Wednesday, December 16, 2009

my top 20 favorite albums of 2009, it was a good time

Shoe gazer. Synthy-pop. Chamber-pop. Indie-electronic. Those aren’t sections of you’d find in a record store but those genres fill my iTunes catalog. As a true reflection of that, they fill my top everything this year, in this case my favorite albums.

I thought it was a great year for music. I think we’re still seeing a trend to the slow death of big label artists and more small and middle size acts standing up and getting some attention. Here’s to that continuing.

(in keeping with parlance of our times, I will attempt to summarize all of these albums in a Twitter friendly amount of characters, ‘cuz really how much time are you going to take to read this.)

20. The Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns
For fans of: Handsome Furs and Throw Me the Statue

Great, indie rock folk trio out of Alberta. They put out this album independently, people fell in love with them and then Saddle Creek signed them and re-issued it. The deserve it.

19. William Elliott Whitmore – Animals in the Dark
For fans of: Lucero and Tom Waits

Dirty, whiskey soaked, throaty, voice of the American Revolution and the steam engine, yeah I said it. Everyone should know him before he disappears back into his horse farm in Iowa.

18. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
For fans of: Old Crow Medicine Show and Josh Ritter

An update on Americana with a bit of hipster wit. Nothing’s wrong with that. It’s got an old-rugged quality to it, like an old beat up, well loved acoustic guitar.

17. Ben Nichols – The Last Pale Light in the West
For fans of: William Elliott Whitmore and Lucero

The voice of an angel; a hung-over, dragged through gravel, suckin’ on a Marlboro, traveled cross the desert in a Western movie and then ordered a whiskey at the bar angel.

16. Handsome Furs – Face Control
For fans of: Wolf Parade and The National

A great album to get lost in, with some pretty smart lyrics upfront and some synthy hooks to back everything up.

15. Glasvegas – Self Titled
For fans of: My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain

I listened to this album for 3 months, constantly. Thought they’d be the next big thing, can’t figure out why that didn’t happen, but I blame U2.

14. Steddy P – Style Like Mine
For fans of: Tupac and Mobb Deep

I listened to more hip hop this year than ever, this really stood out and he’s from KC. The production on this album is top notch and some topical lyrics make for an interesting ride.

13. Bell Orchestre – As Seen Through Windows
For fans of: Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Arcade Fire

America’s still learning how to listen to modern instrumental music and by modern I mean not Classical. If only they realized most of the lyrics they heard were crap you’d think they’d embrace it.

12. Bat For Lashes – Two Suns
For fans of: Neko Case and Imogen Heap

A voice that has me on my knees with a ring waiting in my hands. Smart lyrics, great beats and she even got some commercial appeal this year.

11. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Self Titled
For fans of: Camera Obscura and The Antlers

NYC kids filled with drama and so much shoegazing, it’s perfect. Every verse comes off like a profound moment in each of their young lives, particularly in “Stay Alive”, great track.

10. Polly Scattergood – Self Titled
For fans of: Regina Spektor and Tori Amos

There’s enough drama on here to keep an audience of Tori Amos fans on the edge of their seats and then send them streaming to the merch table. Dark hooks and passion soaked lyrics, hopefully she’ll find love in the US soon.

9. Metric – Fantasies
For fans of: Stars and Feist

A great name for an album from the stunning Emily Haines. She does it again, bouncing in and out of some swoopy beats and she’s finally getting some deserved commercial recognition. Nothing wrong with getting paid.

8. The XX – XX
For fans of: Phoenix and Grizzly Bear

Male and female vocals are traded back and forth over a very hipster-friendly vibe as these Brits take you on a foggy, rainy, grey-sky trek.

7. Jonsi & Alex – Riceboy Sleeps
For fans of: Sigur Ros and Amiina

Sigur Ros frontman, Jonsi along with his partner Alex and longtime SIgur Ros contributors Amiina team up to make one of the most hauntingly beautiful albums you’ll ever hear. The music sounds like your favorite painting.

6. An Horse – Rearrange Beds
For fans of: Rainer Maria and Frogpond (both RIP)

This one blindsided me. Saw them open for the Appleseed Cast and it was the perfect pairing. Two Aussie kids hiding behind a silly name making simple indie pop music with femal vocals up front.

5. Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything to Nothing
For fans of: Bright Eyes and Silversun Pickups

Most of these songs start in a veil and then unravel into this fist fight of double drum kits and Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde lyrics. Who uses two drum kits? No one, but maybe more will now. These guys deserve a big stage.

4. Passion Pit – Manners
For fans of: Battles and Avalanches

I know Kansas City hates this band, but this album surpasses the hype. You can’t be mad forever KC hipsters. One of the best start to finish albums of the year. I bet Aphex Twin even likes this album.

3. JJ – JJ N 2
For fans of: Fever Ray and Passion Pit

JJ is this year’s unicorn. They’re an obscure, by choice, group that every music freak wants to know more about, hear more from and see live. I listened to “From Africa to Malaga” at least 10 times in a row once.

2. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
For fans of: Mew and Daft Punk

This will be a “best of 2009” staple or darling. I could pour superlatives all over this thing. It’s all of my favorite things. Check out the track “1901” and tell me you don’t love it.

1. The Low Anthem – Oh My God Charlie Darwin
For fans of: The Avett Brothers and Bright Eyes

This album sounds like the ghosts in abandoned train yard or desolate railroad town got together to play their hearts out before going back into hiding. These three musicians gut their souls and it’s a beautiful thing.


  1. Enlightening list. I'm off to give the Pains of Being Pure at Heart another try.

  2. I need to check out The Low Anthem. It sounds like it reminds me of World's End Girlfriend... cheepy vibes and whatnot.

    Here are my best albums of '09 if you're interested: