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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Witz's Top Ten Albums of 2009

Alright, here we go and I'm going to kick it off with a disclaimer: I devour music. I listen, replay constantly, fall in love, get sick of, hoard, consume, and seek out more. Having said that, there are some albums, including ones on most critics top 10's that I just haven't listened to fully or really taken the time to examine. Animal Collective is one of these. The Dirty Projectors are another. I've heard them, but they really don't appeal to me. Here's the thing-- since I devour so much music from all different genres, my favorite music and what I'm calling the best albums of 2009 are not necessarily the most incredibly complex, creative, technically brilliant music of the year, they are the albums that I listened to and kept listening to-- and that's what I feel makes them great.

My Top Ten Albums of 2009:

10. Asher Roth - Asleep In the Bread Aisle
Ok, so I originally had Manchester Orchestra's "Mean Everything to Nothing" here, but then I remembered that it really wasn't as good as I wanted it to be, and even more so, I wanted a hip-hop album on this list. There were a number of good hip-hop albums this year, from Brother Ali to Kid CuDi, and I know that a lot of people wrote off Asher Roth because he had one hit song about college and he sounds like Eminem. The problem with that is that the hit song about college was really effing catchy and he has a much better song ABOUT sounding like Eminem. There are a number of bangers on this album as well as introspective tracks, and Lion's Roar with Busta Rhymes demonstrates just how good he can be lyrically. There's not a weak track on this album, and even when the subject matter isn't exactly brilliant, the lyricism is pretty damn good.

9. Settle - At Home We Are Tourists
Call it pop-punk, power-pop, whatever you want, but it's catchy as hell and is a solid step in a great direction within a genre that has been evolving from three-chords to Queen like ballads and orchestral hooks.

8. Thao with the Get Down Stay Down - Know Better Learn Faster
Absolutely hit or miss. Some people ask what language she's speaking (english) and say things like, "I sing like she's singing," while others bob, sway, and sing along to every last word like only Thao can sing it. Building on her solo albums and first group album (We Brave Bee Stings and All), "Know Better Learn Faster" is packed with both basic and complex guitar work, catchy riffs, emotional/personal lyrics, and a sound you simply aren't hearing anywhere else right now.

7. Lucero - 1372 Overton Park
I'll admit that I love everything Lucero does and might be giving this album more credit than it deserves. I can also admit that Lucero delivers track after track of western twang, southern rock punch, and gritty emotion and celebration. The world is a tough place, and Lucero celebrates that fact with whiskey, cigarettes, and some damn good music.

6. Matt & Kim - Grand
This was a late comer to me and maybe I'll regret including it in a few months when I want to claw my eyes out at the sound of "Daylight," but for now, this album is shockingly good and incredibly uplifting and danceable. Indie-Pop goodness at it's best. I wanted to add two tracks off this album to my New Year's playlist and couldn't pick which two of six I wanted to include as singles. That's why this album is on this list.

5. Ida Maria - Fortress Round My Heart
Every single song on this album is catchy, poppy, Norwegian goodness. Yes-- they were used in Gossip Girl, but Phoenix is being used in a car commercial. The lead singer wails, attacks, relents, and pours every ounce of herself into each line she sings. The songs are pure rock, full of anger, love, and vulnerability.

4. Kevin Devine - Brother's Blood
I can't quite explain how much I love this album. I've followed Kevin Devine since "Make the Clocks Move" and have since listened to some of his older work, including his time with Miracle of '86. Make the Clocks Move was what I would call his breakout album, and was followed up with two fairly disappointing albums, not because they were bad song writing, but because they weren't as diverse and intense as previous albums. I had almost given up on Kevin Devine when I heard Brother's Blood. Holy shit. Emotion is the ingredient that makes this album thrive. There are rocking pop tunes, softer ballads, aggressive epics, and an intensity that gives the album a life and realism that was missing in the previous two.

3. Passion Pit - Manners
Really? Do I have to? It's goddamn catchy, beautifully crafted, and who cares that the lead-singer can't reallllly pull off singing live (I'd love to have been in the room before the very first time they played a song just so I could hear the lead singer say, "Also, I was thinking about singing like THIS" and then hearing the band's reaction without any music)?

2. The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
Simple. Nothing is complicated or overly creative about this album, but The Avett Brothers do a tremendous job of creating new folk tunes and love songs for our generation. The album has slower, softer songs like "I and Love and You" as well as uptempo celebrations like "Kick Drum Heart." It's a great trip from start to finish.

1. Frank Turner - Poetry of the Deed
There is no one thing that stands out on this album by English hardcore guitarist turned folk star. Simple guitar ballads rule the day for Frank Turner, but this album has more depth (and instruments) than his previous work. His genuine, earnest voice draws the listener into each song, and each anecdote, idea, and emotion that Turner shares with us. Most importantly, this album has thirteen tracks you can listen to from start to finish again and again and again.

Really Close:

Metric - Fantasies (Honestly, not incredibly creative and could very easily and oddly pass as a Silversun Pickups album, but each track is solid and well constructed and filled with good lyrics and emotion.)

Manchester Orchestra - Mean Everything to Nothing (see Asher Roth)

The Thermals - Now We Can See (You know The Thermals)

The XX - XX (I just discovered this album and haven't listened to it enough to give it top ten status. Time will tell...)

Nothington - Bridges, Roads, and Ruins (Amazingly good epic punk from SF. Country influenced, gritty vocals)

Death Cab For Cutie - The Open Door EP (If this had been a full album, it'd be top 10)

The Dodos - Time to Die (Again, this album needs more time before I can say if it's as good as I think, but The Dodos are consistently putting out great albums)

Silversun Pickups - Swoon (Remember this album? Yeah, it was this year. Unfortunately, Panic Switch and There's No Secrets This Year along with a couple others, aren't enough for me to say this is a top ten album. Case and point: I forgot about this album.)

Airborne Toxic Event - Airborne Toxic Event (Just plain good, but not entirely and not top ten stuff with all the great music this year)

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Do you REALLLLY like the whole album?? I'd say most of the agreed upon top ten albums are really top ten singles. 1901, Lisztomania, ok, yeah. The rest, though? Really?)




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