Friday, January 01, 2010

Best of 2009: Albums

10. U2 – No Line on the Horizon - U2 in the 90s is one of my all time favorite bands, crafting inventive, experimental rock songs that evolved the band’s sound while still maintaining a distinct U2-ness. Their output this decade has been more conservative, and this album is no exception. There’s some good songs on here, but nothing as insistently great as their best work. Still, I love the texture and sound of the band, so even on comparatively lesser songs, they’re still a joy to listen to. And, this album has grown on me a bit, so perhaps time will be even kinder.

9. Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3 - Blueprint 3 lacks the consistent aesthetic of the 70s inspired American Gangster, but in its jump between genres and styles, it offers something for everyone. “Empire State of Mind” was the breakout, a song that could very well be the next “New York, New York,” but other early singles like “Run this Town” and particularly “D.O.A” are great too. The album isn’t quite Jay’s best, but he’s not slacking either. He showed why he deserves to be ranked among the best rappers all time.

8. Air – Love 2 - After the too minimalist feel of Pocket Symphony, Love 2 is a nice return to form for Air. “Do the Joy” was a great lead single, with that uniquely dreamy Air aesthetic. With Air, I just like the sound of the band so much that it’s less about specific songs, and more about having a new world to get lost in.

7. Muse – The Resistance - Muse is the kind of band that’s easy to poke fun at, with their over the top themes and Queen meets Radiohead maximalist aesthetic, but it’s that blend of prog sounds with pop spectacle that make them an effective band. They’re a lot of fun to listen to, and this album, if a bit less instantly hooky than Black Holes and Revelations, has a very unified feel, it’s a consistent album, particularly during the final suite section. I like that they’re so over the top, and even if it’s not the most original music, it’s presented in an exciting, fresh way.

6. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic - This is an album I’ve listened to a bunch, but still haven’t totally gotten my head around. It’s an epic work, and has a lot going on in each song. The album sees the band getting a bit grittier and heavy than in the ethereal proggy At War with the Mystics, and it generally works. MGMT guests on one track, and this is definitely the Lips’ riff on the neo-tribal aesthetic MGMT works with, and it’s an evocative, trippy journey. Plus, it’s got cover art that’s either absolutely great or terribly awful, I still can’t decide.

5. Passion Pit – Manners - I refrained from listening to Passion Pit for a while, even though they seemed like a band I’d definitely enjoy. When I finally listened to the album, it lived up to the hype. They craft extremely fun power pop songs with great synth and dance rhythm and a joyful sound. I love the sound of their music, the high pitched synths and guitars, and the unique not quite falsetto vocals. A perfect example of pop music in 2009.

4. Bat For Lashes – Two Suns - “Daniel” was the blockbuster for me, the hook that got me into the album. Her first album featured an astonishing single, “What’s a Girl to Do,” but didn’t really do it for me beyond that. However, this one thankfully goes much deeper, mixing a tribal and 80s aesthetic to create something that feels eternal. I love the drum line on album opener “Glass” and the swelling soundscape of “Traveling Woman,” but throughout it’s Natasha’s voice that takes the spotlight. Her voice is huge, beyond her years and form, and here she has the songs to perfectly spotlight it.

3. Royksopp – Junior - I like both Royksopp’s previous albums, but neither of those comes close to what they do here. Fusing the ethereal soundscapes of their first album with the more Europop feel of their second, this becomes a near flawless journey through more esoteric instrumental songs and hooky pop songs. I spotlight “Girl and the Robot” earlier, but “Happy Up Here” and “This Must Be It” are also highlights.

2. Music Go Music – Expressions - Over the course of the year, I probably listened to more Fleetwood Mac than any other artist. I also delved into bands like Supertramp and Abba. I love the sound of 70s pop music, the lush guitars and slight prog tinge to a lot of the work. So, it’s appropriate that my favorite new band of the year is one that emulates a lot of the aesthetic of those bands, and crafts similarly catchy pop songs. Pretty much every track on here is great, but particular highlights include “Love, Violent Love” and “Goodbye Everybody.” The album also features a litany of fantastic instrumental breakdowns, making it clear that though prog had some excesses, there’s no reason that a killer guitar solo can’t find a home in an indie pop song.

1. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - I loved Phoenix’s first two albums, but was very iffy on their most recent, It’s Never Been Like That. Thankfully, WAP is a huge return to form, a litany of wonderfully catchy pop songs and a couple of more experimental ones as well that works great as a cohesive unit. There’s the two massive hits “1901” and “Listzomania,” but also slinky disco slowjam “Fences” and the instrumental dreamscape of “Love Like a Sunset.” It’s the deepest album of the year, and in a lot of ways, Phoenix’s most accomplished. I still have a soft spot for “United,” but WAP seems to the best synthesis of all the elements that make Phoenix special and unique.


malpractice said...

my top 10

Converge "Axe To Fall"
PJ Harvey/John Parish "A Woman A Man Walked By"
Mastodon "Crack The Skye"
Thrice "Beggars"
Morrissey "Years Of Refusal"
Poison The Well "The Tropic Rot"
The Prodigy "Invaders Must Die"
Isis "Wavering Radiant"
Mike Patton "Crank: High Voltage (Score)"
Krallice "Dimensional Bleedthrough"

just further proof that music is the most subjective form of entertainment. you could look at 100 best of album lists and not even see one of the same albums.

Patrick said...

Oh man, Patton did the score for Crank: High Voltage? I've heard the film's crazy, and this is another reason to check it out. Adding it to the Netflix, and looks like I've got a couple of albums to check out as well. I've only even listened to one of these, the Morrissey album, but I should give some of the others a look.