Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009: Best albums, singles and most overated of the year.

Albums of the year
tell me why I'm wrong/what I missed in the comments section

1. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
In another universe (or maybe just a different decade) "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" would have been the top selling pop record of 2009. Not just because I think it was the best album of the year — and it is — but because what the hell is good pop music if it's not this. It wasn't, though, because the definition of "pop" has skewered so juvenile, so Disney, so Miley, that even something as universally accessible as Phoenix is still not a household name. There are other albums on this list that, understandably, don't have mass appeal. But "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" manages to cater to indie rockers, new wave haircuts, French pop kids and top 40 sensibilities in equal, genre-defying measures, without falling into any identifiable trap.

On first listen, the Spackle-fill keyboards and synths phasing in-and-out behind a rock-solid, danceable rhythm section and undeniable vocal hooks were almost too fun and too nice for ears more accustomed to the blogs' rejection of anything this easy to love. But after making it through lead-off singles "Liztomania" and "1901," the record reveals cinematic moments that instantly bring to mind fellow Gallic mind-blowers-of-eddying-synth M83. The album's vocal-free center piece "Love Like a Sunset Part 1" and it's lyrical counterpart "Part 2" are what make the biggest statement — Phoenix are serious about having fun, especially when that fun is as dense as the darkest art record, and layers of brilliance are shrouded by the most catchy pop melodies.
2. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Any attempts to reference Animal Collective's sound always, inevitably, fall short. The melodies more resemble looped tribal chants than anything western, though they are typically, misleadingly described as psychedelic folk. It's psychedelic for sure, but hardly resembles anything any layman would ever describe as American "folk," and I think that's the appropriate standard for a genre that has existed as long as locomotives. I think the touchstones are just closer to dance music and electro than anyone wants to admit. Regardless of what genre Panda Bear, Avey Tare and Geologist fall in to, these three Brooklyn hipsternerds with laptops make more noise, more confrontational rhythms and sonic assaults than anything this accessible has any right to.
3. Japandroids - Post Nothing
A ragged and loud garage band that doesn't sound anything like the blues-based sounds of early-2000s "the" bands, Japandroids are one of several acts at decade's end to embrace '80s and '90s college rock as ground zero, just as those seminal indie acts felt the same way about 1977. But they don't completely disregard the baby-boomer's canon, evidenced by "The Boys Are Leaving Town" a clear homage, in name at least, to Thin Lizzy.
4. White Rabbits - It's Frightening
5. Girls - Album
6. Monsters of Folk -Monsters of Folk
7. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
8. The Thermals - Now We Can See
9. Black Lips - 200 Million Thousand
10. M. Ward - Hold Time
11. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains
12. Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
13. Deer Tick - Born on Flag Day
14. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
15. YACHT - See Mystery Lights
16. Flaming Lips - Embryonic
17. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
18. Yo La Tango - Popular Songs

19. Mos Def - The Ecstatic
20. St. Vincent - Actor
21. The XX - XX

Honorable Mentions
Dan Auerbach - Keep it Hid
Drummer - Have Fun Together
Atlas Sound - Logos
Dan Deacon - Bromst
Blakroc - Blakroc

Built to Spill - There is No Enemy
Bob Dylan - Together Through Life
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!

Best "Singles"

Critically Acclaimed Albums left off list on purpose:
Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
There's a couple good tracks, I guess. But mostly it's aggravating, annoying and it's supposed best track "Stillness is the Move" is fucking unlistenable.
Sun O)))
Its low, bottom of the ocean low, and slow, and drone-y and they all wear hoods ... ooooo scary ...
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
It's accomplished, sure, but the second half puts me to sleep.
Bat for Lashes - Two Suns
I really don't get why this has the following it does. I guess even kids in Williamsburg need a pretty pop singer to latch on to, being that they're all too cool for everyone on the radio and all.
Raekwon - Only Built for Cuban Linx Pt. 2
I'm just about completely done with new rap, even when it does have a few killer tracks. Shit's nihilistic and pointless, but worst of all repetitive and boring.

Albums I didn't spend enough time with to judge
Sonic Youth - The Eternal
Antlers - Hospice
Bowerbirds - Upper Air
Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
The Dead Weather - Horehound
The Reigning Sound - Love and Curses
Cass McCombs - Catacombs
Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
and thousands of other albums

Everything else


Carrie said...

hey I was about to ask you one day if you had listened to XX-XX. I heard them on NPR and really liked'll have to give me some!

Carrie said...

Seems like you've never really gotten into Andrew Bird. Want me to make you a mix?

Warped Coasters said...

i like it, it's more of a matter of time, but yeah a mix would be great. I've listened to a couple tracks off his new one quite a bit but not the whole thing.

Dan said...

Whoa. It's Blitz! a disappointment? The Heads Will Roll music video makes this album a success almost by itself.

Warped Coasters said...

a lot of people i usually agree with really liked "It's Blitz," I'm hit and miss with the disco-punk, for whatever reason I just really couldn't get into it.

A Mixed Tape said...

Sorry for the lateness of my thoughts, but here goes...

Phoenix really grew on me. I bought it on a whim because it was specially priced at $10 at my local record store. I instantly knew that it was a good pop record, but as the year went on the songs, at least the first half, really sank in. The album didn't make my top ten, but it definitely made the top 20.

Animal Collective and I don't get along. There's just too much sound coming at me and not enough of them are vocals. I didn't realize how much everyone loved them until this year and then I knew I couldn't like them. I understand the hype, but it just doesn't speak to me. 'Cept for My Girls and Brother Sport, I guess.

Didn't find Japandroids in time for the listmaking process, but am in awe at how simplistic it is, yet how much I like it. As I've read so many times before, it just speaks to the inner-teenager-angst we all carry around. I guess that's why I liked Dawson's Creek too.

White Rabbits was my numero uno. Britt's porduction made this such a Spoon-y record. I could listen from beginning to end countless times and not get tired of it. I love the drums.

The Girls album as a whole is great, but when I started to pull tracks out one by one, it kind of fell apart for me. It feels funny to say that about this records because there are knockouts, but there are some that just need to fall into their place to work for me.

I was so saddened by MOF, I've given it a break, planning on trying it again sometime this summer, my fingers are crossed.

The Decemberists blew me away form about a fourth of the year, then it just seemed to lose it's luster. It was in my top 20, but I don't know what happened.

M Ward's made my top 10, such great songs, but I wish they blended together well. This album was kind of the opposite of what I said about the Girls record, it had to be pulled apart to be great, becuase there was no real unity here for me.

The YACHT album was such great fun. I hope they came at it with a sense of humor, because it puts a smile of sarcasm on my face every time.

What in the world is that St. Vincent record? All these strings and soft singing and then these overly distorted crunchy guitars. Half of the time I'm blown away, the other I'm trying to figure out what's going on. I found this just as hard to digest as Bitte Orca.

I did find much joy in Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, Bowerbirds, Andrew Bird, and The Antlers, though.

Nice list, show non-conformation to the indie hype machines ruling the internet!

Warped Coasters said...

hey sorry i wasn't quick to moderate your comment ... i have my settings such that comments on posts several weeks old are required to be moderated just so blogger will alert me to their existence, otherwise they would appear on old articles and I'd never know they were there.

Warped Coasters said...

I was about to say that I felt the exact opposite about Girls "Album," but the more I thought about it, the more I agreed: With the exception of the two knockout tracks "Lust for Life" and "Hellhole Ratrace" many of the the others do fall apart upon removal from the album.

MOF really grew on me. I hated most of MMJ's last record, but I thought JJ's falsetto contributions were OK here, though. Here's hoping MMJ go back to pre-Evil Urges heights with the next album, whenever that is, but I have a feeling I may not be following the band in the future.

Never been a Bright Eyes fan outside of a couple tracks, thought he contributed some of the best tracks to MOF (and easily the worst — "Man Named Truth").

M. Ward is a favorite of mine and I'm grateful for his hyper-productivity. But, like Jack White, a part of me wants him to consolidate all his efforts from his 3 bands into one awesome record each year, instead of 3 good ones.

Warped Coasters said...

the fun, irreverent humor and tone in YACHT is what sold me, although they do just sound like second-rate LCD Soundsystem at times. I'm surprised they haven't found a crossover audience. I played some randomly for non-indie leaning friends and they immediately loved it and wanted to know what it was.

Warped Coasters said...

Ditto on the White Rabbits album and thoughts on Japandroids. I ordered the Japandroids record when it was first released, and it still holds up after a half year, even with the simplicity and seeming lack of variety. Seeing them live in July cemented their appeal for me.

I haven't listened to The Decemberists in months now due to the demands of new records, I need to revisit and see if it holds up.

Outside of "Two Weeks, "Cheerleader" and maybe a couple others, Grizzly Bear doesn;t do much for me.

"Stillness is the Move" is one of my least favorite songs of the year, just thinking about it makes me a little sick to the stomach, nails-on-chalkboard style, though there were two deep cuts on that album I enjoyed, maybe.

I didn't have time to listen to Antlers enough to really appreciate it.