Wow. It seems like we were just ringing in the new year, but 2009 is already drawing to a close. It's been, indeed, another great year for music. Having just turned twenty-eight, I feel like I should be reaching that point where I start to think that, well, they just don't seem to make music like they used to. To an extent, I do think that-- this year didn't see the release of another Do You Know Who You Are? or a Lonesome Crowded West-- but one could equally argue the reverse, that they simply weren't making records like the class of 2009 a decade ago. Suffice it to say, I never cease to be excited, moved and blown away by new music week after week, year after year. I hope that feeling of anticipation and thrill over new releases never goes away.
Here's a look back at the best albums and tracks of 2009, as selected by me. If you passed on any of these over the course of the year, I of course suggest checking them out. I hope you enjoy the list.
Finally, thanks to everyone who read or commented upon my reviews and blog posts over the last year, for making my first nine months on staff here a complete blast. Happy holidays to all of you, your families and friends. Eat, drink and be merry! Here's to 2010! I can't wait to see what the next twelve months are going to bring.
Best Albums of 2009
Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free
...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - The Century of Self
Antipop Consortium - Fluorescent Black
The Appleseed Cast - Sagarmatha
As Tall as Lions - You Can't Take It With You
The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
Bang! Bang! Eche! - Sonic Death Cunttt
Baroness - Blue Record
Bell X1 - Blue Lights on the Runway
Ben Kweller - Changing Horses
Bike for Three! - More Heart Than Brains
Black Moth Super Rainbow - Eating Us
Blind Man's Colour - Season Dreaming
Blitzen Trapper - Black River Killer
Brad Paisley - American Saturday Night
Brand New - Daisy
Brendan Benson - My Old Familiar Friend
Brother Ali - Us
Busdriver - Jhelli Beam
Califone - All My Friends Are Funeral Singers
CKY - Carver City
The Clientele - Bonfires on the Heath
The Cribs - Ignore the Ignorant
Crystal Antlers - Tentacles
Dawes - North Hills
Death Cab for Cutie - The Open Door
Deer Tick - Born on Flag Day
The Dodos - Time to Die
Dredg - The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion
Eels - Hombre Lobo
Eyedea and Abilities - By the Throat
Faunts - Feel. Love. Thinking. Of.
The Features - Some Kind of Salvation
Fever Ray - Fever Ray
Fighting With Wire - Man vs. Monster
The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
Florence and the Machine - Lungs
Franz Ferdinand - Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
Fruit Bats - The Ruminant Band
Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
Gallows - Grey Britain
Girls - Album
God Help the Girl - God Help the Girl
Gomez - A New Tide
Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Ha Ha Tonka - Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South
The Hidden Cameras - Origin: Orphan
The Horrors - Primary Colours
Kevin Devine - Brother's Blood
Japandroids - Post-Nothing
Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications
Jay Reatard - Watch Me Fall
Jets Overhead - No Nations
Late of the Pier - Fantasy Black Channel
The Life and Times - Tragic Boogie
The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
M. Ward - Hold Time
Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine
Matt and Kim - Grand
Metric - Fantasies
mewithoutYou - It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright!
Modest Mouse - No One's First and You're Next
Moneen - The World I Want to Leave Behind
Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk
My Sad Captains - Here and Elsewhere
Neon Indian - Psychic Chasms
Noah and the Whale - The First Days of Spring
NOFX - Coaster
Old Canes - Feral Harmonic
Paper Route - Absence
Passion Pit - Manners
Pelican - What We All Come to Need
Poison the Well - The Tropic Rot
Port O'Brien - Threadbare
Propagandhi - Supporting Caste
Rain Machine - Rain Machine
Russian Circles - Geneva
Rx Bandits - Mandala
Set Your Goals - This Will Be the Death of Us
Silversun Pickups - Swoon
The Sounds - Crossing the Rubicon
The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Communion
Sparks the Rescue - Eyes to the Sun
Spiral Stairs - The Real Feel
A Sunny Day in Glasgow - Ashes Grammar
Superchunk - Leaves in the Gutter
The Swellers - Ups and Downsizing
Teenage Bottlerocket - They Came From the Shadows
The Temper Trap - Conditions
Throw Me the Statue - Creaturesque
Tigercity - Ancient Lover
Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship
UUVVWWZ - UUVVWWZ
Vetiver - Tight Knit
White Denim - Fits
Why? - Eskimo Snow
Wild Light - Adult Nights
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
The Top 30
30. Manchester Orchestra - Mean Everything to Nothing
29. Wye Oak - The Knot
28. Arctic Monkeys - Humbug
27. Mastodon - Crack the Skye
26. Obits - I Blame You
25. White Lies - To Lose My Life
24. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
23. Morrissey - Years of Refusal
22. Mew - No More Stories...
21. We Were Promised Jetpacks - These Four Walls
20. Cotton Jones - Paranoid Cocoon
19. Polar Bear Club - Chasing Hamburg
18. Sonic Youth - The Eternal
17. Mission of Burma - The Sound, The Speed, The Light
16. Portugal. The Man - The Satanic Satanist
15. A Place to Bury Strangers - Exploding Head
14. The Antlers - Hospice
13. My Heart to Joy - Seasons in Verse
12. Sea Wolf - White Water, White Bloom
11. Audrye Sessions - Audrye Sessions
10. The Thermals - Now We Can See
9. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
8. So Many Dynamos - The Loud Wars
7. Built to Spill - There Is No Enemy
6. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
5. Thrice - Beggars
4. Little Brazil - Son
3. Fake Problems - It's Great to Be Alive
2. The Twilight Sad - Forget the Night Ahead
1. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
As with every year, there were a ton of great records released, and I felt the need to recognize more than just the Top 30. In the end, the venerable Dinosaur Jr. came out on top. I'm a huge fan of raw, gritty indie records and I love big, booming guitar-rock, too, and no album this past year encompassed both worlds quite as brilliantly as Farm.
Most Disappointing Albums
3. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
2. Weatherbox - The Cosmic Drama
1. The Dear Hunter - Act III: Life and Death
Prior to the release of The Hazards of Love, the statement "This new Decemberists CD sucks," would have ranked up there with "No, I don't want to see your boobs," and "Shhh! Be quiet, Oprah's on," as something I never thought I'd say. Alas, it happened. Also, Weatherbox and The Dear Hunter, both of which released Top 5 albums for me in 2007, failed to register with this year's releases. The Cosmic Drama simply didn't come close to capturing the youthful energy of American Art, and after a tremendous EP and full-length, Casey Crescenzo seemed to get too try-hard with the third installment. While both earned spots among the honorable mentions, new discs from As Tall as Lions and Brand New failed to live up to heightened expectations.
3. Dan Nigro (As Tall as Lions)
2. Ryan Karazija (Audrye Sessions)
1. Tracyanne Campbell (Camera Obscura)
You Can't Take It With You was slightly on the disappointing side, after the awesome After the Flood EP, but it wasn't because of Nigro's vocals. He was as strong as ever. Karazija's Thom Yorke-esque vocals contributed to the Bends feel of Audrye Sessions' self-titled, and amazingly, he sounds even better in person. The grand prize, however, has to go to Campbell. Had all the lyrics on My Maudlin Career consisted of "la la la la la," it still would have been the most heartbreaking album of the year.
3. So Many Dynamos
1. Sonic Youth
The Loud Wars was one of my favorite out-of-nowhere releases of the year, and I particurly enjoyed the creative and intriguing fusion of technical guitar play with electronic elements. (So Many Dynamos are also a blast to see live.) Beggars converted me into a Thrice fan after years of skepticism. There's a ton going on on this album, and I enjoy it more every time I listen. This past year, though, seemed to be a year in which the grizzled vets showed the young whippersnappers how it's done, and Sonic Youth did just that with The Eternal. They flat-out excel at creating music that's forward-thinking and boundary-pushing without being incomprehensible, and they seem to get better at it as the years go by.
3. Kevin Devine
2. Manchester Orchestra
1. Little Brazil
Introspection is big with lyrics kids (uh, Brand New is so popular for a reason), but lyrics don't weigh into my evaluations of music as much as they might with other people. Some albums do hit me with their lyrics, though, and none did this year more that Son, by Little Brazil. Eschewing profound and witty statements for plainspoken slice-of-live vignettes is a unique approach, but it paid off in a big way.
3. Portugal. The Man - The Satanic Satanist (P. Kolderie, A. Saffery, A. Taylor)
2. The Twilight Sad - Forget the Night Ahead (A. McFarlane, P. Savage)
1. Thrice - Beggars (T. Teranishi and Thrice)
I love what Portugal did with Satanist. The more simple, straight-forward approach made it perhaps my favorite record of theirs. The sound is really classic, but doesn't sound dated. In contrast with that album's rather clean production values, Forget the Night Ahead succeeds with layers of distortion and noise. I don't think there's a band on the planet better at evoking mood than The Twilight Sad. At many points, the sheer sound of the album makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. It's chilling, powerful stuff. But my hat's off to Teppei and and Thrice for their work on Beggars, for managing to keep the complex and intricate record from becoming a muddled mess.
Best Record Labels
3. Sub Pop
1. Fat Cat
There's no real reason why I ranked these this way, other my #2 and #21 being released on Fat Cat. I think every label releases some subpar stuff (I didn't care much for the Get Back Guinozzi! album on Fat Cat, for example), but other staffers have had this category in the past, so I felt kind of obligated. Merge and Side One Dummy can also be counted on for solid records. Dead Oceans quietly had a solid year.
Most Overrated Bands
3. Antony and the Johnsons
2. Dirty Projectors
1. Animal Collective
These three will probably appear in Pitchfork's Top 10 albums of 2009, and though many of my selections would definitely fall in the "Pitchfork-approved" category, I think there's too much praise for these acts. Antony Hegarty is an exceptional vocalist, but the music is overbearing and sleep-inducing. For a more muscular and satisfying release with similar vocals, see: The Antlers. Dirty Projectors simply were never an enjoyable band, and Animal Collective haven't been good since before the atrocity known as Strawberry Jam. If you miss Sung Tongs-era Animal Collective, be sure to check out that Blind Man's Colour album in the Honorable Mentions. Oh, and as much as they're revered on AP.net, I can't get into The Dangerous Summer.
Audrye Sessions - "Relentless"
Ben Kweller - "Old Hat"
Built to Spill - "Life's a Dream"
The Cribs - "Victim of Mass Production"
Death Cab for Cutie - "Meet Me on the Equinox"
Devendra Banhart - "Baby"
Dinosaur Jr. - "I Don't Want to Go There"
Dredg - "I Don't Know"
Faunts - "Feel. Love. Thinking. Of."
Franz Ferdinand - "No You Girls"
Girls - "Hellhole Ratrace"
Gomez - "Airstream Driver"
Ha Ha Tonka - "Close Every Valve to Your Bleeding Heart"
Kevin Devine - "Brother's Blood"
Magnolia Electric Co. - "O! Grace"
Mason Jennings - "Pittsburgh"
Mew - "Introducing Palace Players"
Morrissey - "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris"
My Heart to Joy - "Giving My Hands Away"
Noah and the Whale - "Blue Skies"
Paper Route - "Carousel"
Phoenix - "Lisztomania"
Relient K - "Candlelight"
The Rural Alberta Advantage - "Don't Haunt This Place"
Sea Wolf - "Spirit Horse"
Set Your Goals - "Summer Jam"
Silversun Pickups - "Substitution"
Sparks the Rescue - "Pine Tree State"
Stars of Track and Field - "In Bright Fire"
The Temper Trap - "Fader"
Vetiver - "Through the Front Door"
Wye Oak - "Mary Is Mary"
The Top 10
10. Portugal. The Man - "People Say"
9. Wild Light - "New Hampshire"
8. Moneen - "Hold That Sound"
7. White Lies - "From the Stars"
6. The Twilight Sad - "I Became a Prostitute"
5. Little Brazil - "Seperated"
4. Florence and the Machine - "Rabbit Heart"
3. Manchester Orchestra - "Shake It Out"
2. Fake Problems - "Diamond Rings"
1. So Many Dynamos - "New Bones"
All of these songs are awesome. That is all.
Most Anticipated Albums of 2010
The Top 10
10. Rival Schools
9. Saves the Day
8. The Shins
5. Fleet Foxes
4. The Gaslight Anthem
3. Jimmy Eat World
2. Band of Horses
1. Minus the Bear
Aesop Rock, Against Me!, The Airborne Toxic Event, Alkaline Trio, Anberlin, Arcade Fire, Atmosphere, Bad Religion, Battles, Calexico, Carolina Liar, Circa Survive, Coheed and Cambria, Cold War Kids, Damien Jurado, Dear and the Headlights, Death Cab for Cutie, Delta Spirit, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Eisley, Envy on the Coast, Explosions in the Sky, Fang Island, Foals, The Forecast, Fucked Up, The Get Up Kids, Good Old War, The Helio Sequence, Hercules and Love Affair, The Hold Steady, Hot Chip, Hot Hot Heat, House of Fools, Interpol, Jaguar Love, Jet Lag Gemini, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, The Killers, Kings of Leon, The Knife, The Kooks, Limbeck, The Little Ones, Los Campesinos!, The Loved Ones, Lovedrug, Low vs. Diamond, Man Man, Man Without Wax, Maritime, Mason Proper, Mates of State, Matt Pond PA, Mock Orange, Modest Mouse, Mouse Fire, Murder by Death, My Morning Jacket, The National, Neva Dinova, Ninja Gun, OK Go, Okkervil River, Old 97's, People in Planes, Pinback, Protest the Hero, Ra Ra Riot, The Reign of Kindo, The Republic Tigers, Rilo Kiley, Rogue Wave, Shearwater, Smoke or Fire, Spoon, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Stars, Steel Train, The Stills, Street Dogs, Tapes 'n Tapes, These New Puritans, Tiger Army, Titus Andronicus, Tokyo Police Club, Torche, Travis, TV on the Radio, Underoath, Valencia, Vampire Weekend, The Velvet Teen, Verse, The Weakerthans, Wintersleep, Wolf Parade, Your Vegas and Zox.
I'll probably be lucky to get new albums from two-thirds of those, but a guy can dream, right?
Did you listen to every album made this year? Your Honorable Mentions list is absurd. Pretty spot on with your top ten, imho, and that Dinosaur Jr album was amazing.
Haha. Not quite. I actually think I listened to far fewer new albums than I normally do, for various reasons. I think most of the albums I listed were released on prominent labels, and the ones that weren't (e.g. Metric) were already well-known bands or were receiving some buzz from one source or another (e.g. Neon Indian). Not all these bands are big AP bands, to be sure, but there's someone out there talking about most of them. Happy you approve of my selections, though.