Friday, January 01, 2010

Top Albums of 2009

Choosing my top ten albums was fairly difficult this year. I found several albums to be just ok, and a lot of the albums that were critical favs just didn't grab me (though that probably means that somewhere around March I will buy a ton of 2009 music as ususal). Also a lot of interesting music was released int eh last couple months of the year but I have to live with music a little before I think it can earn a spot in my top ten so a few of my favorites of 2009 will inevitably be missed. And as usual more and more great music is being re-issued so I was listening to a lot of music from the past as well.

Given this I thought I would not only give my top ten albums of the year but also some of my fav re-issues as well.

As usual these are not in any particular order. Enjoy

Top Albums of the Year

Megafaun - Gather, Form, & Fly
Though some will be put off my the experimental tracks, this is an incredibly beautiful album. It feels like an alt-country/CSNY take on Olivia Tremor Control's Dusk at Cubist Castle (impressions of the past) in its scope as well as its mixing of songwriting and experimentation. To me this is a band that is as comfortable with itself  and its music as Animal Collective is and I can't wait to here more from them.

Bat for Lashes - Two Suns
sure this album is essentially Kate Bush of today and might be a surprising inclusion on my list. I was a little surprised myself that this album stuck with me. I assumed it was something I would listen to a few times over the summer and rarely after that but I am drawn back to this album again and again. I feel like this album showcases a larger ambition that makes me excited for her future work.

Kid Cudi - Man on the Moon
alright let's get the negative out there first. yes this album is bloated like all major label hip-hop/rap. yes some of the lyrics are misogynistic and uncalled for. yes the storyline shouldn't need skits to tells you what is going on.
now given all this it might be a surprise that I have included this album on my top ten at all, but similar to bat for lashes I feel like this album shows a larger ambition in its scope. it takes the blueprint that kanye created with 808s and heartbreak, fleshes it out more and expands its scope. the big question for Kid Cudi is whether he keeps pushing or gives in to the corp rap machine.

Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
While I disagree with the majority of critics who say this is her best album yet (nothing will ever beat fox confessor), this is another incredible album from an almost criminally underrated songwriter. the sound is something of a step away from the country tinged music of her previous albums while still maintaining the themes and atmosphere that make her such an amazing musician.

Telekinesis - Telekinesis!
The first time I heard 'Coast of Carolina' I was hooked and had to hear more from this band. Full of energy, pop hooks, and songs of love it is a throwback to 90's indie rock/power pop. Yes it is produced by Chris Walla, but for a debut album this record feels really accomplished. All the songs are quick tight bursts (the album is around 40 minutes which is perfect) and it's impossible to find a week song in the mix.

5: Five Years of Hyperdub
I usually try to avoid putting compilations on my year end list but this one is just too good not to. As I recently noted, Hyperdub has always sounded like future music but in my mind this comp shows the label taking it to another level and really pushing the boundaries of electronic/dance music. Given the subject matter of label boss Kode 9's recently published book, it shouldn't be surprising that he has greater ambitions than to just be a 'dubstep' label and  I can't wait to hear what he does in 2010.

Metric - Fantasies
Didn't give this album too much thought when it first came out. I thought  'help, I'm alive' was OK but sounded a little too much like Death Cab to me (i don't have anything against death cab just like groups to be original). It entered my life though when Liane bought it and I am really glad she did. Even considering my feelings for that first song, there isn't a bad song on this album and similar to Bat for Lashes I find myself going back to this time and time again. I love the energy and they do a great job of mixing electronic sounds with a really rockin guitars.

POS - Never Better
I'm still not 100% why I bought this album as I found his last one just meh and I really wasn't to keen on the song The Current was pounding into my brain 'Savion Glover.' HOWEVER as should be obvious by its inclusion on this list, I am really glad that I did. as usual the production is unlike anything else out there especially any other MPLS hip-hop. it floats from doomy-elp business to punk to funk but completely original takes. I think the thing that grabs me with this album is just the emotion that seems to be there. POS has always seemed to be an intense MC but to me this album is where he puts it all together.

The Streets - Tweets Don't Pay (the Twitter 'Album')
This may be cheating as it isn't really an album. Even as someone who liked 'everything is borrowed' (perhaps placing me in the minority) these 14 songs that Mike Skinner released via twitter this year are better than that album and songs like 'a blip on a screen,' 'trust me,' and 'lovelight of my life' are right up there with his best material.  he is supposed to have an official album being released in 2010 so maybe these were his demos but they are well worth searching out on the torrent sites.

Dangermouse & Sparklehorse - Dark Night of the Soul
Another record that wasn't officially released this year but this one was intended to be an album if record labels didn't get in the way. With an insane collection of guest musicians, it would be really easy for this album to go horribly wrong but Dangermouse and Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse are able to pull this all together and make a fairly cohesive album.  The weakest contributions have to be Iggy Pop and Frank Black but the most surprising are the 2 songs that David Lynch sings which I was not expecting at all.

Top Re-Issues (no The Beatles aren't here because you don't need me to tell you the sound quality is better)

Legends of Benin - the Analog Africa label can really do no wrong in my book. every release has been incredible and this one really raises the bar for them. Also check number 6 which is a second volume of songs from Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou Dahomey

Light: On the South Side of Chicago - It is going to be hard for Numero Group to top this release. Combining an incredible book of photos from 1970s southside Chicago clubs and a great album of music representing the music form these clubs. Just awesome.

Roll Deep - Street Anthems; every important song from Roll Deep in one place. if you want to understand the history of grime at all, this is where you need to start. Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Strider, Skepta, Flowdan - it is incredible the talent that was in this collective.

Iron and Wine - Around the Well; a beautiful collection of b-sides, covers, compilation tracks and unreleased songs. This covers the entire career of Sam Beam and is a great introduction to his beautiful music. disc one is home recordings, while disc two houses studio recordings giving each disc it's own feel but it is hard to go wrong with this great collection

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