Tuesday, December 29, 2009

25 Best Albums of 2009

I realize it's already been done by every reputable site in the past month, but I can't let the year end without posting a list of my favorite albums of 2009. This was my last year working in college radio and I spent the majority of it without a show of my own, so I had plenty of time to consume and review new music before it came out, with a hunger.

1. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

An instant-classic, perfect long-player without a single miss-step. The deep cuts like "Countdown" and "Rome" measure up just as high as unavoidable singles "1901" and "Lisztomania."

2. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion

Remember when you first laid eyes on this album cover, and your mind was already thoroughly blown? Now think forward to the first time you heard it and you had to put your entire head back together and scrape yourself out of your chair. Their new "Fall Be Kind" EP is amazing in its own right, but MPP set a new standard for experimental music and defied all the detractors and imitators.

3. Lee Fields - My World

Authentic old-school soul revival from a master who was cranking out these styles in their heyday. Combines the sounds of Stax and Philadelphia with Southern-style crooner ballads and funky instrumentals.This is what Mayer Hawthorne's debut album should have sounded like, but it doesn't even come close.

4. Bear in Heaven - Beast Rest Fort Mouth

I've just recently acquired this album, and I'm happy to say I've bought into the hype and am unable to quit listening. Drags a bit toward the end, but quite possibly the strongest debut of the year.

5. Washed Out - Life of Leisure EP

Washed Out is another new artist that's been on heavy rotation for me recently. You may shudder or balk at the assigned genre terms like "chill-wave" or "glo-fi" but these are some undeniably deep cuts, the perfect soundtrack for waking up on a cold morning or spending a lazy sunday in bed.

Continued after the jump...

6. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

"Southern Point" is on-point. "Two Weeks" was the summer-jam. The album doesn't let up from there. Its a good thing these dude's stepped out from Animal Collective's shadow before they became another Dodos, or went the way of the bird. Easy to tell why even Jay-Z and Beyonce have turned fans.

7. The Whitest Boy Alive - Rules

Erlend Øye gave us two great records this year. The duo Kings of Convenience made a strong return with "Declaration of Dependence" in '09. But where that album sounded identical to its predecessors, his "other project" made huge strides, laying down some of the funkiest basslines under clean nord keyboards this side of James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem.

8. Dan Deacon - Bromst

Wherein Dan Deacon grows up alot and makes aural beauty out of repetitive bleeps, bloops and loads of xylophone and glockenspiel, not to mention layers and layers of human voice. Check out this awesome video of a midi-programmed player piano at work in the recording sessions here. (especially from 4:30 onward)

9. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains

Cymbals Eat Guitars brought back the rock in 2009, just as we were all getting sick of the whole Ed Banger electronic dance music thing. And they did it with a whole lotta horns and clanging pianos and raw vocal chords. Its still funny how much Pitchfork ate this up, considering how much they hate Tim Kinsella (Joan of Arc, Cap'n Jazz) when the lead singer sounds just like him.

10. Still Life Still - Girls Come Too

A young band on Canadian indie label Arts & Crafts (home to Phoenix, as well as Broken Social Scene and the many related bands)... I saw these guys on tour with The Most Serene Republic and had been fortunate enough to review this album only a week prior. Like BSS at their most raucous, with a kick-in the pants of straight-forward indie rock swagger, similar to Cymbals Eat Guitars. This didn't leave my car for months.

11. Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3


12. DOOM - Born Like This

While BP3 will surely get its fair share of accolades, backpackers and indie hip-hop aficionados will gladly remind you that this was just as big a comeback year for (MF-no longer-) Doom. This album showcased vastly improved production courtesy of regular collaborators like Madlib and J-Dilla, as well as the metal-masked villain himself, as well as guest spots from the likes of Ghostface and Raekwon. But 2009 also saw the release of a rarities and collaborations comp, rereleases of Mmm...Food and Operation Doomsday, and the early surfacing of new tracks from the forthcoming sequel to his classic Madvillainy.

13. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

Its been written elsewhere many times before, and this is definitely selling them short, but lets just stick with describing this album and this band, at this point in their career, as David Byrne and Mariah Carey fronting Led Zeppelin. Now if that doesn't sound like something you'd be into, fine, but you're crazy.

14. Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young

Oh hey, Julian's back! Without the Strokes... but that's a good thing? Yes, very! Sounds even more like Ric Ocasek? What's that you say, even a little Michael Jackson influence showing? Maybe he can revitalize his old band when they get back together this year after all...

15. Black Moth Super Rainbow - Eating Us

Analog keyboard & vocoder porn for acid-eaters and hip-hop heads. If you're not already savvy to this band, and its individual members' solo projects (Tobacco, Power Pill Fist, etc) this is a perfect entry point.

16. Wilco - Wilco (the Album)

Wilco didn't exactly break down any doors with this one, but that's not really a point for them anymore. They're just out to prove why they're still everybody's dad's favorite band, and nobody does it better. While not as good as A Ghost is Born, this album comes closer to matching the feel of their live show than anything on Sky Blue Sky. At least that's what your dad told me.

17. Atlas Sound - Logos

18. Deerhunter - Rainwater Exchange EP

19. Health - Get Color

20. Akron/Family - Set 'em Wild, Set 'em Free

21. Cale Parks - To Swift Mars EP

22. Raphael Saadiq - The Way I See It

23. Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue

24. Fool's Gold - S/T

25. Wild Beasts - Two Dancers


So many of my favorite bands and artists put out new albums this year, and while all of these are great additions to their respective catalogues, they just didn't make the top list in a year with so many innovative debuts and returns to form.

Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs

Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship

Joan of Arc - Flowers

Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane & Sugarcane

Broadcast & The Focus Group - Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age

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