full review.

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