Thursday, December 10, 2009

Feelin' Fine In Oh-Nine! (aka - Brian's Top 10 Albums of 2009)

After a couple months of debate, I've come up with the below list. Enjoy!
#10 Harlem Shakes – Technicolor Dream

If this list was made six months ago, Technicolor Dream would have easily been in my Top 3. Unfortunately, this album dropped considerably from my list after I saw them with like 20 other people at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. I'm not sure if it was just their youth, the crowd's lack of enthusiasm, or the show being one of the first on their tour, but the show really made me look differently at the album. You know how you see a band live that you kind of like and the put on a great show, which makes you fall in love with them? Yeah, well this was pretty much the complete opposite. Maybe I just had too high of expectations, as my friend saw them the next night in Minneapolis and thought the show was great. Sure this seems like a lot of negative things to say about an album that I consider my 10th favorite album of 2009, but in all honesty, before I saw them live, I played the shit out of this album.

#9 XX - XX

Going from Harlem Shakes (which was one of the first albums that I thought would make my top 10) to XX, which was the last album I identified for inclusion on my Top 10 list. I really have nothing insightful to say about this album. I just like it. A very chill, r&b influenced album. (Actually, this is the last album I wrote up for this post and I’m kind of itching to post my list, so I apologize for the half-assedness. )

#8 Drake – So Far Gone

The end of 2008 saw Kanye West and Lil Wayne straying from rapping and moving more towards singing, with help of Autotune. Drake is in a similar vein, blending r&b with hip hop, only he has voice that doesn't require Autotune and can spit punchlines with the best of them. So Far Gone is a mixtape that plays more like an album than a mixtape - many of the songs use original production and he makes eclectic choices for the songs he choses to remake - Peter Bjorn & John, Coldplay, Tears For Fears and (possibly most successfully) remixing Lykke Li's A Little Bit into a duet. But amidst all of the unorthodox remakes, Drake shows he can rap with the best of them, rapping side-by-side with Lil Wayne over Just Blaze's beat for the Jay-Z song Ignorant Shit. And its not very often that a mixtape track garners so much attention and radio play that it ends up as the #1 R&B/Hip Hop song, #1 Rap song, and #2 on the Billboard's Top 100 charts, as he accomplished with "Best I Ever Had." If So Far Gone's cross-genre commerical and critical success (hell, even Pitchfork gave it a 7.4) is any indication, once Drake's debut album - Thank Me Later - drops in 2010, he is going to be on top of the music world. Or, as he raps on "Ignant Shit" "I alway knew that I could figga/how to get these labelheads to offer 'em good figures/And me doin' them shows got everyone nervous cause/them hipsters gon have to get along with them hood n***as"

#7 Girls – Album
There’s a certain element of exuberance and authenticity that makes Girls – Album pull you in. The Elvis Costello comparisons are pretty spot-on, much of this album reminds me of “My Aim Is True” – not just Christopher Owens’ vocals, but the emotions, the instrumentation, and lyrical content. There’s a certain quality of this music makes me think that no one would raise an eyebrow if a classic rock DJ snuck a song in , but at the same time doesn’t sound like its pandering or classic rock by numbers. It sounds fresh and new, yet familiar and comforting. I dig it.

#6 Neon Indian – Psychic Chasms

Neon Indian’s Psychic Chasms is my favorite album of this whole “Glow-Fi” / ”Chillwave” movement (or whatever other clever names Pitchfork dubs it). I also am a big fan of Mystery Tapes’ Seek Magic and Washed Out’s High Times, but decided that Psychic Chasms is my favorite representation of this style of music. For those of you of you not hip to the whole Chillwave subgenre, basically its fun, lo-fi, electronic music with tons of 1980s influence. I think “Deadbeat Summer” is the perfect example of what this style is about (and by ‘perfect’ I mean, it uses Todd Rundgren sample ). The thing I like most about this stuff is its warm, summery vibe. Living in Wisconsin can be depressing during the winter, but throwing on your earbuds and listening to this album will make you forget all about the cold and make you feel like getting ready to hit the beach.

#5 Japandroids – Post-Nothing

Some albums make you fall in love with them on first listen. Other albums take some time to click with you. Post-Nothing falls in the latter category for me. After a suggestion of several enthusiastic friends I gave this album a listen, but it really did not grab me. About two months ago when I decided to get serious about this Top 10 of 2009 list (yes, I'm a nerd and it takes that long for me to figure these things out), I gave the album another listen. And another. And another. I feel a little weird/old when I hear the "1990s Revival" tag thrown about, but whatever you label this, its good stuff. It thrives off being straightforward. Post-Nothing's primordial, distortion drenched sound makes their simplistic lyrics anthemic

#4 Pains of Being Pure At Heart – Pains of Being Pure At Heart

What amazes me about Pains of Being Pure At Heart’s debut album is how consistently good this album is. While writing my top ten list, I have also been working on my mix-cd of songs from 2009 and, while most of the albums I’ve listed have 2 or 3 songs that really jump out at me for inclusion, I have slotted almost every single song on this album as my selection for this album. If that’s not a testament to the overall quality of the album, I don’t know what is. Plus what not to like about a band that reminds you of some sort of twisted love child of My Bloody Valentine, Belle and Sebastian, and The Smiths?

#3 Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

Honestly, I don’t have a lot to say about MPP that hasn’t been said before. The album is fantastic and is one of those albums that upon first listen I knew would end up as one of my favorite albums of the year.

#2 Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

I am personally shocked that no one, as of writing this, has put this album in their 2009 top ten. Maybe Phoenix isn’t cool anymore because their songs are on car commercials or something? I think that’s bullshit. Its great to see Phoenix finally get the (sorta) recognition they deserve. They made an album that is amazing from top to bottom. Some people (not me) knock Merriweather Post Pavillion because they feel its more accessible/commercial than their previous releases, but that is not something you can say about Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Phoenix stayed true to the musical vision they’ve had for their previous 3 studio albums and built off of it. There were similar high points on United and Alphabetical, but none of those albums touch the consistency of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – which is what makes this a special album. If you haven’t seen them live – this is a band you need to check out, if for no other reason than their drummer fucking rocks. They are great performers with lots of energy.

#1 Arctic Monkeys – Humbug

Ever since I heard Beneath the Boardwalk during the summer of 2005, I have felt that the Arctic Monkeys were a band with the potential to be great. Their high energy, catchy blend of post-punk Brit Rock hooked me early and its no surprise that I was greatly anticipating their 3rd album. What did surprise me was musical maturity and overall quality of Humbug. Recorded in Joshua Tree, California with Josh Homme producing, the band built on the successes of their previous two albums without retreading previously travelled ground. Its not surprising that lead singer Alex Turner cited Cream and Jimi Hendrix as two artists the band listened to while recording, as the album has a much darker, psychedelic sound (as evident on “Secret Door” and “Pretty Visitors”). Morrissey also turns up as an influence on one of the high points of the album, the ballad “Cornerstone”. These new influences do not overwhelm album, as songs like “Crying Lightning” and “Dance Little Liar” would fit seamlessly with either of their first two albums. Humbug may not make it on everyone’s top of 2009 list, but its easily the album that I’ve enjoyed and listened to the most so gets #1. Great job.

The Next 10 (alphabetically): Atlas Sound, Camera Obscura, Dark Night Of The Soul, Delorean, Memory Tapes, Papercuts, Passion Pit, Pete Doherty, Royksopp, White Denim

Mixtape of the year: Lil Wayne – No Ceilings

Album I'm most likely going to regret not putting on my list: Smith Westerns

Albums I admit are good, but really did nothing for me: Antlers, Grizzly Bear

Favorite Reissues/Archive Releases: The Beatles - Mono Box set, Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space 3-CD Edition, Nirvana – Live At Reading

Thanks for reading! See you on the 27th!



Top Ten Albums said...

Yeah- I'll have to check the tape but I believe that the Phoenix record was on my list- LAST YEAR... also, last year I predicted that "Use Somebody" would be the song of the year,,,

who knew?

Rudey knew :)


Top Ten Albums said...


You might want to check the tape because either you own a time machine or you're referring to their previous album, since Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix didn't even leak on the internet until the second week in march.