Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 Top 25 Albums

With the year coming to an end in the next couple of weeks the daunting task began, to compile the albums that have had the most impact on my taste musically this year. Many of the following albums made an early effort and with countless revisits proved their worthiness of placement on the year end's list. Others took hours of debate and comparison to determine a deserving placement on the final tally. In contrast to other lists out there, many may disagree with my choices but its difficult to deny the importance each one of these albums have had in 2009; not to mention the restrained anticipation for future endeavors by the bands themselves. Without further ado....

25. Telekinesis-Telekinesis! 2009 has been the year of the resurgence of pop in a variety of formats. Telekinesis' self-titled debut with an exclamation was released in the first quarter of the year and had enough staying power to retain a position on the year end's list. Catching my attention almost immediately when the Chris Walla produced album initially peaked it's head on the Internet with a attention grasping power pop that has you humming along. With similar sounds to the producer's own band's (Death Cab for Cutie) earlier albums, Telekinesis' pulls at the heart strings with Michael Benjamin Lerner the one man band behind the moniker creating grounded music that has a relate able quality with its listeners. Lerner's lyrics are light and playful while at times addressing deeper issues, paint a canvas of nostalgic times and reflecting on his love life in an idealistic manner.


24. Fanfarlo-Reservoir/ Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros-Up From Below After much deliberation and having an akin to a variety of attributes in both of these albums I decided on a tie as each band has had a constant presence on my play list throughout the second half of the year. Fanfarlo are a London based Indie Pop band who can be included in the overwhelming abundance of band who utilized the strengths of classical instrumentation infused with the standard guitar,bass and drums. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are one of many emerging bands exploding out of Los Angeles, appearing as though reentering the grid of society from some love bathed commune of hippies. There is a large contrasting quality between the two bands as they both embrace their own version of the reinvented popularity of Pop music. Simon Balthazar, Swedish lead singer of Fanfarlo, creates a whimsical strain of words that are drenched in a symphonic explosion of harmony. Alex Ebert often serenades a true love as this commune band revives psychedelic retro indie folk with a supporting band that totals 11, whose live performances create a truly jovial kumbaya of hand claps and swaying back and forth; as the crowd is mesmerized by the band's endearing romanticism retelling their love story.


Up From Below

23. Port O'Brien-Threadbare The band's third album takes a departure from the previous narration of times as a fisherman. Lead singer, Van Pierzalowski noted in an interview, this was his first summer not spent on his father's fishing boat in Alaska. As the title, Threadbare addresses much of the tonality and themes within this album are tired and longingly reflective. It almost emulates the realities of life people have a tendency avoiding for a artificial facade. The band dealt with much misery during the year which has an overwhelmingly delicate presence in Cambria Goodwin's painful moans and Pierzalowski's piercing wales of the chorus. Threadbare is a must play when all you want to do is wallow in sadness and embrace the grey skies of winter.


22. Kid CuDi-Man on the Moon:The End of the Day A new era of hip-hop rap was introduced in August, as the Cleveland born rapper, Kid CuDi, brought a fresh style of rap to the limelight. CuDi's debut album is formatted as a narrative unraveling a tale of this fictional character which parallels an introspective exploration of his own perception along with his delusions of grandeur. He experiments with his rap style in sing/rhyme inter fusion while retaining a standard hip-hop sleaziness, pushing the envelope creatively while collaborating with artists from other musical genres. He was discovered by Kanye West and aided in much of the creative process of 808s & Heartbreak, writing a number of the songs as well. Man on the a huge success where 808s failed comparatively, not finding a necessity for auto-tune CuDi's natural voice singing at times flows more naturally and ekes originality in a genre that has a tendency to sound over produced and mundane.

Man on the Moon:The End of the Day

21. Kittens Ablaze-The Monstrous Vanguard This year's CMJ festival introduced me to a number of talented and exciting bands who should have a larger presence in the music industry this upcoming year. Unsurprisingly from Brooklyn, as my theory of "something in the water" stays intact, comes Kittens Ablaze a sextet creating music one could describe as conceptual indie pop fusion rock. Implementing a string section along with a variety of alternative instruments a chaotic beauty grasps your attention and does not let go throughout their debut, The Monstrous Vanguard. Quite a feat to witness live, the music is layered and builds with intensity as Tim Spellman's lyrics illustrate a gloomier perspective on life.

The Monstrous Vanguard

20. Foreign Born-Person to Person Gaining earlier buzz from past tour mates, Grizzly Bear, who noted an excited anticipation for the release of Person to Person in July. The sophomore effort from the Los Angeles based band, furthers the experimental fusion of world music with a classic rock aesthetic of meticulously crafted guitar chords. Their music is the perfect soundtrack for an endless summer, a controlled explosion of sunshine layered in an Afro-pop fashion. Losing some of the harsh beauty present in, On the Wing Now but exhibiting an obvious maturity in their craft is unmistakable as transitions are much smoother almost like a seasoned traveler. Much benefit must come from Fool's Gold, the sister band most of Foreign Born members moonlight whom take on a more "Afro-Hebrew" tendency. Matt Popieluch, lead singer, describes his constant theme in his lyrics as "When interior struggles encounter and navigate physical landscapes."

Person to Person

19. Harlem Shakes-Technicolor Health Someone could find great difficulty if requested to best classify the music of Harlem Shakes. Technicolor Health, the debut and unfortunately final album(the band found its demise before the end of the year) is a collection of anthem sounding, toe-tapping charged songs.There is an odd familiarity to the lyrics creating a natural desire for the listener to sing along. Lexy Benaim's nasally delivery adds a colorful layer to the melancholic happy tone of the music. Technicolor Health was a first step in a positive direction showcasing creativity and pop excitement from a band that could have been great, unfortunately there will always be that nagging desire for more.

Technicolor Health

18. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson-Summer of Fear Much to the popular opinion, I found Robinson's second release a pleasant surprise and a wonderful companion album to a broken heart. Summer of Fear is an album that feels much like a love letter given when an undesired end is near and expression of feelings is a necessity. Robinson's Dylanesque delivery projects a soulfulness only truly felt at the core of each song as his scratchy wail unveils his beckoning desire for love. Each listen uncovers another layer of emotion any listener can associate with.

Summer of Fear

17. The Pain Being Pure at Heart-S/T With its abrupt beginning listeners are immediately drenched in a sound that would make the late John Hughes' ears dance with pleasure; as I am overwhelmed with feelings of nostalgia reminiscing of films which crafted my childhood in the 80s. Their music marries the sounds of 80s pop tunes in a Belle & Sebastian style while retaining a high energy intensity that continues on a jovial path. The Pains successfully have reawakened a vintage form of Pop music that creates an air of excitement while singing about angst and emotional responses to life.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

16. We Were Promised Jetpacks-These Four Walls Their band name, We Were Promised Jetpacks, is inspired by a podcast from comedian Ricky Gervais. The Scottish quartet sing about getting past adolescence and dealing with adult decisions. Lead singer, Adam Thompson described the debut's title These Four Walls as to reference the home an adult is raised in and how its representation (family values,upbringing) alters with a grown up perspective. The band has found much success addressing heartfelt subject matter while playing their music at an ear piercing decibel. The third Scottish discovery by Fat Cat Records in as many years, the youngsters are a happy medium to the other two, The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit. Thompson's pain and misery is obvious in the crackle of his deeply accented wail in many of the songs' choruses, the anthemic sing along debut is an exploding punch in the face.

These Four Walls

15. The Rural Alberta Advantage-Hometowns This debut album from the Canadian trio, paints a country folklore tale with an eerie presence of mortality and nightmarish imagery. Within these eloquently delivered vignettes there is enough ambiguity for listeners to attach personal baggage to the themes addressed in lead singer, Nils Edenloff's personal recounting of his hometown. The stripped down instrumentation recreates an electro-pop ambiance which accents Edenloff's emotionally driven lyrics narrating his adoring love for everything rural. The RAA continue in the long tradition of a strong output of creatively bolstered musicians from Canada.


14. Passion Pit-Manners Bells and whistles open this debut album with lead singer, Michael Angelikos' piercing shrieks submerged in a sugary pool indie electro dance pop. There is a contrasting quality of substantive subject matter abstracted by these light-hearted melodies that hypnotically deter your attention from the matters of fact. Manners is a wondrous collection of songs playing soundtrack to the joyous and devilish impulses that lie within one's subconscious. A far cry from once was a Valentines gift to a college girlfriend.


13. Dan Auerbach-Keep It Hid I'm still unsure what cave I've been hidden to just have caught wind of the Akron blues duo The Black Keys. Regardless of the fact I get to reap the benefits of an excellent catalog of songs which re approach the medium of American-blues rock. While on hiatus, guitarist Dan Auerbach returned to his Akron analog studio to continue his personal exploration and furthering his investigation of finding new approaches of guitar play while retaining the classic tradition exhibited in his gritty style. As many of the familiar characteristics of the Black Keys are present in this new collection, Auerbach does an excellent job to challenge himself musically and reveal a scorned soul that finds a bittersweet comfort ability in solitude.

Keep It Hid

12. Cymbals Eat Guitars-Why There Are Mountains Joe Ferocious recalls Weezer as a huge influence in his musicality style that aided in his crafting the debut, Why There Are Mountains. Regardless of Joe's inspiration, CEG found a way to create a journey and exploration of a bright new world ahead of us approaching with a new found perspective. The lyrics tackle the darker aspects of one's self while exhibiting an awe struck love of the world's natural surroundings. An angst ridden piercing shrill exposes Joe's passionate contempt for complacency with an obvious desire to be uncaged and afforded the ability the necessary mistakes to grow.

Why There Are Mountains

11. Vivian Girls-Everything Goes Wrong At the conclusion of a relationship, many transitional emotions and actions occur. The dumpee prepares to move forward alone building up an emotional wall as the healing begins. Anger, resentment, denial, and tension are just some of the sensory responses present during this phase of repair. So enter the Vivian Girls sophomore album, Everything Goes Wrong a lo-fi diary of a scorned girl wanting to flex her muscles amidst fuzzy guitar rock. Continuing in the same direction as their self titled debut left off; Cassie,Katy and Ali move away from generalized statements in their songs and focus their energy on building an independent state of mind at the end of what seems a cancerous relationship. The album clocks in slightly longer, and exhibits a darker edge in the album's overall tonality.

Everything Goes Wrong

10. The Flaming Lips-Embryonic Approaching their twelfth album, a double disc nonetheless the Flaming Lips return to their roots of sound experimentation in a less polished fashion while creating an abstracted perspective on Coyne's usual themes of madness and isolation. Feeling much like a jazz infused gritty space odyssey, an epic drive at returning to the innovative psychedelic quandaries that allowed Wayne Coyne to express his hidden fears and imaginative theories of the social direction of the planet. I admit this may not be the most ideal Lips record for a new listener as Embryonic is a continuation of an existing discourse established decades prior.


9. St. Vincent-Actor There is a pleasant juxtaposition of a melodic,disarming, gentle voice with the dissonance of guitar feedback and jamming hooks that instantaneously have you nodding your head along. It took a while for me to come around and spend some time with Annie Clark but since our introduction I find myself constantly revisiting Actor. Her observations and outlook are very similar to my own as she paints a fantastical vision of the bleak, with her calm unfazed tone.


8. Animal Collective-Merriweather Post Pavilion I feel as though it has been a longstanding love/hate relationship with Animal Collective. There would be some amazing aspects of past albums that would bewilder me; while their constant experimentation sometimes fell off the deep end. In the onset recordings of MPP, the group shifted their focus and guitar-less music was written to substitute for the absence of Deakin (Josh Gibb). The result included the addition of sampling and the most harmonious marriage of experimental psychedelic sounds and intuitive recounting of moments of pleasure.

Merriweather Post Pavilion

7. Phoenix-Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix For their fourth album, the French quartet have really created their own identity in this polished indie pop style. They cold-heartedly approach romanticism building on past experiences and introducing a nostalgic undertone and a playful maturity that propels these French men's work to a cordon bleu level of Pop music.

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs-It's Blitz From the first chords of "Zero" listeners are transported to a dance floor as the art school rejects of Brooklyn return for their third album, It's Blitz. The YYYs have had a helluva year between the rejuvenation of their post punk style recreating the 80s ballads with danceable beats while retaining an eternal pain revealed through her cryptic lyrics. Not to mention the opportunity for Karen O to exude her quirkiness, sound tracking Where the Wild Things Are for ex-beau Spike Jonze.

It's Blitz

5. Dirty Projectors-Bitte Orca It has been a busy year in Brooklyn, as many of the summer's festivals featured an all Brooklyn band bill. Seeming an always evolving experimental group of musicians drawing from the positive attributes from whichever artist collaborates and contributes. Finding much success in graying the musical genre lines and incorporating aspects of R&B and this conceptually brilliant orchestral vocal style that re envisions the role of "composer". Lead, David Longstreth who proudly embodies that role has truly found his honest voice musically as the successes of Bitte Orca truly shape the direction of music. It is wildly imaginative and truly original.

Bitte Orca

4. The Antlers-Hospice By far the most written of band for "Drawing From Music" in 2009. The newly formed trio re imagine the work of lead, Peter Silberman; taking the most grim heart aching subject matter and translating it into a true opus of celebration. Not leaving any emotion unturned this saga unravels into a eerie hair raising epilogue leaving you with a desire to constantly replay. Whatever the truth behind Hospice's tale there is enough ambiguity for you to incorporate your own issues.


3. The Decemberists-The Hazards of Love Little by little Colin Meloy has etched into our sub conscience these intricately scribed tales scratching at the scabs healed over from scorned loves and desires that never came to realization. With The Hazards of Love, what has been coined as a "Prog Opera" envisions an entire fantastical world of alter-egos who struggle with life decisions and the repercussions when a man thinks with his other "brain". It is difficult not to revisit this tale revealing many of its beautifully laid out dual meanings and complicated perspectives.

The Hazards of Love

2. Grizzly Bear-Veckatimest It wasn't easy to avoid the record which was coined as "the savior of indie rock". A truly amazing and heart stopping abstraction of good vs. evil. Daniel Rossen's sinisterly laid out words harshly contrast the angelic wail and enlighten words of Ed Droste. Paired with the fantastical Disney-like instrumentation of Chris Taylor; the listener has a bitter sweet reaction to the nostalgic realizations which come to surface as Veckatimest unravels and deconstructs the beauty within.


1. Dark Was the Night-Compilation Originally conceived as a benefit CD for the Red Hot Organization. Comprised of 31 original tracks and curated by The National's Dessner brothers,which are either older tracks by the featured artists or favorite covers. From the onset of the disc, it is obvious this project was meaningful to everyone involved and is truly memorable with the caliber of collaborations throughout. I feel as though it has been ages since the last truly successful compilation that has deserved such attention and accomplishes the proposed goal.

Dark Was The Night

1 comment:

  1. Very eclectic.

    Check out my selection at