And so a decade ends. In a decade that saw the music industry begin its decline with the start of file sharing programs, fans flocked to their computers for leaks of their favorite artists' new albums. We saw autotune rip throught the scene, claiming the ears of teenagers everywhere. Luckily, however, there are still bands out there hellbent on making good, honest, music, and 2009 saw some of the best examples of that. With that said, here we go: my end of the year awards ceremony, starting with the Top 10 Albums I've heard this year.
10. Cartel- Cycles
After the debacle in the bubble, Cartel were a stale product in the world of pop-punk. However, when Cycles was released, fans everywehre were reminded what made them fall in love with the band in the first place. Will Pugh's voice shines once again throughout while each and every band member shines on his own instrument. This was easily one of the most surprising albums released all year, as no one saw a quality record such as this. While words like "honest" and "heartfelt" can be used to describe its contents, I'd like to throw in two of my own: career saving.
9. The Sleeping- What It Takes
After the smash single "Don't Hold Back" was featured on Guitar Hero, the sky was the limit for The Sleeping. Taking some time off from their busy touring schedule to record, fans were blessed with the gift that was What It Takes. Seemingly the soundtrack to anyone's night of drunken stupor in a seedy bar, Doug Robinson puts forth a strong vocal effort to back the band's evident growth as both individual musicians and a cohesive band. While there is no monster song like "Don't Hold Back," What It Takes is still a very strong effort from The Sleeping that will stay stuck in your head in the besy way possible.
8. Dance Gavin Dance- Happiness
I'll be the first to admit that I hated Dance Gavin Dance's untitled album. To me, the absence of Johnny Craig would be the downfall of this band. That was until Happiness came out. This was a release that I had interest in just because of my love for Downtown Battle Mountain, and while I still like Mountain better, this is easily one of my most played albums of 09. With songs like "Happiness" and "Powder to the People," DGD prove they have more depth than your run-of-the-mill Rise Records band, while songs like "Don't Tell Dave" and "Tree Village" are simply good, fun sons to listen to. Mark it down, Dance Gavin Dance will be doing big things soon.
7. New Found Glory- Not Without a Fight
Attention all pop-punk bands who think they can use cheap gimmicks like breakdowns or autotune to get big: sit down, shut up, and take notes while NFG show you how its done. After going the mature route with Coming Home, the boys are back to their classic was with Not Without a Fight, carrying the torch for pop-punk bands everywhere. "Listen to Your Friends" is easily one of the best singles they've ever released, and the album is littered with songs fans can't wait to hear live. With Not Without a Fight, NFG reclaim their throne atop the scene, and prove that age doesn't have to define a band.
6. Every Time I Die- New Junk Aesthetic
Just when all these wussy bands with their synchronized stage moves, synthesizers, and v-neck t-shirts thought the game was theirs for the taking, Keith Buckley and his band of bearded bandmates are here in the nick of time to clean up the scene with, in my opinion, their best record to date. With more one-liners that you can fit in your Facebook status, ETID have established themselves as metalcore royalty, and show no signs of slowing down, especially with songs like "Organ Grinder," "Roman Holiday," and "The Sweet Life." When the band calls it quits and we're left with the legacy of one of the most forward-thinking hardcore bands of our time, I'll look back on New Junk Aesthetic as the album that showed me just how good of a band Every Time I Die are.
5. Manchester Orchestra- Mean Everything to Nothing
With all the hype that surrounded this album, Andy Hull and Co. certainly delivered. A passionate, heartfelt journey that never lets up, Mean Everything to Nothing has it all: the mosnster single ("I've Got Friends"), the chaotic, fast-paced anthem ("Shake it Out"), the marathon album closer ("The River), and most importantly, the heartfelt tear-jerker ("I Can Feel a Hot One"). Easily one of the best reviewed albums ofthe year, any words of praise for this album is either dead-on or vastly understated. After such a masterpeice, it's hard to see how ManOrch can back it up, but if I had to pick anyone to write a follow-up, it'd be damn hard to find a better man for the job than Mr. Hull.
4. Brand New- Daisy
Oh, speaking of anticipated releases, did you hear Brand New put out an album in 2009? All joking aside, let's be honest. After the dark, brooding The Devil and God are Raging Inside of Me, fans had no idea what Brand New was going to sound like on their next album, and neither did the band. And so we all waited, holding our breath. It seems Jesse Lacey was holding his breath too, as he ferociously opens the album with the chaotic "Vices." The album is probably the only one that sounds vaguely similar to is predecessor in Brand New's catalog, Daisy is still as forward-thinking and unexpected as Brand New fans have come to expect, and that's just fine with us.
3. A Day to Remember- Homesick
Yeah, you read that right. Sometimes, you just can't help but like a record that you know isn't the greatest in the world. But hey, that's what makes being a music fan so great: only your opinion counts. Yes, I know A Day to Remember are way too breakdown-oriented. Yes, I know their songs can be same-sounding and boring. But with songs like "NJ Legion Iced Tea," "Have Faith In Me," and "My Life for Hire," there really is something for every music fan on this record. Sure, the spoken breakdown in "The Downfall of Us All" is ridiculous and the la-la's in "If It Means Alot to You" are redundant, and "You Already Know What You Are" is essentially pointless. but the kick-ass chorus of "I'm Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?" makes up for all of that, and then some. Sure, it's not a quality listen for music critics and fans alike, but it's a great listen for me, and that's what it all really comes down to.
2. The Dangerous Summer- Reach for the Sun
Wow. That's all I really had to say after listening to this album for the first time. The passionate lyrics poured out by AJ Perdomo can not be matched this year, and with the other bands on this list, that's certainly saying something. Songs like "Weathered," "Surfaced," and "Where I Want to Be" are easily three of the best songs I've heard all year, and the fact that they all came from the same band's debut full-length is astounding. If you're looking for a new favorite band now that The Early November and The Starting Line have parted ways, here's a prime candidate for that position for years to come, because with Reach for the Sun, The Dangerous Summer prove they are here to stay.
1. Oceana- BirthEater
Bet you didn't see that coming. Well, in a way, I did. from the first time I heard "The Family Disease," I knew BirthEater was going to be special. WhatI didn't know was how successful it would be. Easily the most played album of the year for me, but the album's message helped really drive it home for me. The entire album focuses around the different ways abortion is looked at, and it was a very unique and unexpected Rise Records release. After admittedly overplaying the album after its release in February, I was pumped and ready to see the band perform the new stuff live. Or not. The band announced its breakup shortly after the release of BirthEater (more like BANDEater, am I right?). Fortunately for all of us, the band heards its fans pleas and reunited later in the year. I know its not the most popular pick, but it was certainly a great release which I loved, and when a record is so good it causes the band to get back together to continue touring behind it, you have to have my vote for album of the year.
Well, there you have it. A decade of great releases ends with a year that shattered all expectations. This year's albums prove that good music is not dead so long as there are people ready and willing to make it. Coming soon, you'll see my other awards for 2009. Happy New Year and happy listening to all!