12/18/09

Future Perfect Radio's Best of 2009

Yes, here we go. The Top 25 list. Well, my Top 25 list. These are just my favorite albums of the year, nothing more. I've also included some over-hyped and disappointing albums at the end, so if you're looking for spite skip there.

Remember, you can hear all these, and tons more great music from 2009, on our Best of 2009 radio channel. Click the button below to launch your personal radio player!



THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2009


25. Slaraffenland - We're on Your Side
24. The xx - XX
23. Faunts - Feel. Love. Thinking. Of.
22. Home Video - It Will Be OK
21. Loney, Dear - Dear John
20. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
19. The Ghost Is Dancing - Battles On
18. Metric - Fantasies
17. Taken by Trees - East of Eden
16. Black Moth Super Rainbow - Eating Us
15. Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard - 'Em Are I
14. A Place to Bury Strangers - Exploding Head
13. Apse - Climb Up
12. Kings of Convenience - Declaration of Dependence
11. The Depreciation Guild - In Her Gentle Jaws


10. The Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns

Yes, I know Hometowns was first released in 2008, but it wasn't until this year that it was exposed to the world at large by Saddle Creek. I'd much rather reward the album with a "Best of" mention rather than leave it off due to a technicality. So here it is, a wonderfully dynamic album with a range of styles all connected with Nils Edenloff's unique vocals. A few tracks -- "The Deadroads," "In the Summertime," and "Don't Haunt This Place" -- stand out nicely on their own, but more importantly the entire album is listenable from beginning to end. A great band with a quaint backstory that I look forward to following in years to come.

9. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

You'll notice The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are also on my "Over-Hyped" list below. Not because their music is bad -- quite the contrary, I love their nostalgic '80s shoegaze-ish fuzz rock. I just don't think this is all that original and sometimes I feel like the songs are formulaic. That's my hyper-critical side though. The rest of me loves this album. I'm a sucker for the feel, the wall of guitars and the accessibility of it all. It feels like a guilty pleasure of an album, but without the guilt.

8. Bat for Lashes - Two Suns

I'm also a sucker for female vocals. And man, does Bat for Lashes' Natasha Kahn deliver. In Two Suns she runs a gambit of emotions all backed by wonderfully immersive melodies. Each song is like a world you can get lost in, making the entire album very engaging and worth quite a few listens. Hate that last song though.




7. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love

To be honest, I had expected whatever The Decemberists did this year to be the best album of the year, no questions asked. The Crane Wife is simply amazing and is one of the few albums I've never grown tired with or sick of. I don't see that happening with The Hazards of Love. It's an impressive album, don't get me wrong, a concept album of the 21st century that takes dedication to figure out. I saw the band perform the album from start to finish at Lollapalooza and it felt like watching an opera. And that's fine. I'm just not always in the mood for an opera. Some of the harder elements in the album didn't really gel either. That said, expecting The Decemberists to repeat themselves is like expecting to wear shorts in Chicago during winter: it just ain't goin' happen. And shouldn't because, even if piles of freezing snow aren't as fun as a nice summer day, it's still worth experiencing.

6. Alela Diane - To Be Still

Alela Diane is gaining more notoriety which is wonderful, but I still think she deserves more attention. I personally liked her second effort, To Be Still much more than other over-hyped folk-ish albums of 2009. Her first LP, The Pirate's Gospel was charmingly lo-fi and DIY. That changes in To Be Still, which feels much smoother and more professional. That may not sound like such a great thing for all you lo-fi fans out there, but it does help bring out Diane's remarkable voice.

5. Florence + the Machine - Lungs

Speaking of remarkable voices, wow. Florence + the Machine came out of left field for me this year and floored me. People have told me they don't like this album because songs sound too much like Amy Winehouse and well I see that comparison, I also think Florence Welch's voice puts Winehouse's scratchy "talent" to shame. "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" and "Cosmic Love" are some of the most powerful and addicting songs of the year.


4. Sea Wolf - White Water, White Bloom

This was perhaps one of my most anticipated albums of the year. Alex Church's Get to the River Before It Runs Too Low and Leaves in the River captivate me with their atmosphere: woodland America, or small-town middle-of-nowhere. It's not the happiest music in the world, but it's of the sort that creates a vivid world you can almost see if you close your eyes. So I was giddy to finally get my hands on White Water, White Bloom and ecstatic to find the same overpowering sense of place -- Church's ability to create a landscape with his music, tinged with whatever emotion the song deals with. Keep your Grizzly Bears and Monsters of Folk, I've got Sea Wolf.

3. Passion Pit - Manners

I love those albums that sound so happy and bouncy on the surface, but are actually depressing calls for help underneath. Manners is like that. It scores points for its ridiculously addictive dance rock while also adding a bit of downcast lyrical depth for those who want it. It's an album that's a bit too much at times, too bright, too falsetto, too out-of-control and has been the cause of many a headache for me. But I kept coming back because every single song is amazing. It's an album with no down time, no skippable songs. I put every track on Future Perfect Radio because I felt bad leaving any out.

2. Mew - No More Stories Are Told Today Sorry...

I'll be honest, I hadn't heard of Mew before this. Yes, I know. I'm terrible. How I could come so far without knowing and loving Mew, I don't know, but that ends now. No More Stories Are Told Today… is a glittering gem. The soaring instrumentals, the odd rhythms, the chilling vocals -- it all mixes together to create something weird, something beautiful, something I couldn't get out of my head.


1. The Builders and the Butchers - Salvation Is a Deep Dark Well

This was tough. As great a year 2009 was for music, there was nothing that stood out and said, "Yes, I am the best. No one tops me. No argument." At least for me. In the end, I picked as the #1 album the group that has me most excited not about 2009, but about the years ahead. And that's The Builders and the Butchers.

Their Salvation Is a Deep Dark Well is as creepy as a Lovecraft story at times. I've compared it often to McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" for that feeling of a bloody, out of control frontier. And I love that. That's what I loved about The Decemberists, their creepy sense of warping human nature and sending a chill up your spine. That love for storytelling over simplistic outpourings of personal emotion. The lyrics are brilliant, the music addictive and perfectly arranged to meet the emotion of each song. On-stage these guys are frantic and that feeling comes through on the recording. I can't wait, absolutely cannot wait, to see what these boys from Portland have for us next. Salvation Is a Deep Dark Well was simply my most-listened to and absolute favorite album of 2009.

HONORABLE MENTIONS


UUVVWWZ - UUVVWWZ
Elizabeth and the Catapult - Taller Children
WHY? - Eskimo Snow
Califone - All My Friends Are Funeral Singers
Joker's Daughter - The Last Laugh
Viva Voce - Rose City
Japandroids - Post-Nothing
Or, the Whale - Or, the Whale

OVER-HYPED


5. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

You'll notice a few of these over-hyped albums are also on my "Best of" list. That's because none of these albums are bad, quite the contrary. Some are very good. But the amount of attention they received was disproportionate with the quality of the music. Phoenix was one case: yes, many songs are brilliant and extremely pop-friendly. But the album as a whole, while excellent (#20 out of the 25 best albums of the year, in my opinion) wasn't as striking as other releases.

4. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Same here. I really liked this album (#9 overall on the Best of list) and while I haven't tired of listening to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's music, I have tired of hearing about the band. Frankly, I don't think what they're doing is all that new and it's all pretty formulaic. They deserve praise and attention, sure, but not on the level they did this year.

3. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

This one's almost too obvious to point out. Others have argued this point much better than I, but my reason is simple: I don't like Animal Collective. This album didn't help me like them. I don't see what everyone went so crazy over. That may make me lame, but there it is.


2. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

I hesitate to put Grizzly Bear on here for 2 reasons. 1) Like Animal Collective, this is obvious and almost cliche. Of course it was over-hyped. 2) I do like this album. It was enjoyable and I can see how it inspires love and devotion from fans. What I can't see is the "ground-breaking" or genre-changing aspects that others have pointed out. Again, maybe this makes me lame, but I think other artists outdid Veckatimest this year.

1. Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk

If anything, 2009 showed us that Good Artist + Good Artist doesn't necessarily = Good Music. Discovery is a great example, but so is Monsters of Folk. Man, what a boring album. After listening to it, I was surprised to see Monsters of Folk still popping up on magazine covers and such. Didn't anyone listen to the music? Again, other artists outdid Monsters of Folk this year and deserve the attention that was erroneously handed to this failed collaboration.


DISAPPOINTMENTS



5. Silversun Pickups - Swoon

I liked this album. I wanted to love it though. I was expecting Silversun Pickups' to follow up Carnavas with another Best of contender of an album. But Swoon fell short of my expectations -- which were perhaps too high. In any case, I was disappointed. Wah wah.


4. The Flaming Lips - Embryonic

The Flaming Lips are one of those groups that apparently everyone likes except me. I just can't get into them. Every time they come out with a new record, I say to myself, "Yes, this time I will fall in love. I will finally see the light and grasp what indefinable element causes everyone to give themselves up to Coyne and Company." And each time I'm disappointed. It's an okay album, sure, but an okay album shouldn't become "good" or "great" just because everyone knows who the band is.

3. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast

Noble Beast, like Swoon, suffered from my perhaps-too-high expectations. I really love a few tracks from Bird's latest album, but overall it's just not an album I see myself listening to more than a few times. Maybe I'm missing something.


2. Discovery - LP

Man I was excited for this one. I'm not a huge Vampire Weekend fan, but I do enjoy their music and I absolutely adore Ra Ra Riot. So a collaboration between members of both should be amazing, right? Wrong. Like Monsters of Folk, this was proof that good artists can often make very bad music. Discovery's album was pretentious, rambling and even ruined a Ra Ra Riot track. I applaud them for trying something new, but otherwise this was a huge letdown.

1. Muse - The Resistance

What happened to Muse? Absolution is still one of my most treasured albums for its huge guitars and roller-coaster emotional backdrop. Blackholes and Revelations fell short, but still is pretty darn good. Then this came along, this "album." This dungheap of a release. When they're not ripping off Queen, they're just meandering aimlessly, like maybe they'll think up a good song halfway through or something. I'll still look forward to the next album hopefully, but this was a mighty letdown.




3 comments:

The Beauty of Speed on December 19, 2009 at 8:08 AM said...

Thank you for this list! I agree 100% about the over-hyped albums (particularly Animal Collective's album. I tried all year long to get into it. It never worked). I continue to listen to many of these albums and am still finding wonderful surprises in them. Most notably Bat For Lashes, The xx, and Passion Pit.

mephisto on December 24, 2009 at 11:16 AM said...

Yup, Animal Collective = over-hyped. I do enjoy them but they really are getting to predictable. They are the band you are supposed to like. I love your number one pick because... I've never heard of them! I'm going to definitely check them out. Thanks for sharing. Check out our lists over here: http://is.gd/5oHfZ

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