I did it last year, and I am doing it this year too. The public demands it.
I’m no music critic, I am not naming this list the ‘best’ of 2009. Jut my tops. My favorites. Those that saw the most action. Stands to reckon that if I played something loads, I like it loads.
I don’t know if this was a down year for music compared to last, or if I just felt the pressure of putting together a list (last year’s list was a spur of the moment thing), but this year was harder.
No matter, the process was pretty much the same as last year…
Using last.fm (which tracks what I listen to on the computer) I looked at what I played most over the last 11+ months and then compared that to how I feel about things now. Some albums saw a TON of time on my playlist early in the year, but fell out of the rotation, some from early in the year still get plenty of spins, yet others have come on strong late to make an impressive showing.
So, enough of my rambling. Here’s the list… a playlist of a song from each is at the bottom of the post. Hopefully all the links remain working.
10. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
Andrew Bird is a massively talented multi-instrumentalist and, as Holden Caufield would tell you, a terrific whistler. The songs on Noble Beast provide ample evidence of both facts. I have read that the lyrics are often an afterthought to Birds writing, and the music drives the process and indeed the music here could definitely stand alone. That being said, the lyrics, while often bordering on odd, are beautiful as well. Noble Beast came out early in the year and while it was never tops of my charts it remains in rotation especially as background/mood music. Track to check out: Effigy
9. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Up From Below
LA based 10 piece Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ debut full length album might be a bit uneven. But that’s alright. Really. The album is carefree, sometimes silly, full of life and of bluster (in a good way). You will find yourself singing along. Even before you know the words. Check out: 40 Day Dream
8. Eels – Hombre Lobo
I admit to being clueless about Eels before this year even if Eels songs have appeared in all three Shrek films. Hombre Lobo is a bit of a concept album. It’s subtitled “12 Songs of Desire” and it follows the same protagonist as he experiences and reacts to 12 sizes, shapes and flavors of desire. The songs go from soft ballad to barroom stompers. The production is a bit rough around the edges at time, intentionally so. It provides the album with a rugged feel, reminding you even at it’s most tender moments that the subject is a raw instinct. Check out: In My Dreams
7. Langhorne Slim – Be Set Free
Has a bit of a 70’s feel to it in some fashion. Slim does Cat Stevens or something. To that end there isn’t a boatload of groundbreaking going on here, but it’s the album is executed well nonetheless, and I am a fan of Slim’s voice. With few exceptions, even when this one get up and going it’s still got a mellow feel to it. Not always the right choice, but when the mood fits it really fits. Check out: Say Yes
6. Deer Tick – Born on Flag Day
Speaking of nothing groundbreaking but really well done…. You’d probably do well to classify Deer Tick as “Americana” or “Roots”. John McCauley, the lead singer has that old timey, gruff, almost froggy vocal quality that might totally put some off, but I am totally on board with it. The songs on this album sound like the boys were channeling 1950-something rockabilly and Buddy Holly and crew. Again, it’s all been done before, but there is an earnestness to it that makes it work. Check out: Straight Into A Storm
5. Roman Candle – Oh Tall Tree In The Ear
Pop. Pure pop. Power Pop. Bright, jangly guitar abounds. There a couple tracks such as Eden Was a Garden or Why Modern Radio is A-OK (even if it does sorta thumb its nose at the industry) that could be on every radio in the country if the band got the right exposure, but the album doesn’t stop there the disc is deep. No duds here. Check out: Eden Was a Garden
4. Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses – Roadhouse Sun
Last year it was Hayes Carll, this year Ryan Bingham for the country portion of my list. Unlike Carll’s appearance last year Bingham does not mean that I have gone country. It’s rock and roll with a country tilt (most of the time – there’s more to it than that – see my ‘check out’ suggestion). Like Deer Tick, the vocals might not be for everybody, but I am glad Bingham gargles with pebbles! Check out: Dylan’s Hard Rain
3. P.T. Walkley – Mr. Macy Wakes Alone
Another concept album. This time the story of a trust fund bratty princess who just can’t wait to off the old man to cash in on said trust fund and the mortician who is so smitten with her that he’ll help get the job done. I had never had so much as heard of P.T. Walkley until I saw him as part of a show headlined by the artist in the #2 spot. I thank heavens I was clued in. Check out: Somebody
2. John Wesley Harding – Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead
If you are long time reader, you might be saying to yourself right now, “Hey wait a minute…..!”. And, yes, this album was indeed on the 2008 list! But it’s my list and I’ll include it if I want to. I got my grubby little hands on it late 2008 but the album came out proper in 2009 so there you go. Wes is clever and witty. A hell of a performer and songwriter. It’s a pity I couldn’t put him in the top spot in either year, but two twos ain’t bad! Check out: Someday My Son
1. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
Absolute runaway top choice for me this year. No contest. Favorite album is a looooong time. I have been hyping the Avetts all fall and I am sure you are sick of it, so I’ll not go overboard here. These boys really brought it on their major label debut though. I can’t say enough about the energy, emotion, sincerity and power of this album. If you haven’t checked them out yet you really owe it to yourselves to do so. Alright, I said I wasn’t going to gush. I’ll stop. Check out: Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise
Honorable Mentions: Bell X1 – Blue Lights on The Runway, M. Ward – Hold Time, Fanfarlo – Reservoir, Neko Case – Middle Cyclone, Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Note: There is at least 1 ‘bad’ word in the playlist.
So, what will 2010 hold? Let’s hope it’s another great year for great music.