I’ve been waiting for months to post this, but I couldn’t very well make my list in October, because it wouldn’t give a fair chance to any albums released in November or December. But now that I look at this list, it wouldn’t have changed much if I’d posted it two months ago.
But here it is: MY list of the top twenty albums of 2009 (mind you, I may have a slight musical taste bias, but I tried to include a variety of genres in this list. But sadly enough, Sasha Fierce was released in Nov. 2008. So Beyonce will not be on this list. And neither will Gaga.
1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
Listening to Animal Collective is like getting an orgasm in your mind. Seriously. Nothing could knock Animal Collective out of the number 1 spot for me. I saw them live in May at Sasquatch, and after that, Merriweather Post Pavilion was the soundtrack to my summer. And not only did I love this album but it was fucking ridiculously critically acclaimed, so I think I know what I’m talking about. And what’s even better – MPP was released in the FIRST WEEK OF THE YEAR. January 6, that’s right bitches. Way to start off the year right.
2. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Another of the discoveries I made this year made many of the “best of” lists this year, but you cannot deny the overall catchiness, cleverness, danceability, and sheer awesomeness of Phoenix’s first album on their new label V2 Records. And seeing them live this week at Deck the Hall Ball heightened the love I have for Phoenix. “1901” should seriously win record of the year. It’s THAT good.
3. The Decemberists – Hazards of Love
I want this album to be made into a musical. Seriously. Like with actors who sing and dance and perform this WHOLE album. It was amazing at the Gorge, and it was a completely new direction for the band. But it worked. Some people didn’t like the big guitars and overwhelming storyline of the album, but I freaking loved it. Sure, you can’t really put any songs on a mix individually except “The Rake’s Song,” but within the full context of the album it’s amazing.
4. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
Thank god I caught their live show when I did, because I never would have discovered how amazing they actually are. When I saw them back in October, I hadn’t listened to them much. Mostly I was just going for the Morning Benders, but yet I wimped out on meeting them. Oh well, Veckatimest is awesome just the same with all the fantastic harmonies and multilayered instruments. This album was my second foray into “freak folk,” and I dig it. So freaking cool.
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
Again, I saw them live at Bumbershoot, and it was an unforgettable experience. After their lackluster 2006 release, Show Your Bones, Karen, Nick and Brian came back with a vengeance, producing possibly their most well-rounded album to date. Everything from the the jammy “Dull Life” to the dreamy ballad “Skeletons,” you hit both ends of the spectrum while keeping Karen O’s amazing shrieking vocals. This is how a rock band ages gracefully.
6. Franz Ferdinand – Tonight
I love this album. “Bite Hard” is my jam, and seeing Franz live for the second time truly reconfirmed how charismatic the four of them are together. Alex is so sexy with his seductive vibrato and Nick keeps the rhythm and Bob is adorable and Paul brings the beats. Slightly dancier than the previous albums, “Tonight” could be played at a dance club or a rock show – it’s perfect.
7. La Roux – La Roux
Elly Jackson, I pretty much love you. Androgyny and synthesizers and earnestness. All put together you get La Roux’s eponymous debut. I own four different remixes of “Bulletproof,” and they all rock. It’s like you can’t ruin that song. It’s just that good. And as much of an 80s throwback this was, it was so damn refreshing.
8. Mos Def – The Ecstatic
I don’t listen to a lot of hip hop. So you know this one’s legit if I put it in the top ten. If I can listen to a hip-hop album, it has to be good, right? Dynamic and introspective and catchy and awesome – those are the words I can use to describe this album. I can’t remember where I heard “Quiet Dog Bite Hard,” it may have been at Sasquatch, but that song is the shit. As is the rest of this album.
9. Passion Pit – Manners
Yet another Sasquatch find – although it took them way too long to start their set and my sister and I left halfway through to see Maria Bamford. But listening to this album all the way through just makes you feel happy. And want to dance. A lot. “The Reeling” and “Sleepyhead” are amazing. Listen to them now, with large headphones.
10. Tegan & Sara – Sainthood
Produced by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla, Tegan & Sara’s 6th studio album was mature in the best ways. Heavier licks, but similar themes made this album fit perfectly into their repertoire. The first single “Hell” has just enough energy paired with Tegan & Sara’s perfect harmonies. And as they get older, you can really tell the difference between their voices, which weren’t as distinct on the earlier albums.
11. Matt & Kim – Grand
One of the coolest married couples in rock and roll, Matt & Kim brings such a simplistic production to undeniably catchy territory that it’s a fantastic mixture. It was hard not to hear “Good ol’ fashioned nightmare” on TV for awhile before fall premieres in the preview for “Community,” but that was fine with me. And seeing them live at Bumbershoot this year just contributed to the fun quality of their music. I’ve never seen a band smile so much. And with Grand, they surely had something to smile about.
12. Muse – The Resistance
Okay, so I considered putting this album up higher on the list, but when I thought about Muse’s previous efforts, I had to take that into account. The Resistance is awesome, but Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations are awesom-er. “Unnatural Selection” is my favorite of the album, and when they played it live at Deck the Hall Ball the other night, I squealed with delight. I’m just wondering what Matt, Chris and Dom will do next.
13. Florence + the Machine – Lungs
Would they please tour in the States? I mean, really. This album was a late addition to the list, as before last week, I’d only heard “Dog Days Are Over,” but when I heard all of Lungs, I had to add it. It has all you want in an album – upbeat jams like “Kiss with a fist,” and bluesy emotional ones like “Drumming song.” And it’s so nice to hear a rocker chick with a great low voice – in fact, this year was a year of deep-voiced gals. Similar to the next best album.
14. Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
Like the Annie Lennox of ’09, Bat For Lashes (Natasha Khan) manages to weave sci-fi folk with indie rock in the most interesting way imaginable. Like the British hybrid of Bjork, Imogen Heap and Kate Havnevik – this album is amazing, no matter how you classify it. So peaceful, yet so dynamic. “Two Planets” and “Daniel” are two of my favorites off the album.
15. The Cribs – Ignore the Ignorant
The Cribs are my new fav Brit-rockers of the year, even though this album was their second release. I’d very much enjoy seeing them live next month, but I’m still not sure I’ll be able to. The Cribs have the dirty appeal of today’s Brit rockers but also a hint of the real lo-fi imports of the 80s. One of my favorite parts of this album is the very beginning of each song, as you can hear the very rudimentary elements of the music starting up.
16. Brandi Carlile – Give Up the Ghost
I freaking love this album. I was disappointed by The Story, but Brandi Carlile went back to her raw bluesy, folksy roots with Give up the Ghost. “Before it Breaks” is the only song that sounds remotely like it belonged on her previous album, but it’s better than even those songs. My favorite track is “Dreams,” which sounds almost like they all recorded it together in one take, because it catches all the nuances of Brandi Carlile’s great voice, as well as the synergy between her band. Another great release from one of Seattle’s finest.
17. The xx – xx
Isn’t that the simplest album cover ever? Surely compared to some of this year’s album covers. But it’s a reflection of The xx, the 3-piece electro rock band from the UK. Both vocalists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim provide such a subtle seductive feel to the simple beats, which create as Rolling Stone said “booty call music for the indie rock set.” Pretty much. Dreamy and dark and sexy, The xx would be the perfect music to get some to. I think.
18. Girls – Album
One of the break-outs of the year, Girls created a disc that feels both old and new at the same time. And it sounds so much like Elvis Costello it’s kind of crazy. Not in a bad way. And if you manage to sound like an updated Elvis without sucking, you’ve managed a feat. “Darling” is my favorite track off this album, and I recommend you listen to it soon after reading this.
19. Wilco – Wilco
Wilco can do no wrong. Exactly. It’s like the very nature of Wilco is to be awesome. Really, do I need any more explanation?
20. Paramore – Brand New Eyes
As much as Paramore got all the buzz this year because of “Twilight,” Hayley and co. came back with a great third album. Like I said, it’s the year of the chick rockers. And I feel like all their MTV love has almost reduced how good they really are. But honestly, without Hayley Williams, Paramore would be just as mundane as their lesser peers. Because they started so young, fans really get to grow up with Paramore. And I’d honestly like to see where they go next.
I’m done now. That was really difficult. I had to leave out a few good ones. Yell at me if you feel need be. But don’t be too harsh. I worked really hard on it.
And in fact, I’m going to explain a couple of those omissions.
The Fame Monster had some wicked songs on it, “Speechless” and “Bad Romance” are amazing, but as a whole, they didn’t fit together as well as The Fame did. I still love you Gaga.
And as a self-proclaimed indie kid, I’m not going to necessarily conform to all the other lists that I’ve seen and include Bitte Orca just because SPIN and Time and Stereogum and Pitchfork did. Dave Longstreth’s voice annoys me, and some of the songs on this Dirty Projectors’ album is kind of grating to me. I dunno. Punch me. I don’t care. Although “Stillness is the move” is a pretty great jam, as is Solange Knowles’ cover of it.