Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Honorable Mentions 2009

These are songs or albums that we thought deserved a mention, even though they didn't quite make our Best Albums list.

Noah and the Whale - The First Days of Spring
Diana fought hard to get this album on our Best Albums list, as it was one of her favorites of the year, but there weren't quite enough votes for it, so we're giving it an honorable mention. Here's what she had to say about the album: "Sometimes I'm just drawn to sad things, and I love a good breakup song; it's not a bad deal when you get some respite in the end. Next time you feel snubbed by your guy or gal, try a healthy dose of 'Blue Skies.'"
Blue Skies [mp3] - (iTunes)

Even though Regina Spektor remains one of our top musicians of all time, her latest release, Far, was not as crazy, spunky, elegantly raw or as zesty as hoped. There were standout tracks that enticed the popular masses like "Laughing With," the earworm "Eet," and the dark and buzzing "Machine," but after a dozen or so listens, we found myself wanting to listen more to Regina's numbers from years past (like "Prisoners" and "Baby Jesus"). It was good album, don't get us wrong, but not groundbreaking for Spektor, and so we place her here amongst the honorable mentions.
Machine [mp3] - (iTunes)

Alvin Band - Mantis Preying
What an interesting concept - an album of vocal experimentation, where all the sounds on the whole album are made by one guy's voice (Rick Alvin Schaier). The variety of sounds and the range of his voice is pretty impressive on it's own, and Mantis Preying has a few really stellar tracks, such as the haunting "Mystery of the Yellow Room," a very dark and incredibly well put together Phantom of the Opera medley.

Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster
The Fame Monster doesn't quite compare to Lady Gaga's debut, The Fame. There's only really one standout hit that we really liked - "Bad Romance" - whereas The Fame was stuffed full of crazy dance hits. However, Lady Gaga continues to be an amazing performer and I'm sure we can expect her to dominate the dance scene for years to come.
Bad Romance [mp3] - (iTunes)

Anni Rossi – Rockwell
Em predicted that Anni Rossi would make it in the music world many years ago, when they went to the same high school and Em saw her perform at the music shows there. Anni's versatility and playful style will take her far, and she has drawn comparisons to everyone from Regina Spektor to PJ Harvey to the Jonas Brothers (seriously?). Her label debut, Rockwell, shows off her skills well, despite its lack of production value, and is a good sign of the wonderful things we can expect from her in the future.
Wheelpusher [mp3] - (iTunes)

Loney Dear - Dear John
Loney Dear have the gift of being one of those bands who shine brighter in concert than on album format, but it does help when you have good stuff to work with in the first place. This Swedish multi-instrumental syllabic-infused orchestral pop wonder retains a more mature and aged sound than Loney Dear's previous works, and the tracks nicelybop along on top a quiet foundation of synths and Emil Svanangen's gentle-yet-energetic falsetto voice. All in all, Svanangen manages to bring forth something totally different and wonderful, songs that both move the foot and the soul, while tapping into the child-like exhilaration that lingers within the depths of all of us.
Airport Surroundings [mp3] - (iTunes)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs always show us a good time, and It's Blitz! has a few very solid dance tracks on it, sure to make you rock out, such as "Zero," or the oft-remixed "Heads Will Roll." There's also the pretty ballad, "Runaway," which we were impressed by, as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs aren't all that known for ballads.
Zero [mp3] - (iTunes)

The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
The title track from this album was one of the best ballads to emerge from 2009, as Scott and Seth Avett are masters at crooning thoughtful mellow-rock piano and banjo numbers with conversational yet pensively beautiful lyrics such as "Acting like someone I know isn't me/ ill with want and poisoned by this ugly greed." While the songs are wonderfully produced and the feeling is fantastically poignant, the focus remains on the ballads, never indulging the listener with enough bang to push the boundaries.
I and Love and You [mp3] - (iTunes)

Beyonce - "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)"
"Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" actually came out in 2008, but it was everywhere this year so we think it deserves a mention. From the Beyonce/Justin Timberlake/Adam Samburg music video spoof on SNL, to the football team on Glee to the middle-aged guy at the dueling piano bar (sorry, no video of that one) - this dance inspired many amazing pop culture moments, and for that, Beyonce (and Beyonce's choreographers), we thank you.

Tegan and Sara - "Hell"
Tegan & Sara's frenzied rock 'n' roll single "Hell," from their album Sainthood, is sure to make you sing along, if you can keep up with the quick lyrics. The rest of the album has some catchy songs, but "Hell" definitely stands (or rocks) out high above the rest and is one of our favorite singles of this year.
Hell [mp3] - (iTunes)

Chris Garneau - El Radio
Chris Garneau's reminds of us of a male version of Regina Spektor in her earlier days - alternating between gorgeous, heartfelt ballads and playful, dark, intricate (some might even say "weird") pieces. Most of his songs are piano based and he has a versatile, unique voice. Considering how much we love Regina here at GFP, that comparison is a pretty massive compliment. But make no mistake - just because we are comparing them, does not mean that Chris Garneau's music is not his own. Quite the contrary, Garneau is unique and refreshingly different.

Owl City - "Fireflies"
Within the music blog world Owl City is quite disputed. We have to say, as much as it might sound like a rip off of Death Cab or Postal Service (can Adam Young really help it if his voice sounds just like Ben Gibbard's?), "Fireflies" is a damn catchy song and even a really sweet, earnest one at that. Plus the guy recorded it in his basement in small town Minnesota and now it's gone double platinum. That's pretty impressive.
Fireflies [mp3] - (iTunes)

Romona Falls - Intuit
A solo side project of Menomena's Brent Knopf, these swirling, tortuously layered, almost sinister songs masterfully weave in and out of various genres, but remain anchored in an acoustic guitar-layered dreamland of sorts that is reminiscent of folk-experimental Grizzly Bear. The album reverberates all over the place, and although it is certainly one of those albums to be digested time and time again, some tracks like "Going Once, Going Twice" fall short, marring the overall experience.
Russia [mp3] - (iTunes)

Kings of Convenience – "Boat Behind"
This is a quite catchy song off of a solid album put out by this Norwegian duo. "Boat Behind" reminds us of summertime and the carefree days spent with good friends. The uniqueness of their music manifests itself in this song, and it stands out as the best offering from their recent album Declaration of Dependence. The video for the song is a must-see as well.
Boat Behind [mp3] - (iTunes)

The Swell Season - Strict Joy
From the duo made famous by their "little film that could," Once, continues to produce music together under the name The Swell Season. The deep voice of Glen Hansard is complimented well by the soft voice of Marketa Irglova, and his guitar and her piano provide a nice balance as well. As the album is about the end of their relationship together, it is part of an emotional journey we've all experienced a time or two.

Olafur Arnalds - Found Songs
Good Classical-based Indie/Electronica is hard to come by these days, especially when it needs to compare itself to the likes of Yann Tiersen and Sigur Ros. When you find it and then learn that the composer only created the 7-song album as part of a personal challenge to write a song every day for a week, you start to get into "blown away" territory. The songs are extremely well polished - laden with divine emotional piano melodies, garnished with thick dramatic strings and pin-pricked with precise and well-thought out electronica. The only complaint, outside perhaps of it staying within its basic genre boundaries, is that there is not more to listen to.
Ljósið [mp3] - (iTunes)

Clare and the Reasons - Allow
With her light, airy voice and her saccharine, bouncy music, Clare and the Reasons are always a pleasure to listen to (or watch live). That catchy, summery tunes will get stuck in your head for days, but you won't mind because the songs are just so pleasant that you can't help but smile, bop your head and whistle along.
All The Wine [mp3] - (iTunes)


Anonymous said...

Bandwith is exceeded for Alvin Band's "Mystery of the Yellow Room" - could you repost? Thanks!!!

Em said...

Hi there, sorry but all of our mp3s are for sampling purposes only and are only available for limited amount of downloads, so unfortunately we can't repost the mp3s.

Sorry, but thanks for your interest!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mp3, just discovered some awesome artists today :)