Thursday, December 17, 2009

FaveAlbums2009 part 3: 10-2

Here it is! The top 10 [except for the #1 which of course I already mentioned here].
Find 11-25 here and 26-50 here.

Without further....

10 - Akron Family Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free

So many times this fall when I'd get sick of listening to everything else I'd put this on. "River" has long been a favorite, but it was "They Will Appear" and its imploding from the inside-out halfway through, a lá the Annuals' "Brother", that first blew me away. The scattered sound of the album opener "Everyone is Guilty" and the way it bursts in and then breaks down is a perfect introduction to the album. Every song isn't a 10 like the three I just mentioned, but that's probably why it didn't get much higher on my list.

9 - Ramona Falls Intuit

I'm not sure [and sorta ashamed] of two things about this album: how I hadn't heard about a Menomena side project until after hearing this and how I didn't recognize Brent Knopf's distinctive delivery, voice and vision until I read it was him. "Duh!" my ears exclaimed, and then I couldn't believe how I didn't hear it before. As with several albums on this list, Intuit has a couple of my favorite songs of the year, "Clover" and “Going Once, Going Twice”.

Sometimes I judge good lyric writing by my ability to understand what the writer is talking about-- and often times the same result can mean two completely different things. With Knopf, I can never say I'm quite sure. Sure, a lot of the same themes are covered as in half the other indie albums released this year [umm, right?]. But I don't care what it all means. It's emotional music, and that's what I love about it. It makes me feel something really good inside, like I want to identify whatever it is he's singing about so intently. And maybe that's it—maybe it's all about introspect. As I type that sentence Knopf cries out pleadingly "my heart wants just to know that it exists." Well played, Sir.

8 - Passion Pit Manners

I definitely anticipated this full length debut more than I anticipated Merriweather Post Pavilion. Their 2008 EP Chunk of Change totally blew me away--"Sleepyhead" was constantly in my head and on my phone [I made at least two different ringtones from the song]. So delighted was I when Manners it dropped and it actually lived up to the hype! It's a pure pop party, and was perfect to welcome the flower buds and sunshine and pastels of early Spring, when it arrived.

Some people hate Michael Angelakos's falsetooey oozey coo about relationships--I can't get enough. The year-old repeat "Sleepyhead" was even a welcome inclusion, even if it didn't change a lick since the home-produced EP release.

7 - The Decemberists Hazards of Love

Last year I hadn't even really considered TV on the Radio's Dear Science one of my favorite, or the best, albums of 2008 because it hadn't lived up to expectations I had of them. But when removed from the earth shattering Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes and Return to Cookie Mountain, it's a stellar piece of work in its own right. The same thing happened this year with the Decemberists.

Hazards of Love is an astounding rock opera. Period. Taking a page from their own book, they have done it again and again. Rock operas, that is. First there was The Tain, then the The Crane Wife, and now this. I came to love Colin Meloy and his league of extraordinary musicians after only their second album, but I have loved everything ever since.

When I first listened to Crane Wife I could instantly hear it filling a theatre, just as I had heard them fill a theatre three times before. I had the same feeling when the Love opera reached the third part of the medley “The Rake's Song”//”The Abduction of Margaret”//”The Queen’s Rebuke/The Crossing”. My Brightest Diamond Shara Worden guests as the Queen and she totally steals the show. Well, if it were a show [and it were a show, really, as Colin & Co toured this past summer playing the album/opera in its entirety. And here I was in Cyprus, missing my second straight Decemberists visit to Madison]. Awesome song, awesome album.

6 – Japandroids Post-nothing

Finding this album on my top 10 list is as much a shock to me as it may be for anyone who knows me. But then again, maybe not. Afterall, I was once a teenager just like [it seems] these boys sing about. I was in love. I love fuzzy guitars. I love pre- Green Album Weezer and Hum. And I sometimes love to wear my heart on my sleeve. This is what Post-nothing is all about. I consider “The Boys Are Leaving Town” to be great first for keeping my mind from wandering anywhere near the Thin Lizzy classic of a similar name. This album isn’t groundbreaking. It’s not complex. It’s just catchy as hell and it rocks and I can’t stop listening to it.

5 – White Denim Fits

So MPP dominated myTunes the first couple months of 2009, Miike Snow the next couple, Manners the middle couple. Fits dominated my iPod once I arrived to Cyprus. If you came into my office any time between 5pm and 11pm in July/August/September, chances are you heard the bluesy garage rock coming from the unfit Altec Lansing computer speakers we’re tortured with. It’s sort of fitting, however, that a stripped down album like Fits [is that feedback I hear? Aw, who cares] would be rocked so much on such a stripped down stereo experience. Like Post-nothing, there isn’t a whole lot of complexity here, however I’d wager it’s still about six times as complex as Post-nothing.

Halfway through we’re give a break with the instrumental dream sequence jam session interlude “Sex Prayer”. “Say What You Want”, “El Heart-Attack DCWYW” and opener “Radio Milk How Can You Stand It” rock the most, while “Regina Holding Hands” and my personal favorite “Syncn” close out the album perfectly with its slow build. I got into this album so much that I tried desperately to find anything else like it—Black Lips, Black Keys, The King Khan & BBQ Show, Almighty Defenders…. While those are all pretty good in their own right, nothing was ever nearly as good as Fits.

4 – The xx xx

I don’t know how these kids did it. But I imagine it may have gone something like this: “Fuck it, let’s just make an album already. It’ll have a drum machine, a bass, your voice, my voice, the twinkling of a piano, only we’ll use a guitar instead of a piano, and.. we’re missing something…. Oh, I got it—complete fucking crisp dead black silence every second an instrument or voice isn’t heard. Fuck it.”

And holy hell if that equation didn’t work. These are kids making this music?! The Japandroids are late twentysomethings writing teeniebopper love songs and early twentysomethings xx write songs that give the impression they learned from Leonard Cohen.

It took me a while to get into this album—when I first listened to it, I always wanted something more. But the adage/cliché is true—sometimes less is more. Everything is so stripped down and crisp, and their voices seem to just be hanging out there on threads. Sometimes, as in “Infinity” the voices face each other, and other times I imagine vocalists Romy and Oliver standing back to back as they sort of call and respond in “Crystalized”. Superb. Give this album to a love interest.

3 – Grizzly Bear Veckatimest

Another GB album and more Beach Boys and Beatles comparisons. More wonderful, warming choruses to sing along to. More melodic indie anthems to play over and over and over. What more could we ask for?

While I still consider Department of Eagles’ In Ear Park to be better, you can’t ignore any of this. The Iron & Wine-alike opening of southern nod of “Southern Point”. The smile-inducing power of “Two Weeks”. The all-around near perfection of “While You Wait for Others”. Or the building suspense of pre-chorus “All I Ask” and the singalong that ensues. “I can’t get out of what I’m into with you”, Grizzly Bear. And I love every minute of this relationship.

2 – Dirty Projectors Bitte Orca

Whew. How do you write about an album like this? It wasn’t difficult at all to realize this was one of my top favorites of the year. You’ve read it a couple times already that this and that dominated my speakers, but I just didn’t want to spoil the surprise—Bitte Orca was there all along. This album wasn’t officially released until June, but it leaked months before—as early as February or March if I remember correctly. I had actually just barely gotten my feet wet with DP’s Rise Above for some reason [I don’t know how I hadn’t fallen for it back in 2007] shortly before I nabbed the leaked Orca.

And it’s better! Rise Above is brilliant, but Orca is just about as perfect a merging of pop and experimental [whatever the hell that really means anymore] music you can get these days. Is MPP pop music? Just because it’s more mainstream than it’s ever been before doesn’t make it pop. I called Miike Snow’s debut pop, and I stand by that. Maybe I don’t even know what the word means anymore. And maybe I never did.

Critics have said Orca is the most accessible Projectors’ album to date. I always hated reading that sort of line, but it makes perfect sense with this. While Rise Above had the same lilting vocals, Bitte Orca wraps them up in something a little more…. poppy. Opener “Cannibal Resource” may have a scary name, but it’s quite harmless--in fact, it's extremely charming. And even though the opening chords remind me of the Jackass show/films, I get past that and swept away as David Longstreth, Angel Deradoorian and Amber Coffman make their way up and down the scales. I want to sing along, but of course I can’t hit most of the notes these guys can. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

“Temecula Sunrise”, “Stillness is the Move” and “Useful Chamber” are the standouts, and I can’t decide which of the latter two I love the most—each time I listen, those two play tug of war with my heart. Longstreth and Deradoorian’s harmonizing and scatting/yodeling of “Stillness” lend a beautiful backdrop to Coffman’s r’n’b-esque vocal delivery, which makes this a contender for tune of the year. But “Useful Chamber” has that mood swing that I love so much [as recently mentioned above about Akron/Family’s “They Will Appear”, White Denim’s “Syncn”, Ramona Falls’s “ et al]. It begins with a bounce and it ends with screaming guitars, shouts and cymbal crashes, and with has everything between. It’s totally a Ry-style track—epic and rollercoasterly emotional.


So there ya have it. Take it again from the top if you haven't done so.

And stay tuned for the other two lists: FaveSongs2009 and FaveEPs2009.

The FaveEPs is a very valuable addition, if I may say myself, because it includes a lot of EPs that others have on their album lists. There were so many good EPs [and albums] this year, I decided to keep them separate. Look forward to Mesita, Washed Out, Bon Iver, Suckers, Banjo or Freakout, Colourmusic, ZAZA, Delorean, Ducktails, El Perro del Mar, Mt Kimbie.... and more!

If you were missing some downloads on this page, those will be coming soon. Rest assured the FaveSongs list will be nothing but downloads. Well, that and my silly comments of course.


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