#17 – #1

Well let’s be realistic here, clearly I’ve abandoned this little project of mine.  However, before you panic (you’re probably not panicking) allow me to justify my decision.  Since I created this list back in December of 2009, I found myself listening to more and more albums that I hadn’t listened to before, but would easily earn a spot on my list.  For example, Camera Obscura’s My Maudlin Career.  An album released in 2009 that I didn’t listen to until February of 2010.  It probably would have made my top 5, but unfortunately, it is too late.  As a result, I have lost interest in maintaining this list, and I’m sorry to all those who were following this.

So here’s the conclusion of my original list, #17 – #1

17. Lady Gaga – Fame Monster
16. Passion Pit – Manners
15. Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon: The End of Day
14. Dead Weather – Horehound
13. The xx – xx
12. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic
11. Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk
10. Umphrey’s McGee – Mantis
9. Patrick Wolf – The Bachelor
8. Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King
7. Animal Collective – Fall Be Kind [EP]
6. Girls – Album
5. Ramona Falls – Intuit
4. jj – jj n° 2
3. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
2. Cass McCombs – Catacombs
1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

#18: Andrew Bird – Noble Beast

Andrew Bird remains one of the most interesting artists in music today.  Bird, a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, violin, glockenspiel, among other things) brings us his fifth studio album in 2009, entitled Noble Beast. I’ve been listening to Bird for a little over a year now, and I’ve clung to the belief that he is one of the smartest (if not the smartest) musician/songwriter in today’s music scene; I’ve seen certain publications refer to him as the “Renaissance man for modern music.”  His tendencies to combine a vast array of styles, unique and entertaining lyrics (often containing highly sophisticated vocabulary) , and occasional catchiness makes him one of my favorite artists.  Noble Beast, sure enough, generally adheres to these qualities.

I would probably rank Noble Beast, ahead of its predecessor Armchair Apocrypha [2007], but behind (in my opinion) Bird’s best album, The Mysterious Production of Eggs [2005].  While Noble Beast retains the signature Andrew Bird sound that he has developed, overall I just feel like the songs aren’t as good as some of his earlier songs. The instrumentation and lyrics continue to flourish, however, I honestly felt a lack of melodic tracks, and it just feels like a more mellow album (not necessarily a bad thing).

Unfortunately, I feel like this album has been severely overlooked in 2009.  Due to its early release (January of 09), by the time the spring months rolled around, everybody had forgotten about it. Don’t make that same mistake; do yourself a favor and give this one a shot.

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Released: January 20, 2009

Metacritic: 79/100
Pitchfork: 7.5/10
Allmusic 4/5

My Last.fm

Recommended tracks

Oh No

The Privateers

#19: Wilco – Wilco (The Album)

I’m actually disappointed to be writing this entry.  I’ve been listening to Wilco since my Freshman year of high school, and they have remained one of my favorite bands ever since.  I’ve yet to hear a weak Wilco album; Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2000), being one of my favorite 2000s album, and Summerteeth (1999), being one of my favorite albums of all-time.  So why am I disappointed? Basically because I expect more from Wilco than my 19th favorite album of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely like this album, but I feel like Wilco took a very conservative approach, and it honestly feels boring at some times.

Some of the tracks on this album maintain the signature Wilco sound, such as “Wilco (The Song)” and “Bull Black Nova” (featured below).  However, a great deal of the tracks simply feel like ordinary pop songs, with no innovation or creativity.  That isn’t to say that they aren’t well written songs, but rather just not up to par with prior Wilco albums.

Essentially this album will be remembered by me as Wilco’s safety album.  It’s probably my least favorite of their discography (a very strong discography, nonetheless), but like I said earlier, I’ve yet to hear a weak Wilco album.

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Released: June 30, 2009

Metacritic: 76/100
Pitchfork: 7.3/10
Allmusic: 4/5

My Last.fm

Recommended tracks

Wilco (The Song)

Bull Black Nova

#20: The Antlers – Hospice

#20 brings us to one of the biggest breakout bands of 2009 – The Antlers.  Their album, Hospice, is arguably the most critically acclaimed album of the year, and I’ve seen it ranked at #1 on several top 2009 lists.  Hospice is the band’s first concept album; a devastating tale of a man who encounters a depressed bone cancer patient.

While obviously not my favorite album released this year, from an artistic standpoint, I cannot deny the beauty of Hospice. The raw emotion that this album delivers is unrivaled by anything that’s been released in quite a while.  Some of the instrumental sections on this album are amazing, and if I had to describe it in one word, “haunting” would be the most appropriate.  Lyrically, may be where this album truly shines though.  Not to sound trite, but it’s as if you can almost feel the pain that Peter Silberman (vocalist and guitarist for The Antlers) was feeling when he wrote this record.  If you choose to listen to this album, I would definitely suggest paying attention to the lyrics as you go.

This album definitely isn’t for everyone, and I’ll admit that I have to be in a certain mindset to listen to this album.  Definitely not one that I’m always in the mood to spin.

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Released: August 18, 2009

Metacritic: 86/100
Pitchfork: 8.5/10
Allmusic: 3.5/5

My Last.fm

Recommended tracks

Kettering

Two

#21: Coconut Records – Davy

It isn’t too often that Hollywood stars attain success in the music industry; especially amongst the indie community. One notable exception to this notion, however, is Jason Schwartzman.  *Most people don’t even know Schwartzman has a musical career, and while he isn’t universally adored by the indie snobs, he sure as hell isn’t being lambasted.  Schwartzman, well known for his role in the HBO series Bored to Death and the 2009 film Funny People, has also released a pair of albums under the moniker Coconut Records.  In 2009, Schwartzman released his 2nd album, entitled Davy.

I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t have much to say about this record.  It is quite short, only 10 tracks deep, and totaling just over 28 minutes.  One of the first things that popped into my head while listening to this album (something that has popped into my head quite frequently these days) was, “Hey. This sounds like the Beatles.” Very short, very poppy, and very catchy songs.  The tracks on this record don’t try to do too much, and I admire Schwartzman for his listenability.  After seeing several failed attempts of movie stars trying to hold their own in the music industry, I’m happy that Davy doesn’t suck enough for me to tell Schwartzman to stick to his day job.  In fact, I think it’s a damn good record,  and it deserves the attention it has gotten.

*Disclaimer: I realize Schwartzman was a member of the much more popular rock band Phantom Planet (you know, the guys who are famous for the OC theme song), but I am unaware if most other people know this.  Hence, I assume that the public is unfamiliar with his musical career.  I’m sorry if I offended your knowledge of Jason Schwartzman.  Also, I personally don’t even consider that an important aspect of Schwartzman’s musical career, considering he didn’t even write most of those songs.

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Released: January 20, 2009

Metacritic: Not Reviewed
Pitchfork: 5.9/10
Allmusic: 4/5

My Last.fm

Recommended tracks:

Microphone

Any Fun

#22: Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

If you’ve been following the independent music scene in 2009, then you may be surprised to see this album appear so early on my list.  Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the fourth studio album by French band Phoenix, has garnered universal acclaim, and seemingly everywhere I turn, I am hearing about this record.  One of the songs (“1901″, as posted below) was even featured in a recent Cadillac commercial (I’m sure you’ve seen it, I see it at least once a day).  Turns out Americans really do appreciate the French (or really just their pop music) after all.

So while I don’t LOVE this album like many others do, I still think that it is a great record.  An appreciable thing about this album is that even though it is highly praised by indie snobs near and far, it really is quite accessible.  Most of the songs are catchy, and embrace such interesting riffs/beats that even the biggest Lady Gaga fans could enjoy it (No disrespect to Lady Gaga, I actually am quite a big fan).

Unfortunately, this album peaks way too early; the two opening tracks “Lisztomania” and the aforementioned “1901” are worlds ahead of the rest of the tracks.  While the  cliché “all downhill from here” might be too cruel (because the rest of the album is still pretty solid), I think it’s safe to say that after the first two tracks, the album never reaches the same level of greatness that it started at.

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Released: May 25 2009

Metacritic: 82/100
Pitchfork: 8.5/10
Allmusic: 4/5

My Last.fm

Recommended tracks:

Lizstomania

1901

#23: Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

#23 brings us to the first (and only) female singer-songwriter on my list, Neko Case.  I just discovered Case this year, and she has been a centerpiece in a genre that I’ve been dabbling in quite a bit lately; alternative-country.

Well known for her role in the band The New Pornographers, Middle Cyclone is Case’s fifth solo endeavor.   A notable thing to mention about this album is its theme of nature.  Many of the songs deal with Case’s rapport with animals and nature, hence the title.  Also, hence the closing track of the album, “Marais la Nuit”, which is essentially thirty-two minutes of crickets chirping.  Probably my biggest gripe with the album, although it does make for a nice piece to listen to when trying to fall asleep.

This is a really poppy album.  With quiet and mellow percussion, and catchy choruses, I find myself always in the mood to listen to this album; it’s really easy to listen to and enjoy.

Honestly, this album (or any Case album, for that matter)  is worth listening to for her vocals alone.  The warmth, and flawless tone of Case’s voice is so pleasant sounding.  Give this album a shot if you appreciate good vocals.  Seriously, they’re fucking awesome.

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Released: March 3, 2009

Metacritic: 79/100
Pitchfork: 7.9/10
Allmusic: 4/5

My Last.fm

Recommended tracks:

This Tornado Loves You (could only find her performance of this song from Letterman)

People Got a Lotta Nerve