Published Feb 05, 2010Exclaim! Readers' Favourite Groove Albums of 2009:
1. The Very Best
2. Mayer Hawthorne
4. Lee Fields & The Expressions
6. Blk Jks
7. Major Lazer
1. The Very Best Warm Heart of Africa (Green Owl)
"Solid fun throughout, but 'Nsokoto' is one helluva tonic for the blues. Honourable mentions to Jahdan Blakkamoore & Major Lazer."
Heath Priston, Toronto Ontario
"One of the most successful attempts I've ever heard at blending African pop with North American electronica. Each song is memorable, and the album richly rewards each listen."
Michael Meharry, Toronto Ontario
"'I still can't tell whether I like the LP more than the Very Best mixtape of late 2008. I really like the mixtape. But let's face it - mixtapes are cheap. While it's totally awesome to hear Esau Mwamwaya flip 'Birthday' or that track from 'Free Willy,' Warm Heart of Africa is a way better indicator of what's going to happen with Esau in the future, and that's something worth knowing. Esau and partners-in-crime Radioclit are visionaries, and something like Warm Heart of Africa is an album that will influence a lot of music to come. Plus, its pop sensibility can't be questioned - shit is catchy as hell."
Andrew Kai-Yin MacKenzie, Waterloo Ontario
"Feels like home."
Melissa MacPherson, Ottawa Ontario
"A joyous blast whose words may be incomprehensible, but whose spirit shines through."
Rick Andrade, Waterloo Ontario
2. Mayer Hawthorne A Strange Arrangement (Stones Throw)
"Not only the best album of the year, but probably one of my favourite new artist of this year, decade, ever. I've collected all of his seven-inches and twelve-inches and his new album. I'm really looking forward to the reintroduction of soul in this world, a genre that has sadly disappeared but we have one renaissance multi-instrumentalist genius coming around under Stones Throw."
Mason Windels, Montreal Quebec
Steve Shon, Toronto Ontario
3. Matisyahu Light (Epic)
"He is cutting edge. His songs are the type you hear in your head long after the vinyl's stopped spinning."
Grace Foli, Surrey BC
"Matisyahu is back on the scene with yet another stellar album. Light is definitely an album with a lot of important messages. The single 'One Day' seems like it should be an anthem for today's generation. Matisyahu has again brought forth a musical masterpiece."
Trevor Kindree, London Ontario
4. Lee Fields & The Expressions My World (Truth & Soul)
"'I always wondered who that guy was who did the duet with Sharon Jones on 'Naturally.' Was that Otis Redding? When I first heard this record, my question was answered. Amazing, soulful vocals with a tight back up band, and some great hard-hitting drums and rhythms, which is what I always loved about Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. A great listen."
Ryan Hough, Ottawa Ontario
"For some reason, critics heard and reviewed this album, and in unison wrote of it quite indifferently. It's clear that in the days when the vocoder and studio tomfoolery reign supreme, this album fails to allure modern musical expectations and proclivities. Conversely, my reaction to My World was entirely the opposite; I had a moment music lovers and dorks alike spend their lives chasing the dragon to attain. As I spun this album, the mere opening notes sent that ice cold shiver trickling through me and my short hairs stood at attention. My World seems to have been recorded using live takes that have clearly not been glossed up or tweaked, allowing for the results to have an organic raw quality. The playing itself is loose and laid back, yet there's always a strong flow and cohesion among the players. Most importantly, the mix doesn't bury any of the elements and thus enriches the full diversity of the instrumentation. Some might foolishly conclude that My World is a 'been there done that' soul album, but I would disagree. The experimentation and boldness of this album is not derived via knob tweaking and gimmicks, it takes on a subtle form. If the opening notes weren't compelling enough, the vocals are the clincher. Lee Fields' voice isn't syrupy and sweet, it has grit, he doesn't sound like a cutesy pre-pubescent boy, barely beyond his first kiss, he's been there and done that and his voice lived to tell the story. He's been doing it since James Brown was peaking, supported by innumerable funky casts of players (including the Dap-Kings), but never has he sounded so good. Lee Fields sings with effortless confidence and infuses his delivery with the emotion that catalyzed these songs in the first place. The vocal delivery can best be likened to a blend of James Brown and Sweet Tea-era Buddy Guy. Ironically, though the vocals are exuberantly soulful and the instrumentation is bold and funky, it is the subtle elements that best define and elevate this album. Lee Fields and The Expressions took a largely predictable form and expanded its boundaries with out resorting to gimmicks."
Chadwick Barnes, Montreal Quebec
"'Bringing it back to how it used to be with the Daptones crew backing what is basically the new James Brown!"
Vincent Pollard, Toronto Ontario
5. Tinariwen Imidiwan: Companions (Outside)
Stephanie Culakowa, Montreal Quebec
"Plain and simple hypnotic music, grooves and if we could understand, it has a social edge not found since Public Enemy. I have seen them live and they are amazing. They deserve a cover from Exclaim!"
Cedric Morgan, Montreal Quebec
6. Blk Jks After Robots (Secretly Canadian)
"I am unsure as to whether this counts, but I had to fit it in somewhere. Dub is the best, especially straight out of Africa."
Ethan Tonack, Edmonton Alberta
"These guys are crack musicians with a healthy disregard for genre limitations."
Steven Fouchard, Ottawa Ontario
7. Major Lazer Guns Don't Kill People... Lazers Do (Downtown)
"Such a fun album. Very eclectic. Totally danceable."
Dominic Savageau, Montreal Quebec
"'Definitely some nice cuts on this album."
Sarmad Rizvi, Calgary Alberta