Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2009: A Top Ten Too Late

We are well into 2010 but people are still asking me about my top 10 of 2009. Apparently, everyone missed it the first time around when it was posted on Decoy Music along with their aggregated top 20 of 2009 which also has some of my write-ups. Either way, here it is in its faultless glory along with links to stream all of the albums on the always reliable Lala.

Most people don't realize that each year gets progressively better for music. 2009 was arguably the best year for music yet. It offered more diverse styles as well as solid albums and myriad ways to listen to them. People who are disenfranchised with current offerings focus too hard on what is the most visible. There is plenty of great music out there that rivals the classics; however, you just need to take some time to find it. The music that will make a true lasting impact won't be shoved down your throat like mainstream music but it's still out there. These are the albums that left an indubitable impression on me.

Honorable Mentions:

15. Andrew BirdNoble Beast

14. St. VincentActor

13. Neko CaseMiddle Cyclone

12. A Place to Bury StrangersExploding Head

11. The Big PinkA Brief History of Love

The Big TEN:

10. GirlsAlbum

This is the most I have flopped on an album within a short time span. After the initial hype, I gave Album a listen and wrote it off as hipster claptrap. Now, I am thinking it might remain the instant classic that some claim it to be. It is hard not to succumb to the backlash that hype often results in and sometimes you almost miss a strong record like the one released by Girls. Luckily after several listens, I have found much to admire within the notes that pour out of singer Christopher Owens. It has been awhile since I found an album that contains so many songs that I inexplicably identify with. The tragic honesty contained in "Hellhole Ratrace" and the personal confession in "Lauren Marie" gets right to the heart of the human condition. It may be the post-grad ennui that I experienced this year but I can't think of another album released in the last few years that was this emotionally powerful.

9. KeelhaulKeelhaul's Triumphant Return to Obscurity

I'm going to make the bold statement that Keelhaul is the most underrated band in metal. It doesn't matter though because as the title shows, Keelhaul knows their place in the world. I am just thankful that after years of absence they decided to return to the obscure realm of music where they reign supreme. The talent demonstrated on this album is spectacular with each member of the band contributing significant components to every composition. Those who enjoy the technical side of metal provided by ample musicianship will get lost in this sonic space. "THC for One" is the closest they come to conventional songwriting but the sarcastic lyrics and harsh breakdowns aren't exactly tailored for mainstream ears. Those of us with a penchant for the obscure will find more solace in the intricacies of tracks like "Kirby Wurm".

8. IsisWavering Radiant

With Wavering Radiant, Isis has upped the Tool influence and even took Adam Jones along for the ride. The result is their most gorgeous work to date. Isis has perfected the marriage of ambient and metal sounds to put them miles above their peers. Look no further than "Ghost Key" to hear the progression that this band has taken. It contains every element that makes them one of the most critically acclaimed metal bands of this generation. It is catchy yet contains devastatingly heavy guitars and breathtaking crescendos. The band creates an atmosphere like no other on this record and I blissfully get lost in it every time I press play.

7. ConvergeAxe to Fall

Every time Converge releases a new album I think to myself, "There is no way this could be as good as the last one." Yet without fail, it is as good if not better. I was absolutely floored after my first listen through Axe to Fall. Kurt Ballou's guitar work is impossibly fast and the rhythm section is as thunderous as it has even been. Jacob Bannon's vocals still sound like someone was running a cheese grater over his vocal cords while they were recording and the lyrics are as heart wrenching as ever. Songs like "Reap What You Sow" are evidence that this may be their best work since Jane Doe.

6. Sunset RubdownDragonslayer

My year end list is never complete without a release from a band that features Spencer Krug. This time he has really outdone himself with Dragonslayer, the latest album from Sunset Rubdown. The clever lyrics which first attracted me to his songwriting are in full swing on songs like "Idiot Heart". The element that really impresses me, however, is the originality in the songwriting and sound exhibited in tracks such as "Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!" "Dragonslayer" is also one of the best album closers I've ever heard and manages to capture your attention and keep you fully enthralled for its 10 minute plus length. Simply nothing sounds like this band does and that is one of the best compliments for a band with writing this strong.

5. Dan DeaconBromst

I started to get concerned when initial press for this record was dubbing it Dan Deacon's 'dark' album. Thankfully, that darkness was in relation to Spiderman of the Rings which was possibly the 'brightest' sounding album ever recorded. Bromst finds Dan Deacon composing with more acoustic instrumentation, experimenting with intricate structures, and expanding on his joyous electronic sound. These are dance rhythms for those of us who like to flail around like we are possessed when listening to music. Despite the elaborate arrangements and introspective lyrics, it still sounds like one big party and I wouldn't have it any other way.

4. Dinosaur Jr.Farm

Is it possible for a band to get better with age? Dinosaur Jr. proved that they haven't lost a step with their comeback album Beyond. Now with Farm, they show that they may have actually gotten better. The album displays a band that knows how to take their signature sound and expand upon it to create an innovative new monster. The slacker anthems, roaring solos, and complex arrangements are as good if not better than anything they have done in the past. Need a feel good sing along? They have your solution with "Over It". Do you miss the deafening solos and epic structures of classic rock? Then you need to hear "I Don't Wanna Go There". This is one rock record that has it all.

3. JapandroidsPost-Nothing

This album is full of simple and thoughtful garage rock. Each track has its own character and there isn't a bad one on the record. "Young Hearts Spark Fire" is one of the best anthemic rock songs since the heyday of The Replacements. Hearing these eight tracks bursting with substance is even more remarkable once you realize that is all created by Brian King on guitar and David Prowse on drums.

2. Future of the LeftTravels with Myself and Another

From the first cries of "C'mon, Rick, I'm not a prize. I'm not a cynic or one of those guys" by singer Andy Falkous, I was hooked on this record. This is the kind of relentless rock and roll onslaught I have been craving for years. With tongue-in-cheek lyrics like "What kind of orgy leaves a sense of deeper love?", it is hard not to be taken by these cynical yet likable noise rock tunes. I, for one, will reciprocate the proposal to join their lost cause.

1.Animal CollectiveMerriweather Post Pavilion

I almost feel guilty putting this as my favorite album of the year. It is sure to take the same position on more lists than any other release. The fact remains, however, that this is without a doubt the record that has stuck with me the most throughout this year. Every time I listened to it since it was released back in January, I found a new track to obsess over, a new favorite lyric, a new captivating beat. Animal Collective is doing something special and unique and whether you like it or not, it is leaving its mark on people.

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