20. CAMERA OBSCURA- MY MAUDLIN CAREER
Buy AmazonMy Maudlin Career
Scotland’s Camera Obscura started their career early last decade almost as a sister band to fellow countrymen Belle & Sebastian (though C.O. is fronted by a woman four of six members are actually men). “My Maudlin Career” is their fourth and probably best album. They have improved with each album and have developed more of their own signature sound with each release- defined by lovely, poppy melodies with lyrics filled with sadness and heartbreak though sung in a sweet, honey-soaked voice. Any fan of the orchestral twee pop of Belle & Sebastian shouldn’t hesitate to give Camera Obscura a try.
Buy “French Navy”
Buy “The Sweetest Thing”
19. WILD BEASTS- TWO DANCERS
Buy AmazonTwo Dancers
“Two Dancers” is the second album from Leeds-based Wild Beasts. They make indie-pop music which in sung in a disarming flamboyant falsetto. The baritone-voiced bassist also takes lead vocals acting as a more level-headed foil. Although none of their songs comes close to straight up dance music, the Beasts get quite funky at times. The band consistently makes a memorable impression.
Buy “We Still Got the Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues”
Buy “This Is Our Lot”
18. JAPANDROIDS- POST-NOTHING
Japandroids are a two piece (guitar and drums) garage-rock duo from Vancouver. They are less blues-based than a bands like The White Stripes or The Kills and have more in common with early nineties shoegaze (seems to be a running theme in 2009) and straight up hard core punk. As noisy as these guys are they are also quite accessible and have a knack for great hooks and catchy one liners in their lyrics- which focus mainly on hunting for girls and ignore the political which makes sense as both members are barely in their twenties.
Buy “Young Hearts Spark Fire”
Buy “Wet Hair”
17. jj- jj n° 2
*Not available at Amazon
Mysterious Swedish duo of which not much is known. No one is quite sure of their real names and no photographs are available of the band members. So all we get is this album cover of a blood spattered pot leaf….o….k… The cover belies the music on the album which is thin & wispy and quite beautiful. jj is made up of one male & one female vocalist with the female taking the lead for most of the tracks. Their synths sounds are warm and tropical as opposed to the cold & spooky sounds of a group like Fever Ray. The whole album is over is less than thirty minutes. Half of the songs are standouts and the other half still worthwhile. This is a great debut which really came out of nowhere this year.p>
Buy “From Africa to Malaga”
16. NEKO CASE- MIDDLE CYCLONE
Buy AmazonMiddle Cyclone
The alt-country-New Pornographer- singer songwriter’s fifth album is at least the equal to her previous album-2006’s “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” itself a career high. “Middle Cyclone” has a distinctly earthy vibe as nearly every song title references animals or as some other aspect of nature. As she brandishes a sword, while perched atop of a classic American car (a contender for album cover of the year!) Case takes on the persona of an environmentalist on the offensive in a charge to save the earth. “Cyclone” contains both some of Case’s poppiest moments as well as beautiful ballads which she is now known for- she has one of the most gorgeous voices in all of modern music.
Buy “This Tornado Loves You”
Buy “Don’t Forget Me”
15. NEON INDIAN- PSYCHIC CHASMS
Buy AmazonPsychic Chasms
The much-hyped blog phenom Neon Indian is a two person art project consisting of Brooklynite Alan Palomo who handles the music and visual artist Alician Scardetta from Austin. Palomo takes cheesy sounds from the eighties and creates moods and noises that somehow combine both futurism and nostalgia. Think Paul McCartney’s corny keyboard riff from “Wonderful Christmastime” put in a blender with the farts and bleeps of an Atari 2600, Hall and Oates symphonic drum beats and the sound of an old tape cassette being eaten. The sound of a barely remembered blurry, hazy & possibly drugged out summer’s day of your high school years.
Buy “Deadbeat Summer”
Buy “Should’ve Taken Acid with You”
14. BAT FOR LASHES- TWO SUNS
Buy AmazonTwo Suns
Bat For Lashes is the alter ego of Brighton, England’s singer-songwriter Natasha Khan. “Two Suns” is a concept album about the duality of man- human beings’ need for more than one ‘self’ in order to maintain proper balance. Khan’s alter ego is named Pearl- blonde, selfish, self destructive and hedonistic- the chaos to balance out Khan’s other more spiritual (and brunette!) side. Khan’s vocals and some of the music on “Two Suns” recall Kate Bush and early Tori Amos-mystical and quite eccentric music but very pleasing to the ear as well.
Buy “Sleep Alone”
13. DINOSAUR JR- FARM
The legendary Western Mass band’s second great comeback record in a row. In a year full of great oldster records (see Sonic Youth, Built to Spill, Yo La Tengo, Wilco) theirs was the best. Though it may lack an obvious standout track like last album’s “Almost Ready”, “Farm” is actually far more consistently great than “Beyond”. Every song is worthwhile and J. Mascis proves that he is still THE guitar God of indie-land. “Farm” also gets my vote for album cover of the year (just beats out Neko Case). Stoney baronie!
Buy “I Want You to Know”
Buy “Over It”
12. THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART- THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART
Buy AmazonPains of Being Pure at Heart
New York indie-rock quartet who play quick punky-sounding tracks lacking all of punk’s agression. They take the sweet lo-fi pop sounds of late 80’s by the bands of Sarah Records in Britain and K Records of the Olympia, WA and add a layer of feedback fuzz. In ten songs, all under five minutes, the album seems to fly by in a matter of minutes- a sugar rush despite the squealing guitars that leaves you wanting more.
Buy “Young Adult Friction”
Buy “This Love Is F*cking Right!”
11. THE XX- THE XX
The xx is the debut album by this very promising London quartet who is just a few years out of high school. One member has since left the group making them a trio for touring purposes. Their songs come fully formed. They are sparse without a wasted note or any superfluous musical embellishments. This extremely minimalist approach reminds me of the Young Marble Giants of the very early 80’s. The music and vocals are quiet and never rock, but the vocals in particular keep you on the edge of your seat. There is a nervous edginess to them. This is one of those albums that should only grow in importance in ensuing years.
I am already worried it should be even more highly rated on this list.