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NY Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, MTV: Nonesuch Albums Among the Year's Best

2009 Best of NY Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe

Two New York Times music critics have offered their lists of the year's best music, with a 2009 Nonesuch release on each.

Jon Pareles places Rokia Traoré's latest, Tchamantché, at No. 7 on his list. "It’s rare for an African star to sing as quietly as Rokia Traoré does on Tchamantché, and rarer for any singer to show such preternatural grace," Pareles exclaims. And "in the austerity" of the album's sonic landscape, "every nuance becomes luminous." Read more from Pareles at

Nate Chinen lists Seya, the latest World Circuit/Nonesuch release from Oumou Sangare, at No. 10 of his favorite albums of 2009. Sangare "is in radiant form throughout Seya," he writes. "Her exuberance is more than contagious; it’s entirely credible." Chinen's list is at

Times classical music critic Allan Kozinn also includes Alarm Will Sound's July concert at New York's Poisson Rouge in his look back at some of the year's standout performances. The event is illustrative of a time in which "the worlds of experimental pop and classical music continued to draw closer," writes Kozinn. His year-end wrap-up can be found at


Alarm Will Sound's Nonesuch debut, a/rhythmia, is on the Washington Post list of the year's best classical music albums. Post critic Anne Midgette places it at No. 6. "Rhythm and its uncertainties," Midgette explains, "are the focus of this powerhouse chamber ensemble's cover album of six centuries of music." See her complete list at

Also on the classical front, the Denver Post's fine arts critic, Kyle MacMillan, includes two Nonesuch albums on his list of the year's best albums.

Richard Goode's recording of the Complete Beethoven Piano Concertos with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and conductor Iván Fischer is on at No. 9, with Goode "displaying the intelligence, insight and profound expressiveness for which he is well known," says MacMillan.

He includes the Nonesuch recording of John Adams's Doctor Atomic Symphony, as performed by the Saint Louis Symphony and conductor David Robertson, at No. 10. The piece is a symphonic distillation of the 2005 opera from "arguably the most influential operatic composer of the last quarter century," as MacMillan describes Adams, and Robertson's "commitment to this work is obvious in this bold, focused performance."

You'll find the list at


The Boston Globe's critics have weighed in as well, and two have included Wilco's seventh studio album, Wilco (the album), on their lists.

The Globe's Joan Anderman has the album at No. 6, saying: "Clarity and gratitude are hardly the pillars of rock ’n’ roll, but in Jeff Tweedy’s seasoned hands, good health couldn’t be more elegant or defiant." You'll find Anderman's list at

Her colleague Sarah Rodman places the album at No. 9, describing it as "a testing menu" from the band of all that's "great about them." She sees it as "a winning mix of tender lamentations, rip-snorting rockers, adventurous detours, a dash of alt-country flourish and lots of pop pixie dust." Read her list at

Fellow staff writer Julian Benbow features the self-titled debut from BlakRocThe Black Keys collaboration with Damon Dash and hip-hop's finest MCs—on his list at No. 2. He likens it to "community service," aiming "to once and for all destroy the archetypical Run-DMC/Aerosmith, Method Man/Fred Durst rap-rock cliché. In the process, they made one of the nicest surprises of the year." His Top Ten is also at

Siddhartha Mitter, who, last week, contributed a best-of-the-decade report for WNYC's Soundcheck that included albums by Ali Farka Touré and Youssou N'Dour, offers his best-of-the-year compilation to the Boston Globe as well. He, like Chinen at the Times, includes Sangare's Seya, placing it at No. 6. "The great Malian singer offers her most complete album," says Miller, "full of inventive arrangements that give her room to roam and show her emotional range." Read more at

Afropop Worldwide includes Seya on its Top 10 African Albums of 2009 as well, saying "the grand diva of Malian wassoulou music outdoes herself here. The songs on Seya are deliciously complex, both musically and lyrically." What's more, Sangare's "nightingale voice has never sounded better." You'll find the list at


MTV's James Montgomery has two Nonesuch albums on his Top 20 Albums of 2009. Wilco is there at No. 18. Despite this being the seventh studio album from the band, "this is still a very youthful album," says Montgomery. "The songs here are given room to breathe, to stretch their legs and walk a bit. There's blood and muscle and sweat here too." Given all the praise the band has received for its concert performances, it's quite a compliment when he says of this studio recording: "The best 'live' album I've heard in years, despite it not actually being a live album. Think about that."

Montgomery includes Amadou & Mariam's second Because/Nonesuch release, Welcome to Mali, at No. 10. For starters, he suggests audiences "listen to the joyous keyboards of album opener 'Sabali' or the funky meter of 'Sebeke' and try to tell me this isn't an album for all people, everywhere."

Read the complete list at


Wilco surfaces on still more Top Ten lists from the staff at American Songwriter. The magazine's editor, Matthew W. Shearon, places it at No. 3; its online managing editor, Evan Schlansky, has it at No. 1, as does its marketing and operations chief, Caine O'Rear; while contributing online writer Kevin Richards includes it at No. 4. You can find them all at


More praise for Wilco (the album) comes from PopMatters, which places the album at No. 24 on its list of the 60 Best Albums of 2009. The site's John Grassi looks to "the remarkable Wilco catalog" that has developed over the past ten years and sees the band's decade closer as a culmination of that work, in which "these seemingly disparate songs somehow come together in the end, resulting in one of the simpler pleasures of 2009." Read more at

In fact, three Wilco albums from this very fruitful decade for the band have been named to the Top 20 Albums of the Decade by the community at No Depression: No. 2, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot; No. 19, A Ghost Is Born; and No. 20, Sky Blue Sky. See the list at


PopMatters jazz critics place Allen Toussaint's Nonesuch debut, The Bright Mississippi, at No. 11 on their list of the year's best in jazz. It's one that "looks backward at our music’s roots, but does so with a keen consciousness of both modern jazz and rhythm-and-blues," say reviewers Will Layman and Andrew Zender, "and his versions of Ellington and Monk are among the year’s great highlights." Read more at

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle's Jack Garner includes the album at No. 2 on his list of the year's best in jazz. Garner draws particular attention to the "powerful assist" offered by "expert New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton." Read more at


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