Monday, December 14, 2009

Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2009

It's the end of the year, so it's time for end-of-the-year lists! There's music and books and movies to categorize and rank. Maybe you'll find a gem you missed from the previous 11 months, or perhaps you'll realize what you knew all along--that my (Joel's) taste in nearly everything is eclectic at best and incoherent at worst.

So be it. Let the listing begin!

10. Dark Was The Night (Various Artists): A fantastic compilation of the who's who in indie music. Produced by two guys from The National and featuring a myriad of some of my favorite artists (Sufjan Stevens, The National, Bon Iver, Feist, Arcade Fire), it also benefits the Red Hot Organization, a group devoted to combating AIDS and HIV.

9. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone: She's got fiery red hair, sentimental lyrics, and a great album cover. The alt-country singer-songwriter has an orchestral and experimental touch, yet retains the roots of solid songwriting. The album's final track is over thirty minutes of the sound of frogs in the evening. Doesn't get any more peaceful than that.

8. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion: Melodic and ethereal electronic indie pop. "My Girls" swells and swirls around a driving beat and honest lyrics. Sounds like the Beach Boys on acid, in a very good way. The album cover is fun to stare at.

7. The Swell Season - Strict Joy: Their followup after winning the Best Song Oscar for "Falling Slowly," the second album from Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova is more polished and sophisticated than their previous work. If the Once soundtrack was about the simple joys of falling in love, Strict Joy is about picking up the pieces when that love falls apart. Nothing quite up to the standard that "Falling Slowly" set, but a solid album nonetheless.

6. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest: The magnum opus of the Brooklyn experimental band. The near-perfect blend of melody, harmony, orchestral sounds, dynamics, and everything in between is remarkably rich and intentional. It will take multiple listens to catch everything that is going on in each song, as this is probably the most musically mature album of the year. These guys toured with Radiohead last year. Enough said.

5. Paper Route - Absence: A Nashville band with the right mix of frenetic drumming, synth swells, and deep-yet-catchy lyrics. At times crunchy synth pop, other times electronic-infused ballads, its a great album from start to finish.

4. Passion Pit - Manners: While everyone was singing along to the auto-tuned lyrics of Owl City's "Fireflies," they were missing out on this remarkably joyous album from Passion Pit. The vocals are like nothing I've ever heard; they'd be almost abrasive if they weren't so cheerfully addicting. Definitely dance-worthy, and could lift your spirits on the saddest of days.

3. Switchfoot - Hello Hurricane: Their most eclectic and daring album to date, this was an album worth waiting for the nearly three years of production. Drawing comparisons to a variety of great artists, from Foo Fighters to U2 to Snow Patrol, this is both spiritually enriching and musically intense.

2. William Fitzsimmons - The Sparrow and The Crow: In the grueling wake of divorce, Fitzsimmons writes heart-wrenchingly honest lyrics about the difficulties of estrangement. Sobering and strangely calming, this pathos-enriched album was also the best album to put our tiny son to sleep. Plus, I seriously envy William's beard.

1. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix: French electro pop takes the grand prize for 2009. The uber-catchy and coherent pop hits "Listzomania" and "1901" were my soundtrack for the year, the former being my phone ringtone and the latter my top played song on iTunes. This is simplicity on the far side of complexity; every song is quite straightforward, yet clearly Phoenix has taken significant time honing their craft.

Honorable Mentions: Metric - Fantasies, The Decemberists - Hazards of Love, Regina Spektor - Far, (500) Days of Summer Soundtrack, Bon Iver - Blood Bank, Joe Henry - Blood from Stars

What was your favorite music from 2009?


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  2. Good list. I love Phoenix as well, so I'm happy to see them at the top of your list. I didn't know you liked their album that much. Also love Passion Pit. And I like Owl City despite the auto tunage. =)

    I'm making an albums list as well, but it won't be posted until the 28th, I think.