blog 2009/12/09 - [BEST OF 2009] 15 Amazing albums of 2009 (#s 25 -> 11)
Oh we are getting oh so close! oh!
If you're on a budget, the cutoff line starts just before this post. The top 25 albums are ones you simply must buy.
The quality level is so high, so refined in it's utter awesomeness, that you just need these records.
Are you ready? I'm ready, are you sure you're ready? Because it just gets better.
15 Amazing albums of 2009 (#s 25 -> 11), in random order
Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
Japandroids - Post Nothing
The Decemberists - The Hazards Of Love
Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Passion Pit - Manners
Fever Ray - Fever Ray
The Twilight Sad - Forget the Night Ahead
Beirut - March Of The Zapotec & Holland
Gossip - Music for Men
Metric - Fantasies (& Plug In, Plug Out EP)
The Very Best - Warm Heart Of Africa
The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come
Pantyraid - The Sauce
Mos Def - The Ecstatic
Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career:
The intro riffs of any song on this album somehow conjures Jean Luc Goddard directing a 50s go-go beach flick. The pop kitsch is irrefutable and irresistible, but oh there is a master's hand at work, leaving a trace of temperance and critical decision-making throughout.
The world of radio-friendly indie pop is a large one indeed, and while sometimes I am surprised by what surfaces at the top of the heap, this is the kind of album that you knew from the start would just persevere and find it's way here. A critically good pop pleasure.
Japandroids - Post Nothing:
Not since first discovering The Jesus Lizard have I felt such joy in not understanding lyrics! More “buried between aggro fuzz” production than just gruffly chomping, the lyrics reveal themselves in subsequent listens and evoke a bar-band sinaglong mantra.
They sometimes dip in to adolescent-cum-adult angst (I Quit Girls), but also do a fine job of capturing the post-rave worldview.
Young Hearts Spark Fire captures the horror and angst of youthful dreamers at the end of their extended childhood with "we used to dream, but now we worry about dying". It acts as a perfect consequence to the candy-covered destructive lyrics of MGMT's Time To Pretend. We tried living fast and hard, and lo and behold we survived. We never planned on being adults, but here we are. The dreams are still there, but now our emerging mortality sets in.
This is not your bullshit lofi garage rock that plagues us all, this is the real deal. There is so much drama and joyousness to be found beneath the distorted fuzz washes.
Highly recommended for fans of The Jesus Lizard, The Hold Steady, or 90s Sonic Youth, despite sounding rather drastically different that all 3.
I listen to this album and I feel pre-emptive nostalgia. This album sounds like it could be having the exact same effect on me as if I was listening to my favourite Fugazi songs. If you know anyone who is a teenager, please buy them this album. When they turn 30, this rock gem will bring them waves of memories.
The Decemberists - The Hazards Of Love:
When this album first came out, it was criminally overlooked and dismissed. People whined: "Oh, it's not the Decemberists I remember! Where are my short narratives? Waaahhhh!"
Suck it up, quasi-critical populace, because this album is amazing. There's nothing wrong with this album, there's something wrong with you. But on paper, it all made sense to you. Extendeded rock opera? Mythical figures? A single about a man who kills his children? Oh foolish you!
First step: Listen to this in a car. Listen to it on a long trip. And listen all of the way through. This release defies the Ipod generation with their shuffle and playlist curating. This album is a whole and demands proper listening.
I grew up on listening to Pink Floyd's The Wall and Phantom of The Opera on long road trips that would last days. Over and over again. I know what I am talking about. Extended works demand extended audiences. Oh, and I suppose you skip the Knee Plays in Einstein On The Beach? uggh.
You know those people that would just listen to Another Brick In The Wall (part 2) and Comfortably Numb? You know what we call those people? Jerks. That's right, jerks. The Wall wasn't meant to be reduced to a single, and neither is this album. That is why I've edited some tracks together for your sample. Sure, it starts abrupt, but that's because we're being a tad jerky coming in part way.
The vocalist from My Brightest Diamond makes a perfectly cast appearance as the queen, and Colin McCoy plays both the adopted shape-shifting lovelorn son, and as well the disposable rake character. Margaret is the final character in this act, the kindly damsel who is oh so distressed due to her supernatural encounter.
This is an album that is just calling for Tim Burton to create it in to a full length musical movie.
This is an album with the gaul to refute the short attention spans of the internet kids.
This is a masterful work that is both brave and successful, for those who can be bothered to listen to an album all the way through.
Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport:
Y2K came and went and the world didn't stop, but lo' there was an eclipse of the sun at the end of the millennium and woosh, The Boredoms became godfigures, and entered their second career phase as masterminds of tranced-out excess. Sure, if wasn't all that surprising for those of us that had been following them for a while, but that's when they really had hit it big and only then did the press really take notice.
The sounds that were unleashed at the start of the millennium have 9 years later given way to another high water mark on the map of psychedelic blissouts, and Tarot Sport sits nicely as the successor to Vision Creation Newsun, ready to undoubtedly influence a whole new decade.
But with great power comes great responsibility! Like The Boredoms much-discussed outing, Fuck Buttons will as well spawn a flurry of half-baked inspirational tributes. Let us all proceed with as much caution and critique as possible, a new era of hypno-psych-sludge is upon us.
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix:
Generally when asked, I'd just describe this album as this year's Vampire Weekend. Same instant catchy pop goodness, same potential for irritability, same one song that after listening 10 times you just HAVE TO SKIP OR IT MAKES YOUR BRAIN HURT. etc.
Sure, it's radio friendly pop for the college set, but the charms are undeniable. If you watch TV, enjoy this as much as you can now, as it's bound to end up on numerous show and commercial soundtracks. You have been warned.
Passion Pit - Manners:
Sometimes pop can be so overwrought, but sometimes the heavens open up and just make it perfect. An Excalibur of self indulgent joy. Passion Pit cross so many lines in the sand of acceptable exuberance and trounce them with MDMA-riddled smiles and woah this shit's kind catchy.
There is no shame hear, no worried self awareness or cautioned restraint.
This is indie pop bliss jacked up on whatever kids these days are high on (life? pills? post-irony?), and it feels oh so right.
Fever Ray - Fever Ray:
Do you remember the movie Ringu? Or the American remake The Ring? Remember that cute little girl that lives in a well and occasionally hangs out in living rooms?
Well if that spring chicken ever climbed through a TV set with a Nord Synth and a microphone, she would sound like Fever Ray.
And you'd stare at her dumbfounded and terrified, and wiggle your ass in minutiae jiggles, hypnotized and in a cold sweat, laughing and crying at the same time.
Make no mistake, this isn't the summer beach soundtrack you're looking for, but a rabbit-hole trip deep in to a unique sonic world. The sister of The Knife duo heads off on her own and brings her vocal processors with her. In the same way that no other albums came close to sounding like The Knife, no other album sounds like Fever Ray.
The beats are often cold, some songs demand entranced attention, the lyrics tease between cryptically juvenile and solemnly opaque, but like a seductive hell it becomes a comfort and a new dialect that only you two share.
Sure, you find the girl crawling out of the TV kind of creepy at first, but did you know she has an awesome record collection and good ketamine?
Recommended for fans of The Knife, Ellen Allien and Laurie Anderson.
The Twilight Sad - Forget the Night Ahead:
Oh joy of joys, more of the Twilight Sad! I wasn't in to their live album, but oh I am SO in to their new full length here.
The grounds haven't shifted much since the prior studio album, but the goods are all there. Epic wails of guitar, a driving rhythm, and an enchanting lyrical sense that would make Alan Moore proud.
Beirut - March Of The Zapotec & Holland:
Oh what a dreamboat. This here is a musical dandy that can even be swooned more than Final Fantasy. And what a shock his album is! Having done so many amazing things in his short career and at his young age, he hits 2009 with an album like a pack of Nerds: 2 flavours, 100% yum.
What is a young musical prodigy to do? How about go grab a Mexican brass band to accompany you! Perfect! The first half of the album is full of oompahpah delights.
The second part of the album, he retreats in to the bedroom, gets down with some drum machine riffs, and outshines the past few years of starkly beautiful electro pop in just a few short tracks.
There is criticism that can be lobbied towards the album as a cohesive whole because of the varying sounds, but oh his voice and songwriting carries it through. The brave experiment in styles is a triumph that is perhaps too unique to be even attempted by other musicians.
Gossip - Music for Men:
Beth Ditto is probably the best female rock vocalist out there. With the shortest of words she can convey so much pure... rock? It's not brooding and melancholy, it's not stuck in it's own anger, it's not a cliched coo, Ditto has a set of vocal inflections that are all her own, and it all holds together a killer rock album.
The Gossip were never about fancy riffs, complex songs structures or intellectual and obscure lyrics. It is their straightforward kick-all-asses gusto that just charms the pants right off of us (literally and figuratively).
But while somewhat simple, the songs are near perfect: nothing extraneous, not a note out of place or off-beat.
To me, this is the ultimate in festival rock.
Metric - Fantasies (& Plug In, Plug Out EP):
You are going to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs so much and on so many best of lists. I almost put them on this list, I really did. I had them up there for a while. Then I listened to this Metric album again. Hmmm, somewhat similar, some comparisons... Then after a few listens, I realized it: The Metric album is way better than the YYYs album. I know I know, I'll take flack, but face it. The songwriting is just so much better. The performances slightly more provocative.
The YYYs album has deluxe edition with a bonus CD with acoustic versions. That had me swooning for a bit. But then Metric put out their Plug In, Plug Out EP with acoustic versions of the songs, and the songwriting just has that much more longevity and charm.
Dare to compare, Internet. I double dares you.
And hey, really, we all win. Seriously, if you like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, give this album a spin.
The Very Best - Warm Heart Of Africa:
After their 2008 bootleg tape of amazing jacked beats tweaked by Radioclit, Esau Mwamwaya is back with a full length of originals and it is as good as you were hoping for.
On the last release, they ironically jacked Vampire Weekend's afropop beat, and to return the meta-ness of it all, Ezra Koenig (of VM) appears! That's some fine networking their, boys.
This album is just a joy. And yes, I have no idea what he is saying.
The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come:
Aww shit, who died? You can tell me, it's ok. Because someone obviously did, and it has somewhat shattered John Darnielle.
This album rarely lifts it's mope, rarely allows any frustrations to boil over. It is contained by mourning, contained by the ritual of suffering alongside a loved one, then burying them, and then facing the rest of your life without them.
For those uninitiated with The Mountain Goats, this perhaps is not your best jumping on point. But if you've been through the ups and downs of past albums, you'll be stunned at the solemnity. You'll know something's up.
"And I won't get better, and some day I'll be free // Because I am not this body that imprisons me"
Amen, and strength.
Pantyraid - The Sauce:
If you look at my list of top 50 albums, you'd almost never guess I was a DJ. And fuck, a good DJ at that! So why so few electronic albums? Well, most electronic albums suck.. as albums. Very few can maintain interest all the way through. Very few can come across as anything more than a few hot singles with a pile of weak singles buffering it all.
So with that preface, I am just as surprised as you are to showcase this fantastic album. The name of the game is breakbeats, the frames of reference are Bassnectar and Machine Drum and Prefuse 73, but woah there is nary a misstep on the album. There is something to love in every track, and even a number of tracks that you just have to throw down on the dance floor. This as good as eDIT's Certified Airraid Material, just not quite as varied, and there are no guest MCs.
But it works as an album. I like to sit down and listen to this, end to end. I don't get bored, wishing it was all mixed. The production is meaty. The beats are hot. The traditions are honored. The bar is raised.
Mos Def - The Ecstatic:
OK, I have to admit I liked this album even more before I heard the Oh No disc with all of the beats on it, because DAMN, the Oh No beats are some hot hot shit. But even if Mos Def didn't get involved in the tracks and just paid for them from an instrumental album, whatevs, at least he chose well.
The album has some great wordplay, but often gets bogged down with his love of Islam. This happens a lot. A rapper finds Allah, or anal sex, or Jesus, or Sauron, then releases an inspired an album bogged down with their newfound obsession. The subsequent albums tones down the love-in, thankfully, so def looking to his next release. :)
And I am oh so happy for a quality verse from Slick Rick. As much as I hate the fucker, he brings a smile to my face sometimes.
If you haven't seen it yet, do go check out the videos of Mos performing Quiet Dog Bite Hard on Letterman, with him on drums... HOT.
Here you are, 2 tracks from each. 2 hours and 15 minutes of quality.
Beirut - La Llorona
Beirut - My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille
Camera Obscura - French Navy
Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
Fever Ray - If I Had A Heart
Fever Ray - Triangle Walks
Fuck Buttons - Phantom Limb
Fuck Buttons - Surf Solar
Gossip - 8th Wonder
Gossip - Heavy Cross
Japandriods - Heart Sweats
Japandriods - Young Hearts Spark Fire
Metric - Satellite Mind (acoustic)
Metric - Stadium
Mos Def - Auditiorium ft Slick Rick
Mos Def - Quiet Dog Bite Hard
Pantyraid - Crunkalicious
Pantyraid - Worship The Sun
Passion Pit - Little Secrets
Passion Pit - The Reeling
Phoenix - 1901
Phoenix - Lasso
The Decemberists - The Queens Rebuke, The Crossing, Annan Water
The Mountain Goats - Genesis 3:23
The Mountain Goats - Isaiah 45:23
The Twilight Sad - I Became a Prostitute
The Twilight Sad - That Birthday Present
The Very Best - Angonde
The Very Best - Warm Heart Of Africa ft Ezra Koenig
OMG getting so close! Take off your pants! http://thetastates.com/mp3s/blog/blog20091209.zip
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