Since I’m so late with my best music of 2009 post, I’m going to make it a top 11. They are listed with my most favoritest first, but in some cases the order is so close it’s rather arbitrary. Like last year, this list is unabashedly based on my personal taste and experience. Other albums with greater artistry no doubt were produced this year. I didn’t listen to them as much as these.
Oohs and Aahs by Say Hi
Say Hi (formerly Say Hi to your Mom) is Justin’s favorite band, and he doesn’t think this is their best album, but this one came out in early 2009 and never got knocked off my ipod playlist. It’s a kind of slow-burn traditional rock, which is not particularly fashionable right now but is always in style with me. Sometimes the chord changes match the content, and I love that. I think “Elouise” is a really great song and “oh oh oh oh oh oh oh” has a great dancey beat.
Ladyluck by Maria Taylor
I just discovered Maria Taylor this year and we got two of her albums which both feature pretty arrangements of nicely crafted songs. Taylor’s voice is comforting, her melodies are a good combination of listenable and surprising. Listen to “Cartoons and Forever Plans”
Curse these Branches by David Bazan
I liked Bazan’s work in Pedro the Lion before I even entered college. His lyris and delivery are often startling and depressing and meaningful. This is Bazan’s first album produced under his own name, and there has been some interesting discussion among critics because Bazan describes it as about his move from faith toward agnosticism. Some commentators, notably David Dark who I admire quite a bit, consider this to be a very faithful album. Its beauty is certainly stark and sad, but nonetheless it’s a very good album. Listen to “Curse Your Branches”
Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear
This album is decidedly derivative of some great bands in the 60s and 70s. This is both its weakness and its strength. I love the high-energy guitar breaks and Beach Boys background vocals. On the other hand, something that really makes me love an album is when it sounds fresh and different. To be fair, this does have a fresh take on these familiar sounds. “Two Weeks” is a great example, and an indisputably great song.
God Help the Girl
This is the soundtrack for a fictional film made of Belle and Sebastian songs re-recorded. It’s fun to hear these songs with a different singer, and they hang together well. Sometimes I like pretending my ipod is the soundtrack for the movie scene I’m in (my life seems to feature a lot of bus-riding scenes…) and this is exceptionally good for my hipster movie. Listen to “Funny Little Frog.”
Masters of the Burial by Amy Millan
This is a lovely, delicate album from one member of the supergroup Stars. Though Millan’s last album was more twangy than I prefer, I think this is a great example of soft country-pop that finds its way easily into my most-played list. One definite highlight is the countrified cover of Deathcab’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” Another good song to try is “Towers”
The Life of the World to Come by The Mountain Goats
Every track on this album is named for a bible verse, but you have to figure out what it has to do with the story on the track, which is often contemporary and confessional. I know, sounds like my idea of a good time. I finally gave it my undivided attention when I was doing this post, and it moved up in my estimation from the experience. It doesn’t jump out in shuffle, but when I finally payed attention it just bowled me over. I had to keep changing the song suggestion because every single song was so good, and in some cases looking up the story made it a lot cooler, like in “Genesis 30:3.” I also suggest listening to “Hebrews 11:40.”
No Line on the Horizon by U2
I really like when this list makes people want to listen to things they haven’t heard of, so I hesitated to include this album at all, but it’s pretty good. Typical U2: complex lyrics which work on more than one level, catchy hooks, dramatic rock posturing that somehow doesn’t make me want to puke when it is coming from Bono.
Crazy Ever After by The Rescues
Justin doesn’t like this one very much, but it got a lot of plays for me this summer. It’s poppy and fun and has some great harmonies. Perfect for car singing. Or house singing. Aren’t you excited to live with me, Justin? I know I’m not the only one who finds this album incredibly catchy though, I’ve heard it all over tv. Try “Crazy Ever After.”
We Were Promised Jetpacks selftitled
So first of all, this band gets like 100 points for having an awesome name. They are labelmates of the Scottish band that got my best album of the year last year, Frightened Rabbit, which also helps. Like Frightened Rabbit, the frontman of this band sings in his charming Scottish accent, and they have dramatic arrangements that build the emotional intensity in their songs, making them compelling and exciting. Perhaps not the magnum opus that was Midnight Organ Fight, but still well worth a listen. “This is my House, This is my Home” is a great example.
Still Night, Still Light by Au Revior Simone
Au Revoir Simone is an all-girl, all-keyboard band. As if that wasn’t enough, their songs are delicate and inventive, their lyrics are surprising and often joyful. Like most of the albums on this list, you will probably find it excellent or annoying. Try the song “Shadows.”