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Posts Tagged top 30 albums 2009
Enthusiastically received by the blogosphere, the debut of this duo from San Francisco seemed more a collection of hit singles than the first work of any artist. Showcasing a classy, confident songwriting style that drank in 60’s pop – be it British or Californian psychedelia-, with touches of shoegaze enhancing Christopher Owen’s personal stories of heartbreak and redemption. “Lust For Life”, “Hellhole Ratrace” or “Morning Light” would have been this year’s indie anthems, if such a thing as indie still existed.
Released on True Panther. Available to listen in Spotify.
The second Bill Callahan album was a far more solid proposition than the debut under his own name. Smog’s acclaimed singer-songwriter offered us his best work since “Dongs Of Sevotion”; recovering much of the usual, more intimate tone that perfectly suited Callahan’s distinctive baritone voice. Critics hailed “Sometimes I Wish we were an Eagle” as a return to form. And tracks like “Jim Cain” or “Eid Ma Clack Shaw” amply confirmed his good shape.
Released on Drag City. More info here.
Diplo’s -and his mate Switch– dancehall project was the global hipster’s album of the summer. The trendy production team met a constellation of Caribbean stars –Mr. Vegas; Ms. Thing; Nina Sky, Vybz Cartel- next to their usual suspects –M.I.A.; Santigold, Amanda Blank- and even created their own animated character for the occasion. It all produced a melting pot of the hottest vibes and slickest sounds. Unfortunately, the charts didn’t surrender to its multicultural charms.
Released on Downtown. Available to listen in Spotify.
From recording DIY hometapes to the first league of independence via deals with Fat Possum and Bella Union, Wavves released their second studio album playing with the number of v in its title, riding the new wave of fuzzed, lo-fi garage rock. “Wavvves” was crammed with some of the most contagious tracks of the year. The band from San Diego was later joined by two Jay Reatard members to complete their touring line-up. Too much attention too quickly may have led to the singer’s famous breakdown during Primavera festival in Barcelona.
Released on Bella Union. Available to listen in Spotify.
With no New Pornographers album on sight, Neko Case returned to her career as the decade’s finest alt-country and pop-rock chanteuse with her sixth peerless collection of tunes. “Middle Cyclone” was packed with songs that shared a common reflection about a personal internal struggle to reconcile her feelings for animals and nature with the ones she has for people. Meteorological phenomenons -cyclones and tornadoes- are here metaphors about human relationships. Case’s song writing abilities showed no signs of stop growing, but the singer also took her time to revisit other artists’ work. Old classics by Sparks and Harry Nilsson benefited from her reinterpretation.
Released on Matador. Listen to some tracks at MySpace.
In a year that has seen a few high profile hip-hop stars enjoying much welcomed returns to form, Mos Def was one of the most celebrated. “The Ecstatic” was easily the best work the rapper has released this decade; a career best only bettered by his 1999 debut “Black on Both Sides”. Madlib’s Middle-Eastern flavored beats joined the ones provided by late J. Dilla, Oh No and others, to create a widely eclectic, yet surprisingly focused opus that stands out as one of the genre’s highlights of 2009.
Released on Downtown. Available to listen in Spotify.
Annie Clark’s second album was a giant step from her debut “Marry Me”. The Brooklyn based artist proved not only that she’s found her unique vocal niche, but also the most sophisticated and surprising musical arrangements to wrap it with. Formerly a member of Sufjan Stevens’s band and The Polyphonic Spree, St. Vincent balanced out the limitations of a voice pleasantly calmed, but too uniform in tone, by conjuring a wide palette of influences that ranges from soundtracks to electronica, and pretty much everything in between. “Actor” rewarded repeated listening with a myriad of changing rhythm patterns, ad-hoc embellishments and strong storytelling.
Released on 4AD. Available to listen in Spotify.
Chillgaze? Glo Fi? Blogs were a bit short of good ideas when it came to brand Neon Indian’s sound. This combo from Austin, Texas came up with one of the most original trends of the last twelve months – with Washed Out, Memory Tapes and a few others also being thrown in the same bag. Named after an Ozric Tentacles song, “Psychic Chasms” unveiled its upbeat, trippy origins right from its title. It was recorded with the kind of lo-fi quality that recent rising stars as Ariel Pink have used through their output. It took elements from funk and electro-pop, while sampling Todd Rundgren; Doobie Brothers and other 70’s rock greats to create loops for the rhythm backbone of underground hits “Deadbeat Summer” and “Terminally Chill”. That unique vibe has also turned the band into remixers for the likes of Grizzly Bear or Au Revoir Simone.
Released on Lefse. Available to listen in Spotify.
Having established themselves among Noise-rock royalty, Lightning Bolt finished a long hiatus with the release of their fifth album. “Earthly Delights” didn’t alter the winning formula of past highlights like “Hypermagic Mountain”. The duo from Providence has preserved all the raw aggression in their sonic distortions and manic drumming. But even now, when the shocking value has faded a bit as we’ve grown accustomed to similar offerings; it was still one of the most challenging propositions we’ve heard all year.
Released on Load. Some tracks at Myspace.
The end of the noughties is seeing metal coming back with a vengeance in all its sub-varieties (sludge; post; stoner; etc), right when any other traditional genre is giving signs of exhaustion. Troubled times give a powerful boost to hardest sounds and in 2009 Converge; Baroness; Isis and many others have all released fine, noteworthy albums. But the indisputable leaders of this new metal wave are Mastodon. The band from Atlanta, since their 2004 second opus “Leviathan”, has been going from strength to strength, boosting public appetite for everything heavy again. “Crack the Skye” has earned the band total mainstream acceptance, with many raising their voices to salute them as the new Metallica.
Released by Reprise. Available to listen in Spotify.
Canadian guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse worked out the miracle of rescuing the fuzz of garage rock and the original immediacy of punk without becoming another clichéd attempt. Their juvenile energy and passion formed “Post-Nothing“,an impeccable eight-track debut close in format to the way classic albums from those genres used to be: raw, brief, intense and full of vitality.
Released on Unfamiliar. Available to listen in Spotify.
Already in their seventh studio album, US critics’ favorite band Wilco, heirs of the role R.E:M. used to play, offered us their most accessible and relaxed work since “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. Jeff Tweedy seemed to have rediscovered the fun of making music, after years fighting against depression influenced the tone of his recordings. “Wilco (The Album)” once again set the standard of alternative Americana sky high, with its usual blend of tradition and innovation. Although this time the traditional element prevailed through its warmth, almost familiar, melodies; shaping up a record enjoyable from beginning to end.
Released on Nonesuch. Available to listen in Spotify.
The Flaming Lips had been comfortably hosting the happy psychedelic party they began in the days “Soft Bulletin” and “Yoshimi”. Everything they’ve done since seemed to lack the same relevance and creative wealth. That’s why the arrival of “Embryonic”; a dark, psychedelic, double-length monster that saw Wayne Coyne and co heading back towards the more experimental manners of their earlier stuff, has had a mixed reception among fans but earned a certain consensus among critics, who claimed the band has left behind years of going through the motions and found again the right path towards future, more challenging work. The exuberance of “Watching the Planets” was all the evidence we needed.
Released on Warners. Available to listen in Spotify.