Category Archives: Best of 2009

Best of 2009: Intro

Welcome to my music blog.  My opening list will be the top 50 albums of 2009.  I have included my two favorite tracks for each album.  Links to buy the listed tracks and all of the albums (if available) at iTunes are provided.  If you plan on purchasing anything on the list and are a supporter of this blog please use the links before you buy.  We actually get a small cut!

All albums and/or tracks on any of my lists are albums/tracks that I have in my collection.  If I haven’t included an album or track in a list it may be because I don’t own it or haven’t heard it yet.  I do encourage all comments and suggestions.

Hope you enjoy and happy music listening!

Best Albums of 2009: 41-50


Buy The Raveonettes - In and Out of Control (Bonus Track Version)

Buy Amazon In & Out of Control

This is the fourth full length from the Danish duo- guitarist/vocalist Sune Rose Wagner and and bassist/vocalist Sharin Foo and it marks yet another slight tweak from their original formula which blended fifties rock and Jesus & Mary Chain style noise-pop. “In and Out of Control” has a darker, less glossy sound than the Raveonettes two previous albums and they are better for it . The band is always good in my opinion for at least one massive single per album and in this case they have at least two (and neither have even been released as singles yet to my knowledge).

Buy “Breaking Into Cars”

The Raveonettes - In and Out of Control (Bonus Track Version) - Breaking Into Cars

Buy “Heart of Stone”

The Raveonettes - In and Out of Control (Bonus Track Version) - Heart of Stone


Buy Robert Francis - Before Nightfall

Buy AmazonBefore Nightfall

“Before Nightfall” is twenty-one year old singer-songwriter Robert Francis’s second album release and his major label debut. The album is solid from start to finish and spectacular at times. Francis has an amazing voice that sounds very lived in and belies his youth- it’s an instrument that you would expect from someone twice his age. He sings mostly in a smoky lower register but goes into a beautiful and effective falsetto on several choruses. He is a very promising young singer and I hope we hear more great stuff from him the future.

Buy “Nightfall”

Robert Francis - Before Nightfall - Nightfall

Buy “Junebug”

Robert Francis - Before Nightfall - Junebug


Buy Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another

Buy AmazonTravels With Myself And Another

“Travels” is the second album release from the Welsh post hard-core band Future of the Left, three quarters of whom appeared in the awesome indie-punk band McLusky. The music is both guitar and keyboard driven-it’s angry and full of stops and starts. The vocals are shouted. Other than the aforementioned McLusky, FOTL recalls the righteous anger of Fugazi as well as the humor and driving riffs of Les Savy Fav.

Buy “Drink Nike”

Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another - Drink Nike

Buy “Arming Eritrea”

Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another - Arming Eritrea


Gibbs is an unsigned rapper out of Gary, Indiana. He is being touted as the future of rap and even garnered a spread in The New Yorker magazine a few months ago. Though this mixtape lags a bit in the middle it both starts and finishes strongly. Gibbs’s subject matter is straight up gangsta-rap. He is a former drug dealer that hasn’t yet worked his way out of the ghetto. He knows his beats and is also has incredibly versatile flow which will likely enable him to he successful at different styles in the future. He also did another mixtape in 2009 (The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs). If you combine the best of both mixtapes you get one standout album.

* Mixtapes and below tracks available as free downloads

“Murda On My Mind”

“Just Tryin’ Ta Make It”


Buy Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer

Buy AmazonDragonslayer

Sunset Rubdown is led by vocalist/keyboardist Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade, Frog Eyes and Swan Lake. He’s likely the most prolific guy in indie-rock. “Dragonslayer” is SR’s third and most accessible album. Though almost every song runs over five minutes, including the ten + minute finale, the tracks are hookier and poppier than on SR’s two previous releases despite their still complex arrangements. The lyrics are more escapist fantasy than the more grounded in the real world Wolf Parade, Krug’s most popular band.

Buy “Idiot Heart”

Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer - Idiot Heart

Buy “Silver Moons”

Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer - Silver Moons


Buy Paolo Nutini - Sunny Side Up

Buy AmazonSunny Side Up

“Sunny Side Up” is quite a stylistic change for this twenty two year old Scottish singer-songwriter, whose first album (released in 2006) was a bit more traditional modern “singer-songwriter” based and a huge hit in the U.K. “Sunny Side Up” brings to mind old Atlantic Records soul music and also incorporates elements of ska, reggae, calypso & traditional Scottish folk. Nutini recorded and produced much of this album himself and though his debut album was very promising, “Sunny Side Up” is much more artistically unique and successful, and honestly almost unrecognizable from his previous work. The whole album is very good and smooth flowing despite all of the genre-hopping. I know this may sound like blasphemy but his vocals even sometimes remind me of that bastion of soul music Otis Redding. It’s well worth checking out this still relatively unknown young artist.

Buy “Candy”

Paolo Nutini - Sunny Side Up - Candy

Buy “10-10″

Paolo Nutini - Sunny Side Up - 10/10


Buy Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3

Buy AmazonThe Blueprint 3 [Explicit]

“The Blueprint 3” is another certified hit album for this fourteen year industry vet and #1 most famous rapper in the world. Though it may not be up to par with “The Blueprint” or “The Black Album”, 3 has plenty of fantastic moments including Jay’s first #1 hit single “Empire State of Mind” – one of THE greatest jams of 2009- rap or otherwise. There are also hit singles “Run This Town” with Rihanna, “D.O.A.” & “On to the Next One”. The first half of the album feels like the making of a classic though the second half tends to not be as consistent. Overall an album worthy of Jay-Z’s name if not quite reaching the impossibly high standards always associated with his album releases.

Buy “Empire State of Mind (Feat. Alicia Keys)”

Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3 (Deluxe Version) - Empire State of Mind (feat. Alicia Keys)

Buy “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)”

Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3 - D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)


Buy Dan Deacon - Bromst

Buy Amazon Bromst

Spazzy and hyperactive techno music from this chunky & balding Baltimore, MD conservatory trained electronic music composer. “Bromst” is a bit more cerebral than Deacon’s first release, 2007’s “Spiderman of the Rings”, which was full of frenetic, cartoonish energy- perfect for the dance floor. You can shake it to “Bromst” as well but it’s probably more likely to bend your mind than your body.

Buy “Paddling Ghost”

Dan Deacon - Bromst - Paddling Ghost

Buy “Snookered”

Dan Deacon - Bromst - Snookered


Buy Maxwell - BLACKsummers'night (Deluxe Version)

Buy Amazon BLACKsummers’night

“BLACKsummers’ Night” is Maxwell’s triumphant return after an eight year absence and part one of a planned trilogy. Maxwell was one of the leaders of the late nineties neo-soul movement (along with D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill & Erykah Badu) and an artist that I have admittedly slept on until now. After hearing this album I am anxious to check out the rest of his stuff. Maxwell’s music barely touches on the sounds of hip hop or modern R&B. His music is organic and structurally ambitious- it’s full blown soul music without being a sixties soul music throwback like Sharon Jones or Raphael Saadiq- not there is anything wrong with either of those wonderful artists.

Buy “Bad Habits”

Maxwell - BLACKsummers'night (Deluxe Version) - Bad Habits

Buy “Help Somebody”

Maxwell - BLACKsummers'night (Deluxe Version) - Help Somebody


Buy M. Ward - Hold Time

Buy Amazon Hold Time

“Hold Time”, M. Ward’s fifth proper album, is a typical low key offering from the Portland, Oregon based singer-songwriter even after his profile was raised rather significantly in 2008 by one of his other projects as one half of She & Him. Actress Zooey DeShanel (the She to M. Ward’s Him) does appear on two tracks on “Hold Time” including a great slowed down cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On”. “Hold Time” has a timeless quality to it- if could have been made in any decade since the sixties and is also not wildly different from the rest of M. Ward’s output.

Buy “For Beginners”

M. Ward - Hold Time - For Beginners

Buy “Epistemology”

M. Ward - Hold Time - Epistemology

Best Albums of 2009: 31-40


Buy Sonic Youth - The Eternal

Buy Amazon The Eternal

Sonic Youth’s fourth very good album in a row caps off an excellent decade for the band. They are the longest running band on this whole list- first album 1983. With “The Eternal”, their first official indie album since before a twenty year stint on Geffen Records, the Youth provide a more straight ahead rock album. Though this being the Youth some experimental and jammy elements still remain as well as the massive, atonal guitar riffs, pounding drums and Kim Gordon’s frenetic bass lines that make up their signature sound. Kim, her husband guitarist Thurston Moore and second guitarist Lee Ranaldo all contribute multiple songs worthy of Sonic Youth’s mighty canon.

Buy “Antenna”

Sonic Youth - The Eternal - Antenna

Buy “Walkin’ Blue”

Sonic Youth - The Eternal - Walkin Blue


Buy Wilco - Wilco (The Album)

Buy AmazonWilco (The Album)

This is a lighter album, both musically and lyrically, than any other Wilco full length of the oughts. It’s sunnier than “Sky Blue Sky” and less experimental than both “A Ghost is Born” and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. Wilco (The Album) distills all of their musical elements down into a more coherent and concise whole. Therefore the album is more consistently good than any since “Yankee Hotel” but it does get a bit staid despite the nice, guitar workout (Bull Black Nova) which provide some much-needed diversity. Nels Cline we want more of ya!

Buy “You Never Know”

Wilco - Wilco (The Album) - You Never Know

Buy “Bull Black Nova”

Wilco - Wilco (The Album) - Bull Black Nova


Buy Royce da 5'9" & Phonte - Street Hop

Buy AmazonStreet Hop

A slept on album from this very slept on Detroit rapper who has been in the rap game since the beginning of the 2000’s but is really only known in underground circles. Royce moves effortlessly from radio-made R&B rap to the most hard-core of gansta rap. The album runs over seventy minutes so it runs a bit long in the tooth but Royce keeps it interesting with his ridiculous flow and stylistic switch-ups. The album’s beats are courtesy of DJ Premier- one of the best and classiest producers in hop-hop. Hopefully this album will get its just due in time.

Buy “Shake This”

Royce da 5'9" - Street Hop - Shake This

Buy “Count for Nothing”

Royce da 5'9" - Street Hop - Count for Nothing


Buy Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs (Bonus Track Version)

Buy AmazonPopular Songs

Thirteenth long player from Hoboken, NJ band Yo La Tengo. The title is a lark as YLT has never come close to having a hit song in their entire career and this album is no exception. Except for the first (and best!) track “Here to Fall” the first nine tracks run under five minutes- touching on sixties pop, kraut-rock, psychedelia, garage rock & soul music- more or less a tour through the band’s own past. The last three tracks are as long as the first nine- ranging from 9 ½ minutes to almost 16 minutes. All three of the lengthy tracks have their merits but may be a bit too much in one sitting.

The album would likely be more effective is at least two of the most lengthy tracks were cut.

Buy “Here to Fall”

Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs (Bonus Track Version) - Here to Fall

Buy “Nothing to Hide”

Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs (Bonus Track Version) - Nothing to Hide


Buy Built To Spill - There Is No Enemy

Buy AmazonThere Is No Enemy

“Enemy” is the seventh proper album from Boise, Idaho’s finest indie-rockers lifers. With Built to Spill you know what you’re getting- witty lyrics sung in Doug Martsch’s distinct high pitched voice, dizzying tempo changes and extended Neil Young and Crazy Horse influenced guitar work outs. Martsch is flat out one of the best lead guitarists in indie-rock. This one gets better with every listen and may be their most consistent release since “Keep It Like a Secret”.

Buy “Hindsight”

Built To Spill - There Is No Enemy - Hindsight

Buy “Planting Seeds”

Built To Spill - There Is No Enemy - Planting Seeds


Buy Atlas Sound - Logos

Buy AmazonLogos

Atlas Sound is the solo project (and second album release) of the prolific Atlanta-based artist Bradford Cox, also of the more well-known indie-rock act Deerhunter. Though much of the album (like Deerhunter releases) is made up of experimental, drone-like tracks drenched in feedback, Cox does come up with three or four absolute standouts. “Walkabout” is a collaboration with Noah Lennox of Animal Collective and perhaps Cox’s sunniest and most-pop moment on record. “Shelia” is another wonderful, concise indie-pop song and “Quick Canal” a nine plus minute track featuring Laetitia Sadler of Stereolab which could fit right in on a Stereolab anthology. “Washington St.” is another very strong track. Still early in his music career, Cox has already built quite an anthology of songs between his two bands.

Buy “Walkabout (Feat. Noah Lennox)”

Atlas Sound - Logos - Walkabout (with Noah Lennox)

Buy “Shelia”

Atlas Sound - Logos - Shelia


Buy Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle

Buy AmazonSometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle

The former Smog frontman’s third “solo” album and return to the darker themes of Smog after his two more lighthearted solo efforts. Callahan’s rich baritone is as distinct in its own way as the vocals of Johnny Cash or Tom Waits though he is a far lesser known artist than either. The album is a statement and an examination of Callahan’s values and beliefs- not necessarily recommended for the sunny optimistic type. The musical arrangements are beautiful- full string arrangements on several tracks and a meditative Krautrock-like sound on others. It’s perfect accompaniment to the subject matter at hand.

Buy “My Friend”

Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle - My Friend

Buy “Faith/Void”

Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle - Faith / Void


Buy The-Dream - Love Vs Money

Buy AmazonLove vs Money

Love vs. Money is Atlanta-based singer/songwriter/producer The-Dream’s second solo release and one of the more unique R&B full length offerings in a long while. The-Dream is currently one of the hottest producers in music. Along with “Tricky” Stewart his credits include huge and musically influential hits like Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”. Dream takes many of his lyrical ideas from freaky loverman R. Kelly brings the same musical elements of the tracks mentioned above-swooshing drums and percussion, buzzing and burpring synth noises, stuttering vocals and unexpected song structure.

Buy “Put It Down”

The-Dream - Love Vs Money - Put It Down

Buy “Rockin’ That Sh**”

The-Dream - Love Vs Money - Rockin' That Sh**


Buy The Big Pink - A Brief History of Love (Bonus Track Version)

Buy AmazonA Brief History of Love

The Big Pink are a London duo who combine elements of nineties shoegaze at its most anthemic with modern techno. Though some of their tracks come uncomfortably close to aping the sounds of past groups (see “Counting Backwards from Ten” = The Verve) there is no denying the greatness of these hooky songs with HUGE single-along choruses.

Buy “Velvet”

The Big Pink - A Brief History of Love (Bonus Track Version) - Velvet

Buy “Dominoes”

The Big Pink - A Brief History of Love (Bonus Track Version) - Dominos


Buy The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love

Buy AmazonThe Hazards of Love

In a series of extremely weird albums, “Hazards of Love” the Portland, Ore. Based Decemberists fifth full length album, is their weirdest. It’s a 17 song suite about the trials and tribulations of a girl named Margaret who lives in an unidentified time and place (perhaps Europe in the middle ages?) filled with mythological creatures. The purpose and storyline remains mostly unclear to me though I am still new to this album so its clarity may present itself over time. If you are already a fan of The Decemberists impressive musical output you should also dig this album. It is musically heavier than their their past efforts though certainly maintains their thespian bent. Like a high school drama club forming a metal band- in the best way possible.

Buy “The Rake’s Song”

The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love - The Rake's Song

Buy “The Hazards of Love 1″

The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love - The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone)

Best Albums of 2009: 21-30


Buy Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport

Buy AmazonTarot Sport

British experimental duo create the electronica album of the year after their previous more post-rock oriented debut release “Street Horrrsing”. “Tarot Sport” is made up of five lengthy, slow building epic tracks that give off a meditative and majestic vibe and two shorter, bugged out songs that punch you right in the gut.

Buy “Phantom Limb”

Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport - Phantom Limb

Buy “Rough Steez”

Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport - Rough Steez


Buy Bear In Heaven - Beast Rest Forth Mouth

Buy AmazonBeast Rest Forth Mouth

Bear In Heaven are yet another indie-rock quartet from Brooklyn (by way of the American south). They take the sounds of 1970’s prog-rock and krautrock and early nineties shoegaze as their musical templates but boil away both of those genres perceived excesses into more economical three to four minute songs. Their are power chords and big choruses throughout. It’s prog rock without all of the endless noodling.

Buy “Lovesick Teenagers”

Bear In Heaven - Beast Rest Forth Mouth - Lovesick Teenagers

Buy “You Do You”

Bear In Heaven - Beast Rest Forth Mouth - You Do You


Buy The Very Best - Warm Heart of Africa

Buy AmazonWarm Heart of Africa

The Very Best are Malawian singer Esa Mwamwaya and British production team Radioclit who as The Very Best, follow up their successful 2008 mixtape collaboration with this, their debut album. The material on their mixtape was mostly reworkings or remixes of other groups songs. “Warm Heart of Africa” is 100% original material. Though the songs are sung mostly in Malawaian and some of the music takes its cues from Afro-pop, American and British techno music are also very heavy influences. Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend (themselves ambassadors of global music) as well as M.I.A. (Ditto!!!!) also show up on two of the album’s best tracks. This is a very different type of “World” music and well worth checking out.

Buy “Warm Heart of Africa (Feat. Ezra Koenig)”

The Very Best - Warm Heart of Africa - Warm Heart of Africa (feat. Ezra Koenig)

Buy “Julia”

The Very Best - Warm Heart of Africa - Julia


Buy The Antlers - Hospice

Buy AmazonHospice

“Hospice” is a concept album about a terminal cancer patient and his nurse who falls in love with him despite his diagnosis. And believe it or not it’s actually the debut album for Brooklyn’s The Antlers- quite a way to announce yourself to the world! I haven’t fully digested this album yet. I can say it is very beautiful if depressing and somewhat inscrutable. The music is large- dynamic and full of crescendos. The Arcade Fire and Neutral Milk Hotel both come to mind. Time will tell whether this album will fade a bit or become a stone classic. I’m not sure but I’d bet on the latter.

Buy “Two”

The Antlers - Hospice - Two

Buy “Bear”

The Antlers - Hospice - Bear


Buy The Clientele - Bonfires On the Heath

Buy AmazonBonfires on the Heath

This London-based jangle pop quartet’s fourth proper (non-compilation) album at least matches their consistently quality output since their debut. “Bonfires” has a very autumnal vibe. You can almost smell the burning leaves when listening to tracks like “Harvest Time”, “Graven Wood” and the title track. Though the majority of their past songs have been very, mellow, moody music in a sixties British pop vein, they try some more uptempo numbers on “Bonfires” and to very nice effect. The Clientele is a relatively unknown and underappreciated band. Hopefully respect for them will grow in time.
*Any newbies who are interested should use the band’s 2000 single collection “Suburban Light” as a starting off point. It’s a perfect album and their single best full length release.

Buy “Never Anyone But You”

The Clientele - Bonfires On the Heath - Never Anyone But You

Buy “Share the Night”

The Clientele - Bonfires On the Heath - Share the Night


Buy Mos Def - The Ecstatic

Buy AmazonThe Ecstatic

Call it a comeback. After two lackluster releases in the past decade Mos Def fulfills the promise of his 1999 solo debut “Black on Both Sides” with “The Ecstatic”. He could have called this release “The Eclectic” as Mos samples various styles including Spanish & African music and reggae. Mos is a restless rapper seemingly uncomfortable with the status quo. Though there are sixteen tracks on “The Ecstatic” over half are under three minutes so the album flies by at breakneck pace and is prone to immediate repeated plays. This is the non gangsta rap album of the year!

Buy “Casa Bey”

Mos Def - The Ecstatic - Casa Bey

Buy “Supermagic”

Mos Def - The Ecstatic - Supermagic


Buy The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You

Buy AmazonI and Love and You

“I And Love and You” is the major label debut (produced by Rick Rubin) for this blue-grass/folk trio from Greenville, North Carolina. Though the Avett’s have been building a grass roots following for the better part of the last decade this is the first time I have heard them. Bluegrass only seems to be a minor influence on this album. The musical arrangements consist of acoustic guitar, piano, banjo & strings. The lyrics and songs are lovely and sincere and sound unlike most of the music of 2009 (or at the very least most of the music on this list)- the closest is probably Neko Case. This album is quite a grower and gets better and better with each listen.p>

Buy “I and Love and You”

The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You - I and Love and You

Buy “January Wedding”

The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You - January Wedding


Buy St. Vincent - Actor

Buy AmazonActor

St. Vincent is the alias of the beautiful & talented singer-songwriter Annie Clark, who previously cut her teeth as a background vocalist in the Polyphonic Spree and as a member of Sufjan Steven’s touring band. “Actor” is her second album and it improves on her artistically successful debut “Marry Me” which was released in 2007. Clark is not your typical singer-songwriter. She not only sings, but plays guitar, bass, keyboards and is involved in both the production and arrangement of the album. Though some of the tracks on the album are in the more familiar singer-songwriter style, other tracks are more musically abrasive even as her voice remains calm and controlled througout the album. Clark is a very gifted writer and musician who seem to be gaining in confidence with each release. Don’t be surprised to hear a lot more from her in the future.

Buy “The Strangers”

St. Vincent - Actor - The Strangers

Buy “Actor Out of Work”

St. Vincent - Actor - Actor Out of Work


Buy Handsome Furs - Face Control

Buy AmazonFace Control

Handsome Furs are Dan Boeckner’s (of Wolf Parade) side project with his wife Alexia Perry. The album races by quickly with only two songs approaching five minutes. Though the listener is reminded of Wolf Parade due to Boeckner’s vocals the songs on”Face Control” have a much less epic feel. They feel like short blasts (even the longer songs) and invoke the spirit of early eighties New Wave. This album has surprisingly received almost no love on most critics’ 2009 year end lists which could make it a future lost classic

Buy “I’m Confused”

Handsome Furs - Face Control - I'm Confused

Buy “Radio Kaliningrad”

Handsome Furs - Face Control - Radio Kaliningrad


Buy Fever Ray - Fever Ray

Buy AmazonFever Ray

Fever Ray is the solo project of The Knife’s Karin Dreijer, which to me sounds more like the proper follow-up release to The Knife’s brilliant 2006 album “Silent Shout”. “Fever Ray” contains the same the same icy, evil-sounding synths and is, if anything, a bit darker than The Knife. The music is also a bit more stripped down leaving Dreijer’s voice more exposed and in the foreground than on “Silent Shout”. “Fever Ray” is an eerily beautiful album and contains a real sense of dread which is unfortunately a sign of the times.

Buy “When I Grow Up”

Fever Ray - Fever Ray - When I Grow Up

Buy “If I Had A Heart”

Fever Ray - Fever Ray - If I Had a Heart

Best Albums of 2009: 11-20


Buy 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”

Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career - French Navy

Buy “The Sweetest Thing”

Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career - The Sweetest Thing


Buy 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”

Wild Beasts - Two Dancers - We Still Got the Taste Dancin' On Our Tongues

Buy “This Is Our Lot”

Wild Beasts - Two Dancers - This Is Our Lot


Buy Japandroids - Post-Nothing

Buy AmazonPost-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”

Japandroids - Post-Nothing - Young Hearts Spark Fire

Buy “Wet Hair”

Japandroids - Post-Nothing - Wet Hair

17. jj- jj n° 2

Buy 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 “Ecstasy”

JJ - JJ N° 2 - Ecstasy

Buy “From Africa to Malaga”

JJ - JJ N° 2 - From Africa to Malaga


Buy Neko Case - Middle Cyclone (Bonus Track Version)

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”

Neko Case - Middle Cyclone (Bonus Track Version) - This Tornado Loves You

Buy “Don’t Forget Me”

Neko Case - Middle Cyclone (Bonus Track Version) - Don't Forget Me


Buy 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”

Neon Indian - Psychic Chasms - Deadbeat Summer

Buy “Should’ve Taken Acid with You”

Neon Indian - Psychic Chasms - Should Have Taken Acid With You


Buy 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 “Daniel”

Bat for Lashes - Two Suns - Daniel

Buy “Sleep Alone”

Bat for Lashes - Two Suns - Sleep Alone


Buy Dinosaur Jr. - Farm

Buy AmazonFarm

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”

Dinosaur Jr. - Farm - I Want You to Know

Buy “Over It”

Dinosaur Jr. - Farm - Over It


Buy 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”

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Young Adult Friction

Buy “This Love Is F*cking Right!”

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - This Love Is Fu*king Right!


Buy The XX - XX (Bonus Track Version)

Buy AmazonXX

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.

Buy “Shelter”

The XX - XX (Bonus Track Version) - Shelter

Buy “Islands”

The XX - XX (Bonus Track Version) - Islands

Best Albums of 2009: 1-10


Buy Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2

Buy AmazonOnly Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2

Rap album of the year and throwback to the mid-nineties mafia-rap created by Raekwon and the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan. II is not really a sequel to 1995’s brilliant “Only Built for Cuban Linx”- at least not conceptually. It’s almost as if Raekwon decided to give it the same name (and very similar album cover) as his first legendary solo album to make sure both he and his guest rappers and producers are completely on their game. He sets the bar high but fully delivers. “Linx II” features guest turns from fellow Wu-Tang members Inspektah Deck, RZA, GZA, Method Man, Masta Killa, Capadonna and of course his #1 collaborator Ghostface and is the strongest non-Ghostface album Wu release in a long time- maybe even a decade. Also features the best beats I’ve heard all year. One of the few rap albums that justifies its seventy minute length.

Buy “10 Bricks (Feat. Capadonna & Ghostface Killah)”

Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2 - 10 Bricks (feat. Cappadonna & Ghostface Killah)

Buy “House of Flying Daggers (Feat. Inspektah Deck, Ghostface Killah & Method Man)”

Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2 - House of Flying Daggers (feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, Method Man & GZA)


Buy Mastodon - Crack the Skye (Deluxe Version)

Buy AmazonCrack the Skye

“Crack the Skye” is my metal album of the year which is not saying much. Though my first huge musical love was metal back in the mid eighties, my metal fandom has slipped since at least the early nineties (yeah… right around the time of grunge). Though I no longer listen to much metal, I like to think I recognize a great metal album when I hear it and this is it! It’s Mastodon’s second masterpiece in a row (many will say third but I have still yet to hear 2004’s “Leviathan”). CTS is much proggier than their previous album “Blood Mountain”, making it perhaps even more epic, while rocking just as hard. Mastodon’s rhythm section is just unbelievable. You have to travel back to the seventies to find a drummer in such a heavy band that can swing so hard- see thirteen minute album closer “The Last Baron” for proof.

Buy “The Last Baron”

Mastodon - Crack the Skye - The Last Baron

Buy “Divinations”

Mastodon - Crack the Skye - Divinations


Buy The Flaming Lips - Embryonic

Buy AmazonEmbryonic

Twenty + year indie-rock vets from Oklahoma City return with a big left turn after 2006’s fairly disappointing “At War with the Mystics”. “Embryonic” is a modern day psychedelic mind-frak. Though the sound is unmistakably Lips, they also add heaps and globs of free jazz, noise-rock (a throw-back to their early to mid 90’s period), and dub reggae. This is an old fashioned double album with two distinct cd’s each lasting slightly over thirty minutes. Hopefully the teenagers of today and tomorrow will spin this album enough times so that the tracks become as familar to them as “Dark Side of the Moon” is to my generation. This has the feel of an album that has many secrets needing to be unlocked.

*The Lips recently covered “Dark Side” in its entirety and are releasing it on digitally and on cd.

Buy “Watching the Planets”

The Flaming Lips - Embryonic - Watching the Planets

Buy “Silver Trembling Hands”

The Flaming Lips - Embryonic - Silver Trembling Hands


Buy Passion Pit - Manners

Buy AmazonManners

“Manners” is the the full length debut for Boston’s Passion Pit, after their very promising “Chunk of Change” EP from 2008. The Pit began as a one man band fronted by helium voiced Michael Angelakos, who still writes and sings all of the songs on the album but now surrounds himself with three other band members. Their music recalls the 80’s with sugary synths and Angelakos’s other-worldly falsetto. The majority of the songs could be released as singles and the album is enjoyable from start to finish. If you’re only a fan of meat and potatoes rock though do not come here! “Manners” also contains “Sleepyhead” which was the best song on their EP and is one of the best on “Manners”.

Buy “Little Secrets”

Passion Pit - Manners - Little Secrets

Buy “The Reeling”

Passion Pit - Manners - The Reeling


Buy Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!

Buy AmazonIt’s Blitz!

The Northeast trio (New Jersey & Brooklyn) trio moves to L.A. and trades in their guitars for synthesizers. Well that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but synths are now responsible for many of the main hooks on “Blitz” and most of the noisy skronks found on their first two albums and various EP’s have been stripped away. Karen O still oozes sex appeal and is one of the best frontperson in rock. “It’s Blitz!” delivers the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s most consistently great set of songs and with “Zero” they have their first anthem that comes anywhere close to equaling the glorious “Maps” from 2003’s “Fever to Tell”.

Buy “Zero”

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz! - Zero

Buy “Dragon Queen”

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz! - Dragon Queen


Buy Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Buy AmazonWolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

French band strikes critical and commercial gold with their fourth album release. The lead single “1901” has been inescapable all year- on radio, commercials and tons of television promos but I’m miraculously still not sick of it- a testament to these guys who somehow manage to write hooks that can make you both dance and rock out. Their songs are filled with immediacy and accessibility and beg to be played again and again. It was a long time coming but I’m glad Phoenix has finally arrived. The music industry needs them.

Buy “1901”

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - 1901

Buy “Lisztomania”

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - Lisztomania


Buy Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

Buy AmazonVeckatimest

The surprise hit of the year. You know 2009 was an interesting year when an extremely musical, somewhat sleepy Brooklyn group like Grizzly Bear was able to debut in the top ten, sell over a hundred thousand albums and count Jay-Z & Beyonce as fans. Grizzly Bear is another band that requires multiple plays before finally breaking through to the listener. There is nary a danceable beat on the album- it’s music for the head not the body, and “Veckatimest” is filled with songs of intense beauty- particularly at the beginning and end of the album (the middle lags a bit). Should be a classic for years to come- a serious grower.

Buy “Two Weeks”

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest - Two Weeks

Buy “While You Wait for the Others”

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest - While You Wait for the Others


Buy Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

Buy AmazonBitte Orca

Dirty Projectors are a collective of musicians helmed by Yale music school graduate and current Brooklynite Dave Longstreth. The Projector’s are a very experimental band who combine seemingly disparate musical genres such as noise rock with modern R&B with a 70’s classic rock groove, all laden with beautiful harmonies between male (read: Longstreth) & female vocals. The band’s influences crazily seem to range from Led Zeppelin to Timbaland to Steve Reich This may take a few listens to get use to but it’s well worth the effort.

Buy “Stillness is the Move”

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca - Stillness Is the Move

Buy “Two Doves”

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca - Two Doves


Buy Girls - Album (Bonus Track Version)

Buy AmazonAlbum

Psychedelic, lo-fi duo from San Francisco makes album of sun drenched, yet heartbreaking tunes for surprise album of the year. I caught wind of pre-album single release “Hellhole Ratrace” early this year. I liked it then but loved it after buying the full length album last fall. The songs, about love, freedom & being broke in your twenties are messy, free-spirited and filled with heartache. Even the sunniest songs have a hint of sadness at the bottom of them. The passionate yet snotty vocals brings to mind the Violent Femmes.

Buy “Lust for Life”

Girls - Album (Bonus Track Version) - Lust for Life

Buy “Summertime”

Girls - Album (Bonus Track Version) - Summertime


Buy Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

Buy Amazon Merriweather Post Pavilion

The Brooklyn by way of Baltimore freak folk-techno-jam band’s finest & most accessible album is far and away my top choice for 2009’s album of the year. AC forgoes choruses and traditional song structure and focuses on sonic experimentation and repetition tying it all together in a way that’s extremely pleasing to the ear. Though no song is over six minutes four or five tracks have an epic feel to them. There is not a bad moment on the album. AC has improves exponentially with each album release. It’s a wonder where they will go next.

Buy “Summertime Clothes”

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion - Summertime Clothes

Buy “My Girls”

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion - My Girls

Best Albums of 2009: Compilations


Buy Burial - 5: Five Years of Hyperdub

Buy Amazon5 Years of Hyperdub

A phenomenal compilation of 5 years of the influential Hyperdub label based in London and the leading light of the dubstep genre which combines grime, dub reggae, garage & drum n’ bass. Disc 1 is made up of all new tracks and Disc 2 serves as a “greatest hits” for the label. My experience of this genre outside of this comp is very limited but from research and listening I can say that it’s an excellent entry into dubstep for all who are interested. I urge any fan of trip-hop, dub, drum n’ bass or acid jazz to check it out.

Buy Joker- “Digidesign”

Joker - 5: Five Years of Hyperdub - Digidesign

Buy King Midas Sound- “Meltdown”

King Midas Sound - 5: Five Years of Hyperdub - Meltdown



Buy Kronos Quartet - Dark Was the Night

Buy AmazonDark Was the Night

This is the 20th and latest compilation from the Red Hot AIDS charity organization and plays as a veritable who’s who of modern indie-rock.. The double disc release focuses extensively on indie-rock and leans heavily on the mellower, folky & more serious-minded of today’s indie musicians. Though the tempo of both disc stays a bit too even keel throughout both disc are chock-full of great music and some interesting duets including David Byrne with The Dirty Projectors, Feist with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, and Jose Gonzalez with The Books.

Buy David Byrne with the Dirty Projectors- “Knotty Pine”

David Byrne & Dirty Projectors - Dark Was the Night - Knotty Pine

Buy Stuart Murdoch- “Another Saturday”

Stuart Murdoch - åDark Was the Night - Another Saturday

Best Albums of 2009: 5 EP’s


Buy AmazonThe Fame Monster

Buy Lady GaGa - The Fame Monster

Released by our best modern pop star (with Beyonce as the queen of R&B) as both a standalone and a companion piece to 2008’s “The Fame”. “Bad Romance” is one of the singles of the year and there should be more to follow in its wake.


Buy “Bad Romance”

Lady GaGa - The Fame Monster - Bad Romance

Buy “So Happy I Could Die”

Lady GaGa - The Fame Monster - So Happy I Could Die



Buy Bon Iver - Blood Bank - EP

Buy AmazonBlood Bank

Justin Vernon’s second beautiful, stark, wintry collection of songs released in the dead of January including 4th track and closer “Woods” which is sung exclusively in auto-tune and covered (very well) by Vernon’s other band Volcano Choir.

Buy “Blood Bank”

Bon Iver - Blood Bank - EP - Blood Bank

Buy “Babys”

Bon Iver - Blood Bank - EP - Babys





Buy Modest Mouse - No One's First, and You're Next

Buy AmazonNo One’s First, and You’re Next

A collection of outtakes and b-sides from Modest Mouse’s last album “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank” which were all re-recorded for this EP. For the most part not the band’s best material but still well worth a listen.

Buy “The Whale Song”

Modest Mouse - No One's First, and You're Next - The Whale Song

Buy “Satellite Skin”

Modest Mouse - No One's First, and You're Next - Satellite Skin


Buy Death Cab for Cutie - The Open Door - EP

Buy AmazonThe Open Door EP

A stop-gap EP between albums which includes a demo version of “Talking Bird” from the “Narrow Stairs” album as well as the track “Little Bribes” which would have been one of the best songs on the album had it been included.

Buy “Little Bribes”

Death Cab for Cutie - The Open Door - EP - Little Bribes

Buy “A Diamond and A Tether”

Death Cab for Cutie - The Open Door - EP - A Diamond and a Tether




Buy Blitzen Trapper - Black River Killer

Buy AmazonBlack River Killer

Seven track companion piece to last year’s excellent full length “Furr”. The title track is from “Furr” and the additional six tracks are very worthy b-sides.

Buy “Black River Killer”

Blitzen Trapper - Black River Killer - Black River Killer

Buy “Silver Moon”

Blitzen Trapper - Black River Killer - Silver Moon

** Surely the Animal Collective “Fall Behind” would have made this list if the damn thing wasn’t still on back order