Thursday, December 31, 2009

Albums of the Year - 2009

It's the end of the year, so let's do a frigging list!

Sometime, if I get around to it next week, I may put together a list of my favorite albums of the decade. But for now, here's my fave albums of two-diggity-diggity-nine. In no particular order. (That's not really true.)

It's an idiosyncratic list. It's only the albums I actually heard. So while some people thought Grizzly Bear or Animal Collective or Pearl Jam or the Dirty Projectors produced the best album of the year, I never got to hear them all the way through. So I can't judge. (To be fair, the Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective were two bands that I chose not to check out. They weirded me out a little bit.)

Now that I said that, I'm going to break my own rule with the first selection. That being:

I started the year not knowing who this woman was, and ended up the year fascinated by her. I haven't heard half of this album. Doesn't matter. Lady Gaga is one of the strangest and most interesting people in music today.

Wilco - Wilco (the Album)

Predictable, sure. (After all, they did borrow my name for their previous album.) But I really loved this album. They continue to produce sweet, introspective songs like "One Wing" and "You and I", and added some new classics like "You Never Know" and "I'll Fight." A great album, all the way through.

St. Vincent - Actor

This was such a delightful surprise for me. The combination of those lovely orchestral flourishes and snarling, scuzzy guitar really won me over. Saw her on Austin City Limits, and it did absolutely nothing to remove my crush on Annie Clark.

Taken by Trees -
East of Eden

Another surprise. Waif-like singer goes to Pakistan and ... what? Devours Pakistani music in a Graceland-like colonization? Tosses her vocals onto someone else's music like Jay-Z did with that Panjabi MC song? (Which I love, for the record.) No, instead this is a glorious merging of beautiful songs and sublime instrumentation. A gorgeous merging of styles.

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis - Kitty, Daisy & Lewis

Thanks to TBTL for turning me on to this album. It's pure, old-timey fun music, full of old novelty songs and slide guitars and harmonica and hand clap percussion. Love this one.

thenewno2 - You Are Here

This was a real surprise for me. I listened to it because Dhani Harrison was on Sound Opinions. I was intrigued by the sound of the music, picked up the album, and loved it. It's right in that sweet spot between rock and electronica. Memorable songs, interesting and unexpected hooks. A band to watch.

Lunch Money - Dizzy!

That's right, I put a kid's album on the list. Lunch Money is completely awesome. They write effortlessly hooky songs that your kid can sing and will cause him/her to jump around the house like a maniac. Any band that sings out loud about how much they love their library gets my vote.

Seriously, go listen to these guys. Go listen to "Tiny Dinosaurs" or "I Love My Library" or "It Only Takes One Night to Make a Balloon Your Friend" and see if you're not grinning. I love Lunch Money.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!

Neko Case - Middle Cyclone

Metric - Fantasies
"Help I'm Alive" and "Sick Muse" were probably some of my most-played songs this year.

Passion Pit - Manners

Dark Was the Night - Various Artists

Biggest disappointment of the year: Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown

I loved American Idiot, and I wanted so badly to love this album. But I've listened to it a couple of times and just gotten bored by it. They took all the wrong lessons from American Idiot. It sounds like show tunes and Hot Topic faux punkrawk and has the whiff of desperation. Omigod, we have a niche! Quick, let's plug something else into the niche before someone else does it! Sorry guys, I ain't buying it.

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