#1 Crocodiles – Summer Of Hate
I am obviously biased. Crocodiles are my friends. But this is my #1 album of the year. I love the songs and I’m really excited for the future. 2009 started with Crocodiles having self-released a 7” single and one tiny tour under their belt from end of 2008. They did “Summer Of Hate” themselves and went on to sign a great label deal and end up on the front page of the NY Times by March. I have yet to stop listening to this album. Crocodiles are great songwriters and this year they killed it and really brought me a lot of happiness. What more could I ask from an album of the year.
#2 Ian Brown – My Way
I picked up this album when I was in the UK because there are no US plans for release and it’s IB; a legend who gets a lot of love in my household. I read he wanted to make an album like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” He succeeded. This album is amazing. Vintage IB swagger with some great songs. IB even surpassed the UK’s expectations and this record is a gem.
#3 HEALTH – Get Color
Something about spastic noise mixed with a reason to dance really works for me. HEALTH killed it this year by coming out the gate with “Die Slow” and dropping Get Color. Once again, bias because they are friends, but I don’t mind because I will watch HEALTH live any day of the week.
#4 Au Revoir Simone – Still Night, Still Light
My friend Scott said it best; he called this album a ‘Volkswagen commercial.’ Mellow synth pop from 3 ladies. This is a great relaxing album that flows from start to finish. I am impressed and this is easily their best work to date.
#5 Cold Cave – Love Comes Close
My friend Sean tipped me to Cold Cave early on and I was intrigued. Everything I heard was dark, synth-y, and in a Factory Records vein. When I got the advance I was blow away with the songs. This is a great album from a guy (Wes Eisold) who has been pushing the envelope for years. This is his first true endeavor into a more accessible style and it’s extremely impressive.
#6 Crystal Antlers – Tentacles
I call them the ‘hipster Mars Volta’ which they hate. Fact is Crystal Antlers are a great band and Tentacles was their debut full-length. I saw these guys live a handful of times throughout the year and was blow away everytime. Never a bad show. Bias again, but 2010 is going to be huge for Crystal Antlers. They are my friends and I have faith in them.
#7 Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
“Stillness in the Move” was the first Dirty Projectors song I loved. This album is unique, very different, and not for everybody. That said, I really like it, and I think it’s an important album.
#8 Mark Olson + Gary Louris – Ready For The Flood
There is just something special about two lifelong friends shedding any title or presentation and just writing great songs together and quickly recording them. Mark and Gary are/were The Jayhawks and this little sleeper of an album amazed me on first listen.
#9 Odawas – The Blue Depths
Years ago I was introduced to Odawas because I loved a tune on their debut. I stuck with them but didn’t like the 2nd album. Now the 3rd, make or break in my opinion… The Blue Depths is a haunting 80’s inspired Canadian trip that just works. It’s a unique offering and I know it won’t get tons of love but this album is for me and I’m a fan.
#10 Dinosaur Jr – Farm
I don’t think anybody expected Dinosaur Jr. to deliver an album like Farm. It rocks, it’s classic Dino Jr, it’s loud, and it’s got songs.
#11 Julian Casablancas – Phrazes For The Young
I’m not a big Strokes fan. I thought Julian was just the mouthpiece. I was wrong. Great album, great songs, great vibe…just too short. This is a spectacular album that will certainly gain more and more recognition in years to come.
#12 Young Widows – Old Wounds
Kurt Ballou of Converge fame produced this album and hit it on the head again as he has done times before. Young Widows are a good band but Kurt’s production made this album great. This is a unique rock album and will be something I’ll listen to for a while.
#13 Kylesa – Static Tensions
Southern metal. Good songs, great drive to the album and a great metal record.
#14 These Are Powers – All Aboard Futures
I’m intrigued with These Are Powers. They are certainly a unique hip entity and they proved it with ‘All Aboard Futures.’ Choppy. Artistic. Honest.
#15 Pictureplane – Dark Rift
Pictureplane is bringing back the beat. Rhythm, dancing, songs, and fun. A good step in the right direction for a young artist.
#16 Wavves – Wavvves
I’m thoroughly impressed with Wavves. “The next Beck” my friend Scott says; I agree. I love his live show and love the songs, but in all honesty the recording quality is piss poor and makes my head hurt when I listen through good speakers. I expect some great things from Nate in the future but this album will be around for a while.
#17 Blank Dogs – Under and Under
NYC’s DIY hero drops a proper full-length on In The Red. Everything that Blank Dogs represents displayed on this record; somewhat of a debut. The songs are there and I expect a lot from Blank Dogs in the future on many levels.
#18 Magik Markers – Balf Quarry
This is not your typical album; filed in ‘Experimental’ which does not do it justice. Magik Markers have been around for a while and this is a great album. It’s unique of course but they have found their sound and I commend them.
#19 Real Estate – Real Estate
This was a sleeper for me. At first listen it didn’t grab me but then all the sudden it hit and I get it. I’m looking forward to the future of Real Estate, they have a ton of potential.
#20 Beatles - Reissues
The difference can be explained like this. A myspace stream vs. a 320kps tune through a Bose. Sheds a new dimension to the catalog of the greatest band ever.
Ancient Crux – Interracial Coupling EP
“Something Roy Orbison would shit out” early press quote. Kids from Murrieta, CA making awesome music.
El Perro Del Mar – “Love Is Not Pop” (SONG)
Story: Heard EPDM years back, kinda dug it. Years later, not digging new stuff. Saw her at Iceland Airwaves ’08 and was impressed. In 09 she drops this and I’m sold. The album is not nearly as good as this song, but still a good album.
SALEM “Frost” (Single)
Neil at Origami Vinyl turned me on to these guys and I was blown away. Dark and unique. This is a great tune.
Abe Vigoda – “Wild Heart” Reviver EP
Hitting their stride. “Wild Heart” is sorta a cover of Stevie Nicks and it’s beautiful. Abe V is going to release a great album in 2010 as long as the have proper time in the studio (which they have never had before).
The Big Pink – “Velvet”+“Dominos”
England’s The Big Pink came out of the gate with two solid singles. And then that was all she wrote. Shit live, the rest of the album is a dud, and a horrible US approach.
Animal Collective – Fall Be Kind EP
Never liked AC until I heard them sing “What Would I Want? Sky” and it’s pure Richard Ashcroft and it reminds me of why I love the Verve (thanks Jen) and so I like this EP.
Conclusion: Final Thoughts
I always have a nice little rant for my best of lists and this year is no different. What is going on in the music industry? Furthermore, what is going on in the entertainment industry? That is how I see it now; it’s not just music, the whole business around ‘the arts’ is just shot. Movies are huge gambles for studios and it certainly doesn’t help when you can steal on the internet them prior to release and not have to drive to the theater, pay $11, or deal with crowds. Obviously, downloading has crippled music. But I’m more concerned about how boring and stagnant entertainment is becoming. In fact, how unentertaining, entertainment is. American Idol and TMZ scare me. Attention spans are now measured in milliseconds. I remember losing my shit when I got a Gameboy. Now kids play extremely realistic war games with headsets thru the internet with other kids around the world. Why even leave the house? The internet has everything; news, communication, entertainment, games, porn…you name it. I feel like a renaissance man and that is what I think we need. We need a cultural renaissance to stimulate creativity of tomorrow. American Idol will not do this. TMZ will only hinder this. What have we become? Someone please inspire me. Go against the grain and go for the throat of mass-media. Lo-fi was great in 2009, but is not the answer. Hipsters don’t fund artists; they suck their blood and then discard them. Rolling Stone is unreadable and full of shit. The Grammy’s nominations this year are a complete joke and embarrassing. It’s said that during a recession, creative minds flourish….well, I’m here and I’m waiting.