Hey guys! Here is my list of favorites from 2009. I hope you enjoy reading, and check http://www.myspace.com/lioncubband for more songs from SENECA.
1.) Islands – Vapours
This record delivered on about a decade of promise. There was an originality of spirit and song-craft that made a lot of people miss Unicorns and a nice blending of the sunny, AM pop of Return to the Sea with the drama and emphasis on rhythm that made the best songs on Arm’s Way so good. At least a third of these songs would make a top 20 list for the year and they are all unimpeachable as pieces of pop music. Nick Diamonds really made his first post-Unicorns masterpiece. I am confident this will become an all time favorite.
2.) Owen – New Leaves
I was a huge fan of At Home With Owen, Mike Kinsella’s 2006 release as Owen which I thought was criminally underappreciated and ignored. While that album was generally a reserved, slower, mood-oriented sort of record, New Leaves is honest to God POP music, smart pop music. The lovely thing about this record however is that Kinsella is using this new-found brevity and catchiness to talk about being a real live adult, about love and commitment and responsibility and anxiety. It was really refreshing to hear grown up music about grown up problems sound joyful.
3.) Tom Waits – Glitter and Doom Live
Live albums are usually souvenirs or stop-gaps, but Glitter and Doom sounds more like a crash course on the alchemy of Tom Waits, like those Viking Portable Editions that compile scraps of Hemingway or Faulkner. Songs are either completely deconstructed (“Lucinda”), pushed to their thematic limit (“Singapore”) or simply spit out with a menace that the studio versions can’t beat (“Make It Rain”). The second disc, comprised of one 30-minute track of Waits’ signature blend of one-liners, weird facts and tall tales, is just icing.
4.) Tegan and Sara – Sainthood
This was the big surprise of 2009 for me. I worked at a record shop where Tegan and Sara’s last album, The Con, was in pretty steady rotation, and while I liked that record plenty, Sainthood is miles ahead. Tegan and Sara are almost Spoon-like in their ability to add and subtract parts, to turn music into geometry, so that even the most basic catchy power pop songs like “Paperback Head” and “Arrow” become wiry experiments on what makes a song work. The 1-2 close of “Sentimental Tune” and “Someday” is stunning.
5.) Why? – Eskimo Snow
While I honestly missed some of his more impressive gymnastics on Eskimo Snow, a sequel to 2008’s Alopecia, the theatrical alt-country and 60’s pop-rock that Why? Is starting to explore is stunning. The delivery might be different but the lyrics are still at once haunting and hilarious and “Into the Shadows of My Embrace” may be their absolute best.
6.) Handsome Furs – Face Control
Honestly the best live act I’ve ever paid less than 25 dollars to see. This record was truly an inspiration and I adore all 13 of these songs, mixing the kind of paranoid catchiness of 80’s Springsteen with huge dinosaur drum machines and the most infectious melodies Dan Boeckner has written, Wolf Parade or otherwise.
7.) Cymbals Eat Guitars – Why There Are Mountains
Certainly my favorite new artist of the year. I saw them twice since this album came out and both times they were incredible. It is a great record, one that I would describe as “comfortable” more than anything else, well written and melodic and smart. All the songs also seem to work towards a whole, a cohesive, exciting album.
8.) Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle
Besides Owen and Aeroplane, 1929 Bill Callahan is the only artist that I can truly appreciate on a literary level as well as a musical one. This album is gorgeous and haunting and truly Southern gothic in its language and obsessions. Images like “a lion walking down city streets” and intimations like “All thoughts are prey to some beast” really stick, especially when bathed in the soft-glow beauty and Bill’s baritone. Totally unique and fascinating.
9.) Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
I feel as though I was one of few who preferred Show Your Bones to Fever to Tell, but I really feel Karen O is at her best when at her most poignant and thoughtful, when she’s invested in song craft and not pure power. It’s Blitz! is an even bigger, surer step in that direction, an album of terrific pop songs with some of the energy that a lot of people felt Show Your Bones lacked. Yeah Yeah Yeahs seem to be figuring out how to balance the bombast with beauty, and this is their best album yet because of it.
10.) Dead Man’s Bones – S/T
A complete surprise, this album got a lot of attention from Chelsey and I throughout the fall. Not only is Ryan Gosling a fine singer and musician, he is a terrific song writer and arranger, building a great collection of Halloween-themed spooky pop songs that sound like a mix of Arcade Fire and the soundtrack from the Haunted Mansion. The absolutely HUGE room sounds on this album, as well as the hilariously eerie kids choir turn the songs from humble ditties into odd, loveable mixtures of melody and giddy fright.
Aeroplane, 1929 – Original Sin EP
Bon Iver – Bloodbank EP
Sunny Day Real Estate – Diary and LP2 Reissues
Pains of Being Pure At Heart – S/T
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Top 20 Songs of 2009:
1.) On Foreigner – Islands
2.) Tow-Headed Boy (Achuluophobia) – Aeroplane, 1929
3.) Good Friends, Bad Habits – Owen
4.) Into the Shadows of My Embrace – Why?
5.) Eid Ma Clack Shaw – Bill Callahan
6.) Blood Bank – Bon Iver
7.) And the Hazy Sea – Cymbals Eat Guitars
8.) Switched On – Islands
9.) Alligator – Tegan and Sara
10.) I’m Confused – Handsome Furs
11.) 1901 – Phoenix
12.) Ambling Alp – Yeasayer
13.) Heartbeat – Islands
14.) 11th Dimension – Julian Casablancas
15.) Someday – Tegan and Sara
16.) Original Sin – Aeroplane, 1929
17.) Stillness Is the Move – Dirty Projectors
18.) A Nervous Whistle To Keep My Courage Up – Aeroplane, 1929
19.) The Wind and the Dove – Bill Callahan
20.) Daisy – Brand New