So here it is, my top albums of 2009 list! Well, it took a while, and I'm certain not a heck of a lot of people will read it all, but I enjoy doing it. This year really picked up in the second half and I think it might end up rivaling 2007 as the golden year of the decade. The ony shortcoming this year is the lack of elite releases. There's no "Funeral", "Drums and Guns", or even something rivaling last year's top three (Black Mountain's "In The Future", Have A Nice Life's "Deathconsciousness", and Bon Iver's "For Emma, Forever Ago").
However, there's a plethora of great albums that made it difficult to lay out the top 90 or so because so many of them were incredibly close. The 88th album is close to the 40th overall, so it's definitely been a good year for solid releases.
I couldn't even keep up with all the albums this year, missing out on big ones from Mew, Dinosaur Jr., Thrice, The Black Crowes, Yo La Tengo, PMMP, Future of the left, The Decemberists, The Church, mewithoutyou, Nomo, Manic Street Preachers, Oneida, Animals as leaders, Port Royal, Wilco, Doves, Morrissey, Akron/Family, DMST, Cursive, Converge, Imogen heap, Arctic Monkeys, Scale the Summit, Bruce Springsteen, The Dodos, White Rabbits, etc. just to name a few(and to dispel any potential backlash for not having those names on my list), so it's been a dense year.
So without further delay, I'll start it off!
100. Franz Ferdinand – Tonight
Initially, I didn't give this one a cshance, but I later warmed to the idea of listening to it after a few longer drives that wound up with some good tracks off the album playing. A solid effort, but nothing really stood out. I don't regret buying it though, it's still electric and fun,just not as consistent as I'd hoped.
99. M.Ward - Hold Time
M.Ward has always been good for smooth, enjoyable folky music, and he doesn't disappoint here. Nothing outstanding, I don't ever think he's been a bar-setter, but he doesn't break stride at all here, offering some fun little tracks like "For Beginners", "To Save Me", and the quirky old-school "Fisher of Men" which is pretty much the standout track if there was one on this album.
98. The Deep Dark Woods - Winter Hours
Deep Dark Woods are pretty much a country group. I'd like to say they are, but country has kind of transformed in recent decades, so it forces me to force the "folk" term in there as the primary here. The vocals here aren't top level, but they're spot on nevertheless, and it's often complimented by the accompanying band to a tee, especially the fiddle. The album is a bit inconsistent, but there are enough tracks that excel to even that out a fair bit. Definitely an act I'll be trying to keep my eye on.
97. The Temper Trap – Conditions
An exciting band out of Australia, they've been selling out venues in Britain and have garnered continuing success there and here in North America, so if you don't know about them right now you probably will fairly soon. Chances are you might recognize their song "Sweet Disposition" that's been used in ads here and there lately. Sadly, that's really the only great song on this album, while the others are good but can't just reach a level where I feel compelled to listen to it repeatedly. Still, where my interest may be lacking, yours might be piqued, so give them a shot. If you like Passion Pit, but prefer rock over pop, these guys might be up your alley.
96. William Elliot Whitmore - Animals in the Dark
A good blues-folk artist who has a surprising following in the punk community, his most recent is much like his other releases. Like M. Ward, his work is consistent but almost never outstanding, although I've only given his last 3 albums good listens, so I still have some digging to to there. Anywho, the album is an enjoyable listen, his voice stands out as usual.
95. AC Newman - Get Guilty
I wanted to really like this album, because I adore The New Pornographers, but in the end there were only a handful of great tracks to latch onto. Sure, the series of tracks from the album's pinnacle "Thunderbolts" through to the jangly "Elemental" are good enough for me to grant it a top 100 spot, but the rest of the album is near hook-less. Well, that's a lie, there are hooks, but they're so forced that I can't really feel good about the songs; only half of the songs are compelling. The production and remarkably good texturing on nearly all of the songs really brings the album back up to capable though, so it's definitely not a bad album. It's a good pop album, but I can't help but compare it to TNP and feel disappointed.
94. La Roux - La Roux
As anyone who knows my music interests knows, I like me some synthesizer, and anyone who can use one well gets respect from me, and La Roux has definitely earned it, building catchy and sometimes remarkable songs around their(yes, their...it's Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid) synth creations. Some great, fun stuff here.
93. Maudlin of the Well - Part the Second
People were going insane over this album early on, and on my first listen I took a liking to "Rose Quartz Turning To Glass". Later, after numerous listens, I realized that's honestly the only great part of the album. The rest is ok. So here we have 1 great song and 4 decent to good ones. A journey of an album if you're up for it. It's real nice sounding...just not real interesting after one or two listens, for the most part.
92. Manchester Orchestra - Mean Everything to Nothing
An exciting young band if you're really into the Brand New-esque sound. Except they're not as good. Still enjoyable though, and rather raw and jagged at times too. Fun driving music mostly.
91. Vivian Girls - Everything Goes Wrong
I was expecting better from Vivian Girls, but I suppose I really wasn't very let down by the album. It's solid. That's the danger IMHO of shoegazey, dream pop type music...there's that danger of everything being so average that it blends into each other and it ends up a haze in your memory after listening to it. After further inspection I'm glad I gave it a chance to redeem itself and was rewarded with a few gems but it really could have been better. Still good, but less than I expected.
90. The Mars Volta - Octahedron
Another album that I had expectations for that fell beneath them. Still better than their last one, but all in all it's an average Mars Volta album. No real changes aside from a slight shift back to the sound of their debut. If you like Mars Volta you won't be disappointed, if you don't like them, you won't find anything new here.
89. Lightning Dust - Infinite Light
A duo from Black Mountain putting out gothic-folky music that really works well. Webber's voice has been sometimes off in past efforts through her other affiliated projects, but her work with Lightning Dust has always been perfectly paced and all in all this album is a great atmospheric folk album.
88. Crippled Black Phoenix - The Ressurectionists
CBP are a weird band. I never know what to expect going into their albums, and sometimes they can be off-putting but this year they produced two really good albums with a lot of emphasis on the character of their sound. It's one of those albums you can't really describe with words, so I don't think I'll try much on that part. It's a great post-rockish folky album.
87. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
I keep returning to this album to wonder why it works, but it does. The vocals are pretty nonchalant, and it's really not all that catchy, but it's just very enjoyable...or at least most of the album is. "French Navy" is the obvious standout track and garnered fairly widespread interest through it as their main single off the album. It's just a very old-school sounding album. Has some real charm to it.
86. Amesoeurs - Amesoeurs
Once a promising conglomerate of skilled musicians, they've since broken up after making their first and only album. At its heart was a two faced design: one heavier, metal-geared sound, and another more streamlined post-punk sound, all united under some shoegazey elements. It never fully meshed yet they somehow made it work in the context of the album and there's plenty of great content in here. Take a gander if you're looking for some slightly heavy-ish stuff. They're French, so you may not understand the vocals, but in this case it's not so much what they say as it is how they say it.
85. Phideaux - Number 7
It's not often you stumble upon an enticing piano-driven group with multiple vocalists AND steady percussion. Fortunately, Phideaux outdid themselves here. I really did want to place this album higher up, but I can take comfort knowing this album kept coming up as a switcher(I'd be further down the list and see an open slot and wonder if I should move this up 5-20 slots). Honestly, has some Genesis-esque synths and a heck of a lot more interesting quirks. I have a feeling this will grow on me with time.
84. Baroness - Blue Record
Lots of people went gaga over this album this year, and that praise brought it to many top 10 lists on the year. I, for one, could see the appeal, but it wasn't without the odd flaw. I found the layout of the tracks to be uneven, and there were some definite weakpoints in some songs. However, this is not to say I didn't thoroughly enjoy the album. It was hard-hitting and made a claim for nearly a week's worth of playthrough. Anyone looking for anything metal-related should hop on this bus and take it to pleasuretown. :P
83. Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
Bill Callahan isn't for everyone. He's almost spoken word, and he's folk, and he's rarely exciting. Yet, he has this draw, like a grandfather with this old story you've heard twenty times but can't excuse yourself from hearing for the twenty-first. His lyricism hits a nice stride from the opening straight to the end, making this possibly his most consistent effort yet.
82. Brand New – Daisy
I missed Brand New's last album, making my last reference point to them Deja Entendu, which I found quite enjoyable. This album was tricky. It had some really nice moments but in the end it was a bit underwhelming and not incredibly memorable. A strong enough effort for sure, it's still a good album, but it isn't consistent enough or has enough high points to finish higher on my list.
81. DOOM - Born Like This
This was a tough one, because I'm really not much of a Rap person, but MF Doom tends to make stuff that really clings to me; whether it be his quirkiness or his impeccable flow. Having a song named Ballskin surely didn't detract from the goofiness, even if it appeared he'd come back far more serious than before...which I suppose he did, but he still retained enough tongue in cheek to capture my attention.
80. Super Furry Animals - Dark Days/Light Years
I really do try hard to like these guys. Well, I suppose I do like them, but never enough to have them placing high on any of my lists. They often come out with a few gems on their albums, leaving the rest to be subpar, and that pattern rose again this year, although they did improve their consistency, so I'll defnitely give credit there. There's about 5 great songs and the rest are ok, but those 5 make up for the rest in spades.
79. Crippled Black Phoenix - Night Raider
Night Raider held my attention longer than CBP's other effort this year, although having Tom Waits guest didn't hurt it. The use of each instrument in the album to provide that much more of an immersible atmosphere put this one ahead of the other.
78. John Frusciante - The Empyrean
The news on Frusciante's exit from RHCP has now grown cold, and with some thinking over, it seems he made the right decision. His work this decade has been really fresh and high quality, and while I think RHCP is a fun enough band, I think John was a little bit trapped in their sound. The Empyrean displays his ability to make complete works that are quite different from each other, and that variety should fuel his career going forth. There's some really solid tracks on this album, and I think with his new-found freedom, he's going to release something really great next time around.
77. ATB - Future Memories
Anyone considering some upbeat electronic music should consider ATB's release here, as it should fit most, if not all, of your needs. "Summervibes with 9PM" is a joyful little track, the title track is an airy number with plenty of smart reverb and icy synths, and there's often enough bass in it to provide a decent track to dance to. Nothing that truly stands out, maybe aside from 'Summervibes', but it was a vital part of my summer playlists and it's proven to be a very, very good album.
76. Tim Hecker - An Imaginary Country
Tim Hecker isn't for most people Not a lot of folks like ambient, especially this semi-grating, noisy, repetitive ambient. Yet, it appeals to me, as it, more than most other albums this year, has provided me with a calmness that Eluvium and Quosp could in the past. This album proves its worth with the ability to cast the listener off into a more serene state, and while I could live with placing this album higher, it's still a very worthy listen if you want some background music to listen to while reading, sleeping, drawing, etc.
Well, that's it for the first 25, I'll be back soon with more!