#10 - Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
Sample song: No Intention
This is one you'll likely see on every "Best Of" list this year. I was initially resistant, but these songs stick in your head, which is pretty remarkable given how experimental the timing, song structures, and arrangements are. I get a little weary of all the praise it receives (I already saw it on one "Best of the Decade" list--don't we need more time to determine that?).
#9 - Vetiver - Tight Knit
Sample song: Through The Front Door
Silentkid turned me on to this excellent SubPop band. I've gone back to this album whenever I've been unsure of what to listen to on a given day, and it has never disappointed. Most memorable was driving from Calgary to Banff in a snowstorm. It seemed to hit that situation just right.
#8 - Memory Tapes - Seek Magic
Sample Song: Run Out
One of the more eclectic albums to show up on my list this year. Sometimes it sounds like an old AM radio station. Other songs just find a great groove, like the one posted above.
#7 - Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Sample song: While You Wait For The Others
Of the three most talked about albums this year (Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, and Dirty Projectors), I liked this one best. Every song has a way of getting under your skin and into your head.
#6 - Atlas Sound - Logos
Sample song: Walkabout (Featuring Panda Bear)
Brandon Cox temporarily escapes the confines of Deerhunter (everybody's 2008 darling) to record some wonderfully hazy, dreary waltzes. Really, who writes in 3/4 time these days? Walkabout is one of a few surprises on this album--very catchy, and very different. I'll take my Panda Bear and Animal Collective in light doses like this any day.
#5 - Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Sample song: 1901
To me, this song is "the sound of 2009". After falling in love with Phoenix from their soundtrack appearance for "Lost In Translation", and then singing their praises to mostly deaf ears ever since, it was nice not to be able to dial up late night TV this summer without seeing these guys just kill with this song. The album is like this track--sparse and to the point.
#4 - Cass McCombs - Catacombs
Sample song: You Saved My Life
This is one of the more unconventional tracks on Catacombs, but it really stands out to me. Cass McCombs has a real ear for writing sparse hooks and setting them to interesting and unconventional lyrics.
#3 - Riceboy Sleeps - Riceboy Sleeps
Sample song: Sokkseyri
Sigur Ros frontman takes two years to record an ambient album with his boyfriend. This disc was really panned by the critics. I didn't get it. Most conclusions amounted to "it's boring". I really have a problem with that. This music makes me feel incredibly alert and introspective. I also feel like my aural pallet has become cleansed after every listen. It amazed me to learn that every sound on this album is organic--no keyboards or synthesizers. No wonder it took so long to complete. Some have compared it to the drivel associated with the New Age genre. I really think this music transcends the trappings of New Age. It sounds ancient, like it is touching some deep nerve buried within the human spirit. And simultaneously it refreshes. You can't put on this album and expect any quick fixes.
#2 - Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels
Sample song: Unison Falling Into Harmony
Such a great notion, that. I loved me some Great Lake Swimmers this year. It may be that my acquisition of this album coincided with my week-long trip through their native Canada, for which this music was perfect. Tony Dekker's voice has such a tender, heartfelt quality.
#1 - Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue
Sample song: Fire Ant
Picking one song from this album was incredibly difficult because each track crossed multiple genres and stylings. So "Fire Ant" was just kind of the sure bet. Bibio's previous music is nice, but amounts to little more than noodling on an acoustic guitar in a dreamlike, nostalgic kind of way. After making the unlikely switch to the Warp label this year, I'm not sure anybody (Warp fans and Bibio fans alike) knew quite what to expect. But he delivered a real masterpiece. As my brother Jeff put it, these songs have a very modern, glitchy sound, but they can't escape the nostalgic warmth of Bibio's earlier work. I really think all these factors make this is a breakthrough album.
What are your favorites from 2009? List your 10 (or however many) in my poll.
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