2009: my favorite albums

wow another year gone by.

in the past 12 months, we (and by we, i mean america, duh) were entranced/mystified/horrified by lady gaga, were subjected to hearing a phoenix song every time we turned on the tv, and christened a new national darling in a 20 year old “country” star known for her signature blond curls. our eyes also rolled back into our heads each and every time a credited music blogger named merriweather post pavilion the best album of 2009. back in january.

unlike last year, i sadly cannot tell you how much i spent on music in 2009. this year, i went back to buying albums in physical cd form (when i could, obviously) because of a little thing best buy calls “reward zone.” what a scam, though. you have to spend $250 to earn a measly $5 off coupon. not a very good ROI, if you ask me. and you really should take my word for it because i have a BUSINESS degree from a top tier BUSINESS school which means i can use financial terms like “ROI” and REALLY MEAN IT!

to be honest, i think 2008 was a much better year for music. not to discredit 2009 at all, but my top 10 of 2008 was surrounded with much more excitement than this year’s lists. in fact, i’m reeeeally looking forward to 2010 because those bands from last year will be releasing new albums. hopefully.

and i am SO RELIEVED TO BE DONE WRITING THIS POST. it’s been hanging over my head for weeks, and now, i can finally go back to posting about whatever i want without feeling guilty about not fulfilling this obligation to my readers. also, don’t you love how i didn’t even make the deadline i set for myself for having this thing done?! UGH.


10. grand- matt & kim: january 20, 2009

to be honest, a bunch of albums could have easily been placed in this #10 slot. it was just that kind of year. i guess this one made the cut because it’s pretty different from the rest of the albums on this list. plus, one of the songs on grand became a music video in which matt and kim get naked in times square. (it’s art. duh.) so what i’m trying to say is that this album has more cultural relevance to 2009 than many others because that video has more than 1 million hits on youtube and arguably made matt & kim more of a household name than they had been previously. there’s not a whole lot to say about this one, other than that it’s a reliable, feel good album. perfect for driving on a sunny day or walking to class. nothing super special, but if you enjoy a good beat and heavy percussion, this is for you. also, they remind me of a younger, more brooklyn-ized mates of state. so that’s not a bad thing…

i recommend: good old fashioned nightmare, daylight



9. weathervanes- freelance whales:

you know, it really annoys me when there are unsigned bands like freelance whales out there and people like owl city are embarking on nationwide, sold out tours. how does that even happen? (that being said, if you enjoy owl city, i think you will also enjoy weathervanes.) i heard that freelance whales started out just playing together in random subway stations. their music reflects that perfectly. they don’t need vans full of fancy equipment. sometimes, all you need is a good harmony, a tambourine, a xylophone, and a banjo, and voila, there’s the first track on your debut album. but don’t worry…it’s not all rustic. in fact, a good half of the songs are very futuristic, driven by synth. i saw these guys open for fanfarlo, and while i wasn’t completely floored by their level of performance (it’s clear that they are new to the touring thing), i was still really entertained by the members’ constantly changing roles on stage. at times, they really did sound like whales. still not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. and ps, they did get signed very recently, so yay for them.

i recommend: generator first floor, the great estates



8. aim and ignite- fun. : august 25, 2009

call me biased, but if nate ruess puts out any musical project in a given year, it’s going to make my top 10 list. fun. will never be the format without sam means, but this is a pretty great alternative. they managed to preserve some of my favorite aspects of the format while still maintaining a separate identity from the past. it’s like, you know you’ve heard this guy’s voice somewhere before, but you can’t really place it because the accompanying music is different. i think i like this album a lot more now than when i first bought it. it must contain some inexplicable nuances that one can only come to appreciate after many listens. like the 2 format albums, it’s a good mix of upbeat productions and stripped down melodies, and with the exception of a couple of duds, there’s really something for everyone here.

i recommend: walking the dog, the gambler



7. veckatimest- grizzly bear: may 26, 2009

what else is there to say about veckatimest? pretty sure all that can be said has already been said. this is a solid album, and all the hype surrounding it has hurt it more than it has helped…we’re all grizzly bear-ed out at this point in the year. people don’t want to listen to it now because all the snooty critics love it, but it’s still really good!!! i think they’re like an older, finer tuned vampire weekend. and i don’t say this to take anything away from the vw guys. obviously, the two bands aren’t in the business of trying to make the same kind of music. like, at all.), but grizzly bear just has a contained sound: less staccato, more orchestral (and bon iver-y). (some might say this album is boring, and it can be, at times, if you listen to it straight through. however, a few of these tracks, on their own, are some of the most beautiful songs i’ve ever heard. out of all of the albums that have been heralded as the best of 2009 (anco, dirty projectors), this is the one i liked the most.

i recommend: all we ask, fine for now


6. big whiskey and the groogrux king- dave matthews band: june 2, 2009

i really don’t think any sort of explanation is necessary here. i mean, i waited 4 years for this, and as i expected, it wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t too bad either. if this was one of your first exposures to the band, then i am so excited that it was big whiskey and not stand up. in fact,

i recommend: seven, shake me like a monkey



5. manners- passion pit: may 19, 2009

passion pit was probably one of the biggest bands of 2009. i can’t think of too many other bands that were talked about as much as they were before and after manners came out. these guys were pretty revolutionary, yet ironically not weird enough to still be embraced by mainstream culture and commercial consumerism. i liked this album, but i almost think it made it into my top 5 because of the remixes it spawned. i appreciate the uniqueness of this band, but i’ll admit it’s a little much for my ears to handle at times. but still, if you consider yourself a fan of music (any kind), manners is one of those albums that you should probably own. i was fortunate enough to see passion pit live in 2009, but like many others, my experience was tainted by the fact that michael angelakos really can’t sing. great crowd atmosphere, though, if that’s any consolation. why do i keep bashing this band? they clearly made a big enough impression on me to make this list. i don’t know! case in point: this is a solid album, and i think it’s important for people to own it because i think it had a much bigger impact on music this past year than we might realize right now.

i recommend: little secrets, to kingdom come



4. noble beast- andrew bird: january 20, 2009

i would be lying if i said i really really loved this album. i mean, solid effort by andrew bird, but there is just nothing really that outstanding about noble beast. i think what bothers me about this album more than his others is that it doesn’t convey his talent and artistry as clearly and effectively as his other work. it’s almost like you have to see him perform these songs live to truly get a grip on what this man is capable of doing. if this album was my first exposure to him, i would be pretty unimpressed, i think. but i did listen to it a whole lot, and saw him live 3 times in 2009, so i felt it deserved a spot on this list. but we can’t overlook the fact that without noble beast, “sovay” would still be my favorite a.bird song of all time, and i wouldn’t have the best ringtone ever. “anonanimal,” people!!!! it’s simply magical, and i can’t think of a musical moment that fills me with more joy and happiness than what occurs at 2:18 of this very song. but the most important thing is that i love this man with all my heart, and the way he seems to intertwine (lyrically and musically) bits and pieces of songs into others is irresistable, and i just can’t get enough!!!!! (creepy?)

i recommend: section 8 city (this song is the bomb dot com, really), souverian



3. i and love and you- the avett brothers: september 29, 2009

this is a recent addition. ive owned this album for less than a month, but i just can’t stop listening. for awhile, i told myself that i wouldn’t buy into the avett brothers hype. one of those bands like kings of leon that have been around for years but have started to seep (okay, explode) into mainstream culture. i saw these guys open for dmb twice in may, and i wasn’t really that impressed. i liked their southern vibe, but it was a bit too screamy for me. those feelings may have been influenced by the fact that i was dying of anticipation to see dave or that i had just weathered an extremely severe thunderstorm on the lawn of the smirnoff centre in a poncho/trash bag. regardless, i love this cd now. (in case you’re wondering, it is much less screamy than they sound live.) there’s a lot of variety here: there are tracks reminiscent of counting crows, derek webb, and even guster. so i guess what i’m saying is that i’m eating my words. but i still don’t plan on buying it’s blitz! or middle cyclone.

i recommend: head full of doubt/road full of promise, january wedding



2. kevin devine- brother’s blood: april 28, 2009

there was a point in 2009, when all i talked about was kevin devine and other artists that reminded me of him. he’s one of those people that you hear about but aren’t intrigued enough to look into on your own. like, “oh i’ve heard of him but i’ve never heard any of his songs.” yeah, that was me too. but then i saw the light! my life as i knew it changed in may when i bought this album on a complete whim.  if you’ve gotten a little bored with, say, brett dennen, this might be an album you want to invest in. a unique voice (haunting and grainy) coupled with politically charged lyrics…this is kevin devine. his set at lollapalooza (in an absolute downpour) was the my favorite out of everyone i saw during those 3 days. he’s one of those artists that can keep you completely engaged while keeping the self-promotion and showiness to an absolute minimum. he really sets himself apart from all of the other singer/songwriters out there with his passion, which is made so evident in every aspect of his art. and i’m not just referring a passion for the creation and performance of music, but his passion for equality, justice, and truth.

i recommend: carnival, another bag of bones



1. reservoir- fanfarlo: february 2009

well what can i say? 2009 was the year of fanfarlo for me. my favorite album of the year (no contest, whatsoever) and my favorite concert experience as well. next to one man loop machines like andrew bird or howie day, fanfarlo has got to be one of the most effortlessly talented bands i’ve ever seen and heard. reservoir‘s got it all. the perfect combination of instruments (guitar, keyboard, strings, xylophone, you name it) to create an appropriately wide (but not too wide) spectrum of songs. personally, though, i think simon balthazar’s voice is best suited for the slow ones. there haven’t been many bands that have reached that “i can’t stop talking about them” status in my life. fanfarlo is definitely one of them. if i could, i would post this video of them performing “im a pilot” in an abandoned junkyard in nebraska EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. or this one of the band having an impromptu jam session in a garden. oh wait, this is the third time i’ve referenced that video here on this blog in the past few months. PERHAPS THIS MEANS YOU SHOULD WATCH IT BECAUSE IT JUST MIGHT CHANGE YOUR LIFE. i have so much respect for bands that will self-release an album because it says that they truly believe in their music, whether or not they are going to make money off of it or not. that’s what fanfarlo did before giving reservoir away (basically) online for $1 and THEN signing with atlantic and re-releasing it in september.

i recommend: i’m a pilot (obviously. probably my most played track of 09), the walls are coming down





~ by CJL on January 12, 2010.

2 Responses to “2009: my favorite albums”

  1. Some great picks here,definitely feeling your Kevin Devine pick though.

  2. […] that kevin devine uses his music as an avenue for activism, (i believe i referred to this as “his passion for equality, justice, and truth“), this song is especially relevant […]

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