24 November 2009

Best Albums of 2009: mpbloggo's Picks

#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.


silentkid said...

I'm glad to see some love for Vetiver on here. Tight Knit is an amazing album. What's even more amazing is that my favorite song from those sessions, Wishing Well, didn't make the album and instead showed up as a limited-edition 7" for Record Store Day.

This is the first time that I haven't heard over half of what is on your yearly list. I'm falling behind. I'll have to check some of these out, especially Bibio. Great list, man.

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Native Minnow said...

I feel like I don't know anything about anything after reading this list. The only album I have is Phoenix. The rest I haven't even listened to.

I'd have to think about it a little more to put everything in rank order, but my favorite albums of the year off the top of my head are as follows: Eels - Hombre Lobo; Wilco (The Album); Cracker - Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey; Fanfarlo - Reservoir; Andrew Bird - Noble Beast; White Rabbit - It's Frightening; Franz Ferdinand - Tonight; Sea Wolf - White Water, White Bloom; Built to Spill - There is no Enemy.

Granted, that list might change by the time New Year's rolls around. I still have to get my hand on Crooked Vulture, Cave Singers, and a few others that have been recommended to me. Thanks for the music suggestions!

J. Bronson said...

Well I'm late, but here's what I've got:

Honorable Mentions:

Beirut - March of the Zapotec EP
Washed out - Life of Leisure EP

The List:

10. Black Moth Super Rainbow - Eating Us:
Extreme vocoder action and synths abound. Nothing too spectacular but I like it.

9. The xx - xx:
I hope to hear more of these guys in the future, this album seems like a great start. Not much variety in the album, but tracks 3 and 7 (Crystallized and Shelter) are good enough for me.

8. Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk:
Jim James, M. Ward, and Conor Oberst collaborating on an album? Awesome. I like most of their individual work better, but this collaboration was a nice treat this year.

7. Patrick Watson - Wooden Arms:
This probably would have ended up higher on the list, but it was a recent discovery and hasn't had enough playtime yet.

6. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest:
Didn't care so much for the past Grizzly Bear releases, but this one was quite nice.

5. Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free:
Some of this album I find borderline awful (Track 8... wtf?) but the good parts on this album more than make up for it. Actually, that's probably true of all Akron/Family releases for me. They always add noise/unlistenable bits, but then have these awesome tracks in between. Oh well. Either way, the first track is one of my favorite album openers ever.

4. Tune Yards - Bird Brains:
Probably the top album on my list that most people reading this would not like. Just some girl recording lo-fi folk by herself with her ukulele, adding some noise and hip-hopish beats along the way. Odd, but I've really enjoyed it.

3. Lhasa de Sela - Lhasa:
Probably my least favorite Lhasa album, but still good enough to make it this high on my charts. I can listen to her all day. All tracks are in English on this release; I prefer her singing in Spanish, but I guess something can be said about actually knowing what she's singing about.

2. PJ Harvey & John Parish - A Woman a Man Walked By:
I so glad that dear Polly Jean is still making music I can sink my teeth into. The first track is easily the best, but the rest is good enough to put this album in the number two spot.

1. Bibio - Abivalence Avenue:
No surprises here. It's just awesome.

silentkid said...

My picks for 2009's best albums of the year are in particular order with no explanation necessary. Enjoy.

10. Scream—Chris Cornell
9. Pancho and the Kid—Chris Barron
8. Sci-Fi Crimes—Chevelle
7. Backspacer—Pearl Jam
6. Black Gives Way To Blue—Alice In Chains
5. Ursa Major—Third Eye Blind
4. No Line on the Horizon—U2
3. Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King—Dave Matthews Band
2. Joy—Phish
1. Stereo Rodeo—Rusted Root

Amy Bronson said...

Oof. Looking at this and other top 10 lists, I see I've been way out of touch with new releases this year (or, really, just not buying albums willy-nilly anymore on iTunes - thanks, unemployment!) Anyway, 2 favorites have definitely been Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels (seeing many of these songs performed live was such a treat), and Jonsi and Alex - Riceboy Sleeps. It's funny, with Riceboy Sleeps, the first time I listened to it I just felt sort of 'meh' about it. But later when I piped the first track through my surround sound at home, I was hooked. Happiness has one of the prettiest string arrangements ever.

Sorry, enough babbling. Where should I start on your list? What's the first one or two albums you'd recommend to me? I'm really liking the Vetiver stuff - that's going on my wishlist for sure.

Another album I might add is Wooden Birds - Magnolia. These guys opened for Great Lake Swimmers and played the entire album and I really, really liked it.

silentkid said...

At least we have Phoenix and Vetiver in common. That makes me happy. 2010 should start off with a bang. Can't wait to pick up Spoon's new album.

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