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Best Albums of 2009

Colin McDonnell
 
Veckatimest
Veckatimest
"Underneath the orchestral flourishes and children’s choirs, beneath even the frequent textural shifts and melodic detours, are a set of melodies that find new ways to cut straight to the listener every time. This is a superb record, a spirted illustration of sepia-tinged Americana that is one of the finest records of 2009."
It's Blitz!
It's Blitz!
"Despite its obvious debt to the ’80s and its (appreciated) nods to the trio’s own past, it’s their most modern, innovative record yet. It’s Blitz! is the sound of a band reborn with new momentum, and on an album that requires dancing, the message is clear: It doesn’t matter where you came from. Just keep moving."
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
"Though the album trips lightly from slinky roller-skate jams ('Fences') to near Brit-rocky rave-ups ('Lasso'), the underlying vibe is both retro and somehow outside of time--like a memory made sweeter than the real thing it recalls."
Middle Cyclone
Middle Cyclone
"Middle Cyclone finds Case picking up where she left off...with a splendid collection of soaring country rock, Southern gospel, and power-pop hymns. The Album features cameos by Calexico, M. Ward, and the New Pornographers."
Up From Below
Up From Below
""40 Day Dream," the Motown-infused, OutKast-inspired, heavily orchestrated "Beatlesque" soul jam that opens Up from Below, serves as a pretty good litmus test for what follows. Listeners who are put off by the robe-wearing Polyphonic Spree's cultish glazed-eye self-help anthems or cringe when they hear the Mamas & the Papas' would be advised to get off the magic bus early."
xx
xx
"Sleepy, sparse and seductive, the debut album from this London group uses the most basic, stripped-down elements—murmured boy/girl vocals, half-speed club beats, reverb-laden guitars—to create a perfectly paced soundtrack for the post-party comedown."
When the Devil's Loose
When the Devil's Loose
"When the Devil's Loose might share some reference points with another singer/songwriter [ryan adams] with a similar offhand affection for roots music, but A.A. Bondy seems to be developing a voice of his own despite all the surface similarities, and the result is a quietly powerful album of songs that cut deeper into the heart and soul than you might expect at first glance."
Man On The Moon: The End Of Day
Man On The Moon: The End Of Day
"Cudi turns out to be that rarest of rap phenomena: a hyped upstart who really does represent a promising new phase in the genre's evolution. This first official release is a soul searcher and may require more patience than your everyday debut. Still, the chilly, complicated Man on the Moon rewards the listener with every tripped-out return."
Reservoir
Reservoir
"Hailing from the UK, Sweden and Belgium, Fanfarlo's literate pop songs bear more resemblance to the modern Folk sounds of Beirut and The Arcade Fire than the fashion-driven London scene where the band resides. Resevoir employs an array of instruments to create each lushly arranged track, including saws, clarinets, cellos, mandolins, ukuleles and melocias."
The Hazards of Love
The Hazards of Love
"The group continues their fantastic, totally unique song structures, lyrics and instrumentation, resulting in the next evolution of a Decemberists album, and it does not disappoint."
Sigh No More
Sigh No More
"Inspired by folk, rock, country, and bluegrass, London-based quartet Mumford & Sons features a foursome that started playing together in 2007; though they were playing with other bands at the time, they bonded over their shared love of rootsy music."
A Brief History of Love
A Brief History of Love
"The London's The Big Pink have compressed everything that's great about post-war music into their sound. They're as accessible as a pop group, with almost folkishly warm melodies, the spiritual quality of soul and gospel, the rhythmic propulsion of rave, the white noise of punk, the glitchy textures of electronica, and the heavy drones of shoegaze."
Album
Album
"The resulting 12 tracks are the perfect summer record, evoking a narcotic, sunny afternoon, yet promising the eventual hangover of summer's departure. Album is self-described as "honest, loose, ethereal, obnoxious and perfect," it is a sincere tribute to the majesty of great pop music and the healing power of rock and roll."
The First Days of Spring
The First Days of Spring
"Noah and the Whale's second album finds frontman Charlie Fink ruminating over his failed relationship with Laura Marling, a fellow songwriter (and former love interest) who played a key role in the band's debut."
I and Love and You
I and Love and You
"I and Love and You is delivered in a style that defies pigeonholing but might be described as a rootsy amalgam of folk, country, bluegrass, rock and pop – even a jab of punk-style dynamics here and there. Drawn by the naked honesty of their songs and the rousing intensity of their live shows, legendary producer and talent scout Rick Rubin signed The Avett Brothers and produced the album."
Person To Person
Person To Person
"African high-life guitars are countered with new wave wash; the sound of a band daring to keep its palette open to most any influence, from U2 to The Feelies. Foreign Born deliver the soundtrack for the backyard BBQ of the ages."
1372 Overton Park
1372 Overton Park
"Lucero's sixth studio album, 1372 Overton Park, featuring horn arrangements by legendary Memphis session player Jim Spake (Al Green, Solomon Burke). While 1372 Overton Park serves as a love letter to Memphis and its musical heritage, the band has far from abandoned the country/rock/punk influences that they've become known for."
Manners
Manners
"Passion Pit's full-length debut proves he isn't fronting: It's a shiny bouquet of synth-pop roses, with perfumed Eighties keyboard whooshes and modern stutter beats crooking a finger toward the dance floor."
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Merriweather Post Pavilion
"Some of the phrasing on "MPP" sticks; some of it soars; most of it slips and slides through puddles of rich sonic texture. Only at a distance does the magic of the whole major-key mess become clear. By far the most streamlined and purposeful Animal Collective record."
Sunset/Sunrise
Sunset/Sunrise
"Sunset/Sunrise is a slump-dodging opus that takes the dark, raw beauty of the band's debut and scales it up to distinctly luminescent heights. Though minor chords and romantically morose lyrical yarns about misplaced affections and spiritual inertia remain touchstones, there is a freshing undercurrent of optimism throughout."
Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South
Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South
"Ha Ha Tonka have created something special and unexpected with Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South, and it's one of the smartest, most striking roots rock albums to emerge in quite some time."
JJ N° 2
JJ N° 2
"Another mysterious outfit from Sweden making the kind of warm, sunny Balearic pop the region has become known for, but jj do it much better than most. While jj have earned a place among the current wave of pop globalization, sharing both island sounds and early-90s ambient-house, they still allow emotion to flood through the textures, and they never start repeating themselves."
Hold Time
Hold Time
"M. Ward turns in a star-studded set that feels at once a logical progression from 2006’s "Post-War" and a step closer to that all-out classic his preceding suggests; an assimilation and appropriation of American blues, gospel, country and folk as lovingly, winningly relayed as we’ve come to expect from the Portland-based troubadour."
Blue Lights on the Runway
Blue Lights on the Runway
"Established fans of this scrappy Irish quartet may be startled by the band's slight turn toward electronica on its fourth studio album, but there's no need to fear: the focus is still on bittersweet melody and whimsical lyrics. Blue Lights on the Runway is one of those rare albums that you can pretend to like for its alt-credibility while secretly just enjoying it for the hooks."
There Is No Enemy
There Is No Enemy
"Besides connecting the dots between the chugging side of Neil Young and the slightly warped alterna-pop of the Flaming Lips, Built to Spill continue releasing some of the most affecting, beguiling indie rock of the 2000s."
Baby Darling Doll Face Honey
Baby Darling Doll Face Honey
"The gritty English trio Band of Skulls craft bluesy and ballsy slabs of atmospheric indie rock that echo the work of contemporaries like the Kills, Duke Spirit, and the Black Keys."
Post-Nothing
Post-Nothing
"Japandroids is a two piece band from Vancouver, BC. They are one guitar, one set of drums, and two vocalizers. They call it garage rock. They don't care what you call it, as long as it's not minimal. Japandroids are maximal - a two piece band trying to sound like a five piece band."
Infinite Light
Infinite Light
"Lightning Dust's sophomore album for Jagjaguwar, finds duo Amber Webber and Joshua Wells (both of Black Mountain) calling upon the powers of classic pop arrangements and making the most of five days with a Steinway Grand piano. Moments of Infinite Light remind us of the glory days of musical theatre, with touches of Hair, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Tommy."
Hospice
Hospice
"Appropriately enough, Hospice's ten distinct chapters resonate on debilitating sonic and lyrical levels, from the hypnotic harp and tension-ratcheting build of "Two" to the choruses of "Bear" and the speaker-rattling peaks of "Sylvia". The sound on the album is hauntingly beautiful and the album will no doubt be heavily featured on many best of lists."
Other Lives
Other Lives
"Based in Stillwater, Oklahoma, the band has been playing music together for over five years, but only recently adopted the name Other Lives. With an organic, orchestrated sound that incorporates elements of Progressive Rock, Folk and classical music, Other Lives draws its inspiration from a similarly wide array of sources: from historical events to the landscape in which the members grew up."
Phrazes For The Young
Phrazes For The Young
"Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas steps out with his debut solo album, Phrazes for the Young, and dynamically weaves '80s techno-pop with psychedelic punk, while also reinventing his usual monochromatic croon."
Bitte Orca
Bitte Orca
"Bitte Orca is an idiosyncratic and sincere take on popular music. In many ways, group leader David Longstreth could be seen as this generation's answer to David Byrne, a distinctive torchbearer of labyrinthine song arrangements that go down easy."
Summer of Fear
Summer of Fear
"Summer of Fear alternates between darkness and light, where spare bedroom songs blossom into speaker-popping arrangements of sweeping strings, honking horns, and chords that cut so deeply they're bound to leave a mark. Produced by TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone"
Actor
Actor
"On St. Vincent's (Annie Clark) 2nd album, the arrangements are more masterful, the songwriting grander, the performances ever more confident and inspired. Before recording as St. Vincent, she was a member of The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens' touring band."
Miike Snow
Miike Snow
"For Miike Snow make weirdly wonderful music, not without its strange lyrical dark side, but with an overall vibe that raises you to your feet and makes you gaze at the blue sky. In a phrase, life-enriching. Both the production and Wyatt's shape-shifting croon are so butter-smooth that it takes repeated plays to sense the hurt that hides behind these dance-floor lullabies."
Noble Beast
Noble Beast
"The sometimes drifting song structures, frequent tonal shifts, odd lyrics, and interludes presented a stuffed canvas full of interesting sounds that didn't seem to have a focal point, didn't seem to have a place where you were supposed to enter the composition. Eventually, however, everything fell into place."
Catacombs
Catacombs
"You’re led into ‘Catacombs’ by the primitive lure of guitar, percussion and a seductively pure voice. ‘You Saved My Life’ sounds almost like The Human League; an atmospheric, deeply romantic pop gem, while ‘Lionkiller Got Married’ sounds like late Joy Division."
To Lose My Life . . .
To Lose My Life . . .
"A dark-edged trio hailing from London, White Lies take sonic cues from the likes of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen."
Nice, Nice, Very Nice
Nice, Nice, Very Nice
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