2009 Albums of the Year
1. Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
In a relatively mediocre year for music, the Avett Brothers latest effort somehow found its way into the top spot. While it is by no means their best effort and much of Rick Rubin’s production value must be brushed aside, this reviewer found nothing better. A new direction for the Avetts proved lukewarm at first but upon reflection it offered a sense of maturity, pop sensibility, and an open door into the lives of the artist.
2. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
3. Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications
Cocker’s release was a recent discovery to me; only after a friend’s recommendation did I even know who the man was. That said the production and lyrics drive this record to one of the top spots on my list. With witty British humor and Steve Albini manning the production helm, this album stands as a bright star in the year as well as a warm initiation to check into Cocker’s earlier works.
4. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes – Up From Below
5. Brand New - Daisy
6. Harlem Shakes – Technicolor Health
7. Cursive – Mama, I’m Swollen
8. The Dead Weather - Horehound
9. The Thermals – Now We Can See
10. St. Vincent - Actor
Albums of the Decade
Because many, many great albums failed to make my top ten for the decade, I must prelude the list with this: I deliberately set a ten album limit to challenge myself to revisit and reassess which albums were truly important to me. After the top ten there is a list of honorable mentions, in no particular order, which includes albums that were good, great, and even amazing, but for some reason or another failed to carry the weight of these top ten.
1. The Avett Brothers - Four Thieves Gone
In my biased opinion, of course the Avett’s would claim the top album spot of the decade. Although this album probably lacks some of the polish of their later efforts, it was this album that cemented their music in my mind as one of the most refreshing acts in recent memory. By combining bluegrass, pop, and rock, Four Thieves Gone acts as this decade’s stand alone album.
2. The White Stripes - Elephant
3. The Killers - Sam’s Town
Based on most public opinion, I feel as if this selection must be most defended. But in all reality, this album is one of the most underrated efforts from a band this decade and deserves a top spot on the list. While many perceive the Killers as a band that slowly gets worse with each release, their sophomore album was a reason to think not. Sure, they may have ripped off Springsteen a little excessively, but in the over the top desert/road/Las Vegas feel music is where this album truly shines. Even more, this over the top style seems to key into major sociological themes of this decade: overindulgence and glam.
4. Kanye West - College Dropout
5. Gorillaz - Gorillaz
6. The Strokes - Room on Fire
7. Bright Eyes - I’m Wide Awake and It’s Morning
8. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
9. Beck - Sea Change
10. Various Artists - O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack
Simply put, this is the greatest soundtrack ever.
Jack’s Mannequin – Everything in Transit
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
Ryan Adams – Cardinology
Death Cab for Cutie – The Narrow Stairs
Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose
The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music
Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
The Killers – Hot Fuss
Thrice – The Alchemy Indexes
The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely
Something Corporate - North
By: Michael Hardesty
2009: The Best Albums & Films / The Best of the Decade in Music
The votes are in, here’s what my eyes, ears and everything else in between chose as the “Best of 2009” and the “Best of the Decade in Music”.
That said, it never fails to amaze me every year how little I actually know about all that’s out there- time wise, it’s impossible to listen to everything or even a significant percentage. It’s absurdly overwhelming. I tagged all you music and film lovers out there for a reason. Whether you agree or not I’d love to hear what you have to say. Put up your top lists, tell me how wrong I am but you better say WHY.
Although I can’t listen to everything, this list can’t be all that bad, before you even take a look at it you can already guess it’s better than what Rolling Stone picked; U2 at #1? Come on, really?
The 15 Best Albums of 2009:
15. La Roux- La Roux
14. Dirty Projectors- Bitte Orca
13. Dark Was The Night- V/A
12. Animal Collective- Merriweather Post Pavilion
11. Passion Pit- Manners
10. Brandi Carlile- Give up the Ghost
9. Grizzly Bear- Veckatimest
8. Camera Obscura- My Maudlin Career
7. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Easily my most highly anticipated release of the year after I heard “Everything With You” from there EP released last year. The entire album (although very short) carries a summery and nostalgic 80’s noise/indie pop-rock sensation throughout that’s hard to get off of repeat.
6. Those Darlins- Those Darlins
Ok, so I may be a little bias with this pick but I’m dead serious about their positioning on this list. These girls put out a killer first release. They impressed me when I randomly ran into them playing a saloon set at The Southgate House three years ago in Newport, Kentucky and they continued to impress when I interned for their manager/marketer. They’ve somehow bottled up a boozy rock ‘n roll party with a disheveled mix of bluegrass and traditional country that’s equally endearing as it is purely entertaining. If you love anything like a combination of the Black Lips and a garage rock cousin of The Carter Family girls then this is definitely something you need to check out. They’re basically fun bundled up in songs.
5. Real Estate- Real Estate
One of the best fuzzed out, reverb heavy albums I’ve heard in some time. This isn’t noise for the sake of it; they actually use the washed atmosphere to take you from your headphones to a shore in New Jersey drinking their “Suburban Beverage” Budweiser and Sprite on a sunny day. What lifts this album above most from the same noise genre is their ability to implement an intoxicating nonchalant melodic pop approach to their sound. This is one of those instantly gratifying albums that’s the perfect playlist whether it’s summer or not.
4. Avett Brothers- I and Love and You
Like any fan of the Avett Brothers, this was a horse pill that was hard to swallow at first. Once the shock from the smoothed out production and change in their most prevalent instrument (less banjo, more piano) all went away, the patient listener discovered one of the best Avett Brothers albums to date. If anything, the production allows for a more focused listen to the lyrics which happen to be the savior. Overwhelmingly they make up for the flaws musically. I doubted the legitimacy of this record with such a drastically different sound but then I found myself coming back to it again and again. The same old Avett Brothers are still in this, they’ve just grown up a bit. A lyric from “The Perfect Space” really sums up their maturity: “I wanna have friends that I can trust, that love me for the man that I’ve become, not the man I was”. But don’t let that fool you, they can still have a good time, just try and sit still on “Slight Figure of Speech”.
3. A.A. Bondy- When the Devil’s Loose
Possibly one of the most underrated releases of the year, I found myself listening to A.A. Bondy’s wonderful take on modern folk about every week. I’m not into the whole vampire craze of the past few years with Twilight, True Blood etc. (besides Vampire Weekend of course) but I think “Oh The Vampyre” was my second or third most listened to track of the entire year. It almost makes you feel a sense of sympathy for this forlorn vampyre (I don’t understand that spelling either). “Lord what I would give for just one drop of red, now the dew is on the grass and I am late for bed, and when I come I will come on like a dream, with the crimson moon shining down upon my devils wing”. Bondy sprinkles poetry like this all over the album. He matches it perfectly with subtle yet melodic pricks of the guitar and an introverted yet strong vocal approach. Let this album play endlessly on repeat, you won’t be disappointed.
2. Harlem Shakes- Technicolor Health
^Listen to “Strictly Game” to start your new year off right. The Harlem Shakes sing a hesitant yet hopeful chant that sums up a great outlook on life pretty well, “This will be a better year…make a little money, take a lot of shit, feel real bad and get over it, ah, this will be a better year”. It’s so simple and so blatantly to the point. There’s so much going on in this record, it makes it hard to express why it’s the second best album of the year. The mystery and inability to disassemble this record is half the draw though. The Harlem Shakes hit you with horns, glockenspiels, bongos, spazzing guitar hooks and blanketing background vocals that even howl at you from time to time. The only reliable part of their collage of sound is one of the most intriguing main vocalists of the year, Lexy. He anchors this feel-good eclectic barrage coming from every inch of the speakers and creates truly one of the best of the year. Honestly, I’m amazed this album didn’t receive more praise than it did. The saddest part though, is that the band already broke up; no more brilliance to be heard from the Harlem Shakes.
1. Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Where did this album come from? These Frenchmen have drastically progressed with each album but this one was heads above anything else they’ve ever put out. If you’ve heard “Everything Is Everything” from their 2004 release Alphabetical and then listen to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix opener “Lisztomania” you understand what I’m talking about. It bursts in almost like a statement. Phoenix wanted to make it clear that this album was going to be different than anything they had done before.
The smooth and smart pop-sensibility was in their earlier material’s framework but this album has a whole new vibe to it. Wolfgang is one of those rarities; a modern day record that sounds vibrant and balanced all the while attaining one sound from start to finish. Each song encompasses the infectious sing-song echoing vocals with varying driving beats that seem to hit circles around your head. Everything shines here without any filler. Songs like “1901”, “Countdown”, and “Armistice” are endlessly listenable. “Love Like a Sunset Pt. 1 & 2” and “Girlfriend” anchor the middle and end of the record with some of the finest shimmering alternative pop-rock put out today. It had me dancing like I was in The Breakfast Club, contemplating during the atmospheric build ups, and generally gave me an uplifting sense of hope. From front to back, this is an album that should not be missed.
Honorable Mentions (In alphabetical order):
Album- Artist (Key Tracks)
-Black Eyed Peas- The E.N.D. – (You know just as well as I do) - Another great set of songs from BEP; it’s like they eat, sleep and drink hit songs.
-Dan Auerbach- Keep It Hid (Goin’ Home & Keep It Hid)
-John Mayer- Battle Studies (Edge of Desire & War of My Life) A big letdown compared to Continuum but still a fairly solid release sonically not so much lyrically.
-Julian Casablancas- Phrazes for the Young (Out of the Blue & 4 Chords of the Apocalypse)
-Lady Gaga- The Fame Monster – This woman is on a roll and Bad Romance is my jam. Alejandro just makes me laugh because she’s out of her mind but in a good way- the offer’s still on the table from last year LG…I’d still date you and all of your out of control sexuality/costumes.
-Lily Allen- It’s Not Me, It’s You (Him & Who’d Have Known- A hard album to swallow, being a fan of her old sound but still an enjoyable album no matter how quiet it may be)
-M. Ward- Hold Time (Shangri-La & Rave On)
-Metric- Fantasies (Help I’m Alive & Sick Muse)
-Neko Case- Middle Cyclone (Vengeance Is Sleeping, People Got A Lotta Nerve)
-Taken By Trees- East of Eden (Anna & Greyest Love of All- the latter is one of the most gorgeous unknown gems of the year)
-Vetiver- Tight Knit (Rolling Sea & Everyday)
-White Lies- To Lose My Life… (A Place To Hide & Death- the latter is impossible to get out of your head if you love anything inspired by vocals reminiscent of Joy Division)
-Yeah Yeah Yeah’s- It’s Blitz! (Zero & Heads Will Roll…duh)
Biggest Disappointments of 2009:
Antony & The Johnsons- The Crying Light
Simply said, it’s nearly impossible to top the Mercury Award winning 2005 release that still holds possibly my favorite song of all time “Fistful of Love”. This isn’t a terrible album by any means, it just had a lot to live up to.
I was pretty excited to see what this album held in store for the world with the combination of a Vampire Weekend and a Ra Ra Riot member. This should have been pure magic but it ended up sounding like an incomplete extended EP made just for fun and done with one take per song…in a bad way.
****Maybe I focused on albums of the past too much this year (50’s/60’s soul and 1960 and on Brit Pop) but all in all, I thought this was a fairly weak year for music. Only a few albums made it into my head for more than a few weeks. But, if I really had to pick the album that I listened to the most besides Phoenix’s this year, it was have to be Kings of Leon’s release from last year, Only by the Night. I became utterly obsessed with that album and it finally converted me to become a fan of theirs (I know, kill me). ****
25 Best Albums of the Decade:
This holds most of my favorite albums ever and a lot of emotional connections. The start of the 2000’s was the decade I truly started to listen to music beyond what was on the radio growing up and a few influences from my much older siblings.
P.S. For all you haters, those pop-punk picks are still good to this day!
25. Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago
24. Various Artists- Walk The Line (Music From The Motion Picture) (No joke, I was terribly obsessed with this album- T. Bone’s work is just too good and Joaquin’s rootsy rock n’ roll take on Johnny’s songs is superb)
23. Jimmy Eat World- Bleed America
22. Audioslave- Audioslave
21. Muse- Absolution
20. Nightmare of You- Nightmare of You (4 years later I still believe this is an unbelievable and highly underrated album)
19. Coldplay- A Rush of Blood to the Head
18. Anberlin- Never Take Friendship Personal
17. Vampire Weekend- Vampire Weekend
16. Green Day- American Idiot
15. Rocky Votolato- Makers
14. The Honorary Title- Anything Else But the Truth
13. James Morrison- Undiscovered
12. Ray LaMontagne- Till The Sun Turns Black
11. Michael Buble- It’s Time (I don’t care what you say, this is a phenomenal album)
10. Arctic Monkeys- Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
9. Arcade Fire- Funeral
8. Cat Power- The Greatest (“Lived In Bars” still gives me the chills every time)
7. The Strokes- Room on Fire
6. John Mayer- Continuum
5. O Brother Where Art Thou? (Music From The Motion Picture)
4. Guster- Keep It Together
3. Ray LaMontagne- Trouble
2. Rufus Wainwright- Want One
1. The Strokes- Is This It
This was a no-brainer for me. I can still remember the first time I listened to this album after I borrowed it from Rachel (thanks Wash!) in geometry class sophomore year of high school. She hyped it up and I thought it was going to be overrated garbage before I even pressed play. Even then I thought I knew everything about music (some things never change). As soon as the neon “The Strokes” letters spun around my tiny blue CD player jetting the “I don’t give a….” monotone croon of Julian Casablancas I knew I was listening to something different, something special. The pent up NYC energy and coolness, layering rhythms of every instrument from every direction; the sound was exciting, in full color. Their entire culture was somehow captured in one album. It’s like Is This It could have come out every year since its 2002 release and it would still sound ahead of its time. It’s familiar yet completely new with each listen. Without a doubt, it’s the album of the decade.
Amy Winehouse- Back to Black
Antony & The Johnsons- I Am a Bird Now
Band of Horses- Everything All The Time
The Black Keys- The Big Come Up
Brand New- Your Favorite Weapon
Brandi Carlile- The Story
Camera Obscura- Let’s Get Out of This Country
Fall Out Boy- Take This To Your Grave
Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova- Once (Music From The Motion Picture)
Jamie Lidell- Multiply
M. Ward- Post-War
The National- Boxer
Neko Case- Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Regina Spektor- Begin to Hope
Rilo Kiley- More Adventurous
Rufus Wainwright- Poses
Dozen Best Movies of 2009 that I saw:
12. Away We Go
10. District 9
9. An Education
8. Star Trek
7. Up (Great film, but I still think Wall-E is better)
6. Inglorious Bastards
5. Anvil!: The Story of Anvil!
4. (500) Days of Summer
3. The Road
2. Up in the Air
There isn’t much to say here that you haven’t already heard. I had a whole spectrum of expectations going into this film. I heard it looked brilliant but had a horrendous script/plot. Sure, the writing could have been better but by no means was it bad. I thought it was quite good and completely served its purpose for a big budget action film. The visuals were breathtaking but they didn’t steal the entire show. Without the engaging writing, they would have been nothing but radiating color splashes on a screen with little sentiment.
No other movie took my body on such a varied ride through my emotions like Avatar did. It was a spectacle to see and one of the most satisfying films in such a wide array of ways that it kind of makes you say, “Well, I don’t really know much else that could top that.” As great as the other films were this year, nothing ended up toping this full range cinematic experience.
Handful of Boring/Overrated Films of 2009:
5. A Serious Man (O)
4. Coraline (B)
3. 45 Shots of Rum (B/O)
2. Moon (B)
1. The Hangover (O)
I’ll sum this up quickly. Who still talks about this movie now besides hearing that wolf quote every so often? No one. Why? Because it’s no that good! It was average and what was the best part? The credits! Yeah, a real hilarious movie…so good that no one remembers it or talks about it. Good? I suppose. Better than a modern classic like Wedding Crashers? Hell no, not even close. Mindless, witless and vulgar humor like this gets old and really only shows an understanding of shock value thus turning it into forgettable humor worth seeing at most one time.
P.S. Song of the year was totally “Party in the U.S.A.”…there’s no denying it. Everyone loved it, danced to it, and sang along no matter how many times they heard it. Gramps knows what I’m talking about…
Best video of the year haha?? http://www.youtube.com/watchv=2Ezfk7s1NyY
By: Michael Mallette