This is the "new to me in 2009" album. I limited myself to one. Flower Travellin' Band is a Japanese heavy metal band that started playing together in the late sixties and lasted until the Japanese leg of a Rolling Stones tour they were going to open for was cancelled because drug charges had invalidated Jagger's Japanese visa. What might have been? They remind me an awful lot of early Black Sabbath. Like Ozzy, Chiba Hiroshi has trouble pronouncing English words ("My fazzer was a gambring man/down in New Orreans."), but he can sing. They reunited in late 2007 after a 34-year hiatus and played a show at JohnnyBrenda's this year, which I attended with my brother. It was high-energy and awesome. Hiroshi's been growing his dreadlocks since the late 60's, so they've got quite a bit of gray in them but reach down to his legs. Also, the guitarist, Hideki Ishima, played on a specially-built guitar with an extra wide neck. The strings were the usual distance apart, but the fretboard had like three or four bare inches beneath them. I asked him about it after the show, and he explained that he had gotten so used to playing the sitar that the left-hand positioning just felt right. They released an album in 2008, but Satori is the place to start if you're interested. It consists of 5, untitled, mostly instrumental tracks between 7 and 10 minutes long. Like: Black Sabbath
STANDOUT TRACK(S): "Part 2" and "Part 3"
Zombies, social criticism, irony: she's the George Romero of pop-singers. She was funny on SNL. Not Timberlake funny, but still funny. Don't judge me.
STANDOUT TRACK(S): "Bad Romance," "Monster" and "Teeth"
If I were hosting an 80's-themed monster mash, Edom would be the band to book. Eyal Moaz is an Israeli-born guitarist, and his New York based group is signed to John Zorn's Tzadik label. Moaz's compositions are similar to Zorn's insofar as you've got a fuzzy guitar staying mostly within sephardic scales, but Hope and Destruction is considerably pop-ier and, in my opinion, much easier to listen to than anything I've ever heard of Zorn's. I read a review that described the music on this album as "apocalyptic," but although it's shot through with dark and sinister riffs, that doesn't preclude Maoz and keyboardist Brian Marsella from having a sense of humor. Like: John Zorn, Bill Frisell
STANDOUT TRACK(S): "Rocks," "Eagle" and "Down"
The first studio album by a piano-less quartet formed in 2005 featuring Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet and flugelhorn, the aptly named Bill Lowe on tuba and bass trombone, Joe Morris (he's had a prolific year, releasing three other guitar projects in 2009) on bass, and Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng on drums and African percussion. The Othertet is thinking jazz that alternates between fun, listenable bop tunes and weirder improvisational pieces. Like: Cecil Taylor, Mingus, Sun Ra
STANDOUT TRACK(S): "Naptown/Trenton" and "Dreamsketch"
Lhasa is the third album of Mexican American singer/songwriter Lhasa de Sela. Her first two albums (also highly recommended) are mostly sung in Spanish and French, but Lhasa's 12 tracks are all in English. It's definitely sad night-time music: kind of grieving, soporific folk jazz with harp, pedal steel guitar, and palmas (flamenco clapping). Like: Norah Jones, Tom Waits, Nico
STANDOUT TRACK(S): Pretty solid all the way through, but maybe "What Kind of Heart?" and "1001 Nights."