Friday, January 1, 2010

Top 10 albums of 2009

1. Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective
Who am I to disagree? The consensus best album of the year is also mine, and not due to a lack of effort. I listened to this record hard for about a week last January after it was first released, because I just wasn’t hearing what every blog from Pitchfork and Stereogum on down were describing, a record that would blow away all other competitors as the best of the year, if not the decade, if not the millennium, blah blah blah. The majority of Merriweather Post Pavilion is simply not as accessible as the Frankie Knuckles-influenced “My Girls,” my No. 5 song of the year “Brother Sport” (which, itself, is still an anti-pop pop song), or the sweet “Summertime Clothes,” and it took me a while to understand these songs don’t just need to breathe, they need to grow. For a record that is so electronic and effects-driven, it’s amazingly organic and communal. Try “Bluish,” a track that, at first blush, is too soft, too spare, too echo-y. But after time, it becomes one of the album’s standouts, a delicate tour-de-force. No wonder Simon Cowell recently admitted he’s never heard Merriweather Post Pavilion. Animal Collective have made the best album of the year that stands completely outside of an American Idol-influenced music world. And thank goodness for that.
(Previously reviewed here.) Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Best tracks: “Brother Sport,” “Summertime Clothes,” “My Girls”

2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by Phoenix
So the songs start to sound a bit like each other, and “Love Like a Sunset,” parts 1 and 2 are momentum stoppers, but with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, French rockers Phoenix unabashedly delivered a monster set of catchy hits – “1901,” “Fences,” “Lisztomania,” “Lasso” – without losing any indie cred. Formidable!
(Previously reviewed here.) Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Best tracks: “1901” (mp3), “Lisztomania,” “Fences”

3. Miike Snow by Miike Snow
Electro pop was big in 2009, and no one triumphed larger than Swedish trio Miike Snow and their under-the-radar, double-vowelled self-titled debut. Similar to Phoenix, it took a few listens to realize it was okay for a so-called indie act to be this accessible.
(Previously reviewed here.) Miike Snow - Miike Snow
Best tracks: “Animal,” “Black & Blue,” “A Horse Is Not a Home”

4. Manners by Passion Pit
Need another high-quality, highly listenable, electro pop debut? Passion Pit deliver on “Sleepyhead”’s wildly inventive promise with a CD that is far more dancefloor-oriented than I expected from what began as a bedroom project. Ones to watch.
(Previously reviewed here.) Passion Pit - Manners
Best tracks: “The Reeling,” “Sleepyhead” (mp3), “Let Your Love Grow Tall”

5. Ambivalence Avenue by Bibio
Maybe not as even as I’d like, but Bibio scores huge points for creativity, expanding on Moby’s template for found sounds and beats and funking them up – and in some cases, carefully slowing them down, like on the wonderful “Haikuesque (When She Laughs).” Glad I found him.
(Previously reviewed here.) Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue
Best tracks: “Lovers’ Carvings,” “Fire Ant,” “Haikuesque (When She Laughs)”

6. xx by The xx
A celebration of minimalism – in both sound and packaging – and a favourite of graphic designers for years to come. Some great songs, too.
(Previously reviewed here.) The XX - XX (Bonus Track Version)
Best tracks: “Basic Space,” “Islands,” “Shelter”

7. Love Vs Money by The-Dream
A late-comer to the top-album party, The-Dream fuses the best of Usher, Kanye and R. Kelly into a salacious, sexy, and surprisingly arty album.
(Previously reviewed here.) The-Dream - Love Vs Money
Best tracks: “Fancy,” “Right Side of My Brain,” “Mr. Yeah”

8. A Balloon Called Moaning by The Joy Formidable
They’re calling this an EP, but eight songs, especially of this can’t-miss calibre, is enough for me to put it on my favourite albums list. I expect big things from this Yeah Yeah Yeah-like trio in 2010. (purchase)
Best tracks: “Austere,” “Cradle,” “Whirring”

9. Post-Nothing by Japandroids
Speaking of eight songs, noise-pop B.C. duo Japandroids crank out a short, blaring set of tuneful slacker-ville tales.
(Previously reviewed here.) Japandroids - Post-Nothing
Best tracks: “Young Hearts Spark Fire” (mp3), “Wet Hair,” “I Quit Girls”

10. Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons
It suffers from a sleepy finish, but the first half of Sigh No More sparkles with five-star folk anthems.
(Previously reviewed here.) Mumford & Sons
Best tracks: “White Blank Page,” “Little Lion Man,” “The Cave”

Honorable mentions:
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
The Ecstatic by Mos Def Mos Def - The Ecstatic
Logos by Atlas Sound Atlas Sound - Logos
Lungs by Florence & The Machine Florence + the Machine - Lungs
The Blueprint 3 by Jay-Z Jay-Z - Run This Town (feat. Rihanna & Kanye West) - Single

And please make sure to check out my list of the Top 20 songs of 2009, along with the accompanying podcast.


Jeff said...

Awesome selection, I agree with all of these...

Nieka said...

the xx should be number 1 :)

Good list though