23 November 2009

Poll: Best Albums of 2009

I hereby inaugurate the second annual "Best Music of the Year" mpbloggo reader's poll. May we not forget the stunning successes of last year's poll.

And let me just get this out of the way. In another month or so I'd like to do a Best of 2000-2009 poll. Ooh, that will be a lot of fun. And very difficult.

Here is a sampling of what one might see in your iPod given that you were a music fan in 2009:

In all, 2009 was a terrific year for music. Much, much better than 2008, say I. It was no 2005/2006, but it certainly beat the last two years.

Some observations. As I look back on 2009, I see a few things.

First of all, you are not going to read an article about 2009 music without hearing something about AnimalColectiveGrizzlyBearDIRTYPROJECTORS. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me to see Ann Curry, Oprah, or Doctor Oz doing a 2-minute Today Show style piece telling soccer moms why they should love these albums. So let me just mention them here, say, "they're good", and get that out of the way. In my opinion, if those are the only three releases you feel compelled to talk about this year, you missed a lot of really good stuff. Like:
  • The indie-folk seeds that were sown in 2008, with releases like that of Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver, continued to produce this year. The Great Lake Swimmers' "Lost Channels", Cass McCombs' "Catacombs", and Megafaun's "Gather, Form, and Fly" are all good examples, and extremely enjoyable albums.
  • I also noted an explosion in what I'll call "bubble gum indie" this year, with Phoenix's "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" leading the charge. Other notable releases approached similar earworm catchiness, like Passion Pit's "Manners" or Discovery's "LP".
  • There were also some interesting 2009 releases that seemed borne either of frustration with the digital age or nostalgia for analog sounds and recording aesthetic that were common at the time people like me were little kids. Neon Indian's "Psychic Chasms", and Washed Out's "Life of Leisure" both come to mind. I really think "Life of Leisure" was produced on a computer, converted to cassette, dubbed about a dozen times, then converted back to mp3. Anyway, there was a litany of similar releases. But, for having a very wide appeal and for not giving itself over completely to the style, Bibio's "Ambivalence Avenue" is definitely the best of this bunch and gets my vote for one of the best releases of 2009 (not sure where exactly it will end up in my final ranking). Also, don't miss Memory Tapes' "Seek Magic"--I keep going back to that one over and over again.
  • Finally, we heard from some old favorites this year. Wilco gave us "Wilco (The Album)", Son Volt released "American Central Dust", The Flaming Lips offered "Embryonic", Andrew Bird had "Noble Beast", Sonic Youth had "The Eternal", and Yo La Tengo had "Popular Songs".
  • Other bits of miscellany were notable as well: The National's "Dark Was The Night" compilation was a two-disc who's-who of indie rock, Sparklehorse released (kind of) "Dark Night of the Soul", an album/film somehow involving David Lynch that you can't now or ever obtain legally thanks to a contract dispute. But do try nonetheless, because it is really quite excellent. Finally, The Beatles and U2 both issued remastered versions of their back catalog.
And of course, those observations are heavily skewed towards my listening preferences. I know I'm really omitting quite a bit above.

So what trends did you see?

All this makes me think that I really need to ressurect "Song Of The Week".

On to the voting.

The procedure:

Same as last year. You will pick ten new releases and rank them by whatever criteria you care to, but generally the idea should be "good" i.e. "me likey". You will number them 1 to 10, with 1 being your best, most favoritest album of the year. You will then submit the list in the comments form, or if you prefer more anonymity, you can email them to me at michael.b|r|o|n|s|o|n {ampersand} sbcglobal.net, removing the bars of course.

Can't think of ten? No problem. Just give me your top five, three, or even just one.

I will then utilize a highly refined mathematical scoring algorithm, which will consist of me awarding 10 points to all the 1’s, 9 points to all the 2’s, etc.
Hopefully, like last year, we will be gracefully rewarded with a neat little list of 2009 albums that will not only allow us to check our collective hipster credibility against the likes of Pitchfork and AV Club (each of which is industriously compiling its own best-of lists as we speak), but will also show us some interesting intersections of listening tastes among the humble readership here.

The rules:

I will accept submissions through next Friday, December 4th. Or until whenever I get around to compiling the results.

You must choose albums and not EPs or singles.

Any album released from December 4th, 2008, through December 4th, 2009 is eligible.


Assuming I can find the time, and that I have listened to all of the albums that make the list, I will write a blurb for each album. If you would like to contribute your blurb and share some of your own thoughts and experiences with the albums you are nominating, please do so.

My own nominations will appear in the comments.

Good luck! And if you need help, see Wikipedia's (non-comprehensive) list of 2009 albums released.

As a footnote, here are the albums sitting on my iPod that have a "2009" tag (of course, there are others...as items without the tag are missing. And there are lots and I am too lazy to figure it out).

A.C. Newman Get Guilty
Andrew Bird Noble Beast
Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion
Atlas Sound Logos
Ben Kweller Changing Horses
Bibio Ambivalence Avenue
Bibio The Apple & The Tooth
Bibio Vignetting the Compost
Built To Spill There Is No Enemy [Explicit]
Cass McCombs Catacombs
Choir Of Young Believers This Is For The White In Your Eyes
Dirty Projectors Bitte Orca
Discovery LP
Fruit Bats The Ruminant Band
Great Lake Swimmers Lost Channels
Grizzly Bear Veckatimest
Japandroids Post-Nothing
Jeremy Enigk OK Bear
jj jj n° 2
Junior Boys Begone Dull Care
Mark Olson & Gary Louris Ready for the Flood
Megafaun Gather, Form & Fly
Memory Tapes Seek Magic
Neon Indian Psychic Chasms
Passion Pit Manners
Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Riceboy Sleeps Riceboy Sleeps
Sonic Youth The Eternal
Sparklehorse Dark Night of the Soul
The Antlers Hospice
The Beatles All Albums Re-released
The Clientele Bonfires on the Heath
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
The XX xx
Vetiver Tight Knit
Washed Out High Times
Wilco Wilco (The Album)
Wild Beasts Two Dancers
Woods Songs of Shame
Yeah Yeah Yeahs It's Blitz!

1 comment:

Jen said...

I really, really hesitate to say anything here (commenting past the deadline is proof of my hesitation) because, much like last year, I feel totally out of the loop of new music. If I was out of it last year, I am even MORE out of it this year...I blame the baby.

And, sadly, I can't even think of any other albums I've acquired in 2009 other than ones you have recommended. Except, of course, for Beyonce. Yes, I paid money for a Beyonce album, which technically came out in 2008, but was re-released this year. Whether or not that counts doesn't matter, because it's not making any "best of" lists. As much as I enjoy it (and totally laugh at myself for that), it doesn't even seem like it should be comparable to other music.

And since all the new music I've gotten this year has mostly come from your recommendation, I'm not going to tell you anything you don't already know. Wow. Are you starting to wonder why I'm even commenting?!? I am. I'm good at giving people plenty of reasons not to listen to me.

I'll give you my top 5.

5. Great Lake Swimmers, Lost Channels. I really enjoyed Ongiara a couple of years ago, so was glad to get this one. Love this guy's voice.

4. Riceboy Sleeps. Hard to choose between 5 & 4 here, but I put this one ahead because it moves me just a bit more than GLS.

3. Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest. Reminds me of driving to and from the cabin in the mountains. Good and groovy and going somewhere.

2. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Little embarrassed to admit this but two weeks ago this wasn't even on my radar. Jonny and I listened to the sample song you provided, loved it, bought the album, and have been having dance parties ever since. So, thanks. Maybe with a little more time it would rank lower than 5-3, but for now, it's sitting pretty high.

1. Bibio, Ambivalence Avenue. My acquisition of this album is documented on facebook, as you know. It made sense to me that Jeff liked this but I was surprised to know that you like it as much as you do. I love it. Every time it ends, I start the album over again.

This comment is already 5x longer than it needs to be, but here's a little more. I would be really curious about how you stay on top of all of this. It seems to me like there is just so much music out there. How do you weed through it all? How do you even get exposed to the smallest portion of it? Is it the XM radio? Is it the websites you read/follow? Do you have some kind of psychic connection that the rest of us lack? Do you ever sleep? Whatever it is, it's impressive and Jonny and I totally benefit from the fruits of your labors. So, thanks.

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