Notable Omissions: 2009 Edition

14Dec09

Four score and seven years ago, it was 1922. And while the Roaring ’20s were the first great height of leisure time in the US, it was hard to discover music independently without going to ballroom dances every night.

Some flappers dancing to the new Al Jolson hit, "Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goo' Bye!)"

Fast forward from the Jazz Age to the Digital Age, and it seems as if everyone is a producer. Indeed, the cast of NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast have declared the 2000s the best decade for music ever, in part because of the sheer amount of music being released each year. Not only that, more and more people can consume as much as possible thanks to the growing availability of legal music online.

Yes, we’re living in a new golden age for rock music. The “Roaring Zeros,” if you will. As tk and I launch our top ten lists this week, we acknowledge that it’s not going to be possible for us to write about every album we listened to. We each listened to a whole heck of a lot of music this year. As much as we’d like to, covering all of it is simply not a possibility.

That being said, we wanted to give you more than just our top ten. In the past, I’ve listed honorable mentions and other categories along with my top ten list, and that tradition is about to continue. Here, you’ll see the good, the bad, and the ugly of the albums that didn’t make my top ten list. tk will have a new post with his notable omissions later this week. Have opinions about any of these albums? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear your angle on these things. So, without further ado, here are the categories we’ll be discussing today:

HONORABLE MENTION: Number 11 through 15 on my top ten list, in alphabetical order. These albums are given the same full review as the top ten.
WORTH NOTICING: A list of albums worth checking out, reviewed in tweets (those of you following me on Twitter got to see these in advance!).
ALBUMS THAT MADE ME SAY, “WAIT, WHAT?”: Sometimes, an album doesn’t quite fit into categories like “the good,” “the bad,” or “the ugly.” I was confused by these albums for one reason or another this year.
DISAPPOINTMENTS: There was a lot of great music this year. There was also a lot that should have been greater.
THE JURY IS STILL OUT: For whatever reason, I didn’t listen to these albums enough to rate them. I think they’re probably worth listening to, but I’m not sure how they’d it into the rest of my list.

HONORABLE MENTION
Adam Lambert – For Your Entertainment: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s an American Idol album. But so what? I like American Idol. I get sucked into reality shows. And Adam Lambert is the first American Idol winner to come out of the competition with rock star swagger, an ear for good songs, and a polished debut album. He’s the best Idol since (and maybe including) Kelly Clarkson. With songs written by Pink, Rivers Cuomo, and Justin Hawkins (formerly of The Darkness), it’s a record that leaves all the blood, sweat, and tears in the studio. The only minor quibble I have is the sequencing. An album should flow logically instead of sounding like a greatest hits album. These are some great hits, though. Lambert has a great future ahead of him in the industry. (Wait, what? Kris Allen won? What? Way to go, America.)
MUST HEAR: “Music Again,” “Whataya Want From Me,” “For Your Entertainment
Antony and the Johnsons – The Crying Light: After a very strong 2008, Antony Hegarty steers his ghost ship of misfit toys through their third full-length album. The songs on The Crying Light are very fragile. They sound like they were carried into the studio on a morose breeze instead of in Hegarty’s lungs. This isn’t the sound of a heart setting itself on fire and tumbling down the stairs; this is the sound of something slowly dying in a beautiful, almost poetic way. Each track is absolutely gorgeous.
MUST HEAR: “Epilepsy is Dancing,” “Another World
Beck – The Velvet Underground and Nico: When Beck launched his Record Club project in June, it sounded odd. And yet, there was some promise in the premise. According to the official Record Club website, “Record Club is an informal meeting of various musicians to record an album in a day. The album chosen to be reinterpreted is used as a framework. Nothing is rehearsed or arranged ahead of time… The songs are rough renditions, often first takes that document what happened over the course of a day as opposed to a polished rendering.” While Beck and his collective may not have been trying to “recreate the power of the original recording,” they have brought a surprising new vision to this great old recording. The fragility and power of the album are brought back to life, with some songs driving on strong while others sound like they’re threatening to fall apart.
MUST HEAR: “Sunday Morning,” “Run Run Run
Tegan & Sara – Sainthood: The twins are back in town, kicking tail, taking names, and writing songs with unexpected vocal harmonies. Nobody is going to accuse Tegan and/or Sara of having the best voices in the business, but somehow, the abrasiveness of their vocal connection fits the (mostly) high-energy approach to pop-rock. We’ve almost figured out what to expect from Tegan and Sara. Almost. This time, they’ve come up with their best album yet, driven by those voices that sound like honey to some and nails on the chalkboard to others.
MUST HEAR: “Hell,” “On Directing
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz: Anchored by the most remixable song of the year (“Zero“), It’s Blitz is eminently listenable. I know that doesn’t sound like much of a compliment, but there’s something to be said for an album that you can just turn on and zone out to. And get up and dance to once in a while. The songs blend together, for the most part, which makes this one of the best background albums of the year.
MUST HEAR: “Zero,” “Heads Will Roll

WORTH NOTICING
AFI – Crash Love: A solid straight rock album from Hot Topic’s favorite band.
Beirut – March of the Zapotec/Realpeople Holland: Two semi-concept EPs that whet the appetite for another Beirut full-length.
Andrew Bird – Noble Beast: I don’t know if he’s necessarily improving, but he’s still writing great, great songs.
The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love: This hyper-literate indie prog group gets bigger and more epic than The Crane Wife – which turns out to be a mistake.
Discovery – LP: Bouncy electronic side project of Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot puts out a fun debut.
Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest: A solid effort anchored by a few great singles, including the phenomenal “Two Weeks”.
Metric – Fantasies: Rollicking electronic rock album driven by Emily Haines of Broken Social Scene gets your blood a-pumpin’.
Mew – No More Stories Are Told Today I’m Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories The World Is Grey I’m Tired Let’s Wash Away: Untweetfriendly
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: Shoegazing fuzz from an exciting new place.
Patrick Wolf – The Bachelor: Weird? Yes. Full of good songs? Sure. A worthy follow-up to The Magic Position? Not quite.
Sufjan Stevens – The BQE: Sufjan takes his expanding vision to a logical conclusion- a classical suite about the Brooklyn/Queens Expressway.

ALBUMS THAT MADE ME SAY, “WAIT, WHAT?”
Bob Dylan – Christmas in the Heart
Dark Was The Night
The Dead Weather – Horehound
The Lonely Island – Incredibad
Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson – Breakup

DISAPPOINTMENTS
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – Outer South
Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul
Fever Ray – Fever Ray
The Flaming Lips – Embryonic
Julian Casablancas – Phrazes for the Young
Julian Plenti – Julian Plenty Is… Skyscraper
Mika – The Boy Who Knew Too Much
Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk
Taking Back Sunday – New Again
Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures
The Very Best – Warm Heart of Africa
The xx – xx

THE JURY IS STILL OUT
Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
Dan Deacon – Bromst
Islands – Vapours
Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3
KiD CuDi – Man On The Moon: The End of Day
Kings of Convenience – Declaration of Dependence
Lady Sovereign – Jigsaw
Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You
The Mars Volta – Octahedron
Modest Mouse – No One’s First, and You’re Next
Muse – The Resistance
Pictureplane – Dark Rift
Relient K – Forget and Not Slow Down
Riceboy Sleeps – Riceboy Sleeps
Say Anything – Say Anything
Silversun Pickups – Swoon
St. Vincent – Actor
Sunset Rubdown – Dragonslayer
Switchfoot – Hello Hurricane
Wilco – Wilco (The Album)

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