My Nine Favorite Albums of the Year

29Dec09

So why did I select nine? Because I always use the number ten and let’s be honest, we all use that number when we want to recount something big. So I decided to make this list a little more exclusive by cutting down the numbers by one. I love music, so I’m always listening to new stuff. I don’t own as much as I want to, but that’s because I still buy all of my music, so working on a budget halts my future acquiring of music on occasion.

9. Dark Was The Night- Various Artists- Of course I have to start out with this album. Put together by the guitarists from the National; Dark Was The Night, is the first charity album in my eyes to acquire strictly based off of merit. Highlights on this album include “You Are The Blood” an epic new song from Sufjan Stevens and a cool, slightly electronic take on Nick Drake’s “Cello Song” by the pairing of Jose Gonzalez and the Books. But the true gem is the match-made-in-heaven grouping of David Byrne with the Dirty Projectors on “Knotty Pine”. It’s a shame that the second disc isn’t as strong as the first, but at least it includes an Arcade Fire song.

8. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros- Up From Below- Take Arcade Fire, add about three or four members, make them folkier, trippier, and from California, and you have The Magentic Zeros. These guys are lively to say the least. This is one of the ultimate road trip albums this year, the kind of road trip when the sun is out and you’ve just dropped a bit of acid (Warning: the author of this blog does not in any way endorse the “dropping of acid”, doing drugs makes you “uncool” and your friends won’t want to play with you anymore because you’re “tripping balls here”). This CD is embodiment of all of the joy that comes with being young, invincible, and in love. “Home” is amazing, when it ends, you find yourself amazed how fast it flew by despite being just over the five minute mark.

7. Embryonic- The Flaming Lips- I had given up on the Lips years ago after I heard of the existence of Zaireeka. That album was made of four CDs which were expected to be played in four different CD players at the exact same time. Luckily, the Lips have now figured out how to do ambiance without multiple stereos. A dark, mysterious affair it’s hard to believe that the same band that made “Do You Realize?” could craft songs as dark as “See the Leaves” and “Worm Mountain”.

6. The XX- The XX- A collection of stripped-down, rather dancey songs about sex and relationships. Sounds pretty dull, huh? But that’s where you’d be wrong. These guys are so smooth and skillful, one can just ignore the intentionally awkward lyrics. This is one of those discs that lures you in slowly, letting the music speak for itself, rather then shoving a message down your throat. It’s hard to find a weak link on this, even their cover of Aaliyah’s “Hot Like Fire” sounds solid.

5. Tonight, Franz Ferdinand- Franz Ferdinand- There is no chance in hell that this album is on anybody else’s list and I don’t care. I am a huge Franz fan and love their work. This album easily overtakes the previous one, with fun tunes like “No You Girls” and “Live Alone”. The show-stealer is the rather odd “Lucid Dreams”.

4. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix- Phoenix- Everyone needs to own at least one Phoenix album. These Parisian rockers will take one riff and stick with for an entire song, but they are so catchy that you just don’t care. You could of course just purchase “Lisztomania” and “1901”, but you would be missing out on all the other bells and whistles from the other seven or so jams. A highlight includes the tight, bouncy mid-album stand-out, “Lasso”.

3. Merriweather Post Pavilion- Animal Collective- Yes, this was the top album on the Pitchfork list, but I am my own man. For those of you unfamiliar with Animal Collective, they are an experimental electronic ambient group focused on samples and loops. This CD is easily their most accessible to date. Panda Bear (his real name is actually Noah Lennox) reuses a lot of the tricks that he used on his solo album, Person Pitch, to make AC even more pop-like. With this pop sound and Panda Bear’s voice sounding strangely like Brian Wilson, the aesthetic of Post Pavilion gives the idea of the Beach Boys…in space!!!!!

2. Veckamist- Grizzly Bear- What started out as a solo project by Ed Droste has now come full circle as a true four-piece band. Veckamist is beautiful, while each song feels just so wrapped up in a shroud of mystery, it’s that mystery that makes it so much more engrossing. “Two Weeks” has one of this year’s most distinctive riffs with a piano chord that just stays in your head. Michael McDonald has recently covered “While You Wait For The Others” and Jay-Z seems to be a fan of the band, so that counts for something.

1. Bitte Orca- Dirty Projectors- This disc is bloody brilliant. Dave Longstreth is a musical genius, while he sometimes lacks direction (his last Projectors project involved the emotions he felt while listening to Black Flag’s “Damaged”, an album he hadn’t heard in over a decade), his understanding of harmony set against disjointed rhythms has few parallels. There are a lot of diverse sounds on this album; in the first listen, one can find traces of punk, guitar pop, East African, and Celtic music. Not matter the genre, each song features a cool guitar hook and spectacular vocal harmonies from the band’s three female singers. You have to love an album that follows it’s most modern song, a true R&B revelation titled “Stillness is the Move”, with a slow traditional ballad (“Two Doves”). I saw these guys open for TV on the Radio this summer and those were the songs that book-ended their set, Stillness as the finale. You have not lived until you see a tiny white girl put Mariah Carey to shame.

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