Monday, December 28, 2009

Best Albums of 2009

As you might be able to tell by our lack of posting, we were hard at work over the holidays putting together our end of the year lists. Today is the first of three lists - our Best Albums of 2009 list. So in no particular order, we present them to you:

The Antlers - Hospice
This intensely beautiful, heart-wrenching album is full of more tragedy than we would hope any one person would experience in a lifetime, much less a person of front man and writer Pete Silberman's young age. Hospice launched The Antlers to indie fame this year, and deservedly so. The haunting melodies strike us deeply in our cores and stay with us long after we've listened to them. Not that it's ever that long between listens, since the album has pretty much been on repeat on our playlists since it first came out in March.
Sylvia [mp3] - (iTunes)

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
This anticipated album encompassed ingenious songcraft, never-ending unwinding textural and melodic flourishes, languid beatuy and sweeping rhythmic cavorts that cut to the center of any listener's ear. With painstaking attention to detail, Veckatimest soared above any fears of overproduction and swooped right into the land of absolute prowess.

Passion Pit - Manners
In a year stockpiled with celebrity deaths, who anticipated that Stanley Kubrick would be resurrected to orchestrate the best indie-pop album of 2009? Every moment of Manners contains a purposely placed hook - Kids singing! Catchy synth lines! A horn section! - but the album would amount to nothing more than a dizzying Go Team! disciple if not for the pitch-perfect layering of Michael Angelakos' heartfelt falsetto. Without it, Manners - and Passion Pit by proxy - would be an indistinguishable novelty act instead of a polished pop catharsis.
The Reeling [mp3] - (iTunes)

Matt Jones - The Black Path
We wrote about this album back in 2008, but it didn't technically come out until 2009, so we're going to write about it again because it's that good. Simply put, Matt Jones is a one-of-a-kind genius and this orchestral folk album is full of gorgeous, rich instrumentation and complex, deeply expressive lyrics. Matt Jones' music and unique voice are truly mesmerizing.

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
While they've been on the music scene for a while, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix was the album that really put French band Phoenix on the map. With catchy hits like "Lisztomania" and "1901," they rocketed through the indie masses alongside the album's vivid revivalist melodies and danceable indie-pop beats. A small smear of brit-pop shoegaze added for fun and the love for the film Breakfast Club that was reignited made this album a clear standout in 2009.

Metric - Fantasies
Emily Haines always manages to create songs that are simultaneously melancholy or nostalgic and yet are awesome dance songs. You can rock out, yet feel an incredible emotional pull, and the songs are so catchy that they'll stay in your head for hours. Fantasies is no exception to this rule, and "Help I'm Alive" has not-so-slowly risen to be one of our most-played songs this year.

St. Vincent - Actor
St. Vincent's sophomore album, inspired, she says, by Prince, can take a little warming up to at first. Her songs are complex and many of them can't truly be appreciated on the first listen. But the more you listen to it, the more masterful layers you discover and the more you appreciate this virtuoso. Rocking guitar harmonics burst forth from fluttering wind instruments and St. Vincent integrates these two contrasting sounds flawlessly, even within the same song.

White Rabbits - It's Frightening
This percussion-driven band became a sensation this year with their aptly named, explosive "Percussion Gun." But these are no one hit wonders - their album was full of other good, very catchy, rumbling, crashing, banging, tapping songs. And while it might be easy for a band with such a focus on percussion to get in a rut where all their music sounds the same, they've managed to utilize a nice variety of sounds and genres, while still maintaining a cohesiveness over the entire album.

Florence and the Machine - Lungs
Florence's powerful, rich voice and epically dramatic music make her debut album Lungs a force to reckon with, alternating between dark and stormy, with drums booming and her imposing vocals, and then flowery and romantic with plucky harps. But no matter what the style, the album never loses the dramatic flare that hooks you within the first few bars.

Discovery - LP
The brainchild of Vampire Weekend keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij and Ra Ra Riot's Wes Miles, this debut album, which was recorded over the course of three and a half years, makes for an unique and pleasantly intriguing experience. Inventive beats, playful rhythms and slick rushes of harmonious vocals dapple throughout this album, producing indie electro-pop at its finest.

Fanfarlo - Reservoir
Reservoir is a package full of odds and ends that takes a while to unpack. The British sextet has created a well-crafted propulsive album that will make you laugh, cry, dance, sway or stand still in total revelry all within the same album. Their music has a warmth to it that is downright lovely. The exquisite instrumentation and lead singer Simon's distinct, cozy voice is enough to warrant more than a couple rounds of continuous listens.

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
It's perplexing that an album translating to "Please Killer Whale" would lead Brooklyn's experimental class into the pop realm this year (along with Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear). Differentiating this effort from its Yale-crested musical-composition predecessors are the hooks. That's right: hooks. "Stillness is the Move" is an outright jam - not just by Dirty Projectors' standards, but by Left Eye Lopez (R.I.P.) standards. It might have been the track of 2009 that best defined the shift (for those aforementioned bands) from strictly creating songs principled in deconstructionist methodology towards a welcomed practice of lavishing in mind-bending indie hymnals, i.e., running the musical gamut - in styles, genres, tempos, key/time signatures - during every featured track on the album.

The XX - XX
This debut album blew everyone away, with many describing it as downright perfect or fantastically innovative. Pitchfork called it "so fully formed and thoughtful that it feels like three or four lesser, noisier records should have preceded it." Indeed, it was a perfectly executed product from the London band of 20-somethings, with quiet instrumentation full of purpose and lyrics riddled with poignancy.

Elizabeth and the Catapult - Taller Children
Elizabeth & the Catapult's sassy debut album that juxtaposes the freedoms of youth and the responsibilities of growing up is a delightful listen from beginning to end - with bubbly, bouncy child-like songs such as "Race You" to the serious Leonard Cohen cover of "Everybody Knows," it's a well-rounded album and a very solid debut indeed.
Momma's Boy [mp3] - (iTunes)

Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk
Comprised of star players like M. Ward (She & Him), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes), Monsters of Folk ventures into lands of varied and weathered styles, delivering quality and seamless song-work amongst the loose sea of rock-folk acoustic guitars and lush harmonies. Conor Oberst pens GFP writer Diana's favorite lyric of the year in "Temazcal," summing up a relationship that was never meant to be in less than 10 words: "love we made at gunpoint wasn't love at all."


Davin said...

Lovely. thanks for the info. i love to see others top albums of the year. here is a link to mine

Burn The Bowery (music blog) said...

enjoyed reading the list guys, nice work!!! I just discovered your blog this year and always liked stopping by, a very original read.

check us out if you can sometime.