25. Wavves - Wavvves
Dear ol' Nathan Williams. What a year it has been for him. Love him or hate him, I do find that Wavves created a very original album and find that he has more talent than what some people maybe give him credit for. I'll be interested to hear where he takes his sound from here. Wavvves is a great album to listen to in the summer, driving in your car with the windows rolled down, looking for mischief.
No Hope Kids - Wavves
24. Bear In Heaven - Beast Rest Forth Mouth
Another newer artist with a fairly original sound. This album leaves you pondering the sound, yet wanting more. Bear In Heaven have made an album here that does an amazing job of describing that feelings of teen angst and adolescent love. Oh you remember the feeling...
You Do You - Bear In Heaven
23. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains
The passion that Cymbals play with and write in their lyrics I find to be a major part of their appeal. Joseph D'Agostino sings with such heartfelt emotion, it cannot easily be ignored. The passion of their music is what makes Why There Are Mountains a special album.
Wind Phoenix - Cymbals Eat Guitars
22. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II
Raekwon's highly anticipated, long-awaited sophomore album does not do anything to pursue a new, original sound for hip-hop that is ground-breaking. Nothing about the album sounds like a new wave of hip-hop. But what it does do is takes the listener back to a time of real, vintage raw 90's rap. And it does that extremely well.
House Of Flying Daggers ft. Inspectah Deck Ghostface Method Man - Raekwon
21. Japandroids - Post-Nothing
The lo-fi duo from Vancouver seem like an unlikely pair for a top 25 album of 2009, but each song on this album is a story told in such an original manner. 8 enthusiastic garage-rock songs about girls, growing up, and going away from home.
Wet Hair - Japandroids
20. Cass McCombs - Catacombs
Catacombs, despite it's name, is a surprisingly warm album. Though at times the album may seem a bit melancholy, I hold that it is more about a sensation of hope and thankfulness. Heartfelt songs like "You Saved My Life" are the kind of songs that inspire one to become a singer-songwriter.
You Saved My Life - Cass McCombs
19. Mos Def - The Ecstatic
Mos Def put out what I believe to be the best hip-hop/rap album this year. From top to bottom, this album is golden. There are definitely special gems hidden throughout. Mos Def continues to progress as a musician and his experimental, progressive ways and insightful lyrics give the hip-hop genre a lot to look forward to.
Auditorium ft. Slick Rick - Mos Def
18. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
What a great name for a band. Especially this band. This indie pop group put out a great record that has great song after great song. From top to bottom, it's a fantastic album. What's even better is the potential that this band has. Looking forward to their future work.
Young Adult Friction - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
17. Fever Ray - Fever Ray
Karin Dreijer Andersson's Fever Ray was a highly anticipated debut for fans of the electronic group The Knife. Karin's voice is easily recognizable. Venetian plague masks are a cornerstone of her wardrobe. The first impression is that atmosphere trumps narrative; bass notes, simple rhythms, and stark synth chords creep like a rolling fog while a cast of pitch-shifted voices emerge from dark corners of the woods or darker recesses of the mind.
When I Grow Up - Fever Ray
16. Wild Beasts - Two Dancers
All The King's Men - Wild Beasts
15. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
Heads Will Roll - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
14. Atlas Sound - Logos
Bradford Cox is an interesting fellow. Despite what you may think about him, there is no denying the fact that he is one talented bro. Cox's solo project definitely took a huge step forward with Logos. Cox wrote the album off and on for over two and a half years. The songwriting and crafting is so delicately intricate that while listening to some of the sounds that he puts in, one can almost wander off into a state disillusion. "Walkabout" is such an amazing collaboration with Noah Lennox. Even without Lennox's help, this album carries a new weight into Cox's already impressive career.
Walkabout (ft. Noah Lennox) - Atlas Sound
13. Dan Deacon - Bromst
Dan Deacon's Bromst is a perfect example of a sound that is recognizable and has the same basic elements as his previous work, but has been revolutionized by an amazing advancement in technology. Aka Bromst is Dan Deacon's normal sound on electronic steroids. Dan Deacon's schmancy new toy is a computer-operated player piano that has the ability to generate notes faster than any pair of human/bear/tiger hands. This is a good thing.
Woof Woof - Dan Deacon
12. The Antlers - Hospice
Hospice is a gorgeously crafted album, but has the ability to emotionally destroy listeners. Hospice, as the name implies, is not an easy album to take all in. One almost has to be in the right state of mind, but when you are in that mind-set, no album captures the feeling better. The haunting songs' plainspoken prose tells of mental illness, abortion, cancer, and death, but couched in soaring anthems and swathed in layers of ambient noise, its heartbreaking stories are easy to appreciate.
Bear - The Antlers
11. Neon Indian - Psychic Chasms
An appropriately named album, Psychic Chasms, captures the essence of the "chillwave" or "glo-fi" or whatever you want to call it genre perfectly. It is this genre's pinnacle. Alan Palomo's Neon Indian project sets an atmosphere that is truly groundbreaking and not easily replicated. The craft of Palomo's music almost feels as though it comes from a cassette that was found in an old beat-up pair of Reebok Pumps from the 80's and mixed with laser-beams and soundboard noises. Yet some how through all of this, Neon Indian contains a melody that is catchy and easy to follow.
Deadbeat Summer - Neon Indian
10. Passion Pit - Manners
Perhaps no album captures the essence of a sunny day better than Manners. The album is almost on the edge of being 'too much', but thankfully stays in bounds and hits a homerun. Passion Pit has an uncanny ability to make any foot tap or head bob. It's just one of those albums. It also has some amazing individual tracks on it. Tracks like "Little Secrets" and "Sleepyhead" capture exactly what is great about this band.
Little Secrets - Passion Pit
9. jj - jj n° 2
Sunny, blissed-out Swedish pop that borders on new age/easy-listening/adult contemporary. The lazy, hazy, dreamy sound that was written and born in the Alboran (which one can easily recognize upon listen), is backed with a strong hip-hop influenced continual beat propels the perfect amount of chillness and beat hungry listeners throughout this album. The ability to sample both hip-hop lyrics and beats while putting their own stamp on it is an impressive, yet underrated trait. Listening to this album on a beach is a must.
From Africa To Malaga - jj
8. St. Vincent - Actor
Actor shapes to form what Annie Clark intended to create with Marry Me. Her sophomore release shows off her precise guitar leads, off-kilter arrangements, and inventive musicianship. As a musician, there is no one quite like Annie Clark's sound. There is no telling where she will go from, only up I suppose.
The Party - St. Vincent
7. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
What is so great about this new Phoenix album? They have the same sound as they've always had, it's nothing special. This is true, except for that this album is special. Phoenix have consistently pumped out great albums and great songs. But not like this. This album has amazingly catchy tunes in "Lisztomania", "1901", "Rome", and "Girlfriend". These songs perfect what Phoenix have always done. This album has pushed Phoenix's sound to the next level.
Lisztomania - Phoenix
6. Bat For Lashes - Two Suns
Two Suns draws together Natasha Khan's two worlds of love, one fantastical and the other real. This album is a visionary quest through Natasha's struggles in an impossible desire and dark romance, resulting in an album that is alternately exhilarating and emotionally exhausting. "Natasha Khan invests her songs with the heightened drama of epic fiction without sacrificing nuance or emotional depth. Her darkest fantasies are isolated in the persona of a toxic yet fragile narcissist named Pearl, who in the album's brilliant centerpiece "Siren Song" delivers a line so devastating in its terrible irony-- "My name is Pearl and I love you the best way I know how"-- that it can be hard to listen without wanting to somehow shake the man she is addressing and beg him to run away. Much of the record's seductive allure is owed to Khan's gift for melody and evocative atmosphere, but ultimately the most compelling element is her voice, which is as technically stunning as it is expressive. Her passionate performances keep the songs from descending too far into misery, and place the emphasis on the beautiful romance in the music rather than all the melancholy and tragedy. Matthew Perpetua
Daniel - Bat For Lashes
5. Girls - Album
Christopher Owens has had an incredible, almost movie-like life till this point in his age. He capitalizes off his incredible experiences by an amazing ability of storytelling through his songwriting. Natives to San Francisco, Girls' sound has a definite west coast influence and almost a 1960's am radio, Beach Boys type spring to it. It's a sound from a summer of love. Owens' sound is heavily influenced from older artists from the past that shape a new authenticity that has the listener waiting for more.
Lust For Life - Girls
4. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
To put a label on exactly what type of music it is that Dirty Projectors make is difficult to say the least. They have a sound that is damn near inimitable. Bitte Orca only adds to the complexity of their sound, yet invites the listener to melodic wonderland that takes you from one end of the spectrum to the other. Few groups have the amazing talents and abilities in their members that they do. Dave Longstreth has an extremely recognizable voice and guitar licks that are second to no one. All this while having amazingly talented vocalists in both Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian. What Bitte Orca does so well is showcase these talents in amazingly complex, well-written music.
Stillness Is The Move - Dirty Projectors
3. The xx - xx
The xx have a sound that is nothing real fancy. In fact it is a pretty simple sound. Yet, it is one of the most innovative, original sounds to come out in some time. The fact that it's so simple is part of what makes it different from other music out there, which can often have too much layering. Diving rhythms and crawling basslines keep tensions high, steady into a mellifluous flow of tender storytelling. The xx have an authentic, original, and an excessively casual style of music. Listening, it sounds almost careless in the way the melodies meander, but it retains beauty and meaning. These are songs to be sung inches from someone’s ear, preferably with the lights off. Total make-out music, if you will. Oliver Sim sounds like he is singing in his sleep. If music were a water park, his voice would be the lazy river attraction for all the tag-along parents. Their album is the type that I can put on repeat while doing work and neither be bored, nor over-stimulated and distracted. It hints an influence of R&B that brings just enough bounce to their sound. Despite its ability to work as background music some of the sounds are definitely pretty interesting, namely the first half or so of "Fantasy". The eerie hollowness resembled in my mind the distant lonely drone of a Muslim call to prayer in some middle-eastern city. Where low-fi bands like Wavves can sometimes overload the senses, The xx leave me with a craving for more.
Crystalised - The xx
2. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
"I just want, four walls and adobe sla?(b/t)s for my girls!" Quite possibly the most famous lyric from 2009. Animal Collective have an amazing ability to change their sound from album to album, yet retain the same recognizability. Their sound continues to evolve into what has become "yep, that's definitely AnCo". But that sound can be so many different things, what makes it Animal Collective? Merriweather Post Pavillion has an accessibility to it in that the songs have almost "poppy" pulse to them. This does not mean that they changed their sound to a conventional classic rock or iPod pop commercial appeal. On the contrary, the album stays true to Animal Collective's experimental ways. Perfect proportions of tribal beats, psychedelic pop, and analog electronica form what is Merriweather Post Pavillion.
My Girls - Animal Collective
1. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Perhaps, I may admit, I am a bit biased as to the influence of their amazing live performances, but Grizzly Bear created one hell of an album in Veckatimest. Grizzly Bear's third LP and best to date, Veckatimest feels cinematic in scope, like a 12-act progression through a beautifully constructed panorama. Its lavish composition finds multiple moving parts coalescing into a single, tangible whole, where even wordless moments are fat with enchanting imagery. Listening to it is like trying to chart a swift breeze by the flutter of the leaves it touches. It weaves in and out and wanders in circles. That isn’t hyperbole or an attempt at conceptualizing the abstract; you literally find the music moving around you, at times predominantly in front, swimming to the side and swooping behind before flying back around. Take the introduction, “Southern Point,” a kaleidoscopic five minute song with jazz inclinations that makes you nearly forget for a moment that someone is even singing as you get caught up in simply following the sound. Throughout the album, ornate arrangements, accompaniment from the Acme String Quartet and Brooklyn Youth Choir, and even episodes of acoustic solitude assist in that intoxication. Such simple complexity doesn’t peel away its layers in just one or even 10 spins through. Even “Two Weeks,” the critically adored standards ballad and most straightforward lyrical vehicle on the record, does not fully unfurl itself until you’ve had time to absorb its plea to quietude amid a sometimes frenzied relationship, the plea itself a slow indulgence.
Founder Ed Droste has noted that Veckatimest is the first time the group has truly collaborated, creating each step together rather than patching together piecemeal from the individual creative efforts of its members. Infusing a more collective element from the start is likely primary among reasons for Veckatimest’s subdued extravagance. It’s allowed Grizzly Bear to compose a seamlessly diverse and innovative piece in which even more obvious genre samples, such as the aforementioned jazz and standards forms, are still almost lost under the ethereal elegance of its atmosphere. Only upon returning to the record repeatedly, skipped tracks be damned, can you expect to discover the variegated textures of their colorful and meticulous efforts. Ironically, this is made all the more difficult as each new discovery can distract from the potential of the next, so as the record comes to a close you once again find yourself pressing play.
Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear
Ready, Able - Grizzly Bear