I acquired ten albums released this year, eight of which I’ve spent serious time listening to. Either music is getting better or my music choosing skills are improving for I really like all of the albums featured in this list. As this is an end of the year list, I’ll make my general disclaimer and say that these albums are likely to be in a different order one year from now. Nevertheless, here are my top records from 2009.
1. Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear
-I saw Grizzly Bear this October. It was easily one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. One of those bands that makes you excited for the future of music. This album is so incredibly beautiful and original at the same time. It won’t be for a while until their next record comes out but I’ll be quivering with anticipation as soon as anything is announced.
2. Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle by Bill Callahan
-The biggest surprise on the year. I had high hopes for Grizzly Bear but this album just came out of the blue. Speaking in cryptic yet fascinating metaphors, Bill Callahan presents nine remarkable, impeccably produced songs in a smooth bass voice that’s as soothing as it is scary. My first dose of Callahan’s prolific career (he was formerly known as Smog), I’m thrilled to hear what else he’s put to tape.
3. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by Phoenix
-This gets the guilty pleasure of the year award. WAP is filled with pure danceable pop but it’s put together so well that one can’t help but be in awe of the craftsmanship of this French outfit. Much like In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy last year, this is addictive enough to warrant a 4.5 star rating and a place on the podium for the final best of the year list.
4. The Hazards of Love by the Decemberists
-Colin Meloy continues to prove himself as one of cleverest songwriters of his generation. This, the fifth album from the Decemberists, is a rock opera of sorts that continues to push the band’s ability to more ambitious places. Telling the story of ill-fated lovers Margaret and Daniel with a handful of guest vocalists along the way, the album holds up as a testament to a storyteller unparalled in today’s indie rock world.
5. Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective
-Animal Collective is always in the discussion for “most advanced bands around” and this album might be there best-loved yet. Nobody has ever doubted their originality; the question for me as always had to do with their clarity. Well this album will probably go down as one of the definitive “avant-pop” albums ever made. It’s totally weird but totally together. If Radiohead is the Beatles of our generation, these guys are the Beach Boys, taking their reverb-drenched layers of voices where no band has ever approached before.
6. Hospice by The Antlers
-Man this has been a good year. At number six, we find an album that could easily be the best of another year in the past. Hospice is the result of bandleader Peter Silberman’s self-imposed isolation, telling a grim story of the death of a loved one after weeks in a hospital, recalling events from the past. The album is intimate yet grandiose, easily changing between shoegazer and singer/songwriter depending on what mood I am in.
7. Bitte Orca by Dirty Projectors
-Yet another album whose artist or title has something to do with animals, Dirty Projectors are a remarkably inventive band whose rhythmic creativity attaches them to the long lost genre, progressive rock. They aren’t progressive in the gigantic songs sense, but they are in their weaving complexity and eschew of conventions sense. I’m not as in love with the album as some, partially thanks to the slightly whiny voice of lead singer, but certainly this album deserves the attention its getting thanks to its fresh, sophisticated sound.
8. Embryonic by Flaming Lips
-Good lord! When is there going to be an album that I can’t attach the words “remarkably original” to? This might be the most individual of the group, which makes sense, considering it’s recorded by the freakiest group of the last twenty plus years. Embryonic is 70 minutes of craziness, and while it’s amazing in its sheer magnitude, it isn’t always the easiest meal to swallow. Nonetheless, the Lips better get recognized as one of the genre’s most original forces by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame sometime in the not so distant future.
*Congrats to Nate Rogers who got last month's subheading courtesy Elvis Costello.