Look, I know everyone, their mothers, and all of those mothers’ bridge playing friends have made various best of ’09 lists. Well, whatever, Stuart, Monica, Ashley & I have come up with lists of our own, and you WILL enjoy reading it. Note: Our lists don’t include any compilations or re-issues.
Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
For me, this was truly the best album of ’09, if not possibly the entire decade. I can’t recall getting as excited for any other shows this year aside from when these guys played the Music Hall of Williamsburg (which, I might add, I went to BY MYSELF because THAT’S how much I love them) and the last Pool Party this summer. Aside from their excellent live shows, I’ve been completely enthralled and consumed by this album in part because it’s suitable for virtually any mood. Though it’s really, really hard for me to separate the tracks from one another, as it’s a piece that I think is meant to be taken as a whole, I’d have to say “Two Weeks” (I literally couldn’t stop playing this on repeat for MONTHS) and “While You Wait For The Others” are the standouts for me. And as though they couldn’t get any more awesome, Michael McDonald decided to make a guest appearance on the B-side of “While You Wait For The Others”, covering that exact song with Grizzly Bear. Well, steely day’um, if it wasn’t a great idea.
Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career
Admittedly, my first reaction to this album was “whatever, it’s the exact same shit as on Hey, Lloyd“. But the more I listened to it, though fully acknowledging the similarities, I started to notice the pointed differences. It was almost as if they had improved on a theme, but in a very subtle way that I stupidly didn’t quite catch on to at first. The top tracks here are definitely “Forests and Sand” and my absolute favorite (and the title track), “My Maudlin Career”. The latter track, essentially brings me right to the brink of tears every single time I hear it. I’m not sure if I just happened to be listening to this album at various intense points in my life this year, but the way she sings those lines about “Now this kiss is giving me a concussion…now it’s crush, it’s crushing” and “Are those eyes are overrated? They make me want to give up on love” FUCKING KILL ME EVERY TIME.
Neko Case- Middle Cyclone
This has been called her best album of THE DECADE. I’m not entirely sure about that, but it’s definitely a fucking solid album. The best track, though, that she might have ever produced, though, is on this album, and is also the title track, “Middle Cyclone”. As with Camera Obscura, apparently, my metric for music this year, has essentially been whether or not it knocks the fucking wind out of me emotionally. This track, my friends, is THE definitive track for such things. Otherwise, throughout the album, Neko is, as always, profoundly adept at articulating EXACTLY the complicated swirl of emotions we encounter when we’re feel passionately about anything.
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
Yes, this is the most “accessible” album of theirs, and yes, it’s probably the first time I’ve actually paid them any real attention. Regardless, it’s a really, really good album to contemplate to, write to, walk around to in the summer, and to smoke mad weed along with (to say NOTHING of their INSANE live show at Prospect Park that I’m not even sure was altogether real). “My Girls” is the track that’s being lauded by every website & blog, and though I also enjoy it very much, I’m more partial to “Summertime Clothes”, I guess because, this really was THE album of the summer.
Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
Yes, yes, this is another one that everyone has a boner about (I don’t even want to talk about that cringe-inducing piece by what appears to be a completely out-of-touch 50 year old Dad in New York Magazine), but listen, they’re legitimately amazing. What really pushed me over the edge was their Pool Party show with Beach House– a band that I LOVE, but honestly, were blown out of the fucking water (no pun intended) by The Dirty Projectors. Much like Grizzly Bear, their voices are an absolutely integral part of their sound, instruments all on their own. Fave Tracks? ” Temecula Sunrise”, with a close second going to “Stillness Is The Move”– props to Solange Knowles for knowing this was just an R&B song in disguise.
Monsters of Folk (self titled)
I pretty much splooged in my pants when I learned of the existence of such a supergroup– M.Ward, My Morning Jacket guy, AND Conor Oberst? I think I just died and went to alt-country/folk heaven. Look no further than “His Masters Voice” to see what I mean. Just.Fucking.Beautiful.
Bat For Lashes – Two Suns
Never with so much fervor have I wished for the return of The Lilith Fair. My dream lineup? Natasha Khan, Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks, The Indigo Girls, and Emmylou Harris, THE END. First of all, Natasha Khan, as Ashley sure as hell has gone on record stating, is perhaps perfection incarnate. Secondly, I’ve never seen anyone channel Kate Bush in such a successful way so as to make it a welcome element to her own style. Make no mistake, though, to call her derivative would not be fair– she truly is her own musical force . “Daniel” is for sure the track to see this most clearly, not to mention “Two Planets”.
Honorable Mentions: Passion Pit- Manners, Ida Maria- Fortress Round My Heart, Girls – Album
Standout tracks of ’09 (Yes, I’m slightly cheating here because most of these are from compilations): The Very Best Ft. Ezra Koenig- “Warm Heart of Africa”, Here We Go Magic – “Fangela”, Brother Ali/Tor Illinoize Remix “Night Zombies/Talkin’ My Shit”, Junior Boys “Parallel Lines”, Dirty Projectors & David Byrne- “Knotty Pine”, Grizzly Bear “Deep Blue Sea”, Grizzly Bear feat. Feist “Service Bell
Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career
Tracyanne Campbell just speaks to me, okay? Sue me.
Silverspun Pickups – Swoon
Animal Collective- Merriweather Post Pavilion
Animal Collective is known for keeping it interesting, and this lush effort did not disappoint. I spent more time with this album this year than any boy I kissed, and that’s a fact.
Lady Gaga- The Fame Monster
You can’t front: this girl seriously knows how to write a hook that will get stuck in your brain for years. [ed note: Stuart is shitting his pants as we speak]
Them Crooked Vultures- Them Crooked Vultures
The Dead Weather- Horehound
I’m convinced that Alison and Jack decided to fuck and THEN make a record, but this is still one of my most played all year. One of the best efforts by a “super” band in some time.
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Probably the best newcomers of the year. Every single one of their songs feels like something that you’ve heard before, but in a good way. [ed note: Are they really newcomers? Someone get on this & let us know in the comments]
Sleepy Sun – Embrace
I still love these kids to death. They’re extremely talented, and I think their album is probably one of the most solid I have heard all year.
Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
I’m kinda an old guy when it comes to music. I’m totally gonna be that cat in like 25 years with the Birkenstocks and the balding ponytail who says shit like, â€œMan, you kids don’t know shit about music. When I was your age Alice in Chains was unbelievable…â€ So because of that I’ve only got like 5 best albums of 2009. Most of the shit I listen to was written like 20-50 years ago. Anyway, without further ado:
Brother Ali – Us
The good Brother can pretty much do nothing wrong in my eyes. Whoever thought that a white albino Muslim from Minnesota would be one of the best and most compelling rappers of all time? Good god he’s amazing!
J. Tillman â€“ Year in the Kingdom
The drummer from the Fleet Foxes is a beardy folky genius. This shit makes me wanna move to the country, wear flannel and learn how to sew stuff. It feels like Nick Drake left his ghostly fingerprints all over this album.
Or, the Whale â€“ Or, the Whale
San Francisco Americana at it’s loveliest. Perfect melodies and harmonies weave together with lyrics about jimson weed. I need to try that stuff some time.
Phoenix â€“ Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
My girlfriend listens to this in the car a lot. I actually have never put it on, but I like it when she does. Does that count? Fuck you if it doesn’t.
The Devil Makes Three â€“ Do Right Wrong
Their long awaited third album is a bit more bluegrassy than their older stuff, but they still make me wanna stomp around, clap to the rhythm and drinks whiskey.
Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest
For all the reasons everyone else stated.
Beach House, Teen Dream
I absolutely loved Devotion which I got obsessed with about the same time last year so I was pretty amped to hear Teen Dream. As soon as I got the downloadable freebie version I popped it on and was….bored. Yeah, it took a while to grow on me, but now it has and it’s like a rich, earthy moss. I’m into it.
Bluebrain, Soft Power
This album is fantastic all the way through. I’m one of those people who struggles to listen to albums all the way trhough and generally just likes to pick this song and that song from her iPod for a playlist but I can absolutely let this run all the way through. Royal Blue and Up and Down are my favorites but I can’t reccomend this album highly enough.
Generationals, Con Law
When They Fight, They Fight is quite possibly my new favorite song. And hey who’s relationship hasn’t felt like that sometimes? Not every song on this album is a win, in my opinion, but enough are that I’m very happy to recommend it.