Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Favorite Albums of 2009

In the proliferation of end-of-the-year Best-Of lists (Or, this year, end-of-the-decade), I find myself having one of three reactions: 1) "Why is THAT album on there? It's terrible!" 2) "OK, that album is solid. I agree with that one." or 3) "Where is (Insert album name)? That album was awesome!"

I also find that I leave those end-of-the-year lists with a much longer list of new music to listen to then when I started, part of the reason I've tried to avoid as many of the lists as possible.

As a result, I've decided to list my 10 Favorite Albums of 2009. Many of these were released this year, but some were released prior to 2009 and they just kind of set the soundtrack for my year. They are by no means a "greatest" list, just my personal favorites. Oh, and they're not in order because I really can't make up my mind enough to rank them. Be glad I even cut it down to 10!

1. The Resistance - Muse: Yeah, knock it as electronic prog-rock if you want. This album is great for rocking out in the car. Or at home. Or at the library. Either way, I loved listening to this album if for nothing other than the references to 1984. I am so stoked to see them live on March 15.

2. The Hazards of Love - The Decemberists: The Decemberists have been getting a bad rap for being literarily pretentious just for the sake of being literarily pretentious. I loved this album solely for its audacity: It's a folk opera, for crying out loud! Music has gotten away from cohesive concept albums in favor of stand-alone songs, mostly because of the popularity of iTunes and other downloading services, but The Decemberists brought back the idea of an album as a whole. Oh, the orchestration doesn't hurt, either.

3. Two Suns - Bat For Lashes: Prior to this album, I wasn't a B4L fan. But it converted me. It's haunting and gorgeous and I just love it.

4. Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk: A super group of indie hard-hitters (M. Ward of She & Him, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes and Jim James of My Morning Jacket) finally, after a half-decade together, churned out a fun and off-beat album. The individual members' quirks shine through this one. Remember how I said I loved Hazards for its cohesiveness? I love this album because it's not cohesive.

5. Bitte Orca - Dirty Projectors: I really have nothing to say about this album except that I love it. A lot.

6. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie: Yeah, I'm nearly 40 years behind the curve on this one, but I finally listened to Ziggy in its entirety this year. And then I listened again. And again. And again. As odd as it sounds, this album helped me get through a pretty rough patch this fall, and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for it.

7. Dark Was the Night - Various Artists: This is one amazing compilation album. Seriously. Some of the best writing I've heard all year comes out of this album, made to benefit awareness for AIDS and HIV. Don't believe me? Listen to "Knotty Pine" by Dirty Projectors and David Byrne. Wow.

8. Around the Well - Iron & Wine: Returning to his folksy roots, Sam Beam produces another solid, chill album. Don't get me wrong, The Shepherd's Dog is a great album, it's just that I like the chill Iron & Wine better than the flashy pseudo-70's Iron & Wine.

9. New Moon OST - Various Artists: Yeah, mock if you want, but this album has some solid songs written for a terrible movie. This album actually kind of made me like Death Cab for Cutie. Just for a second.

10. Farm - Dinosaur Jr.: I hadn't heard Dinosaur Jr. until this year (Scandalous, I know), but I immediately fell in love with them and listened to the rest of their catalog. I have a warm place in my musical love life for punk-that's-not-really-punk, and Dinosaur Jr. fits right into it.

Honorable mentions:

These Four Walls - We Were Promised Jetpacks
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Far - Regina Spektor
The Fragile - Nine Inch Nails



Warped Coasters said...

I can't get into Bat For Lashes, any specific starting points on that album?

BTW I don't know where you are in your Bowie homework beyond Ziggy, but "Hunky Dory" is by far my favorite Bowie album, and you should definitely check it out, if you haven't already.

... And of course, M. Ward's solo albums are fantastic, especially "Post War."

Where did you rate the other big indie albums of the year, specifically Animal Collective?

Michelle said...

I couldn't get into Bat For Lashes before "Two Suns," ironically. I just kind of listened over and over because someone kept bugging me to listen to them. It grew on me slowly.

I couldn't get into Animal Collective at all. None of their albums strike a chord with me, so I'm not really the one to ask about their newest.

I'm not a big Antony and the Johnsons fan, either, though I know that one ranked pretty high for a lot of people.

I did really enjoy Camera Obscura's latest. It didn't rank quite as high as the others, but it was a solid number 11 on the ranking.

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