Monday, November 09, 2009

Top 10 Albums of 2009

Not even halfway through November and the year-end lists have begun. What a time to be alive! Well here you go, the best albums of the year. Argue with me, tell me what I've overlooked, whatever. And hey, if anybody wants to listen to one or more of these albums yourself, just ask and I'll toss you a download link. Thanks for reading!

10. Mos Def - The Ecstatic

I don't know about hip hop anymore. This is the only rap album I've enjoyed all year. The Kanye antics were fun, but I think this genre needs serious help. And what's ridiculous is that it wouldn't be a problem if rappers could just take a cue from Mos Def. This album is thoughtful and creative, but it doesn't sacrifice any rhythm or rawness. If anything, the music is stronger as a result of its fiery content. Best rap album of the year by a dozen miles.

9. Ramona Falls - Intuit

This band is kinda just "Almost Menomena". Two thirds of the band play and tour in Ramona Falls, along with a bunch of other Portland musicians. It's as good as any Menomena album, which means it's really really good. By definition, a side project can never be king though. Ramona Falls may never tour or release another album again, because Menomena is priority number one. ...But I wouldn't complain if Menomena broke up and Ramona Falls continued. Not for a second.

8. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

The novelty of the weird Black Flag cover album has worn off just in time for a full length record of original songs by the most physically attractive indie band in the world. This album suits the Dirty Projectors. It's fully realized and original, and basically insists that you see the music performed live in order to get a real grasp of just how impressive The Dirty Projectors are.

7. Dan Deacon - Bromst

Dan Deacon was always fun, but it was hard to tell just how skilled he actually was amidst all of his meowing and trippy green skulls. Bromst is a marvel. His talent is proven in the first track. Overwhelming, unbelievable, verbose, hyperbolic, any emphatic word you can find in your vocabulary will suit Bromst adequately. It's a testament to how far music has come in both composition and production. If one man can create sounds like this all by himself, we're living in an incredible age.

6. Kings of Convenience - Declaration of Dependence

When the Kings of Convenience are being quiet, it's like the entire world has stopped just to gather around and listen. This album will not amaze anyone when they hear it, but they'll want to hear it again. And again. It's music with fundamentals. Working hard to make it sound like no work at all, the Kings are as refreshing as a warm night at the beach with friends and a big bucket of nothing to do. Relax or swoon, as long as you react with your heart instead of your head, Kings of Convenience will move you.

5. Jonsi & Alex - Riceboy Sleeps

Ambient music can be awfully offensive sometimes. It's so minimal and slow and boring that you can almost smell the roses between the ass-cracks of the synth players as they bend over to fiddle with their knobs. Ambient music fails hard when you can imagine its player. The success of Riceboy Sleeps is its purity. If humans created it, I can't tell. This is Mother Nature's music. After a decade of Sigur Ros, Jonsi and Alex should be this good though. Whether I'm dreaming with them or forgetting they're there, it's always better to have Riceboy Sleeps on.

4. M Ward - Hold Time

An album like Hold Time doesn't amaze anybody. I don't really want to apply any adjectives to it either. It just sounds like songwriting. Quite the opposite of ambient music, the genius of M. Ward is in the blatancy. These songs tap into that timeless folk sound that keeps Bob Dylan relevant from decade to decade. Hold Time will inspire one day, and act as light car-ride accompaniment the next. Knowing the sorts of musical virtuosity that M. Ward is capable of and hearing an album like this is like a musical iceberg. You know there's so much more underneath, but you don't need to see it, because what he's given us above the surface is perfectly beautiful as it is.

3. Japandroids - Post-Nothing

I have not been enjoying the 90s' comeback. The 80s' revival wasn't too great either, but even that only lasted for a few years. But I cannot dismiss the times. If what I'm living in is bringing the lo-fi and grunge back, so be it. There are at least a few positives to find here and there. Japandroids' Post-Nothing has been the strongest example yet. These two guys bring back that aspect of the 90s' that was concerned with the inclusion fun and emotion in music. These songs work on the same level as Jimmy Eat World's Clarity. A high schooler can pump his fist to it, and an aging hipster can get that old high school feeling again. If "nothing" came before Japandroids, they're not really following up anything or paying any homage. They're just making rock music for their band. There's no need to put that on a timeline.

2. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

There's nothing quite like a good summertime album. Lord knows there have been too many bad ones. But Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is like warm romance during summer break in the city. There isn't a down moment on the album, but Countdown (Sick for the Big Sun) is the song that really asks the question that Phoenix poses throughout the whole album: "Do you remember when 21 years was old?" Like Japandroids, Phoenix produces a sound altogether youthful, nostalgic, and immediate. None of us can stay young forever, but who cares? If we can tap back into it through a song, we're not missing anything.

1. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

Let's disassociate Animal Collective from Pitchfork and indie rock for a moment. Why is this a great album? It's not because it receives positive reviews. It's not because it's now popular. There isn't a valid reason at all really. But I think Merriweather Post Pavilion is great because of the way it makes us feel. I feel elated, terrified, confused and excited when I hear it. It gives me a new experience with music, something totally averse to nostalgia, something even better. Animal Collective are a band of their time. They're a siren alerting the music world of the post-commercialization of rock and roll that we've experienced this decade. Music cannot be attached to a product anymore, it will not be consumed as it was before. Animal Collective are not doing anything but their art. It's a really simple thing actually. Instead of exploiting their popularity, they're just becoming accustomed to it. Popular or not, this is music for anyone who steals music online. It's the weird sound of an experimenter. The wilderness within us that we've tried to cover with fabrics, headphones and eating utensils. The lion in the coma is awake, and it has devoured the humans.

The best albums of 2009. Listed.

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