tk’s top 10 albums of 2009


Alas, after a whole lot of this and a little bit of that, my 2009 list is ready to go.

I’ll start by saying, yes, I do feel bad for the poor artists who are releasing albums this Tuesday, the 29th of December. But no, I don’t feel quite bad enough to wait until January when no one will give a flying frick about a list for 2009. By then, people will already be narrowing down their 2010 lists.

Speaking of flying fricks, I must say that my #1 and #2 artists this year entered into an epic battle with as many lead changes as the Civil War game in Oregon. Who came out on top? Well, this is a music blog, not sports, so is that really an appropriate question to ask right now? Check ESPN if you’re really that curious.

As I emitted before, I did have mixed feelings about the music of 2009. This may have been partly because I’ve always had a thing against the number 9 (especially when preceded by two zeroes or when it’s the title of a movie that probably shouldn’t have been made). But, perhaps a bigger reason, was the fact that much of the releases in the indie scene left me cold. This includes the hot-shit, heavily-hyped acts such as Girls, The xx, and Dirty Projectors, as well as the not-so-hyped-but-still-embraced-by-many mainstays like M. Ward, The Decemberists, Camera Obscura, and Antony & the Johnsons. Still, I must say that I have developed a strong attachment to these 10 albums that survived my vicious pruning practices.

Girls, the San Francisco band, not to be confused with Girls, the gender or sex description.

You may notice that more mainstream releases landed on my list this year than in the past. In fact, four of these albums were able to penetrate the Billboard 200, despite being released by independent record labels (one of them even reached number 7!) This is reflective, I believe, of a current trend towards decentralization within the music industry. Mostly due to the internet, the big artists on the big labels have become less important than ever before. Also, while the individual song may matter more than ever (thanks to the iPod and iTunes shuffle), the radio single does not have the same power that it once had. Out of the rubble from these destructive changes within the industry have emerged the viral, word-of-mouth successes of Merriweather Post Pavilion, Veckatimest, and Swoon. All of this transformation makes me optimistic about the future of music. More access to more artists and word-of-mouth (or perhaps the typing fingers) fueling success or failure.

Here ’tis. My Top 10 of 2009.

10. Metric – Fantasies: Emily Haines, formerly of Broken Social Scene, composed these songs while living in Argentina and the result is a brilliant, high-energy rock album with tragedy, romance, and singable chorus lines.

9. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix: It’s tempting to call Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix overrated, with it’s poppy-as-hell presentation and car-commercial-ready content. But, when given a fair chance, the music will surely force you to think twice before employing the ‘o’ word.  This is a slick pop-rock production from one of France’s finest that deserves every ounce of its glowing attention.

8. Loney Dear – Dear John: These days, Stockholm may be giving birth to more talented artists than New York City itself (well, at least more than Jacksonville, Florida). Though he is not quite there yet, on Dear John, Emil Svanängen takes one step closer to releasing his magnum opus. Heartfelt, gorgeous indie pop that, in a just world, would launch him into stardom.

7. The Felice Brothers – Yonder is the Clock: The album that Bob Dylan should be making right about now (but isn’t). While it is nearly impossible to overlook the Dylan-esque touches on Yonder, that doesn’t take away from the undeniable quality of the music. A scrappy, richly-layered folk-rock effort that has left me curious about the direction of the new folk movement.

6. Japandroids – Post Nothing: Does Post Nothing really belong in the 1990s? Who cares! As far as I’m concerned, it belongs wherever and whenever it’s being played. The Japandroids are a noise-pop / garage/ punk duo from Vancouver, BC and an answer to the question: How good would No Age be if Dean Allen Spunt could carry a tune? An album that gives voice to all the frustrated longings of a 20-something bachelor that, in the end, resemble all the frustrated longings of a pubescent teenage boy.

This would be a good time to take a bathroom break before jumping into the Top 5.

5. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion: Everything that could be written about Merriweather Post Pavilion already has been in the online world, so I’ll spare you a long-winded exposition. This career-defining release from one of the decade’s most creative and, arguably, influential bands is psychodelic, tribal, confusing, and addictive.

4. Silversun Pickups – Swoon: On their second album, Swoon, the self-assured Silverlake rock and roll outfit know what sound they want and almost flawlessly achieve it. Features my aforementioned Song of the Year alongside a handful of driving, sometimes aggressive, tracks with crunchy guitars and androgynous vocals.

3. The Antlers – Hospice: Partly due to the (somewhat inaccurate) mythology of Peter Silberman writing these songs while locked away in complete isolation, there is a lot of intrigue surrounding Hospice. It is a deeply personal musical voyage that includes the full spectrum of raw human emotion–from the icy, lethargic lows captured in “Prologue” to the towering, doughty heights of “Sylvia” and “Two.” Despite my newfound appreciation for The Antlers,  a part of me hopes that this is their last album because Silberman says and does everything that he needs to here.

2. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport: Not for everyone! On Tarot Sport, this British duo combines the audacity and repetitious ambiance of house music with the dramatic, sometimes triumphant climaxes of post-rock (it makes sense that they are friends with Mogwai). The result is a 7-song noisy experiment that works.

1. Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish I Were an Eagle: I hate using the word perfect. It’s too easy. You can just whip it out like it’s nothing to in order to quickly and painlessly convince your friends that you really like something. So I guess I’ll edit myself. From the opening, bittersweet guitar line coupled with a p-%f-#tly framed lyric: “I started out in search of ordinary things. How much of a tree bends in the wind” all the way to the string-filled “I put God away” refrain at the album’s end, Callahan demonstrates his penchant for profound simplicity. This former Smog frontman has approached p-%f-#tion on this 9-track, no-lull album that makes me wonder if breakup albums are wasted on the young. In the end, it is the words (and the spaces between the words) that make Eagle such a breathtaking piece of art: “I used to be sorta blind but now I can sorta see.”

Tell me what you think! Go ahead and drop your own Top 10 in the Comments Section. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the year in music.

Meanwhile, look for Caleb’s post before Christmas.

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5 Responses to “tk’s top 10 albums of 2009”

  1. 1 Shane Knox

    I gave Animal Collective another try. In theory, they’re my favorite band ever: polyrhythmic, tribal/electronic. But I just don’t like their sound–a simple matter of aesthetics. It sounds murky. Obviously talented guys, and I want to like it, but don’t.

    However, Kid Cudi is a yes please.

    And Bill Callahan is a hell yes.

    Glad to see Loney made it on there, although I think Loney Noir is his best so far.

  2. Glad to see Loney, Dear make the cut. I need to hear more of The Antlers. “Two” is an amazing track though.

  3. 3 B-Melt

    WHAT!?!?!?! Except for the gross overplayed-ness of “fireflies,” Owl City’s Sophomore Album “Ocean Eyes” utterly blew my mind. I have the whole album in a playlist, plus the exclusive track “If Your Heart Was a House” and minus fireflies. Then I turn it on shuffle and listen to it for hours as the lyrics, melodies, harmonies and progressive keys take me away. Add in Breanne’s voice on a couple song, including her feature on “The Saltwater Room.” Definitely a top 5 album for me this year.

    Also, Relient K released “Forget and Not Slow Down” this year, a CD I was long waiting for, and in the beginning was disappointed. However, as the months went on I have grown to like it more and more and is in my 10 album mix playlist, “coincidentally” called “Top 10 of ’09”

    Just my $.02


  4. 4 Matt Salmons

    I must say, I’m surprised that Animal Collective didn’t make it into your top 3. That being said, your top 3 is pretty freakin’ sweet anyway. And I’m proud to say that your number 1 happens to be my fault haha. Ah, Good Ol’ Bill.

    In making my own list this year, I was faced with the problem of actually ranking one album over (or under) another. I fully understand that aside from the content, order generally is the only other ingredient in a top 10 pot roast. So I devised a fool-proof plan; I wrote each name on a piece of paper. I then proceeded to fold each piece into a seemingly identical airplane. I went on a road trip and somehow ended up in Grand Rapids, Michigan (don’t even bother asking how). Then I threw the planes simultaneously. Surprisingly, it didn’t help me decide anything other than the fact that that it’s extremely difficult to throw that many airplanes at once (but it sure is fun!). You can see the video



    Then I tried a new tactic; I actually listened to some music. After several hours of intense study, I decided that it would be an even better idea to listen to at least one of the ’09 contenders (rather than just Tom Jones singing “What’s New Pussy Cat” over and over again, which is exactly what I had been doing. Much like my “airplane plan”, it was very difficult… but it sure was fun!).

    So if you’re still with me, here’s what I came up with (I think):

    Honorable Mention: The Dead Weather- Horehound
    10. Antony and the Johnsons- Crying Light
    9. Miike Snow- Miike Snow
    8. Silversun Pickups- Swoon
    7. Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
    6. Fuck Buttons- Tarot Spot
    5. The Antlers- Hospice
    4. Loney Dear- Dear John
    3. The Big Pink- A Brief History Of Love
    2. Dirty Projectors- Bitte Orca
    1. Bill Callahan- Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle

    SMALL PRINT: All items listed above are subject, only by the Listor, to chance at any time, to anything he should choose whether it be music or porn or favorite dog-breeds. Under no circumstance may this list ever be titled or include the phrase: “Top 10 Most-Favorite Things To Do While Asleep in 2009”.

  5. 5 Matt Salmons

    I said “subject to chance” on purpose.

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