Best of 2009- Review of the Year

Top 10 Albums

1.    The Avett Brothers- You, and I, and Love

My favorite of the year is a straightforward folk album. These guys have been around for awhile but with sharp lyrics and catchy melodies I became a new and loyal follower. My favorites are “A Perfect Space”, “Ill With Want”, “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”, and “Laundry Room”. Though, even listing favorite tracks does not give this album the praise it deserves because there’s something special about every song, and this will be one I continue to return to for many years and remember what it was like to be twenty-five.

2. Grizzly Bear- Veckatimest

This album is a great listen all the way through. Perfect for a Sunday morning or lazy afternoon. The first single, “Two Weeks” was a great summer beat with a crazy music video (perhaps my favorite of the entire year). Though, it was the “While You Wait for the Others” that completely sold me on this group; it is BY FAR my favorite song of the entire year. Simple songs like “Foreground” and “Dory” are the sweet gems that have  rhythmic quality that will resonate long after listening. Seeing the band live proved that these guys are the real deal, all four members actively contribute to vocals, instrumentals, and visual effects. One of the real break out groups of the year, hope that they continue to do good things with their talent.

3. Metric- Fantasies

Every song is a winner. This album made me a new fan of Emily Haines beautiful voice. Seeing her live life brought this band alive as they proved they can rock out. The best track is a toss-up between “Gimme Sympathy” asking the famous question “Who would you rather be The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?” or the acoustic version of “Help, I’m Alive” where Emily delivers each word with the urgency of the beat. If “Help, I’ve Alive” was the sad song for a broken heart than “Sick Muse” was the angry one, that trashes on Cupid and begging for freedom. Perhaps the sweetest song is “Collect Call” when Haines sings, “I’m a lazy dancer/When you move I move with you”. This album came out in April and has been on heavy rotation during my runs since, which speaks to the energy these songs create.

4. Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Who knows what they are singing about, and who cares because these Frenchman are adorable and created the most catchy beats of the year. The two hits were both wonderful “1901” and “Lisztomania” other favorite were “Lasso” and “Armistice”. After seeing them perform on SNL I kept my eye on the Minneapolis concert calendar and bought tickets as soon as their name appeared. I was one of the lucky few who got to see these guys live in the Twins Cities during their sold out shows in Minneapolis. I’m glad I did too because it was the best concert I saw all year, the infectious songs were delivered perfectly to the adorning crowd.

5. Wilco- Wilco (The Album)

This album seemed to be for the fans with the mocking album title and the opening track being “Wilco (The Song)” where Tweedy croons “Wilco will love you baby” and love us they did with new songs from one of the best bands today. They didn’t cover any new territory and received criticism for that since that’s one of the band’s signatures qualities. Still, there were some great songs on this album even if it lacked cohesively. The George Harrison riff in “You Never Know” made it enjoyable time and time again, while Tweedy’s duet with Feist “You and I” was also charming. Songs like “Deeper Down and I’ll Fight” seemed to capture some old rockability sound from another era, while  “ Black Star Supernova” charted new ground. Seeing them live for the first time also sealed my approval of the new album along with the rest of the collection and Tweedy impressively captured the crowd and delivered the songs with clarity.

6. Animal Collective- Merriweather Post Pavilion

Nobody is going to deny (at least those in tune to the music scene) that “My Girls” is the song of the year by capturing this idea of a return to simplicity, that can be appreciated during the current economic recession as a mindset going forward. Pitchfork and Spin named it album of the year, while other publications like Rolling Stone and Paste included in their top 25 lists. Other songs that also fit the 2009 vibe were “Summertime Clothes” and “Brother Sport”. After a few listens this album grows and grows as demonstrating new directions of the expanding music frontier.

7. St. Vincent- Actor

This is like an indie Disney fairytale soundtrack. I love Annie Clark a.k.a. St. Vincent’s voice and how the album has a definite feel that all of the songs go together and tell an overarching story. “Laughing with a Mouth Full of Blood” had the most repeat listens on my iTunes play count. Though it’s “Neighbors” which was my favorite as she sings “How can Monday be just find/Then Tuesday lose my mind?“ Songs that expand the narrative and illustrated the spring and summertime landscapes these songs filled include “The Party”, “Just the Same But Brand New”, and “Actor Out of Work”.

8. The XX- XX

The first time I heard I this band’s song “VCR” played on NPR’s All Songs Considered I knew I would love this band. It’s hard to believe that the band members are a trio of twenty-year-olds who have grown up with each other since pre-school. What makes this group work are the singers’ vocals and how the male and female harmonize so perfectly together. The focal point of all the songs are about love, that is not to say they are shallow lyrics. Rather lyrically the songs are all solid, particularly “Islands” and “Crystallized”. The fact that many of the songs all begin to sound the same would be the weak link, though even this seems to work into the cohesion of the album. I question what can spring forth from here with their next batch of songs, though I will definitely give it a listen especially after their endearing debut collection.

9. Dirty Projectors- Bitter Orca

I first heard of this group when they collaborated with David Byrne for the Dark Was The Night project with the song “Knotty Pine” I knew then that I would like this group, and when their new album dropped I gave notice as did the rest of the music scene. Similar to the sounds that Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear created this band incorporated it’s members as instruments and collaborative efforts made for sweet melodies. My favorite is “Stillness in the Move” which was inspired by the German film Wings of Desire. Other songs that added the layers of this album would be “No Intention” and Cannibal Resources”. These weren’t only catchy songs, but they demonstrated depth and careful craft to song making which was refreshing to hear.

10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs- It’s Blitz

A dance album and a ballad album? Karen O stripped down versions of “Hysteric” and “Runaway” are absolutely beautiful. While “Zero” and “Heads Will Roll” are some of the most danceable tunes I’ve heard in ages, and somehow the combination seems to work between the multi-tones spread throughout the YYY’s third album. It seemed like the right answer for the band to make this album, at least for the way music sounded this year and to prove that they are more than just the band who did “Maps” as they stretched their teeth with this collection. In addition O proved she’s still got the front woman power to be vying for.

Top 10 Songs

1. “Low Rising”- The Swell Season

From the opening seconds of the song Glen Hansard seems to be channeling Van Morrison and for that alone I absolutely LOVE this song.

2. “Wicked Blood”- Sea Wolf

Alex Brown a.k.a Sea Wolf can make one hellva a song, and “Wicked Blood” is a gorgeous orchestration of instruments, lyrics, and sound.

3. “Animal”- Miike Snow

I previously have said Snow is like the best of Phoenix and Animal Collective and this was a constant go-to song for any type of circumstance.

4. “Home”- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

The new band that was all the buzz in 2009 and I have to admit they captured me too especially with this song. It’s  refreshingly different than the rest and also a sweet song that’s impossible not to love.

5. “Curse Your Branches”- David Bazan

New to Bazan his humble lyrics about spirituality resonated deeply, as he finds the perfect metaphors that are difficult to share “All fallen leaves/should curse their branches/for not letting them decide where they should fall/ and not letting refuse to fall at all/ digging up the root of my confusion/if no one planted it/ how does it grow?/why are some hell bent on there be an answer/ while some are quite content to answer I don’t know.” Absolutely perfect.

6. “So Far Around The Bend”- The National

My favorite band with a NEW cheery New York song, how could it not make the list? The lighter tone makes me anxious to see what’s next in store for this group.

7. “You’ve Got The Love” – Florence + The Machine

The new female British siren that somehow is enjoyable to fans of Annie Lennox, Kate Bush, and Amy Winehouse. This song, especially with The XX remix version fills a loaded space with energy and highlights the essence of this talented new voice.

8. “Sweet Disposition”- The Temper Trap

I first heard this song in the movie 500 Days of Summer and when you hear it you think this fits perfectly into a movie montage because it captures a mood or a space of time which what is conveyed as a compiled memory. This is similar to a montage which take the best memories and mixing them together.

9. “French Navy”- Camera Obscura

A great melody and a sweet song from the charming Scottish band. There were several stellar tracks on their My Maudlin Career disc; though this is the one that captured the band’s essence with these heartfelt and honest love songs that singer Tracyann Campbell sings unassuming to their truth depths.

10. “This Tornado Loves You”- Neko Case

Whose got a better voice that Neko these days? I liked several songs of her Middle Cyclone release, though her vocal range and the emotion put forth in this song is what captured me the most this year.

2009 Soundtrack

January: “Here Comes a Regular”- The Replacements

February: “Too Young”- Phoenix

March: “Love Dog” – TV on the Radio

April: “How Soon is Now?”- The Smiths

May: “Watch the Tape”- LCD Soundsystem

June: “While You Wait For the Others”- Grizzly Bear

July: “Walk On”- Neil Young

August: “Poised and Ready”- Brendan Benson

September: “A Perfect Space”- The Avett Brothers

October: “All My Friends” – LCD Soundsystem

November: “Which Way Your Heart Will Go”- Mason Jennings

December: “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”- Radiohead

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