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My Favorite Albums of 2009

By now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the Spinning Platters Top 15 Albums of 2009, and you’ve been waiting patiently for me to release my personal list with it’s accompanying witty commentary. (Just don’t look for little album cover photos here like I had over there; that took ages.) One change for this year is that I’ve written full reviews for many of these albums over on Spinning Platters. For those albums, I’m providing convenient links rather than writing new material. It takes a lot of time, this editor in chief thing, so I’m looking to save some. Read on, dear readers!

15. Patrick Wolf – The Bachelor.

14. The Bloodsugars – I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On.

13. Porcupine Tree – The Incident. It’s rare that a Porcupine Tree album with finish this low on one of my lists, but this album just doesn’t give me the urge to listen to it over and over again. A lot of the material on it seems extremely derivative of their earlier work, and while that criticism has been popular over the last couple of albums for others, it’s finally become true for me. Plus, the second disc feels like throwaway tracks to me, and rather than raise the value (more songs!), it lowers it (mediocre songs).

12. Tommy Sparks – Tommy Sparks. I mentioned this guy in a post earlier, linking to his video of “She Got Me Dancing,” a fun track built on a “borrowed” riff from the Ohio Players’ “Love Rollercoaster.” The whole album is just happy dance music, and I find myself coming back to it over and over again.

11. Jay Reatard – Watch Me Fall.

10. Muse – The Resistance.

9. Silversun Pickups – Swoon.

8. White Lies – To Lose My Life.  For two weeks earlier this year, I was really into this album. I started telling people about it whenever I could, and I bought tickets to see them supporting a band called Friendly Fires that I had never heard before. Well, after the show, where Friendly Fires blew me away, I started listening to them and forgot about White Lies. But then I started searching through my music for 2009 albums, and I started loving this record again. It’s got that dark British sound I like so much, the singer sounds amazing, and the lyrics are melancholy (if a bit obvious at times). Now I’m into the album again, which is why I like making these lists so much.

7. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest. I owe my love of this record to Michael McDonald. He recorded “While You Wait For the Others” with the band as a B-side, which finally got me listening to Grizzly Bear, and then Veckatimest. I discovered immediately that this was not the alt-country band I assumed them to be, but rather a band with sweeping harmonies and melodies that seem to tell a story. It’s beautiful stuff, and is best enjoyed in quiet contemplation.

6. The Joy Formidable – A Balloon Called Moaning. This is technically an EP, but maybe it’s an album. The confusion over this cost it a spot in my nominee list for Spinning Platters, but I can do whatever I want here, so I’m including it. This is a Welsh three-piece band that’s yet to visit the U.S. for any shows. I discovered them through a blog that’s now dead to me (but you can follow the amazing former writer on Twitter) when I saw the video for their single, “Cradle.” There’s an enthusiasm in the performance that’s absolutely infectious, and there’s an urgent drive to the band’s music that forces me to pay attention. When I went to England, I hunted down the CD and brought it home. It’s great from start to finish.

5. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

4. Dredg – The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion.

3. Metric – Fantasies. This is another one that shot up the charts while listening to everything again to make a decision. I guess Metric is technically an indie rock band, but it’s when the synthpop influences are prominent that this record really shines. There’s no bad songs on this album: it comes in quickly, kicks ass, and then leaves just as quickly. This invites you to play it over and over again, appreciating all the subtle genius. There’s lyrical brilliance, unexpected tempo changes, and an impressive dynamic range.

2. Bird and the Bee – Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future. This album is the highest charting Blue Note release in this history of my list. That’s because this project started as a jazzy pop project from Inara George and Greg Kurstin, and has evolved more toward the pop and dance side of things. What you’ll find when you get this album is a sweetly sung collection of songs that wear the influence of the “standards” on their sleeve, but then all run through the production of a guy whose credits include Britney Spears and Lily Allen, among other chart-toppers. It’s a labor of love, for sure, from a guy who’s basically too busy to do it. (I asked him how he finds the time for Bird & the Bee when I went to a signing in Austin, and he shrugged and smiled.) It’s an inspired pairing, and there’s songs on here for every mood.

1. Music Go Music – Expressions. As a bonus, what I wrote about it for the Spinning Platters Top 15: This album is a representation of everything that’s right with today’s music. It’s a band thrown together from pieces of other bands as a fun side project. It’s been promoted through clever low budget videos on Youtube. And the band shines more as a live combo than they do, even on my favorite album of the year. There’s really no way to separate the joy I get from watching them from the joy I get listening to this. I’ve written a full review of this album for Spinning Platters, and I think it says everything there is to say about what makes this so wonderful. Just know that it’s the best time you’ll have listening to music in a long while.

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Winners in other categories:

Song of the year not found on one of my top albums: “My Girls” by Animal Collective

Probably the second place choice for the song of the year thing: “Remedy” by Little Boots

My favorite 2008 album that I didn’t discover until this year: Friendly Fires by Friendly Fires

Best holiday album that people are making fun of, but I think I may actually like non-ironically: Christmas in the Heart by Bob Dylan

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