Another solid year for the tunes. For me the year had 5 or 6 stand out albums and then a lot of very good albums. My top 10 of the year is not as clear cut as 2008. I would say the top 4 albums are clear and my play count reflects this however a couple of my top ten could easily be replaced by the honorable mention list, but who cares so here it goes. My favorite albums of 2009.
10. Yeah Yeah Yeah's - Its Blitz!All the garage-rock fans of early YYY's work decided this album was crap. I mean who wants to see a band evolve their sound to make some of the most beautiful tracks of the year? This nonsense does my head in. The same stuff happened when Radiohead made "Kid A", not that I'm putting this on the same level. Karan O is a fantastic vocalist and she is on top of her game here. The album is more produced than early work but the sound has been honed into a bolder more layered version of their garage-rock roots. Aside from the exceptional "Maps", I've never really gotten into the work of YYY's until this album. Its got nu wave elements and amazing ballads that match the emotions of "Maps". It will be played for a long time to come.
9. Passion Pit - Manners
I may regret putting this album in my top 10. But I can't deny that I played the hell out of it all summer. Many bike rides were accompanied by this album and even though its cheesy at the best of times it is very infectious and uplifting. I heard 'Sleepyhead' for the first time on WDOM Providence College radio and immediately called in to ask about the band. This was swiftly followed up by the purchase of "A Chunk Of Change". It was all positive from that point forward. I'm a little sick of the album now and it does sound very commercial but the truth is I really enjoyed it for several months. The blatant use of in your face synths and poptastic drums all work really well. The album, because of this, is really sincere and joyful. I'm skeptical about the longevity of this work and the band but "Manners" is really good and very refreshing. Puts a smile on my face every time.
8. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus I've no idea what happened to me in 2009. I softened up my taste and really enjoyed more pop music than I have in years. While drifting away from the likes of "Coldplay" and "The Killers", I found myself listening to music that is equally if not more commercial. Not saying that all of a sudden I'm into the billboard charts, but I'm not afraid to let my guard down anymore. I loved this album and Liztomania is one of the best songs I heard this year. I saw these guys years ago in Boston so I don't feel like I'm jumping on any bandwagon. Ordinarily I would never listen to Phoenix but their music is so infectious and enjoyable. The album is full of pop anthems and is really well crafted. Its sounds very natural and the music can be played anywhere. OK, I need to move on before I crack up.
7. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
Perhaps the most hyped album of the year. The blog world was awash with tension prior to the release of this album. People claiming they had leaked copies and thus becoming the envy of the readers. In the end my anticipation was not met with the greatest album of the decade nay the year. Rather it was met with a very good, forward thinking, and extremely unique album that typifies the sound of Animal Collective. It took a while for me to 'get' the record but when I finally did I thoroughly enjoyed it. I read somewhere that every song on this album could be somebody's favorite which is a great testament to the work. "My Girls" is a personal favorite and certainly their are no tracks worth skipping. However, for me, the hype was greater than the album. I might have enjoyed it more if I just stumbled upon it. After almost a year of listening I still enjoy it and it certainly deserves a place in the top 10 of any list. Perhaps the most original sounding album of the year.
6. Jonsi And Alex - Riceboy Sleeps
I have never been shy to discuss my love for Sigur Ros. They are one of my favorite bands and their music is breathtaking. On this work, Jonsi and his partner Alex drop the vocals and create a soundscape that is so beautiful I can't help but be floored. When I heard "Happiness" for the first time the hairs on my neck started celebrating. The track is epic, haunting, and very emotional. Its sets the perfect tone for a fantastic musical journey. The album came at a perfect time for me. Despite not getting the love from the music media and the blogosphere the album is still a standout. Maybe people were expecting Sigur Ros, and although the textures and sounds are very Sigur, the album is not. Its intensely personal and powerful. The kind of work that you listen to with headphones on and just your thoughts. Jonsi is a genius in my opinion and few other artist takes me away like he does. Fantastic.
5. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
These guys have really wormed they way into my heart. I saw them open for Radiohead a couple of times but never really loved them the way the music media did. However, determined not to be swayed by the hype all over the web, I bought "Veckatimest" and loved it. "Two Weeks" is one of my favorite tracks of the year and it is buttressed by some amazing music. Edward Droste has a beautiful and very unique voice that can almost come across as boring or lacking energy, but its those qualities that make this album so good. Without trying really hard the vocals and instrumentation work amazing well together and create an expansive sound that is as intimate as it is sonic. A journey to be celebrated.
4. Julian Plenti - Julian Plenti Is SkyscraperLoved this album so much. I'm no authority on music. Really its all subjective and personal which is why I tend to not like year end lists (even though I read all of them!) Sometimes the music press is a little pretentious and music blogs even more so. However these people love their sounds which is why they write about it. Julian Plenti didn't fare well on the year end lists and I don't quite know why. Maybe its just because I find Paul Bank's voice so uplifting. Maybe I base too much of my judgment on vocals, I don't know. What I do know is that from start to finish Skyscraper is fantastic. The songs do have an Interpol feel which is unavoidable given the unique nature of Bank's vocals and maybe that is why I love the album so much. Every song is great and there is something for everyone on the album. From "Games For Days" which would sound great in a packed stadium to "Unwind" which is so joyful, built simply around a repetitive vocal, to "Only If You Run" which is poppy, cheerful, and so uplifting, the record has it all. I saw him perform twice this year and even in a small venue with a sparse crowd the emotion and energy is immediate and alive. Awesome.
3. Bat For Lashes - Two Suns
Natasha Khan aka Bat for Lashes is currently my favorite female vocalist. I was so excited about this album given how much I enjoyed "Fur and Gold", and from the instant I heard the opener, the amazing "Glass", I was sold. She is exceptionally talented, a modern day Kate Bush. She weaves elements of mysticism, new age and melody to create stunning music that is simply hers. "Daniel" is one of my favorite tracks of the year and with its infectious chorus and 80's influenced drums it serves as a perfect juxtaposition to the likes of "Glass". The album is about duality, and while I don't like to get that deep into the meanings of the music, Khan is such an artist that to just listen to the songs is almost belittling the effort and the scope of the work. She has poured her heart and soul into the album and therefore respect must be shown to the conceptual side of the work. However if you don't agree, just listen away, because while I'm spouting all this gibberish about concepts and art, the fact is the album is instantly listenable and truly joyful.
2. Mew - No More Stories Are Told Today
I'm not sure what the title is all about (its a poem and I am not writing it out) but the music that the album contains is amazing. I keep reading about Mew and Prog Rock and while I don't know too much about the genre I do know that I love this sound and I could care less about what genre it falls into. "And The Glass Handed Kites" is one one of my albums of the decade with its continuous blending of songs (maybe thats the prog rock buzz) and epic moments so naturally I've been waiting patiently for another Mew record. And this does not fail to deliver. Whether or not it is better than previous albums is a moot point, the work is awesome and will gain new fans considering its more commercial moments. The first track I heard off the album was "Introducing Palace Players" and I probably played it 20 times in a row. The same can be said for "Silas The Magic Car". The songs cry out to be played loud and regularly. This is a must have album that surprises and inspires. Their live show left me speechless. Mew and everything about them is fantastic.
1. Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer
Spencer Krug. Genius. The guy can do no wrong in my eyes. His voice has something that triggers all manner of emotions in me. His lyrics and song structures are otherworldly. Each song on the album has its own story with twists and turns that many albums fail to achieve. 8 songs, 48 minutes, infinite enjoyment. When Camilla joins Spencer after 3:30 in the opening "Silver Moons" it may be the most satisfying moment in music during 2009, (Thom Yorke singing "Present Tense" is also up there) and from that point on the album grips you and moments of epic proportions fill the rest of the record. Each song deserves to be written about on its own and I'm not going to do justice to the album in a short paragraph. I listened to this album more than any other this year and Sunset Rubdown at "Lees Palace" in Toronto was the best gig I was at this year. To follow up "Random Spirit Lover" seemed an impossible task but they did and Spencer seemed to do it with little effort such is the scope of his talent. An absolute belter of an album.
Honorable Mentions that could easily make the top 10 on a different day.
White Lies - To Lose My Life
Handsome Furs - Face Control
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Self Titled
Fever Ray - Fever Ray
Memory Tapes - Seek Magic
The XX - Self Titled
Zoot Woman - Things Are What They Used To Be
The Whitest Boy Alive - Rules
Editors - In This Light And On This Evening