Thursday, January 7, 2010

ABCD's Top 10 Albums of 2009

My top albums are surprisingly accessible this year. It's not that I seek out obscure music, but I do usually enjoy music that is on the experimental, innovative side. The music of 2009 was fairly low-key, and I found the highlights to be from those bands that I heard of several years ago and are now hitting their prime. And yes, I am rebelling against many of the authorities on what is hip and cool by not placing The Flaming Lips' Embryonic on my Top 10. For shame! 

These are in no particular order.

1) Metric - Fantasies : While Metric's sound has remained fairly consistent over their career - which is comprised of three kickass LPs, thus far - this album presents a group that has found a balance between post-punk dance rock and insightful songwriting. Metric still teeters upon Emily Haines' anti-capitalistic angst and youthful antagonism, but the band is now able to deliver this discord in a more articulate and thoughtful fashion.
2) Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix : I enjoyed but basically dismissed Phoenix after their last two LPs, lumping them in with short-lived indie-pop sensations such as Franz Ferdinand, Spoon, The Strokes and Peter, Bjorn and John. This album has changed my mind about the band, however, as the boys from Versailles have (somehow) simultaneously become more poppy and sophisticated. Still on the up and up.

3) Matt and Kim - Grand : Like everyone else, I fell in love with 'Daylight' and prematurely labeled the song a One Hit Wonder. I downloaded Grand out of curiosity (after seeing the adorable couple on Jimmy Kimmel and being blown away by their intensity) and quickly realised that while Matt and Kim may indeed fail to create an oeuvre for future generations of music lovers, they most certainly have created a classic, idiosyncratic album that is well well worth your $11.99.

4) Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest : I actually think that Yellow House is a stronger album overall, but after seeing Grizzly Bear this past spring I must declare Veckatimest as one of the best of 2009...due to the fact that this band is so incredibly talented. The band's blend of folk, retro acoustics and irregular melodies require you to listen attentively and patiently, but once you are attuned you will be drawn in by the outstanding harmonies and complex compositions. The band members line up across the stage as equals when they play live, rather than adopting the typical band stations, and their music reflects this unified, unique formation.

5) Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish I Were an Eagle : If I were a pessimistic, cerebral, established singer-songwriter who wanted to produce an album right after my beautiful and insanely talented girlfriend named Joanna Newsom left me for a goofball SNL actor named Andy Samberg and I wanted to focus my frustration and step-up my game...I'd probably create a bold, witty, melancholy, top-notch album like this too!

6) Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz! : The YYY's have always been able to produce catchy, compact songs, but they had never created an outstanding album prior to It's Blitz! Every track on this album is solid, from the disco anthem 'Heads Will Roll' to the New Wavey 'Soft Shock', this is an all-around amazing album...aaaaaand I want Karen O's babies.

7) múm - Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know : I've loved múm since Finally We Are No One, and I still love them even though the Valtýsdóttir sisters are no longer involved. In addition to Grizzly Bear, I also saw múm this year which deepened my appreciation for their frothy yet intricate compositions. This is literally the music of elves. My ears grow pointy just listening to it.

8) Brand New - Daisy : I know, I know...I might as well list Saves The Day and The Used on here while I'm at it, right? I truly do hate formulaic emo and insincere screamo, and I have never been impressed by anything Brand New has created. However, I do know that magical things happen when the worlds of emo, screamo and well-constructed rock combine (see: Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come or Hopesfall's The Satillite Years). Brand New's brand new album is surprisingly dark, and pleasantly troublesome. Out with the emo and in with the hardcore. 

9) Mos Def - The Ecstatic : I like hip hop, but there is very little of it that holds my attention or moves me. There are some rappers - such as Busdriver, Immortal Technique and Slug - who are able to combine tight rhyming, original beats and creative substance...but this is rare. I've always wanted to like Mos Def more than I ever have, so it feels good to finally get behind an album of his. It's sharp, it's eclectic and it's intelligent.

10) The Swell Season - Strict Joy : The strength of Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard lies in their ability to write acoustic-based love songs that avoid cliche, sap, repetition and one-dimensional vocals. There are many factors that set this duo apart from their folksie peers: the distinctive harmonies composed of Hansard's coarse singing style and Irglova's delicate trills, multi-instrumentalism, an unbelievable band history, and a sincerity that simply makes you forget about the Oscar they won. An absorbing follow-up to Once.  

Tags: "Alex Dawkins", Vancouver, "Vancouver Music Listings"


  1. Great Canadiana folk music, Joel Plasket's Three, would round out this list well.